Monday, August 30, 2010

Inside the Ropes: Can a 67 year old man carry a 25 pound golf bag for five miles?

Adding Up My Blessings
Basil Waine Kong

In the twilight of my years, I find myself adding up my blessings. According to Eric Erickson, after 65, we become what we were. Here is my list: I have never been sick and continue to enjoy excellent health, married to an incredible woman who I love dearly, fathered four fantastic children who completed all the education they wanted and have fabulous careers and six beautiful children of their own, visited 100 countries, arrested just once for demonstrating against apartheid in front of the South African Embassy in 1989, enjoyed a career that as a lawyer and psychologist, included being a college professor, Dean of Students, vice president of a hospital, executive director of a medical research organization, CEO of the Association of Black Cardiologists and Executive Vice President of the Heart Institute of the Caribbean. Since my retirement, I have been focusing on the further nurturing of my family, reducing the ravages of cardiovascular disease as President of the Heart Institute of the Caribbean, participating on various Board of Directors, writing and improving the human condition in Jamaica.

As an athlete and sportsman, I was the boys sports champion at Springfield All Age School when I was fourteen years old, set a 440 track record at Madison High School in New Jersey, earned 7 varsity letters in not only track, but wrestling, soccer and cross country, as well as earned an athletic scholarship to Simpson College in Iowa. Every time I watch a cricket match, I remember the feeling after I hit a six when I was fourteen years old playing for the Boys Brigade. At some point, I have tried just about every game and sport that I encountered including "Elephant Polo" in India. My other hobbies include swimming, skeet shooting, tennis, ping pong, bridge, bid whist, badminton, and racquetball. I work out regularly at a gym and can still do 35 push-ups. Jamaica taught me to be adventuresome and to pursue excellence.

However, for fifty years, my passion has been golf. I started playing at sixteen year's old when a kind member of Springbrook Country Club in Morristown, New Jersey, gave me an old set of clubs and as a caddie, I was allowed to play on Mondays. I have returned the favor giving several sets of golf clubs to caddies over the years. I once played to a nine handicap but that was as good as I got and now play to a fifteen. Golfers do not necessarily get better with practice or experience. It is a fickle game and as Mr. Peter Lindo says often: "golf does not live in anybody's yard." It is amazing to me that from day to day, there can be a 20 stroke difference in our scores. I live in envy of professional golfers who can effortlessly hit such great shots.

During the past week-end (August 23-29), I accompanied my wife while she was doing some work at Taylor Memorial Hospital. Coincidentally, it was the week-end of the Annual Hooters Classic at the course where I usually play when we are in Hawkinsville, Georgia. Since the course was occupied with these professionals, the most adventuresome thing I could think of doing was to volunteer to caddie for Mr. David Wax, a 23 year old phenom from Los Angeles, who shot an incredible 16 under par after four rounds but did not win. On the other hand, I lost 5 pounds and my bones were aching and tired but I felt proud and accelerated. It was a true test of my endurance and no successful climber of Mt Everest felt more accomplished. Contrary to the professional tournaments I have watched outside the ropes, I was lock step with my player and was right in the middle of the action.

Did I make any mistakes? Well, at one point, David handed me his four iron and I thought I had placed it back in the bag while I was walking. As he was walking behind me, he merely picked up the club and told me that I missed. On another occasion, I gave him his sand wedge and prematurely walked to the back of the green so he had to hit up to the green without checking the sheet that he kept in his bag to learn the contour of the green, so he only made par. On another occasion, I walked ahead to make sure that I could locate an errant shot. I lost track of the ball as it sailed toward the white fluffy clouds in the background and it came crashing down near me. If it had hit me or his bag, he would have been charged a two stroke penalty and my wife would have been asking if my body could be buried at Southern Hills Country Club. For those of you who see players tossing balls to their caddies and caddies tossing balls back to their players, if they miss and the ball roles on the green, it could be a two stroke penalty for testing the green. I lived in fear that I would not catch the ball or misthrow it, so while David threw me the ball, I would always hand it back to him after I wiped it nice and clean.

