Newsletter 2004
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December, 2004 San Jose, Costa Rica, Central America

Dear Friends Around the World,


Greetings from Costa Rica, Central America. Last year, when I said 2003 was rather uneventful, I meant there was no change in the major areas of my life such as job, address, and citizenship. On the contrary, 2004 was very much eventful by design. And, I turned forty this month.

The year began with a visit to an ophthalmologist who performed Lasik on my eyes. The result of the surgery was most satisfactory. I shall not rely on corrective lenses again until the time comes for reading glasses.

Since I did not visit my family in Hong Kong in 2003, I decided to spend Chinese New Year in Hong Kong in mid January. It was a great visit. When I was a child, Chinese New Year was for visiting friends and families. Literally all shops and restaurants were closed for at least three to seven days. Those restaurants that chose to remain open charged 30% extra for the convenience. These days, I am saddened to say that more than 90% of the shops are open during the New Year holidays. And the restaurants levy no extra charges because they are no longer the only game in town during this time. For me, this business as usual attitude takes away much of that special Chinese New Year atmosphere that I cherished for many years. There must be more to life than making money, no? If we can't afford to rest for a few days to prepare for the New Year, what does that say about our lives and our priorities? It seems to me that all the good traditions, sooner or later, are compromised for the sake of commerce!

In April, I asked for a year off from my job and the request was subsequently granted. My plan is to travel the world and master, I hope, the Spanish language via extended voluntary work in Costa Rica and Mexico. The leave of absence was to be effective at the end of the project in St. Petersburg, Florida, which ended up being the beginning of October.

During the summer, I came to Costa Rica twice over two long weekends to make contacts with charity organizations in person. My conclusion from the two trips was that such arrangements were only possible when I am here 'permanently' later in the year. Lesson one of the sabbatical: have patience.

I spent five months working in St. Petersburg this year and Florida was threatened four times by hurricanes in the course of six weeks while I was on the project. For some reason, I have never worked so hard as I did in this project. Maybe I am just getting older. When the project ended at the end of September, I had the joy of driving across the country as we had to move one of the company cars from St. Petersburg to Las Vegas. It took me almost a week, with a weekend spent in Dallas in the middle. The ride was more than 2,600 miles and it was mostly enjoyable, with the possible exception from Dallas to New Mexico. Western Texas is, for the most part, well, how do I put it mildly, flat and somewhat unattractive.

As part of the preparation for the sabbatical ahead, I listened to a 36 lesson audio course, by Great Learning Company, entitled "The History of the English Language" during the long drive. It was most interesting and informative. There is just no end to the fun of learning English! Note to self: time to cultivate other hobbies.

In September, I visited my west coast parents for a weekend, and the mess up of the flight turned it into a dinner visit, the most expensive ever for me, if you add the airfare to the dinner. Later the same month, I visited an old friend in Atlanta and then spent a few peaceful days in my southern parents' lake house outside of Birmingham, Alabama. The restful visit aptly prepared me mentally and physically for the sabbatical.

In addition to these personal trips, the job took me to Durango, Denver and Phoenix this year. It was in a way a quiet year, that is, until the sabbatical started in October. The details of which can be found in this very website.

To recap, I went back to Hong Kong for a wedding in October, then onto London for a four week course of CELTA - Cambridge Certificate of England Language Teaching to Adults followed by a visit to my Danish family in Grenna, Denmark, then back to Dallas for my birthday party before heading south to Costa Rica to live with my Costa Rican family in late November.

Whew, I come from a fairly large family myself, and over the years I was taken in by all these families across the world and become a family member of some sort. One thing is certain; having families all over the world makes traveling a lot more fun and affordable.

I am dreaming of a White Christmas but it will be a very warm one as my Costa Rican family and I are going south to Panama for the holiday. It will be the warmest Christmas for me yet.

When I turned 30 ten years ago, I mentioned in my newsletter that I should expect the traditional respect that comes with being older, and I got quite a few responses from my friends regarding that comment. Now that I am 40, my I have that respect now, please? On that note, I wish you a peaceful holiday season and a fabulous New Year. I remain, yours sincerely,

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