Monday, May 27, 2013

My First Train Crash

On Friday, May 17 an MTR light rail train crashed. It was the worst derailment in MTR history. 77 people were injured – including a baby. Fortunately, no one was killed. Unfortunately, I was on that train.

I had a rare Friday off from work, so I wanted to go out to the New Territories and look around. I don’t get out there as much as I’d like to. There’s really a lot more to Hong Kong than the giant skyscrapers. There is a lot of nature & scenery, but you have to get out of the city to find it.

While I was minding my own business on a small train on a small line, it seemed like the train was moving too fast. It’s above ground, so you can see everything go by. It’s hard to judge speeds on the underground trains because you can’t see anything except black tunnels. On this train, we could tell that it was going too fast. I wasn’t the only passenger who thought so.

Then it made a turn and all hell broke loose. The front car slowed down for the turn – although I guess it didn’t slow down enough. The back car didn’t slow down at all and there was a lot of noise – metal crashing into metal, screaming, glass shattering.

The train left the tracks and hit a power line. It didn’t flip over, but it was like a car impact. Everybody fell to the ground or up against the windows. More than half of the passengers were injured. Most of them were minor. I broke a few bones in my right hand when I tried not to fall down.

Fortunately, it was a smaller train in the New Territories – where there isn’t as much traffic. Being above ground was also a very good thing. Everyone simply walked or crawled or was carried out of the train – paying special attention to downed power lines. If it had been in a tunnel, it would have been much more difficult to get everyone out.

Everyone just sat near the train and waited. I don’t know if people were in shock, but it was quieter than I would have expected. Then the firefighters & paramedics showed up and it got loud & hectic again. It didn’t take long for the news cameras and onlookers to show up. Pretty soon there were at least 10 times more people than were on the train. I saw more firefighter uniforms than passengers.

A few paramedics asked me if I was ok. They didn’t speak much English and my Chinese doesn’t include emergency medical terms. It was obvious the way I was holding my hand that it was injured, and when one of the paramedics grabbed at it, I let out a scream that pretty much told them all they needed to know. They put me in an ambulance after all of the unconscious and bleeding passengers were gone. The doctors at the hospital all spoke English, so it got easier for me once I was there.

When they showed me the x-rays of my hand, I was just happy it wasn’t my foot. I like having hands and I use them a lot, but I need my feet for my career. If it was a foot instead of my hand, my dancing days would probably be over.

My hand is a lot better than it was, but I’m still mostly typing this with my left hand. Since it’s gotten better than it was, the doctors assume it will get better than it is. I’m very thankful to be in a place that has excellent healthcare at very low prices. Hong Kong has very well trained doctors and my insurance pays for almost everything.

The government is thinking about fining the MTR HK$15 million. Now they’re talking about a big lawsuit against the MTR. I don’t know any details, but I’m sure if it happens, the passengers won’t see any money.

I don’t want their money anyway. I just want them to figure out what happened, fix it and make sure it doesn’t happen again. We were all pretty lucky this time. Next time, it could be a lot worse.

Monday, May 13, 2013

New Neighbor part 4

In the daytime you can pretty much see my neighbor’s entire room, except where it turns a corner. I’m sure he can see all of mine in the daytime.

At night I can’t see him when his lights are off unless he’s standing right in front of the window. If the lights are on he has to be standing under the light or between the light and the window. If he’s standing behind the light you can kind of tell someone’s there, but you can’t really see anything. I assume it’s the same for me. The apartments are different, but light is light.

I walked out of the bathroom and into the bedroom with only a towel wrapped around me since I had just taken a shower. His lights were on so I could see him, but mine were off. I didn’t know if he could see me or not so I waited in the back of the room and watched him. He wasn’t looking at me – he was going about his business, so I went about mine. I could have easily put some clothes on, but not knowing whether he could see more or not was pretty interesting. I’m sure he couldn’t, but you never know.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Carrying On

I had an audition almost a month ago and they just told me I didn’t get the part. I’m a little disappointed, but not really surprised. Of all the acting auditions I’ve been on, I only got the part twice – one fell through and the other one my part was cut. Still, I had a great experience filming a real movie.

