I was born and raised in a tiny village of 883 people in upstate New York. That figure comes from 1960. By the 2000 census, Whitney Point had finally struggled past the 1,000 mark. Many of my closest friends lived on truck farms in the years when they were beginning to fade economically. It was a tough life, but they were truly salt of the earth and I am truly blessed to have known them and grown up with them.
But I was lucky. My father was the Supervising Principal of the school district. In other words, we were in the upper class of Whitney Point. He was a fine professional who taught me a great deal. Dad was very well-respected and one benefit the school board provided him was the right to take an entire month off in the summer, usually mid-July to mid-August. When that day came every year, we packed the car and took off. By graduation, I had visited every one of the 48 continental states and every Canadian province from British Columbia to Nova Scotia at least once, if not twice or more.
My mother had dedicated her life from the early 1930's to the needs of migrant farm laborers. In the midst of the Great Depression, she and another young lady organized laborers in a New York state migrant camp on the Hudson River to build the first decent migrant housing in the state. That was the first of many. Mom was one very smart, very competent, very loving, yet very tough-minded woman. She had to be. The camp owners were not easy to deal with. Many years later, she would take me along to the camps she visited and I had the chance to play with the migrant children and, when I was older, to help. They were truly wonderful people, as was she. Did I say I was blessed? Let me add my parents to the list.
I did my undergraduate work at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Following that, I found myself in my 49th state, Hawaii, where I trained for my two-year assignment as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines. Those two years changed my life. I was to spend the next four decades traveling and working in more than 40 nations in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America as an employee and then as an "expert consultant" in rural development, agriculture, and nutrition.
One way or another, I squeezed in a few other activities. I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, studied the Japanese Samurai art of kyudo (archery) with the Chief Bowmaker and Archer to the Emperor of Japan, had a side-line practice providing the Japanese healing art of shiatsu, co-owned a small business importing hardwood flooring from Africa to the US, sold Haitian paintings through art galleries, completed a Masters degree at Cornell University, was a social and business entrepreneur with many wonderful successes and miserable failures along the way, studied Zen at a Buddhist monastery, worked in a refugee camp during a terrible famine where they had to stack the dead bodies like cordwood awaiting transport to a place away from the desert sand where they could be properly buried, laughed a lot, cried a lot, and met an incredible number of wonderful people, along with the occasional jerk.
As I entered my mid-30's, I was based in the US so I had time to be active there too. I had spent my youth as a total non-athlete when I got swept up in the distance-running movement of the late 1970's and 1980's. I ran more than a hundred races from 3 miles to the marathon. I searched for a new challenge and finally found a gym where the coach agreed to teach a 46-year-old with no background the sport of gymnastics. At 52, I became the oldest gymnast in the US to compete in regular sanctioned competition. I had no interest in fun meets. I wanted the real thing, knowing that my age meant judges had to score me at the "elite" level, even hough I was anything but elite! The average age of my competitors was perhaps 15 and the youngest among them was a better gymnast than I was, but I enjoyed every minute of it.
It was during that meet that I was granted the greatest compliment of my life. As I was walking across the gym floor from one event to the next, I was passed by a couple teenage gymnasts, either of whom was light years ahead of me in the sport. As they drew up beside me, one of them stopped, turned to me, looked me right in the eye, and said, "I hope I grow up to be like you", then went on his way. Now that was a real compliment.
Today, I live in Panama very happily. I visit the US and other nations from time to time, but Panama is home. I am far from retired. Along with the writing I have done for Barron's, the Christian Science Monitor's op-ed page, the Asia Times, Minyanville and others, I am extremely active on the Web and have been since I set up my first website in 1997. Here are a few of the sites I currently operate (links open new windows):
MiddleAge.org that recently greeted its one millionth visitor
RetirementWave.com that talks about Panama as a place to live
LivingReed.com and its Spanish equivalent, CanaViva.com
LakeBayano.com and its Spanish equivalent, LagoBayano.com
NGIweb.com and PanamaWave.com, my two corporate sites
and others. They keep me busy. And the blessings just keep on coming.
Maybe it's time to write a book. What do you think?
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Fareed Zakaria, John Mauldin
I am currently working on a book that attempts to synthesize two topics that are very infrequently combined. The first is the natural, on-going evolution of a true global community that I call "globalism", under which "globalization" is only one of many categories. The second is how the individual household can benefit from globalism in practical ways. My forty-plus years working professionally in more than forty nations combined with my research into and personal experience with relocation to a new nation provide me with a perspective that I would like to share. Both topics have been dealt with separately, but I think there is a natural synthesis of the two that can be beneficial to everyone.
As I have been published in journals and by my firm of which I am the CEO, I have effectively been my own agent to this point.
Nature Conservancy, Audubon Society of Panama
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