In the lobby of 33 56th St, its cream walls of cubic space surrounding, stands two, delicately lean Asian girls in oriental patterned, silk beaded dresses. They are Geishas femininely guarding the ground floor elevators. In the first penthouse, sixteen floors up, stand three more Geisha girls, this time before a backdrop of unraveling cityscape visible through the wall to floor windows. Long, carefully assembled tables of lavishly arranged food extend through the hallway and the gentle plucking of exotic instruments paces through the guests perusing. There is serenity here; but it’s only a fundraiser.
Or perhaps it’s not merely a fundraiser like all others, because the host, a smooth-skinned, classy blonde, a vision in white lace, a model of womanhood – Pia Maria – does not flail as an alien life force back and forth through flashing cameras, but calmly greets every single soul who exits the elevator shaft. After all, the vision of the foundation is to allow “greater cultural understanding between the East and West and [help] the people of Asia build more open, just and peaceful societies in ways that honor their unique cultures and values.” For this reason, the respect and honor of the human soul, the human being, however busy or bored, is strikingly evident here tonight, even despite the glamorous atmosphere of endless wine and splendor
People pledged to the organization stand in the main room sharing their stories of motorcycling through Asia in attempt to feed starving children, congratulating our fortunes instead of guilting us for them. On a placard is printed a saying from Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese Leader, Nobel Laureate, Prisoner of Conscience, whose portrait, completed by the famous Shepard Fairy of Barack Obama’s HOPE portrait, is exhibited for the crowd tonight. The placard reads: Please use your liberty to promote ours. “This is the first fundraiser for the Asia Vision Foundation. We’re kind of like the new kids on the block, in a way” smiles Maria. This accounts for the fresh quality of the company present, the soul invested in the event. New events most often contain the most heart.
The fundraiser itself, says Pia, is organized “like a treasure hunt.” Slowly, delightedly, the guests move from room to room in discovery of wines, silent auctions for oriental dresses, porcelain and Shen Yun Performing Arts tickets, a sushi bar, stunning balcony, instrumentalists and Maria’s personal favorite – the tea room. In the tea room, a connoisseur of teas seats couples and demonstrates the steeping process, the brewing, the traditions and reverence of tea. He explains the endeavor as one of learning patience. One must wait for the water to boil, the tea to steep, the water to cool; one must manifest a zen outlook and momentarily forget the greedy, immediacy of our American consumer’s world. The tea lesson harkens back to Pia Maria’s eternal patience and pledge to the foundation. It’s no wonder it’s her favorite room. Asia Vision is run by only two to three people and loyal volunteers dedicated to promoting arts and cultural expansion in Asia. Pia Maria herself hails from cosmetics and T.V. Her involved husband is in finance. Their mutual pool of people spans a vast array of categories. “We come from such different backgrounds, but we all have on thing in common,” says Pia Maria. “We want to do some good.”
As the night progresses, more people begin to indulge in the company of strangers, retreating to the main room for inspiring speeches concerning the motivational fiber necessary for life, exhibited excerpts of Aaron Cohen’s newest book Slave Hunter, “one man’s global quest to free victims of human trafficking,” for sushi, for music, for spirit. A million conversations sail past the stellar views of Manhattan, coalescing minds and foreign matters, delicious food, celebration of upcoming challenges, and a genuine reverence for life.