Trip to Say Goodbye - 2
Tuesday morning Cathy and I left her house and drove to her dad's Foley, but stopping en route at the Hmung Market.(pictured above) This place has special interest for Cathy, because she has been a teacher for the last 12 years in a school which had a high percentage of Hmung students. I knew nothing about these people, so Cathy filled me in. They come from China, in a mountainous region, and for many decades were persecuted by other Chinese and driven from their homelands into Vietnam. During the Vietnam war, many of them helped the Americans and in recognition of this, they were invited to move to the US. Many cities offered them shelter, one of which was St. Paul, Minnesota. Cathy's school was one which had special status as it had students with needs of all sorts. In a typical class of 39 (she is an high school teacher of English) she might have many students who knew no English at all – although some of them were fluent in perhaps five other languages. Some of them were totally illiterate, not having even held a pencil before. Others were struggling with family situations where there was poverty, drugs problems, abuse, etc. and some were dropped off at school at 6 a.m. before it opened, sitting outside in the snow and freezing weather because their families wanted them gone. As well as teaching English, Cathy, who is a very talented athlete, runs the cross country team for the school. Cathy was well prepared for the job, as she spent a year in China, teaching English as a foreign language. She also spent a term in England staying with us when she was doing her practice teaching.
The market consisted of several buildings with hundreds of stalls offering clothing, handicraft souvenir type things, and also practical items like household goods. The food they were selling was typical of their culture. We sampled several types of rice cakes, and other foods where there was a flour or corn base with meat and vegetables inside. My favourite was wrapped in banana leaves before cooking and the sticky rice tasted pleasantly of banana. We also got a bag of cheese curls. I
can't say I liked the food much, but Cathy was taken back to the food she had eaten in China, and really enjoyed it.
We then took the super highway the 60 miles of so to her home town of Foley – where my sister and her family lived from the time she and Larry met. They were both teachers at Foley High, where Larry taught Math and Judy taught English. Having no money in those days, and an interest and skill with wood craft, Larry bought a second hand trailer to live in, and bought a 4 acre piece of land to build their house, which he did over four years with some help from his father and my husband. His house has been added to and updated on occasion over the 45 years. He now lives there alone, but with frequent visits from his five children and their families.
When he heard that I intended to visit my sister in Portland, Larry offered to go with me, cutting down on the expense of my trip, and adding the benefit of a visit to see my step-mother en route. But when Cathy said she fancied a road trip too, we decided that we would go together, and we used
Cathy's larger car, a Tyoto SUV which gave us lots of space for Larry's golf clubs.
After we arrived Larry took us for a visit to the cemetery to pay our respects to Judy who was buried there 18 years ago – but mainly for him to show off his electric car. He can go about 80 miles on an overnight charge, and he is very proud of it.
The plan for the day was that two of Judy's best friends (who had been pall bearers at her
funeral) would come around to visit us in the afternoon, and we would go 10 miles or so to visit with Cathy's brother Keith in the evening. Larry had plans to go to a meeting about electric cars where he was putting forth his idea that the plug- ins should be allowed during cheap electricity hours without having to change from 120 to 240 volts, which was what the company was proposing.
We had eaten the Chinese food bringing the leftover with us for Larry to sample, and he made a huge bowl of popcorn. That with the addition of beer, was our lunch and supper. The visits went to plan, and all was set for the next step of our journey – to Bismarck, where I came from.