Long San Tzeo
Interview by Anne Morin
Date: June 10, 2005
1 Disc, 80:03, 16 Tracks
TRACK 1 – 1:21
GETTING MIC SETTLED – TWO MEN SPEAKING TOGETHER
TRACK 2 – 5:40
ANNE: This is Anne Morin. Today is June 10, 2005. This is an interview with Long San Tzeo of Oregon.
LONG SAN TZEO: I am Long San Tzeo. I am Long San Tzeo.
SOME PEOPLE LEAVE
LONG SAN TZEO: I am Long San Tzeo. I originally came from Laos in 1979.
ANNE: Tell us about your childhood.
LONG SAN TZEO: I was born to a farmer family. My parents were farmers throughout their lives. In 1962 when the communists took over our region and we became refugees, that’s when I had a chance to go to school to study Lao, French, and English. Although I was born and grew up with a farmer family, throughout my school years I lived by myself and my family were farmers.
ANNE: What did they grow?
LONG SAN TZEO: The majority of the crops were rice and corn. Also fruits too. We had different kinds of tropical fruits.
ANNE: What did your parents do?
LONG SAN TZEO: That is correct. We had total 11 brothers and sisters but my mother cannot stay home because she had to help in the farm too. My father alone was not able to produce enough crops or food for the whole family. Although only himself and my mother but they had to pay for childcare, for someone to take care of myself and my brothers and sisters.
ANNE: Was your life happy?
LONG SAN TZEO: Before the war we were up on the mountain and we didn’t know about the outside0 world, only about the village. But after the war we settled in the refugee village which is called Lampkun in northern Laos. Then we began to see foreigners. We began to see some American advisors who were advising or leading the soldiers in Laos. Also some Lao officials who came to the area. The USAID officials who came and assist us in various capacities. They built us wells, schools, clinics. They helped us with farming techniques in the near area.
ANNE: Why did they do this?
LONG SAN TZEO: I have no idea. We just saw them and they gave us food, clothing, blankets, tools, but I have no idea why they were helping us.
ANNE: Out of the kindness of their hearts, you thought.
LONG SAN TZEO: That’s what we thought. And we thought they would help us forever, but they helped us for only about a year and a half. And then they left. They gave us tools, seeds, and said you now, you have to stand on your own feet and be independent.
LONG SAN TZEO: 1964, between ’64 and ’65.
ANNE: You’re in school?
LONG SAN TZEO: Right. I started school before we became refugees, but it was only a short time and after we became refugees we settled in the refugee village, which was not a camp because we built our own housing, and that’s when I started to go to school again.
TRACK 3 – 10:47
ANNE: You’re living in Laos, everything is okay, what changed?
LONG SAN TZEO: Well, when I grew up, when I was about eight or nine years old, that’s when we became refugees, but before we became refugees we saw refugees from other parts of town, even Burma who escaped. So in 1963 when communists took over Lusing area where I was born, when we became refuges it was not safe. We were told when the communists came they would butcher everyone, especially the kids. So once we became refugees we moved to a new area, that’s when we had the opportunity to gain some medication, and during my school years I was drafted many times to go into the army even though I was only 14, 15 years old.
ANNE: Recruited by whom?
LONG SAN TZEO: The mien commanders, but the CIA were behind them. We called them the American advisors. But fortunately my teachers advised me not to go and they told me what to do, they instructed me what to do to avoid going to war or becoming soldier.
ANNE: What did they tell you?
LONG SAN TZEO: One of my teachers who was very kind and advised me on several things, but the first thing was he told me if they would let me lead a group of, let me be a leader, then he told me to refuse, as long as they require you to be a leader, then go. Because he told me most of the Mien, even the leaders, don’t read and write any languages, they only know how to fight. But if they offer me a high position he told me to go because he learned a lesson too. When he was in school, he chose to be a teacher and he never progressed. He stuck in the job all his life but his friends who joined the army or police academy became colonels, generals, and he wanted to see them. So he advised me if they offered me a high position, to go.
