Monday, August 29, 2005

Kopan Diary - part 1

Kopan Diary
Austin>L.A.:My seat mate was a 28 year old HS teacher from the L.A. suburbs, very nervous and talkative. I talked her through the takeoff and she relaxed. She thinks she’s engaged to a teacher who is 13 years older than her (same difference as my wife and I) but her fiancĂ© doesn’t know yet. She was returning from Costa Rica where she’d enrolled in an immersion Spanish course and quit because “the people in San Jose weren’t very nice” It seemed to me as if she was “looking for love in all the wrong places” and frequently getting hurt. She told me about her 80 year old Dutch grandmother(who has been living in the U.S. since she was thirty something and how she wanted to visit Holland with her but Grandma was reluctant to travel. I told her about my 84 year old mother-in-law who was traveling alone to Hawaii and how she goes water skiing in Turkey every year. My companion asked me how old I was and was amazed. I told her about “The Story of Dorian Gray” and how we all age at the same rate but demonstrate it in different ways.

Hong Kong : Stopover in LA (6 hours) then on to Hong Kong via Cathay Pacific. 13 hours in the air. A long but not unpleasant flight. Most of the passengers were Asians. Americans are avoiding travel to Asia for several different reasons. Cabin attendants were “correct” but not cordial. Food was okay, definitely above the standards of the American air carriers (Delta, United etc.) but not up to Air France. I was in a middle row with a mother and her small child- very quiet and well behaved.

The new Hong Kong Airport opened on July 6, 1998 and the engineers not only had to build the largest passenger terminal on earth but a whole new island to house the airport with tunnels bridges and roadways 16 miles out at sea. Never the less, from inside the giant dome that houses the entire terminal, Hong Kong Airport looks like most other international hubs- L.A., Bangkok, Paris etc. It will soon be the gateway to the orient and China will take the lead in air transport just as it has already done in so many other areas.
The Chinese are rapidly becoming synonymous with international commerce. The way the French were to sex and romance and the Italians were to the “dolce vita”

It’s no accident that Confucius’ main focus was on ethics, in the same way that Jesus and Buddha concentrated on compassion. The Chinese have the business skills and determination but their aggressive, often ruthless tactics can lead them to almost vicious treatment of enemies and competitors. The airport offers a special opportunity to exploit customers. Most of the transactions are “one-time” situations and it must be a great temptation to try to “take the sucker for everything he’s got” An example would be my own experience with the “Nap shower facilities” at Hong Kong Airport. I paid $28.00 USD and was shown to a sleeping cubicle which was in an appropriately darkened, noise-proofed area. Almost as soon as I put my head on the pillow, the overhead lights went on and stayed on for the next hour and a half. I finally gave up trying to sleep and went to the showers where I discovered no hot water . When I dressed and complained to the manager, I was offered a slight shrug of the shoulders for my pain.

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