VII. HEIDELBERG, Germany
May 19 – 23, 2004
Ich hab’ mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren is one of the songs that is always sung at TFI Reunions. It therefore was no surprise when the next TFI Reunion was held in Heidelberg. Nestled in the hills of the Odenwald on the shore of the River Neckar, Heidelberg is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Germany. This romantic old city has inspired poets and painters of Romanticism and still fascinates millions of visitors from all over the world as it did, no doubt, fascinate TFI reunion participants whose dream of visiting this grand old city was to become a reality.
The TFI Reunion in Heidelberg which was held at the Marriott Hotel was chaired by long-time German resident Tan Tjoan Gie of Heilbronn. He was assisted by Vice chairman Lie Gwan Eng of West Linn, Oregon in the United States of America, two secretaries, two treasurers and a support team responsible for food, hospitality, accommodation and recreation. Tjing Bie acted, once again, as advisor, while his wife Lanny who had earned herself the nickname “Iron Lady” because of her resoluteness, acted as Coordinator of the team.
Having Committee members living in different countries, thousands of kilometres apart, was a challenge. In spite of electronic communication devices such as telephones, fax and e-mail, it was necessary for Lanny to fly to Heidelberg to assist Tjoan Gie. Together, Tjoan Gie and Lanny auditioned bands from Holland to play at the gala dinner. They also checked out the Biergarten, the Neckar Cruise, as well as boat companies for the post-reunion Rheinfahrt (Rhine Cruise) from Strasbourg to Amsterdam. One of the stipulations in deciding which cruise company to select was the quality of the food that was to be served on board. Tjoan Gie and Lanny finally settled on a French boat that served French cuisine and good wine. To further assist Tjoan Gie with the final preparations for the reunion, Lanny and Tjing Bie flew to Germany a couple of days before the start of the reunion.
In his welcome address which, for the first time, was entirely delivered in Indonesian, Tjoan Gie mentioned the overwhelming interest for the reunion in Heidelberg. More than 300 alumni and friends were interested in attending the Heidelberg reunion, tapi sayang sekali kami hanya dapat menampung 270 (it was, however, a great pity that we could only accommodate 270). He was sorry for those friends who were not able to join and hoped that they would meet at future reunions.
Tjoan Gie conveyed his thoughts on the passage of time: makin lanjut usia, makin cepat sang waktu berlalu rasanya (the older we get, the faster time seems to pass). He urged participants to bersuka ria ber-sama2 (have fun together) – gaudeamus igitur (let us rejoice) – dalam beberapa hari pertemuan ini, merindukan zaman “baheula” selama studi dalam pangkuan Ibu Pertiwi dan Alma Mater, memupuk persahabatan lama dan menjalin perkenalan baru (in the couple of days we have together, we evoke memories of the olden days during our studies in the lap of Mother Earth and our Alma Mater, as we nourish old friendships and create new ones).
The Heidelberg Reunion booklet includes messages and greetings from previous Chair- and Vice chairpersons. Steve Kristedja, Chairman of the first Reunion in Las Vegas in 1987, applauded the Committee‘s decision to ‘break’ the tradition of meeting only every three years. He commended the choice of location, since we have been singing about Heidelberg during each occasion, why not visit the place and enjoy the sentimental aspect of it. As in his message in the 2002 Reunion book, Steve reminded participants, once again, not to forget to pay tribute to those of us who, in the mean time, have passed away.
Steve’s brother, Tjing Bie, who was Chairman of the Reno I Reunion and Vice-Chairman of the Reno II reunion, welcomed participants to the seventh Reunion and referred to the Ontario dinner meeting as the pioneer of our reunions.
In his message, Tan Soei Tjing of Arnhem who was Chairman of the VEBOS Reunion in Veldhoven in 1993, referred to the passage of time since the first reunion in Las Vegas in 1987. He pointed out that means of modern communication doesn’t seem to be sufficient to consolidate old ties of friendship and to create new ones. As social beings we need closer contact and a reunion is then an exquisite opportunity to realize that.
In his eloquent message, Bernard Souw Eng Kie of Herndon, Virginia, CoChairperson of the 1996 TFI Reunion in Washington, also reflected on the swift passage of time, the fabulous time we all had together, the fun, the nostalgia, the camaraderie and the intimate feeling of togetherness — in a festive setting so familiar to us — remains a vivid memory practically impossible to forget. He also referred to this reunion as a unique opportunity to exchange private experiences as expatriates in a diversity of foreign lands with more or less distinctive cultures, which may have resulted in different perspectives, despite our common, strongly eclectic culture. Our common cause for leaving our country of birth binds us all with a strong sense of Unity in Diversity, which is further reinforced by our past belonging to the same alma mater.
Dien Ko of Sunnyvale, California, Chairperson of the 1999 TFI Reunion in Reno, compared Heidelberg, a beautiful, cozy student town, to the old Bandung of the fifties and sixties, where many of the participants first met.
Johnny Tan Sing Oen of Moreno Valley, California, Chairman of the 2002 TFI Reunion in Las Vegas thanked the Committee for organizing the reunion in Europe. As we sing Io Vivat and Gaudeamus, we celebrate our reunion until we all return to Mother Earth. Johnny urged participants to keep up our celebrations of coming together.
The program included the traditional City Tour and a visit to the enchanting Old Castle, one of Heidelberg’s most famous landmarks. A visit to Germany is not complete without a visit to a Biergarten, where a brass band played traditional upbeat German folk music and drinking songs which stimulated our group of Asian seniors to sing along in German, to the great surprise and delight of the locals.
On the reunion program was a leisurely cruise on the River Neckar which gave participants a chance to socialize and reminisce, as the boat passed wellpreserved medieval towns, vineyards and ancient fortresses that evoked romantic notions of noble knights, chivalry and honour.
Because of the excessive number of people interested in attending the reunion in Heidelberg, the Committee had to look for a second hotel to handle the overflow, as Marriott was fully booked. 70 of the 270 participants had to stay at the Holiday Inn, a bus-ride away from the Marriott. It was also necessary to reserve two different dining rooms at the Marriott for the dinners. One group was put up in the Neckar Saal. The second group, which included participants staying at the Holiday Inn, had dinner in the London-New York Saal.
After dinner, tables and chairs in the Neckar Saal where the Committee were seated, were pushed aside to make room for participants from the second dining room, so they all could sit together for the evening’s social gathering and entertainment.
Following the Farewell Breakfast on the last day of the reunion, Tjing Bie nominated Han Swan Bing of Ottawa, Canada, to chair the next TFI reunion. As the only known TFI-er living in Ottawa, Bing was hesitant to accept. How was he supposed to form a Committee when there were no other TFI-ers in town? Then Paul Masengi of Toronto stood up in support. So did Californians Frances Liem of Placentia and Robert Sumarsono of Anaheim. It was only after Bing’s wife Kim agreed to help that he decided to accept this honour. A decision was made to hold the next TFI Reunion in Ottawa, Canada, in 2006.
Farewell speeches were held, and then it was time to say goodbye. When Lanny picked up her accordion and the mournful sound of Auld Lang Syne filled the air, participants rose from their seats and grabbed each other by the hand to form a circle. Swaying to the gentle rhythm of the music, people looked at each other, as they sang their goodbyes, their eyes brimming with tears. Saying goodbye to dear friends at the end of a reunion is a moving experience, as some of us will never see each other again. However, almost half of the participants were looking forward to another couple of days of togetherness, as they embarked on a five-day post reunion river cruise. They boarded the Modigliani in Strassbourg and cruised down the river Rhine to Amsterdam, stopping at picturesque and romantic towns and villages along the route for a most memorable trip.