Yakao Yang is an author and editor. He graduated with a Baccalaureate Degree of Letters in French Studies. He was promoted to be the youngest professor in the country known as E.S.P. Dongdok which in French is "Ecole superieure de Pedagogie de Dongdok."
I was born in to a large family of six boys and six girls. After my mother died my father Vang Kay Yang remarried and had two sons and three daughters. I was the third born of the family and one of the older son’s that were chosen to be sent away to attend school in a larger village nearby.
At the time Hmong people were known as nomadic people. They lived in isolation where they could find a place for farming. Rarely did you find a large village that had a school to benefit the people.
As a child, I spent my weekdays away from home. We slept and lived in shelters built by parents who had children who lived far away from school. Children, like myself, lived there to be close to school. Everyone had to take turns cooking around two campfires.
I only came home to see my parents on the weekends. The trips to school were painful and fearful. We walked to school early in the morning in the dark. We had no shoes so we had to endure the cold and the rain. The path was lined with sharp cracked rocks. Our path went through a frightening dense jungle where wild animals were in abundance.
I had to put in great effort to attend my pioneer grade school. I gradually succeeded. The next school I attended also gave my parents no choice but to send me far away again. I attended high school in a bigger city. There, I only came home once a year. I continued to succeed and earned myself a high academic achievement, which promoted me to be the youngest professor in the country. I taught French and global social studies at a high school in Laos. In 1970, I proudly and happily got married to Ia Ong Ly. We had an arranged marriage by both sides of the family and are still happily together.
I spent a year training in France to be fully certified and received my teaching license in the French language. I returned to the country and took another teaching job, The bad news spread about Pathetlao, who took control and threatened all the Hmong who joined the US/CIA forces to fight against them. If you were part of the fraud and corrupt government you would be punished by death. These threats were unacceptable to me. The Hmong people found themselves threatened and all the men and boys were to be executed.
I was one of the accusers, not a part of the big corruption. I lived and served the government and I was Hmong. I had to save my life and my family by secretly escaping to Thailand. We became refugees and took our families to live in refugee camps in Thailand.
In 1976, the United States conducted interviews for the Hmong refugees to go to the United States for resettlement. I qualified with my family to leave the life threatening danger we faced. As a Hmong refugee I was allowed to come to the United States of America for a better life.
I brought my family of five little girls to settle in a small town in Valley Springs, South Dakota. After three days of rest from the long journey from Thailand, I started working right away as a meat cutter in town. They wanted me to be self-sufficient immediately because they could not afford to provide money for my large family. I eventually moved the family to Sioux Falls to be closer to work.
From that moment, I had to be responsible for my family by working hard. I earned a small salary that was barely enough to raise my family. I didn’t even make enough to cover new clothing. With all the responsibilities I had it took me away from any chance of going to school to learn English, which was the only way to make a living in this country.
I was very busy and content to focus on working, but it made me forget about pursuing my dream career in education, which I did before coming to this country. I have no regrets at all. After two years of working as a meat cutter, unfortunately the meat processing plant shut down. I lost my job and was left with a small unemployment check just enough to cover the house payment. My family needed the support of food stamps in order to live sufficiently.
I did not know how to read, write or speak English correctly, but I was very good at the French language. I was able to convert English to French and French to English while searching for a new job to keep my family together and to keep them alive. I finally found a job at a bakery known as Metz Baking company, the largest bakery that supplied bread, buns and donuts to the Midwest. I worked as a part-time employee and on-call around the clock. I was able to make more money by working a lot of overtime.
I felt good about a job that I could make good money at. I was excited and happy to focus on a job I loved. Three years later, I was proudly promoted to be a full-time employee of the company. When I became a full-time employee I received good benefits with a company that had an outstanding union presence. They had a pension plan that would allow members to retire after twenty-five years of service. I worked hard and had a lot of patience. I was able to complete my twenty-five years at the bakery and was able to retire.
I am now retired and live in the Twin Cities with my wife. My five daughters and their children are all pursuing their dreams and live all over the world. Unfortunately, before my retirement my only son, Shushee, was diagnosed with cancer and died at the very young age of twenty-five. We will forever morn the loss of our son.