VIII. OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada
July 12 – 16, 2006
When Ottawa was selected to host the next TFI reunion at the conclusion of the Heidelberg Reunion, a murmur went through the room. Ottawa? Why Ottawa? Where is Ottawa? Rumours started circulating that Ottawa was “niets aan”. In other words, there was nothing appealing about Ottawa.
The fact that some people did not know where Ottawa was, and others mumbled that there was nothing to Ottawa, was a chance for Bing and wife Kim, long-time residents of Ottawa, to showcase the city they loved and called home.
Because they were told not to expect a large number of participants, they decided to promote Ottawa and conduct a survey to find out how many would be interested in coming to Canada’s National Capital. In July 2004, they sent out a questionnaire along with a newsletter entitled “Why Ottawa?” to all TFI-ers on a list that was provided by Tjing Bie and a number of other TFI friends, including Henry and Hetty Tan who offered their help and were the first members of the Ottawa Team.
The newsletter described what Ottawa had to offer. As National Capital of the second largest country in the world (by landmass), Ottawa is considered a World Class City and one of the most beautiful G8 capitals because of its location on the confluence of the Ottawa, Rideau and Gatineau Rivers. The Rideau Canal that flows through Ottawa and passes through locks between Canada’s impressive Parliament Buildings and the Fairmont Chateau Laurier is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ottawa stands out as a capital city because of its French and English heritage that made Canada what it is today.
The result of the survey was overwhelming. Four weeks after the questionnaire and newsletter were despatched, more than 100 people indicated that they planned to come to Ottawa. When the survey concluded in August 2004, almost two years before the start of the reunion, there were more than 150 prospective participants. This spurred Bing to go ahead, recruit more volunteers to complete a Team and earnestly start preparations for the reunion.
Although Bing and Kim were not aware of ex-TFI-ers in Ottawa, they managed to form a Committee of devoted TFI-ers from the United States, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and Indonesia. As Chairperson of the Ottawa Reunion, Bing was assisted by Vice Chairperson Bertha Djie from the Netherlands. The core team was completed by two Secretaries, two Treasurers, five team members in charge of accommodation, hospitality and entertainment, as well as ten Regional Coordinators covering Canada, Europe, South-East Asia, and various parts of the United States. Four members of the Core Team did double duty as Regional Coordinators, and Tjan Kian Seng of Jakarta was the Team’s representative in Asia.
The fact that the eight Committee members lived in four different countries was a challenge that was solved using modern technology. Because the Team was not able to physically meet for discussions, they made use of Skype for teleconferences. In the autumn of 2004 Kim conceived, designed and created an inter-active website with technical advice and assistance from son Timothy Han. The TFI website http://www.TFI-Reunion.com allowed instant dissemination of the latest information that was accessible anytime, anywhere in the world. It saved a lot of time and money on travel, printing, telephone calls and postage.
To prevent outsiders from snooping into the TFI website, individuals visiting the website had to register first. Once they had been approved, they were free to log in and visit the website any time. In this day and age, it was a necessary step to safeguard the privacy of the TFI website and its members.
In his welcome address, Bing stated that the only reason he agreed to accept the position of Chairperson was to give previous organizers a break. It seemed that the people involved in organizing or supporting TFI Reunions in the past were almost always the same individuals. Bing paid tribute to each member of the Ottawa team and outlined their duties and responsibilities which demonstrated the extent of planning, coordination, management, administrative tasks and teamwork that were involved in the organization of such an enormous undertaking.
The Ottawa Team also decided to create a Constitution and By-Laws as the foundation of their mandate. Each and every rule and regulation that was proposed was thoroughly discussed, reviewed and amended where necessary, before it was passed by TFI Ottawa team members in Canada, the United States, Europe and Indonesia. It must be emphasized that these Constitution and ByLaws were the guidelines for the Ottawa team and not intended to bind any future TFI Reunion organizers.
Bing asked Steve Kristedja, the initiator and first Chairman of these international Reunions, to add a few words to the Ottawa reunion booklet. In his address Steve reminded participants that Canada was the third country outside the U.S.A. in which a TFI Reunion is being held. He sent his regrets that he was unable to attend but made the assurance that our thoughts and prayers will be with you while you enjoy this rare opportunity to fellowship with old-time (mind you, I did not say old) friends. Enjoy and cherish the company of your friends and schoolmates while time permits, because as you realistically well know, it may be the last chance God allows you!
