General

It is Official – I am a Senior – and Thank God

I returned from a dinner in Downtown Vancouver with Gus and of course Su. It was an Italian restaurant within the Opus Hotel which was near a Sky Train station so that we had no problem getting there from our hotel and back. Gus of course was my first Best Man. He insisted that he bought my last dinner as a junior, which as it happened turned out to be my first celebration dinner as a senior. We took the 7-course tasting menu, and Gus threw in an eighth in the form of an extra-small birthday cake without a candle. We also demolished a bottle of Italian red wine, mainly between Su and me. It was a great meal during which we caught up with Gus on a range of events which happened in his life over the last few decades.

Back in the hotel room, the first thing that greeted me on my Android was a birthday message from my daughter. It made me very happy; and I was so excited that I decided to count how many messages I had received on this very subject so far.

Congratulatory birthday messages – well, not everyone realized that I would graduate to be a senior – have been trickling through for a week and indeed I received some messages as early as mid March, to my surprise. It is not exactly easy to tally the recent messages and more importantly, to thank the senders one by one. I am bound to forget some of them and be considered unthankful or disrespectful by others for not replying to them earlier or at all. I received most of the messages through Facebook and emails. I was delighted by the originality displayed in some and intrigued by the sincerity, seriousness and business-like manner in others. Let me try to list them as far as I can, and not in any order.

Messages posted through emails, sms, WhatsApp or timeline included those from us, Azad, Daniel Kwok, Ada Cheng, Peter Kwan, Katrin Man, Lucille Lam, Stanley Au, Joann Tse, Florence Mak, Ka-lok, Alex Lai, Josephine Suen, Venus Zhao, Rachel Lam, Astor Lau, Vienna Lam, Guz Goh, Andrew Jones, Mahmood Rumjahn, Benny Tam, Alice Liu, Sally Ho, Chris Tsang, Kennedy Tsang, Chew Yoke Lim, Stella Chan, Peter CW Choy, Cheng Sang Loi, Sidney Yuen, Eric Leung, Luci Yau, Eddie Yau, Diana Chan, Jackie Ip, Timothy Lam, Nancy Yee, Sau Chan, Martin Willweber, Corvus Yip, Eva Chiu, Katherine Yuen, Tiffany Li, Chris Fung, Winnie Chow, James Wong, CF Wong, Kai E Lai, Joseph Chan, Ping Sum Li, Thomas Chan, Amy Wong, Kyle Wong and probably others. I recall that I had tried before to reply to every one of them religiously each year; and I counted over 100 of them. Later, I lost the impetus and I would give a general thank you message, either through a letter such as this one posted on the website, or on the Facebook social network. I have discussed communications of such nature before and I would not dwell on it any more now. Suffice it to say that I treasure each and every message with the same seriousness, sincerity, mindfulness, volition, motivation and mental formation with which it was delivered and I wish all the friends out there well, good health and happiness. I hope to thank each and every one of them in person when I see them, and I wish that I could see them sooner than I probably would.

Back to the present, so I am officially 65 and I can now travel for $2 per trip on most public transport, something I have been looking forward to with some fondness and for economic reasons. I was going to claim my senior card before I left for the current trip, but somehow I failed to do so. I would do that as soon as I am back and carry it with my Hong Kong Identity Card.

Su and I went to the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival this morning. We decided to go even though the weather forecast was not that promising. It turned out to be a rather fine day for our purpose. It was overcast in the morning and it even drizzled a bit in the beginning, but the early chill and wind had actually helped to produce some excellent pictures; and we had a great time. Admission charges were C$12 for each adult and C$9 for a senior. When I told them that I would be a senior the following day, they wished me an early Happy Birthday. If I went tomorrow, I would qualify for the senior rate.

The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival was founded in 2005 to commemorate a gift of 37,000 cherry trees from Japan to the City of Vancouver. The first Festival was held in 2006 with support from the Vancouver Trade Board and in the following year, the Festival Organizers were formally recognized as a charitable nonprofit society.

Since here this time, I have wondered why Vancouver, of all cities in the world but with only just over 600,000 residents, would want to grow so many plum and cheery trees in the city centre and prime residental areas and to brand itself as probably the greatest cheery cities outside Japan and Korea. After some desk top research, I found that this has come about for good reasons which make a lot of economic, environmental and aesthetic sense. Very briefly, some 60 years ago, the City began to be worried by the problems caused by the huge woody trees which traditionally lined the streets of the City. These are elms, redwoods, chestnuts and the lot which never died and which were grown initially for the reason. However, over time, their roots have grown everywhere, damaged pavements, penetrated underground water pipes and utilities installations and so on, and the damage caused had become very expensive to repair. The City soon turned to other trees not so tall – between 25 to 30 feet – and which would bear flowers and so on in spring and summer; and plum and cheery trees became the obvious winners.

Still on the Cherry Blossom Festival, since 2008, the Festival has been held in the City’s VanDusen Botanical Garden. In 2011, the Festival sold special birthday cherry trees to mark Vancouver’s 125th Birthday. In the end, 3,000 trees were sold and planted all over Vancouver to help ensure that cherry trees would be celebrated and appreciated throughout the City. The organizers believe that the festival has become a popular tradition in Vancouver that unites people to celebrate the beauty of cherry blossoms. This year, the City celebrates the seventh Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival which runs from 6 to 7 April.

I mentioned in a previous letter that we visited Queen Elizabeth Park and Stanley Park before. We actually think that QE Park offers excellent varieties and better values of cherry trees, even though it rained during our visit. Stanley Park on the other hand boasts rows of blossoming trees which are strategically located or planted. Vancouver’s many parks and gardens are ideal showcases for the beloved trees, but there are also a number of urban places to view these pink beauties. I had also made reference to the blossoms of the Nitobe Memorial Garden at UBC and the canopy of blooms at the Burrad Sky Train station which we visited earlier. The tourism literature suggested that we have well covered the Cherry Festival of Vancouver.

Tomorrow we leave for Whistler, but before that, we would visit one more time the Holy Rosary Cathedral at Richards Street, which is four blocks down from our hotel. We have so much to thank God for.

I hope to talk to you later.

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