General

Mongolia and Skydiving

My Dear Rotarians and friends, in particular my Action Presidents,

In the wee hours of 1 June 2000, I e-mailed my friends in Evanston asking whether the RI Board of Directors had returned a decision on the District’s petition to modify our district boundaries to include the whole country of Mongolia. I went to bed wondering what would happen. I woke up shortly before six, checked my e-mail and learnt that Evanston had responded during my sleep, shortly after I sent them the message. This is just another illustration of the potency of e-mail. This was what I saw.

“Dear Governor-elect John, I am pleased to advise you that the Board approved the modification of boundaries for District 3450 to include all of Mongolia, effective 1 July 2000. A letter will soon be sent to all clubs in the district advising them of this change and allowing them 45 days to object. A copy of the letter will of course be sent to you and the district governor. Best wishes.”

I read the message a second time and almost pinched myself to prove that I was awake. The message is clear and unambiguous. On 1 July 2000, District 3450 will be the District of Hong Kong, Macau and Mongolia. The implications are far reaching indeed.

I felt happy, very happy. I found myself singing “I could have danced all night” and some funny tunes that the young readers would not recognize. The singing woke up my wife who asked what I was up to. I told her and she became equally happy. The feeling was aesthetic. I wanted to call up friends to break the news, but it was six in the morning. Thanks to e-mail, I shared the news with members of the Governor’s Policy Committee and the District Management Committee, my Action Presidents-elect, all past district governors and a few very good friends. I also e-mailed Ulaanbaatar, asking them to start their preparation for the District Installation. My adrenal gland must have been working overtime.

At eight, I attended the regular meeting of the Rotary Club of Peninsula Sunrise and broke the news. I told them the enormous service opportunities that would open up for clubs in Hong Kong and Macau, and many members were looking forward to a visit to Mongolia. I have since told a few clubs that I had visited and everyone greets the news positively. The 45 days for objections would probably be uneventful.

So it looks like that Rotarian Nicola Alon could be right. Nicola is of course the Rotarian who asked me to circle the ovoo in her backyard three times. She predicted that I would return to the site. Now, I almost certainly would, and most happily. I am already thinking about a weeklong visit complete with trailwalking, horse riding, archery and mare’s milk. I hope that clubs would line up project proposals in Mongolia before that.

I have yet another exciting news to share with you this week. My daughter went sky diving in Berkeley and enjoyed it very much. I was trailwalking in the Aberdeen Country Park area on 3 June when my phone rang. “Is it you, Dad? I have just returned home from my first ever sky diving. It was great.”

I asked her to tell me more about what she described as a unique life experience. She promised me to document that in a written report. Apparently, they were taken to about 13,000 feet in a small plane. Each trainee would pair with an instructor and roll out of the plane together with parachutes. There was a free fall of 50 to 55 seconds, which provided the bulk of the wonderful experience. I asked her what she was thinking during the free fall. She said she could not specifically say what, but that it made her appreciate life, living and being alive a great deal more when she touched down 5 or 6 minutes later. Obviously, one can imagine the breathtaking perspective and scenery during the free fall and during the parachute-assisted flight.

Well, that was what I could gather on the phone while walking those trails. These are familiar trails and are actually becoming user-friendlier. I am rather surprised therefore that a hiker suffered heatstroke around that area yesterday. I hope the guy is well by now. I hope my daughter would give me a full report of her experience. She would be back in two weeks to attend our District Installation, among other functions. She would explain to her mother, for example, why she had conspired with me not to let her know beforehand that she was sky diving. Well, I called my wife from the hills immediately after I finished my call with our daughter. She was not upset by our conspiracy, but she was not particularly overjoyed either. Such is the nature of things in life. We owe it to our family and loved ones to keep them informed of matters of importance that would happen around us. On the other hand, however, there is nothing to be gained to share with them something that would almost certainly worry them a lot before it happens. I had actually used the case to discuss a few moral issues with my daughter, and I don’t think I should go into those in detail here. Suffice it to say that one should never think that one could be in control of another person by virtue of the relationship between them, not even between parents and children.

Talk to you soon.

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