“Chewing the Fat,” a Persecuted Sect and an Unexpected Fire Drill

Last night at about 9:30 Suzi and I were having a nice chat about the Balkans with a Croatian woman who had just come on in Hong Kong.  She was taking over as the leader of the “Road Scholar” group on board.  The conversation ranged from the Balkan wars to Yugo-pop.  We were standing at the photo counter and I was hoping Dejan would come by.  He is a ship’s photographer and his name plate calls him an “Inage Chaser.”  He had been a cameraman at Belgrade’s B92 TV before it was sold, changed name and became just another commercial TV station.  One of the great things about this cruise is the unexpected conversations you can have.

In the middle of a discussion about Laibach, an eighties Yugoslav rock band, the first stage emergency signal went off.  It is seven short and piercing blasts on the ships alarm signal followed by a long.  I think — I wasn’t exactly counting.  The sound is enough to part your hair and it left me with an adrenaline dump strong enough that I am sure I could have eaten shrimp without needing an epi-pen.

The officer of the watch came on mic to tell us that there had been an “incident” but to continue our activities.  A first stage alarm means that crew are alerted, there may be some curtailment of guest services but we are to go about our activities.  Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) conventions require a passenger emergency drill once a month on longer cruises and we had just had our drill yesterday, just before we sailed out of Hong Kong.

While we did not need to go to our cabin I suggested to Suzi that we go there.  After a similar incident on Prinsendam three years ago I had set up a personal protocol for these alerts.  Step one for me was to back up my computer onto pocketable media.  I had not backed up my Hong Kong pics.  I had also spent the sea day writing my impressions but had not yet posted them to the web.  I didn’t want to lose them.

On our way back to the room we smelled smoke coming from the outer deck.  I tried to pop out to the promenade to see what was happing but a security guy in a hard hat stopped me.  So we went to the cabin and started backing up.

As the backup was running the soothing British voice of Captain Jonathan Mercer came on assuring us that this was just a first stage alarm, a fire had been detected in the incinerator.  “You may think that there is where there is supposed to be a fire, but there is a bit more smoke than normal so we have our crews standing by, do not concern yourselves too much.”  He reminded us that this very morning “I exercised my crew in this type of incident.”  This morning he came on the PA telling us that we would hear a first stage alarm at around 9:30 AM.  He couldn’t tell us “exactly” when because they were setting off stage smoke somewhere on the ship and would have to wait for a smoke detector to detect it before sounding the alarm.  At the end of the exercise we heard the familiar announcement.  “This concludes the drill.  If you hear the alarm again please take it seriously.”  I took it seriously.

By the time the computer backup was finished Captain Jonathan came on and said that things were under control, we should not concern ourselves but go on with our activities.  At about 45 minutes after the initial alarm Captain Jonathan explained that a malfunctioning fan in the incinerator had caused smoke to be where it was not supposed to be.  We should continue to enjoy the evening or go to bed.

Easier for him to say, I was still on an adrenaline high so I posted two Hong Kong posts before retiring.  I also sent an email to the kids while on line.  Kevin wrote back.  “That tears it.  No more fires allowed in incinerators.”

I replied: “Yeah, they should ship their garbage to a Washington landfill like the rest of us.”

This is the last Hong Kong post.  I was thinking, if we had not had the lifeboat drill we would have probably sailed out early and missed the beautiful sunset, filtered through Hong Kong’s smog.

Below are some odd Hong Kong shots that do not fit into other posts.  The first is the Chinese shuttle bus that took us from the cruise terminal to town.  Note that the bus has taken a cue from the airlines and, although it is a normal sized bus, the seating is three abreast.

I first read this sign as “Chew Fat.”  Appropriate I suppose.  And if not fat, how about chicken feet or “Beef and Liberty.”  That was the name on a BBQ truck.

I wonder how many young people would recognize this first picture as a camera.  The second shot is an old Royal Mail Box, still siting in Chinese Hong Kong.  The third shot, well would you want to live or work in a Mega Box?

Falun Gong is a spiritual practice that is persecuted in China.  In Hong Kong religious liberty is guaranteed by the 50 year “One Country Two Systems” agreement with Great Britain.  But that does not stop the propaganda campaign against the group.  This display was at the Star Ferry.

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