#itsonlikehongkong

Turns out, mulligans are available in Hong Kong.  At the beginning of May, we made the trip as a follow up to last year’s, um, situation in Shenyang.  T wanted to have the metal rod and screws taken out of his leg, and HK was a much better option.  Once again, he had gone to see Dr. Brockwell at SOS Beijing to get the process started.  In the end, it was Dr. Kong at Matilda who performed the extraction.  All went as expected and he was back to work a few days later.

From the moment the taxi pulled into the driveway, we couldn’t help but make comparisons to last year’s hospital stay.  This was … different.  Allow for the side by side comparison in photos.  In case it is difficult to tell, the HK version is on the left.

To begin, just a quick look at the exteriors of Matilda International Hospital in Hong Kong, and Shengjing Hospital (#2) in Shenyang.  Oh, and the view from the respective rooms. Yeah.

The two hospitals
The two hospitals
The views from the rooms
The views from the rooms

Granted, the surgeries were very different.  Last year, Tim broke his leg on a Saturday morning and the surgery was finally scheduled for Thursday.  He got to wear his own clothes.  Well, that’s because no one told him any differently.  They took them off in the operating room.  A nurse and someone from Michelin (aka translator) went down with him. This year, it could all be scheduled in advance, so he just showed up that morning, showered and scrubbed his leg with antibacterial soap, put on his embroidered robe and head gear, and smiled his way into the day.  While he was in surgery, I waited in two rather remarkable waiting areas.  It was so nice that I didn’t have to smell urine or cigarettes at Matilda, nor did I have to see anyone’s tumor or the poking of said tumor.

Heading to surgery
Heading to surgery
Waiting areas
Waiting areas

Post surgery was difficult last March.  He’d had an epidural so he had to lie flat for hours afterwards.  And, as it turns out, the pain medication in China is equivalent to about 500mg of ibuprofen.  As the epidural wore off, things got tough.  There was some self medication, and my repeated requests to the nurse finally got him a shot of some sort.  You can see he was a little more cheerful the second time around, maybe because he got the rod and screws as a souvenir.

Lying around post surgery
Lying around post surgery

The bandages were dismal the first time around.  How many times did I have to ask for the bloody one to be changed not 1 hour after surgery?  They never did change the blanket.  At Matilda, a slightly different version.

Bandages post surgery
Bandages post surgery

Oh my goodness, I absolutely must show you the bathrooms!  A picture is worth a thousand disinfected words.

The hospital bathrooms
The hospital bathrooms

When the nurse came with a wheelchair to take him down to xray, I was speechless.  What?  Our driver and I don’t have to push him and his hospital bed through the cabbages and the parking garage and the throngs of people??  No, just a leisurely stroll to the elevator, a lovely hallway with the hand prints of children on the wall.  And outside the xray room, a hundred people staring, photographing and saying “hello”??  Ah, no, not so much.

Heading to xray
Heading to xray
A walk to the xray room
A walk to the xray room
Waiting outside for our turn at xray
Waiting outside for our turn at xray

After the 1st surgery, the doctor barely spoke to us despite his ability in English.  I’m sure our driver and any number of strangers in the hallway got a full explanation though.  You can guess what I’m going to say next…  Matilda was a different story.  The nurses gave me updates on the surgery and when he had been moved to recovery.  Dr. Kong came to let me know that everything had gone as expected, that if there were any problems to inform the nurse, and that he’d come in the next day to change the bandages himself.  Peace of mind.

Changing the bandages
Changing the bandages

Take note of the full supply cart that came with Dr. Kong and the nurse when they came to change the bandages at Matilda.  The Shengjing equivalent was the small wrapped pouch set on the bed.

Different versions of changing bandages
Different versions of changing bandages

The faint of heart should not look at the next slide.  We didn’t expect the Frankenstein stitches after the 1st surgery, but we were told it was normal.  Dr. Kong’s were smaller and more delicate.

Stitches
Stitches

When it came time to go, T couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Shengjing.  If we knew then what we know now…  Leaving Matilda was like leaving a nice hotel at the end of a short trip.

