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Interview with Tia Moua

Moua, Tia
Vang, Lee
Date of Interview: 
Tolerance and Respect; Cultural Identification; Then and Now
Tia Moua talks about Hmong foods and Hmong wedding and New Year's traditions. She expresses some disappointments she had because her family and in-laws didn't get along.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Lee Vang interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
LV (Lee Vang): [Kids Playing in Background] OK, today is January 13, 2002. Um, this is an interview with Tia Moua, Charlotte, North Carolina, and this is in-, interview ID number 1-A. And consent form, yes. So, Tia, you're busy today?
TM (Tia Moua): Yes I am. [Laughs] Um, we are packing, we are getting ready to move to California. Um, probably, Tuesday morning, if not then, Wednesday. I'm going to go there for a job my husband's involved in now. I helped one of his cousins run a restaurant, um, in Fresno, California.
LV: So is that because, there's no work here, or is-?
TM: Um, no, it's just an ex-, he's always liked restaurant and this is just a good opportunity where he can get some more hands-on experience, um, I guess managing and running a restaurant, being a cook. Um, basically just a good experience, opportunity, and then that way later in the future he can take all the information, you know, and eventually he can open his own. Um, that's why.
LV: What're you guys going to cook?
TM: Um, the restaurant he's going to be doing is, um, Japanese, it's a Japanese restaurant. Um, he will, I think he's mainly going to be doing sushi, where he's got to roll the sushi up for customers, um, but, yeah, it's a Japanese restaurant.
LV: Are you going to have any Hmong food?
TM: Um, no, we're not.
LV: Don't you think that's kind of strange? Hmong people doing Japanese stuff?
TM: Yes, it is. [Laughs] It is, um. [Pause] But really-.
LV: How come-?
TM: Go ahead.
LV: How come, how come, why do you think that it hasn't been like a lot of Hmong people who start like a Hmong restaurant?
TM: I think because Hmong people do not have their own dishes [laughs].
LV: Oh, you don't think so?
TM: I, I don't think so. We have some but ours is, like, I would say generic [laughs].
LV: Generic.
TM: I think we follow like, we, I think our dishes are just copies of, um, Laotians. Because Laotians tend to cook theirs better [laughs] and know how to make it, and, whereas we do it but, um, it's not as good, I, that's what I think. I don't think a Hmong person can open a Hmong restaurant, I don't think.
LV: So what kind of dishes then, are these Hmong generic dishes that you think? [Laughs]
TM: [Laughs] Um, well, I mean like there are like traditional. Well, I mean, like Laotians and Hmong they have the same, um, dishes. And, I mean, they're named the same and we make them the same but I think, like I said, I think, I guess Laotians can make it better. Um, what'd you ask [laughs]? What are they? \\ What are \\ the dishes-?
LV: \\ Yeah. \\
TM: Um, the Hmong dishes?
LV: Yeah.
TM: Hmm, traditional Hmong dishes, um-.
LV: Do you cook any of them?
TM: Yeah, I do, I do, um, my, my son likes to eat, um, what they say? A boiled, um, dish, I guess, and all it is, is just pork, any kind of meat: pork, chicken, beef, you just boil it and, um, it usually goes in with some, salad usually goes in with the, um, meat as it's boiling, um, that's like a, a main dish that older people like to eat, because of the liquid, the broth.
LV: So you don't think the young people like it?
TM: Hmm-.
LV: \\ Because it-. \\
TM: \\ It varies. \\ No, no. It varies, um, maybe because it's got the salad. [Laughs] That's why the young people don't like it. But, um, it varies, I guess. I mean, there may be some young people that do like it. I mean, like I said, my son does. But he, well, he likes the broth, that's all. It's, I guess the old people that likes the, the meat and the, and the salad.
LV: What about, when you were small, did you like it?
TM: No. I don't think I did. [Laughs] Like I said, I like, we probably liked the broth, I don't think we really cared for the salad.
LV: So, can you describe the taste of the broth? Why, why is so tasty that the kids like it?
TM: Well it's good because it goes in with the rice and, I mean, you eat, [laughs] eat the rice, it goes down, I mean, it just goes down more good [laughs].
LV: Yeah.
TM: Yeah, I think that because, I mean, when you just eat rice, I mean, it's hard to chew, you know, you're going to have to have some water to drink it down but, now if you have the broth and you just put it together, it's a lot easier. Yeah.
