SOMEWHERE IN HONG KONG— I dropped into Dick Jensen’s office (Director of Murdock Escorted Tours) one day, and he asked me if I would like to go to China for a month. Before I could think about it, yes was out of my mouth.

I had been to China about 10 years ago with food editors from all over the country. I was so amazed by how different people live halfway around the world. From then on my interest was piqued about the Orient and the great amount of people who live there and do things so differently from me.

Now I was being asked if I would lead a tour to China. Before I knew it, I was walking the Great Wall and eating Peking duck. For me travel is the ultimate learning experience. Yes, I learn when I read, but information flows into my head at the speed of light when I travel.

When I was young, the place to go was Europe. The best-selling travel book on the market was Europe on $5 a Day . Now you could not buy a hot dog for that. Now that prices in Europe have hit the ceiling, the Orient is the place to go. A basic trip to Beijing can go as low at $1500.00 for a week — which includes all your taxes, flights, hotels, and many meals. You could not go and stay in New York now for that.

This week I had a birthday and hit the magic age of 63 years old. At my age, health is something that I work at all the time. Over the past four years I have lost 88 pounds and it is hard for me to keep it off, but I know that exercise and healthy eating are the keys for me to live a active and healthy life.

In China the seniors retire at 55, and then it is their job to stay healthy. When you go to the parks in the morning, there are not hundred of people there are thousands. They are not just doing Tai Chi, but some are playing a new sport to me call Tai Chi ball, others are dancing, and some are even twirling long ribbons for exercise. I came across about 300 people that brought their simple instruments and were all planning in a band. The closest way that I could explain it is that they were having senior recess and loving it.

Well, here I am again ready to take off to China to learn and to play. My first tour is with KSL Television personnel, along with their friends and guest. It is a tour to celebrate the retirement of Dick Norse, who has been the host of evening news at KSL TV for more than 40 years. Along with Dick in the celebrity category is Spence Kennard, who was the voice for the Spoken Word with the Tabernacle Choirs for more than 20 years.

Besides learning about China, I am enlightened and inspired by the people on the tour. People are like encyclopedia — each of them is a wealth of information that just needs to be opened. With just a few questions I am off to a whole learning experience, and I have not ever found anyone who did not want to share their lives and their learning experiences.

As I write this we have only been gone for about two days, but I have already met two medical researchers from San Diego, the general manager of KSL, and a host of the people who make that station run.

As you can see, we are off to a great trip. What I want to do in my column for the next few weeks is to share some of the highlights. China will take the big stage on August 8, when the world tunes in to the Summer Olympics. They are in the dress rehearsal now getting all the last-minute details ready for the big party.

Our first stop on this trip is Hong Kong, truly an amazing place. In a very small area live more than 7 million people. Of all the cities that I have traveled in the world it is most like New York, with skyscrapers everywhere.

We went to a wonderful museum and learned about the origins of Hong Kong. Its past is rich with people who fished the sea. In days of old it was hard to keep the fish, so salt was the key to preserving their catch. Even today you see whole markets with every kind of salted fish you can imagine.

Here in Hong Kong, ninety percent of the people live in skyscrapers. Our guide told us that their homes are measured by the number of windows in the apartment. If your family has six windows, you are doing well. If you have 20 windows, you are considered a millionaire. I learned from this trip that most of us in the U.S. are millionaires and do not know it. Today I am counting my windows and my blessing — and yes, I know that I am a very blessed person.

I was sharing this with one of my new friends on the trip, and she gave me another insight. She told me that you are wealthy in the eyes of the world if you have more that one pair of shoes to wear and can make a choice of what you eat for dinner.