Sunday, April 4, 2010

Musings in Harbours - Hong Kong

I’m sitting in the library, my usual place these days, other than the cabin, during this time of reduced mobility.  We left Hong Kong at night, late, around eleven.  From the library windows I can see the lights of the city pass by.  We’re traveling so smoothly, and slowly, as we leave the area, that the lights along the shoreline and up the mountains seem to float past, like a gentle stream.  The lights go on and on, sometimes big buildings with names like Olympus and Toshiba lit up in enormous neon letters, sometimes smaller clusters of lights, or apartment buildings, or a brief dark patch, perhaps a park.

Hong Kong is very big, very beautiful, very smoggy, and the harbour is always busy.  I expected the harbour to look like it does in the movies, filled with junks with their red or brown sails fully out, but of course that’s ridiculous.  There’s no reason for a sailboat to have its sails unfurled this close to shore, in fact it would be dangerous.  There still was a great variety of ships, though, ferries, which were painted in bright colours and patterns; tugs, often pulling a barge of some sort.  Actually, for a while earlier today, there was a parade of tugs pulling barges that each had a big crane on it.  There are small power boats, fishing boats, tour boats, modern sailboats, and lots I didn’t recognize.  It was an engaging vista during the day, as I sat on the back deck on deck 8, always changing, never boring.  No junks, though.

Now we’ve left the bay.  The water is becoming rougher, her in unsheltered waters.  I can see an occasional shoreline far off, wearing its necklace of lights, but other than that there is only black.  I’m reflected in the window, the bottom of my cast, my other leg bent to support my laptop.  My eyes in the window look tired.

I went off the ship today, which was good.  I have more or less adapted to the fact I can’t do all the activities I’d planned for Asia, although at times thinking of what I’m missing makes me sad.  Most areas are too crowded, or there are many stairs, or it’s just too difficult for Melissa to push my chair because the street surface is too rough.

We went to a mall that is attached to the cruise ship terminal.  A very large, over 700 stores, very upscale, and very expensive mall.  Hong Kong, like Singapore, is an expensive place to live.  There is clearly a great deal of wealth in both cities, and they are said to both be wonderful places to live.  I assume that last comes with a caveat – wonderful if you can afford to live there.

I still get overwhelmed and over-stimulated way too easily.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’m lower down since I’m sitting in the wheelchair, or that I feel vulnerable since my foot with the cast is usually held out in front of me, since I still can’t easily bend the knee, and so it’s easy for other people, who are usually texting on their cell phones and so aren’t looking where they’re going, to bump into it.  Or that I have no control, usually someone is pushing me, although I am beginning to build up my triceps and so can wheel myself for longer stretches.

Melissa thinks my body gets overwhelmed because I get tired quickly, since most of my energy is going into healing.  I don’t see why my leg can’t take care of the healing while the rest of me does other things, but the fact remains that I can get very stressed much more easily than usual.  And I’ve never been a person who deals with crowds, noise, and lots of stimulation particularly well.

Blog readers have sometimes asked me if I am really as upbeat as I appear in my posts.  I guess the answer is – usually.  I don’t tend to post when I’m too tired or depressed, and so those moods don’t always transfer to the readers.  But even before breaking my ankle, there were down times.  Sometimes I get tired of having to be so cheerful and perky when I’m around guests, even though most of them are wonderful people.  There have been a large number of segment people on board recently, people who aren’t doing the whole world tour but are on board for maybe ten days.  They are different, it’s actually very interesting, as they are typical of people I’ve seen on shorter cruises.  They tend to be heavier, and spend a lot more time in the casino and bars.  They are also often louder, and much less pleasant.

On the whole, the round-the-world people are different, as I think I mentioned in an earlier post.  They are friendlier, because they tend to regard the ship as their home community for the four months.  They are kinder and more considerate.  There’s a sense of connection.  It’s not perfect, no group or time spent with strangers ever is, but it’s been pretty darn good.  There are, though, always people who like to find something to complain about.

Back to my upbeat mood – I truly do love what I’m doing.  The writing students are enthusiastic and they write interesting material and ask great questions.  And the book club has been a big hit.  It’s sometimes tough coming up with enough discussion questions, since most questions I find at the back of the book or online assume everyone has finished the book before discussing it.  The club readers all read at varying rates, and so I divide them into groups according to how much they’ve read, and come up with questions for the sections of the book they have finished.  But the discussions are always lively, and I tend to move from group to group, eavesdropping, adding a question of comment if the talk seems to be flagging, but it rarely is.  Sometimes fewer people than usual attend a meeting, and then we can discuss  in one big group, which I really enjoy, because even though it’s more difficult to make sure everyone, even the quieter ones, get a chance to speak, I get to fully participate in the discussion.

So yes, even with the limited mobility and the missed activities on shore, I am upbeat.  Most people are great, and they show their appreciation for what I do, which makes me very happy.  I think I’m doing a good job, but it sure helps to get outside affirmation.

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