Sights Unseen

Well, mainland China was really incredible. While much was left unseen, we took in quite a bit for only a week. I don’t know if I will ever have the chance to return, but I do hope so. Studying the people and business was like nothing I could have ever imagined. When you step off the plane in Hong Kong, it is nearly indistinguishable from stepping off a plane in the United States. Aside from the written language on the signs and the different faces, the only remaining thing is the language. Otherwise Hong Kong is like any other major city.

In fact, other than a quick currency exchange, my first task was to see if I could locate a power supply for my MacBook Air. Our hotel was one block from a 3-story Apple Store. No problem. I walked in as the store was opening, and my friends and I were directed toward the downstairs. I asked mike where the power converters were located and he took me right to the location for the Magnetic connected ones. I whipped out my phone, opened up my wallet and paid for the item, some 5800 HK Dollars via Apple Pay. It was as if I was at Jordan Creek.

Of course, it had the Hong Kong connector on it. I’ll have to swap that out when I return home.

The Arrival Card

Of course, when you are on your way by plane to a new country you are nearly always provided an arrival card for entry into the new country. Through my reading, I expected this. My only problem was that I forgot the name of the Hotel where we were staying. I’m not sure it mattered though. All of the important information was included, but the parts I was missing were filled in by some of my travel companions.

There was one night in Hong Kong that I felt comfortable enough to peel off from the rest of the group. My roommate for the trip succumbed to the flu mid-week. I wanted no part of that. Trusting that my flu shot was inoculation enough, I decided to take it easy and go for a short walk along the pier, hang out in the hotel bar and see if I could strike up a conversation with some fellow travelers. I did just that. It was a nice, quiet evening.

We had been warned to not drink the water in a foreign country. This was a warning that I heeded for the first several days without too much incident. As you become more comfortable, your guard goes down and this becomes more and more difficult. Several days of simply relaxing and following instructions had lulled me into a false sense of confidence, I think. I had a couple of glasses of wine in the hotel bar. It was a pinot. Very good. And it was inexpensive.

Now I’d been pretty good about asking for sparkling water and watching as it was poured from a bottle into a glass with no ice. This time, it completely slipped my mind. I went upstairs for dinner by myself, which was nice because I continued writing for a bit and enjoyed a small bowl of risotto and baked truffle potatoes that were to die for. I would almost be willing to bet that they were browned gently in duck fat and drizzled with truffle oil. They were amazing. The small potato melted in my mouth and simultaneously my mind flew to a pattern of ethereal thought like a cool breeze wisping across my face.

I finished dinner, then checked in on my roommate to see how he was doing. He replied on WhatsApp to indicate that he needed some sprite. I went down below the hotel to see what I could come up with. On a shelf, somewhere in the middle of the mall grocery I located the last 4 bottles of sprite and bought all of them. I figured they might be needed.

I felt a bit tired, decided to retire early, went back to the room, delivered the sprite, brushed teeth, laid down on the bed, and was out before my head hit the pillow. Nothing new here. It had been a long week.

A Fresh Start

When I woke the next morning, a relatively early start, I had breakfast, and hopped on yet another bus ride. No problems. Mike was to stay behind as to get some rest. I gave him some of my Tylenol to help control fever.

The ride was a little like warp speed through the streets of Hong Kong. Not necessarily because we traveled so far or fast, though it was really fast, but the back streets were so narrow. It was no telling where we were going, either. Even as the buildings began to blur together, I felt just a little like my stomach was about to protest. The first visit went off without a hitch—Standard Investments. I was happy to have identified the correct company for our presentation. One of our team was feeling it more than I. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him as he wretched in a plastic bag. I was impressed that the bag held. There was the inevitable seat swapping to put distance between my peers and him. We stopped for lunch. He seemed fine. No telling where he managed to get rid of the bag.

We had plenty of time for lunch. I quickly located a restroom. I’ll spare some of the details, but it was my first stomach grumbling, and I thought that it would pass quickly. I was wrong. Well, sort of wrong. I mean, it was quick. After my Coke Zero Lunch, I thought I was just not feeling hungry. There was another visit, then another, then before our next visit to Marriott, another. My body was in full surrender at this point. If I were wearing tighty whities, that flag would have been risen to full surrender.

It is at this moment that we had a fascinating visit at Marriott. I was feeling ok, if not just slightly dehydrated at this point. It seemed to go fast, though I have to admit there was a point at which I wondered if time didn’t slow down a bit. Several others retreated out the door to the back of the room. I couldn’t help but wonder if we weren’t all keeping the same secret.

The Descent and the Return

We descended several escalators, met together and then departed to the bus. I expected a whiff of the prior day activities, and there was none. The worst is likely over, then.

No. It was not. Unbeknownst to us we had to drop off our instructor at another hotel, presumably for a meeting. The brutal trip though the streets was like a trip through a war-ravaged countryside. Every bump, crack was felt deep within my gut. Memories of the earlier day came flooding back. I was not going to toss my cookies. Then It passed a bit. A little pain in my chest, but I had held it in. Like a man, I thought. Not 20 seconds later it came up further and I spit the remainder of my contents into an empty water bottle. Oh, better now. That should be it. Just about to the hotel. Ok, well, here we go again. Well, that is better.

I got off the bus and did not pass go. Right to the room, lost some more cookies and got into bed fully dressed, shoes and all. It would be a couple hours before I would get up, brush my teeth and take a shower. Long restroom visit. My roommate still lay asleep in the bed not 10 inches away. His lifeless body radiating heat into the room.

I changed and went back to bed.

Only after a couple more hours did I have this dream that an unseen force was knifing me in the gut. So distinct was the cramp that I lost control of bodily function, ran to the bathroom gave it my last go, and jumped in the shower with some clothes in hand. Yes, you can use hand sanitizer to launder clothes.

All I could think about was my poor roommate. If our friendship lasts this trip, then we will be friends forever. There are very few that I would call close friends. Those who have seen me at my very worst. My friend, Scott, who saw me in what he–to this day–describes as a loincloth just after knee surgery and loads of medication. Now, Mike, who has seen things no friend should ever see.

The next morning, we both bounced back as if nothing had ever happened. It was our last full day. Nothing else was said of it.

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