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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!

Blogs Posts Reflections Uncategorized

Behind The Scenes by Lily Chen

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 !