The Greatest Man

My father was the greatest man I have every known. Anybody who knew my father surely understands my sentiment.

Finding an honest, humble, loving man like my father is not an easy task.

My dad grew up in Arizona where he loved to play golf; it was his passion. He was one of the top golfers for his team at the University of Arizona. He continued playing golf until the last years of his life when his body couldn’t do it anymore. Whenever the guys had a match, they wanted my father on their team. I had the privilege of playing with him one last time, just this last February. He was starting to lose more and more strength in his legs, but we went out to the putting green. Even then, he was a great golfer.

In addition to his golfing career, my father also had a successful working career. After graduating from the University of Arizona, he received his MBA. Throughout his career, he worked with numerous employers in California and Colorado, the last being Colorado Interstate Gas. His work was stressful and demanding. He had bosses who gave him a lot of pressure. Nonetheless, he was a beloved leader at the companies he worked. The accountants who worked for him were blessed; they couldn’t have worked for a better man.

Though his work was not easy, though his health was not good, he never missed a day. Every morning he woke up early, took his medicine, sat down with the newspaper, ate his breakfast, then went to work. He did this everyday. Then, after work he would take me to hockey practice or my sister to ice-skating. Sometimes, my hockey practice was more than a hour and a half away, but he would pick me up, bring me to practice, chat with the parents, bring me home, then get to bed because he knew he had to go to work the next day.

In the end of his working career, his health had started to take a toll, and he retired. If he were healthier, he would have worked for many more years. Though he was a successful businessman, in the end, he didn’t really like his work. He worked to support his family. From a young age, my father always told me to follow my heart and do what I love. Because my father encouraged me to pursue a life and job I have a passion for, I eventually decided to work overseas in China. I have always had a passion for travel – something I got from my mom – and I tried to follow my passions as my father had suggested. He wanted me to be happy. Till the day he died, he tried to encourage me to do what makes me happy.

In addition to his full-time job, my father was also a businessman. He owned, rented, and sold many houses and apartments since he was a young man. At one time, he owned and managed property in Colorado, New York, New Jersey, and Hilton Head. He didn’t own these properties to be rich. He didn’t own these properties to show off. He didn’t own these properties to live in. He owned these properties as an investment to help take care of his family. While many people would brag about being this successful, did any of his friends know this? No. He was a humble man.

To my father, family was the most important. He met his wife in California. They were only together for six months before they decided to get married. They were happily married for 47 years. He loved his wife very much. They were always side-by-side. Together they took care of their real estate company. After retiring, they traveled all over the world. They were travelers. They visited me numerous times in China. They took a 12-hour trip from Beijing to Xi’an on a crowded, smelly train, walked the Great Wall, visited Hong Kong, and many more places. They had a good time. My father and mother were a team. Every time I saw my father, he asked about mom. In the end, he saw my mom everywhere. When I visited him at rehab, he thought every person who passed the room was mom. He yelled out, “Laura!” Before passing on, he made me promise to take care of her when he leaves, a promise I will surely keep.

My father loved my sister and me. Everything he did was for us. In fact, all he wanted to do was to be close to us. He followed us everywhere. In the end, he moved into a house one block away from his daughter and two grandchildren. This made him very happy. He had the chance to see my sister and her two children. They loved him very much, and he knew it. As for me, whatever I was doing, he did. For example, when my life revolved around hockey, his life revolved around hockey. After graduating from university, he dedicated his life to helping me find a career I loved. I have also expressed my desire to start a business of my own, this became his passion as well. Just a month ago, I told my mom I want to invest in real estate. Once he heard this, he was on the internet researching property investments for me. Everything he did, was for his family.

My father was also a loving son and brother. When I was young, he used to bring me to Arizona to visit my grandma. I never got to meet my grandfather or uncle on my father’s side. My father’s dad died when he was very young. His stepfather and brother also died at a young age. It was not easy for my father losing loved ones at such a young age. Nonetheless, he loved them very much. My father was a family man; he loved and took care of everybody in his life.

My father was a faithful man. He went to church and read the Bible. When possible, he attended Bible study with his friends. In fact, on his Kindle, the only book he really read in his later years was the Bible. When his health was better, he volunteered. Most importantly, he treated everybody he came across with kindness. No matter who they were, what they believed, their social status, he treated everybody the same.

I have fond memories of my father. Driving with him to hockey practice, chatting with him in a New York diner, traveling with him to historical spots on the East Coast, visiting him in the hospital, seeing him with his grandchildren, watching him rub his wife’s back … these are all precious memories. The last time I saw my dad, he was doing better. His thinking was clearer and he was the dad I have always known, smiling and laughing. My father passed away just 12 hours before I returned home to visit. He died while I was on the plane. Though I am very saddened I couldn’t see him just one more time, I am extremely happy to know that he was happy and excited to see me that day.

