General

Familiarity

I left off where we were making our way to JFK Airport for Vancouver with the hope I would write to you from there. I never did. Surprise, surprise!!

Now in the warm of our hotel room in Whistler after a quickly-put-together but wholesome dinner, and a week later, let me recall Vancouver. As a start, it was raining when we touched down Vancouver Airport. Soon we arrived at our hotel on Burrard; where things looked so familiar. It was like going home. We slept a bit and were in good time for the 8 am Mass at Holy Rosary Cathedral at Richards Street, which again looked as familiar as Ricci Hall in Hong Kong. Yes, we seemed to be repeating a lot of what we did in the city last year and the years before. We largely met the same friends and went to the same eateries; waited at the same spot for the coach to take us to Whistler; and so on.

Familiarity does not necessarily breed contempt. Indeed it has great merits. We go through life doing many things over and over again. I recall David Beckham telling his media friends how he trained himself. He sort of said that there were no short cuts to success. The only success secrets were hard work and repeated hard work. He would carry about 20 footballs to his daily practice session and he repeated the same maneuvers and routines every morning, rain or shine. Our young Latin dance instructor at our sports club who won the Asian Championship spent many hours each week learning and practicing his routines with perseverance and burnt many pairs of dancing shoes. Indeed, every performing artist and professional athlete practices long and hard, with no guarantee for fame or success. And I haven’t mentioned that even I had been going to the gym for work offs an hour a day, at least five times a week, for a year now.

I could be going off at a tangent, but I was simply trying to make the point that we can’t help repeating routines in our lives. Indeed the product of such processes is called experience. Back to our few days in Vancouver, we actually did something different. We visited two friends at their homes, or to be exact, they took us to their homes. Su made friend with the dog of one and with the cat of the other’s son. Su had also started to experiment with taking seafood provisions to Whistler from Vancouver; and we did not see any cherry blossoms. It’s not the season yet.

I mentioned the homes of these two friends for a purpose. I have known both of them for many years; and by the way, they don’t know each other. Both were my one time classmates: I have known one since 1958 and the other since 1966. Both left Hong Kong and settled in Canada in the early Seventies and both are rather private persons. Over the last four decades or more they must have accumulated substantial baggage; physical and mental, spiritual and metaphysical, familial and relational, and so on; and their homes reflect that. Nevertheless, both are cheerful and happy go lucky people and they went out of their way to meet us since we re-connected about two or three years ago and for which I appreciate a lot. Interestingly though, both have yet to migrate to using smart phones and hence are not reachable by WhatsApp.

I must have gone off to another tangent. We have since settled in our hotel room in Whistler for two days; and we are very much at home. The small trunk room has more than what we need to start us up, but we needed to visit our familiar stores to stock up our fridge. Once again, we said we would do a stock taking as we had said we would last year, but never did.

Su and I discussed the merits of keeping this Whistler facility, but we knew the answer before the discussion. It is a not-so-expensive way of spending a holiday in an unusual place that is quiet and serene, clean and green, snowy and picturesque, and which offers safe and professional skiing facilities. Indeed, it will get cheaper as one grows older and as one learns how to maximize the benefits offered at the seasons and times they are offered. The Resort offers very good deals, particularly when the economy is not doing that great; and Cathay Pacific offers attractive bundle fares, except that one needs to be alert and quick to grab such deals and to match the dates with other commitments in Hong Kong and elsewhere.

Such is the challenge life presents every day, that one is always presented with choices, so much so that the choices could become so familiar and hence so easy or so difficult, depending on other competing choices. I go back to the theme I began with, or what I thought I began with, which is familiarity. To some extent, one tends to re-live past lives or experiences as one gets older. One key element of mindfulness lies in knowing what is going on without thinking about it and without taking a view on what is going on. This is my 12th year on official retirement, but my diary is often marked in a few colours on many days. Going on the present trip means that I will miss certain commitments or be unable to attend events that I would otherwise attend or am expected to attend. Maybe it is time to think hard on what I can best use my time on. The choices could be difficult, and I might need to learn to forgo my well tried and tested familiar grounds before making such choices.

Whistler has not changed a lot, except that the streets are still festively adorned with lights of the type one expects at Christmas. It had been a rather warm two days, with rain in the village and snow at the top, which was not ideal for a beginner like me, but I managed and survived so far, albeit only just.

I hope to talk to you again soon.

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