DISCUSSION OF EDITING & RECORDING
LONG SAN TZEO: So, I think they protect me for about three or four years. My teachers and the regional leader, the Mien leader who passed away a few months ago. His name was Chao La. He was the top leader because the commanders who came and tried to take me were under him, so he removed my name from the list every time.
ANNE: I understand there were even ten year olds fighting.
LONG SAN TZEO: it’s true. I didn’t realize until during my college years. I didn’t finish college. I went to college and didn’t finish because the war. One of my neighbors came and asked my parents, because I dropped out because of the war, and asked permission to take me to Mien military headquarters to process paperwork. And my mom said promise you will not take him to the battlefield, so they promised my mom and I joined the army.
ANNE: How old were you?
LONG SAN TZEO: I was 18, 19 years old and luckily they gave me a back then I thought it was a high position. I was assistant company commander, I was leading 150 soldiers as a young man. I was proud, and people were jealous. Then, when I joined there was transition between the Lao government, and then there was cease-fire. But many times the communist soldiers tried to ambush us. And right after I joined the army I was sent to training camp for three months and I began to know how life was in the army. We had so many recruits that were under age. They were 13, 14, unhealthy young boys, so we had to start from scratch and it was difficult for me to train them. And my job was to lead the group and train them because I was a new recruit. There were three or four other companies and because we were the first company you have to take the lead but most of our recruits were young, including myself. I gave them no breaks, I gave myself no breaks. We had to learn to march, go to battle, sing in the evening because the moon was light. I didn’t even let my soldiers rest. Each night I made them exercise more.
ANNE: What kind of war was this?
LONG SAN TZEO: It was kind of between the CIA and Lao government, but it was guerilla forces.
ANNE: How is that different?
LONG SAN TZEO: I did not learn much about war until recent years. The war from Bosnia, Afghanistan, also the Iraq war, although I was in the army for about four years, I never go to battle. I saw enemies but because there was a cease-fire period. But two of my soldiers were ambushed because they went to the village to buy food.
ANNE: Explain Papilao
LONG SAN TZEO: Papilao is the Lao communists, backed by the Vietnamese. Two were ambushed and I didn’t know what to do so I radioed headquarters for choppers to go to the village and get the wounded soldiers. But one of them was killed, so I radioed to the unit and they went and rescued him. Finally they found the dead.
ANNE: What happened then?
TRACK 4 – 8:39
LONG SAN TZEO: in late 1974, right after the Lao government formed a provisional government which consists of the two provinces, they distribute or share responsibilities to Got Viong Tien and Got Pro Bong, the forces were 50/50. And after I think two years Ho Kwong province, which is where I am from, became the first province, the troops joined them, because the Mien were the minority and the Lao were the majority in the province in terms of forces. They outnumber us by three to one and they were the one who were not happy with the government. So they join forces with the Lao Communist sand they came against us. We were outnumbered. We had no choice but to join them. I was sent to a political seminar by a month and a half. It was taught by the commanders of the PotanLao. We were taught how to work with them and against our own forces, our own bosses.
ANNE: Were you prisoners?
LONG SAN TZEO: We didn’t realize, we were probably under siege. But we were treated well, there was not much freedom, although you were a commander, but you had to guard too. At night you had to take turns and patrol because the fear was maybe Lao soldiers who escaped would come back and attack us. But as a commander at nighttime you are on your own, you don’t have to be on guard.
ANNE: Did some people run away?
LONG SAN TZEO: The more we learn from them, the more hatred I get form them, because what we learn was to hate the Lao government, to hate the commanders, the superiors. And after we were finished with our training and they wanted us to go back to our units and campaign and make known the Potilao system is better. That’s how they get control. So after I was released to go back to my unit and for about a period of three months we did not get paid. They claim the government closed the bank and that’s why we didn’t get paid, but they said in the fourth or fifth month they would pay back everything. At the last minute we learned the reason they held back our salaries were they sent everyone to labor camps. But luckily because I made some friends from the communist side and also from the Lao officers, who were working the headquarters, and one of the Potilaos commander inform me if I were you I would go somewhere else. Instead of going to the headquarters to collect your salary, you might not have the chance to come back. So he gave me that warning and I chose to escape to Thailand. But I was told by God, I believe, and they were a few of my soldiers, about sixteen of them, two platoon leaders we all went home for two weeks vacation and at the end of vacation we planned to go collect our salaries, but somehow when the time came I went half way and waited for everyone and when they got there I told them I was not going back to headquarters. So fifteen of them believed me and we all went home and made it to Thailand. And one older man said I don’t care, I want my salary, and he never came back.
