Monday, September 30, 2013

Hobbling Around Town

I like my job, but sometimes it’s nice to take a break. The problem is that I couldn’t really take advantage of the days off I had. I wasn’t as mobile as I like to be and Hong Kong isn’t a great place to get around if you’re on crutches. It was an interesting experience, but I got a little tired of how much people here have absolutely no consideration for anyone with any handicap. Trying to go anywhere on crutches was a challenge, but I’m sure it would be a million times harder in a wheelchair.

There aren’t as many elevators in Hong Kong as there should be. This is not a level place where all the streets are flat. There are hills and sometimes you have to go up a flight of stairs to get to the next street. People in wheelchairs might know all the ways to get around – which probably include going very far out of their way to find some kind of ramp – but I’m used to just walking in as straight a line as possible.

The MTR definitely needs more elevators. The biggest stations have one or two and they always seem to be full of people who could easily take the stairs and escalators. The smallest stations don’t have any elevators at all. Some don’t even have escalators. I asked a Chinese person how handicapped people get around and he said they can take a taxi. His cavalier attitude really disappointed me.

There are a lot of great things about Chinese people, but compassion for their fellow man doesn’t seem to be one of them. I’ve been here a while and I think I’ve gotten used to the blatant racism. Hong Kong is 95% Chinese, so anyone who looks different is going to be treated differently. The price gouging is easier to deal with if you can haggle in Chinese.

What I’m still having trouble adjusting to is how selfish so many people are. Where I come from you hold the door open for other people when you’re going through. It has nothing to do with gender or age. It’s just common courtesy. I would be amazed if I ever saw anyone hold the door open for anyone else in Hong Kong.

I see smokers blowing their filth in people’s faces all the time. I realize smokers all over the world are a special group who are allowed to poison whoever they want, but they’re even more inconsiderate here than they are in Europe.

The worst thing for me has always been the MTR. It’s the best way to get around, but it’s full of the most selfish people I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Some of these people would run over their own grandmothers to be the first on the train. For some reason, everyone has to be first. There’s plenty of time to get on and the doors don’t close on people and cut them in half – if you’re in the doorway, it automatically opens – but every day I see a million people who all have to be first at all costs.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen healthy young people just sit there while an old person or a pregnant woman stands next to them. There are special seats designated for pregnant women, handicapped and the elderly, but I’ve never seen anyone ever give up any of those seats for someone else. The MTR is usually pretty crowded. Rush hour is between 6am and 2am. Actually sitting down on a train is rare, so I guess the people who have a seat would rather die than give it to someone who needs it more.

It doesn’t really bother me that no one ever gave up a seat for me while I was on crutches. I was otherwise healthy and only mildly incapacitated. It really bothers me when I see an old lady who can barely stand up having to stand on the train just because the healthy people around her don’t care about anyone but themselves.

The Chinese have a reputation for being polite. In some ways they are. They’ll never say bad things about you to your face. In other ways, they’re not even close.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Mean People

Why are people so hateful to each other? I guess I can understand people who know each other and have a reason to hate each other hating each other. Maybe something happened between them that they just can’t get over. What I don’t get is total strangers screaming their hate at someone they don’t even know.

The woman who does just announced her retirement from blogging. I’m not her biggest fan – I don’t even know her name – but I’ve been reading her blog occasionally for over a year. She has great stories to tell about being an expat in Australia. If you’re thinking about moving to Australia, check it out.

She’s done with blogging because she got tired of all the hate people send her online. When you have a blog – or any kind of website where people can comment – you will get negative comments. Sometimes it’s constructive criticism, but only rarely. Usually it’s just people who want to make everyone else as miserable as they are.

In her announcement post, she defends her decision to not post the ugliest comments. I don’t think she has to explain that at all. It’s her blog. She doesn’t have to post any comments at all if she doesn’t want to. People have gotten so used to being able to say whatever they want to say that they’ve forgotten that not everything in the world is an open forum for any and all opinions.

