Our first cross-cultural experience happened just about 5 minutes after we exited our airplane into the Hong Kong airport. We had not yet reached immigration, customs or baggage claim. Leaving the plane we felt like we were in quite a fog. The boys managed to sleep quite a few hours but Abe and I well, not so much. As we walked down the corridor towards immigration an asian lady wearing a surgical mask began to walk towards us.
Now when Abe and I visited Hong Kong last summer for his interview with Cathay we saw quite a few locals wearing surgical masks. We saw people wearing them on the bus, in malls and in the park. I even saw one young lady wearing what looked like a handmade cloth surgical mask with a darling bird embroidered on it. I am not sure if this is a new ‘tradition’ or if this is something that asians here have done for a long time. To be sure people over here have suffered much in the way of different flu and disease outbreaks. In 2003 there was the outbreak of SARS and Bird Flu claimed lives in 2010 and 2011. All that to say I wasn’t alarmed that the women approaching us had on a surgical mask. It was what happened next that took me by surprise.
I was walking next to Graham our three year old. The woman continued to walk towards us but now more specifically towards Graham. She proceeded to lift her hand out to him which held what looked like some sort of laser gun. Before I could really even think she touched the tip of the ‘gun’ to his head, his forehead area. Startled and moving towards her now I said in a loud, stern voice, “Excuse me, what are you doing?” She spoke a few words in Chinese and then I managed to understand one English word, “temperature”. Abe had stopped walking and seemed to be aware of what was going on. Graham seemed unphased by it all. Abe motioned me forward and we proceeded on. She was doing what? Taking my son’s temperature? Strange…that was all I could think.
As we continued through the airport we saw a sign that read “temperature check”. I rested easy now believing more fully that it really wasn’t a strange radioactive/laser sort of weird ‘gun’ thing…but that it was just some kind of temporal thermometer. I still don’t know what they would have done if Graham had had a “temperature”. All I know is we weren’t detained or given our own surgical masks. This was one of my first reminders we definitely were in a new country.