LV: So, in a, in a usual day-.
TM: Um hmm.
LV: Like, what's a typical meal for you and your family?
TM: Mmm [pause]. Probably, definitely, we like to eat pork. We usually use pork. Um, pork with, vegetables, some kind of vegetables. Um, that's probably an everyday thing is pork and vegetables, or chicken and vegetable. Um, like I said, I like to make the broth for my son, um, you know, either the, the pork and the salad or sometimes I just, I'll just do the chicken itself [clears throat] with some, um, lemongrass, you know, some, some herbs. But, um, that's, that's, yeah, that's, that's what we usually eat. Sometimes, you know, ro-, roast chicken, roast pork, but-.
LV: So, is, is it a lot more Americanized? Or is it more, you think, just, your, what you call generic Hmong?
TM: I think it's generic Hmong [laughs]. Because, like I said, I really don't know what a Hmong dish is, I mean. There's, um, a dish called lab, um, which I think Hmong people make it probably just for special occasions. Um, they don't make it a lot of, you know, like, it's not like an everyday thing. This is just special occasions, you know, when they have dinners or stuff like that. But, um. That, um, that's, that's one of them.
LV: Do you have a favorite Hmong dish?
TM: Um. That lab's probably. I like that lab. That's, that's a good dish. Um, egg rolls are always usual. And now egg rolls, you can only get that once in a while too ?cause, because of, ah, special occasions. Um, another thing that you don't get often is, not an everyday thing, is probably sticky rice. Um, we don't eat sticky rice a lot, but, you know, when it's special occasions or if we're lucky then we get to eat sticky rice.
LV: So, when you say special occasions-.
TM: Um-hmm.
LV: Like what kind of occasions are these?
TM: Hmm, dinners for say a newborn, or dinners for, um, a religious belief, you know, religious things that they're doing or dinner for the, um, dinner for a person changing their name, just dinners, big dinners, special dinners. Yeah [pause].
LV: OK, how about, like, maybe weddings?
TM: Yeah. Weddings also. That's something big. Weddings-.
LV: How about like, I mean, how about your own?
TM: My own?
LV: Your own wedding like. How did-?
TM: Mmm. Let's see, we had, um, a roast, roast pig.
LV: Uh-huh.
TM: Uh-huh. Now that I don't think is traditional, that is just for, um, what do you call it? For decoration.
LV: Yeah?
TM: Yeah. That's not nothing, um, it's not a, what do you say? A, a entré a Hmong entré or whatever.
LV: Yeah.
TM: We had, um, I think we had lab. Like I said, that was traditional. Um. We had egg rolls which is traditional. Um. And, like I said, I think we had some broth. Uh, pork broth with some salad. Like I said, something like that, like a wedding, you know something big like that, you have the traditional food.
LV: So, besides, besides the dinner-.
TM: Um-hmm.
LV: At, at what else do you do, what else did you have done at the wedding?
TM: Now, in the Hmong custom, there's, you do it the Hmong way.
LV: Yeah.
TM: Um, us, nowadays, being, Americanized, um, we like, we want to have an American wedding. So as in my case, I had an American wedding, um. I had Hmong wedding-.
LV: Yeah.
TM: But it didn't go through [laughter]. It was really difficult, um. So really I can't say what we do or how it, how the process is because I didn't have one.
LV: Uh-huh.
TM: So, um. But we did, we did have an American wedding, um, and it's just like an American, where you go to the church and, you know, you say your vows and you walk out and then you go to the reception hall and-.
LV: So how come, well, what was supposed to happen in your Hmong wedding that didn't happen?
TM: Um [pause]. Well my husband's side of the family is supposed to go to my mom, to my parents house and, uh, they are to discuss and negotiate, you know like talk about, um, um, like, say, like, to negotiate, I guess, how much their daughter will be.
LV: Yeah.
