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7th Heaven in Aloha Land by Tommy Htay

Savoir-Faire and Savoir-Vivre!

Who would have imagined that, one day, members of this elite community called the Methodist English High School Alumni (MEHSA) would be celebrating their international reunion event in Lani-ku-ho-nua (“where heaven meets the earth”) with waves roaring passionately towards the beautiful white sandy beach with a kiss of aloha, swaying palms dancing with the soothing breeze coming across the expanse of the Pacific Ocean and the mountain peak jutting in all its majesty towards the azure sky?

Balmy weather, serene settings, consummate natural beauty, Hawaiian welcome chant and dances, prancing verve and wriggling moves of the Tahitian dancers and the energy and will of the alumni to have the most fun and our own band with Mra Tun as our maestro set the tone and tenor and the sights and sounds of the Seventh International Reunion of MEHSA (September 6-7, 2014) in blue Hawaii.

Whenever people ask me about my alma mater, I always say with chin up and chest out that the products of our school have a distinctive DNA which I spell out with these words: “Quality is our terra firma and Capability is our forte”. From now on, after all the reunion events that have taken place so far, I would add this third ingredient: “Camaraderie is our life blood”. In technical language, MEHSA DNA would be QCC1. In plain English we are topnotch on every count.

For starters, look at this beautiful program cover that depicts a Hawaiian designer shirt. Open it and you will find the two-day programs printed on paper in purple and the words of the songs alumni will sing printed on paper in yellow. It’s so very relevant and everyone showered praises on Lily Chen, the prime mover.

The Program a la Hawaii
The Program a la Hawaii

The curtain raiser for the festivities on the Hawaiian island of Oahu was the Hawaiian welcome chant and dances. It was very local, cultural and traditional. Feeling blessed with the best wishes for the success of the reunion event, we all sat down in the big tent to watch the beautiful and alluring moves of male and female Tahitian dancers to the beat of their exotic Polynesian music.

Hawaiian dancers swaying in concert with the palms
Hawaiian dancers swaying in concert with the palms

Gloria Win Thein, president of the Reunion Planning Committee, went through the rituals of carrying the MEHS flag followed by a parade of House Flag carriers: Sheila Patail (Carey), Phyllis Khaing (Judson), Hazel Kyaw Zaw (Livingston) and Beauty Swe (Wesley). The MC for this two-day event was the eloquent Lucy Chen (Lin Herbert), Chief Financial Officer of the MEHS Memorial Foundation. How she smoothly segued from one program to the next was a delight to all and a tough act to follow for the up and coming MCs of our alumni community.

Following her welcoming speech, Gloria Win Thein, led one and all with the MEHS School song and the usual school Assembly Hall fare of The Happy Wanderer and My Banjo to the accompaniment of Mra Tun, the maestro, with his bandmates Michael Myo Thant, Kwai Lum Fong, John Green and Roy Kusardy going full swing. Lin, Lily and Mra then sang the MEHS Hawaii Reunion Song, written by David Law (class of ’69) and Lily Chen (class of ’65), with the assembly joining them. The song, intrinsically, would mean Noblesse Oblige, which defines the Hawaiian Reunion of 2014. Musically, it goes by the strains of Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii.

“This is the moment
we’ve waited for
where “heaven meets the earth”
at Lani-ku-ho-nua” ….
…. “Luau and Aloha
we will dance the hula
Blue Skies of Hawaii smile
On our Reunion Day
We do – love you – M E H S !”

After enjoying the performance of the Te Ori Tahiti dancers, we all had a sumptuous dinner catered by the Pacific Gateway Center Organization headed by our very own Faith Tin (Dr. Tin Myaing Thein).

A human Wikipedia of sorts, Lucy Chen, then tossed at us trivia questions on anything and everything MEHS. The raucous alumni crowd scored more misses than hits. Advantage Lucy with loads of fun all the way.

A special feature of Competition for Best Aloha Shirt Parade was the highlight of the evening of September 6 and it was a wonderful performance of male alumni and spouses of the female alumni, donned in fancy Hawaiian shirts of all designs and colors, letting their vanity out for the prize. At the awards ceremony on the 7th evening, the alumni’s choice of the best looking Aloha Shirt with all the swagger the wearer exhibited the night before went to Lyn Aung Thet, who is universally acknowledged as the brainiest, bar none. The second prize winners were Mra Tun, Ted Chen and Tommy Htay.

On the second day, September 7, alumna Faith Tin (Dr. Tin Myaing Thein) talked about the Pacific Gateway Center of which she is the Executive Director. The Center “through innovation and creativity empowers immigrants and refugees, most of them survivors of human trafficking, to become self-sufficient and economically independent. Most of them are Burmese and Thai farmers.” Now in its 40th year, it is expanding into many areas like job training and catering start-up companies to translation and interpretation services in close to 35 languages. The Pacific Gateway Center Organization was the caterer for the 7th MEHSA Reunion in Hawaii providing us with Burmese soul food that “we have loved since childhood”, to quote my friend Cleo Kyin Oo Appleton in her article, MEHS Hawaii “Five Oh”.

