2023 Year Ender

I began to plan writing this Year Ender shortly after the beginning of the month, prompted by a notice from Jacky Keung, Store Manager of our mini-store at Tai Wo Hau, that we were to move to another place in Kwai Fong, close to the MTR Station and with hourly parking. Jacky was very accommodating and offered to shift everything to the new site if we couldn’t find time or energy to sort out what we had in storage, but we had other plans in mind. I had always thought of getting rid of an off-site store as such, and I had mentally planned to do so when I reached 75. Indeed, I mentioned at the end of my 2022 Year Ender that I would begin to wind down the Tai Wo Hau mini-store. Well, I have passed the time-line, but nothing has happened. As usual, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. It does seem therefore that Providence is forcing me to take some action, whether I like it or not. And it came to pass that the decanting operation became a highlight of the year – certainly one for the last few weeks – for in the days leading to the Winter Solstice,  Su and I journeyed to our storage no less than ten times, sorting things we had kept there for more than ten years, making prompt and snap decisions on whether to keep or part with all the stuff – books, documents, clothes and numerous memorabilia – and packing them in separate boxes. It was a long, tedious and painful process. It was somewhat like the Hong Kong Government in the run up to 1997 racing against time to sort out the many teething issues before the deadline. In the end, it depends on how much time there remains; or how long is a piece of string; and as far as this Year Ender is concerned, it has meant that I could not seriously pen this piece until now.

Back to the start, the Year began with announcement from the authorities that the borders would open, which it did indeed. The place suddenly livened up and people were moving. However, we were not in any hurry to go places, and had not hedged any immediate travel plans; not until April and May; but we did follow two friends on a day trip to Shenzhen to visit another friend, and Su took the occasion to update her bank and phone accounts that had been dormant for three years.

Looking back, I spent much of the year visiting clinics or nursing my constitution. It began in March when, for no apparent reasons, I felt pain in the thigh muscles on the left leg, such that I had difficulties putting on my pants, socks and shoes. I consulted a sports therapist recommended by Sam, our previous Latin Dance coach, and had some temporary relief after the first visits. However, the pain came back and I ended up visiting the clinic weekly. The therapist then suggested that I could have over-exerted myself with my daily workout at the gym and advised that I slowed down somewhat. Well, I was about to board a flight to UK and then France with Su; and at one point I was worried whether I could survive the flights. I barely survived. I had recurring pains on and off during my travels and driving trips – sometimes it got better – and I paid a last visit to the sports therapist after I came back. The therapist concluded that I must have rested well during my travels, as I had not had any gym session for more than a month. I have since been less aggressive with my gym sessions; and thank God, the pain hasn’t come back. Not yet, and long may that last.

I had described my travels with Su and her friend Mei-Mei in my blogs; and you are most welcome to go to my website for the details if you are so minded. Very briefly, we spent nine days in UK, first in London on Masonic businesses and then in Nottingham and with the help of a brother driving, played tourists before shooting off to France, first in La Rochelle and then to Loire Valley, with me driving all the time in France, before flying back from Paris, all in a month. It was our first real travel in more than three years. It was hard work for me, somewhat exhausting at times, but there were plenty of moments for reminiscing.

About two weeks after we were back, I was down with shingles which I couldn’t recognize at first. Initially, I thought it was muscular pains brought about by the hard work or the travel-induced stress. I went to see a friend chiropractor, who recognized the symptoms after two sessions and presently referred me to the dermatologist in the next block. It was painful, very painful. I was down with all sorts of discomfort which could be much worse than having Covid. The dermatologist had prescribed a week of anti-viral drugs which he said would stop the virus, but not the pain. I then turned to my friend in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She told me that it would take time to get to the root of the problems, but assured me that things could be worse for people of my age, and recommended that I should learn to “dance with the wolf”.  After 11 weeks under her TCM regime, she decided that I should allow the body to take over and heal itself.

In between nursing my constitution, I took care to exercise the body and had consciously taken less alcohol, except on special occasions. Su and I also made a short trip to Northeast China, primarily to climb the famous Changbaishan to see the Heaven Lake or Lake in Heaven, by joining a packaged tour from Hong Kong. Again, you are welcome to visit my blog for the details. Suffice it to say that it was a rather rewarding trip in more than one way, even though my constitution was far from perfect, having just had a bout of shingles.

Then November brought us meeting my high school classmates, when we were busy organizing dinners and a short trip to Shunde to mark the 60th anniversary of our graduation from Wah Yan College in 1963. Many friends came back from North America, mainly Canada, and Australia. I had also discussed the events in my blogs and would not go into too much details, except to say that we all should value any reunions with consummate attention and perhaps vigilance. For one doesn’t know whether one could attend the next one or when. There were other reunions and anniversaries we had attended, including the Golden Wedding Anniversary of Helena and Eddie, and recently in December, for example, HKU’s Centre of Buddhist Studies had organized the 20th Anniversary of its establishment. I met many long lost and nearly forgotten friends and teachers, but that would be another thesis on its own.

This brings me back to the recent trips Su and I made to Tai Wo Hau, the end of which we think we had seen yesterday, after over ten years. Su wrote in one of her blogs that she retrieved a few books which had brought up memories of a few of her key activities over a few periods of her life. She also remarked that I discarded many of my papers, books, documents and memorabilia, seemingly painlessly and unemotionally. I wouldn’t say anything to that, and I wonder what you would think. I had once thought I could close the store and sent everything to the landfill, which would be what would have happened had I failed to wake up one morning; and which could happen in practice. I have been trying hard to live by a motto I have adopted since my encounter with Buddhist studies, which is “to live in the present moment.” But it’s not easy. After the ten trips, I am resigned to keep a permanent off-site store for as long as it is necessary, notwithstanding that I firmly subscribe to the theory that nothing is permanent.

On that note, I would sign off for the year 2023 and the Year of the Rabbit, as I wish all my friends and anyone out there a happy and mindful 2024 and a vibrant and exciting Year of the Dragon ahead. I intend to continue writing my blogs for as long as I can; for what they are worth.  I wish you all well. I wish you would meet up your dear and near often and find them as happy, healthy and cheerful as you are.

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