Farmer market at Missoula

Nguyen Minh Chau, Montana YSEALI Professional Fellow

Today is an unusual day for me. I woke up with a terrible headache and had a feeling that it would be an unhappy day. Shushu and Tuyen, asked me to visit a farmer market to have a look and buy some vegetables. Shushu and Tuyen, a Vietnamese couple who now live in Missoula, are so sweet and kind to all of professional and academic fellows from South East Asian countries that most of us call them Mom and Dad. I did not want to go but I did not want to say no to them. There would be so many more interesting things I can do for my first Halloween in America instead of going to a farmer market to buy nothing for myself.

Shushu was so happy to take me around. It sounds strange but she knew almost of people here, including sellers and buyers. They said hi and shake hands or hug Shushu. In my imagination, American neighbors could not be so friendly and close to each other like that.

One vegetable seller was so excited when my mom came to his corner as he thought she was from Thailand. She said proudly that she was half Chinese and half Vietnamese but she can speak Thai and Laotian. They started to speak Thai to each other. In my country, vegetable sellers are usually poor and have little education, but he is different. He used to be a teacher and often took students to other countries for exchange program and he spent 3 years in Thailand. Some vegetable sellers here have very good education. I met another one who is an experienced nurse. Selling vegetables is not their only job. They are here to sell the agricultural products they grow at their own garden or they are helping their old mothers to sell.

Another thing surprised me. I met a lot of H’mong farmers today. They came to America from Laos after Vietnamese war in 1975. In Vietnam, I have been working with H’mong and they have the same language as the H’mong I met today. The H’mong farmers at the market are very open to talk and smile a lot in my pictures. Some of the older H’mong sellers could not speak English well but when I said “Lua lua” in H’mong (it means smile) they immediately liked me and asked me to take a picture together. Two H’mong farmers gave my mom and me an apple and a big cabbage for free. We gave money for this but they refused. My mom said that there are some hundred of H’mong family living here. Parents often do farming or simple works but their children are very successful. Many of them are doctors, teachers and have other professional jobs. My heart feels warm and happy when I see smiles of people here. I did not know why, but soon my headache was gone with the wind.

We bought vegetables, breads and biscuits there. Today is the last day of the Missoula farmer market of 2016. Local people have to wait until next May when the market is open again.

A short trip to the farmer market helped me understand more about the life of immigrant people in America. I am very happy for them.

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