ANNE: So the purpose was to train you to teach the Lao army what they wanted you to teach.
LONG SAN TZEO: Right the main purpose for them was to train us to go back and campaign and teach others to join the communists, how great the communist system is.
ANNE: Tell us the gut feeling. What was that journey like?
LONG SAN TZEO: The typical trip from where I live to Thailand was about two hours. To hire a boat is about ten cents. But since I was in hiding, it took me over two weeks. The reason was I was in hiding because they were looking for me, so I could not go on the open road, I had to hide in the deep jungles and pay for someone in the area to find a way to get out. I was not alone. I was with my commander and nine soldiers at the beginning. But at the end we had only one soldier with us. The rest, because it took so long, so they went home. They went home and joined their families and some were saved and some were taken to a labor camp and never made it back.
ANNE: What’s it like in Thailand?
LONG SAN TZEO: After we made it to Thailand
TRACK 5 – 5:24
LONG SAN TZEO: we were sent into a refugee camp which is very tiny and very close to the border between Laos and Thailand. The first camp we stayed there for about eight months and then more and more people were escaping form Laos. And the location was too close to Laos and I’m not sure, maybe the United Nations built us a new refugee camp in a different province.
LONG SAN TZEO: it was in 1975. And after the camp was completed they moved us to a new camp. It was a little bit safer because we were not feared of the4 communists but in the camp there were so many things we were suffering. Number one because the camp conditions were so bad – water, food. A lot of people got sick, many died from diarrhea, illnesses, and the Thai soldiers who guarded the camp were rude, cruel. Many of my refugee friends were put in jail for no reason. They have a curfew. If you do not follow the rules you get put in jail.
ANNE: What’s the jail like?
LONG SAN TZEO: It’s uncovered, it’s open. Rain or shine, you are there. It’s o the dirt, and you have to work during the day, carry water for the guard or cleaning or whatever you want to do.
ANNE: Did you spend time at the jail?
LONG SAN TZEO: Fortunately I did not have to. In the second camp I was assigned as a building leader. There were about 42 buildings when I was there. That was before 1979.
ANNE: How many in a building.
LONG SAN TZEO: Each building three or four hundred and very crowded buildings.
ANNE: How long did they live there?
LONG SAN TZEO: They were there until they were picked up by a foreign country. I was there 1975 to 1979. there were a couple reasons. Number one, I was recruited again, by former commanders, and the hope was sooner or later we are going back to Laos. So I was recruited but luckily I didn’t go the training camp. I went to the meetings with them, after that I withdrew myself because I didn’t like it. There was nothing we had to start from scratch. I asked a former general who was doing the training, I asked who will support us. Before the war we were banked by the US, CIA, we had tanks, we had planes, we had everything. We still lose the war. I asked who is going to do better than that? I was told nobody, we have to start from zero. So that was my final decision. It was about a three day planning session and after that I give up.
ANNE: Where did you meet your wife?
LONG SAN TZEO: I and my wife actually engaged in Laos before I left Laos, but because the time was so short
TRACK 6 – 3:33
LONG SAN TZEO: We had no time for a wedding because I was on the run. And I asked my parents to cancel our engagement because I didn’t know what to do. I had to run, my parents stayed behind because we thought they would be safe. But fortunately after I escaped to Thailand my wife and her family made it, escaped to Thailand, so we met again in Thailand. But I did not stop there because my parents stayed behind. I went back to Laos two times from the first camp. It was very risky, very danger but I made it two times. The first time I got two brothers and two sisters. The second time I got my parents and other brothers out. I brought them to the camp. We were together again. And then later on we get married and we had two children in the camp. Two daughters. One was two years old and one was only two months when we came. And we had our third child in the US.