TM: Um. That's just something traditional that they always do. Um, they just sit there and they just keep on going back and forth until they come down to an agreement of how much they want to settle for. It's the, it's my mother's call. She gets the say and my husband's side has to say, yes or no until, like I said, they come down to an agreement. Um, that, I think, was done, but it was a very long, long process. Um, after that, that's when my mom and my husband's side of the family would say, "OK, we're going through this wedding on this certain day." And then that would be final. But I believe my mom, um, set the date and then my husband's side of the family did not go, um, so then from there I, I didn't get my wedding. I didn't get the traditional wedding where, you know, my mom would say her last words and, you know, um, to me and, you know, wish me luck in my life and stuff. I didn't get any of that. Um, if she would, I guess she would say, send her daughter off into her future, um, and also when the daughter has that wedding, the daughter also gets what you, what they say Hmong clothes. Um, those are very, very valuable. Um, you get necklace, which is like very valuable, very heavy. Um, you get sets of Hmong clothings. There are paints and dresses and my mom's got a, my mom brought Chinese Hmong outfits, I guess. Um, yeah, but that's their tradition, is where the, you know, that's where my mother will give their daughter all that, you know. But, I don't have that so, you know, like I said, because the wedding didn't, didn't happen so I didn't get any of that.
LV: Is that rare, that weddings will not happen? Is that usual or-?
TM: No, it's not usual.
LV: Yeah.
TM: It's not usual. Um. I think it just had a lot to do with my, my parents and his parents, you know, not, what's that word? I guess not-.
LV: Did they like each other?
TM: No. I, I, I, I definitely knew they didn't like each other, maybe that was why. You know, maybe because my mom, wasn't really hard on them and then maybe they just felt like, "Oh, we can be," you know, "cocky and whatever with her" and-.
LV: Yeah.
TM: So. I think they both just didn't fit. And so that just put their kids, you know, in the hole and their kids with no memories or no weddings. So-.
LV: But do you regret that you didn't get a Hmong wedding?
TM: [Sigh] Um. [Pause] I don't know.
LV: Because you were talking about how the Mom will give you Hmong clothes and all that-.
TM: Um-hmm. I do.
LV: Stuff and-.
TM: I do, I wish, I really wish that Jake's, my husband's parents would have just, you know, been [pause] I don't know. What's that word? I just wish they would've not been so hard headed and, and said, "Well this is for my son and his wife and let's go ahead and do it anyways, if I didn't like them." But they never did and it's sad, you know, I regret it all, I mean.
LV: Um-hmm.
TM: It's really sad because when my in-laws, sister-in-laws and all them get together and, and they wear and take pictures and stuff and I don't have it. It's, you know, it's kind of like, "Oh." You kind of hide and say, "Oh, I don't, don't have any." "Why?" You know?
LV: Yeah.
TM: "Oh, because I never had a wedding."
LV: Yeah.
TM: Or, "My mother, my mother never gave it to me."
LV: Yeah.
TM: So it hurts, it hurts and not just that, you know. Um, to know that my mom never said any words or, or, you know, give me a, a gold necklace or, you know.
LV: Yeah.
TM: It, it hurts. It's just, you look at it sometimes and say, you know, you wish you got it but, you know, life goes on and you, you get over it and, you know. It's-.
LV: So what's the important meaning of the traditional Hmong clothes that, you know, the mother will pass down?
TM: What is-?
LV: Why do you think it's important?
TM: Hmm. I really don't know that question, the answer.
LV: No?
TM: I don't know the answer. Um-.
LV: Does she buy these clothes?
TM: Yeah, she buys every outfit and they have a New Year every year and that's what she expects you to wear, and I guess, I think that's what you are to wear to show others what you have and who you are.
LV: Yeah.
TM: And that's why it's important-.
LV: Yeah.
TM: To the mothers, that they have it and that they give it to their daughters because then others will see you as, you know, as-.
LV: Right. Someone.
TM: Yeah. That she, she has something.
LV: Yeah.
TM: That she didn't come to this New Years and, and dress in regular jeans and a t-shirt.
LV: Right.
TM: She has, she's wearing traditional things. She's a traditional Hmong person
LV: Uh-huh.
TM: So.
LV: So do you think, do you think Hmong people value that more, like being traditional? Than, you know, like, say, like, a lot of the youth today, where they're individual and don't like to wear the Hmong clothes-?
TM: Mmm. The older people, are. The younger generation nowadays, I, I mean, I really can't say whether they do or not value those clothes but, I think when you get older maybe you will then realize that it is something.
LV: Um-hmm.
TM: Because as it's like right now, I know I used to just pout about not wanting to wear, about hate, I mean I would hate it and I would have to sew it and, and you never understood why but now that I'm married and have my own kids and you have to know that in the future you have to get these for your kids. You know, now you just know. I guess, I think it's just when you get older you'll then realize.
LV: Yeah.
TM: That it's something that's valuable.
