I am one of the youngest in our institute, and there are only a few of us who are about my age. Most of my colleagues are over 40, and one of the hottest topics during break time is about retirement. Some, when they retire, want to travel to other countries; some want to tend their grandchildren; and some want to live a simple life in their respective provinces.
There are other employees, however, who did not plan to retire at all. A few of them still go back regularly to our institute to work: they edit manuscripts, write books, train teachers, and do all the things they used to do. What is more amazing is that most of them do it for free — well, they are given little honorarium, but I doubt if it’s even enough for their lunch and gasoline.
One whom I admire most is Ma’am Fona, our former director. I only met Ma’am Fona several years ago; she had already retired when I entered the institute. In fact, according to my computation, she retired when I was about in second year high school (Grade 8). I had the privilege of assisting her in a conference about 5 years ago. At 78 she held the audience’s attention (they are all grinning to the ears) from the beginning of her talk until the end.
After retirement, Ma’am Fona remained active in the academic world (that’s quite rare here). In fact, three years ago, she, together with Prof. Masami Isoda, translated the Japanese Origamics: Mathematical Explorations Through Paper Folding by Professor Kazuo Haga to English. The book discusses the mathematics of paper folding.
I am currently reading the copy of Origamics given to us by Ma’am Fona and I was inspired by the note she wrote at the front cover:
To the math group, SOMEBODY up there pushed me.
I hope that someday when I grow old, that SOMEBODY up there, will also push me further, so that no matter how little, I could still do my share to improve mathematics education in our country.