9th Annual Kachin Family Camp, Blue Jay, California

[ May 27-30, 2005 ]

Deborah Garcia and friends group left San Francisco early in the morning on Friday. Due to a graduation ceremony, the trip for Naw San and his friends was delayed, and they started out on Saturday evening. Another group went earlier than everybody on Thursday. Some people flew from Michigan, Boston, New York, Texas, Florida, and so on. Some drove from Los Angeles. A friend of mine came from Sacramento. There is a lady who flew all the way from Japan.

All the people were coming from different parts of the US. Where did they go? In fact, all of them were heading to one place, Alpine Camp at Blue Jay, California, where 9th annual Kachin Family Camp was held. The Kachin camp took place during Memorial Day holidays, from May 27 to 30. This year, about 140 people of Kachin people including a few non-Kachin friends were joining this annual gathering. Our group including four people: I, my wife, our son Eric, and a friend got a chance to enjoy the great event as well.

Actually, we could not have made this trip without knowing Labya La Seng, a Kachin friend from Texas. After having contact with him several times with email, and with his information, our group got a chance to witness this wonderful event.

As I had to wait for my friend, David Yang, who was coming from Sacramento, we could not leave until Saturday morning. Finally we started out at 10AM, an hour later than as we planned, from San Francisco, and we were heading about 500 miles trip to meet our Kachin friends at Blue Jay, a place near Los Angeles.

After driving about 6 hours on highway 5, then another 45 min on highway 210, and got lost about 1 hour at a detour, we managed to get to highway 18. Then we started to go up to the mountain road. As we were going higher and higher with many curves and turns at about 6000 feet above sea level, the scenery was getting more stunning and beautiful. We were surrounded by mountains with full of alpine trees. The urban city, congested freeways, noise, and carbon monoxide cloud, all of them were left far behind already.

At last, we got to Alpine camp at about 5:30PM. Later we found out most people got lost on the detour as we did. Although a bit tired, our spirit was high.

All the camp members were divided into three groups: men, women, and families. Each group was placed into a large log cabin. There were different programs and activities for each day: opening speech and orientation, bible study, team competition, debate, talent show, music, manau dance, choir competition, and so on.

Not only the whole event was great but all the Kachin people we met were very friendly, talented, and nice. The cabins, facilities, and foods were great as well. We had three meals a day: break fast from 8 am to 9 am, lunch from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm, and dinner from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm.

Each night, the program ended at around 10pm, but most of us could not sleep yet. We stayed at the game room playing table tennis, pool, and table soccer. We also enjoyed the free hot chocolate, coffee, and herbal tea at the game room.

I met some of my old friends and got many new friends as well. With his busy schedule, my friend, La Seng Labya spent time with us as much as he could. His hospitality and energy were so awesome. We talked and exchanged our idea and it was a very good experience. Saturday night music program was very enjoyable and the music continued till around 11:30 pm. As a special guest singer, Tun Tun gave all the campers a taste with two songs. It was fun and great to watch the manau dance on Sunday evening.

The discussion and lectures of "Life in America: education and occupation" by Michael Ja La Howa, Seng Awng Kareng, and Seng Nan Sumhka were very impressive. I came across a Kachin friend who is studying at Berklee College of Music, a prestigious music school located in Boston. His name is Jaw Maran. I got a chance to talk with him and listened to his view of today's music and the situation of Myanmar music. I got a taste of his first debut Christian song album, and the songs and styles were very nice, fresh, and creactive. Could it be a hope or a first step for the needs of our music in Myanmar?

After unforgettable moment of two nights and three days, the camp closed on Monday May 30. After morning devotion, and breakfast, everybody got packed and cleaned up at the cabins. Finally, all the groups left the camp at around 10 am.

I witnessed the culture, unity, peace, and friendship of the Kachin people. I found out this is a good example of what many people are still missing. No matter how far we are apart, and how different we are, we can be united peacefully as one. This great event on the top of the mountain at Alpine camp proved it.

The unity of the Kachin people will be proved again at Dallas, Texas next year.