Because the theme of the Ottawa Reunion was caring and sharing, the Committee initiated Group Captains, as proposed by Wini Tan, to welcome participants and make sure they had someone to turn to. Group Captains are those energetic TFI-ers who generously offer their services to make participants feel welcome and assist those with special needs.
Each Group Captain had a certain number of participants under his or her wing, so they had someone to turn to when they needed anything, or when they had to be reminded when and where to assemble for tours and get-togethers. By 2006, participants were much older than when they attended the first TFI reunion 19 years earlier. Some were in wheelchairs, others used canes or walkers to get around and, thus, every effort was made to accommodate participants with special and dietary needs. The hotel and places the group visited had to be wheelchair accessible. The buses used for tours and outings were special buses that could be hydraulically lowered for easy access. Diabetics could have special sugar-free treats and drinks, and participants could also choose low sodium and vegetarian dishes for the elegant sit-down gala dinner.
The Ottawa reunion was about joie de vivre, a celebration of the lives we lived, the friends we made more than half a century ago, and the good things in life we still can enjoy. At this stage of our lives it was, indeed, a blessing to be able to get together with friends from all over the world in the warm embrace of friendship.
The Ottawa Reunion booklet lists 212 registrants from Canada (21), Germany (5), Indonesia (19), the Netherlands (41) and the United States (126). There were 241 paid registrations and 29 cancellations, due to sudden illness, medical emergencies and other excuses. Nevertheless, more than 200 participants still made it to Ottawa, where they stayed at the exclusive Westin Hotel in the heart of downtown Ottawa.
The Ottawa reunion program included the traditional City Tour and a picnic in Rockcliffe Park, one of the most prosperous enclaves in Ottawa on the Southern bank of the Ottawa River. The Sunset Dinner/Dance Cruise on the Ottawa River had a 1950’s theme. Participants dressed in fashionable fifties attire and rock and rolled the evening away. On day three, participants took a nostalgic train excursion on one of Canada’s last remaining steam-powered trains to Wakefield, a quaint little village in Quebec, 35 km north of Ottawa.
During the Gala Dinner Dance James Sosroutomo , leader of the UKI band that performed during the evening, paid tribute to Leo Tan Tjeng Thay of Las Vegas, one of the oldest participants. Leo had been ill and barely made it to Ottawa, but he persevered and managed after all. James, who was known as Mr. Elvis because of his Elvis-like voice, sang Viva Las Vegas, especially for “Uncle Leo”, and soon the whole assembly joined in as they sang and clapped along. It was a moving moment. Sadly, James passed away in Toronto, August 22, 2010. We miss him and his wonderful voice, but his memory will last forever.
After the Gala Dinner, Hawaii was voted as the next reunion destination. Richard Danyo of Vancouver and Antony Tjan of Honolulu were selected as Chair- and Vice Chairpersons of the TFI Reunion in Hawaii.
The Ottawa Reunion concluded with a six-day post-reunion tour to Quebec, la belle province. On the program was a visit to le zoo sauvage, a huge wildlife park where visitors could observe more than 80 species of Canadian wildlife in their natural habitat. A visit to Saguenay Park provided participants with a spectacular view of the Saguenay Fjord, the most southern fjord in the world that is considered one of Canada’s Seven Wonders. One of the highlights of the tour was a whale-watching cruise on the mighty St. Lawrence River, where white beluga, minke and fin whales gather. Participants were lucky to also catch a glimpse of the endangered blue whale, the largest living mammal on earth. The tour included a visit to Charlevoix, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve – a perfect blend of nature and culture – on the southern end of the tundra, where the group stayed at the 5-star Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, high on the cliff of Pointe au Pic with its stunning scenery.
The Basilica of Sainte Anne de Beaupre was also on the itinerary. It is one of Canada’s most sacred places that has been credited with many miracles curing the sick and disabled. There was a visit to Old Quebec, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most European city on the North American continent. A trip to the old port of Montreal, another UNESCO World Heritage Site where the group had their farewell lunch, concluded the tour.