Ten years!

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At the end of this week, it will be ten years since Richard and I walked out of our Alberta classrooms for the last time and entered a brand new phase called retirement! Where did the time go? It amazes me to think that we’ve been retired for an entire decade already! Over the past few days, I’ve been looking back and marvelling at all the things we’ve done during that time.

I often say once a teacher, always a teacher. We knew that even though we were retiring, our teaching days weren’t entirely behind us. We’d long had a dream of teaching English overseas after we retired and we accomplished that by spending one year in Japan and a semester at a university in China. Those were amazing experiences and we treasure the memories and the friendships that we made! I’ve also spent some time doing online mentoring and we both volunteer with our local literacy program. I meet once a week with two young women, both members of the Old Colony Mennonite community that moved into our area over the past few years. They are fluent in English, but neither of them ever had the opportunity to learn to read or write, even in their own language, so I’ve been teaching them. Richard tutors one of their husbands.

We’ve discovered that there are no end of things to do in retirement, even in a small community like ours. Richard has been serving as the Deputy Director of Emergency Management for our town for the past few years, a volunteer position that involved quite a bit of training. He also serves on our Community Hall board. Because we come and go a lot, we hesitate to commit to too many activities that require us to be present on a regular basis, but we give our local food bank a thorough cleaning once a month and occasionally work a shift at the thrift store that’s operated by three local churches. In addition, we hold positions in our own church and participate in many activities there. Lately I’ve even had to say no to some opportunities because I felt that I was becoming too busy!

Two of our grown children were already married when we retired, but our family has grown over the past decade to include another daughter-in-law and five grandchildren! Though none of them live very close to us, being grandparents is one of the best things about this stage of life and we spend as much time as we can manage with our little ones.

The past decade has brought some surprises, some good and some not so good. We certainly didn’t anticipate becoming seasonal farm labourers, but I believe in living life to the fullest and I’m always ready to try something new. As a result, this city bred girl learned to operate some pretty big machinery and loved it! For several years, I drove tractor in the spring and combine in the fall as we helped a farmer friend with seeding and harvest.

Travel was always part of our retirement plan. During the first few years, we visited nine Canadian provinces and fifteen American states plus Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Macau, Saipan and Costa Rica. In 2013, I was diagnosed with a little-known incurable cancer which slowed us down a bit and keeps us from being out of the country for extended periods of time, but since that time, we’ve managed to tour Israel and visit Mexico twice. I’ve also been on a girlfriend trip to Las Vegas and we travel to Vancouver regularly to spend time with family. Last fall, we spent two weeks in Nova Scotia and celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary while we were there.

We continue to stay physically active. Golfing is a summer passion for both of us. We also love to hike and we recently purchased a tandem kayak. During the winter we keep active lifting weights, bowling in the local seniors league, and going to dances.

Writing was always something I always knew I’d return to in retirement. Though I’ve had one magazine article published and I’ve done some freelance editing, it’s blogging that I’m most passionate about these days. I love the opportunity it gives me to interact with my readers. Even my blog has changed over the past decade though. I originally started it to share our Asian experiences with friends and family back home, but I loved writing it and I’ve kept it going ever since. Though I still share travel stories whenever I can, it has morphed into more of a lifestyle blog that includes a weekly fashion post reflecting another interest of mine that grew and developed in my retirement years.

Perhaps that’s been the key to a successful and happy retirement… we’re still learning, growing, and exploring new interests. I am extremely grateful that we were able to retire as early as we did. I’m just now approaching 65, traditionally thought of as retirement age, and Richard is 67, but we’ve already been blessed with ten wonderful years of retirement. We loved our teaching careers, but as we watch our younger colleagues wrap up another school year and see their weary, stress filled faces, we don’t for one moment regret retiring when we did!

What will the next ten years hold, I wonder? Much will depend on my health, but at this point, I’m doing well. With a few restrictions, I’m able to lead a normal and active life. I don’t think we’ll be leaning back in our rocking chairs and putting our feet up anytime soon! There’s still a lot of world to see and new adventures await us!

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Maiden voyage!

Well there she is; our brand new toy!

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After debating whether to buy two individual kayaks or a tandem, we decided on the two person variety for a couple of important reasons. The first one is ease of transport. It’s much simpler to strap one kayak to a roof rack than two and easier to carry one boat to water than two. Secondly, with a tandem kayak, one of us can take a grandchild out and introduce them to the sport. It also doesn’t hurt my feelings any to have the stronger paddler of the two of us in the boat with me instead of in a separate one!

Once we’d made that important decision, it was time to go shopping. The field was instantly narrowed significantly as tandem kayaks are much less common than single seaters. We first considered the Pelican Alliance 136T, available at Canadian Tire, but I wasn’t overly impressed. It was the plastic molded seats that concerned me the most. I didn’t think my bony butt would find that very comfortable especially on longer trips. We took a quick look at a sleek, shiny model at MEC, but it looked like the Lamborghini of the kayak world and was way beyond our price range. Then we saw the Pelican Unison 136T at Atmosphere and it was exactly what we wanted!

