#diveforpeace – Day 6 (last day)

The Dive Deck where we suited up 5X per day for 6 days.

The Dive Deck where we suited up 5X per day for 6 days.

#diveforpeace – Divers Log

It’s the last day on the boat. We’ll do two dives this morning and then back to the dock where we’ll have a barbecue lunch on the sun deck and then all go out for dinner on the town somewhere.

I wrote that as the day started and now we’re all off the boat. Here is what I’d say about this liveaboard:

There were lots of issues with the boat, but my Navy Dive Buddy tells me very boat just out of dry dock has issues.

This was just the beginning.

This was just the beginning.

We had one bad weather day that caused us to lose three dives (out of 27). To be honest, I think we were all relieved. It happened the day after we were all banged up pretty bad by the first Manta dive. The bar opened at 3pm and it turned out to be a day and night of great, crazy fun!

The Captain, while a really great guy, was on his last trip and was a tad disgruntled. He is a really cool guy but it was for sure time for him to move on, which he has and is now on a plane to Florida to upgrade his Captain’s license and reunite with his girlfriend. That’s nice.

 

Having said all that:

There were 10 divers on the boat, and we were all pretty much matched perfectly. In and out of the water with ease, no one got lost, no one had any issues. It really was a perfect group to dive with.

Everyone got along incredibly well and I think we all genuinely liked each other. No one complained about anything. Everyone went with the flow when things went wrong.

There were tons of laughs. A lot of teasing and joking. What can I say, everyone seemed happy each and every day.

The crew members were fantastic – I really do not know how they do it. They don’t get a day off and they do it all. They live on the boat and have to me “on” 5.5 days out of every week.

My Dive Buddy, Jason

My Dive Buddy, Jason

My dive buddy, Jason is Naval officer who lives on Oahu with his family. Such a nice guy and a perfect dive buddy. When you dive alone, it’s a bit of a crapshoot in terms of who you end up being paired with. This one couldn’t have been a better fit. We hung out today watching the Army-Navy game and thankfully his team won. When you finish a trip like this, there’s always a sad feeling. I miss the rhythm and flow of five-dive days, I miss being barefoot 24X7 with no makeup or hair done. You go from an amazing social, outdoors experience back to reality. So, it was nice to have a person to hang with as I make this transition.

My only regret is not heading home tonight. I called American Airlines but there’s no way for me to get out early, so I’ll have to make the best of another 24 hours of vacation; damn.

 

 

I am grateful for the chance to bond with strangers. From the amazing Captain Chris who fights for our oceans to Cherry Sue

Cherry Sue

Cherry Sue

whose likely a Trump supporter but is a wonderful person. I learned that although you may not agree with another’s point of view, there’s more to life than politics Sure, we all care for our own issues and sure we want to fight for what we think is right. But, intolerance is a sickness. I took a week off from politics and I must say, it felt great. I think I need to take a permanent break and post judiciously on topics that divide us. That will be my commitment beyond this week.

Tomorrow I head home and “dive” back into work. This trip should sustain me for a long time.

Hui Hou (until we meet again) Hawaii. Hui Hou my newfound friends.

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Tomorrow is “Back to Work Day”

Today marks the final day of my unemployed status. I’ve had the great luxury of not working while knowing that I have a new job waiting for me. On Monday, I will be joining Towers Watson where I’ll be able to pursue the work that I love. I’ve had an amazing 25-year career in management consulting; specifically focused on the people side of business. My personal mission is to help organizations become better places for people. See my other blog posts on this topic here.

