I have to start off by saying that I’m not what you would call a world traveller. I’ve led a pretty sheltered life for the most part and until recently my only big trip abroad was going to Auckland, New Zealand in 1990 to watch the Commonwealth Games (thanks Mickey!). Although I absolutely loved New Zealand, that long trip was the nail in the coffin for my fear of flying. I didn’t really fly again until 7 years later when I flew to England for the first time to meet Al for the first time (my husband…..and I flew by myself – that MUST have been love!).
Fast forward to 2007 when I made my first trip as Assistant Team Leader for the Pan American Games in Rio. A 3 hour trip to Miami followed by an 8 hour trip to Rio. The bad news is that I spent about 1/ 2 of that time in the airplane bathroom. The good news is that because I was so sick, I couldn’t focus as easily on being afraid.
Fast forward to this year, and it’s the Olympic Games in Hong Kong. A 15 1/2 hour flight! Good news is that I wasn’t sick this time ’round (much to Mike’s relief I’m sure since he was my travel buddy). Bad news is that the seats were so crammed it made sleeping next to impossible.
So now I’ve been in Hong Kong for a 12 days, and I’ve really noticed the differences in Asian culture as opposed to North America – even in my limited environment which has consisted up until now the Media hotel, Olympic Village, Venue and the mall (yes, the mall…..need to buy a phone? I’m your man. Want to get something for the kids? That’s on the bottom level but you need to take the escalators to the rear of the mall. Marks & Spencers more your cup of tea? Level 3 is where you want to be).
People in Hong Kong love to shop. I mean they REALLY love to shop. Try shopping on a Sunday and it’s standing room only. Still not convinced? Today there is a Level 8 Typhoon warning…..the weather is wicked and the mall is closed. Correction, the stores in the mall are closed. The mall itself is open and the food courts are open. And the place is packed!! It’s quite something.
Lesson # 2 I learned…..there is no such thing as friends when it comes to the elevators. It’s a dog eat dog world and unless you’ve got an hour or two to kill, you learn to forget being polite and make a run for it. At the media hotel where I’m staying, they are doing renovations and 1/2 of the elevators aren’t working. That isn’t so much a problem in the middle of the day – but good luck in the mornings and evenings. I made the mistake of assuming that things are like at home where you wait for the elevator; when it arrives, you wait for the people already on the elevator to leave; then you get on the elevator in an orderly fashion with those who have been waiting the longest being first. So there I’m standing with quite a large crowd of people, and I’m noticing that some people are moving to stand in front of one elevator then moving to another. I realize that they are watching the floor number change and trying to guess which elevator will arrive first. Elevator arrives, and I wait for the people on it to leave. What ends up happening is that there’s a mad push of people for that elevator to get on. How the existing elevator people managed to get off I have no idea. Ok, I’ll wait for the next one. Next one arrives, and bam! People who literally just arrived to catch an elevator barge through the rest of us who have been patiently waiting. I miss that one too, but notice a pattern developing. I also notice that the majority of us who missed the elevator are wearing Olympic accreditation passes and are not from Hong Kong. Ok, I can be taught. I now join the people who are scanning the elevator numbers waiting for the next one. I move from one elevator to the next and manage to get up to the opening doors. The doors open completely and I ignore every fibre in my body to wait for the people to get off the elevator….I just keep walking. Success! I’m on. Jammed in like a sardine mind you but I’m on. 30 mins after first approaching the elevators, I am finally on my way to my room having learned a valuable lesson with a voice in my head saying “Dorothy – this sure ain’t Kansas no more”.