No writer could put into words how wonderful my father was. Ask anybody who knew him, and they would agree. It was the way he treated people with the utmost generosity. It was his gentle way about him. It was his humble nature. With all his successes in life, nobody would have ever known by talking to him. He never bragged. The way he looked at people with his green eyes and smile made everybody in his presence at ease. Everywhere he went, he was loved. When I was young, all the hockey parents enjoyed his company. His employees at worked loved him as their manager. At the rehab he spent time at during his last year, they loved him. When he had to go back to the rehab center the last time, all the nurses and aides smiled when “Jedi” came back. When he rolled into dialysis every week, all the workers loved him.

My father passed away happy; he knew he was loved. He told me he prayed to Jesus for all the love he received from his family. My father fought type 1 diabetes for over 50 years. This disease would eventually affect his heart and kidneys. He didn’t smoke and hardly ever drank. Whatever diet the doctor told him to follow, he would follow. Anybody else with his health problems, would not have survived as long as he did. He was quite sick this last year. He was in pain and couldn’t sleep. Nonetheless, he kept fighting. He wanted to live for his family. Anybody with his health problems, wouldn’t have made it this long. He lived until his body couldn’t take it anymore. Right till the end, he remained positive. Even at dialysis, he would sit in his chair and smile. My father died on the morning of my mom’s 70th birthday, and though he was quite weak, he was able to wish her a happy birthday. He would die just an hour later.

To list all the things I learned from my father, I would need to write a book. He didn’t actually “teach” me everything I learned. Instead, I learned it from observing the way he lived. Budgeting money to working hard to treating everybody with respect to taking care of health, I learned a lot. Perhaps most importantly, I learned how to be kind to everybody and how to take care of family members.

Jed Shaw Holtzman was the greatest man I have ever known. He gave his family a wonderful life. We all miss him very much.

Teaching Respect Through Teacher Empowerment

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Education is much different today than it was thirty years ago. Much of this difference is welcomed progress. Technology and easier access to information has enhanced the learning process. New teaching methodologies have challenged and enhanced existing ideas.

It hasn’t all been good though. Teachers have lost power; students now have control.

Let me give an example of what I mean. Thirty years ago, if a student complained to their mom or dad that their teacher was bad in any way, the student would be told to respect and listen to the teacher. Now, the parent will blame the teacher and complain to the principal. Even worse, the principal will confront the teacher and possibly take punitive actions. Hence, the teacher has lost all power and respect.

Dear parents: I want to let you in on a little secret. Your wonderful little child will tell you anything to get out of trouble, surprise! Failed the math test? No, no, not my child’s fault; let’s blame the teacher. Cheated on an exam? No, not my little girl, she wouldn’t do that. If you really want to help your child, whenever they shift the blame to the teacher or anybody else, tell them what your parents would have told you. Tell them to listen to the teacher. Tell them to look in the mirror to find the problem (and solution). Teach them respect.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not some authoritarian dictator; I’m more of a freedom loving libertarian if you need a label. However, the situation in schools, all over the world, has gotten out of control. Students own the teachers now.

If the teacher wants to be strict and punish their child, great. It is for the child’s own good. But, what about my little Tommy’s feelings? Well, if you want to raise a sissy, give little Tommy a cookie and tell him how great he is. Then when he gets older, he can be the follower, not the leader, in society.

Let’s look at it a different way. 5,000 years ago, if I wanted to eat, I had to hunt or farm in order to get food. If I didn’t, I didn’t get food; hence, I would die. OK, let’s go today. If I have a job, if I want to get paid $1, I need to do work to get that $1. If I don’t do the work, the boss doesn’t have to give me the $1. If I own my own business, if I want to get paid $1, I need to add value to the customer. If I don’t, the customer doesn’t have to give me the $1. Now, if I’m in school, if I don’t turn in the assignment, I don’t get the grade. The teacher doesn’t have to give me the grade.

School is much more than just learning math, science, history, and all the other subjects. Students need to learn how to work with people. They need to learn how to be responsible. Maybe most importantly, they need to learn how to give respect.

The Future of Money

What will currency look like in 2030?

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What is money? Is it gold? Silver? Paper? Bits and bytes? Well, basically it is a form of trust. I give something or do something, in return, I receive money (i.e. trust), so I can buy something or have something done for me. That’s all it is.

Since countries have a lot of experience in this field, people often trust them to produce money. Well, people trust strong countries. Zimbabwe and Venezuela don’t provide citizens with much faith.

Throughout the centuries, money has succeeded and failed, blossomed and collapsed. Nonetheless, there has always been one common theme: money has been centralized. In other words, a middleman – country, bank, or other type of intermediary – needs to be involved. Well, that has been true until now. Welcome cryptocurrency. A new form of currency has arrived and could potentially change the way the world makes transactions; actually, it could simply change the world.

