Now you tell me?

I just tried uploading a video to YouTube. Everything seems fine, I’m able to add descriptive comments and tags, etc. After 40 minutes of uploading, I try clicking the link to the video:

WTF YouTube

Seriously, WTF YouTube? Can’t tell me beforehand that the video is too long? Have to waste my time leaving my browser window open?

It seems everyday that with as many advances as we make in technology, there are still these little one-off idiotic things that still happen that make no sense.

Noticing the Differences

It’s been three weeks since the last update, and almost as long since we returned from Hong Kong. The last few days in Hong Kong were uneventful (save maybe for the start of Euro 2012), so nothing to update there. In the time since we’ve been back, it’s been nonstop cleaning and rearranging. Prior to leaving for Hong Kong, we moved out of our 1100 square-foot apartment back into my 121 square-foot bedroom at home, so you can imagine the amount of rearranging, donating, dumping, and cleaning we’ve been doing. It’s still pretty messy in the house, but at least the floor is visible now. Just have to take it a day at a time.

As such I haven’t really been out and about, haven’t really had a chance to absorb my experience in Hong Kong, haven’t really been able to notice the differences between life in Hong Kong and life in San Francisco. Today, I had an opportunity to do so.

Hygiene

Ever since the SARS epidemic in 2003, Hong Kongers have been very cognizant of hygiene and the threat of infectious diseases. You really see this everywhere you go. Signs point out that escalator handrails, in addition to having an anti-bacterial coating, are disinfected every hour. Plastic film covers elevator buttons. People use “public” communal chopsticks instead of their own when dining family-style.

Alcohol Rub

One of my favorites, though, is the touch-less bathroom. Walk away from the toilet or urinal and it flushes by itself. Place your hand under the faucet and the water starts running. Wave your fingers below the soap dispenser for a squirt of antibacterial soap. The first thing I noticed walking into a public restroom today was the pot of yellow urine that I had to manually flush away. I actually had to place my hand on the handle, push it, see the water trickle out, and then hold it down. What a noticeably different bathroom experience.

Naturally, not all the bathrooms in Hong Kong are automatic, but there were enough to get me to become accustomed to them. There are also an increasing number of automatic bathrooms here in the Bay Area, but I don’t think they will become the norm.

Traffic and Pedestrians

The traffic culture is also quite different. As a driver in San Francisco, you can expect people to suddenly walk out into the street and expect you to stop for them. In this situation it would behoove you to slow down and stop. As a driver in Hong Kong, you can be pretty reassured that you are the one in a dangerous, heavy machine and that people understand this and will not challenge you. No need to slow down. Jaywalkers know that they are taking their lives into their own hands.

Air Quality

We tend to take the Bay Area’s air quality for granted. One of the first things I noticed getting off the plane is how much easier the air is to breathe. Take a deep breath and the air just flows in and fills your lungs. It’s crisp. In Hong Kong, before we even start to talk about the pollution, we have the summer humidity to deal with. It’s just the nature of the beast. Add to that the added heat from air conditioner exhaust, the particulates from motor vehicles, and soot from Chinese factories, and taking a deep breath becomes a labored process.

Conveniences

Because of the density of population and the fast pace of life, there are a lot of conveniences in Hong Kong that I miss. In just a single block near our hotel, there were two supermarkets and three 7-Elevens, not to mention all the restaurants and mom-and-pop stores. More places are open late. There aren’t as many lines. One afternoon after we returned to San Francisco, we went to Safeway to buy some lunch. All we bought were a couple of salads and drinks. There were three registers open, and it took us 10 minutes to wait in line, just to buy those two things. At that moment I really missed Hong Kong.

Final Thought

At the end of the day, home is home, no matter where you are. You take the good with the bad. It can be hard, though, for people like me who have called multiple places home during my lifetime, especially when the multiple places are so different. It’s been a recurring theme, trying to balance the pluses and minuses of both places, and trying to balance them with each other. Which one is better? It’s hard to say. At this point in my life, I grow tired of living in the U.S., so it’s Hong Kong for me. I know I’ll miss aspects of life in San Francisco, but at the same time I’ll be getting away from the aspects that I don’t like. I’ve lived here for 23 years, and it’s finally time to switch it up.

A Unique Opportunity

Sunset

This thing we call life is a unique and rare opportunity. When I think about human life as compared with the age of the Earth or the age of the universe, I am amazed at the things we get to experience despite our insignificance. If we accept the Earth to be 4 billion years old, then my time on Earth is a fraction with 8 zeroes after the decimal point. If I remember my math right, that’s like comparing the width of a human hair with the height of Mount Everest. Insignificant indeed!

So, we are insignificant beings in the grand scheme of things, but by being alive we have the opportunity to experience so many great things. Imagine a photograph, an image of a moment in time captured in less than a second. You are in that photograph with your parents and siblings, and you are all smiling and happy. Think about how you felt at that very moment. As sentient beings we are able to replay that moment indefinitely in our minds, remembering how we felt, what we saw, even what we smelled.

A few minutes ago, I was sitting in this room, watching the sunset, feeling the breeze of the air conditioner blowing on me, reading previews of Euro 2012, and eating my dinner. I got to do all these things because I am alive. What a wonderful opportunity. What a moment to replay in the future.

In the past I have said that life is a joke. It is another perspective, and I would not say whether each perspective is right or wrong. Just like the universe, we are constantly changing as people, and as we are affected by external stimuli the way we see the world changes as well. Nonetheless, I think that if people maintained this idea that we are all insignificant, there just might be less conflict in the world, and everyone would get to enjoy this rare opportunity we call life.

Second Week Recap

Two days into our 3rd week here in Hong Kong, let’s recap our second week.

At the end of the last recap, I had written that we would continue enjoying ourselves. Alas, I must have jinxed us, because we spent half the week bedridden with fever and flu. I thought I must have caught dengue fever from a mosquito bite a few days prior.

The day started off fine. Around lunchtime I started feeling weak, and when it was time to enjoy high tea with my family I was barely hanging on. When tea was finally over, it was a nightmare trying to get back to the hotel because people were just getting off work; the subway and buses were packed and taxis were few and far between. It was hot. When we finally did get a taxi, it was a Kowloon taxi whose driver took the long way back. I collapsed into bed and sweated it out.

Miraculously, the next morning my fever was gone and I was feeling pretty normal. I had thought that it was going to be like the last time I had a fever when I was out for days. We went to Stanley in southern Hong Kong to enjoy some fresh air, figuring it would be good for our compromised respiratory systems.

Hawk
Fresh air, pristine water
Crabs
These crabs certainly like it here

Well, it didn’t work because the next day we were both feeling weak and had to sign out after lunchtime again. We ended up staying in the whole weekend.

When we were well again, we visited my Granny two days in a row. At this point in her life, she is no longer able to care for herself and lives in a senior home. Dementia has taken its toll and she can sometimes be moody, but she is always happy to see me.

Granny
Hi Granny!

Because it takes over an hour to get back to our hotel from Granny’s home and taking the subway entails a lot of walking to and from the train, we tried some alternative modes of transportation. We tried two different buses that go to the ferry pier across the harbor from our hotel, and then took the ferry back to our hotel. It was the first time we’ve taken this particular ferry, and it was quite pleasant.

Ferry
Watch out for traffic

Finally, the other highlight of the week is that we finally ate roast goose. Dip it in some plum sauce and then eat it with some rice, mmm!

Roast Goose
Delicious