A 1945-2031 Memorial


There are two reasons for my being here on Saipan this week. One is to retire properly from PSS. I left on a medical leave due to a diagnosis of spondylosis of the cervical bones. I went for alternative therapy other than surgery. At the time, the government quit remitting contribution to my retirement fund so I decided to forego the whole referral system, withdrew my contribution, and after getting my neck back to manageable level, applied to return to the system.

Someone at HR was candid enough to “joke” that it would cost the system two entry-level personnel to hire me back, so it would not be surprising if I did not find myself at the top of the recruitment list. Having reached two years beyond the retirement age when I left, I come to get the record straight. I have some conversations to do with the Retirement folks, and PSS.

Second, there is the Social Security System to which I had contributed eight years worth of labor. To qualify for the minimum benefit, 10 years is required. Fine. I am out to ask SS how we would do this. I am not out for a freebie. I just want to know how to benefit from what I already contributed to.

I was retired early this year in China. Xi Jin Ping and Le Ke Qiang want to follow the letter of the law. Since the late ’80s when China’s systems opened up to the world, the application of exception rather than the rule had prevailed in many areas, including the universities. E.g., Chinese men retire at 60 and women at 55, or so the book said. The rule with foreign teachers had been to limit their employ until they were 65. The cost of health insurance and body maintenance is measurably up past 65. Well, we are already three bends past the finish line (no dime spent on health maintenance in the past three years, I might add), so when my university went to apply for a working visa (there were two of us), the Foreign Affairs Department raised their “whoa,” and did not let this horse go past the employment line in the Year of the Horse. I am retired, formally and functionally.

As the Alpine musical (The Sound of Music) avers, when a door is closed, a window opens. I had been hacking in this paper now for 10 years, and though I do not particularly think of myself as a writer, I had gotten comfortable with the keyboard and efficient with a word processing program. Given also a reflective and literary bent, I considered writing as a post-professional endeavor in the sunset of my years. Sounds good, except that like any other profession, there is the art and the discipline of the endeavor. We are too old to enroll in school for that.

So I am going headlong into the field. I entered the first year of a Seven Year Itch to write in 2014. This is also where, in this telling, I segue from retiring to re-tiring. I am putting on a new set of tires. I am obviously not short of passion, and though the awareness of experience and the consciousness in our reflection had not always been methodical in the research sense, the level of mindfulness where I had been and where I am headed, if told from the language of descriptive narrative rather than metaphysical cognition, can entice and encourage all other Joe Blows and Maria de Tenorios to do the same.

That’s the picture of the long haul. We have all kinds of social nets in the Internet now operating, and why not inject a little intentionality to how we present ourselves. What if we have a Facebook-like platform that would allow anyone to write a page, a measured and limited page, for every year of their existence? We are all for participatory this, and participatory the other, so why not a worldwide net of people writing a page of every year of memory, not to be printed for sale but to be Wiki’d for access. The caveat, of course, is that one page per year would be the limit in any presentation. But the db would be searchable. We could certainly expand the reach of our acquaintances, wouldn’t we?

Just think of the possibilities. One could link persons one had encountered and places one had been to. If one wanted more information, they could always click on the link. Likewise, given that 99.99 percent of us will probably be earthbound for another century, why not a map that lights up all the places one had visited gleaned automatically from the write-up? Our kids know enough that cognitive overviews, linkages, and nets are the wave of the future already crashing on the shore. This would not create a hierarchy of elites but a network of global folks, all linked by the power of choice, fueled by their intuitions.

I begin my Seven Year Itch of writing with the end in view of doing my one page per year, save that I am writing it from the rim of the grave at 86 rather than at 68. I have seven years to keep it up in digitized format, accessible to anyone interested for free, though all who inquire will be asked how they were doing with theirs as well. Ten years before Dec. 15, 2031, I turn off the memory spigot and unplug the laptop, close the book, and enter a decade of just sheer silence. Why? Pure choice.

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at pinoypanda2031@aol.com.

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