Back to Hong Kong — and this time, it’s personal

Note: This blog post also ran in the Society of Professional Journalism’s “Journalism and the World” blog. Click here to see the original post.

In three hours, the kids and I are leaving for Shanghai’s Pudong airport to catch a flight to Hong Kong. I was just in Hong Kong last week, but that was for a financial conference.

This week, it’s for vacation. It’s the second year in a row that I’m taking an actual vacation with the babies. We’re planning to spend a week at the beach, with maybe a day trip to Ocean World, their big amusement park. Last year, we went to the Hong Kong Disneyland.

I don’t normally take vacations – until last year, I couldn’t remember a vacation I’d been on — except for one trip to Florida’s Disney World when I was in college. I got sunstroke.

When I was in Russia, my idea of using up vacation days was a week at the Afghan border visiting the Russian border guards. I guess I’ve never felt that I needed a break from work. I loved my work. If I had free time, I would use it to do more work.

So now I schedule vacations. It’s hard. I have a hard time justifying spending the money. And of taking the time away from the office.

Also, I have a hard time saying no to assignments. This week, I’m going to be working on three stories while on my vacation, totalling somewhere around 4,000 to 5,000 words.

I borrowed the nice laptop from the office to take on the road with me and it immediately crashed. So I’m going to have to take the little itty bitty one without an ethernet jack — just a wireless modem. I hope I’m going to be able to use it somewhere. I forgot to call today and check which kind of connections the hotel had.

Maybe this is the excuse I need to buy a new — or newish — laptop. If I do, I’m getting a Mac.

These are the kinds of problems foreign correspondents have these days. When I was starting out, I wouldn’t even think of going on the road and expecting to be able to work and report on and file a story from some little island somewhere. I used to carry pencils instead of pens because they were more reliable. I used to carry a camera that required no batteries of any kind except for the light meter, and even that you could fake if your eye was good — or you took pictures at every conceivable setting. (My eye wasn’t that good. I did plenty of bracketing.)

Once, in Chechnya, I got to file by fax, and that was great. I didn’t have to dictate my story into the phone, yelling at the top of my lungs so that the editor could hear me. The actual phone line was secondary — he could have probably heard me by leaning out the window.

Tomorrow I will need to pick up some IP phone cards in Hong Kong — they’re a way to make really cheap international phone calls. My entire office lives on them here in Shanghai, and the quality is usually better than AT&T.

And I’ll be all set. Except for the lack of sleep part.

Oh, another editor just droped me a line … I’m also going to be working on the pet food poison story this week.

Okay, time to go get some sleep. Only two hours left until I leave for the airport.

Signing off in Shanghai – sleepily,