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Behind The Scenes by Lily Chen

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7th MEHS International Alumni Reunion in Hawaii

What a spectacular ending to our reunion on the weekend of Sept 6 and 7, 2014. We could not have wished for a more pleasant surprise ending when we saw the fireworks light up the sky after we sang “Aloha ‘Oe” (until we meet again) written by the last Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii, and Auld Lang Syne.

YES! That was our 7th MEHS Alumni reunion. The venue was at Lanikuhonua, “(where heaven meets the earth”), an open grassy flat area dotted with tall, “swaying” palm trees next to the beach and the Pacific ocean. When we first decided to have the 7th reunion in Hawaii, the thought of having it in a hotel conference room was absolutely inconceivable. When in Hawaii, we expect open air, beach, sun, balmy breeze, beautiful sunset, palm trees and lots of fun and camaraderie.

We want to share with our alumni the extensive planning spanned over 1.5 years, brainstorming possibilities to ensure a successful event. The hours and expense invested in this process were a challenge to our planners who, due to distance, lack of economy of scale, and the high cost of our venue, worked tirelessly to negotiate with all our vendors in order to keep our costs down. Initial out-of-pocket expenses were contributed by the planners since we did not have any working capital. Hawaii is one of the most expensive states in the US so costs and quality of our event were our main concern. We strove hard to keep the costs down but at the same time, refused to sacrifice quality.

Venue: Lily flew to Oahu on 2 separate occasions (April 2013 and Feb 2014) to inspect three different venues that might be most suitable for our event. None fit the requirements. Then Dr. Tin Myaing Thein (Faith Tin) suggested that Lily look into Lanikuhonua (a privately owned property) in Ko’Olina. This was her last option and she wanted to find a “perfect” venue for our perfect reunion. Ma Ma Faith promised that when Lily walked into the grounds, she would gasp at the sheer beauty of the place. It was truly a beautiful and magnificent piece of land.

Our next gasp was the cost of leasing the property for our event! It was exorbitant for 1.5 days and full of conditions and we would have to pay the out-of-state rate. Lily knew she had found THEplace to hold our event and reached out to Ma Ma Faith who suggested that by using her organization, Pacific Gateway Center, we might get the “kama’aina” (resident) rate. Then Lily’s brother, Ted, told her that he knew the GM of this property and offered to write him. The GM gave us a further 15% discount.

Hotels: Lily visited several hotels and decided on the Ala Moana Hotel due to its location, which is at the gateway to Waikiki and is centrally located to sites and shops. The hotel’s Sales Manager offered a group rate for our attendees.

Tent/tables/chairs: We then looked into 3 tent rental agencies and decided on Accel Party Rental who turned out to be very amiable and helpful and also gave us a 15% discount because of our association with Pacific Gateway Center.

Food. Pacific Gateway caters Asian/Ethnic food. They were absolutely agreeable to our suggestions and Lily worked with Ma Ma Faith on the menu that would be compatible to different diets and finally 2 weeks before the event, a menu was set up. We thank them for the scrumptious food and cordial helpers. There was enough food to feed an army. One of the popular drinks was “pwau yee” (tamarind/jackary drink) and there were no stomach repercussions! Bottled water, “Hawaii2O”, was donated by Ted for our event.

Our Band: Mra Tun (and his crew, Myo Thant [our treasurer], John Green, Kwai Lam Fong, Roy Kusardy and singer, Winsome Aye Mg) took care of renting musical equipment from several vendors in order to save money. Mra spent countless hours calling musical equipment shops in Honolulu to get the best possible rate. The team practiced several times to put on a well-rehearsed show. After the equipment was picked up, where do we store them as the venue would not be responsible if left on the premises. Lily’s brother, Ted, who has a place ½ mile from the venue offered to have the carload of musical equipment stored in his garage both Saturday, and Sunday evening after the event.

Transportation: Some of our attendees wished to be transported from hotel to venue and Sally worked tirelessly on transportation with two organizations that provided van and/or bus services. Hiring a 12- or 25-seater bus was out of the question as the committee could not afford it and we would have to charge the attendees too much money which would be ludicrous. Finally, after some maneuvering and help from attending alumni, Sally was able to arrange rides for everyone (almost). Thank you Sally.

Flowers: Sheila’s talent in floral arrangement further reduced the cost of using outside services. She took over the floral arrangements for each table and adorned each table fabulously. She spent the whole afternoon and evening before the event to arrange 11 centerpieces all by herself. Sheila also donated the flowers for our hair. She cut each orchid bloom from the stem and attached the hair clip and pin to the back of flower. Thank you Sheila.

