Peace Corps
Thai 27
HUGH LEONG Holiday greeting for 2007
I believe that Bette Davis got it right when she said, "Old age ain't no place for sissies."   Since we decided to pull up stakes and move to a different country and at the same time quit the working life and live off of savings, retirement came as a bit of a shock.  The dollar's crash hasn't help much either.  Pikun, the boys and a few friends helped with the loading of a 40' shipping container in Seattle with everything in the world we owned.   And 6 weeks later it arrived at our new front door in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  And as easy as that our new life began. 
I got quite depressed and felt down as major changes in life are wont to make you feel.   I missed Seattle and I missed my family's home of 21 years.  That home was like my second skin.  Try living without your skin for a while and you would get depressed too.  
That feeling lasted for about 8 minutes, after which I decided that was long enough, so we got busy
Months of working on our new home and garden, including hauling a couple of hundred sacks of steer manure and lots of digging and drilling and knocking down and building up again and we almost have the place ready for our next renovation.   That's just the way it was with our home in Seattle, always a work in progress.  I guess this place is beginning to feel like a home.  
For some reason I thought I had something to say about a retired life here in Thailand so I began writing a column for a local magazine, Chiang Mai City Life, read by lots of Expats here.   The column is called "A Retiring Attitude".  After writing about 50 of these essays I had the even crazier idea of compiling them into a book.   Well, there must be people as crazy as I am out there because 2 publishers have shown interest and now my problem is to decide which one to go with.   Not a bad problem,
I guess. Pikun and I decided to take a short trip back to the US.   We wanted to see Darin and Warren and take a look at the old house and neighborhood.  We visited some friends and the old house, which didn't look like our house anymore, talked to some neighbors and took a road trip down through Washington, Oregon and California to where Warren is now stationed in Sacramento.   We saw the boys, who missed us but didn't really need us anymore, ate at Taco Bell, my favorite restaurant in the world, and our trip was complete. 
This quote from a recent column I wrote about coming back from our trip expresses our feelings.  "We finally bordered the plane for what would take 36 straight hours of traveling.   We missed our home.  No; not the one that we were leaving.  That wasn't our home anymore.   That part of our lives was past.  The home we missed now was the home we were going to.  It was good to take this cathartic journey back because now we knew where our real home was."
I guess I can't talk about our year without talking about tortoises.  It is a long story, so to make it short, Pikun and I have started a tortoise sanctuary for endangerd tortoises from the Chiang Mai mountain region.  We never thought we would ever learn this much about " chelonians".  I think it is our long dormant parental instincts kicking back in.   But the tortoises we try to care for are in lots of trouble.  Tortoises are eaten in large quantities, especially by the newly affluent Chinese.   Villagers in SE Asia will burn a whole mountainside and catch the tortoises as they tumble down the mountain trying to escape.  Then they sell them to the markets in China.   With all the other environmental problems and species extinctions our world is facing maybe the last thing to worry about are some ground hugging reptiles.   But we love them.  We now have 14 and are still waiting for our first batch of tortoise eggs.  We are working closely with the local zoo and hope one day to begin returning them to the mountain; someplace far from the people who would catch, sell, or eat them.
I'll end here without mentioning the war.  If you know me you know exactly how I feel.
May you have a peaceful, healthy, and happy holiday season and New Year.  I began with a quote about growing older and so I'll end with another one. 
"I recently had my annual physical examination, which I get once every seven years, and when the nurse weighed me, I was shocked to discover how much stronger the Earth's gravitational pull has become since 1990."  ~Dave Barry
Be well,
Hugh (and Pikun, who I can hear somewhere down in the garden planting something)