You can feel it when you are with the right kind of people. The positive energy filling in the room is hard to miss. It’s a powerful feeling. That’s the first impression I got from meeting the AWE participants. When we had the organizers and speakers’ meeting for the first time on Friday morning, I knew it was going to be an amazing event. After 10 minutes of awkward greetings and handshakes, the room almost exploded with conversations, ideas, laughter, and passion. These beautiful people… If these people are the ones leading the sessions, there are nothing I have to worry.
I was in a semi-panic state on Friday and Saturday morning. ‘What if no one shows up?’ You know, the normal event-organizer’s nightmare. Thirty four people showed up to the Pre-AWE Food Tour, and we proudly had seventy people from ten different countries (Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Korea, Australia, US, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore) at the opening.
They, we all were longing for something like this event to happen. We are scattered all over the Asia, and the World, and we were waiting to exchange ideas, be inspired by others amazing actions, and learn. All the seventy people in the room were ready to absorb anything for next two days. They were fully prepared, and came with the high hope and positivity. It showed, very clearly.
a prevailing tone or central theme, typically one set or introduced at the start of a conference
Our keynote speakers were magnificent. No one would say otherwise. Lek made us cry from the heart, and Wina gave finance talk a humorous spin. Believe me, I had no idea she’s humorous like that. Lek set the right tone of the event with her powerful presence, and Wina closed it with busting laughter and a promise that we would help other women when we go back home. There were a lot of flaws at AWE ’13, but the choice of keynote speakers wasn’t one of them.
There was a moment I almost canceled the whole thing. The challenges, that I knew but thought I could handle, turned out to be quite hard. The ball was not in my court. The very first and biggest sponsor pulled out after three months of agonizing communication. Registration was moving slow, and a few publicity opportunities diminished the meaning of AWE saying ‘This is not special; everyone is doing the same thing these days’.
As I said during the opening keynote, I thought of the opening speech so many times. All the tears and sleepless nights seemed worthwhile when I imagine standing in front of all the people. I told Anis and Dyana, whenever we ran into problems, ‘Let’s just think about the opening day’. The very image made me stand tall and keep my belief. I told myself it would be rewarding. The day finally came. On the opening day, when I stand in front of the seventy people from ten different nations, I had to try really hard not to cry. One thing was clear; it was rewarding.
When I started a donation campaign, I sent out the message to my friends who would be interested in empowering Asian women. Many sent their good wishes, small and big donations, and some of them actually showed up.
Jenny, who’s been living in Vietnam for last three years, and traveling around the world for about ten years, sent me a message that she could take a time off to be at AWE ’13. I met Jenny back in 2006 in Singapore, when I was a newbie backpacker. It was only my second backpacking trip, but Jenny had been traveling all around the world and even lived in my home country for two years. We celebrated Chinese New Year 2006 together. I basically let myself follow her travel route to Malaysia. I had very basic English skills back then, so if you sent me some subtle signals that you weren’t happy with my decision, Jenny, my bad. Jenny is my second biggest travel inspiration (followed by my New Zealand mother, Diana). She’s basically the reason why I picked up North American accent in my English.
Meaghan with the sparkling personality, you’ve probably met at the registration desk, is one of my best friends. We met in Taipei during my Chinese New Year break in 2010. She was traveling with three other friends who were working in the theater business. As a fan of theater, they were like celebrities to me. Meaghan visited me in Korea, and I took a short vacation to Hong Kong after that. We met in person not too many times, if you count. But she has been always supported of my decisions, and a great listener. She magically showed up and handled all the registration (and sold a lot of buttons!).
Won, (Yoon Wonyoung) the sister of my high school best friend Inny, also known as the magnet friend, flew from Korea. It was her first trip traveling alone outside of Korea. Inny couldn’t believe that Won spoke in front of all the people on Sunday morning.
Meeting my good friends is always a great pleasure, but it was more meaningful because I got to witness that my worlds are colliding, in a very good way. I met most of the speakers in different periods of my life, and now they are in the present, all together. Seeing Meaghan, Jenny, and Won with all my new friends was gratifying. Also, I got a chance to meet amazing women like Jeannie, Aggy, Amy, who I’ve been following online for years. I like to be the glue of people, bringing small worlds to one big happy globe.
I was going to stop this venture. I wasn’t cut out to be an event organizer, I’ve been told, and experienced. I was going to pick up the pieces of the mess I already made, and move on. But after experiencing the impact of this short gathering, I’ve realized that I have an important calling right here. I have to continue this wonderful tradition. This is exactly what was missing in my life for last few years: community, source of inspiration, and giving back. My life isn’t perfect. As I mentioned on my birthday tribute just two week ago, I’m still searching for the right direction and meaningful action. Through AWE ’13, I’ve felt once again how wonderful that I can somehow help fellow wonderers to find the way to follow their passion.
I sincerely thank you, everyone who supported the success of AWE ’13. I know you have been very generous of all of the mistakes we made. When I was wrapped up with worries, someone told me ‘Don’t worry, people tend to be forgiving at an event like that.’ and he was right. AWE ’13 was hardly perfect, but no one really pointed it out. Everyone was encouraging, positive, and forgiving. Because they believe in the message behind the event, they hardly cared about small (and big) flaws.
I have a lot to learn, but I won’t stop.
All the speakers and panelists, thank you all for being so awesome! Hope you had a wonderful time at AWE ’13.
Thanks to all our sponsors, for believing in us! My beautiful conference shirts were provided by Batik Loetjoe. Sedunia Travel, Back Home Kuala Lumpur has been a great friend and supporter of the event. The amazing Emila made the beautiful logo and poster.
Thank you Conference Benefactors and AWE Honorary Members. Thanks to you, I was able to invite many inspirational speakers from all around Asia.
And thank you, everyone who have been supported AWE ’13 from the very beginning.
We are scoping the next location and suitable dates. Hope to see your name on the registration page! Follow our update through AWE Organization Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/AweOrganization)!