Have you ever wondered when you go to a store, pick up an item and read the label, “Made in Italy” or “Made in China?”, what does that actually means? Yes, it originated and was manufactured in that country. Yet, there is more behind that “Made in USA” label. Much more. In some instances, it defines the product and gives it a perceived value and equity. You know what you are getting. And at your extreme satisfaction, it does what it was suppose to do and makes you feel good.
What happens when you come across an item that is made in some far away land that you have absolutely no idea where that land is? Do you feel as strong about the item as the ones you are familiar with? Will it perform? Will it have value? Will you be satisfied? What is its worth? There are certainly many unknowns. What really is behind the label?
For all of us, we have a label the day we were born. I was “Made in Laos.” If you asked me what that means, I can honestly say, “I don’t know.” Don’t worry, I’ll give you an oral assault of what I think it means… but, no… I have no clue. Laos is as remote a country to me as to many of you. I was born in Laos. My family found refuge in the US when I was 2 years old. I am as American as the next Joe or Jane. I salute the flag on the joyous 4th day of July and remove my cap at every sporting event as a preamble to the Star Spangled Banner. I have lived my life secured in my Red, White, and Blue spirit and am very grateful to live in this blessed land.
As great and joyous it has been for me living my American dream, I am reminded every day how removed I am from my “Made in Laos” label. I am lucky in many ways to have a great Lao community that nourishes me and provides me the education of the Lao culture and traditions. Yet, there was a lot missing. And it is sad to say that I did not actually know what was missing. How would I know what the core substance of “Made in Laos” is and how it would make me feel and define me as a person?
(“Made in Laos” – My aunts and uncles. My lovely Mom next to my Grandfather.)
Fortunately, I was able to travel back to Southeast Asia to discover my roots. I flew out of Chicago on August 11th and landed in Bangkok on August 13th. I am now sitting in the comforts of my bed upon arrival of this transformational journey. I was able to experience the sights and sounds of Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. I was able to taste and savor the local and native cuisines. I was able to touch the dirt and feel the air. In the midst of immersing myself in this land, I discovered the beauty and love that gravitated me to this land for all of my life. The feeling was like a burst of eternal bliss as it filled the void in my heart and livelihood. I was finally on my way to feel and become, “Made in Laos.”
I am gleefully smiling right now because now I feel extremely right about being the “Laosy Guy.” I am way more “Laosy” today than ever! LOL In the next couple of days and weeks, I will be posting my experiences and insights on my travels as I discovered what it means to be “Made in Laos.” I hope you can enjoy this journey with me and continue to discover your “Made in Laos.”
Next in this series – “Made in Laos – Land of One Million Elephants”