By J.P. Boyd
Parts I and II, an exploration of alternative choices for retirement was
presented, using the framework of “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”. Now we deal
with self actualization: making a lasting and significant contribution and
maximizing your personal potential.
Everyone has pondered the universal question of “what is
my purpose here on earth?” In retirement, you actually get to answer that
question. Now that you have traveled half way around the world, perhaps your
purpose is to befriend foreigners. To learn a new language. To read books
you never had time to read. To reflect on your past life. To “clean up”
Maybe your purpose was to raise children. Do you have
some volunteer time to offer to teach foreign children English? Or work in
an orphanage? Or raise funds for the lost children in your area? Thailand is
especially needy in the arena of volunteers for children’s causes.
Can’t decide what to do? Then try this exercise: write
down the three things you most want to accomplish before you die. Do it
every week and store it somewhere. At the end of four weeks, you will have
Congratulate yourself on being a “pioneer” for forging a
new life in a new country, whether you choose Sicily or Thailand. Prepare a
life resume of achievements and refer to this list when frustration or
disappointment occurs. Keep a journal or start a blog. Who knows: perhaps
your purpose now is to write the Great American Novel (or “fill in the
blanks with your own country” novel).
Moving from the lofty principles of self actualization
back down to more earthly considerations, once you are there, how do you
transport yourself locally to where you want to go?
Public transportation makes Chiang Mai especially
attractive to seniors. There are taxis at a modest price of about $3.00 to
$5.00 for anywhere you want to go, and less expensive solutions in the form
of a Tuk Tuk and songthaews, covered pick up trucks painted red that carry
up to ten or more people. Bargaining and negotiation is expected.
While Sicily is exceptional in its rustic beauty and
simplicity, it has limited public transportation. Cabs are obtainable at a
premium (about $60.00 per half hour) and busses run for part of the morning
and early afternoon only. Driving in Sicily is a challenge that requires
strict concentration. Driver’s will make three lanes out of two and ride
your tail like a dog on a tight leash. Motorcycles buzz like wasps, passing
on both the left and the right, even when you’re about to execute a left
hand turn. Driving past age 70 is not recommended.
International retirement is exciting. You are truly a
citizen of the world, though, and must take into account all of the world’s
events. Example: upon arrival in Sicily in 2006, I received 83 cents on the
dollar. Loss of 17 cents on every dollar was offset by the enormity of
savings on my lease and general cost of living. But when the dollar fell to
56 cents against the euro, it felt like throwing away half my retirement
income every month. Now, www.xe.com lists the rate at 83 cents on every
dollar. It’s like getting a huge raise. But stock market investments have
gone down as the dollar gets stronger. Being aware of world events is a
Other world events include being aware of acts of God and
political unrest. In April, I wanted to go from Sacramento, California, to
Chiang Mai to visit my mother (she retired in Chiang Mai). Because of the
political unrest in Thailand the U.S. State Department was not recommending
travel to Thailand. I waited week after week, for the lifting of travel
Becoming impatient, I finally asked my travel agent in
Italy to send me home via Catania in Sicily. I received an exasperated e-mail
telling me volcanic ash in Iceland had stopped travel completely in Europe.
She had hundreds of requests to get people in/out of Europe, with no results
What do you do in those situations? Take a deep breath,
think positive and remember, you are a self-actualized pioneer.
Wherever you are, there are always places to go from here eventually.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Ever since the introduction of reality TV early this
decade, Malaysia has embraced it with open arms – it even sent a man to
space via a reality show. Now it has chosen a young Muslim cleric the same
The series, Imam Muda or young cleric, has
generated plenty of interest in Malaysia and there are talks of a franchise
in other Muslim countries. Last week a young Muslim student won the right to
be an imam or cleric after winning the show.
Izelan Basar, the general manager for the religious
channel Astro Oasis, is the brainchild behind Imam Muda.
“Basically, I created the content. It was developed by
some of my colleagues in partnership with religious authorities. This is
something I really wanted to do. For many years I have thinking about how to
attract young viewers,” said Basar.
Ten finalists were chosen from 1,000 contestants for the
show. They were given a variety of challenges including preparing a HIV-positive
corpse for burial and counseling marriage partners while living in isolation
at a mosque.
Despite the conservative Islamic trends in Malaysia over
the last two decades, Izelan says he did not face any opposition from the
“The word imam is actually translated as leader. In Islam,
every single male is an imam. Good leaders come from the home. Leaders of a
house must pray and tackle problems. That is what we are looking for,” he
Hassan Mahmood is the former grand Imam of the National
Mosque and the judge for Imam Muda. In the final, he grills the last two
contestants on the conflict between science and religion. He dismisses
allegations the show is un-Islamic even though the contestants are treated
like celebrities and often wear western-style clothing.
“Many Muslims are static. They just watch the show and
call it un-Islamic. We don’t want the best of Islam to be found only in
books and theories. Islam is both East and West, so the criticism of the
contestants wearing western clothing doesn’t really make sense. Whatever
does not destroy our faith or our life is a good thing and is not in
conflict with Islam. Why do we always look at things that pull it back?
Islam is modern,” said Mahmood.
Finalist Hizbur Rahman Omar Zuhdi, a 27-year-old
religious teacher, says the attention the show gets is good for the
“Let us ask ourselves: ‘Is this show a good or bad thing
for Islam? The prophet Mohammad is glamorous. There is no problem with being
glamorous for the good of society,” said Zudhi.
The finalists were tested on reciting the Koran,
presenting a sermon and singing religious hymns among other things.
The winner was Muhammad Asyraf Mohamad Ridzuan, a 26-year-old religious
scholar. His prize includes a scholarship to study at al-Madinah
University in Saudi Arabia and a job at a Malaysian mosque. Asyraf says his
message for joining the show is very simple.
“Sometimes young people feel they have been sidelined
from carrying out their religious duties. This program shows they can also
contribute to Islam. Everyone can aspire to become a good imam and they can
do it in many ways, not strictly through the Koran.
And it is this simple message in a modern reality show
that makes it so appealing to both the young and old. Imam Muda creator
Izelan Basar says they have even received interest from abroad.
“We have received interest from a few Islamic countries
including Turkey and Egypt, but we would like to perfect the program first.
When we designed it we did not think about going beyond Malaysian shores,”
Izelan says there will definitely be a second season of
Imam Muda and who knows, it may even be in a different language, in a
This article was first broadcast on Asia Calling, a
regional current affairs radio program produced by Indonesia’s independent
radio news agency KBR68H and broadcast in local languages in 10 countries
across Asia. You can find more stories from Asia Calling at
www.asiacalling.org. In conjunction with the Faculty of Mass Communications,
Chiang Mai University.