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Out & About in Cleveland

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Lunar Moon Festival at Asian Town Center

On Saturday, February 14th, we tabled at the Lunar Moon Festival at Asian Town Center at 38th and Superior in Cleveland. It was hosted by Asia Food, OCA Greater Cleveland, and the Asian Town Center itself. Despite the cold and snowy weather a fair amount of people turned out for it. At 12:30pm, Mr. Wayne Wong, Vice President of Administration for OCA Greater Cleveland gave the official welcome in which he thanked all of the sponsors including Margaret W. Wong and Associates. He said that Ms. Wong has done a wonderful job representing the Asian community each year. He also acknowledged that we were there tabling there and introduced us by name. Mr. Wong also introduced Ms. Lisa Wong, the President of OCA and gave a short but thorough presentation about the history of the Chinese New Year and what it was all about.

Then we went back to watching the performers that included the Shaolin Kung Fu Institute, the Blooming Flower Hmong Dance Group, the Sho-Jo Ji Japanese Dancers, Balloon Bender Dave, and, of course, the OCA Dragon Dance (in partnership with the Confucius Institute). One of the highlights was also an eating contest in which our Mr. Jury Pychowycz (who was there his wife Ms. Lani Pychowycz, who also works for us, and their daughter Morgan) was a contestant. Altogether 7 men and 1 woman took part by eating Kim-Chee Udon Soup (very hot and very spicy) as quickly as possible. After about 4 minutes, a contestant who worked at NASA and was part of the OCA Dragon Dancers finally won and received several prizes.

We enjoyed tabling there because it was good to see old friends there like Mr. Sifu Gino of the Shaolin Kung Fu Institute, Ms. Sujata Burgess and Ms. Sibley Strader of Asian Services in Action, Ms. Elizabeth Miller of the Confucius Institute and Ms. Charity Hall from Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services. We liked tabling next to Mr. Mark A. Mathews from the Whatknot Bow Tie Company, our friend Mike from the Siam Café who served us a good dish of noodles, and Ms. Mia Jones who was selling things like caps and gloves which were readily welcomed on a cold day like the one that we were having.

It was also great to have several people stop by our table and tell us that Ms. Wong had helped someone that they knew such as a someone who told us that Ms. Margaret Wong had helped her foreign born adopted daughter obtain a Green Card during a sticky divorce and a woman who said that Ms. Wong had helped her husband, who had immigrated to the United States from Israel, with an important immigration document years ago. At one point we left our table for a moment to watch Mr. Pychowycz do the eating contest (despite the pressure he ate quickly but with dignity and good manners) and when we returned there was a note on our banner saying, "Margaret, You are Awesome!"

We left Asian Town Center about 5pm so we had enough time to travel to the Croatian Lodge in Eastlake to attend the "Valentine Masquerade Dance" put on by the Croatian National Women's Club and the Zagreb Jr. Tamburitzans.

We were fortunate to share a table with a woman named Ana who immigrated to the United States 26 years ago from Croatia where she married a good man named George (who was there with her) and had a family. Ana went on to tell us how much soccer means to the Croatian people and that George was secretary of the Soccer Federation of the United States and Canada. We didn't realize it but there are 52 Croatian Soccer teams in the United States and Canada. Ana also introduced us to Mr. Dennis Basic who is the President of the Cleveland/Croatian Soccer Club which has 18 teams and players aged 5 to 60 years. Ana also directed us to several officers of the Women's Club so we got to meet Ms. Zdenka Raguz (President), Ms. Mary Ann Little (Treasurer), and Ms. Cilita Zovko (Secretary).

In addition to Ana and George, we were pleased to share a meal with Mr. Bob Jerin, an accomplished genealogist who organizes annual "Heritage and History Tours of Croatia" who was there with his wife, Sue, and his daughter and son-in-law, Ms. Heather Davis and Mr. Mike Davis. Just last May, 2014 we attended a program that Mr. Jerin gave at the Croatian Lodge and were greatly impressed with his knowledge of Croatia and his skill at helping people track down their both their distant and not-so-distant relatives in Croatia. He told us that the annual Croatia trip scheduled for September, 2015 has 25 people going so far and might well turn out to be the biggest group that he ever escorted.

Everyone at our table was looking forward to Sunday, February 16th when Ms. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic will be inaugurated as the new President of Croatia. Ms. Graber-Kitarovic was an exchange student who graduated from a high school in New Mexico and once served as the Croatian ambassador to the United States in Washington, D.C. so she was able to travel to Cleveland and take part in several programs at the Croatian Lodge. Those who met her described her as a very gracias lady who will be the first female president of Croatia and we extend to her our congratulations and best wishes. On Sunday, February 15th, we returned to the Lunar Moon Festival to table for Margaret W. Wong and Associates. Mr. Wayne Wong, who was once again acting as the emcee, said that "we had quite the party yesterday and we'll have some more good acts today."

We were tabling a bit of a distance from the stage so we walked back and forth to watch such performers as those from Rosa's Guzheng Studio, the Great Wall Enrichment Center, the Westlake Chinese Culture Association, Cleveland Aikikai, and dancers from the Yin Tang Dance Company. We really liked the dance performance given by Ms. Yanhua Cui from the Confucius Institute and also when our friend, Sifu Gino invited the attendees to the stage so he could teach them some simple martial arts movements.

The first of two highlights for the day was when the Kwan Family did their spectacular Lion Dance with drums and firecrackers accompanying the Lion who, in the course of his performance, dropped lettuce and an orange from his mouth. Mr. Wong said that the lion wished for people to succeed so the bright orange symbolized wealth and prosperity and that the green lettuce symbolized green paper money. Many people came to the festival just to see the Lion Dance including our friends Mr. Joseph Meissner, Ms. Gia Hoa Ryan, and Mr. Ken Kovach.

Mr. Wong told us that the Kwan Family has been performing this dance for 35 years and this was the third generation to do it. We asked Mr. Greg Kwan what they ultimate goal was for them and he said that it was to keep traditions alive.

The second highlight was when we took part in the eating contest about 3:30pm just as our co-worker Mr. Jury Pychowycz did on Saturday. In fact, we had to manage the same dish that he did which was spicy Kim-Chee Udon soup which proved to be too hot for us so we focused on eating the noodles. Of course, we didn't win but we had a good time as well as a free late afternoon lunch.

We also stopped off at the Confucius Institute table where Ms. Peng Xuejun wrote our name in Chinese. One of the people that we always enjoy seeing at community events is Mr. Dennis Anderson from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections and when we saw each other on this day, we tapped our fists together as a greeting.

Several people stopped by our table seeking assistance on immigration matters including a person who works for an agency in Toledo that works with international students and a person who has friends in China who may eventually want to immigrate to the United States.

We even sold a copy of Ms. Margaret W. Wong's book, "The Immigrant's Way" to a young man named Josh who is interested in international affairs and bothered by the fact that the President and Congress cannot agree on immigration reform. We talked to Josh for a couple of minutes and he also took part in the eating contest.

Another person who stopped at our table was a man named Mark who took one of our cards that showed the cities where we have offices. Mark looked impressed as he looked at our card and slowly said, "she's all over now."

The festival ended appropriately with one of the instructors from the Viva Dance Studio, located in Asian Town Center, teaching the attendees some dance steps during the last half hour. Even though, due to the snowy and cold weather, the attendance was a bit low, those who did come out would agree that it was well worth their time and their efforts to keep warm as they walked to and from their cars.

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