Here’s an exchange I’ve been having with Heather Hwalek, daughter of Ginger Yang-Hwalek, grand-daughter of KT and Heather Yang of the South Bend Yang clan:
Hello Chinese Family Camp,
My name is Heather Hwalek, and I am currently a U.S. Foreign Service Officer stationed in Guangzhou, China. Our Public Affairs office is coordinating public outreach events centered around Asian Pacific American Heritage Month which is in May every year. Our outreach seeks to promote the historical connections between the United States and Asia, particularly China, as well as to highlight America’s cultural diversity. To this end, we are hosting a Cultural Fair at which Asian-Americans can share stories of their heritage to the Chinese and international public.
Personally, I grew up hearing stories from my mother, aunts, and uncles about attending Chinese Family Camp in the 1960s and 1970s. Our family still plays card games that, according to my relatives, were learned at Chinese Family Camp. My mother says that she believes my grandparents, who settled in South Bend, IN after immigrating from China, had some connections to the founders of Chinese Family Camp.
I wanted to share some of that story during the Cultural Fair we are organizing. Would you be able to explain some of the early history of Chinese Family Camp? Are there any pictures, throughout the decades, that you would be willing to share with me so that I could integrate them into the presentation?
Thanks so much,
Heather Yang Hwalek 杨荷
Vice Consul 副领事
U.S. Consulate General美国总领事馆
Guangzhou, China 广州，中国
tel电话: (+86) 020-3814-5000
To which I replied:
Thank you so much for your letter and for re-connecting! Your grandparents were some of the pillars of Chinese Family Camp, and I spent many happy summers and fun memories of Camp with Eugene, Sara, and your mom, usually trying to figure out where Benson had wandered off to, or staying up way too late talking to Eug or Sara about whatever teenagers talk about. Your mother ran the whole music program for many years, as accompanist (no surprise), as well as soloist, managing to create beautiful music from the old, out-of-tune, keys-missing upright piano that they kept in the unheated/un-air conditioned Lodge all summer.
Most of our on-line materials (website, Picasa, Youtube) are from the last 10-15 years, long after the Yang clan moved on. I do have a random collection of CD’s and DVD’s with photos we scanned from the Camp photo albums. I can send you some pictures from various periods of camp, altho I’m in the middle of a pretty tough course in my master’s degree program, so my time is a bit limited. I would also be happy to provide some background history about CFC – my parents were among the founding members back in 1958.
I’m attaching a PPT that our Camp Director Lawrence Wang put together a few years ago for our 50th anniversary celebration that provides some history.
Please let me know how else I may support you in providing materials or information. I can also forward any of your requests to our YahooGroup to see if anyone else can provide you with anything.
Take care and do say hello to your mother and your aunts and uncles for me. Where is everyone anyway? I know Eugene is out west of Chicago here, and Benson is in San Francisco. Rini? Sara?
Director-at-Large and Past President
Chinese Family Camp
A 501(c)(3) non-profit organization
To which she replied:
Thanks so much for the information and amazing pictures! This is great! And the PPT is really helpful in providing historical context. I think this is more than enough to complete my presentation materials. The only other thing you might be able to contribute is a few sentences about how Chinese Family Camp contributed to your experiences growing up as an Asian American or what your Chinese American Heritage means to you and your family.
Here’s a run-down of the South Bend Yangs whereabouts:
Ginger – living in Maine
Kids: Heather (me) in China, Joseph in San Francisco
Eug – living outside Chicago
Kids: Katie in Tacoma, WA, Jen in Austin, TX, and three younger kids in Chicago
Sara – living in Hong Kong
Kids: Anna in New York City, Paul in Berkeley, CA
Rini – living in Ohio
Kids: Julia in Michigan (getting married this summer), Adrian in Seattle, Darren in Ohio
Benson – living near San Francisco
Kids: Three in high school or younger in CA
K.T. and Heather – going on a lot of cruises
By the way, do you happen to be in touch with Tina Tchen at all? I wonder if she would be a good person to reach out to regarding the Professional Development aspect of Asian American Heritage Month, where we focus on mentoring for Asian Americans in Federal Government. She’s probably very busy, but it would be worth it to ask, since I don’t think there are many Asian Americans working in the White House!
Thanks again for everything…
To which I replied:
Great, glad that we could provide what you need.
A few sentences about how CFC contributed to my experience of growing up as an Asian-American – wow, where do I start?
I’ve been going to Camp since I was a toddler. Camp has always been a place where I could just be me – not Chinese, not American, rather the combination of both worlds, both cultures. Camp creates an atmosphere of collaboration, fun, working together, playing together, and lifelong friendships. I used to think I could only have those things during that one week of the year at Camp. Then I realized I take all those things with me wherever I go, and can create that with whoever I’m with.
Hope that’s enough for you to work with. Let me know if you need more, I could easily go on for another paragraph or two.
We manage to see Tina about once a year when she comes back to Chicago. Her house here is just a few miles north of us. I’m sure she would be enthusiastic about supporting your professional development initiative. Not sure about the best way to connect with her – I think she remembers your family, and she’s got a soft spot for CFC. Before heading to Washington, she provided some lawyers from the law firm she was at pro bono to get our non-profit status set up.
Do you have an email address for her at whitehouse.gov?
Best wishes to you and hugs to the rest of the Yang clan!