As I wrote in this post, I left my last job because it really did not allow me to pursue my true passion and it was not a great fit for me, culturally. I had a very successful six-year run with my last company but, it was a company whose true passion and strength lies in technology and I got tired of the constant ebb and flow of support the work that I do. I’ve swung from pure HR consultancies (Hay, Watson Wyatt, now Towers Watson) to large integrated professional services firms (Ernst & Young and Capgemini) and both have their pluses and minuses. In the latter, there is a much larger playing field with relationships that extend outside the HR function (though to be frank, these relationships are primarily centered on the CIO). I think these companies afford more access to large-scale transformation engagements. The HR consultancies put me at the heart of the function whose job it is to tend to the people side of business. When the head of HR is strong and strategic, the engagements have been incredibly challenging and transformational. But sometimes, when confronted with the absence of a big picture view, the work can get pretty tactical. What I’d say is that regardless of the consulting category, pushing for meaningful investment in the people equation can often be difficult, but not impossible. I intend to round out what I call the final chapter of my career (let’s say 10 more years) working on making companies better places for humans.

My time off was consumed with a few things: total relaxation, physical and mental renewal, getting away from it all and enjoying the complete absence of stress and pressure. I am sad that it’s coming to an end but am also excited about getting back to a productive, stimulating work life. I’ve set a few principles for how I want to live my life:

• Go to be early, wake up early and get a good 7-8 hours of sleep
• Shut down electronic devices (except Kindle) between the hours of 8:30 am and 7:30 pm
• Spend three hours in the morning working out, doing yoga, walking, meditating, connecting on social media (not work) and getting ready
• Spend three hours in the evening before bed seeing friends, reading, writing, cooking and sometimes watching TV
• Show up at work with an attitude that includes kindness, compassion, collaboration and authenticity
• Spend my weekends connecting with friends and family, or just relaxing on my own
• Take quarterly vacations

In terms of my work, I hope to focus on the following:
• Be a mentor to new consultants and help them understand the fundamental principles of being an effective consultant
• Continue to be an advocate for gender equality in business
• Contribute my ideas through thought leadership and my own personal online presence
• Aim to be a strong advisor to my clients, helping them successfully create transformation
• Introduce a new notion of HR’s role which is to help their organizations adopt practices that extend beyond the bottom line, such as:
o Putting people and planet right up there with profit (The B Team)
o Adding a new definition of success beyone money and power — health and wellbeing (The Third Metric)
o Mindfulness such as Google’s (Search Inside Yourself)
• Live the notions above by helping my own organization adopt a more sustainable, humanistic approach to business

My break consisted of three parts. Part 1 was decompression. When Monday, March 3, 2014 rolled around, I woke up and didn’t have to go work. It took me about three weeks to shake off the feelings I had about what had happened to me. I spent that time sleeping, organizing my home and planning a trip of a lifetie. Part 2 involved five weeks on the road (read about that trip here), traveling around the world; I visited Hong Kong, Bali, Thailand, Singapore, Paris and Italy. It was fun, relaxing, and provided me with enough time out of New York to really think about the future and how I wanted it to play out. It was a time of complete self-indulgence and disconnection. Part 3 was four weeks at home before starting my new job. While I quite liked the stress-free feeling of having absolutely no responsibility, I started to get bored. I even got a little lazy. I worked out a lot, but I sort of ended up hanging out at home not doing much of anything. This weekend I was actually deeply bored. So, it’s Sunday now and tomorrow I have a 7:30 am car picking me up to take me to a sales meeting. I’ll be meeting my new colleagues, learning about the (somewhat) new firm I’ve joined and getting on-boarded.

I am so grateful for the time I’ve had and we all know the saying, “all good things must come to an end.” Well, my one an only extended break from work is now over. The next one I’ll have will be some form of semi-retirement. It will be a time of embarking on some totally new adventure; something that will not involve management consulting, going to an office and wearing a business suit.

Italians Love Love

Italy LoveIf you want to get something done fast in Italy threaten romance.  Perhaps the celebration of love and marriage depicted in the great Italian Renaissance artworks was the inspiration for my little white lie. A little white lie that got a few Italians moving! I’ve noticed at least here in Umbria, getting service is neither timely, nor immediate. On our first day with no power, the electrician just couldn’t come until the next day (it was a holiday) but luckily a few toggles of the old circuit breaker seemed to fix the problem. And when the washer broke down, we waited two days (another holiday) only to find out it needed to be replaced. Finally, I can’t even count the number of days our lunch consisted of cheese and salami as our US time zone appetites seemed to call for lunch right around what seems to be the Italian Siesta (2-7) when most places are closed.

