When Jeff served his mission with the Hmong people here in Fresno they gave him a Hmong name.They call him Lee Fong...It's spelled Lis Foom and means blessing. Whenever we meet Hmong people around town they always seem to know who he is and are excited to meet him. Likely from his weekly radio and more recently TV programs he hosts on their Hmong stations. When my mom mentions Jeffs name at the local stands selling strawberries belonging to Hmong farmers, they give her the best baskets and the best prices. At Panda express they sometimes throw in a little extra. I like to call this "The Power of The Fong".
Jeff's law firm has been a big sponsor at the Hmong New Year celebration here in Fresno and he really wanted to have our family come down to see what he does there. He wanted to introduce us to the people and on the Hmong TV station. His office manager even bought Brynne her own little Hmong outfit! We needed to go even though it's always a bit awkward to just stand next to him and smile and nod and never know what is being said around or about you while everyone looks at you. All I know is that they all seem to find him quite funny and everyone wants to talk to him.
We all stood on the stage while the TV cameras rolled and and the audience listened attentively to Jeff telling them all our Hmong names. I don't know how to spell any of them but I can tell you that mine is Ya Youa and means peacock, the hmong girls at camp gave me this name. The rest of the names Jeff just gave to the kids when they were babies and told me the reason for each name. Wes is Baur (?) it means chubby. He was the fattest cuddliest little baby ever. Garretts name is So Lai (?) and means lightning. As a baby he was always hot or cold in mood and temperament and could change as quick as lightning. Drew's name I can't spell but it means rock. He was just solid as a rock and had a steady happy temperament. Brynne's name is Bombai and means butterfly. Thats what she is to us, our fragile and beautiful butterfly. After introducing all of us Jeff did a traditional Hmong poetry recitation and much to my surprise, they even had me say a few words to the people in English!
After our big "debut" we wandered around and shook hands with lots of people while Jeff visited with them. He had the boys experience "tossing the ball" with the girls dressed in traditional Homng costumes. This is old school Hmong courting. As I understand it the boys line up on one side the girls on the other and play catch. You toss the ball under handed to the one you're interested in. If you drop the ball you are supposed to give the other person an item of clothing or jewelry so that they have a reason to find and talk to you later. The girls all laughed and had fun tossing the ball with Lis Foom's sons, and the boys were good sports. For those two hours we were witnesses to the power of the Fong, and he was very grateful we had come to see him in his element. We had fun coming to see first hand what Hmong New Year was all about!