I used to keep comments on my blog open to everyone no matter what crazy thing they wanted to say. The only comments I ever deleted were blatant spam. If you want to increase your manhood, you don’t need to read about it here. Just check your e-mail.

Then I started moderating comments. Someone got really angry about something I said. I don’t even remember what it was about. I just remember thinking that I should probably do something about it as soon as the death threats started. I never took any of it seriously – most of the angry people online are all talk anyway – but there was just too much negativity to ignore. I don’t need all comments on my blog to be sunshine & rainbows, but I think there’s already enough hate in the world. There’s no reason to post more here.

Blogs are easy enough to deal with. You can moderate comments, block certain people or turn off comments entirely. What’s harder are other social media sites where you have no control. If you interact with people online, you will be subject to hate. It’s inevitable. They say movie stars should never read their own press. Reading too many negative reviews can get to you eventually. Online, we’re all movie stars in a way. People can and will feel free to say to us whatever pops into their heads. For whatever reason, a lot of people are more free with their negative comments than they are with saying something positive.

I wrote a couple of books. I’ll probably write more in the future. I know having a few books available in a few places isn’t anything like having a New York Times bestseller, but I enjoyed writing them and I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t continue doing it. When you write a book – whether it sells or not – you have to expect a few bad reviews. Nothing in the history of the world has ever been written that everybody likes. I realize that the things I write about are not everyone’s cup of tea. I realize that my writing style is too simple for some people. The funny thing is that when you look at the reader reviews of anything by Shakespeare, people complain that the style is too complicated. Someone is going to complain no matter what.

I know it sounds like I’m complaining about negative reviews. I’m not. I don’t have enough to complain about. What I’m really complaining about is how the negative people share their opinions more than the positive people. I think most people in this world are generally positive, but they’re a silent majority. They're more likely to keep their opinions to themselves. The angry people are the minority, but they share their opinions a lot more.

It’s reached the point where you have to have very thick skin to be online. No matter where you are online, people are going to share their hate with you. Some people will join in the hate just to fit in. Hopefully, most people just ignore the hate. Too many people hate everything and everyone. If you’re sensitive to what total strangers say about you, you’ll just have to stay offline. If you’re a sullen teenager just looking for any excuse to kill yourself, you should really throw your computer away. The internet is like a loaded gun in your mother’s dresser.

There used to be a time when unhinged people were confined to their basements. Only the walls and their imaginary friends heard their ranting & raving. Now the internet lets everyone connect with the rest of the world. You don’t have to have all your marbles to talk to people or give your opinion online.

You can even write a book review with absolutely no ability to form a coherent sentence.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Typhoon Usagi

When Typhoon Usagi started making its way toward Hong Kong, the authorities issued their storm warnings and told everyone to batten down the hatches. They told us this was the largest storm of the year and it was coming straight for us. Government offices and some businesses closed their doors. Schools told students to stay home. Airlines announced canceled flights.

Then the typhoon hit the Philippines and Taiwan. Those islands took a lot out of it and changed its course from Hong Kong to Guangdong. We got some rain, but no direct impact.

Usagi killed a few people, mostly in the Philippines and China. That’s also where most of the damage was. Not coincidentally, places with stronger buildings and better infrastructure, like Hong Kong and Taiwan, suffered far less damage.

In Hong Kong, there was a lot of warning but very little action. For people in Northern Philippines and Southern China, it was the largest storm of the year.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dancing in the Rain part 5

The nearest hospital to the big house is actually pretty close. It’s a medium size hospital with all the modern facilities you want in a hospital. Hong Kong is pretty advanced when it comes to health care. It’s also incredibly inexpensive – especially compared to the United States.

We went to the ER and in about 10 minutes a doctor was looking at my ankle. They took me to get x-rays and 20 minutes later I was talking to the same doctor again while looking at the x-rays on a computer monitor. The doctor said nothing was broken, but I tore a medial ligament. It should be completely healed in a couple of weeks, but they gave me an ankle brace and told me to walk on crutches for about a week. They also gave me a bunch of drugs.

