Interview for

Kay Klo

5/12/2020

Interviewed By:

Irene Hsu

Date Interviewed:

Audio Recording of Interview
00:00 / 27:53
Summary

In 2004, Kay and her family, members of the persecuted Karen tribe in Burma, resettled in the United States from Thailand. She discusses generational differences in religion and cultural practice as well as gender roles within the Karen culture, her gratitude for the education she has received, and her plans to use it to help her community back in Burma.

Transcript
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Additional Notes
Outline

Narrator: Kay Klo

Date: May 12, 2020


Content Warning: There is a brief mentioning of rape.

Summary: In 2004, Kay and her family, members of the persecuted Karen tribe in Burma, resettled in the United States from Thailand. She discusses generational differences in religion and cultural practice as well as gender roles within the Karen culture, her gratitude for the education she has received, and her plans to use it to help her community back in Burma.

Topics: Childhood, Conditions back home, Cultural Adjustment, Education, Employment, Family, Future, Gender, Generational differences, Immigration Process, Language, Places of worship, Race, Religion, Religious Practice, Trauma, War


Outline

Section 1: (000:02 - 04:01)

  • Childhood - Ms. Klo was born in Burma but lived in a village in Thailand that was on the border between the two nations. She remembers that she and her family lived in a little bamboo house on stilts that her father built with the help of their community.

  • Education - Ms. Klo and her brother attended a Thai school.

  • Religious Practice - On Sundays, Ms. Klo and her family attended church services.

  • Employment - While in Thailand, Ms. Klo’s parents juggled different jobs to make ends meet. For example, besides making bamboo baskets which was a common occupation for people in Ms. Klo’s villages, they ventured out into the city to look for more money.

Section 2: (04:01 - 11:00 )

  • Immigration Process - What transpired before Ms. Klo and her family immigrated to the United States remains vague to her because she was very young at the time. She does remember, though, that they left during the night and that it was hard saying goodbye at the airport.

  • Family - Ms. Klo’s relatives who live in both Thailand and Burma stayed behind because they were too fearful of the change brought by immigration.

  • Cultural Adjustment - Ms. Klo mentions food, English and sights of different races as some of the things she and her family had to adapt to. In Thailand, they had only ever seen Thai or Karen people (the Karen are an ethnic group from Burma).

  • Language - As Ms. Klo improved her English skills, she became a translator for newer Karen immigrants in her community in America.

  • Education - Ms. Klo’s ESL teachers continue to be her favorites; she attributes this to how attentive and accommodating they were as she was learning English as a new immigrant.

  • Race - Most, if not all, of Ms. Klo’s friends are Karen. She thinks she would not have had any friends had there been no Karen people in her community; this is due to the fact, which she illuminates, that in school, students tended to stick to people who looked like them.

Section 3: (11:00 - 15:14)

  • Places of worship - Ms. Klo recognizes churches and other religious institutions like Buddhist temples as mediums for community building for the Karen people in her community.

  • Religion - Ms. Klo was raised a Christian; she used to attend church in order to please her mother. Now that she is in college, she no longer goes to church as much.

  • Generational differences - Ms. Klo believes that the older Karen generation cares more about religion than the younger one

  • Conditions back home - Ms. Klo is constantly reminded of and thinking about the underprivileged back in Burma and Thailand. This has influenced her career aspirations.

  • Language - Karen classes are provided in Ms. Klo’s community such that the younger Karen generation that are growing up or have been born in America know their culture better.

  • Cultural Adjustment -  The Karen refugee community in America strives to maintain their culture especially through teaching the younger generation about their cultural background and heritage.

  • Future - Ms. Klo is interested in careers that will enable her to help her community back in Burma. As a college student, some of the areas that interest her are medical anthropology, public health and public health policy.

Section 4: (15:14 - 22: 44)

  • War - Ms. Klo admires the perseverance of the older Karen refugee generation and how they have strived to create better lives for their children.

  • Cultural adjustment - Unlike in Burma where extended family plays a role in raising children, in America, Ms. Klo’s parents had full responsibility for their children in addition to financial responsibilities. This especially took a toll on Ms. Klo’s mother.

  • Gender - In Karen culture, female children are raised to be subservient to men. Furthermore, they face more restrictions than male children; for example, Ms. Klo could not wear “too provocative” clothes and she could not hang out with her friends as she pleased.

  • Trauma - Ms. Klo explains that the reason why her parents were strict on her was because of how women are treated in Burma. She illuminates that rape is a common war tactic used in Burma; consequently, her mother was fearful that it may occur and thus controlled Ms. Klo’s dress code and activities.

Section 5: (22:44 - 27:52)

  • Education - Ms. Klo expresses that going away for college has allowed her a peace of mind. She has more control over what she does and is able to pursue things that interest her.

  • Future - Ms. Klo believes that multicultural studies are an important offering for an educational institution to have because it helps increase students’ awareness of other people in the world and thus allows them to see them as fellow human beings who are equally worthy and dignified.