ANNE: Third child in the US?
LONG SAN TZEO: Right. The reason I spent four years in the camp, the first reason was the hope to go back to Laos. The second hope was that at the beginning the US government chose only people associated with them in Laos. High-ranking officers or government officials and I thought I had no chance because I was in the army a short time. But I was helping them to interview people who want to come here, but my original plan was to go to France because I studied French. And many of my friends went to France. But after a while, because I was working with the delegates from the US Embassy who went to conduct interviews I got credit with them and they asked me why don’t you go to the US? My initial thought was I had no chance but they said we can help you. So I changed my mind even though I sent my application to the French embassy.
ANNE: When did you leave?
LONG SAN TZEO: I left the camp in 1979.
TRACK 7 – 2:53
LONG SAN TZEO: I left the original camp but I was stuck in Bangkok camp for three more months. #1 was medical – I was sick in the camp, I had TB, and I was in treatment for a year and after I was cured then because the X-ray showed my lungs were not good they put me on medical hold in Bangkok for three months. We made I there to the US right after Christmas 1979. We landed in San Francisco, we spent one night there. I don’t know which airport. Someone told me maybe Chico, maybe Oakland, but I don’t know.
ANNE: You just went to this place. People would come in and say time to go.
LONG SAN TZEO: Right the night we spent in San Francisco was the first night after we arrived and there was another Lao couple who share the hotel room with us and the next morning at four o-clock a Lao interpreter come to the door and took the Lao couple. About six o’clock someone knocked on the door and it was an American man who said where were you? The bus is waiting for you. We said the man before said you are staying. And he said get everything, the bus is waiting for you to go to the airport. So they were waiting for us. We were the last family.
ANNE: So you’re off to Portland.
LONG SAN TZEO: Right. We board in the airplane at about eight o’clock in the morning.
TRACK 8 – 5:28
LONG SAN TZEO: We were headed for Portland, Oregon. At the airplane we met two beautiful ladies in the terminal. They were smiling at us. I was carrying a bag saying Long San Sechow. They were smiling at us and I thought they must be our sponsors because I was informed our sponsors were waiting for us at the airport. So I say yes, I’m Long San and this is my family. It was Colton Oregon. Which is about 60 miles east of Portland. It was a farming community, very small community. my sponsors were, the group who sponsored us was the Colton Lutheran church but the couple who sponsored us were Mr. And Mrs. Anderson. They were dairy farmers. They owned over 100 cows.
ANNE: Did they want you to help with the cows?
LONG SAN TZEO: I don’t know. I didn’t know what to do. when we came, December was very cold. They took us to church, they took us around. It was raining and cold. I asked them how much rain did we have in Oregon, they said 60%. I said how can you work? They told me, people work inside. I was happy because with this weather, I would die. So it made me feel better.
ANNE: what was your first job?
LONG SAN TZEO: My first job was as custodian for Colton School District. How I got my job, there was an evening called international church service. They asked people to bring something from their culture and we dressed in the Mien custom and we took food to share and they asked me questions, what happened to your country? And I said we are here for our safety. And I asked them back the same questions. I asked, if your house is on fire, are you going to stay inside your house or get out of your house? I said my house was on fire, I had to run. And then the school principal asked do you have a job? I said no. and he offered me a job as a custodian in the school.
ANNE: what was your education al background?
LONG SAN TZEO: I went to school in Laos. Lao and French were mandatory, and in the evening and on the weekends our leader offered us ESL. He paid for a teacher who taught us English in the evening and on weekends.
ANNE: You had some college.
LONG SAN TZEO: Right. I had some college but in college they taught Lao and French but not English. Mathematics, geography, but none in English.
ANNE: Like high school?
LONG SAN TZEO: Probably. Secondary education, probably like high school here. People who graduate from secondary can be teachers. Some finish, some don’t.
ANNE: Culture shock?
LONG SAN TZEO: The culture shocks were very new to us.
