Living

Asian Cultural Festival organizer is an immigrant who wants to bring cultures together

Carol Wei emigrated from China to America in 2007. There were many things that surprised and shocked her, from the way people dress to store hours.“It was 12 a.m. when I had arrived in America. Markets were still open. I felt so excited. In my country (China) we can’t imagine shopping at midnight,” said Wei, who lives in Olathe.As she successfully bridged two cultures, Wei embraced the differences between America and China. She has since become the president of the Mid-America Asian Culture Association, a nonprofit she founded last year that promotes awareness of Asia.The association will offer its first Asian Cultural Festival on Saturday at Blue Valley North High School in Overland Park. It will feature 16 Asian-American associations, all of which will showcase different arts, activities and performances. Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach will inaugurate the event. “My key purpose is to bring all people together to promote cultural festivities in the United States,” said Wei. “It (the festival) is designed to cultivate America-Asia friendship deeper and deeper.”Wei is organizing the festival with the help of her husband, Chris Tan. He came to the U.S. in 1994 and is now a line engineer at Kansas-based Kiewit. He said the association will spend about $10,000 on the event and hopes that more than 2,000 people will attend.The two were at the April 12 Wyandotte County Ethnic Festival at Kansas City Kansas Community College. Wei was dressed in a traditional Chinese red gown and had a table set up to promote the new festival.She walked through the crowds with a smile, meeting participants who were representing various communities, from India to West Africa. “It’s amazing. The hall is flooded with multiple cultures,” she observed.Petty Woods, president of the Heart of America Japan-America Society, says she is excited about Saturday’s festival.“I appreciate Carol’s initiative and stand by her efforts for promotion of cultures in this city,” Woods said.The groups involved in the Asian Cultural Festival are looking forward to the event.More than 70 Thais are coming to the festival, said Varalucksmn “Oay”

Suchato Slaughter, president of Thailand Cultural Center of Greater Kansas City. She came to U.S. about three decades ago for school and founded the cultural center in 2007. “We are promoting the development of Thai communities as well as educating the locals with traditions and cultures with Thai dance classes, Thai language classes and other educational activities,” she said.For example, one of the demonstrations at the festival will be about Muay Thai, a combat sport with roots in Thailand. Muay Thai is taught as a recreational and a professional sport. Students are taught to kick with the shin to protect the delicate bones in their feet; the shin also deals significantly more damage than the foot, Oay added. The Asian Cultural Festival also will feature an Asian food court and shopping minimart, the organizers said. Family services, including visa assistance and resources for the Kansas City region, will be available. Through the MAACA, Wei also has been promoting relations between Kansas City and Asia. One project is the Gate to Asia, which creates miniature models of buildings. Each of 13 Asian countries will be represented at Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.Also, this summer a group of college teachers will come to Kansas City for training, and a police international exchange program also has been approved in China, Wei said. Last year, she successfully arranged an exchange visit by a Chinese firefighter delegation from Wuhan. After that, several Chinese cities’ police departments have shown interest in the exchange program, she said.“We believe this international exchange would better promote the Greater Kansas City in the relationship between the two countries than the Chinese firefighter exchange,” she added. Wei and Tan have a 21-year-old son who lives in the area. Wei’s background includes business management experience at Hantang Securities and work as general manager of Hilton Hotel in Wuhan. She has a bachelor of arts degree from Wuhan University. In the past seven years, Wei has learned to cook American-style food, how to watch football, what to bring to potluck parties and many other Americanisms.She recalled meeting her first American girlfriend. “She visited my home, and we had a good conversation. When she left, she told me, ‘See you later.’ I thought she would come back in a short time. I was afraid of going out, so I just stayed in my home waiting for her. When my husband came home, she had not come back. These stories made my husband laugh at me for a long time.“It is a new lifestyle to me. I love it.”

SATURDAY

The Asian Cultural Festival is from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Blue Valley North High School, 12200 Lamar Ave., Overland Park. Tickets are $10, $5 for children 14 years old and younger. For more information about the Mid-America Asian Culture Association, go to maacaweb.org.

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