Monthly Archives: May 2010

CDotD: I Can’t Remember the Last Time I Heard an Airplane

I was just putzing around with some leisurely things (web surfing, writing a letter, organizing travel photos), when I heard a somewhat loud rumbling from outside.  I looked outside wondering what on Earth it was, and then thought — is that an airplane?  And that’s when it dawned on me that I have no idea when was the last time I’d heard an airplane flying overhead while in Hong Kong.  Isn’t that mad?

For the most part, I’ve lived on Hong Kong Island – from Wan Chai to Sheung Wan, and I am occasionally in Kowloon, and used to commute daily to the New Territories.  And I never heard an airplane overhead one time, it seems!

In New York, my ears were constantly assaulted with the sound or sight of an airplane overhead, especially in the Eastern part of Queens, between both major NYC airports, where we grew up.  So it was not until I heard what had now become a foreign sound that led me to take a strange pause.

Hong Kong International  Airport is definitely a busy one, especially with Hong Kong being a major hub of transport for many Asian cities and being the hub for Cathay Pacific.  And let’s not forget the old and tremendously dangerous Kai Tak Airport (just do a quick image search and you will find plenty of insane photos of planes flying dangerously close to apartment buildings!).  So how can I have not heard an airplane in so long that I didn’t immediately recognize the sound tonight??

I tried to do some research online to see if I was the only one to have ever noticed this, and it seems there are no other shocking realizations as to “airplane noise Hong Kong.”

What my brief research did reveal, however, is that Hong Kong is trying to do what it can to deal with noise pollution (which is still a relatively large problem overall; my biggest pet peeve being these giant air conditioners that buzz or hum loudly into alleyways or other nooks and crannies, especially where a lovely bar or restaurant might be tucked away!).

If you want even more specific data, well the Civil Aviation Department will proudly tell you what’s been done.  Looking at data listed for Mid-Levels, which is about as close to where I’ve been living all this time in HK, aircraft noise exceeding 75 dB only makes up for 0.10% of all detectable aircraft noise, with the huge majority being under 65 dB.

To give you some concept of how loud that is, check out this page on decibels (and hearing loss).  60-65 dB is the sound of laughter, and 75 dB is the sound of a dishwasher.  Incredible!

Clap Your Hands!

You (might) know the old grade school song — “If you’re happy and you know it…”?  The thing is, I think most people refuse happiness, or can’t imagine the possibility of being happy because they believe happiness is this other-worldly level of achievement, where everything is perfection.  And it might might just be that more of us are happy, yet we don’t know it.

When I was taking my visa-renewal holidays I met a fellow lone traveler, who, like me, left his home country (Greece) to live a new life in Asia.  He had recently taken Indonesia up as his home, where he has been building a boat, of all things.  We talked about all the amazing experiences we’ve had in the East, the people, the life.  I told him how happy I’d been, how I’d made a decision to finally stay put in Hong Kong, how I had a new apartment waiting to be organized, how I was far from a perfect life (can’t say how good an idea it is to expatriate to another country without a steady job or visa situation, after all), but I felt a contentedness in my soul.  I am happy.

He mentioned how this one time he was traveling in Brasil, he had met a man who was recounting tales as they journeyed on some long bus ride, and reminiscing about times in Colombia, or somewhere I can’t recall quite.  He said he’ll never forget the way this man described this time of his life — that he was happy then, but didn’t know it.

I think that’s the sad thing about life, especially for those of us from the “modern world”, who are jaded, and always wanting more and more material things.  We are so busy expecting and wanting, we don’t even realize that we are or can be happy!

Looking back at so many of my travels through places with so many poorer people, India, Thailand, Peru, Brazil, China… all so-called “third world nations,” I constantly saw people far less fortunate than I, and yet they were still smiling, still giving!  They are happy, and they know it!

I am happy and I know it, are you, do you? Have I become some kind of weird hippie/yupster in my time abroad?  I feel I appreciate more and more the wonders of just being, and I’ve come to judge or criticize so much less.  Simple things in life truly are the most beautiful.  In Bintan, after my chat with the lone traveler, I sat alone on the beach on my wooden deck chair underneath a full moon, just watching in sheer amazement at the simple beauty of the glistening moonlight reflecting in the waves of the ocean, relaxing to the sound of the water and the perfect breeze.

Still so much to do (obviously behind on blogging as usual), but just wanted to announce my happiness for the world to see, and hopefully get others to recognize their own happiness.  Really, you don’t need everything to be happy.