It is necessary … for a man to go away by himself … to sit on a rock … and ask, ‘Who am I, where have I been, and where am I going? ~Carl Sandburg
2013 was a year of significant change in my life. Significant? Not strong enough. A year of drastic change. To begin with, I flew over 76,000 miles this year. At the latitude where I live, circumnavigating the globe requires about 16k miles. Since my first flight was at the end of March, I calculated that I flew around the world 4.7 times over the course of 9 months. Unfortunately, the miles weren’t all on the same airline so I could not accumulate enough frequent flier miles for airline perks.
The first of these trips was 8500 miles as I flew from Chicago, Illinois to Pune, India via Frankfort, Germany for work. The trip in itself was one I had taken a number of times over the past 6 years so was not in itself remarkable. The biggest difference this time was that I only had a one way ticket and would be living, for the first time, in a new country, living, for the first time, far, far away from loved ones. Moving away from my family and other loved ones even for a short duration of a couple of years is scary. But, I felt I had to face my fears and take this opportunity.
I was supposed to leave in mid March. However, due to medical problems (two heart surgeries requiring four stents in late February and the first week of March) the trip had to be postponed by a couple of weeks. It’s amazing the miracles of modern medicine that had me up and about in no time. My doctor said I could leave for work the week after my surgery. My boss told me I had to wait a few weeks before heading out to India.
Based on my moving to India, I started a couple of new blogs. One, Correspondence Between Luke and His Papi, I created to communicate with my grandson. He and I are very close so I wanted an easy way for him to write to me and to have a permanent record of our communiques for when he gets older. I am hoping it will be something he cherishes.
The other new blog, The Adventures of an American Living Abroad, I started to chronicle my trip. My plan was for a weekly blog which could be fodder for a book about my experiences living as an Expat. I haven’t quite kept up the blog a week pace but am doing fairly well with a hit rate of 78%.
Recently, I started another blog. This one was to share some of my photos and the story behind those photos. It’s called Frozen Memories. I have long been a fan of photography and, at phases of my life, have been an avid photographer. With this blog, I am sharing some of my favorites with the blogosphere.
My move to India was for business purposes. I am on a two year contract to help grow our India teammates to be fully independent for the development of one of our most prosperous product lines. I have been given pretty much free reign to grow my current teammates in any way I feel is best. For the first time in my work life, I feel my gifts and abilities are being fully utilized and I am growing personally and professionally every day. The joy in my job is double because I have been given an enthusiastic team to work with, a group of people eager to learn and grow. There is a quote that goes something like, if you love what you do you never work a day in your life. It feels like I have not worked in the past nine months. 🙂
I have become very fond of international travel, love the adventure of navigating unfamiliar cultures and eating foods never seen in the country where I was raised. I have grown to enjoy foods I normally considered as exotic. It has come to the point where I eat without even asking what I am eating. Food has become a grand adventure.
Philippines – Ten days in the Philippines was 10 days in paradise. At least the places we visited were a tropical paradise until the typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) destroyed much of what Irene and I had visited. I was able to meet Irene’s family, people who will one day be my family, and enjoy their company. One of the highlights was a trip to an active rice farm owned by Irene’s family.
The one downside of the Philippines was that the food, while tasty, tended to be on the bland side and I prefer food with a kick, a kick that makes my lips tingle. Much of our travel was by local conveyance. Those trips in and of themselves were an adventure. Our trip overlapped with the Abuyog festival, a colorful extravaganza that ended at sundown with fireworks I watched from the roof of our hotel
Thailand – Thailand was another ten days in paradise. This time I had to go without my beloved because airfares to anywhere during the Christmas season were double most other times during the year. My host family was the family of one of my colleagues back in Chicago. His wife is Thai and they have two kids and a large extended family. Everyone greeted me with open arms.
We spent a few days visiting temples, I love visiting sacred grounds, and places of interest around the country. Early in the trip, we spent a couple of days at an island, Koh Samed, that was not on the maps. Those two days we pretty much did nothing but decompress on the beach enjoying the passing of life. This was a perfect way to unwind from the work life and clear the mind of clutter.
The food all over the country was amazing. Just the right amount of spice and full of flavor. A few times, the extended Thai family told me the food they were serving was a bit hot. Then they looked on with amazement as I at the food without flinching. I live in India, I told them, and they gave me a knowing smile.
India – I have been in India for nine months but have not traveled much. I spent most weekends at my local coffee shop working on my blogs, watching life go by in India, and, recently, making friends with the local beggar children who have become a subject in my photo blog. The highlights included a trip to Bhuleshwar Temple and a long weekend in Goa on a company outing.
My former boss, Tom Jachmann, told me not to miss India while living in India. I realized that I was so focused on work and the enjoyment I get from my job that I was not taking the time to visit this vast and wonderful country. So, I have decided that I need to visit someplace in India every month. For January I’m hoping for Ajanta and Ellora caves. Irene is coming in February and we are going to visit Jaipur, the Taj, and Madurai. Right now, Bodh Gaya and the Bodhi tree, are on the agenda. Other months still need to be planned.
I read 82 books this year which is down 20 from last year. Partly that’s because I picked a few really long books this year and partly because I was busy adjusting to life in my new country. If you are interested in seeing the entire list, I’m on goodreads.com. Send me a friend request.
As has been the case for the past few years, I read all kinds of genre’s written by authors from all over the world. I like the variety and believe it helps me become a more well rounded human being. In my top 5 books for the year, 2 were written by Americans, 1 each from England, India, and Japan. Three were nonfiction and two fiction. My top 5 are:
Without a doubt, the book of the year for me was, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam Grant. It was recommended to me by a colleague who participated in my second leadership training program. This book validated the way I have tried to lead people for the past twenty years.
In the fiction category, my favorite was, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Besides being a delightful story, the prose are phenomenal. It’s written in a style which I have not previously encountered. The book starts at the end of the story and finishes in the middle of the story…and it works really well.
Also in the world of fiction, I devoured a number of books by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. Every book I read by him held my attention. I could have picked just about any of his books but chose Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, to fill the number three spot on my list.
While reading the book, Lies My Teacher Told Me, I learned of another history book called, A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. This book completely blew my socks off. It’s a history of the USA told from a non traditional perspective. All other history US history books I read seemed to have an underlying theme that the US is the the light of the world and the broker of a that is good. When I told my girlfriend what I was learning, she was not surprised. Having not grown up in the US, she was aware of many of the atrocities committed by my government that we who were educated in the US were ‘protected’ from. Reading this book made me thankful that Eric Snowden had the courage to spill the story on modern day atrocities.
I waited twenty years for the 3rd volume of this Churchill biography. The Last Lion 3: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-65 by William Manchester & Paul Reid. The book took chronicled Winston’s life from the beginnings of WWII until his death. It was worth the wait.
The final puzzle piece in this amazing year was getting engaged to Irene on 30 November 2013. I asked her to marry me at the restaurant where we had our first date. She hesitated for a moment and I thought I had read her wrong. After the pause, she agreed to marry me.
We have been dating for some time and have some great times together. I believe we are perfect for each other and can have a life that is grand. If it all works out, we would like to get married at the Taj Mahal when she visits me in February. This is a long shot because India makes it quite difficult for non Indian’s to tie the knot.
We are hoping to have a honeymoon on a continent neither of us have previously visited. Our plan is to honeymoon in Africa.
I am looking forward to 2014. However, I am finding it difficult to think a year can be better than the one I experienced in 2013.