Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Wisconsin Report Day 4: The Beautiful and Dirty City

Day 4:

Sunday morning Seethong made breakfast of scrambled eggs and french toast and I made ready for church, then went to pick up Mom and Dad. It had been a sort of struggle to decide if I was going to go to church in the Appleton Hmong branch or the Milwaukee city branch, but when it was made evident that Suying and Pang Kou were going to be confirmed, Seethong was going to be sustained and four elders were going to be in town, my answer was clear. It was great to see the small but solid branch, this time with a couple of babies that had been bumps in their mommies when I was last here. I was looking forward to just sitting back and relaxing while the elders took the weight of the responsibility I had felt for six months (especially since I knew they would make a big deal and gush about me visiting, since they always do when the elders return to visit), but they didn’t let me rest long. Seethong asked me to sing with him while his brother played guitar and one of the elders played violin to I Am A Child of God, and I was also put on the spot to translate the excellent talk of Sister Johnson from the Appleton 2nd ward. It was a pleasure, and I found that while I stumbled a couple of times, my Hmong was not too terribly rusty. We stayed for Sunday School but felt like we should take off after that. We said hello to a couple of Miskas families in the hall, including the exuberant Stephensons, who I loved so much when I was here, and who are also expecting.

Then after sampling the much-anticipated deep-fried cheese curds, butter burgers and frozen custard that Culver’s provides, made our way the 1 ¾ hour drive to Milwaukee!\

I had some serious indigestion on the way out of Appleton, and while Dad insists such a cause is unlikely, I maintain that a lot of it was psychological because I was so sad to leave. It’s a weird feeling, to be there as a “civilian” as it were, but not unpleasantly weird. It was just exciting to be able to see everyone again and look forward to when we would see each other again. We checked into our final motel and headed right back out, stopping by the old apartment (still with the barred windows and faded portrait of Jesus) and the beautiful European-looking church building in the city, and then stopping by various points of interest (the yard-art house on Cherry Street, the undeniable ghetto, the many day care centers and afro-hair salons, the Miller Park baseball stadium, etc.) until we finally made it to Yeng and Mao Lee’s house.

For those who don’t know them, these are basically the Seethong and Mai Chou of Milwaukee. Yeng was baptized as a kid, but Mao and her two kids from a previous marriage, Cindy and TJ, started taking the lessons officially when they moved out of Yeng’s parents’ house, having been to church many times already, and set a baptism date days later. I was also blessed to participate in their baptisms and confirmations the first time I was in Milwaukee, and even more blessed to attend the temple when Yeng and Mao were endowed a year later in Chicago.

Mao is serving on the Relief Society Presidency and they recently had their first baby together, Victoria, who is much bigger and absolutely, breathtakingly adorable. (See for yourself!:)

We had some barbecue, but didn’t stay long as to wear out our welcome. It was interesting to me that I felt so completely at home and comfortable lounging around their yard and house, lying in the hammock, watching TV with the kids (Cindy with her PhotoShop projects and TJ with his currently not-in-use bluetooth headset). We stopped at the “Mormon Cul-de-sac”, where live several young families going through dental or medical school, to see the Jolleys, fellow Disney and Harry Potter enthusiasts who always were so great to the elders, and who also recently had a baby (good heavens, Wisconsin is welcoming a new Baby Boomer generation!), who they named Harry (Harrison), and who they insist was not named after the Boy Who Lived.

We stopped, though it was late, at the legendary Ua “Tiffanie” Vue’s house for one of her famous haircuts, and I must confess it’s probably one of the best haircuts of my life (though Mom gets offended when I say so, and her haircuts are also awesome). It was hard to let go of my long hair, but like Ua said, "It's okay, it's only hair."

Ua’s life hasn’t been easy lately, as her husband left her some two years ago for dubious and devil-inspired reasons, but she’s holding strong, and she and her family can now go back to church and move on with their spiritual lives.

Everywhere I went I kept thinking of Johns and how jealous he would be, but I’m sure what goes around comes around, and I’ll be sufficiently jealous when he visits here, and with a wife, so as to avoid the constant questioning about dating I faced! It was late, and we had less than 24 hours left in Wisconsin, so we decided to get some rest and make the most of them the next day…

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