Retirement – The Psychological Journey

Retirement is a solo journey. This is a period of  personal transformation, requiring a  psychological re-orientation.

It is a psychological journey with feelings not unlike those experienced in marriage and divorce.

On the big day of the retirement party, all you may remember are smiles, handshakes and good wishes as colleagues see you off. So, you are off to your honeymoon.

For the first time in life, you experienced total freedom. You are in the G0-Go stage. This is  a period when retirees get to do all the things that they wanted to do once they stopped working.

However, honeymoon cannot last forever! When it is over, the newlyweds will need to get down to the nitty-gritty of life, the business of living. Many retirees will find that they will have to deal with a feeling of let down. After all, retirement isn’t a permanent vacation; it also can bring loneliness, boredom, feelings of uselessness and disillusionment. You find yourself in a black hole and there is no compass to guide you.

Retirement involves discontinuing one’s identity and establishing a new one. The process can be painful. Who you are and how you define yourself in the last few decades will be forever changed at the point of retirement. The simple acts of changing your e-mail address, and returning your keys, computer and staff cards, registering yourself as retired members of professional societies could also be emotional moments. You are, in effect, wiping out your “being,” as a professional. It’s peeling off an identity. . . .  from an industry, a firm, or a personal work history . . . .  and entering a completely new chapter in life. Retirement is also a loss of routine; until a new routine is established.

In a way, retirement is like a divorce and breaking up is hard to do. There are very real emotional challenges in letting go of a career or work habits and  to accept that the relationships with your former colleagues and indeed, with you own self, have forever changed and the organization you worked for just moves on . . . . . the world still keep on turning, with or without you!

New and satisfying  answers to the identity questions must be found if the retiree is to satisfactorily close the chapter of work life. New purpose in life has to be defined. New and enjoyable life styles are to be established to replace the routine when the retiree is at work. There is no right way to retire. Retired colleagues I know of all seem to have finally found their way of coming to a new routine in life. The main key is to let go and move on. Of course, there are  some fairly key life changes and adjustments to make. It will take a while to get accustomed to a new life.

Finally, a new routine evolved. You do not have to go after things but things comes after you and the new landscape becomes familiar territory. You develop a new relationship with time and embrace every moment of it. You value the variable of meandering a bit in any given day, week, or month.  You are always making new plans, cultivating opportunities and exploring options . You continue to update these plans, recognizing that doing so is an important part of retirement. You are now happy that you have survived a divorce. . . . . . . .  you have successfully crossed the bridge from the world of  work to retirement!

Now is the time that you are free for authoring a new chapter of life that features the best you ‘ve ever been.

PS  Photo above shows suspension bridge crossing Bosphorous strait from Europe to Asia.


A Day Out at Kadoorie Farm

Where can one find “hanging bell” flowers locally on the hillside?  On a cold wintry day, we headed out to Kadoorie Farm and Botanical Garden (KFBG) along the Lam Kam Route, trying our luck to locate the flowers.

The “hanging bells”are flowers  some of us buy for the Chinese New Year.  However, this could be quite a rare species locally; they are not in my little book with 3,000 types of local flowers. At KFBG, we have the luck of seeing so many of these flowers (above), at a close distance, in a natural environment. So, instinctively I took some photos, including some close up shots of these beautiful flowers.

As children, we have been to KFBG but have never been back ever since. This trip was like going back in time.  We started out with the lower section of the farm where they have birds, reptiles, lizards and monkeys. These drew big crowds of chattering school children; can’t keep thinking several decades ago I was just like one of them.

KFBG also kept a lot of other domesticated animals like pigs, chickens and donkeys (for transportation up and down the hills). This big pig just filled up the whole picture.

At this time of the year, wherever you go, there were just lots of flowers blooming.

We ventured to the upper section of KFBG; stopping first at the orchid gardens.

There were so many types of orchids and quite a few were photogenic too.

We wandered along the winding and hilly paths, viewing more flowers and trees. Finally, we hiked up to the peak which is 1,812 ft (552m) above sea level.

