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Friday, May 01, 2009 by Jon

Two weeks ago I had the wonderful chance to spend a weekend back at U of I for the annual ITASA Midwest Conference. It was a nice "full circle" for me, as I was the Programming Chair for the 2006 ITASA Midwest Conference, where I was one of the people inviting many of the speakers. And now a quick three years later, I was now the one being invited to be a speaker. My topic was about Formosa Betrayed, the status, my experiences, how it related to Taiwanese American, etc etc.

While I looked forward to sharing Formosa Betrayed with my fellow Midwesterners and would not have traveled to ITASA if not given this opportunity, it was the extracurricular events of the weekend that made it simply perfect, and to me, make worth writing about and remembering.

(I should have known from the start that this would be a memorable weekend as Alex drove us down out of Chicago and into my familiar midwest skies and I noticed the stars for the first time in months. I don't get to see those much in LA. Even driving on two-laned I-57 brought back memories.)

Aside from a fruitful (and I mean that as the highest compliment) conference, the chance to see my old campus growing and expanding with new faces with promising futures was nice. Nice because it was reassuring and almost...inspiring? A lot of us who were there for the weekend have graduated and left. A lot of the kids who go there now did not attend when I attended. And so, I've always worried that I'd be extra sad when Angie graduates, because she's the last close friend in school who attended while I attended. I was afraid her departure of Illinois would be a metaphorical chop of my personal ties to the school. In a way, that might be the case, but after this weekend, I also might just be overdramatic. I'm relieved to still have a human connection to the campus through young TAFers and old friends who've stayed around. However, thinking that this was "my last time at Illinois with my friends from school" made everything enjoyable even more enjoyable because I didn't take anything for granted. Life will go on. And I will still have Illinois. Yea, I'm a sucker for nostalgia.

Great conversations and great views (thanks to new and tall buildings around campus) and great luck and timing to spontaneously see so many people from my college world who weren't attending ITASA. Broy happening to be playing Texas Hold'Em with Josh and Gill (and taking all of Josh's chips), Sunnah coming over with CFC birthday greetings, Cho just being around, Lester popping up in his car, and even an appearance by the Deron, Dee, Luther, and the rest of the '04-'05 Illinois Men's basketball team via a Big Ten network replay of their classic win over Wake Forest (including Tyler behind the bench!). I even got to see my sister for a moment, and last but not least, Mandarin Wok, surrounded by TAFers and friends and getting some complimentary orange slices after our meal.

The lasting image of the weekend for me though, will be sitting in Angie's dimly lit Green Street Towers apartment late Saturday night into early Sunday morning. Happily content with Jimmy John's, we had one of those good conversations about pasts and presents and futures, all while I gazed out into the new Champaign skyline, dominated by Jason & Jeremy's ridiculous new building. That was where everyone else was partying -- some 4 blocks away. But I'm glad I was able to see the building, because it helped me feel like I was not four blocks away, but just in a side room catching up. It was the best of both worlds, and getting the best of both worlds is great.

(Oh and to add to the nostalgia, Jessica was passed out on the floor of Angie's apartment. Some things never change.)

So like it goes, it's not where you are but who you're with that really matters. But it certainly helps when you're with people you love in a place you love. You can't ask for more than the best of those two worlds. You really can't. And that is a perfect weekend.

(Sidenote: Game 1 of the epic Bulls-Celtics series was the Saturday of ITASA. As I type this post...which feels like a lot longer than 2 weeks ago...the series will finally be decided in Game 7 this weekend. Go Chicago.)

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