Monday, April 21, 2008

A Time of Reflection

Today, Monday, the pool was closed and that may have been a good thing as my cold felt quite bad last night. I think I am better now, but it isn't over yet. Yesterday, I worked fairly hard in the evening trying to finish a shortish translation, only to have the client send me a new version of his paper before I went to bed, in which case I had to retranslate a lot of it again all this morning. However, that was not too much of a problem as I just treated it as a bigger case.
So this morning, I was starting working on the revised version, and then as I was going through various websites looking for various kinds of information (and peeking at a few blogs), a news headline in Chinese caught my attention. The person whose paper I was translating had just been promoted to a very senior position in the Cabinet. Recently, Taiwan had a presidential election, and since the other party won, a new Cabinet is being formed, and so a lot of changes are taking place at the top of several major government departments. Not just this person, but also another I have regularly helped with polishing papers for publication was promoted from being a university professor to a Cabinet member and head of a pretty big department.
I have known and associated with both of these people on and off for over 20 years, from when I was a relatively young newly-married person with a few years of living in Taiwan, to later times when my life was threatened by illness, to subsequent times when I received phone calls and emails to help when in Hawaii (and hence was able to defray some of the living costs there), and to nowadays as we make our home in the south of Taiwan. In whatever we do, it is always good to feel valued and useful. There are many times when I have felt quite the opposite. Of course, in life we have to try out various things and often have to learn the hard way in this regard, but at least I am glad that there are at least a few groups of friends where we at least kind of continue to stick together.
In sports it is much the same. Not all of us can always have good days or always be getting better. In Kona, several of my seniors who did well at Ironman in the past eventually had to "retire" due to injury or old age, and perhaps to settle for one sport instead of three. However, it was feeling part of and receiving from and contributing to the community that kept them going. If we just feel people are trying to use us or do not value us, we will just move on.
I guess all of our have some purpose in life, and there are times when we have a strong sense of what that purpose is. I remember that the day after I first arrived in Taiwan, an elderly lady that I had previously corresponded with agreed to take me to a second-hand bookshop, as I wanted to look at books. Since I had learned to recognize a lot of characters while still in the U.K., I stumbled across an old Chinese textbook on economics, and bought it for the equivalent of 25 cents, my intention being to learn to read about things on economics in Chinese. Little did I realize in those early years, when renewing a visa was quite troublesome and also uncertain, that within a few years of arriving in Taiwan I would get a job with the leading government economic research institute and basically meet most of the leading people in the country in that field.
Work and sports training go hand in hand. Without money you can only go so far. You have to be really good (like winning the Ironman a couple of times) to get a sponsor who says "Just train, and I'll take care of the rest." From the other blogs, I've even noticed that some really good triathletes are having to fix their beat-up cars with their own money. That's just life.
So while I miss Hawaii (although my job does not force me to stay in Taiwan), I am glad how I have so much freedom, to go swim and prepare for some imaginary race in the future, to do work in my own home and according to my own schedule, and to have a reasonable amount of job satisfaction as I see many of the people I help becoming more successful.
I won't have a faxed printout of a swim workout tomorrow with me. I'll wake up, go down to the pool, see how I feel and the number of people in the pool, etc. and go from there. Hopefully I'll get some meters in.
In closing, I was impressed by Tim Marr's third place finish at Ironman China on Hainan Island. Triathlete Magazine wrote that he was struggling late in the run, for which the conditions were particularly hot. It is good that he managed to hang in there, and many others really suffered on the run. A New Zealand friend of mine based in Taiwan, Craig, got 31st position (around 10hr 52m), which was also an excellent performance. Taiwan is not the easiest place to train.

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