This is the Kwun Yum Peak where the statue of the Kwun Yum goddess stands. We strolled happily around the peak, seeing more flowers. The air was fresh and the view of the valley below was calm and serene.

The downhill trip was just as interesting. When dusk arrived, we reluctantly left this world of flowers.

So, this was another day in the ordinary life of a retiree.

Tir n`a Noir

Wanna listen to a beautiful Norwegian song sang by a female Japanese singer in English?

Below is the video  link to one of my favourite songs by Emi Fujita:

This is a beautiful story about a Norwegian who fell in love with an Irish women from his dream in Tir n`a Noir, supposedly a paradise. They met on this mysterious island Tir n`a Noir. Now the Irish women is dead and the Norwegian is old.  He is waiting for death to come and sail back to meet her, maybe in this dreamy paradise.

The  lyrics, based on a poem by Kolbein Falkeid, is as below:

It’s a cold November
As the sea crashes in
But I still do remember
Though the memory grows dim
To a magical summer
With sweet Mary McKear
In the west, in Tirna Noir

Were you there as a dream
Though it all seems so real
With the laughter I hear and the touch I can feel
Far beyond the horizon
Where the fog disappears
You were mine dear Mary McKear

Though my body is broken
And my spirit is weak
My soul is awoken
As I hear someone speak
Please come back my lover
Now your future lies here
Please come back to Tirna Noir

You were good, you were kind
You’ll have all that you earned
For the secrets you kept
And the lessons you learned
So I’ll take you with me
As your pain disappears
I’ll be yours, your Mary McKear

For all who have lived through
A life of regret
Who have need to remember

But try to forget There’s a place in the distance

Who’s future is clear In the west, in Tirna Noir
Were you there as a dream Though it all seems so clear

With the laughter I hear and the touch I can feel?

I can cure all your sorrows And heal all your fears I’ll be yours, your Mary McKear

PS Photo taken in Hokkaido

Lake Barrine, Australia

Didn’t know much about Lake Barrine when we headed out from Carnes, Australia. Thought it was a mini version of the super volcanic Lake Toba in Indonesia.

When we arrived, we realized it was a very picturesque crater lake of 1 km diameter, average 65m deep with no streams or springs feeding into it. The contained rain water is calm, crystal clear with lots of fauna surrounded by rain forest on the landside. The setting was quiet and tranquil.

We were entranced by the view  as we sat out in the verandah of a pre-war  built tea house overlooking  the water and surrounding rainforest. . . . . life could not be more blissful than enjoying the view and at the same time sampling the delicious freshly baked scones and legendary Devonshire tea offered by the tea house.

We boarded a boat and began the tour around the lake. There were birds sitting out on dead tree trunks fallen over to the lake, pythons basking in the sun,  ducks swimming happily, not forgetting to mention the variety of different types of trees and plants surrounding the lake. The lake exhibited a hue of vivid deep blue and it was just perfect – heavenly!

Nearby was the rain forest with tall trees ( red cedar trees, flowering umbrella trees and curtain or cathedral fig trees in the photo). Very typical of rain forest, but nevertheless eye-opening.

We then travelled on to the Paronella Park which was a dream park built by the Spaniard José Paronella in the 1930s; this was also the place where some of the Japanese animation were based. A Spanish castle and fountain were built by José near to the Mena Creek Falls. It was not difficult to imagine how gorgeous they were when the park was opened to the public in 1935. In the park, we also visited a cave with hundreds of bats hanging from the cave soffit. . . .what a sight!
It turned out that the whole trip offered a lot more than expected. . . . . another memorable trip with images infiltrated deep into our brains!

Egypt – Photographs and Memories

Never had the time to work on old photos and negatives until now. The photos taken in my trip to Egypt are faded. The images from scanning the negatives are not much better; the colors are basically gone and require some touching up.

Nevertheless, the faded photos bring back a lot of memories of my trip to Egypt in January 2000. . . . . an unforgettable journey to see the Seven Wonders of the World.