So, when the Leonardo Da Vinci Airport Lost Baggage Department told me that Sam’s and Jill’s bags would probably arrive ‘sometime’ in the next 48 hours (after waiting nearly 36 hours), my imagination got the best of me and I unexpectedly heard myself telling them that that just would not work! I told them we had a wedding and that we needed those bags as fast as possible!  The minute that slipped out I thought, “Whoops, did I really just say that?” Yup, I did and it was too late to take it back.

It all started after at least ten fruitless phone calls with nothing but misinformation and confusion – the bags are in Rome, wait no they’re not, or they’re on the truck no, wait they are still in London. On the 11th call, I was connected to a lovely Italian lady who explained that my “anxiety” over our lost bags was really unfortunate but that by now, the bags had been handed to a driver and it was out of her control. It was when she was patiently explaining that her job was to just get the bags in a car, that my little scheme popped into my head.

When I heard “48 hours,” I blurted out, before thinking, “But we have a wedding!” She paused for a moment and then asked, “When is it?” and before I could answer, she answered for me, “Tomorrow, right?” I sheepishly responded, “Yes, tomorrow,” and she then immediately asked, “What time?” Before I could talk she said, “Probably 12:00.”  And so of course I said, “uh huh, yes noon tomorrow!”  Suddenly she seemed to come alive, passionately saying, “OK I will put a note in your record and I will call the driver myself right now!”  “Uh, OK, great, thanks,” I said all the while feeling a little bad but not much more hopeful.

With that done, we all piled into the car and headed to dinner and before we could even park, I got a call from the driver who seemed equally lively and engaged in the wedding excitement. I put him on speaker and the driver asked Sam and me, “What time is the wedding and when do you need the bags?”  We told him, “It’s at noon and so we need them by 10:30.”  He groaned a bit and said he wasn’t sure he could do that and so after a short but thoughtful pause, I told him that if he had the bags here by 11:30, we could make it work. He was very happy with that, ending the call with a robust “Ciao, I’ll see you at 11:30!” Things were surely looking up for Sam and Jill.

At 5:53 am the next day, my cell phone rang and it was the sleepy and rather irritated husband of the couple who manage the Villa. He told me a driver was outside with our bags. Huh? What? I could barely comprehend and only faintly knew where I was. I first wondered if I’d really slept that late. I peeked out the window and there he was, a big Italian guy outside the Villa gates with the sun barely starting to rise. Our elaborate plan to have Sam and Jill answer the door at 11:30 all dolled up, wearing their robes was obviously no longer needed. What I needed to do was to get downstairs and figure out how to let the guy in through the fortress-like gate. I found the little remote control thing, pressed about six buttons and finally the gate swung open. The guy literally ran the bags up and said something in Italian which I didn’t understand. I strongly suspect it had something to do with the joyous occasion and the aura of love buzzing around our sleepy little villa. Or, maybe he was laughing at me standing outside disheveled, barefoot and in my pajamas.

Steve, the Villa manager told me that the driver called him that morning and said, “They aren’t answering their phones and it’s urgent!” Urgent? Ha, that’s kind of funny and also makes me feel a little like a schmuck, making this poor soul drive through the night for a wedding that wasn’t really to be. After we all decided to stop feeling bad about our little white lie we realized how funny it is that had we not had the fictional wedding, we probably still would not have those bags. We just couldn’t get over how the idea of  love and marriage mobilized the Italians to do the nearly impossible – to get our bags to us in record time!

UPDATE: My little white lie just got littler. Yesterday Sam proposed to Jill and she said yes! So, there will be a wedding after all; not just on this trip!

Viva Italia!

My Journey: What I Did and How I Felt

me in parisHong Kong. Bali, Indonesia. Khao Lak, Thailand. Singapore. Paris, France.  Umbertide, Italy.

A passport with no more blank pages.