First of all, in order for the world to dramatically change from this new invention, cryptocurrency needs to succeed, but will it? It not only will, it is. People trust it. More and more businesses are accepting it for transactions. You can buy things online or from brick and mortar stores. Want to go on vacation? Why not book your trip using Bitcoin? Cryptocurrency is here to stay. How far will it go? Nobody knows. Banks will not be dying soon, but things are about to change.

Are you ready for the change? Do you know what a blockchain is? Do you own any cryptocurrency? Do you have a cryptocurrency wallet? I suggest you look into it. It could change your personal finances or your business.

Just think, if you owned 1 Bitcoin in 2010, that one Bitcoin would almost be worth $3,000 today (this blog was written in June, 2017). Better yet, if you owned 100 Bitcoin back then, well, you would have $300,000 right now. If you owned 1,000 Bitcoin, you could retire. Obviously, you can’t go back in time. However, some experts are estimating the price to go up to $10,000 a Bitcoin, while some are estimating $1 million.

Hey, I know what you are thinking. Bitcoin could die. It is true, maybe it will. But, it wouldn’t hurt to get a cryptocurrency wallet, buy $100 of Bitcoin, and let it sit. Maybe make a few purchases to see how it works. What’s the worst that could happen? You lose $100. What’s the best? You understand how the blockchain works and.. well, you do the math. In fact, if anything, you will probably kick yourself for not buying more. As with any risky investment, one should never risk more than they are willing to lose.

So what do the experts say? I don’t know about you, but when people like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and Richard Branson speak, I listen. Ironically, Warren Buffet is not a fan. He considers it to be more like buying gold. It should be noted, he is not overly technologically savvy. Bill Gates and Richard Branson think it will work.

What do you think? Will cryptocurrency be the future of money?

 

Women in China

Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin depicts life during the Qing Dynasty. Of its 40 main characters (and 400 extras), one can get a glimpse of life during dynastic China, including cuisine, religion, music, and the status of its citizens.

It was a time when women had their feet broken into little squares so they remained subordinate to the men of society, a time when the rich men of China had numerous wives. During that time, if a woman lost her husband, she could not get remarried. Has much changed for women in China over the years?

Obviously, yes, there have been many changes. In fact, when the Communist Party took over control in 1949, women were given equal rights with men. Nonetheless, China remains a male dominated society. The woman is expected to take care of the family while the man brings home the money. Females have societal pressure to get married and have a child (preferably a boy) by the time they are thirty and not much later. Therefore, they often rush to get married and often marry somebody they don’t actually love.

It’s true, women don’t bind their feet anymore, and men do not have numerous wives. However, women still don’t have the status of their male counterparts. At the same time, the rich men of China often have a mistress. Sometimes these well-off men even have children with their mistresses; hence, they need to support two families, often without their wives ever finding out. If a women gets a divorce, it is often hard for them to find another husband as divorce is stigmatized. This, of course, goes for men and women.

As in all societies around the world, rights for women in China has a long way to go, but it is getting better.

As long as the pendulum doesn’t swing too far (i.e. feminism in the West), then a more equitable society will find its way to this great country.

A Simple Observation on Language

In my home country, people expect everybody to speak the native tongue (i.e. English).

“Why put signs up in Spanish? This is America!”

Understood. People take it to another (unnecessary) level, but point taken. I too agree people should learn to speak the language of the country they live in. Even if just visiting a foreign land for a few days, one should certainly pick up a couple of phrases—if for nothing else—to show a little respect.

How about in China? Do you people scream, “speak Chinese! This is China!”? No. Quite the opposite. In fact, for foreign guests, it is generally expected that they cannot speak a syllable of Chinese. Even the foreigners living in China for many years are not “supposed” to speak Chinese. “This is our language.”

These two patriotic countries view foreigners speaking the native language differently.

I’ve been living in China for ten years now; I am fluent in Chinese. When I speak with local residents who cannot speak English, they generally appreciate that I have taken the interest and time to learn their language; this is true. However, some of the more educated citizens who can speak English often seem annoyed when I converse in Chinese.

“Speak English!”

“Why? This is China. The national language is Chinese. In the U.S. I speak English, in China a speak Chinese.”

But, this is just a simple observation.

 

 

Buddhism – Chinese Style

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Throughout the centuries, China has seen its share of religions. Ancient Chinese religions, ancestral worship, Taoism (more properly know as Daoism),  Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Communism, and Atheism have all held a strong presence in the Middle Kingdom (i.e. in China). Through customs, beliefs, and practices, each of these religions have influenced each other in one way or another. More specifically, Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism share many traits, and they have set the foundation for Chinese culture as we know it today.

Let’s look at Buddhism.