Any time you go to a hospital in Hong Kong, they give you a bunch of drugs. They gave me a pill to help prevent swelling, a pill for pain and a pill to counteract the side effects of mixing the pills for swelling and pain. There are a lot of things about health care in Hong Kong that are better than the United States, but I’m not crazy about their practice of throwing drugs at everything.

So I never took the pain medication. It was never as painful as when it first happened anyway. That’s when I could have used those pills. Since I’m not taking the pain pills, there’s no reason to take the side effect pills. Of the three medications they gave me, I’m only taking the one for swelling.

I also have an ice pack that feels very nice on hot & humid summer afternoons. I’m thinking about keeping it and using it all over my body and the hottest days.

Since it’s really hard to dance on crutches, I’m taking some time off work.

If this happened in the United States, I would be getting a hospital bill for at least a few hundred dollars. They would charge for going into the ER, seeing a nurse, seeing a doctor, getting x-rays, being taken back & forth in a wheelchair to get x-rays, the gloves everyone wears, the disposable cap on that thing they stick in your ear to take your temperature, and those plastic sheets they put on the ER tables. Then I would have to go somewhere else and pay a few hundred dollars for the prescriptions and go somewhere to get crutches and an ice pack.

In Hong Kong I walked away – or hobbled away – from the hospital about US$10 poorer. I didn’t have to go anywhere to get the medications, ice pack and crutches because they gave everything to me right there in the hospital. Everything that happened in the ER was included in the regular hospital fee and I paid a few more dollars for the drugs. That was it.

How much does an x-ray in the U.S. cost? It’s right there on your bill. How much does it cost in Hong Kong? No one knows. It’s included.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dancing in the Rain part 4

While Kevin & I were waiting in the big house for the taxi to take me to the hospital, Kevin went into my room and got me some clothes. I wasn’t in any position to complain, but he really didn’t put any thought into it. He came back with jeans and a button down blouse. He didn’t bring any underwear, but he brought me socks. If I could put on socks we wouldn’t have been in this situation. I was having a hard time pulling jeans on over my throbbing ankle, so Kevin went back into my room and brought out a skirt – still no underwear, though.

When the taxi showed up, Kevin carried me outside while I tried to keep us dry under an umbrella. Try is the key word here. We both got pretty wet anyway – especially while he was trying to put me in the taxi. The taxi driver even got out in the rain to help, but there are only so many ways you can carry someone into a small car. He got wet for nothing – although I do appreciate the effort. We gave him a nice tip when we got to the hospital. Since you don’t tip taxi drivers in Hong Kong, he was very grateful.

Under the circumstances it doesn’t really matter, but since I was going commando, I think the taxi driver might have got even more of a tip than I intended. He was enough of a gentleman not to let on if he got a free show.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Dancing in the Rain part 3

After what seemed like hours lying broken and naked on the floor in the rain – but was more likely less than one – I scooted myself over to my cell phone and called Kevin. He works closer to the big house than anyone I know and it’s easy for him to leave work early – especially since his boss was out of town. It was his house I needed someone to rescue me in.

First I had to get to my phone. It was on a deck table, protected by a big sun umbrella. You’re supposed to close the umbrellas at night and when it rains, but I’m glad we forgot to do it. Otherwise, I would have kept my phone inside the house and I would have had to drag myself kicking & screaming inside.

When I got to my phone I told Kevin what happened. He thought I was joking at first. I convinced him with the tone of my voice that I was serious. I might have even scared him a little, but you do what you have to do in these situations.

He got to the house pretty quickly and found me sitting up against the deck table. I tried to get myself up off the ground and actually sit at the table, but I was too exhausted by then. Lying broken on the floor naked in the rain takes a lot out of you.