While flying to Egypt, I was sitting next to an Egyptian. We started chatting. Before unboarding, he left me with contact details just in case I needed them on the trip. He was  a nice man, in fact, he was the only nice Egyptian I came across  in the trip.

On the first day wandering around in the streets of Cairo, I was approached by a seemingly friendly young man who was eager to show me where I could get some Tourist Information. Then, he asked whether I wanted changing my money into local currency, when I politely declined. . . . . . he suddenly changed into another man, scolding me out loud on the street. . . . and in foul language.

We first travelled to Saqqara, 30 km south of Cairo. At Saqqara, the oldest complete stone building complex known in history was built: Djoser’s step pyramid, built during the Third Dynasty. Some people said the step pyramid was a trial construction before the Egyptians  built the more robust pyramids at Giza.

Hiring a taxi was not always the best way to travel. . . .  the driver stopped his car in the middle of nowhere and refused to take us to our destination if we do not pay him  extra money. The same thing happened to riding  camels at Giza, they refused to let you down from the camel back if you do not pay them further money . In any case, it was awesome to see the pyramids and Sphinx at Giza. In fact, when first built, the pyramids had a special stone cladding all over the surface. Now, you can only see some remnants near to the apex.

The pleasures of travelling were marred by such incidents. Travelling to Luxor by car was also quite an experience too. We travelled in a convoy with armed soldiers guarding in front and behind a line of cars.

I can’t help being amazed at the many ruins, statues without heads, columns, ancient construction at Luxor . The photo I like best is this one with the head of the statue on the ground.

Visiting The Valley of the Kings had always been on my mind. It is an ancient place of burials for the kings. While there, I was keenly aware that only 3 years ago, 57 tourists were killed in a massacre raged by anti-government bodies.

Nile has always been a life-giver to Egypt. Unlike today when much of the land is barren, in olden days, the banks of the Nile were green and lush. When we reached Aswan, we were eager to sail on a Felucca. Sailing under deep blue skies past villages frozen in time, and visiting the magnificent temples of ancient Egypt and the Boubian Village were just some of the experiences that make sailing down the Nile a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

The Philae Temple was almost lost to the water when the Aswan Dam was built in 1960. The temple, which is now relocated to the Agikia Island,  was dedicated to the goddess Isis, the wife of Osiris and mother of Horus. It took us by awe when we realized that the temple was built in BC 380-362.

Abu Simbel is the most spectacular ancient Egyptian monument that I’ve visited so far.  Flying 174 mile south from Aswan, just before landing, the plane flew close to the artificial mountain and the colossal statues. The view was astounding – as almost everything  in Egypt seems to be. Again, to save the gigantic statues from the rising water in Lake Nasser, the statues and the temple which were cut into manageable pieces, were transported and painstakingly reassembled on higher ground.

Daily contacts with the Egyptian people in my trip did not suggest that they were a happy people. There must be reasons behind it. Hope that the recent uprising in Egypt is the beginning of a happier Egypt!

Silly Pig

A circus has come to town.  Apart from the silly pig, here comes the scapegoat again.

It is unbelievable that the pig has disregarded the CE’s former instruction to disclose any unauthorized structures at home and take necessary action. It is even more unbelievable that he has not disclosed it earlier. He might be too worried to disclose this biggie but he should have known that if this is disclosed by others nearer the voting, the damage would be even bigger and irreversible. Was he in fact an ostrich in disguise? This incident clearly demonstrates that he does not have the necessary integrity and is not smart or politically sensitive enough to exercise damage control. How could we rely on him to lead us through in the next 5 years?

As for the wolf, he is smart enough to turn things around in face of the allegation of possible conflict of interest. Again, can he be trusted? There are still some dubious points remaining that need to be clarified. For bidding on engineering projects, there are usually requirements to disclose any apparent or real conflict of interest. Those who are assessing the tenders with real or apparent conflict of interest should declare and may not participate in the assessment of the tenders. Also, a consultant to a bidding team is treated as a subcontractor for which a Letter of Association to the Government is required. Was this not required for the West Kowloon Cultural Center project? Is there a loop-hole to be plugged by Government? The wolf seems to be too quick to deny his responsibility.

