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Khoua Xiong

Khoua Xiong

Hmong Teen Immigrant from the Vietnam War in Laos

Born: San Quan, Laos
Heritage: Laotian

You students are fortunate to grow up in this country, to have what you have. Don’t take it for granted. When I grew up I couldn’t be a student like you guys. Take advantage of your education. When you are educated you can help the less fortunate who don’t have the opportunity like you have to succeed in this country.

Khoua Xiong

Hmong Teen Immigrant from the Vietnam War in Laos

My name is Khoua Xiong. I was born in 1976 in San Quan. I’m an orphan child, so I lost track [of] my family. I lived with my mom and grandma until I was five. Then my mother, she went to get married again, so I lived with my uncle and aunt (on my father’s side). I grew up as an orphan child in Laos. The communists captured and killed my father.

It was a war between the Vietnamese and the people in Laos. The Vietnamese tried to take over the country. The American CIA was in Laos fighting. Because we lived in the jungle of Laos we were experts of the jungle. The CIA asked us to fight the war and if we helped them they would help us. General Vang Pao was our leader with the American CIA. We helped them fight the war.

We lived up in the mountains. We [went] to a farm and cut forest to grow all the food. As you live in the jungle you grow rice, corn, and some wheat. We also had chicken, pig, cow, goat and water buffalo.

Every day I woke up in the morning at 3:00 to prepare food for all the animals and then I [would] go down to the valley of the creek to bring water; carry water buckets, on bamboo across my shoulders, down the village and the mountain. We [didn’t] have watches, so [didn’t] have time. I only tell time by the cricket sounds. When the cricket sounds it tells me it is late and I should go home.

We had to feed the communists all the time. Feed them nice food like they are special people to us. Not free to go wherever we want. Wherever we go we have to be very careful. We don’t really want to work for our enemies. That’s why we try to escape.

My uncle pays somebody, some Thai people, to pick us up after we escape across the Mekong River. There is nobody there to pick us up. The camp we were going to had a fire so all the police came to the camp and nobody wanted any trouble. We had to walk from Mekong River to the camp. It takes us about two to four nights to walk around the Mekong River to the camp.

When we escaped my uncle’s baby was crying. So the babies were given medicine to sleep. But when we got in the house the baby was almost dead. All night we were really afraid the baby was going to die. In the morning the baby was cold and all pale white, but he cried so we knew he was safe.

I was 13 years old when I came to America. My first impression when the plane landed in Georgia was when we walked to the waiting area. People hugging each other and kissing each other. In my whole life I never thought about or seen something like that before. Never. I couldn’t believe it. It was so exciting. People were crying in front of each other.

The first English words I learned were “I miss you.” I learned them in Thailand. I had children when I was young and couldn’t stay in school. I learned English from the television. I learned the most from watching Sesame Street.

Notation: Download PDF

Honoring Khoua Xiong

“Koun Cho Ko”
I Miss You

I’m an orphan child
Lost track of my family
When I turned five
My mother remarried
Lived with my aunt and uncle
On my father’s side
Lived out in the jungle
After my father died
The Vietnamese
Told us where to go
To live with cows,
Pigs, goats and buffalo
Each day in the morning
Woke up at three
To walk down to the valley
To get water from the creek
I miss you (4x), I do
“Koun Cho Ko” (4x)
Working in the fields
All day alone
When the crickets sound
It was time to go home
Walking with a bucket
Of corn and squash filled
No one could see me
When I walked up the hill
Had to feed the communist
Whenever they came
As if they were special
No one could complain
Not free to go
Looking to escape
From Laos into Thailand
To the United States
We grabbed a little rice
To put on our back
We traveled by night
With food in a sack
By day we lived
In the jungle in a hole
From village to village
To the Laos capital
We paid some money
To get a boat
When we got in
The boat would not float
So many people get killed
Trying to cross
The river in Thailand
So many lives lost
Had to drug the babies
So they would not cry
Because if they did
The bullets would fly
We made it to Thailand
One baby pale and white
Put it in cold water
To save the baby’s life
From camp to camp
Filled with refugees
It felt like jail
Guards of security
Had to learn English
Ready to go
To the U.S.A
Where I now call home
All the way from Thailand
To Georgia I came
Everybody hugged and kissed
When I got off the plane
Never seen nothing like that
In my whole life
I was only thirteen
Soon to be a wife
When I got to Georgia
My marriage was arranged
Through my father’s brother
In the U.S.A.
Got married young
Four children in a row
Working at night
Raising children at home
What do I do
What do I dream
I want to go to school
To get my GED
My days have been hard
Working my whole life
My shoulder blade hurt
As a mother and a wife
Sesame Street
Each day on TV
Many miles from
Rice and the bamboo tree
When I first came here
I could not read
The first thing I learned
Are these words you hear me sing

Words & music by Larry Long with Mr. Kelley’s 6th grade class of Earle Brown School
(Brooklyn Center)

© Larry Long 2006 / BMI