Living in the heart of Hong Kong is like living in a big western city expect with fewer white or black people.   Sure, the signs are in Chinese, but they’re also in English.  The buildings might be taller and the city more densely populated, but Hong Kong reminds me of New York in many ways–a New York with British English, a busy harbor and people who shove you out of the way not to be confrontational, but because you are, in fact, in their way.

I welcome this change after prissy, preening Tokyo with its abundance of rules, regulations and  suicides.  Hell, I’d contemplate suicide too if I had to put up with all that pressure.  Who wouldn’t?

Hong Kong is all about rules when it comes to one thing: communicable disease.  After SARS, the city government doesn’t mess around when it comes to sickness.  In the current environment, you so much as sneeze and you might have a cop hosing you down.  Of course, we all thought we were fairly immune from Swine Flu.  I mean, it’s all the way over there in Mexico, and China is pretty strict about most things, including visiting foreigners.

We were passing the Metropark Hotel on Saturday morning when we noticed the crowds and television cameras.  My partner assumed they were just filming a movie so we crossed the street to avoid any unnecessary hassle.  But as we passed the hotel from across the busy road, we noticed many policemen, a couple of ambulances and hordes of curious onlookers.

“Must be a murder suicide.”  I said.

I love messing with my partner.  He is so easily spooked.

“Oh, I’m wrong.  It was a jumper.  I just saw the clothe draped over the body.”

My partner pretended not to want to look, but I saw him nervously glancing towards the front of the hotel.

When we passed the 7-11 (yes, there are 7-11s in Hong Kong) to pick up the FT, we saw the headline of the local paper.  The Swine Flu had not only managed to make it to Hong Kong, it managed to land a few blocks from our apartment building.  Yikes!

Suddenly my year-round tan and passionate nature were a liability.  What if the local authorities rounded up all Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, put us in some urine-drenched cell and threw away the key?  It could happen.

Later, I saw the pictures and video of all the guests hanging out their windows, waving at the cameras.  When I went by the hotel again today, I had my mobile camera ready in case some German woman with cabin fever started spitting at passersby.  Unfortunately, the police had blocked the perimeter of the hotel from access and the only person I saw in the hotel was some white guy talking on his cell phone.  On the line with Kristie Lu Stout, no doubt.