After such a long and crazy day of so much driving, I promised Mom and Dad that the next day would be much less hectic. Saturday morning we woke up leisurely and readied ourselves for one of the main events of the trip—the Labor Day Hmong Tournament in Oshkosh. (Throughout the year, especially the summer, in various locations around the country, Hmong people look for any excuse to get together with friends and family, including such tournaments, which feature games of soccer, football, volleyball and traditional Hmong games, and which usually also include a show of traditional song and dance and bazaar-type lines of booths and shops, at which the elders will generally rent a spot to offer free Jesus DVDs and get referrals.)
We stopped on the way at our old apartment on Coolidge Avenue, and then at Cheng’s house, a man I met my first time in Wausau, and knew my second time as well, whose work schedule finally allowed him to worship on Sunday and fulfill his wish to be baptized just after I left Wausau the second time, but who had moved with his family to Menasha (near Appleton). We were excited to talk for a few minutes.
Then Mom, Dad and I drove twenty minutes to Oshkosh and walked a nice long way into the community park where the tournament was being held. Not even one minute after walking in we ran into two of my former companions, Elder Findley and Elder Boam.
We quickly found the elders’ table and it was so convenient—all of the Hmong elders in the entire mission were there, having just finished their semi-annual Hmong elders’ conference, and seeing as how most of the Hmong people in their areas would be at the tournament anyway. I was able to reunite briefly with old companions (Jolley, Boam, Findley, Hiatt, Miller) and see others I had met only briefly or had never served with (Bonilla-Barrera, Chapman, Coffey, Heath and Jones) and also ran into a lot of familiar faces from all of my past areas. I showed Mom and Dad around the dozens of booths which sold clothes, toys, Hmong souvenirs, medicine and herbs and food.
We bought a sausage and sticky rice, and I even had them try the papaya salad, some of the spiciest Hmong food in existence, and the woman who made it even made it extra spicy. All or nothing, right? HA. Mom and Dad tried it, but only a little.
We bought a few egg rolls for the elders, I gave them the poster boards I had made of the three lessons in Hmong (I realized I have no real use for them at home, but they could use them for many things if they were left in the mission), which were promptly displayed on the table.
Seethong and Mai Chou bought me a very amusing shirt with an anime Hmong guy and a caption that reads (in Hmong): “I don’t want to be alone.”
Incidentally, it is amazing how nearly every single person we ran into asked if I were married yet… Not dating anyone, but married! It was great. I’m like… give me a few months! Even more amusing is how at least four people asked about the same girl (who Sister Barrett insisted I look up), even though I haven’t even officially contacted her yet! We came back and crashed at the hotel for a few minutes (it’s amazing what a face rinse, a potty and a ten-minute nap can do) and headed again to the Yangs for pho, a traditional Hmong soup-type dish with noodles and beef broth, meatballs and some green veggie seasonings and spices. Mom loved it so much she decided she wanted to eat it every day for lunch and dinner from now on, and Dad noted that he really likes the spicy stuff (that’s my parents!).
But even before dinner, Mai Chou and Nhia decided they wanted to dress up Mom in traditional Hmong clothes, and Dad’s turn followed shortly. I fell over when they came out of the bedroom in their khaub ncaws Hmoob and we took picture after picture with camera after camera.
I just kept wondering if I could get any happier, when suddenly Seethong said they had another surprise to tell us. I had this weird feeling… like I could guess… and I was right! Mai Chou is expecting! I always knew they were taking their time, making sure they were ready when kids came, but this is so perfect. She’s due in March, so it could even be born in the covenant, after they are sealed. I was unbelievably thrilled and secretly hope they’ll name the baby Kuab Ci. Unless it’s a girl. Actually, even if it’s a girl! Ha ha.
That night I consented to stay at their place, and I dropped off Mom and Dad at the hotel and came back, driving, for the first time, all by myself down the streets of Appleton. Of course it didn’t last long, in effect, since I called Elder Findley to tell him the news about the upcoming newest Yang. WOW. We didn’t stay up quite so late this time talking, but still visited for quite a while. I showed them family pictures, Seethong played his guitar and sang the song he wrote for Mai Chou while they were still dating, and Mai Chou painted her nails. They pulled out a mattress and some sheets for me and I crashed hard on the living room floor.