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Finding love at CSUB: Amber and Charley Chiang

Eduardo Vargas and Nancy Solis-Vargas

Our wedding, May 22, 1994. L-R: Trisha Morgan (my sister), Brian Smith (our friend), Kristy Heller (my friend), Steve Crow (Charley’s friend), Curtis Wang (Charley’s nephew), Me, Charley, Chris Wang (Charley’s nephew), Jennifer Miller (my friend), Jeremy Toone (Charley’s friend), Lori Evans (our friend), Stephen Morgan (my brother)

In early August 1993, I was walking on campus before the start of classes with my friend Lori. We were on a short break from setting up The Runner for the new semester; she was a photographer and I was a writer.

Back then, campus was a ghost town between quarters, and even during classes there was little to be found by way of food. There was The Pub, but one could get really tired of reheated pizza and beer. The cafeteria wasn’t open. So, we headed to DDH for vending machine sustenance. As we walked out to the road by the Science building, Lori went up to some guy to say hi.

That was Charley, and that, as they say, was history.

The next weekend or so, a group of us newspaper people was headed to Kernville for an editor’s birthday party. None of us really had the right kind of car for a group, so it was good that before the party passed, the size of the group dwindled. It was soon just Charley and I.

I figured he was harmless enough, so he drove the two of us up to Kernville for the evening. The party ended up not being the scene either of us were into, so we headed out early and decided to look at stars.

I love the stars. I grew up in the desert, where stars were apparent every night. Charley grew up in the city; first in Taiwan, then in East Los Angeles, and then to Bakersfield. He rarely saw the stars over city lights. I pointed out stars to him, and he was amazed by the stories behind them.

Amber and Charley Chiang

Amber and Charley at a Los Angeles Kings game. We have a tradition; we take a selfie after every athletic event, no matter how the team does.

A month or so later, I contracted mononucleosis. I dropped out of school and was rather miserable. Both my parents, with whom I still lived, worked, and we needed to keep me away from my littler brother and sister. Charley was there, daily, bringing me food and taking care of me. It was kind of like those special situations where two people are thrust together and form an instant bond.

We married the following May and have been married 24 years this year.

We are polar opposites. Charley is gregarious; I’m shy. He’s loud; I’m quiet. He’s analytical; I’m creative. He grew up in Taipei; I came from the high desert. Together, it just works.

Charley graduated from CSUB in 1994, and I graduated in 1996. We both have gone on to have long careers. He’s in the information technology department at the Kern Community College District; I am a lecturer in the CSUB Communications Department.

For a long time, Charley and I enjoyed being DINKs (Dual Income No Kids), except for our four-legged children. Then kids happened about eight years into our marriage.

Nicklas is 16 and a junior at Frontier High School. He’s in the marching band and orchestra, and a second-degree black belt in karate. When he’s not doing those things, he’s in front of a computer gaming.

Our daughter, Riya, is 14 and a freshman at Frontier. She’s also in the band and orchestra, and recently had a small part in a local independent film. She’s finding online gaming, too.

We also have two fur children, our rescue Beagles Koko and Lucy.

Our favorite thing to do together is eat. We love to go out of town and find hole-in-the-wall restaurants to try. If we get to Orange County, you’ll find us at Sancho’s Tacos, where Charley tries to maintain his Yelp dukedom. Sancho’s Tacos was opened by a Bakersfield native, and is now a small chain along the southern coast.

We also love sports and prefer going to sporting events rather than traveling. In reality, we only travel far when one of us has a conference and the other tags along. So, while we’ve been to Toronto, Philadelphia and others, our furthest family vacation has been Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Otherwise, we prefer to cheer for our favorite teams: L.A. Kings, Angels, Dodgers and Lakers.

Amber and Charley Chiang extended family

Dinner this last fall. L-R: Nicklas Chiang (our son), Kariya Chiang (our daughter), me, HoMei Chiang (Charley’s mom), Charley, Curtis Wang (Charley’s nephew), Ming Jeang (Charley’s dad), Helen Wang (Charley’s sister), Chris Wang (Charley’s nephew), Peter Wang (Charley’s brother-in-law)

Charley and I tend to entertain people wherever we go. He fancies himself funny; I tend to be straight and serious. Together, it makes for an interesting dynamic.

We attended, along with a number of The Runner alumni, the anniversary event several years ago. It was great seeing all the people who were a part of the paper swap stories and complain about production hardships. Just recently, Charley was lamenting how today’s students won’t know the trials of wax and roll, X-Acto knives and press-ready sheets. Maybe the long nights on deadline still exist; I don’t know. But they are special memories.

No matter how long it has been, CSUB holds a special place in our hearts. It’s amazing, being back on campus this semester, to see how things have changed. The library was newly built and nearly empty when we graduated. The street in front of DDH went all the way through. The Marketplace was flatland.

The university is important to so many people in the community, and it is important to the Chiangs. It’s where we met. It’s where we made lifelong friends. And it’s where our courses were set on one fateful August afternoon.

Finding love at CSUB

As Valentine's Day approaches, we're sharing the stories of CSUB alumni who met and/or fell in love on campus. Today we tell the story of Amber and Charley Chiang, written by Amber.