Leaving the hospitals
Leaving the hospitals

There were many things that were different, and we’ll chalk it all up to the “experience”.  Most of all, we’re just glad it is behind us, and we know better now.

A Visit from a Flat Friend

A beautiful little doll recently came to visit.  A 3rd grader we know read Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown, a book about a boy who is flattened by a bulletin board.  No worries.  He survives and makes the best of things by slipping under doors, flying like a kite, and visiting friends through the mail.  So PC’s flat, pink skirt-wearing friend came in the mail to us for some adventures in China.

She spent a couple of weeks in Shenyang, in the Liaoning Province of northeast China.  And because we had to make a special trip to Hong Kong (future blog entry), she flew all the way to the south of China for some fun there too.

I’ve mailed her back that 3rd grade class in Indiana, along with her journal, photos, some postcards and souvenirs for PC and her friends.  It was a pleasure.

Guo nian hao

I’m sure I don’t remember my first Lunar New Year celebration.  There had to be lanterns or lion dances or fireworks on the Monterey Peninsula or on a family visit to San Francisco.  The first one I really remember was in Singapore in 1992.  The Purdue “All-American” Marching Band was the first college marching band to appear in the Singapore Chingay Procession, and I was lucky enough to be a part of that esteemed group.

Living in China, we have seen all sorts of NY celebrations.  Fireworks and a parade with 20,000 of our closest friends in Hong Kong.  Hourly fireworks for weeks in Shenyang.  Tigers and rabbits and dragons and now, snakes.  Dumplings and oranges and fish, and more dumplings.

The Chinese New Year, also called Spring Festival (Chun Jie), is a time for families and friends to share meals, thanksgiving, conversation and time together.   The Festival is celebrated for 15 days, culminating with the Lantern Festival (Yuan Xiao Jie), the first full moon after the new year.  Tradition says fireworks and the color red scare away the ugly and ferocious nian monster, keeping away the bad luck.   Red lanterns and decorations adorn doorways and store fronts.

Oh, the superstitions.  You should clean your house on the days leading up to New Year’s Eve, but if you clean on NYE, you might sweep away the good luck coming with the new year.  Then something about sweeping dust inwards, not out the door, and take the trash out the back door.  One should not use bad or unlucky words.  Don’t wash your hair on NY day as you might wash away good luck.  If you cry on NY day, you will cry throughout the year.  And on and on.  Admittedly, people don’t truly believe all of the superstitions, but they still abide by many of them just in case.  And they respect their elders and their ancestors enough to respect their traditions.

May Shou the God of Longevity, Fu the God of Happiness and Good Luck, and Lu the God of Prosperity all visit you this Festival season and in the Year of the Snake.  Xin Nian Kuai Le (Happy New Year) and Guo Nian Hao (pass the year well).

Foggy Days in Hong Kong

We might make this trip a Chinese New Year tradition.  We spent the last week of January in Hong Kong; seeing the parade, eating great food, walking, visiting gardens, seeing pink dolphins, and more.

We stayed in a great hotel on Wellington Street in the heart of Central (http://www.butterflyhk.com) , steps away from a fresh food market on Peel and Graham Streets, and 7 minutes from an incredible diner where we enjoyed breakfast nearly every morning (http://www.the-flying-pan.com/).   Yes, we do like an American breakfast.  We enjoyed the bustling restaurants and bars in Lan Kwai Fong, the movie theatre at Pacific Place mall, a visit to the Man Mo Temple (dedicated to the Gods of Literature and War), and a rainy walk through Hong Kong Park.  For us, Hong Kong does not disappoint, and Central certainly does not either.

One aspect of Hong Kong that was new to us was The Escalator.  All roads between Queens Road and Conduit Road are linked by a 2600-feet long string of escalators; the longest covered outdoor escalator system in the world.  Why?  The elevation increases by 400 feet in half a mile.  That’s quite a bit of hiking.  The Escalator runs downhill from 6AM to 10AM, and uphill from 10:30AM to midnight.  Most of the buildings on the upper side are apartments and houses, so the morning hours allow for folks heading down the hill to work.  The rest of the day accommodates the tourists, then gets people home after work.  It was an interesting city sight, and also allowed us to visit Mosque Street and the Mid-Levels.  And got us back to our hotel a little easier after a big dinner.

