My Dear Rotarians and friends, in particular my Action Presidents,
I did not travel to San Antonio alone after all, not the full journey anyway, but first, let me share with you the few hectic days in Hong Kong before I went off.
First, there was the official opening of the refurbished Rotary Information Centre that took place at 6:00p.m. on Friday, 15 June. Chairman of RIC Supervisory Committee Philip Kung did a good job steering the project. Between him and his Committee Members, many decisions were taken promptly and effectively, including the design and layout of the entire premises, selection of a works contractor and a consultant on how to maximize the benefits from the refurbished premises, choice of furniture and equipment, approval of a budget, presentation of the refurbishment plan at various JPMs, fund raising and cash flow management, logistics during the actual refurbishment and of course, the cocktail reception and the ceremony for the evening. These six Rotarians deserve a huge thank you from all of us, and from me in particular. They are, in addition to Philip, IPPs Tony Choi and Vincent Ng, and Presidents Shane Parmanand, Billiy Lam and Meggy Tseung.
Credits are also due to the many Rotarians and clubs that have contributed in cash or in kind towards the project. Once again, it proves the oft-made point that our District has immense potentials and capacities, waiting to be harnessed. The Committee has meanwhile decided to discuss the draft report of the consultant with a view to putting recommendations to the District leadership on measures to improve the management and maximize the usage of the RIC. Already, the leadership has decided that from 1 July 2001, the RIC Supervisory Committee will be expanded by three past presidents to nine members, such that all appointments in future will last three years. This will not only provide the very much needed continuity, but will also increase the capacity of the Committee to form executive sub-committees on critical aspects.
At this point, it would be in order to address a question posed by Chairman of the Planning Committee for District Headquarters Past President Joop Litmaath. Joop had asked whether the initiatives of the RIC Supervisory Committee to refurbish RIC would pre-empt his work and hence make his Committee redundant. The short answer is no. The Planning Committee is to look at the long-term accommodation needs of the District having regard to the need of the District to expand its service, enhance its image and public relations in the community. A possible and obvious solution being floated around involves the acquisitioning of new premises in a business district of sufficient size that would be compatible with our needs and developing plans to finance such acquisition. On the other hand, the RIC Supervisory Committee has taken the premises as given and is tasked to make the best use of available resources without prejudice to the work of the Planning Committee.
Saturday, 16 June marked the Inauguration of the District Academy. I have set a District Goal for 2000-01 to establish a District Academy, and I am glad that Past Governor Raymond Wong has helped us achieve this goal. This is a long term project aimed at promoting and encouraging continuing and life long learning among Rotarians on Rotary. We are not concerned with the institutional or organizational arrangements, and we have made it clear that this is not a mechanism or device to generate future district governors. Rather, it is to be a center of excellence, a center for learning, a center for recognizing excellence, and a beacon in the District. I am glad that we now have an Academy. It is now up to the leadership to make the best use of it.
I had an informal meeting with a few presidents after the Inauguration Ceremony over finance matters. It took longer than I had expected, and I barely made the Anniversary Dinner of the Rotary Club of Kwai Chung. President Alcuin is quite a character. He sings, he dances, he jokes on himself, and most important of all, he delivers. It is interesting that his wife Catherine loathes to sing or dance, but the couple apparently has excellent understanding. The atmosphere generated that evening was such that Catherine danced more than once and afterwards said that she was now less averse to the activity.
The next day was Father’s Day. I had been rather elated, and for a moment, I was over the moon. I had a unique gift from my son who made me feel so good, probably without knowing it. I hope all of you fathers had a wonderful father’s day. I took my father out to lunch in town before taking a ferry to Cheung Chau to officiate at the Colour Boat Race organized by the eight New Territories clubs. The event was instigated and coordinated by Channel Islands President K K Kwong. This President obviously knows how to organize such events. It was a hot day. Indeed it was steaming hot. Everyone had great fun and possibly not enough of it. I had to leave after the prize presentation so as to change for the Anniversary Ball of the Rotary Club of Tai Po. Now, President David Loie had yet recovered from the post GSE euphoria. There is nothing more pleasant than watching someone immersed in Rotary happiness and satisfaction. It was a great party, and it was the last of the anniversary balls of this Rotary year.
Monday was relatively quiet. My major Rotary-related activities were to dispose of the unused District Designated Fund, to find out who from the District were going to San Antonio and when, and to meet Jimmie Kwan for a final briefing before she went off to San Antonio as the District delegate to the first ever RYLA Pre-convention. On a personal front, Rosita was hospitalized for her fifth course of chemotherapy in the second series. She is now taking the treatment very well, and very often she appeared better and healthier than our friends and me.
Tuesday night, Past Governor Hari Harilela threw a party for past governors and the district leadership. Once again, it was a great party. The only problem was that it took me some efforts to find the place from Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Wednesday night, I had two Rotary events after work. I went to the last RIC Supervisory Committee Meeting at RIC before I went for the round up session of the GSE Sub-Committee. It was past ten in the evening when I turned up at Rosita’s ward, and I had yet to check my email in my mailbox, not to mention the packing for the next week.
I got up rather early in the morning on Thursday. I had not completed packing and I had one or two messages outstanding. I also needed to make a few phone calls before saying goodbye to Rosita in the hospital. My own club President Tom Hui had offered to take me to the airport. We met in Rosita’s ward and off we went, discussing club matters all the way, well almost. Checking in was no hassle at all. I was heading off for Departure when I saw Past President Raju Daswani and his two colleagues. They were taking the same flight. We found out that Meggy Tseung was also on the same flight too. So I did not travel alone this time.
After two transfers, three time zones and over 22 hours, we arrived at San Antonio. We met more Rotarians from the Philippines, Taiwan and Australasia, all great friends. The reception party from the host club was great. They were warm, efficient and professional. Our Rotarians can learn from them.
I felt totally refreshed after taking a shower and began clearing my mailbox. By 1a.m. I went to bed. I was awakened by a buzzing sound from a corner of the room. I got up, switched on the lights and walked to the corner. The buzz stopped and I went back to bed and switched off the lights. The buzz resumed after one minute flat. I was worried that it could be some electric wiring problem, so I got up again and checked. The buzz stopped as before, but resumed as soon as I touched my bed. It went on like this for nearly 30 minutes. Eventually, I called front desk, which in turn sent in a security man. The security man came in, switched off the air conditioning and crouched on the floor towards the corner of the room from where the buzz came. He suddenly pounced on something on the floor and said calmly, “It’s a cricket.” He picked up its carcass and left as I thanked him profusely. I had mixed feelings afterwards, but then I was too tired to think and I felt asleep.
I was woken up by another buzzing sound, this time, from the clock unit. I looked up. It was not even 6:00a.m. Apparently, the hotel guest before me had set this ungodly time to wake up for the airport. I felt rather annoyed, but what could one do. I was hesitant to go to bed again for fear that I might over sleep and miss the opening of the International Institute. So I was at the Convention Centre shortly after 8:00a.m.
I found that I was the only representative from the District at the 2001 International Assembly, which was also my first one. This year, President Frank Devlyn had opened up the Institute for the first time to Rotarians that were not past, present or future governors or RI officers. The result was that we had record attendance of over 1,000.
It was a great day. I picked up a lot of ideas, from the Rotary leaders and from President Frank himself. He ended the first day with a Q and A session. It was so characteristic of Frank: frank, no nonsense, no-frills, fast and straight talks and to the point. It was such an experience and I would urge you to attend next year’s one if it is open to everyone again.
Talk to you soon.