It’s made of RAM-X Premium, a multi-layer polyethylene and is built to provide a high level of stability and great manoeuvrability and tracking. It’s an excellent recreational kayak that is also built for comfort. In addition to padded seats and seat backs, it also has adjustable footrests. For longer outings, it has plenty of space for gear including a quick lock hatch with a 60 L storage bag, a cockpit table with a 4 inch day hatch (perfect for carrying cell phones and other small items), bottle holders, and a bungee cord on the bow to carry extra belongings. At 67.4 lb, Richard and I can carry it and load it onto the vehicle quite easily.

We brought it home yesterday and took it for it’s maiden voyage this afternoon, a spin around the perimeter of Sedgewick Lake. It handled beautifully.

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Now the only question on beautiful days like today will be do we go golfing or kayaking? Today, we managed to do both!

Starting them young

At five and six years old, our Vancouver grandsons are already avid skiers; a passion passed on to them by their mom’s side of the family. We, on the other hand, look forward to the day when we can play a round of golf with them!

Today, Victoria Day here in Canada, we left our daughter-in-law at home preparing a delicious turkey dinner for later in the day and headed for a driving range with the boys.

Nate’s club of choice was a putter, but he did a pretty good job of whacking it off the tee.

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Oops! The ball’s still there!

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Sam got some tips from Daddy then made some great shots.

We finished off the morning with a fun round of mini golf.

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Unlike their Gram who didn’t take up the sport until I was about 40, these two are starting young!

Walking on water… sort of!

Last summer when we were camped at beautiful Porteau Cove with Matt, Robin and the boys, I saw something out on the water that I’d never seen before; a lone figure who appeared at first glance to be walking on the water! Can you see him in the early morning mist?

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I soon learned that he was stand up paddleboarding, a sport that combines surfing with kayaking or canoeing and that has become increasingly popular over the past ten years. Watching him brought back delightful memories of the styrofoam paddle board that my parents gave me when I learned to swim over 50 years ago. We lived on the waterfront in those days and I spent countless hours playing on that board. It was meant for lying on, of course, but I had to try kneeling and even standing on it. Kneeling wasn’t too great a challenge, but I never did manage to stand successfully. The board was simply too small and unstable for that, but splash after splash, I had fun trying!

When I saw the stand up paddleboarder at Porteau Cove, something new was immediately added to the bottom of my unwritten bucket list. I had no idea when or where it would happen, but I knew that I wanted to try this new sport. This week, at Barnabas, I had my chance and it was great! My first time out the water was very calm and the width of the board made balancing easy. It really did feel a bit like walking on water. Returning to the dock, however, I approached too quickly and took a spectacular spill! Fortunately, I managed not to hurt myself and was eager to try again another day. This time, there were small waves to contend with providing a bit more of a workout for my knees and core muscles. I managed to end my time on the water much more gracefully the second time around though and left determined to try the sport again. Fortunately, there are a number of places where I can rent a board when we’re back this way again.

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Never too old to try something new, I hope!

Football!

I went to a professional football game last night. As in much of the world, football in China is what we North Americans refer to as soccer. I’m not an avid sports fan but in years gone by Dalian’s claim to fame in China was its football team so I really wanted to see them in action. Apparently they haven’t done as well in recent years but they did manage to win last night’s match.

I went to the game with two of our fellow teachers and five of our students. Poor Richard, the real sports fan in the family, had a class to teach so he wasn’t able to join us.

Though the game itself was interesting to watch, being part of a local crowd cheering on their team was exciting. I found myself chanting along with the rest of them and when the one and only goal was scored, I was on my feet and hollering just like everyone else!

It was some of the peripherals that I found most fascinating, however. When we arrived at the stadium, well ahead of game time, the area surrounding it was a beehive of activity. Vendors had food booths and tables set up to serve the crowd and others had stacks of seat cushions to sell. The local custom is to buy a cushion and spend the game sitting on it then send it sailing through the air toward the field at the game’s end! Most of our boys bought the thin 0.5 yuan (about 8 or 9 cent) cushions but Vicky and I decided that our bony butts would prefer the plusher 1 yuan ones! Of course, after the stadium empties, the cushions are collected and resold before the next game.

As is standard at a sporting event, the national anthem was played before the game started. Though we Canadians tend to be rather apathetic when it comes to singing our anthem, I fully expected the Chinese to belt theirs out the way I’ve seen Americans do. I could hear Vicky singing quietly beside me but hers was the only voice I heard! I was quite astonished.

I was also surprised by the presence of soldiers! Though we’re surrounded by crowds of people wherever we go in China, this was the first time I’d been in a situation where a large crowd of people had assembled in one place for a specific purpose. Clearly that’s still something that the Communist government has concerns about. Why else would there be a line of soldiers around the field facing the crowd? They stood at attention until the game started and then sat unmoving on tiny stools always with their back to the action and their eyes on the crowd. They wore dress uniforms including white gloves and weren’t visibly armed but clearly no one was going to tangle with them.

I’ll probably be watching a lot more soccer over the next few years but I don’t expect there to be any soldiers present. I’m going to be watching this little guy, my oldest grandson, play! He’s even wearing Dalian colours and I thought of him when I saw #8 on the field last night.