TRACK 9 – 3:14
LONG SAN TZEO: When we first came, the first two weeks we stayed with our sponsors. They had a house with five bedrooms, two stories. We stayed with them for two weeks and the first two weeks, the first two years actually were shocking to us. They cooked and offered us food. As a young man I ate well, I was only about 25 years old. After two meals I was still hungry. At the third meal I asked my sponsor if it’s okay to call her mom. She said yeah. And when she started to cook I asked her can I cook with you? And I cooked a full meal. And we had a full meal.
ANNE: Did they give you rice?
LONG SAN TZEO: they gave us rice but long grain and small bags, and we finished in two meals. The other culture shock was the second morning, I remember at breakfast, the husband, Mr. Anderson, he left home for business trip in town and we were still having breakfast and before he left the house he gave his wife a kiss and we were very uncomfortable because we were not familiar with the culture. We don’t even hold hands in public.
ANNE: What must kids in Portland thought of new kids?
LONG SAN TZEO: Eventually the kids became Americanized much quicker and adapt faster.
ANNE: So you’ve worked and then what?
LONG SAN TZEO: Working as a custodian in the school,
TRACK 10 – 2:50
LONG SAN TZEO: I do in the evening, after school. I work from 5pm to about 11pm. Or midnight sometimes. During the day my mother, Mrs. Anderson, took me to Portland almost every day to apply for jobs. Eventually I was hired several places. They took me to industrial factories, they hire me. I couldn’t come to work because I didn’t have any transportation. 50 miles away. No public transportation. I also was hired by Portland public schools. I couldn’t take the job because I couldn’t take a place to live in Portland.
ANNE: They wanted you because you spoke English.
LONG SAN TZEO: Right. They gave me a task. I remember them.
ANNE: Who were they?
LONG SAN TZEO: Two ladies. One was Cheng Peng Ling. And the other was pat Fernow. After I finish my application and exam and they asked when can you start and I said I don’t know, my sponsors take care of me.
ANNE: How did that feel?
LONG SAN TZEO: I knew a few families in Portland but I had no place to live so I referred it back to them because they take care of us. If they said we’ll find you a place or take you, then I would have come here.
ANNE: So you got a job. How did you find a place to live?
TRACK 11 – 4:01
LONG SAN TZEO: I had to turn down the job from PPS, but about the same week my sponsor took me again to Portland. They took me to welfare office. They knew welfare office needed someone who can speak more than one language. I filled out an application and they referred me to the Indo-Chinese center who had several refugees from Southeast Asia who provide ESL and job training. Also interpretation service because most refugees do not speak English. I applied for a job there and went home. They said usually the hiring takes place in September or October. That’s how the fiscal year works. The fiscal year is October to September, but I went home and went to Colton again and applied for a job with Techtronics. But two weeks later the Indo-Chinese center called and they hired me. After I got my job my sponsor said let’s go this time, let’s move to Portland. So I have to share a room with one of my cousins for about two months. I had two children then, I was on an waiting list for an apartment which is full of refugees. Hmong, Mien, Thai, Cambodian, Vietnamese. We live there for a year and move to St. John’s. we live there and go back to Halsey Square.
ANNE: Halsey Square is a Mien area.
LONG SAN TZEO: Mien Village. Most of the apartment units were occupied by Mien families.
ANNE: what was it like?
LONG SAN TZEO: It was fun. It was good. We get to live next to family members. We can play volleyball in the evenings. We like it there.
ANNE: Today Halsey Square has its problems.
LONG SAN TZEO: Halsey Square apartments became Rose city apartments.
TRACK 12 – 4:17
LONG SAN TZEO: I think the city government gave them a no-interest loan. Sometimes when I drive by I feel very insecure there. When you move outside, when you go back to the city center it looks strange. The area became a high-crime neighborhood.
ANNE: Who was committing crimes?
LONG SAN TZEO: We don’t know. In the 80s people thought the Asian gangs but now not so many Asians in the area. Now there are other refugee groups in the area. Africans, Russians, but the area is high crime.
ANNE: Are Mien gangs a problem?
LONG SAN TZEO: At first, most Mien parents do not accept that kids were involved in the gangs although they might know the kids were in problems. They do not want to admit that they’re kids join gangs, until they’re caught. The parents are surprised. They don’t want to seek for help, they want to keep to themselves. They don’t want to admit the kids were bad kids because the fear and also shame.