A weariness of packing and unpacking the same clothes over and over.

The knowledge that forever memories are being made and the great pleasure of not working.

This is my 5-week journey around the world.

I’m in Umbria now on the final leg, 10 nights in the gorgeous La Dolce Villa. We’ve planned wine tours, horseback riding and a cooking class but other than that, plans are fluid.

In a nutshell, this is what I’ve done on my trip:

  • Peered across Hong Kong Island (if only for a moment), through the dense fog that shrouded my 118th Floor hotel room
  • Got a flavor for the streets of Hong Kong on a five-hour walking tour
  • Saw the best and worst of Bali
  • Tried surfing, hated it and lost a diamond earring in the process
  • Shed the diamond earring, a gift from an old boyfriend, and shed some bad Karma
  • Dived one of the world’s most dangerous dive sites and survived
  • Realized the impact of my constant negative internal banter on my happiness and well-being
  • I got drenched in an open-air taxi in Khoa Lak, caught up in the Thai New Year that is celebrated in many ways, including dousing each other and anything that moves in as much water as possible
  • Met 25 amazing people on a live-aboard dive boat in the Similan Islands on the Andaman sea
  • Missed the Mantas, Whale Sharks and Mola Molas but got to see plenty of octopuses (or octupi), turtles, fish schools, coral landscape and other wonders of the sea
  • Visited the 2004 Khao Lak Tsunami memorial and dumped every US dollar in my wallet in the collection box
  • Experienced the amazing efficiency of Asian airports and airlines
  • Saw Singapore’s Marina Bay Hotel ‘s spectacular light show from my hotel balcony which was too outrageous to explain
  • Had a couple Singapore Slings at Raffel’s Long Bar
  • Dripped in sweat every time I stepped out into Singapore’s equatorial climate and learned to accept a perpetually sticky, sweaty state of being
  • Stopped for two nights in Paris and had dinner with an amazing former colleague and now friend
  • Walked the streets of Paris on a glorious Springtime day
  • Rented a car at Rome airport and drove (twice) to Umbertide
  • Settled into a 10-day villa experience in an old converted schoolhouse
  • Learned to live with bugs and little creatures – bees, flies, dragonflies, salamanders, spiders – who have in one way or another shared my lodgings.

Here’s what I felt:

  • A love for Hong Kong’s soaring beauty and sensed that I had met New York City’s long lost twin
  • Learned that noise is everywhere and that I need to get over my hyper-sensitivity
  • A connection with the reality that American self-centeredness holds us back from appreciating the greatness of other nations and cultures and realizing that, while great, we aren’t the best there is
  • A deep love for Asian people, culture and (real) food
  • Reminded of how much joy diving brings me because 70 feet below sea level is simply the only place on Earth where my mind stops
  • Disappointed by the paradox that Bali is – a dirty, chaotic paradise
  • Deeply saddened by the devastation of the 2004 Tsunami on Khao Lak, Thailand and realized that our 9/11, while different and incomparable, evokes a similar feeling of huge, unexplainable loss
  • Feeling compelled to leave a lot of my money behind in Bali and Thailand as I witnessed the dependence on tourism
  • Noticing that the ever-present open air temples (Hindu and Buddhist) in Bali and Thailand are a constant reminder of the power of faith
  • Experiencing the customer service culture of Asian airlines and tourist destinations and thinking it’s not simply a function of Ritz-Carlton caliber training, but is in some part, just how people are. Realizing this when I experienced the often forced kindness, snarky-ness and fake smiles of the middle-aged Western airport and airline staff
  • Deeply frustrated and a bit disgusted with the extreme inefficiency found in Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle and Leonardo Da Vinci airports when contrasted with Hong Kong, Denpasar, Bangkok, Singapore airports
  • The buzz-less effect of three diluted Singapore Slings at Raffels’ Long Bar and feeling like the ultimate tourist
  • The simultaneous relief and sadness of being back in the Western world and my comfort zone
  • The fun in connecting with others’ stories of personal transformation born out of adversity
  • The good feelings elicited by Paris’ Spring sun, air and fashion
  • The comforts of first class travel on my long-haul flights
  • The thrill of driving on Italy’s roads and the extreme satisfaction in the fact that Italians simply do NOT drive in the passing lane
  • Being with four twenty-somethings, feeling both old and wise and enjoying the opinions and insights of the younger generation
  • Listening to symphony of tree frogs, birds, crickets and other creatures who inhabit the beautiful hills of our Umbria Villa

It’s been great blogging and sharing my journey along the way!