Funds: We had a few attendees from the UK, the Netherlands and Australia. May Tha Hla offered to collect the registration fees and through her connection with Forex, was able to wire the money to our account without incurring any fees. Thanks to May.

Auction: Many of our attendees donated items of value to be auctioned in order to raise funds for the memorial foundation. Thanks to all of you for your donations.

After the major vendors were contracted, we moved to the small details, like, setting our agenda, what to include in our program, competition of house games, the fresh leis, flowers for our tables, programs, prizes, balloons, table cloths, table cloth clips, grass skirts for the house flag bearers, tiki torches, flag poles, small gifts for the women and the men, MC, volunteers, flags of our houses, and more. The concept of “the devil is in the details” was important to our planning. Fresh leis and flowers and last minute details were done 2 days prior our event in order to keep our flowers fresh in the warm weather.

Lily had the idea of using Hawaiian print fabric to represent our houses. The color of the background that has a predominant color would represent the color of our house, to keep in line with the Hawaiian spirit. The idea of the Aloha Shirt Card to be used as our program cover surfaced after hours of searching on the net.

To achieve great deals and constantly mindful of keeping our costs to a minimum, we spent countless hours at the computer to research and compare prices.

The tradition of Hawaii before an event is to have Kumu (“the Source”) does the welcome chant to welcome the guests and bless our event. Ma Ma Faith’s son, Robert (Aukai), is a Kumu and he was accompanied by 2 Kumus who performed dances after the chant. We were truly blessed as the “stars were in total alignment” that weekend and we could not have picked a more perfect weekend.

MC: Lucy flew in to HI on the morning of our event. She was delayed 2 days but made it in the nick of time. Thanks for a fine MC job.

William, Lily’s brother, knew his niece was a Tahitian dancer and he contacted her organization, Te Ori Tahiti Here, to see if they would perform for us on a small budget. The group was very gracious and performed for us both days. Lucy (Lin) collected tips from our attendees who appreciated and enjoyed the performance put on by the dancers. She collected $350 for the performers. The head of the group was very much touched and very glad to be a part of our reunion. They even got to taste the Burmese food.

Photographers: Lilian Wu, Alfred Patail and William. The 3 of them took over 1,000 pictures and William is editing the pictures to make a “story in pictures”.

Wine/Beer: Michael and Linda Lim, 2 of our committee members, donated the wine and beer for our occasion and also served as our “driver” to transport some of our alumni from hotel to venue. Thanks to them.

As you all know, we worked on a shoestring budget but we managed to get what we wanted for the reunion without having to cut back to achieve the results we wished for the reunion. Our goal was to maintain the quality of our event and we achieved the goal. The success of the event was our attendees’ participation.

“Methodist Hawaii Reunion” song: Lily thought a Hawaii reunion song would be appropriate for our event and solicited David Law (class ’69) to write lyrics to melody of “Hawaiian Wedding Song”. Lily edited and refined the lyrics and the words to the song, sung to the tune of Elvis Presley’s “Blue Hawaii”, appear below.

As Beauty Swe put it quite aptly, “it is the quality and not the quantity” that made the difference. How true!

We thank all the volunteers who cheerfully and willingly helped when called upon.

Last but not least, our profound thanks to our webmaster, Kenny Teoh, who has over the years maintained, updated our website which is a priceless resource to our alumni, Thank you Kenny.

Our reunion committee consisted of: Gloria Winthein (Pres. of Alumni Assoc), Dr. Tin Myaing Thein (Pacific Gateway Center), Cecil Wagstaff, Michael Lim, Linda Lim, William Chen (Photographer), Michael Myo Thant (Treasurer), Kenny Teoh (Webmaster), Sally Joseph, and Lily Chen. Thank you for your support throughout our planning, at times very challenging, and your constructive input.

As we said to our attendees, we started the chain of events and you continued and ended the reunion on a perfect note.

Aloha ‘Oe, Until we meet again.

 


MEHS ReUnion Song
Words by David Law (class ’69) and Lily Chen (class’65)
(Sung to the tune of Hawaiian Wedding Song)

This is the moment
we’ve waited for
where “heaven meets the earth”
at Lani-ku-ho-nua

This is the moment
Our School ReUnion
When we meet and spend our time with classmates
What a special day for us to celebrate

Come Sep-tem-ber
Ha-waii beckons you here
Ca-ma-ra-de-rie and picture taking
This will be the history in the making

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 !

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