Living abroad where all the people are of one culture, who have an established country, and a cohesive civilization between the same borders, people often don’t understand nor even fathom, what it is like to not have a country of your own.
It’s like: always feeling like a stranger in the country you were born in.
It’s like: getting excited at the sight of a familiar skin tone when you’re in public.
It’s like: your heart breathing fresh air when you hear the same tongue at the most unexpected times–which is–most times.
My Korean colleague asked me, “So your people don’t have a country? And how do you feel about that? Are you…sad?”
No one has ever asked me that.
Because where I am from, people are more concerned about me leaving the country, than they are me comfortably having a place to call my own.
To that question, I said, “thank you. I am curious (as to what it’d be like), but I am not sad.”
I am not sad.
I am not sad that I am Hmong, and that my people do not have a country.
I am not sad that we don’t have a singular point on the map to explain where we are.
Because, I don’t at all feel like we are homeless, if anything, I believe we are homefull.
We have the ability to fill every capacity of the world, without the patriotic duty to one place.
We have the challenge and exercise of continuously finding ways to consciously hold onto our roots as we grow in new, and various soils. And to hold onto them, stronger and stronger each time.
We have the capacity, to pick the positive flowers we see from other cultures, and add it to our own garden to cultivate even more possibilities.
We have the resiliency and knowledge, that we will always be okay, no matter how many times exterminated or stomped on. Because we need no border, to show and prove who we are.
Our culture, traditions, and livelihood are stitched into the seams of our embroidery, orchestrated into our traditional songs, spoken by our tongue, and seasoned into the meals we share.
And having no country allows us to do this. Allows us to focus on these beautiful individual things that make us, us. Beautiful individual things that I see taken for granted every day in an established country that is much too occupied with advancement and technology and economy. Instead of feuds over land, laws, and over even more politics and social structures than we already do.
We have no borders to fight over and further divide us. Because having no country means having more homes around the world to visit where homes have been made by our people. Because having no place to enable us to take each other’s existence for granted makes the heart grow fonder when we meet in other lands.
Because even if we’ve never met, when we do, we share stories of how we have lived. Because being Hmong in my land has been this way, and being Hmong in your land has been that. And being Hmong is having this very experience.
So it is okay, that we are people who have no country. Because I have seen life in a land owned by one people, I have seen the heartache that still exists, the imperfections, the inability to unite, the struggle to feel as one belongs. All these still exists within a border that can be claimed as yours. So we, can very much exist, in happiness and unity, with or without a piece of land to honor as our home. If not, more.
As Thor said, “Asgard is not a place, it is a people.”
And the same I shall, “Hmong is not a place, it is a people.”
As long as I have my people, I am not sad.
Because as long as I have my people, I am home.
And even if I didn’t, it would always live within the borders of my soul.
So my fellow Hmong people, go out there and find and make your homes. For you are welcomed in mine, as I am yours.