ANNE: They didn’t know much about the schools…
LONG SAN TZEO: Exactly. The parents did not understand English and the kids come home and the parents can’t communicate with them. They don’t share with the parents, the parents don’t know until the school informs them and then they begin to realize their kids were in trouble.
ANNE: Also kids were in control in many households because they spoke English.
LONG SAN TZEO: That’s correct too. Most Mien families who do not understand English rely on their kids for communication.
ANNE: Do you want to say that?
LONG SAN TZEO: The fact is because they think what their kids told them was true but the kids were in trouble but they didn’t share the sad parent so they did not know until the community leaders get together and inform them.
ANNE: Were you a community leader in Halsey?
LONG SAN TZEO: Yes. I was elected to be the president of the Mien Association of Oregon in ’91, ’92. prior to that the association was there, but not officially.
TRACK 13 – 7:52
LONG SAN TZEO: After I was elected, I told them if they wanted to form an organization I would like to legalize, incorporate it. So we formed, we incorporated the mien association.
ANNE: It’s purpose?
LONG SAN TZEO: The purpose was to liaison between the Mien community and the larger community and help mien families in need.
LONG SAN TZEO: Not economic needs but cultural, education, and other family needs. We have officials in the mien association. Treasurer, board members. We had people w ho were dedicated to serve the Mien.
ANNE: What did you do?
LONG SAN TZEO: I just name a few. We reinforced the ESL part. We asked every parents to take ESL classes from foundation. To teach ESL and also Mien literacy. Then we taught Chinese. We had classes in Halsey Square apartment. We pay two part-time teachers to teach Mien culture and the Chinese language. We also helped people with embroidery, we find work for them, we find community gardens for them to do their own gardening. Older family members have nothing to do during the day. They grow their own vegetables.
ANNE: It must have been difficult for elders.
LONG SAN TZEO: The older ones, seniors, they do help with taking care of grandchildren or great-grandchildren. Also, as a community leader, we also have to find activities for them to enjoy. We arranged field trips for them to go to Mt. Hood, to go to Oregon Coast. We had a picnic there. We also went to Canada, the Indian reservation. We took elders there, they loved it. The Indians performed, they loved it.
ANNE: The cultures are similar. So what needs to be done for the Mien people?
LONG SAN TZEO: The Mien in Portland? There are still a lot of needs. Because people who came in the early 80s or late 80s, many of them did not have a chance to go to school, to learn jobs, this and that. Now many of them lost jobs and they want to get back to work but they do not read or write English. Most of them claim I can’t learn, I don’t want to go to school because I’m too old. That’s the attitude. I’m still trying. Many of them still have not become US citizens. I have brother-in-laws who are still holding a green card.
ANNE: Do they hope to go back to Laos?
LONG SAN TZEO: I don’t think there’s hope anymore to go back to Laos. I tell them this is their home, they should be citizens, have equal rights. But they say they are too old. But I worry because I don’t know how long they can hold green cards. I know families who went to Canada and couldn’t come back because they don’t have green cards. Kids get green cards with pictures as little babies and they grow up, they can’t come back.
ANNE: What happened?
LONG SAN TZEO: They have to pay. There’s a fine to pay to come back to the US. They did get back eventually. They were told the second time they weren’t allowed to get back. They could be sent back to Laos. Laos would not accept them. They would say this Mien is other people.
LONG GOES TO GET IT – “FIVE MORE MINUTES”
ANNE: Successes of the Mien.
TRACK 14 – 2:12
LONG SAN TZEO: Although most of the Mien had a lot of problems or struggle, upon their arrival to the US, I think nowadays the Mien is one of the most successful groups. They used to be called the mountain people because they moved from mountain to mountain in Laos. They were slash and burn farmers and every few years they have to move to a new area to get good crops. In Portland area alone, almost every healthy mien is working, both men and women. They all have jobs. I think over 75% of them own homes now. Many have their home free and clear, without debts. They want to have a life, no debts.
ANNE: These are younger people.