In any case, integrity is only one factor required for a good CE, but it is an essential attribute.

Only a couple of days ago, the pig indicated that they may have dug a bit too deep at his house and as a man, he has the shoulders and spine. Maybe, at least the scapegoat has his shoulders to cry on. Great wife, always stand by the side of her husband and takes the blunder!

As poor citizens without any rights voting for the CE, perhaps, the only thing we can do is to pray for ourselves.

The Joy (and Jokes) of Retirement

The only reason for my retirement was because of health reasons – I was sick of my company and my company was sick of me. I knew if I was the last one to laugh at my boss’s joke, then I would not be too far from retirement. The best time to start thinking my retirement was before the boss does.

Working people have a lot of bad habits, but the worst of these is work. I told myself there’s one thing I always wanted to do before I quit – retire!

So one day, I returned  from work day and said to my wife, “Hi, Honey, I”m home – forever.”  From that moment on, I knew I switched bosses – from the one who hired me to the one who married me.  It turned out that my wife was happy because she knew that when a man retires, his wife gets twice the husband although receiving only half the income; knowing that if you have the time, you won’t have the money. If you have the money, you won’t have the time. The question isn’t at what age I wanted to retire, it’s at what income.

Then there was the memorable farewell party hosted by the company. My colleagues generously presented me with a watch at a time when time is no longer of essence. It is time I stepped aside for  less experienced persons. I knew that I have made a graceful exit at the most appropriate time

As I have retired from work, but not from life, I need something to retire to, so one of these things I set out to do was writing a blog. Retirement without the love of letters is a living burial.

I knew that I was taking my days off from my days off. Retirement is a time to enjoy life!  A time to do what you want to do, when you want to do it, how you want to do it. Retirement is wonderful. . . . . .  it’s doing nothing without worrying about getting caught at it.

Life begins at retirement. The concept of freedom is never truly realized untl one settles into retirement mode. Although, I have been taking many laps in my retirement, retirement is not a time to sleep, but a time to awaken to the beauty of the world around you and the joy that comes when you cast out all the negative elements that cause confusion and turmoil in your mind and allows serenity to prevail. Retirement has been a discovery of beauty for me. I never had the time before to notice the beauty of the lilies I love, the landscape and the tree outisde my own very window. . . . . . and the beauty of time itself.

A man cannot retire his experience, he must use it. So, I have been teaching, writing and using my previous experience as far as circumstances allow. I promise to keep on living as though I expected to live forever. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul!

PS  The above is just a compilation of many Retirement quotes by this Retiree; the use of the originators’ ( dead or alive) quotable quotes is deeply acknowledged. They include George Foreeman, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Mason Cooley, Catherine Pulsifer, M K Soni, Clarence Darrow, R C Sheriff, Hartman Jule, Henry Emerson Fosdick, Gene Perret, Douglas McArthur and Seneca.

Okinawa (II)

Getting around in Okinawa was easy. We rented a car equipped with GPS and decided to venture around. As an island, Okinawa offers many beautiful coastal scenery. As usual, we stopped by here and there to take photos.

Our next stop was the Gyokusendo Cave which took us an hour to walk up and down the limestone cavern. Within the labyrinth of Ryukyu limestone visitors can see over a million massive stalagmites and stalactites; some of them are just gigantic. It was fascinating as they only grow 1mm  in 3 years.

Castles are usually the only remnants of the glorious past. We stopped by the Katsuren Castle Ruins  which sit on a steep hill close to the shore that offer attractive panoramic views to the landscape below. The site is included as one of the UNESCO World Heritage designated Castles of the Ryukyu Kingdom.

We decided that we would have a little stroll in one of the beautiful gardens and residences of Okinawa – the Shikinaen Garden.  This garden was built as the villa for Ryukyu King,  completed in 1799, destroyed during the World War II and rebuilt 20-40 years ago. We spent a couple of  hours walking around the pond, palaces, arbors, bridges, hills and flower gardens. The architecture was a fusion of Chinese and Okinawa styles.