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Getting It Right In Bali

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View from my room

I arrived after a flight delay (Hong Kong weather) only to face an hour-long immigration line. Hello Bali, so beautiful, so untamed and so darned friendly! And yes, there really is “Bali time,” and as a New Yorker this will take some gettin’ used to!

It all started with the immigration line. Imagine my shock, as a TSA conditioned- paranoid-American, when a uniformed airport security person spoke to me in that same sleazy voice NY airport gypsy cab drivers use when they say, “Taxi? taxi? taxxiiii?” This guy didn’t offer me a taxi but he did suggest that if I paid him $85.00 I could skip the long line. Confused and annoyed, I brushed him off saying, “I’m on vacation, and I’m in no hurry.” Well, after the first hour had passed, my indignation quickly turned to wishing I’d have slipped the officer the money. I put on some John Legend, chilled and checked out the other tourists – typically old and young, backpackers and honeymooners and everything in between. The only element missing seemed to be the wealthy since they probably forked over the eighty-five bucks.

Ketut, my driver from the Villa, met me. He gave me a friendly wave and pointed to the spot to meet him once I cleared customs. When I got there he was nowhere to be found. After being hustled by cab drivers, I finally had him paged. Poof, there he was again, a guy with huge smile and deep happiness in his eyes. I have a confession; I was hot, tired and a little flustered and so after the 25th taxi driver asked if I needed a ride, I snapped (think shoe department at Saks – more clerks than customers and they circle like vultures to make the sale). I raised my voice at one of the cabbies, saying, “No, I do NOT need a ride!”  His sarcastic response, “you are a really nice lady,” was a slap in the face. My behavior really bothered me. I read that the Balinese do not like conflict, anger or raised voices. And, there I went and did it. I don’t want to be that grumpy, angry New Yorker. I’m on the journey trying to loosen the tight strings of my high strung existence and when it got rough I reverted back to my old ways. Well, as they say, practice makes perfect.

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A photogenic Villa

Ketut then drove me to my villa. Oh vey the Bali roads – narrow, curvy and shoulderless – overrun by scooters whose invincible drivers don’t look before pulling out into traffic. Better than the worst New York cab ride! The Villa upgraded me to a two-bedroom sprawl with ornate furnishings and a large private pool. I first thought, “Wow!” but that quickly gave way to “oh shit.” 

This grand Villa had surely seen better days. Everything was old, run down and well worn. But, hey maybe things will be better in the light of a new day. I got to pick my bedroom and I chose the quaint upstairs one with the soaring ceilings and beautiful canopy. In my naiveté, of course I failed to realize that that high ceiling was a heat trap and that the pretty canopy was actually mosquito netting. As I sweat and swatted my way through that first night, I wondered what I’d gotten myself into.

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My sweet little room

I woke up on my first day and took a refreshing dive into the pool (after a nice fellow cleaned it for me) and ordered breakfast. I thought, “well this isn’t so bad after all.” But then the temperature soared and the only two places I could find comfort were either my little room or in the pool.  But even my room’s AC couldn’t ward off the heat. And if that wasn’t enough, I was soon introduced to my many housemates, discovering all the little creatures – lizards crawling on the walls, a crazy assortment of creepy bugs and black moths flitting about, brown frogs hiding under rugs and in crevasses. I literally jumped at the slightest little rustle or movement. The only creature I truly loved was the orange stray kitty that spent his day sleeping in the chandelier dripped outdoor dining room. He didn’t care much about me but seemed to enjoy having someone around. I know that Mother Nature is a big part of the Bali experience, but seriously!