He picked me up and quickly carried me into the house. He had a towel wrapped around me before I knew it. We briefly talked about calling an ambulance, but then decided it would be faster to take a taxi. It wasn’t really an emergency and I wouldn’t want someone to die because an ambulance was busy with me.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Dancing in the Rain part 2

I was lying on the pool deck naked in the rain. My ankle was throbbing in pain and no one else was home. After I stopped crying and imagining my entire career flushed down the toilet, I thought about how to get myself from the rainy pool deck into the dry house. Standing up was out of the question. My foot felt like a heavy weight strapped to my body.

Standing up would have been extremely difficult. Walking into the house would have been impossible. I was maybe 20 feet from the door, but it might as well have been 20 miles. I decided to wait a while and see if the pain subsided enough so that I could get into the house.

After a while I got pretty tired of lying on the floor in the rain. Being naked in the rain is great for the first few minutes. The rain feels refreshing on your skin. It’s like taking an outdoor shower. I love outdoor showers. Lying helpless on the floor in the rain is less exciting. The constant rain plummeting onto your body gets pretty annoying after a while.

The way I saw it, I had 3 choices. I could crawl to the door and drag myself inside. Crawling naked on the deck floor didn’t seem like a great idea. I would have gotten enough cuts, scratches and scrapes all over my body that I would’ve forgotten about my ankle. In a life or death situation I would have done it, but this was a bum ankle.

My second choice was to call an ambulance. That quickly seemed like the worst choice. They had no way to get inside the house. They would have had to break down a door. Not to mention the mess they would have made going from the front door out to the pool deck and then bringing me back out the front door. I was just a guest in this house. I wasn’t prepared to cause so much damage. I’m also not sure how Chinese paramedics react to finding naked white girls in the rain. I don’t need those pictures on someone’s Facebook page.

My third choice was to call someone else. Anyone without a key would have to break their way in. Only Lily & Kevin had their own keys.

Lily was at work. It would have taken her at least an hour to get to me – probably longer. She would have to find an excuse to leave work early first. They really don’t like it when we leave early. Your best friend is lying naked in the rain on the pool deck isn’t the best excuse, but it just might be one they’ve never heard before.

I knew who I had to call.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dancing in the Rain part 1

I went to the hospital again. This was the 4th or 5th time I’ve gone to a Hong Kong hospital. I broke some bones in my hand when an MTR train derailed a few months ago. I had a pretty bad cold last year, so I went to the hospital. People go to doctors all the time for colds around here. I’m not used to that since it would be too expensive where I’m from, but here I have pretty good insurance at work and hospitals don’t cost nearly as much as they do at home. My first Hong Kong hospital visit was for some weird rash I had on my hand – the same hand I broke on the train by the way. I never found out what caused the rash, but it went away right after I took the medication they gave me.

None of those were my fault. The cold was a simple cold that got out of control. I don’t know what the rash was, but if I did anything to cause it, it never came back. The train was definitely not my fault. I wouldn’t know how to derail a train even if I wanted to.

This time was entirely my fault. It was raining – as it does all summer – and I went out to the pool deck at the big house. I like being in the rain as long as I’m not in a hurry to go somewhere. I was at the house and wasn’t going anywhere, so the rain wasn’t a problem at all. The bad thing about being out in the rain is that your clothes get wet. Wet clothes just don’t feel right, but wet skin is totally natural.

There was no one else at the house, so I took my clothes off and went out in the rain. It seemed like a good idea at the time. The pool deck is completely private from any of the neighbors. It faces the ocean, so only the fish & seagulls can see you.

There’s a wide open area around the pool – plenty of room to move around. I dance a lot and I’ve danced on that deck plenty of times. Only this was the first time I did it naked in the rain.

The thing about rain is that it makes the ground slippery. I shouldn’t have been surprised when I fell down, but I was. I started crying like a baby. Not because I was in pain – I was. It hurt like hockey sticks, but I was more upset than anything else. I twisted my ankle and at that point I had no idea how bad it was. It felt pretty bad, but I couldn’t tell if I sprained it, broke it or what. As a dancer, an ankle injury can be the worst thing in the world.