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I spent much of the week hearing people discuss how tragic it was that Paul Walker died. I am not going to rehash the argument, knowing that I would be opening a can of worms. Believe me, I am about to open a larger one.
I arrived at the office in Sydney, Australia this morning and as I often do when my students are running late I opened Twitter. Immediately I was hit by messages that Nelson Mandela passed away.
Nelson Mandela is, by any measure, a worldwide hero. He spent a lifetime fighting for what was right. He spent twenty-seven years incarcerated as a political prisoner by the South African government for opposing Apartheid. He was released from prison in 1990, and four years later was elected, as the president of the African National Congress, became the first black African President of a country in turmoil. More than anyone he was instrumental in that country’s survival and evolution.
Over the past year every news outlet you turned to could have had on any given day a top of page story about Mr. Mandela being hospitalized. I could not believe that this was considered news, but not because I don’t care about Mr. Mandela. With respect, the man was ninety-four years old when these stories started appearing, and anyone with an elderly grandparent will tell you that they likely spend some time in hospital. It was, to my mind, not news.
The death of Mr. Mandela is not a tragedy. Is it sad? Yes, extremely. However it is not a tragedy. The man was ninety-five years old, and died of natural causes. That is simply not a tragedy. It is sad.
What is a tragedy is that this very special man spent twenty-seven years in prison. However if history had been different he likely would not have been able to help end Apartheid.
The life of Nelson Mandela is actually a miracle. He endured terrible treatment for years, but survived and changed the world. The tragedy is in names like Steven Biko and countless others – contemporaries of Mr. Mandela who were imprisoned and died in jail. Men (and women) who could have helped South Africa to become a better country – a free nation where all people are equal.
As the world mourns the loss of Mr. Mandela I hope that you will save a moment to think of of Steven Biko, and all of the heroes who died years and decades before the realization of their dream of a free South Africa. Nelson Mandela did not do it alone – he had a lot of help, he just happens to be the most prominent name and face of the revolution. I respect everything that he did, but I cannot consider his death a tragedy – not of natural causes at the age of ninety-five.
Rest in peace Mr. Mandela…and Mr. Biko, and all of your generation who were part of your struggle, whose names never became household names.
For those of you who follow not only my blog but my Twitter as well (@MGarvis) you will likely know that I have been walking a lot since I got to Japan, and my FitBit (www.fitbit.com) has all the proof you need. You may also have noticed that Tuesday and Wednesday this week my daily steps dropped from an average of 15,000 steps per day to about 2000 steps for those two days. That is because I caught a bad chest cold and spent two days in bed – which is to say I was working from my hotel room, but once my actual work was done I did not have much energy for blogging. Sorry fans… but I’m back!
I have now been in Japan just over three weeks, and have on several occasions mentioned how clean I have been finding it. Listening in on a conversation yesterday between two people with more experience here than I do I think some of the reasons became clear. One of them described Tokyo as ‘shared space’ – a country that is two small and too populated to allow for much privacy, and so when you are out and about the honourable thing to do is to show everybody the respect of their shared space by keeping it clean. That is why almost nobody litters, spits, or any other impolite behaviour that we might consider commonplace in the west (and most other parts of Asia)… out of respect for each other.
In ancient Japan – really not that long ago – most walls were made of rice paper. As such there was no real privacy – it was easy enough for your neighbour to know your business. I have heard it told that because of that it is commonplace in Japanese culture to always maintain a completely polite exterior, even when your feelings are very impolite. Maybe that is one of the reasons that there are few PDAs (Public Displays of Affection) in Japan. It is also likely one of the reasons why everybody at my office seems to like me – whether they do or they do not, it is customary to show outwardly that you do.
Last Monday I was walking around an area called Osaki when I noticed these tiles in the ground. It was interesting to see just how far I am from home – if we are 10,350 kilometers from Ottawa, we are not that much closer to Oakville – say, 9,950km to be conservative. There is no question that I miss it (especially the people), but at the same time I am really enjoying life here. It would be nice if I was not stuck living in a shoebox hotel (please don’t misunderstand, it is a really nice and clean hotel, but the rooms are extremely small) but other than that, life here is good. I am seeing a lot of cultural differences both at work and out and about, but that is not a bad thing. I have never been one to poo-poo cultural diversity.