It is often believed that Buddhism came to China from India around the 1st century C.E during the Han Dynasty; however, some claim it came much earlier and was eliminated by the all powerful Emperor Qin. Another detail of disagreement is how it came to China. Some historians argue it arrived over the Silk Road; others argue it came overseas. No matter how and when Buddhism came to China, it has played an important role in Chinese history. Since its beginnings, emperors have either embraced it, or they have banned it. Emperor Wuzong of the Tang Dynasty and Emperor Mao (a.k.a. Chairman Mao) of the P.R.C. Dynasty were two leaders who wanted to do away with this foreign religion. During the Cultural Revolution, which started in the 1960s, Buddhist symbols and temples were destroyed. Movements like these were to encourage the new religion in town – Communism.

Nonetheless, Buddhism has survived in China. Many temples have been restored and it is legal to be a Buddhist today (of course, as long as worshippers pray in state-sanctioned institutions). Buddhist temples throughout China are visited by the faithful who get on their knees to worship a bodhisattva of their choice. They pray for peace for their family and friends. These havens of Buddhist thought are peaceful. One can only breath freely upon entering the walls of a Buddhist temple.

Chinese Vocabulary:

 

Ancestral worship – Zǔxiān chóngbài 祖先崇拜

Taoism – Dàojiào 道教

Confucianism – Rújiào 儒教

Buddhism – Fójiào 佛教

Christianity – Jīdūjiào 基督教

Islam – Yīsīlán jiào 伊斯兰教

Atheism – Wúshénlùn 无神论

Cultural Revolution – Wénhuà dàgémìng 文化大革命

Temple – Sìmiào 寺庙

Pray to a bodhisattva – Bài púsà 拜菩萨

Is China Safe?

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“Do you own a gun?”

“Is the U.S. safe?”

As a foreigner living in China, I often receive these types of questions. As we all know, stories of people helping other people don’t make the headlines but mass murders do. The fact that the U.S. and some European countries can bear arms surprises many people in China. They think everybody is walking around with a gun. I often have to dispel this myth (and yes, it is a myth, keep reading and I will show you the numbers).

So, is China safe?

Anecdotally speaking, absolutely! In my ten years living in China, I have never felt threatened in any neighborhood, at any time. If you don’t trust my opinion, let’s look at some numbers from a 2014 report by the United Nations. Of the 218 countries in the world (including independent territories), in terms of homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, China ranks 192. That means, there are only 26 countries safer than China, included tiny countries (e.g. Monaco is number 218). How about the U.S.? Like I said above, it is relatively safe, albeit, not as safe as China. The U.S. is number 107. All things considered, that is pretty good. The U.S. usually gets a bad rap for being a dangerous country since its citizens can own guns.

China is safe for numerous reasons. Most importantly, crime is taken very seriously. For example, murderers and drug traffickers often receive the death penalty. And, yes, marijuana is considered a drug in China. It is often grouped with heroine and cocaine. There is a persistent drug problem near the Myanmar, Thai, Laos border, but drugs are not that prevalent throughout most of China. Hell, the idea of being executed for selling drugs is a pretty good incentive to “just say no.”

Of course, like all countries, there is crime. While living in China, one must watch their pockets and backpacks. There are a good number of pickpockets and petty thefts. For those who live on the first four or five floors of an apartment complex, it is a good idea to have metal bars on the windows. If the first floor has bars on the window but the second floor does not, a thief could use those bars to reach the next floor. Trust me, I know. I lived on the fifth floor of a building; one night, a thief scaled the building (using the metal bars) and robbed my apartment while I was sleeping. I didn’t notice anything until the next day when I woke up.

Terrorism has a different meaning in China as well. In Xinjiang, the Uyghur ethnic group has partook in numerous attacks in cities like Beijing and Kunming. This group is ethnically muslim, but they want to separate from mainland China to have there own country. Therefore, it is not exactly Islamic terrorism that is plaguing parts of the western world. The Chinese government doesn’t mess around with terrorism. Airports, train stations, and other public areas are often surveyed by soldiers. In Xinjiang, the local mosques often have soldiers or police officers near the entrances. Uyghur men are not allowed to wear long beards, and women are not allowed to wear burkas. Ironically, the Hui ethnic group (which is also muslim) are given more freedom.

Welcome to China! As long as you don’t bring your gun or drugs, you will be safe as can be.

Chinese Vocabulary

U.S.A. Měiguó 美国

China Zhōngguó 中国

Monaco  Mónàgē 摩纳哥

Is China safe? Zhōngguó hěn ānquán ma? 中国很安全吗?

Do you have a gun? Nǐ yǒu qiāng ma? 你有枪吗?

Crime Fànzuì 犯罪

Pickpocket Tiāo kǒudài 调口袋

Steal Tōu 偷

Thief Xiǎotōu 小偷

Uyghur Wéiwú’ěr 维吾尔

Minority group Shǎoshù mínzú 少数民族