We also visited the Shuri Castle. While the exterior was impressive, we were more impressed with the interior of the castle. Clearly, back in the old days there was a lot of interaction with China. The inscription were all in Chinese characters.

No trip would be complete without visiting the markets. The markets are always full of colors, scent and life. This is also where you may interact with the local people. We went to a fish market; it is fascinating to see that apart from octopus and other colorful fishes, they also have large fish eyes for sale!

Understand that each day, they will have a live performance showing how sashimi is prepared. It was now time that they cut up a large tuna. It was interesting to see this man who seemed to be very happy with his daily job. He is holding a big tuna in his hands and ready for action.

He was happy that he has successfully opened up a tuna in a matter of minutes. We were happy too as we would have fresh tuna sashimi for our snack!

The life style in Okinawa seemed more casual than those in mainland Japan. The people we met on the streets seem to be slim, happy and in good health. No wonder that the oldest people in Japan are found in Okinawa. We visited shops selling products of black sugar and sea salt ; had a good meal of local noodles. On our way to the airport, we were happy to have seen so much in such a short time.

Okinawa (I)

One reason for visiting Okinawa was to see the Churanmi Aquarium which is the second largest aquarium in the world. It was an amazing experience to view gigantic fishes from a  huge window with unheard dimensions of 8.2 m in height and 22.5 m in width.

The design intention was that visitors will be  unaware of the presence of the window. Everything opaque were removed from their sight except fishes and water, so that visitors feel that they are totally immersed in the sea. This was made possible by joining together super large acrylic panels (measuring 8.5 m (H) x 3.5 m (W) x 4 cm (D)) without using any reinforcing materials.

The acrylic panels were glued together. The panels not only have to resist very high hydraulic pressures but also have to accommodate large variation in dimensions as a result of temperature changes and water absorption; this was altogether quite an engineering challenge.

Also, the aquarium has adopted an open system which intakes  sea water from the ocean, circulates in the tank and discharges back to ocean once again.

The aquarium is divided into three sections according to the depth. In the shallower part, we  can see coral reefs and coral fishes.

There are as many as  800 different coral colonies representing 70 different species of coral. Fishes swimming jovially in and out of the coral reefs help in controlling seaweed and zoanthids which inhibit the growth of coral.

The lionfish looked exceptionally beauty in the aquarium. They are well known for their ornate beauty, venomous spines and unique tentacles.

With that we descended into the deepest and mysterious part of the aquarium.

In the deepest part of the aquarium, you can see creatures like a transparent type of shrimp which only lives at very big depths. There are lots of other small creatures living at deep seas, some feeding on bacteria which in turn feeds on deep sea nutrients in the seabed.

There was so so much to see even when we were back on the surface. The dolphins show in the Okicha Theatre nearby gave us some hearty laughs when the clever dolphins come up every time from the water and making splashes.

The trip to Okinawa was unforgettable and I must say, the aquarium is  the best part. We were fortunate to have seen three big whale sharks (with babies) coming together and took their photos. It was indeed  an eye- opening experience which can rarely be seen in other places!

The Four Seasons

This has got to be the piece of baroque music I listen to most.

In particular, I like Winter.

Of all the Four Seasons records I listened, the one played by Janine Jansen as solo violinist has caught my ears, it was played with so much passion and character. . . . . . and perhaps redefine how this piece of music should be played.

Her music is authentic and her performances so lively,  stunning and full of energy. She is sometimes rather adventurous, with emphasis on emotional accents more than on precision or adherence to the scores. In art, we don’t only want precision.

There are good reasons why she has become the Queen of Downloads for iTune classical music.

Listening to her solo violin has really made this cold winter much more bearable!

Janine Jansen: Vivaldi – Winter – Wild Life

For those who are  interested in actually viewing her phenomenal performance with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, please also see

Janine Jansen – Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64

A young female violinist star is born!