LV: Yeah.
TM: But the young girl nowadays. I, I don't know.
LV: You think they just acting the same way you were when you were younger?
TM: Probably. They probably are. [Laughter] Probably are, you know I think everyone goes through that phase, unless you're very traditional. You know, um. And it doesn't bother you then yeah, you'll wear it but, us younger, younger ones and even younger than me, I mean, seems like they can ( ).
LV: Um-hmm.
TM: They're trying. They're changing, you know, they're, they're, they're wanting to be Americans and go to these New Years and they forget what the New Years are for.
LV: Right.
TM: They just want to go there, you know?
LV: Yeah.
TM: So.
LV: What did your mother say to you when you were younger and didn't want to wear them?
TM: [Laughter] She would say, "You better put this-." She would just say, "You better put it on. No questions at all. Don't even say one word. You better just put it on." So every year we just basically prepared ourself, you know. And so, basically you just had to say to yourself, "OK," you know, "put it on, no, no fuss. Just do it."
LV: Yeah.
TM: "Know what you're going to get," you know, "if you don't do it," and so.
LV: [Laughter]
TM: It was basically a every year thing where we would just pout and my mom would have to get on us about it and, like I said, I think we just didn't realize, that. I don't think there was ever a time when we wanted to wear it [laughter] ourselves, you know?
LV: Uh-huh.
TM: Yeah, and if we got to wear regular clothes-.
LV: Um-hmm.
TM: Jeans, t-shirt, we were very lucky.
LV: Yeah.
TM: So. Yeah she, she a, she just always said, "You better put it on, no, no questions. Just do it." So-.
LV: How was it with your friends and their parents?
TM: They never got to wear it.
LV: Uh-hmm.
TM: They never got to wear it. And I think maybe that's one reason why maybe we didn't ever want to wear it. And maybe I think when we wear it we feel like we're more geeks, you know, because wear it, we wear it.
LV: Yeah.
TM: And, and the one that goes and shows up, wears regular clothes, they're, they're the cool ones, you know, so. But, um, I, I don't, I don't think they ever made their kids wear it. But I, that just tells you how much your mom values you and-.
LV: Yeah.
TM: And how much she values the culture.
LV: Yeah.
TM: So. I, um-.
LV: Why is it that the usual clothes are just cooler? Or ( ).
TM: Mmm. Like I said, maybe because you're in the US.
LV: Yeah.
TM: You, you think you're an American. You want to look "normal."
LV: Yeah.
TM: You know. Now I, I think when, if you're back, you know, is it Thailand? Laos?
LV: Laos.
TM: I think you're, you're back in Laos, um, you probably would want to wear it, you know!
LV: Uh-huh.
TM: And then really maybe you will want to show your best outfit, you know?
LV: Yeah.
TM: But as here, everybody is wearing just jeans and a t-shirt. You know nice skirt, dress, they want to show that off and, and I, I just don't think the Hmong, the clothing matters. They don't understand.
LV: Right.
TM: So.
LV: So you were talking about, you were mentioning the people, the Hmong people back in Laos, right?
TM: Um-hmm.
LV: Like, have you ever been? Ever visited there?
TM: No, and I can imagine. We've seen films, you know, movies, of them back in Laos and I, I wonder if they still live like that, you know? You wonder and my mom always says, "I'm going to take you guys back there. I want you guys to see how poor they live and how good you guys got it." And, and, back then, I never realized it but now that I'm older and I have my own child, I, I think to myself and say, "We did get it pretty good." And if my mom took me there I probably wouldn't have survived.
LV: Uh-huh.
TM: Because, they, they have to-. Just watching the movies, I guess, you just know, they have to, I mean the ladies they have to go, go do garden. I mean they have to harvest and they have to bring the food home and they've got to cook, they've got kids to take care of-.
LV: Yeah.
TM: Responsibilities and here we are in the Unite, in the US.
LV: Yeah.
TM: And we can just like sleep around, I mean sleep all day and, you know, that right there, you know you're already getting everything made, you know.
LV: Yeah.
TM: You, you eat, basically you don't have to go out to the garden and get nothing. I mean you just go buy it and, bam, it's there.
LV: Right.
TM: So it's-.
LV: It's really different.
TM: It is, yeah. [Laughter]
LV: Yeah.
TM: I don't think I could survive. I don't, don't imagine going either.
LV: Is that your phone?
TM: Yeah.