My friend and Master Dimitrios Beis spends a lot of time at different industry shows and fairs in and around Toronto – wedding shows, food and drink shows, and the like. It is part of his business, and he has on several occasions invited Theresa and I to join him there. When I stumbled upon a similar type of fair in Osaki on Monday I thought of him as I walked around, sampled some of the foods (I had a wonderful fried chicken dish for lunch, followed by a couple of sesame balls for dessert… scrumptious!) and took some pictures of the people and booths.
There were several ‘cartoon characters’ in costume walking around, and the kids were flocking to meet them. There was also a booth sponsored by the Tokyo Fire Department, where kids were invited to try on their gear (sized down of course) complete with the helmets. The kids were having a ball, and the parents were taking pictures of them with their ear-to-ear smiles.
Just as they would in Canada, some people brought their dogs along. This was, after all, and outdoor fair, and as long as the dogs are well behaved they are a welcome addition to any setting as far as I am concerned. This gorgeous girl was very happily sitting in a pram, and seemed content to smile at people who wanted to pay any attention to her, as I certainly did. Her owner was working one of the booths, but she obviously knew that puppy was well behaved enough to not try to escape.
When I say there were all sorts of booths, I am serious – there were crafts (both pre-made, and ones for the kids to participate in) ranging from Japanese pottery to drawing to flower arrangements). There were dancers, there were plants – this tree pictured is actually less than a foot tall, and an amazing sight to see. It struck me as very… Japanese. I could imagine Mr. Miyagi having trees like this if he had fruit trees.
All in all everyone seemed to be having a good time, which I suppose is the entire point both of a fair and of a holiday Monday. The kids were laughing, smiling, dancing, playing, and eating. The parents did not need to chase after them – the perception I have is that they are much safer in general in Japan than they might be in Canada, with no threat of kidnapping. The vendors were sharing their wares – as soon as they realized I spoke no Japanese the majority of them knew there was no sale to be made, and yet they convinced me to try different teas, finger foods, and breads. I did buy my lunch of fried chicken and sesame balls (the two dishes, from two separate vendors, cost a staggering 600 yen, or about $6).
This was only one bit of my walking for the last week, but it was a very memorable part. I have seen so many wonderful places and people that it would be impossible to tell you about all of them… but trust me, if you have never been to Japan you should definitely get down here!
Hey Readers! I was wondering how many of you use the About.Me site for profiles? Do you have your own? Do you look at others’? I have had a profile for a while, but decided yesterday (I don’t know why) to actually populate it. I’d like your opinions, as well as suggestions of what I could add/change to make it better. I also want to know if it matters, so please tell me!
Thanks in advance… you can view my profile HERE.
Over the last few days I have wondered why this year felt so much longer than normal and then I realized… it actually was longer! 2012 was a leap year, and that extra day seems to have made a real difference.
It is hard for us as a species to appreciate just how substantial a single year is; yet when I am asked about where I was a year ago today I have trouble remembering. People, events, tasks all flew by… they meant so much to me in the moment, but a year later it is hard to remember most of them.
The Garvis Family – my branch of it anyways – has had a great year.
Aaron raised all of that money to go on a Mission Trip to the Dominican Republic with his school. Then in the spring he was confirmed, and we were all so proud of him – all of the work that he put into preparing for that special day really paid off. He played Potiphar (and Jacob!) in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and he graduated from Middle School. He spent his fifth summer at Centauri Arts Camp, and he started high school at King’s (where he is doing tremendously well). I look at him now and am shocked that he has grown into a young man… I remember the boy that I met nearly six years ago, and cannot believe that he is my son, and that he is shaving, dating, and looking forward to driving… hopefully not for another 18 months though!
Gilad has grown like a weed… as we approach his third birthday on January 3rd it is amazing for me that 2012 was a full 1/3rd of his life. He has mastered walking and has started talking; he has outgrown high chairs and booster seats, and the only place where that hard-headed boy will stand for a ‘child seat’ is in the car, where it is of course not optional. At the table he wants to be just like us though. He still loves his bottle and noodles, but has grown to accept that there are other foods out there that he can eat. Just this morning he saw me eating a piece of toast with peanut butter and decided to help! In October he started attending pre-school at Hamilton Hebrew Academy, and he is absolutely loving it… thriving in an environment where he is not always in charge.