Then tributes and recognition followed, to the awe and delight of everyone present.

Games and Competition of Houses, commandeered by the bubbly and bouncy Beauty Myo Min (Beauty Swe), summoning what the “Maharani” Lily Chen wanted and all the members of Wesley, Carey, Judson and Livingston Houses clamored to provide amidst all the hustle and bustle that was part of the joy in the game engineered by the “Maharani” herself, next took the stage. The Judson House, headed by Phyllis Khaing, came out tops and, in accordance with the rules of the game, all members of the other houses had to oblige what the winner asked them to do, awkward and embarrassing notwithstanding. But, all in all, everyone agreed that Michael Lim, who is the “Commander-in-Chief” of this fun session, was the real winner, although he belongs to the Livingston House. He very calmly and energetically took the liberty of giving passionate smooches to all the ladies from all the Houses who participated in the game, much to the delight of the ladies themselves, I might add. Another game was won by Wesley, thanks to Roland Liu’s ability and adroitness.

Group dancing, auction of items, “1 minute talk” and group pictures went smoothly in sequence in the able hands of MC Lucy. And, vocalists Winsome Aye Maung, Mra Tun and Michael Myo Thant and the band gave their all to complete the entertainment phase of the evening.

Group Dancing
Group Dancing

Te Ori Tahiti Dance Troupe Striking a Pose
Te Ori Thiti Dance Troupe Striking a Pose

Tommy Htay, President of the MEHS Memorial Foundation, then presented Cecil Teoh and Gloria Win Thein with the prestigious Juliet Teoh Memorial Award for 2013 for their outstanding achievements in both MEOSA and MEHSA years. Tommy Htay himself accepted the same award from Cecil Teoh, the first President of Methodist English Old Students’ Association (MEOSA) in Rangoon, Burma. They now joined the other distinguished recipients of this 2013 award: Dr. Thaw Kaung, former MEOSA president and Harry Taw, President of MEHS Memorial Foundation (2008-2012) and the Yangon Working Committee (YWC) of the MEHS Memorial Foundation.

Lucy Chen (Lin Herbert), Chief Financial Officer of the MEHS Memorial Foundation, next talked about the work and what she had in mind about the future growth and sustenance of the Foundation.

After a delicious feast of an Asian cuisine dinner of the Pacific Gateway Center, the attendees of the Hawaii Reunion savored the charm and grace of Hawaiian culture as enunciated by our own Faith Tin (Dr. Tin Myaing Thein), Executive Director of PGC, through “Aloha ‘Oe” Lyrics (By Queen Liliuokalani) and expressed in beautiful dance moves she so naturally led the way for all to participate and enjoy and to close our Reunion meet, steeped in local culture and tradition.

Faith Leading Aloha 'Oe
Faith Leading Aloha ‘Oe

Come September, we will always remember and muse over the fun, joy and MEHS spirit of camaraderie that we had embraced in 2014 at Lanikuhonua “where heaven meets the earth”, thanks to the MEHSA 7th International Reunion planners and core workers Lily Chen, Sally Joseph and Sheila Patail of the Las Vegas Reunion fame and Gloria Win Thein, Faith Tin, Michael Myo Thant, Michael and Linda Lim, William Chen, Kenny Teoh, Cecil Wagstaff and, last but not the least our ace MC Lucy Chen (Lin Herbert).

As we brought the curtain down on our Seventh Heaven in Aloha Land with the usual fare of Auld Lang Syne, wonder of wonders, close by our venue, fireworks lit up the sky with the thunderous whoosh and booms and bangs and colorful sparks flying and sputtering all over as if to join our joyous celebration with gusto. Michael Lim shouted, “We ended our Reunion with a bang!”. Perhaps, not to let Michael outdo them, the others chimed in “Hey, Lily, we didn’t know that you could pull this kind of rabbit out of your hat”. To which the Reunion planner extraordinaire Lily Chen demurely looked around with a big grin, totally noncommittal.

Revelers Huddle Under MEHS Banner
Revelers Huddle Under MEHS Banner

Aloha, in Hawaiian, means hello, goodbye and love. Mahalo, on the other hand, means thank you.

ALOHA September 2014 Hawaiian 7th MEHS International Reunion and MAHALO to our wonderful planners!

ALOHA January 2015 8th MEHS International Reunion in Yangon, Myanmar!

By Myo

Myo Thant aka Michael Tin Hla during my MEHS years graduated in 1964. After graduation, I completed my medical school before I left for US. Currently, I reside in Maryland, retired from my hematology/oncology clinical practice but works at VA Hematology/Oncology clinic part time. My house at MEHS was Judson and I am proud to be a green martian.