Saturday, September 16, 2006

Hong Kong stinks

"What's wrong with the sky?" the child of one of my Hong Kong friends asked on a recent visit to the US. She replied that outside China, the sky is usually blue.
Hong Kong on a good day is still beautiful.
But most days here are not good days any more.
Ok I admit it, Hong Kong pollution has beaten me. As much as I love the place, I can't ignore the toxic smog. Today is white grey, with the Kowloon mountains and most of the harbour hidden by fumes.
I shudder and reach for my inhaler.
I have spent more than two weeks in the last two months in a ward in a private hospital, hooked up to a slow drip. I came back from Malaysia with lungs darkened by the smoke from the forest fires across the straits in Indonesia, where criminal magnates are clearing land.
But Hong Kong's lethal mix of power station stench, motor fumes and factory stink almost finished me off. A crisp youngish pulmonary specialist, gave me the once over with a stethoscope, and packed me off to hospital for a crash course in intravenous antibiotics. At first it wasn't too bad. I was really there so they could monitor the drug impacts.
People fed me and washed my clothes. They let me out in the afternoon and evenings to walk around the Peak . In between, I could lounge in my own room watching CNN or using broadband. I asked one of the nurses whether this was what being married was like.
She said not.
After a week, even the novelty of having Nuns pray for me started to wear off.
They let me out for indifferent behaviour. But within a week the condition returned and I was re-admitted. This time it was not so much fun. The drug doses were increased, building up to a twelve hour infusion. My veins started to resist and began to swell and hurt. When I was on the point of passing out from drug overload, the doctor called off the infusions.
It took me about a week to get over from the second hospital term. I am not sure whether my long suffering travel insurance company will ever recover. The good Christian hospital where I lodged, wanted cash in advance and lots of it.
I won't be back for a while. I've been offered good jobs here, some of which I have hankered after for a decade. But I won't be taking them.
A Hong Kong think tank reported recently that if the Hong Kong government acted now, air pollution would improve by 2010. It's not soon enough for me.
Next week, I leave for Australia, where the minds may be smaller, but at least the air is clean.