Theresa has enjoyed being a mother this year, but has also done a tremendous amount to help me with my business. She has taken on the role of accounting (thank G-d!), and has kept track of all of the expenses, contracts, and projects for SWMI Consulting Group. She is largely responsible for my being able to do what it is that I do – and that is before we acknowledge that she lets me do it, with all of the travel. She planned several getaways for us this year – some with the family, some just the two of us. She also quarterbacked countless meals, family visits, parties and such at our home, which she is also completely responsible for. I couldn’t do it without her!
It has been an incredible year of ups and downs for me… and that is not just with regard to my weight (I have lost and then put back on 45lbs in 2012. A struggle I keep losing). However most of 2012 will be chalked up in the positive column. I achieved several goals this year – I earned my Second Degree Black Belt in June, followed by earning my MCSE: Private Cloud certification that same month. I turned 40 in July, and while I was not sad to be getting older, I did spend a bit of time in the dumps thinking of friends I had lost. I also earned my VMware Certified Professional (VCP) 5, which was important for me, even though I do a lot less work on VMware than I used to.
My blog, which had been growing slowly since I re-launched it in November of 2010, grew exponentially this year. Although the number will drop for December, the hits have grown substantially every month this year (except February). I have excitedly kept track on Twitter, excitedly tweeting each milestone. When in early June my hit-count equalled for all of 2011 I was excited by the prospects of doubling that total for 2012; little did I know that I would more than triple the number, in the process hitting the daunting milestone of 100,000 hits for the year (achieved, sadly, the same day as my car accident – December 27th).
Earlier in the year I was recognized by my peers as one of the top 150 influencers in the SMB space – an honour considering the company I am in on that list. As the year comes to a close the voting continues for the SMB150 list for 2013, and I am thrilled to be in strong contention for a repeat award. Speaking of repeat awards, my blog was listed on BizTech Magazine’s list of the 50 IT Blogs You Must Read for the second year in a row. I was thrilled and honoured, but if you know me speechless is rare . I was re-awarded as an MVP for the seventh time, and am glad I continue to be recognized for my community contributions.
Although work did not take me abroad as it has in previous years, that did not prevent me from racking up over 50,000 miles… including eight trips to Montreal, five trips to Calgary, Four trips to Vancouver, Three trips to Ottawa and Seattle, and a plethora of other cities. I presented in eight Canadian provinces in 2012, and am glad that all tolled my days away was down this year… to a whopping 185.
There are so many milestones and accolades and laughs and tears that I am forgetting I am sure… Theresa and I took a cruise last January and will take another one next week, but this time we are going with friends that we met on the ship last year which is nice. We went to New Orleans for a week-end and Miami for a week-end – something I hope we get to do more of next year (week-end getaways, whether attached to conferences or not). We took a family road trip to Minnesota for our niece’s wedding, with a stopover in Chicago, and a new minivan with a rear entertainment system to appease the children during the long drives. We celebrated milestones, and we suffered losses. We made new friends, said goodbye to some who did not deserve the title. We aspired, we achieved, we succeeded and sometimes we failed. But we did it as a family,and that makes it all special.
If we are to judge how good or bad a year is, I would rate 2012 as a pretty good one. We are all healthy (despite bouts of the flu, colds, and car accidents). We are all happy (despite school, crying, and more). We are all positive (despite the occasional bout of depression or anxiety), and we are all a family (despite the occasional fight or tantrum or punishment).
Over the years I have occasionally mentioned my 14 favourite legs… they started as 16, grew to 18, then sadly fell to 14 (where we have now been for two years). Theresa has two legs, Aaron two, Gilad two (that’s six); Jacob ‘Puppy’ has four, as does Gingit ‘Licious’. Tonight I get to hug them all and will wish them all a Happy New Year… as I wish for you and your family.
May 2013 bring you and your loved ones all that you need, enough of what you desire, and some of what you don’t expect to keep it interesting. May it be a year of health, happiness, love, prosperity, and peace… for all of us.