Monday, June 15, 2009

I have my own swine flu mask

Another Hong Kong trip (my 6th). It's giving my poor hands a chance to recover from two weeks of decorating work that they're completely unused to. The blisters and cuts are finally being erased away, while the general pain is starting to subside.

I'm here on my own and feeling more like Bill Murray in Lost in Translation than ever: I'm an insomniac, isolated giant. I've made no pretence at trying to come off British time, and simply stay awake all night, watching DVDs, like a sulky teenager. Some of my colleagues who came out here, have gone on about how great the night-life is - but that's not really my thing.

Introverts have a lot of internal resources to keep them going, so I'm 90% dealing with having no-one to talk to. I'm nearly finished the Zadie Smith book on Beauty, which appears to have shamelessly ripped off the plot of Howard's End (I think I may go out and buy that book afterwards). I take Zadie everywhere - she's especially useful in restaurants. None of the characters are especially likeable, but the writer is pretty observant - and there are some points of connection in the book that I can make regarding academia and social class. I've also been wearing headphones while outside. It helps cut down on the number of times hawkers try to sell you "copy watch", "fake Rolex" or "hand made suit sir". I like seeing how much westerners get angered by the continual pestering, and realising that six years ago, that was me. The trick is to give off no response at all, don't even acknowledge their presence and they usually stop immediately.

My life while here, has shrunk to a small number of streets, coffee shops and restaurants. I've done all of the touristy things on other trips, and it's less fun to sight see anyway when you're alone, so it's easier to stick to a routine. I had been wondering whether my hotel would be placed under lockdown due to Swine Flu. So far, apart from a few more people than usual wearing masks (and they love their masks in Hong Kong - I was given one at the airport but haven't put it on yet), there's not been much to report. Some schools have been closed, but everyone seems to be going about their lives as usual. June is the worst time of year to come to Hong Kong - it's notoriously humid outside, while indoors there is a distinction between "rich" places, that have air conditioniong (usually on too high so it's like being in a fridge) and "poor" places - often corridors or stairwells that don't get used much - which seem to have no oxygen and induce instant sweating. British weather isn't that bad really - rather like the British themselves - it's not very glamorous or extreme - but it very rarely becomes intolerable.


KAZ said...

Has the decorating given you muscles as well?

I forgave Zadie for the plot stealing (which I think she admitted) because I loved the book.

Thanks for the headphones tip.

Lubin said...

Kaz - we should start a book club..