On Day 2, I took a journey to the local supermarket to stock up on snacks and as my driver helped me with the bags, I asked him about the music and smoke coming from across the river that ran next to the Villa. He responded with great cheer, “it’s a cremation!” Call me crazy but that caught me off guard for just a moment. He pointed to the haze of smoke and said, “See, it is a cremation ceremony!” As I sat in my villa, seeing and tasting the smoke, I tried to understand how I felt about this. On the one hand, I was mortified at the thought of a burning corpse and on the other, I felt fortunate to be so close to a sacred Balinese ceremony. Here is what Wikipedia says about Bali funerals, called Ngaben.

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Ngaben ceremony

Cremation Ceremony, is a funeral ritual performed in Bali to send the deceased to the next life. The body of the deceased will be placed as if sleeping, and the family will continue to treat the deceased as sleeping. No tears are shed, because the deceased is only temporarily absent and will reincarnate or find final rest in Moksha (freeing from the reincarnation and death cycle).

The proper day of the ceremony is always a matter of consulting a specialist on ceremony days. On the day of the ceremony, the body of the deceased is placed inside a coffin. This coffin is placed inside a sarcophagus resembling a buffalo (Lembu) or in a temple structure (Wadah) made of papier-maché and wood. This sarcophagus is then borne to the cremation site in a procession, which is almost never walked in a straight line. This is done to confuse evil spirits and keep them away from the deceased.

The climax of a Ngaben is the burning of the sarcophagus containing the body of the deceased. The fire is viewed as necessary to free the spirit from the body and enable reincarnation.

Ngaben is not always immediately performed. For members of the elite castes, it is normal to perform the ritual individually for the deceased within three days. People of lower social classes opt for a more economic solution where they first bury the deceased, who is then cremated with the village’s other dead in a mass ceremony.

Wow, can you imagine a funeral where no one cries? Oh how I wish my Dad’s funeral was void of sadness. What a beautiful way to think about death. It’s just a short separation.

UPDATE: I’ve done further research and have learned that of course, the Balinese are sad at the loss of a loved one. This source jumps to the conclusion that just because of a belief in reincarnation, there is not sadness. I think that there is minimal outward expression of sorrow but as would be expected, Balinese feel deeply grief and mourning.

My second night was better, as I enjoyed a raging thunderstorm with pounding rooftop rain. But, then as Day 3 heated up (It reached 90 degrees by 11 am) I decided to call it quits.  I sat in my barely cool room and searched for a new hotel, called the front desk and explained my dilemma and was pleasantly surprised when they agreed to refund my unused deposit and drive me to a new location.  I think they all know that the Villa has seen its day and they explained that the weather was even hard for the locals. Apparently, they are in the midst of record-breaking heat! I think they sympathized with the older lady from New York City amid the jungle-like setting of the Villa.

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Kite flying on the beach

I booked at the Anantara Seyminak on the south shore of Bali. This place lacks the quaint charm of the Villa but it has air conditioning, ocean, yoga, great food and a more modern feel. My day today started with private yoga at 7am – fabulous – a long walk on the beach, breakfast and retreat to my balcony to read and write. It was an overcast day and very comfortable. I then headed out for an amazing swim in the ocean, surrounded by surfer wannabes. The real surfers where about 100 feet farther out, catching the big waves. The ocean was delightful with surf reminiscent of the East Coast US, but about 20 degrees warmer! A swim in the pool, a late lunch of fish tacos and then a fabulous Balinese massage! Yep, I’m really roughing it, searching deep inside myself – HA! No, to be serious, I have been crafting Chapter 2 of my journey to a better work and non-work life. That will come soon.

My week’s mapped out. Tomorrow I’ll be diving Nusa Pinida, supposedly a difficult dive that promises big animals! Tuesday I’m taking a tour of the island with Ketut, my Villa driver that will include Ubud. Wednesday it’s diving again at Tulamben on the northwest side of the island. Friday, I’ll be spending the day at a holistic spa where I’ll indulge in a range of Svaasthya Wellness treatments. Off days will be spent reading, relaxing, yoga, beach walking and writing at the hotel.

