Weekly Photo Challenge: Opposites ( Sanqing Shan )

This week’s DP photo challenge is Opposite.

I like hiking up the Sanqing Mountain in China.

It is a place of high mountains with contrasting views.DSCF0986

On both sides of a gorge, we have trees reaching out to the opposite direction as if trying to hold hands with each other.

Both sides of the gorge are steep, but one side is relatively smooth and the other side sort of rugged.

Lion Dance – Tiled Art

This week’s photo challenge is Eyes.

I have been photographing this ancient building in China which has been restored a few times in the past.

This was taken at the corner of two walls which are tiled.DSCF1184

The tiled painting shows Lion Dance in the middle – you can see at least 5 Lions there with their vivid eye.

At the bottom there is a procession of sorts.

On the right, there is a sword dance by two people.

On the left are people playing the musical instrument.

This is more than just a cartoon!

Patchwork Road at Biei, Hokkaido

I am going to show you two pictures of the so called Patchwork Road at Biei, Hokkaido.

The first one was taken by my brother last week was he was there. His picture shows a much wider and open field. The clouds in the sky was interesting too.11873750_10207437034782639_694644250704798477_n

The second picture was taken by my some years ago in the same area. Obviously, I did not take the picture from the same angle or location, it shows the fields in more detail.cimg0203

However, I believe, both pictures when taken together would give readers a good idea as to how beautiful the place is.

My Chinese Calligraphy Homework

Last year, I provided an update in the “About” page  on my activities in retirement.

This is about time I should provide another update.

I have been learning Chinese Calligraphy for slightly over one year now, I am struggling with learning my Spanish grammar and I have also started learning a special form of TaiChi known as the “Water Flowing” form which does not emphasize on the mechanical external form of the exercise – it focuses on the internal work of the body (really hard to explain and learn!).CIMG3702

This week, I have spent over one hour writing the attached calligraphy. This is for handing over to my teacher for his comment coming Saturday. In the past year, I have learned writing in  four different fonts of the Chinese characters. The one posted is the simplified free-flowing form. Every week, my teacher will tell me what are the problems with my writing and how I should improve.

Have also attended some Chinese calligraphy exhibitions locally.DSCF2722

What I enjoyed most was visiting the BaiWangShan garden in Beijing where they have some calligraphy carved in black slate for appreciation.DSCF2735

The slates have poems written by scholars carved into them. It was not only the calligraphy but also the Autumn foliage in the gardens which added to the poetic mood.

With the different Chinese fonts now readily available from the computer / internet, less and less people are learning or practising Calligraphy now.

It is foreseeable that Chinese Calligraphy could become a dying art as well!

Early Retirement = Early Death?

There are conflicting research results on whether early retirement is a cause for early deaths.

1. On one hand, there are researches which show that one additional year of early retirement causes an increase in the risk of premature death of 2.4 percentage points or 1.8 months in terms of years of life lost.

A study by Shell, which followed their workers for 26 years, suggested that survival for those who retire at 65 are greater. “ Survival rates remained significantly greater for those who retired at age 65 compared with those who retired at age 55,” the researchers wrote. Many people underestimate the importance of their job when they give it up.

2. On the other hand, Dr. Sing Lin in his paper “Optimum Strategies for Creativity and Longevity” dated 2002 pointed to an opposite direction. One of his conclusions is that ” if you are not able to get out of the pressure-cooker or the high-speed battleground at the age of 55 and “have” to keep on working very hard until the age of 65 or older before your retirement, then you probably will die within 18 months of retirement. By working very hard in the pressure cooker for 10 more years beyond the age of 55, you give up at least 20 years of your life span on average.”

See his paper  on link : http://faculty.kfupm.edu.sa/COE/gutub/English_Misc/Retire1.htm

From his actuarial study of the age at retirement vs life span done at Lockheed Martin and at Boeing, he came up with the following paired results of Age at Retirement /Average Age At Death:

49.9/86,   51.2 /85.3,   52.5 /84.6,   53.8 /83.9,    55.1 /83.2,   56.4 /82.5,   57.2 /81.4,   58.3 /80,    59.2 /78.5,   60.1 /76.8,   61 /74.5,   62.1 /71.8,   63.1 /69.3,   64.1 /67.9,   65.2 /66.8

For instance, if you retire at age 49.9, his results show that you may live to 86, whereas, if you retire at age 65.2, you may only have  1.6 years to live and die at 66.8. In Boeing’s numbers, employees retiring at 65 typically received their pension checks for only 18 months (at Lockheed, 17 months).

So, what should one believe?

The Boeing / Lockheed Martin studies did not indicate how big the population looked at and whether they were statistically significant for other types of employment where there are lower work stresses. Whereas, the Shell study may have been influenced by the relatively poor state of health of their staff who (were forced to ) retire early because of their poor health.

As reported in a Telegraph article, “Those forced into early retirement generally have poorer mental health than those who take routine retirement, who in turn have poorer mental health than those who have taken voluntary early retirement” and “Early retirement is generally good for people’s health and well being unless it has been forced on them.”

We tend to build our lives around our work,” an expert Milner said. “When we are no longer working, we can lapse into lack of activity, and that can contribute to bad health.”

So, let’s look at the plus and minus sides of retirement:

On retirement– there is a reduction of job related stress that leads to increased blood pressure and other bad habits that come with many jobs. However, for some, there may be an increase of stress due to worries about not having enough money for the retirement or the lack of identity and purpose of life.

Pre-retirement –  complaining about one’s career and the management might have cost one a decade of life, not to mention perhaps several decades of living. However, for some people, work gives them a sense of purpose and for the rare few, the only purpose in life.

The crucial question is whether you are able to structure your retirement life such that there are more positive benefits than negative impacts.

To be healthy, retirement must be active“, Milner said. In his experience, he said, “retired people who plunged into new activities enjoyed their lives more, and were thus healthier. One study showed “that older adults who volunteer to help others can reduce their risk of dying prematurely by 60 percent,” he said.

So, while generally a reduction in work related stress is conducive to longer living, in our retirement we must not let ourselves  lapse into lack of activity but to remain physically, mentally and socially active. For those who regard work as the only purpose in life and have no activities outside work,  continue working may be better off as they have already achieved their purpose.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; We grow old because we stop playing” – George Bernard Shaw

Chasing the Sunset at Langkawi

For several days, we enjoyed the sun, sand and sea at Langkawi, the island of beautiful sunsets in Malaysia.

On our last day in Langkawi, we were wondering whether we should be having an early dinner; but the sun was setting and it was so lovely. We quickly changed our plan and took a stroll on the board walk fronting the shore, not knowing where this was leading to.

We walked up and down the rocky shores. Amazed at the beauty and serenity of the place, we couldn’t help walking further and further along the shore; in search of even better views.

What a joy it was if we could just take a pause in our life, doing nothing. . . . . .  not thinking of anything ( different from thinking of nothing), meditating like the man in the picture.

All our lives, we have been chasing; chasing buses, chasing jobs, chasing clients; sometimes we were just chasing our own tails;  many times not knowing why we chase for  those things at all.

Are we destined only to chase in this rat race? There must be much better things to do; liking chasing sunset or chasing rainbows.

Some feel sad about sunset as if it were the end of a day, an end of a life journey. But sunset only signifies the beginning of yet another day, perhaps another phase of life.

The sun finally sank below the horizon.

We knew that this was the best part of our trip and this moment was one of the best and memorable parts of our lives.

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.