LONG SAN TZEO: Most of the Mien who are here for twenty years already. The first families came in 1976 and the last ones came in ’91. everyone needs to go to work, and because they live together, a family of grandparents, parents, and children and grandchildren, I would say some families, four generations live I the same household.
TRACK 15 – 1:50
LONG SAN TZEO: My family used to live in the same apartment, three generations. My parents, myself, and my kids. In Halsey Square. I would say the Mien is one of the most successful groups in Laos, but I don’t think the public notices that. Many kids go to school, get their degrees. Bachelor degrees, Master’s degrees. Mien work in almost every sector. County and state government, I don’t know anyone who works at the federal government yet, but he city and the local agencies and everywhere they have Mien working there.
ANNE: A Mien politician?
LONG SAN TZEO: I would say so. Maybe the next ten years. The mien in the bay area, a few of them hold high positions in school districts. I have a niece, her husband is a school principal in the bay area. She’s working toward that goal too. Two of them are vice-principals.
TRACK 16 – 9:54
ANNE: what has been your happiest experience in the US?
LONG SAN TZEO: There are many things but one thing that makes me proud is that we have a chance to live in a free world. a free country, give you freedom according to your ability to contribute to your new society. I am proud I have helped so many families succeed in this country, especially Portland. In the early 80s they have general labor jobs and now most have their own homes, some their own jobs, property management. I would say a few families are millionaires now, they don’t want to show it but they are successful business folks because they take risks. One of my cousins who went to school in Laos with me now owns two hotels in the area. These are jus examples, Mien are very successful. Many times you run into them and say thank you for your help. I don’t want to credit to myself, but to where I work. IRCO, Immigrant and Refugee community Organization, formerly known as Indo-Chinese Cultural Center. We have helped so many refugees succeed. We still depend on the community members. Every year we take a community assessment. We want feedback from them. What is the need out there? What can we do to help? We don’t want to leave the community out. We want to work with the community and we want support. I appreciate what you do for yourself and others. I don’t see a job to make a living for yourself and you don’t care for others. My heart is with the community, not only the Mien community. I am happy to see so many refugees succeed in this country. They are big contributors to this country. They pay taxes, and people may not know. When I first came I took people to find jobs and employers said they are on welfare, they cannot work. These people are not here to be on welfare. First, they are here for their safety. Second, they are here to succeed. I think the third generation folks will be the most successful. I don’t want people to think you’re a refugee, you take our jobs. The jobs refugees take, local folks don’t want to take. Minimum wage jobs local people don’t want to take. Refugees don’t care.
ANNE: they’re American citizens anyway.
LONG SAN TZEO: That’s correct. They know, some refugees may not understand, as a job worker I’ve been working with the job service unit for 22 years. Many refugees are reluctant to accept entry-wage jobs because in their formal occupation they could be commanders, or officials or schoolteachers, but my job is to teach them if you don’t start you can’t finish. They have to start somewhere. Like a baby whose born and cannot grow up right away. You have to start somewhere. So most of them after a counseling session came to realize an entry-level job is the chance. And many of them made it to the top in a few years. Many clients I place in jobs become supervisors, managers, and some are self-employed. A few families I placed in the cabinet shops became employers. They own the business and hire people and call us. Send us someone.
ANNE: What kind of a future do you see for you?
LONG SAN TZEO: I’m over 50 now. My kids are grown up. I have two daughters who finished colleges and they are working. My son is still going to school. One of my goals is to support my children until they can stand on their own feet and be independent to have their own families. For me and my wife, we plan to work until our retire age and after we retire one of my goals is to go back to Asia. china or Laos or Thailand to educate those people. We have so many good things for other countries to learn and I think through my years of experience here that you can take back to your homeland and those people would appreciate it. I hope our dream with come true one day. I just finished one class last month. Christian ministry, so one of my goals is to go back and spread the good news. Right now it’s very tough because in Laos, China you cannot speak about Christ, you cannot spread the news over there. So I want to go back and spread the gospel and techniques we have developed.
ANNE: Some people show through their behavior. Thank you so much. We appreciate it.
LONG SAN TZEO: You are welcome. And thanks for the opportunity.