New York, New York

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

Last week, I went to Beijing for the annual District Visit to the Ministries without Rosita. Happily, I was in a delegation of 16, comprising Governor-elect Johnson Chu, Governor-nominee Gloria Chan, six Action Presidents, namely Ada Cheng, Meggy Tseung, Peter Wan, Y C Chan, Witman Hung and Alcuin Li, Assistant Governor Jones Wong, three District Secretaries, namely Kenneth Chow, Edmond Chan and Tenny Leung and three past presidents, namely Stanley Mok, Luci Yau and Amy Chan. The delegation worked very hard, but had a great time. I am indebted to all of them, in particular to Stanley Mok who assumed Delegation Advisor, Amy Chan, Secretary General and Kenneth Chow, Logistics Director. Between them, they did most of the preparatory and planning work. Indeed, each member of the delegation had taken up specific duties so that the four days we were in Beijing went like clockwork, and for which I am eternally grateful.

The punishing schedule had resulted in two members having been taken ill towards the end, with one hospitalized for a day and a half, which triggered other plans and tested to the full the ability and capability of the delegation to react and respond to emergencies. I am happy to say that everyone came out with flying colours, once again proving the point made by a past district governor repeatedly that District 3450 is laden with Rotarians with potentials.

Shortly before I went on the Beijing trip, I learnt that I needed to be in New York City for some urgent meetings this week, which means that I was unable to attend the last Joint Presidents’ Meeting. I hope you had a good meeting and I am grateful to President Ada Cheng for reading a message I prepared for the occasion. My spirit was certainly with you even though I could not be physically with you.

I left for Chek Lap Kok at noon on Monday alone. Traveling alone is not exactly something I terribly look forward to, but over the years and increasingly, I have learned to make the best of situations that I don’t particularly like. One good thing about traveling alone is that one gets to see a lot more movies. The other is that one can catch up on sleeps and work, these latter two having always been competing for time and space.

I took out my notebook after the first meal and two films and began typing, but then Jennifer Lopez turned up as the wedding planner and claimed my full and undivided attention. It is a good film. It is clean, healthy, simple, straightforward and predictable. It deals with love and marriage, friendship and career, and is rather Italian in places. Life is life and love is love. It reminds me of at least two other movies; Four Weddings and the Fiddler on the roof; both classic favourites.

Most of you would know about the Four Weddings, but for the younger friends, the Fiddler was a Joseph Stein production based on a Broadway musical. I think it won a few awards in 1971. It was about a Ukrainian milkman Tevye who had five daughters from his wife Golda. At the beginning of the story, at least three were of marriageable age. In the Wedding Planner, Jennifer Lopez’ father was telling her how he was married to someone he met for the first time on the wedding day and how he learnt first to respect, then like and eventually love his wife. The storyline could have been inspired by the melodic exchange in “Do you love me?” between Tevye and Golda when their daughters were getting married for love, 25 years after their arranged marriage. Golda’s first line response was that Tevye was upset with the daughters getting married and the trouble in the town, and asked her husband to go inside and lie down. When Tevye persisted with the question, she recalled that for 25 years she had washed his clothes, cooked his meals, given him children and milked his cows, and asked him back, “If that’s not love, what is?” The exchange that followed is worth repeating here.

“Then you love me.”

“I suppose I do.”

“Then I suppose I love you too.”

“ It doesn’t change a thing, but even so, after 25 years, it’s nice to know.”

As I was about to resume typing, Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron came on the screen in a compelling romance. “Sweet November” is such bitter sweet and so much about life that it makes life somewhat unreal. Theron wanted Reeves to remember her at her best and as someone who loved and treasured life and savoured its best and sweetest parts. She wanted it so badly that she was willing to disappear from his life when she felt that life was coming to an end. The storyline was simple, but original, though the different parts which made up the whole, rather predictable. As the conditions of Theron unfolded, I could not help feeling about the condition of Rosita. How I wish she could be here! She would probably cry all the way.

So I did at least four movies, but very little work. I did produce an outline for the last issue of my Governor’s Monthly Letter and I thought about what I should say in the message for the District Installation souvenir programme. Life is too short indeed.

Believe it or not, I have taken the Hong Kong weather with me to New York. There was thunderstorm and heavy rain about 15 miles north of where I stayed – I stayed in a hotel on Park Avenue at 56th Street – but it rained here and the thunder and lightning woke me up. My colleagues in New York City told me that it was very unusual, but said the overnight rainstorm would clear the sky so that we would have fine weather for the rest of the day. They were right. It was fine all day, so that in the evening, I could do some walking. I went for the Blue Note, billed as the jazz capital of the world. Blue Note New York was at West 3rd Street, between 6th Avenue (or the Avenue of the Americas) and McDougal Street. This week, it featured Larry Coryell and Bill Evans. Larry Coryell was with the Count’s Jam Band and Bill Evans, the Soul Insiders. Coryell was classically trained and is a musical amalgam of jazz, rock and classical. He played his electric guitar skillfully and jammed well with the saxophonist of the Jam Band.

New York is quite a city. It has a lot to offer. If Hong Kong is to be Asia’s New York, we need to work a lot harder at it. As a start, our people must learn to respect others, particularly visitors, for what they are or can be, as opposed to what they appear to be. Rotarians, as business and professional people, have a role to create awareness of the need and to take the lead.

Next week, I would be packing for San Antonio, once again, traveling alone. I hope to see you in the various Convention programmes.

Talk to you soon.

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