The people here are beautiful and ever so-laid back. I am planning to have much of that rub off on me before I go!

 

Selamat tidur, for now.

 

A Few Days in Hong Kong

I arrived in Hong Kong at 5:30 am last Monday, after what was a pretty turbulent flight. Apparently Hong Kong has had some of its worst rain in decades, a Black Storm according to the rating system. I chose the Ritz Carlton firstly because I got a great deal using points and secondly because it is the highest hotel in the world – sounded cool. I think the sun made an appearance once or twice for 2-3 seconds. All I saw what a shroud of white fog.


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My room was on the 117th floor, just one floor below the top. Fighting jet lag, I ended up spending a fair bit of time up here with nothing to look at outside. The 118th floor’s “highest bar in the world” was a sad place as I watched sheets of rain pour down the sides of the building’s peak. One time, from my room, I caught a rare glimpse of the spectacular vista of Victoria Harbor and Hong Kong Island. Sometimes, as I whiled away the hours reading on the 116th Club Floor the harsh glare of sunlight’s attempt to penetrate the fog gave me headache. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. However my dreams of a drop-dead view were thwarted by this unfortunate weather.

When I did venture out, I had to forego wearing the cute pink Chanel ballet flats purchased just for this leg of the journey and don the old sneakers. The air was thick with humidity, which made my skin prickly hot.

IMG_2392I took the Star Ferry over to Hong Kong and marched over to Hollywood Road. I poked my head into a few shops, dodging the constant construction and climbing hill after hill.  IMG_2391Once I’d had enough browsing, I headed up to catch the Peak Tram only to get there when the skies opened to the most incredible monsoon rain. I scurried back to the Star Ferry and went back to Tsim Sha Tsui where I ambled around a bit and ultimately hopped a cab back to the hotel. I was going to head up to the Ladies Market in Kowloon and then over to a tea shop that was recommended to me but, as the day wore on the weather only worsened. The thunderstorms raged well into the night. So, I enjoyed my dinner here at the hotel, which has two Michelin rated restaurants, enjoying tapas and other Cantonese specialties.

This city seems insane. It has a pace like New York, but it lacks the style and flair of New York. I overheard many conversations among locals and expats and was impressed by the nature of the discussions – always a world-view where the US is just made mentioned of, if at all. Sometimes I think Americans forget about the rest of the world. The Ritz was by no means a place to experience anything near the local culture; but I did get a glimpse of the global business that happens here.

One of the books I’m reading is Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and The End of a Stable Pacific, by Robert D. Kaplan. I’m about one-third of the way through and for those of you who know me well, it’s a pretty heavy book for my reading tastes. I always find books like this so much more interesting when I’m actually in the region that is the book’s subject. This one is fascinating and basically addresses the impact China’s rising power is having on the region, at a time when America’s is diminishing (though the US will always play a central role here). The author assures us that war is not imminent because no big moral or humanistic issue is at stake, aside from the last true communist hold-out, N. Korea. He describes China’s patient and quiet build-up of military power (especially Naval) and the less threatening but all too real response by neighboring countries. The fear is that, unless China faces an economic meltdown, the region will destabilize as China vies for its share of the much disputed territorial lines in the South China Sea and rich oil reserves they contain.  All of this territorial marking and military build up sheds light on why a coordinated effort in the search for MH370 has been so difficult.  I am sure the book’s messages are far more nuanced than I’ve described, but frankly, for me, what I really enjoy is the modern-day view of how these cultures have evolved as they move more toward capitalism and democracy.

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I also quite appreciate the geography lesson as I map my journey to Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore. Now it’s time for me to pack up and fly down to Bali. I actually didn’t love Hong Kong, but I think that’s because my time here was so short, the weather so abominable and my jet lag. I wasn’t really able to give it a chance. Hopefully next time I can spend more time here. Onward ho!