I arrived in Merced on Friday, after a tiring trip - three hours extended into six. Bad traffic getting out of San Francisco, then then train was late and slow, all irritations further compounded by the rain. At the end of it all, Moua and his family arrived and that made everything worthwhile.
Many friends have been stopping by, mostly Hmong and Lao to find out how things are in the homecountry. On Saturday, I went to the one-month ceremony for Doua's baby. This is a picture of the shaman, one of Moua's uncles doing the soul-calling portion of the ceremony. Afterwards, everyone ties strings on the baby's wrists, and the parents' wrists to help anchor the souls in the bodies and to attach wishes of good luck and prosperity.
I've been talking a lot with everyone; they all have interesting memories of their lives. The children are amazing - the last time I was in Merced was three years ago; since then, the kids have really grown. It's always amazing - adults really don't change that much but you can measure time by how much the children change. Pao Thao's (Moua's older brother) oldest daughter is going to graduate from high school this year; she wants to study anthropology. I talked to her a lot about this; I think I surprised her by taking her so seriously. I'm not sure she realizes how special her perspective is, to understand her own culture and what has changed, what has remained the same.