We weren’t expecting the weather.  Last year for Chinese New Year, we wore long sleeved tshirts and enjoyed day after day of sunshine.  This year, it was coats and even an umbrella.  Standing on Nathan Road for the New Year Parade (at night) was quite chilly.  One day, we decided to visit Victoria Peak for a hike.  You can see by the pictures that our visibility was comical at times.  If Tim walked 10 feet ahead of me on the trail, he was nearly out of sight.   Still a nice hike on the Governor’s Walk and the Peak Circuit though.

A lot of other visits kept us busy during the week.  We took a trip down to Stanley again, on the south side of Hong Kong Island.  We saw pink dolphins in HK harbor.  We had a gorgeous visit to Nan Lian Garden and the Chi Lin Nunnery near the Diamond Hill area of Kowloon.  Originally built in 1934, the Nunnery was rebuilt in the 1990s using Tang style and traditional architecture.  The buildings we saw in this huge complex are wood frame and built with no iron nails!  For more info on these locations and more, visit the websites below.  And enjoy some photos.

Hong Kong – http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/

Mexican food in HK – Agave, 93-107 Lockhart Road.  El Coyote, across the street at 114-120 Lockhart Road.  Check them out at Trip Advisor.

Stanley –  http://www.hongkongextras.com/_STANLEY.html

Learn about protecting the pink dolphins – http://www.hkdolphinwatch.com/

Nan Lian Garden & Chi Lin Nunnery – http://www.nanliangarden.org/home.php?eng

http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/attractions/culture-chilin-nunnery.html

Hong Kong – China, but not really

We’ve been cold since December.  Winter at our latitude is harsh and long and cold.  There is no getting around that.  You put on your long johns and jeans, your Merrell boots, the Lands End warmest rated coat, and you suck it up. 

So, as we thought ahead to a trip for the Chinese New Year vacation scheduled for the beginning of February, we wanted to go somewhere warm.  We decided on Hong Kong.  After a slight rescheduling due to the flu, we were off.  And from now on, when people ask about Hong Kong, I will think about what’s it was like to stand on the street in the sun with a long sleeve tshirt on instead of layers of wind resistant clothing. What a beautiful first impression.

Most people know a little bit about Hong Kong’s history.  In the 1800s, the British wanted to continue their lucrative opium trade and blockaded many Chinese ports.  Part of the deal to resolve the Opium War was the British occupation of HK.  The Japanese occupied it for a few years during WWII as well.  With British influence, HK flourished in manufacturing, finance, retail and more.  In 1997, HK was handed back to China and the policy of “One country, two systems” began.   You see, HK is in China.  It is a Chinese city.  But it still maintains many of its own laws, its own currency, and some independence from central government rule.  (Books have been written about Hong Kong and the interesting history, so there is no need to go into it here.  You can view a time line of the last 100+ years at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/country_profiles/6349523.stm)

My Chinese teacher told me once that, in Hong Kong, some people speak Chinese, and everyone speaks English.  Tourists from all over Asia go there to shop. The international influence is remarkable.  In all of our travels over the years, never before had we been in a place where we couldn’t identify the languages and nationalities around us.  It was amazing.

We stayed on Hong Kong Island, across Victoria Harbor from Kowloon.  The city was sunny and warm, clean and quiet, big and modern.  We walked and rode the trolleys and buses.  We watched the lion dance at our hotel (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCwC2OtZHSA), symbolizing joy and happiness for the new year. We watched the New Year fireworks show at the harbor with 10,000 other people (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uCubqTF9C4).  We took a mini bus to Stanley on the southern tip of the island. We recovered from the flu.  We walked some more, took in the sunshine, and thought about when we would come back to Hong Kong.