Fffswtthiine phfluuh

Oh, sorry, you couldn't hear that from behind my mask? Just a quick note to say hello from the land of the super-prepared. I know that people and governments all over the world are making plans and trying to get on top of this swine flu situation, but we are realizing how deep and strong SARS is in the cultural memory here. We've seen the legacy of SARS ever since we moved to Hong Kong--hourly disinfecting of lift buttons and escalator handrails (and signs posted telling you this!), the disapproval we get when we let Finn put toys or even (gasp!) his fingers in his mouth. And we've heard stories about what an awful time it was--everyone wearing masks, eerily vacant malls and restaurants, weddings and other events postponed.

But we still have been a bit taken aback at the level of concern this threat is generating: notices going out from our apartment building, both assuring us of the staff's increased vigilance and reminding us to keep things hygenic. The playrooms Finn and I frequent have certainly been quieter this week. We've noticed a slight increase in the number of people wearing masks around town (though Hong Kongers do this all year round, even when they just have a cold--another SARS legacy) but we mainly have seen the queues at the pharmacies for masks, antiseptic gel and flu medicines. People are stocking up, and pharmacies are running low. We were also surprised at the announcement today that if even one case of swine flu is confirmed anywhere in HK, all schools will be shut down. 

Last fall we heard about a case of bubonic plague in Burma, and I remember telling my parents that the instant there were any cases of the plague found in HK, Finn and I were coming home. Now it's hard to know where would be the safer place--Kansas had confirmed cases last week, after all. But though Hong Kong certainly has the systems set up to handle this, it's also virtually impossible to avoid contact with others, as densely populated as this city is. Virtually impossible, and entirely unpleasant--I can't imagine how we would keep Finn entertained if we couldn't go to the playrooms and  playgrounds that give him space to move, explore and play. This flat would start to feel awfully small if we couldn't get out .... I'm praying it doesn't come to that, and if it does, well, I guess you'll find us at the beach!                    

ps--of interest to some of you: we posted new pictures from Matt's Spring Break over on flickr. Lunch on a beach, the Big Buddha, gymboree ... good times. 


mndendi said...

Dearest Finn, Ooo, wow! A fantastic couple of words for the sights you are taking in. Brilliant. Love, Meredith

mightymarce said...

Our Gymboree play classes have been quite a bit emptier lately, and someone even mentioned not being able to find hand sanitizer at the store b/c they were out.

I guess it's still officially too early to tell, but it seems that this swine flu isn't as bad as people originally thought (might basically be about on par with the regular flu). It also seems like the virus responds very well to medicine if taken within the first few days of symptoms showing up. So I'm not very worried about it.