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Erleen Moya

Community Member, Noel, Missouri

My name is Erleen Moya. I’m from Pohnpei. I live in Noel, Missouri. My husband is Thailand, and we have two kids. 

The first time I came to America, I lived in Arkansas, and then I moved to Missouri. I kind of like Missouri more than Arkansas. Why, because Arkansas has a lot cars and people, I don’t like it. It’s too busy, like you don’t have time to go out. Even if you have a car, you just go outside, it’s a  parking lot – no space. But I come to Missouri, it’s kind of like – I see it’s a lot like my country. Like you have green plants. Me and my kids love to be outside. We can go outside sometime together. And we can go fishing. We can go swimming, go camping, so I like it. You can rake, make fires easy. In Arkansas, there is no time to do that. So I like it here more. It’s different. Too different.

What other differences do you notice between your community here and your home country?

What’s the difference? Like back home we live in a house with not a lot of doors. Here we have two doors. We are free house. They come and go, we like all, not really family, but people know each other, so everybody is like family, especially the good people - not armed people. There aren't any armed people. They respect people. In my country we really respect others. We sleep in a house that has no door. You can just walk outside, see people sleeping, because we don’t have snow.

Here they change a lot. Some people change a lot. Some people forget the culture back home or the way they used to live before. They do the easy way in America. Sometimes, I’m like, "How are you guys gonna cook back home? You guys gonna go back home, we don’t have McDonalds. How you guys gonna go eat?" 


Sometimes I’ll ask my kids – sometimes I’ll buy pizza, they’ll say, “Oh mommy, I don’t want pizza, I want to eat that food - monkey food - not pizza.” Sometimes I just want to buy easy food, microwave it, but they don’t want it. They don't really like it. My older one likes spicy food and vegetables. She likes vegetables the most. So at our house I have a lot of vegetables every day and fruit, they can eat it every day. My second one, she doesn't really like bananas, she can eat, but she sees a banana and says "it's monkey. I tell her, "You gonna go to my country, you gonna go your grandma, every day we’re gonna eat bananas." That’s what I tell her, "So you need to eat bananas."

What other foods are common in your community?


At Pohnpei we eat local food, like banana, breadfruit, taro, yam, like that. It is not easy for me to find, only like fish is easy to find – you go to the sea, or like chicken. Steak, we’re not really used to. Some people can find it, but it's not easy to find for everyone like it is in my country.

Here we have to pay for everything. In my country, no. Sometimes we pay for rice, but mostly we don’t pay because we plant it. In our country we own our own land. It’s ours. If my dad own it, it’s mine. Not other people own it and we have to pay for everything. Here is sometimes easy, sometimes not. Sometimes people struggle with something.

We would eat breadfruit, banana, fish, taro, yam, and coconut for the drink. Fish is our meat, but if we use American like chicken, we fry an egg on top and cook it. We don’t use a plate, we use the coconut leaf to make the plate, or sometimes we use a banana leaf for a plate, If we do our culture, we use the banana leaf or coconut leaf to make it a plate. Here it is really hard [to find coconut leaves. Even coconut is hard to find sometimes. Sometimes you find it in the store but they don’t have the skin or no leaf, but banana leaves you can find in the store, so sometimes I use it.


What is meal time like in your culture?

We don't really have meals together. Everyone just eat. They put the food in one place and they say “time to eat.” They have to pass the food. But in your house it doesn’t matter. Whoever want to eat just eat, they don’t really say “it’s meal time”. If you just want to eat, you go eat. Whoever want to come eat, they’ll eat with you. It doesn’t matter.

How familiar are people in your community with diabetes?


In my country, a lot of people have diabetes, but I don’t know why. I don’t know what make them have diabetes, but a lot people get diabetes in my country. Some of them, they get help from the hospital. Some of them, they just do their own, our own medicine. They just get a leaf, they boil it, drink it, like that. They don’t get help. But some of them, they get medicine from hospital, but they are not really used to eating the medicine, they like the local medicine, their own medicine better.


It helps clean the inside of them. It helps reduce it. It really helps. And my grandma, she used to, she don’t drink water – she boil the medicine, drink every day. She don’t drink water a lot, only drink the medicine, and it helped her.


It’s really different in my country, like we got a lot different plants and different roots, different leaves that you can eat, drink as medicine. It helps you a lot. Helps you get strong. Helps you get healthy, like that.

How do people in your community exercise?

Exercise? Only walking is what we call exercise. In my country we not really like to exercise. Only like kids, when they say exercise, they do exercise. In February, in my culture, we do Constitution Day. They do exercises like jumping jacks, everything. But all the family, they don’t like exercise. If they walk, they already exercise, that’s what they say.

We aren't used to having cars. Some people their own car to use, but most of us use a taxi, say from our town to somewhere. Back home we work and make at the most about $2.75 or $2 in one hour, We don’t make much money. We come here and make big money! But there we have to ride taxi every morning to go to work. You can use the taxi without paying, but when you get paid, you have to pay the taxi half of your check. 

What has your experience with the local health department been like?


The first time I had a baby, they tell me about it – they help people. So I come. This is a good company. Why, because, you know, everything in America you have to pay, and it’s not, all people can’t buy it. Not all people are rich. Some people struggle. Some people cannot do it. Even if I work, sometimes I cannot buy this. Sometimes I ask for help. But when I come here [health department], it kind of helped me, because the milk my kids used to eat is expensive, too. So when I would take them here, it’s really helped me a lot. Like now they 


give me nine cans of milk for one month. It’s really helped me a lot. Not only the cans of milk, but even the food, the baby milk, it has helped a lot.

They teach me things. They show me how to do things. When I first came, I said “I don’t speak English, I don’t do many things, but I always try." Even if I don’t know, I try to ask. Even if I don’t speak English, I keep asking. When they don’t understand me, I keep trying. I say it more and more, so they can understand. Ok, they get it. I say “English is not my language” so I’m not shy to say it. It’s ok, you guys laugh at me, I don’t care, because it’s not my language. I try my best to understand. I try my best to survive here, because this is not my country. I need to do it. I need to try everything so I can learn. I love this community. They help me a lot. They are good people.

Erleen Moya

Community Member

Noel, Missouri

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