This is another one of my memories and hope I can do it again. Thank you for the opportunity David. Good luck to you in your quest to join the PGA Tour. You are a fine golfer and gentleman with a great future.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Prayer to End Wanton Violence in Jamaica

Psalm 151: A Responsive Reading
Basil Waine Kong

Leader: O LORD God of hosts, how majestic and magnificent is Your name.
Congregation: Our father, strong and mighty, incline Your ears and hear our prayer.
Leader: We stand in awe of Your miraculous creations, particularly the splendour of the Island we call home. You are our light and salvation.
Congregation: In our distress, we cry unto You because our souls are hungry for Your wisdom, guidance and intervention.
Leader: Trouble is everywhere and we are consumed with grief. The wicked kill innocent men,women and children. Our land is polluted with blood. A stubborn and rebellious generation who do not keep Your commandments torment us.
Congregation: All night long we flood our beds with weeping and drench our couches with tears. Our eyes grow weak with sorrow.
Leader: We are desolate and afflicted as desperate violent men have united against us snuffing out innocent lives with callous brutality.
Congregation: Leave us not to our oppressors. Deliver us quickly out of the hands of the wicked and declare Your glory among the unbelieving. But instead of turning your hand against our adversaries, we ask that you forgive them and turn their hearts and minds from crime.
Leader: Let those who hate You submit to Your commandments. Let them be born again, never to return to this folly.
Congregation: Bring us out of our distress. Have compassion on Your affliction and deliver us Almighty God, We put our trust in You.
Leader: You keep your promises Almighty God and You said the needy will not be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted perish. You are a refuge for the oppressed, the ever present stronghold in times of trouble.
Congregation: Your promise is a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our paths. Your words are sweeter than honey to our mouths!
Leader: You promised that You would never ignore the cry of the afflicted and that those who know Your name will never be forsaken.
Congregation: We shall wait on You and not be weary. We shall be of good courage as we lift our hands to You in supplication. Let not evil triumph.
Leader: Almighty God, many are our foes that rise up against us. In their arrogance, wicked men hunt down the weak who are caught in the schemes they devise. They compass us about like angry bees and wasps.
Congregation: As a nation, we have become corrupt. Criminal gangs have joined with gunmen to do abominable deeds. Their mouths are full of curses, lies and threats. Their victims are crushed under their misguiided strength.
Leader: How long shall our enemies be exalted over us?
Congregation: As our rock, our fortress, our deliverer and our strength, we call upon You to save us from our enemies.
Leader: Make the wicked come trembling from their garrisons. While we seek no personal revenge as You proclaimed with righteousness: “Vengeance is mine!”
Congregation: While You pledged unfailing kindness for your anointed, iniquities prevail in all of us. You know our reproach, shame and dishonor. We pray therefore that You purge these sins from us.
Leader: Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy loving kindnesses. Remember not the sins of our youth. But according to thy mercy forgive us for our many transgressions.
Congregation: We are merely strivers to be pure in heart, trying to keep ourselves from sin and to live by Christian principles.
Leader: We acknowledged our own sins against You, and our iniquity we will not hide. We confess these transgressions with the faith that you will now forgive us.
Congregation: Forsake us not O Gentle Savior. Teach us to do Your will and lead us into the land of uprightness, integrity and truth so that sinners will walk from darkness into the light and become gracious and full of compassion for our fellow citizens.
Leader: Watch over the righteous, bless us and surround us with your favor as with a shield and make the nation our inheritance.
Congregation: Defend us from those who rise up against us. Place a shield around us and restore glory on us so we can lift up our heads.
Leader: Order our steps in thy word and let not any iniquity have dominion over us. Deliver us from the oppression of sinful men.
Congregation: Let the lying lips of the wicked be silenced and call them to account for their sins so they may terrify us no more. Let those who dig holes fall into the pits they make. Let the trouble they cause recoil on them. The violence they perpetuate come down on their own heads.
Leader: For those of us who have done evil. We ask thy forgiveness and mercy. We repent of these sins.
Congregation: Take away, O Lord, the desires and propensities of the wicked to be violent and the unrighteous to give thanks unto Your name. They are also our sons and daughters and You are the father of us all. But what has a man gained if he owns great wealth and loose his soul?
Leader: O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure.
Congregation: Give us relief from our distress and be merciful. Let the light of Your face shine upon us and give us peace.
Leader: We lay our requests before You and wait with expectation.
Congregation: Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
Leader: If You be for us, who can be against us? You only are the strength of our lives. If we trust in You, who shall we fear?
Congregation: From You come blessings and deliverance from wickedness. We will give thanks and sing praises to You, our LORD Most High, for You have kept Your promises and dealt bountifully with us.
Leader: We make a joyful noise unto You and come before You with thanksgiving. Your mercy is everlasting; and Your truth endure forever.
Congregation: May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be forever pleasing in Your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer.
Leader: Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil, for You are our constant companion. We promise to never let go of your hands.
Congregation: You prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies, exalting the righteous.
Leader: Save Your people, and bless our inheritance. Feed us until we want no more. Turn our mourning into dancing.
Congregation: Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us as we put our faith and trust in You. Put off our sackcloth, and gird us with gladness. We will join all those who are upright in heart to sing a new song and shout for joy.
Leader: Let truth, peace and prosperity return to Jamaica so that the land may yield her increase and our children inherit a new land.
Congregation: You water the land and provide us with a rich harvest of fruits, vegetables and grain.
Leader: You cause the grass to grow for the animals, they multiply greatly and herb for the service of man that we may bring forth food out of the earth. O LORD, how manifold is Your works! The earth overflows with riches. So is the great sea that caresses us, full of Your bounty,
Congregation: From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. May Your mercy endure forever.
All: Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen. Amen. Amen.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Our Trip to China in 2008.

