Monday, March 22, 2010

Indoor Time

Generally, we spend more time indoors here in Hong Kong than we did in the states. Of course, we have great hikes and lovely beaches and we use them frequently but we are still inside a lot. The reasons for this are many. First, we live in an apartment without ready access to a yard. The kids all have swings and things hanging from their bedroom ceilings so they are active inside but it is still inside. I well remember the days when we first moved here and Adam used to wake up and run laps around the apartment. Secondly, there is air-conditioning inside and much of the year we need it. We have all adjusted to the humidity in Hong Kong but you do need an air conditioned break from it from time to time.

This week there has been another factor in keeping us inside; the poor air quality outside. Hong Kong monitors their air pollution, collects data on this and publishes a daily Air Pollution Index. Air quality varies greatly all over Hong Kong, particularly for traffic congested roadsides to the ocean side spots like where we live. Much like in California, these API numbers are well known here, part of daily conversation. When the API is over 100, this is considered high and children with respiratory issues are kept inside at recess. In our many years in Hong Kong, the API has only been over 100 a handful of times but to my mind that is already too many times.

Yesterday, most of Hong Kong posted API numbers over 400. The air was not only polluted but also contained suspended particle matter. Apparently, the sandstorms in Beijing are now blowing down to Hong Kong and Taiwan. Recent sandstorms there have been linked to desertification in Inner Mongolia as well as the usual suspects of traffic and industrial pollution. With the air quality over 200 classified as “severe,” yesterday’s (and so far today’s) API caused the government to cancel outdoor recess time and all afterschool activities. We spent a quiet afternoon inside reading and coloring and listening to the foghorns of cargo ships bellow through the pollution induced haze.

Though not directly linked to recent pollution, we all did an interesting indoor activity this weekend. The kids had their first ever ski lessons inside, in downtown Wan Chai to be exact, one of the busiest shopping areas of Hong Kong. We walked into a regular looking office building and quickly found a small room with sloped revolving tract of white carpet. The kids loved it. Tori quickly learned the necessary skills and was soon skiing down nonchalantly with her hands in her pockets. The twins struggled a little longer but they too were able to get down and up the “slope” as well. Who knows but maybe even the great outdoors will be next?

At school yesterday, Adam’s class wrote letters to the Hong Kong government asking them to clean up the air for the next generation. We asked Adam what he wrote. He wrote Dear Sir or Madam, Please clean up the air for me. I am a boy in Hong Kong. I like to run and play. I like to breath. He told me he signed the letter not with his usual ending of Love, Adam but with the more severe Sincerely, Adam. For sweet Adam, that is really sticking it to them and I was proud.


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