I had hoped that this post would have: a) been a cheery overview of our new apartment complex, and b) happened two weeks ago. Instead, you will get an up-date on some of the “real-life” adventures that have been part of our settling in here in Hong Kong.
But first, we are aware of what happened in Ottawa today and Quebec earlier in the week. It is shocking to see footage of such a familiar place under siege like that. It must have been bizarre and frightening for the many people we know who were under lock-down, and I can imagine that Canadians are shaken. BTW, the story was on the front page of the South China Morning Post (SCMP) and got major play on local radio here in Hong Kong.
As for the political situation here, it is fascinating to observe how these protests, instigated by a desire for universal suffrage, are throwing into stark relief so many other issues affecting the city. There are massive economic inequalities here: 1.3 million people live below the poverty line (about 17% of the population) but there are lots of super-rich. The insane real estate prices and insanely unregulated rental prices mean that average people are squeezed, financially and literally; developers boast about the 185 sq ft apartments they are building. Hong Kong is no longer THE economic gateway to China; now you can go directly to China. The government is not perceived as representing the peoples’ interests, but rather to be representing Beijing’s interests to the people. I think these are just some of the factors behind the protests here.
I have noticed a huge absence of leadership in this entire affair – on all sides. There is no single voice speaking on behalf of the students, yet there are different approaches within the movement. The government, establishment and pan-democrats alike, have been disorganized and ineffective, unless they have dropped out of sight altogether. I think the legacy of all this will be heightened awareness of great divides, and the “politicization of a whole generation (the students)…the political leaders of tomorrow – or even today.” (SCMP, Oct 23)
Meanwhile, back at our castle in the sky, October has been really busy for both Paul and me. Paul is working like crazy. His project received a major boost last week and things are really starting to take off now. He’s excited and driven by that. I have also been working for a Canadian client and have tight deadlines on this contract which will take me to early November. But I would say most of my time these last few weeks has been dominated by navigating the systems, or trying to anyway.
I spent two days figuring out how to see a doctor here. There is a mix of public and private healthcare in Hong Kong. You can see a doctor for no charge at a public hospital (but wait all day or more), or you can see doctors in hospitals or in clinics and pay nominal to really high fees. I had to figure out what our medical coverage actually covered and how that related to the various costs I was learning about, then research different doctors recommended to me. It was a lot of work but in the end I had no trouble getting an appointment quickly, and I liked the doctor.
I have also spent a lot of time researching fitness clubs. In Ottawa, I belonged to a club where I had the privilege of working with an exceptional trainer in convivial classes with a core group of people who became my friends. I set out to find something similar (excepting the convivial friends bit). When I started factoring in travel time, transportation costs and club/trainer quality, I quickly realized I was in trouble. Plus, costs are two to three times what I paid in Ottawa. There is a fitness club in our complex, but you have to buy a membership at several thousand Canadian dollars for the whole club, meaning the restaurants, waterfall pool, tennis courts, climbing wall, karaoke rooms (yes, really), kids areas, etc. Everything you do then costs extra, so even if I was a member, I would still have to pay another fee for every fitness class. I have decided I have to address my fitness differently here, at least for now. I have a found a space in the complex where I’m doing my own workouts now, I’m swimming more and will take advantage of all those hiking trails.
We have spent an inordinate amount of time on computer and internet issues. Nothing has gone smoothly in this regard. Our building is 25 years old and it shows in the wiring and electrical. The internet installer had to come back three times; Paul spent DAYS working on the network, wireless connections, computer sharing, etc. It seemed that with every step forward, something would come undone and it was two steps back. We cannot seem to get out from under it. Whoever said computers would be time-saving devices didn’t factor in requirements to keep those systems running.
And then there are the services in this city… Our cell phone company, which gave us some grief soon after I got my phone, has done it again. They charged us for early termination of my cell phone contract CAD $1,000!! But we didn’t request the termination, nor did they cancel the phone. They admitted right away the error was with their system, but Paul still had to visit their offices three times where he yelled at them a lot (I wasn’t there, but he said I would have been proud). And here’s the kicker: it will take about six weeks for the credit to come through! It took them a nano-second to charge us in error but there has to be “an investigation” before they can credit us. I also changed our newspaper delivery from digital to print. (This subscription BTW costs me 50% more than my Ottawa Citizen subscription and it isn’t half the quality.) You would think they would just charge me the difference between the two subscriptions, but no. They had to cancel the digital subscription and create a new one. And guess how long it will take them to credit my account? Six to eight weeks!! Don’t let anyone tell you things move quickly here in Hong Kong. It just is not true.
All of this has taken a lot of my time and energy, hence the lateness of this post. As for the length, thank you for indulging me. I feel better now.