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Dear Minnesota - Saengmany Ratsabout

Saengmany Ratsabout

Newport, MN - 1.5 Generation - Minnesota, USA and Khammouan, Laos

February 15, 2018

Dear Minnesota,

I am a 1.5 generation Lao American, born in Laos and resettled to the United States as a refugee. The story of how my family resettled in the U.S. may resonate with countless other refugee families.

Child with smile holding sign that reads Ratsabout Saengmany
Photograph of four-year-old Saengmany taken at Napho Refugee Camp, Thailand in January 1986

I was two years old when my parents devised a plan to relocate our small family of six from a post-war country that has drastically changed. My parents had arranged two small boats to wait for us along the shore of the Mekong River. They had sold all of their rice rations for enough money to hire two boats. Our family left the tiny house that we had, took separate routes, as to not be noticed. We arrive at the bank of the river, and instead of two boats, there was one. My mother climbed onto the boat carrying my baby sister. While my father ushered my older brother, sister, and I onboard, he pushed the boat onto steady water and managed to hop on.

When I was young, my parents always told me that before we left Laos, my name was written on the sandy shore of the Mekong River. It was to remind me that I was "here," there, in Laos. I am unsure why that story has stuck with me. Maybe it was the mystery of it all from a child's imagination, or maybe, just maybe, a part of me is still there and never left.

Here I am, almost 34 years to the date since that fateful day, about to embark on a journey "back" to the red clay soil of Laos. Leaving home in the dead of winter, back to a place that I have studied and researched so much about. Back to a land and its people that is so familiar, yet so foreign.

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