Basil Waine Kong, Ph.D., JD

We were sharing travel stories with some friends and they suggested that I create a post of our trip to China. While we were not fortunate enough to visit during the Olympics, we saw all the preparation and in particular, posters of Asafa Powell who they had expected to the star of the Olympics. It was a fascinating adventure, nevertheless.

One of the outstanding highlights of our two week sojourn was attending a cardiology conference at Fuwai Hospital (Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College) Presentations by Chinese scholars, Drs. Gu Dongfeng, Hui Rutai and Yang Yuejin were particularly informative. With all our expectations about “Traditional Chinese Medicine”, we were surprised that cardiology in China resembled cardiology in the United States. They implanted pacemakers, stints, had the same diagnostic equipment available, medication for high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol was the same as practiced in the United States. No where were any Chinese herbs to be found. They followed the same clinical protocol for demonstrating efficacy and side effects of various treatments and many of them published in the NEJM, Hypertension, and JACC. Smoking was their major concern as 50-60% of the population smoked and while obesity is currently less than 15%, it was on the rise as the Chinese people adopted western lifestyles. They were surprised to know that so many people in the United States were obese. The tour of the hospital was particularly enriching.

Our visit to China was just sensational, delighting all our senses. What do you eat when you are in China? The answer is Chinese food but interestingly enough, French, continental and even Jamaican was available. We even had Starbucks and McDonald's. The trip was a perfect blend of feasts, science, culture, history, sightseeing and shopping. The beer is equivalent to Red Stripe.

We started out in Shanghai with tours of the city (old and new), seeing the awesome acrobatic show and attended lectures on Chinese investment and business climate. We visited the Shanghai museum, the Yuyuan Garden and the Bund (The famous river walk).

We moved on to the “Three Gorges Dam” in Yicchang which is an awesome splendor and engineering feat. The Dams provided enough electricity to economically supply 100 million homes. We boarded the good ship “Vicking” and sailed for four days down the Yangtze River through the Wu Gorge, the Qutang Gorge and the visited the fabulous Snow Jade Cave and City of Ghosts. It was fascinating to see people putting every bit of land to use. For example, the sides of the road were planted up with corn and other vegetables. Master Poe did a masterful tai chi demonstration to the delight of all the passengers.

We eventually arrived in Zian where we spent a day viewing the incredible Terracotta Army. In a previous generation, the Emperor took his army, family and friends with him when he died to keep his company for the expected reincarnation. Later, another emperor was talked into making terracotta likenesses of his wives and soldiers to be buried with him. We marveled at the thousands of soldiers, archers, horses and chariots that were buried with the Emperor Qin Shi Huang more than 2,000 years ago.

In Chongquin, we were entertained by a dozen Pandas, strange looking koi and other unusual animals at the Zoo, and viewed a large collection of Chinese art. We found it fascinating that large numbers of people show up morning and evening in various groups to do group dace, tai chi, fan dance and other exercises in the parks.

We eventually made it to Beijing, a city dating back to more than 1,000 years before Christ where Tienanmen Square, the world’s largest public square with the capacity to accommodate more than 1,000,000 people, the Forbidden City and other elegant palaces, pavilions courtyards and gardens. The climb on the Great Wall was a visual feast and the elegant Sacred Way leading to the Ming Emperors tomb featuring stone elephants, lion, camels and mythical beasts.

The street vendors are far more aggressive than in Jamaica. But shopping was great with incredible bargains. almost everything cost about 20% for equivalent items in Jamaica. But what really made the trip an awesome experience was interacting with the people. Our guides could not have been more entertaining, informative and engaging. And no, while I encountered lots of Kongs, I did not find any of my father's family.

This is a trip I would highly recommend.