I know I’m supposed to be depressed when I don’t get a part, but I actually think I’m really lucky. I have a great job where I get to sing & dance every day. I want to get into acting, but if it doesn’t work out, I’m still performing. That’s what it’s all about anyway.

Most auditions don’t lead to jobs anyway. I’ve been on a million dancing auditions that I didn’t get. That never stopped me from trying. Now I’m dancing for a living. It doesn’t matter how many of them say no – as long as a few good ones say yes.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Expat Books part 3

From Taiwan to Texas

I have to say, I liked reading this book. Since it was a blog, it reads like a blog and the very short chapters get a little distracting after a few dozen. But maybe this is a brilliant marketing strategy. Most people have very short attention spans these days. Today’s readers get impatient with 50-page chapters. Maybe chapters that last one page will be more popular.

From Taiwan to Texas is easy to read. I mean that as a compliment. I just read a similar English-teacher-in-a-strange-land book that was the most pretentious thing I’ve ever seen. The author of that book didn’t seem to realize that EFL teachers are a dime a dozen. We’re all supposed to be impressed that he just did what thousands of others have already done. The author of Taiwan to Texas isn’t trying to impress us. He’s just telling us his story in a candid and relaxed style that should appeal to those of us who love to read all day as well as those who can only read a page at a time.

My main gripe with this book is that it’s a sequel. The author tells us in the introduction that we don’t have to read that one to understand this one. That’s true. The stories are easy to follow without knowing what happened in the first book. But now that I’ve read this one, I have to go and read the first one.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Expat Books part 2

Cuban Diaries: An American Housewife in Havana

This is about a woman who moves to Cuba because of her husband’s job. Most expat books are told from the point of view of the expat. They wanted to go, they went, and now they’re talking about it. This book is from the point of view of a wife who didn’t really want to go in the first place.

This one was interesting for different reasons. It’s easy to assume that the author is a spoiled American who wants her new home to be like everything she had back in the United States, but the more you read it, the more you see she’s just a mother trying to make the best of the situation for her children.

She talks a lot about buying groceries and sending her children to school. That would be pretty boring if she was an expat in Paris, but in Cuba, just doing routine things becomes an adventure.

My main complaint with this book is that the author goes too far in trying to avoid politics. If you’re an American living in Cuba, there will be a serious political adjustment. If I’m reading about your grocery shopping, I want to read about how you adjusted to life in a communist country.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Expat Books

I’ve been reading a lot about expats recently. It’s funny, when I first became one, I wasn’t really interested in joining expat groups and meeting up with other expats. I just wanted to jump into my new surroundings and not worry so much about how different it was from home. After a while, I started talking to other expats and now I’m reading books about them and by them.

When my own book came out in e-book edition, I downloaded an app so I could read it. Since then, I’ve been downloading lots of other books. If you want to know which ones I recommend, here they are:

Letters To Friends

I really enjoyed reading this book. Maybe because I’m an expat myself. Or maybe it’s because it’s so well written that something as ordinary as personal correspondence can become a compelling story. I feel like I know her and her family like they’re old friends. It’s intelligently written without trying to remind you how intelligent it is all the time. I found that refreshing. We need more authors who are clever without always telling us how clever they are.

The author invites us into her personal life and shares her hopes and fears. She tells us funny and touching stories about her family that everyone can relate to and gives us her take on that age old story about looking for love. I felt like a voyeur while reading it, but I just couldn’t stop. She talks about how hard it is to balance tradition and modern life and gives a lot of insight into her religion that I found fascinating. I’m surprised at how little I knew about a culture that’s so well known.

There’s a little bit about politics that I didn’t care about, but I thought it was interesting how I assumed she must be a Republican because of one issue, then she had to be a Democrat because of another. I don’t think her views fit in the American system. That’s not an insult at all. We Americans have some messed up politics. The author’s obviously not American.

That’s another thing I really liked – the proper English. I’ve been reading Jane Austen and I love the way she doesn’t sound American.

This isn’t really an expat book. She casually mentions what so many others wrote their entire books about and then she moves on to more important parts of life. I really hope this author writes a book someday that tells us more about her travels – especially China. Her insights into Chinese culture are really interesting. It looks like she’s led an interesting life and I’d like to hear more about it.