US vs HK
It’s such an interesting thing. We were able to spend about a month in the US. When we arrived, it was a bit of a shock because almost no one wore masks. My parents did in crowded places like when they picked us up in the airport. They are concerned about my brother and father getting COVID. Everyone else around us were completely over the whole COVID thing.
In Hong Kong, it would have been punishable by fines and such not to wear a mask. In the US, people gave you strange looks if you wore one.
I will say, for the first part of the trip, I was anti mask because I had been wearing one for 3 years. I was so sick of them. I understood why my parents wore them, but I couldn’t do it. It was so freeing to walk in and out of places with no mask on. Even my kids struggled a bit with this because they had become so ingrained into our daily route.
Though when we got to Disney, I saw the wisdom in it.
When we went to Disney, the kids and I wore masks on the plane and whenever we were indoors in a line.
When we got within a week of our departure, I made the kids and I wear them for fear of getting COVID and not being allowed to return to Hong Kong.
What if we got COVID in the US?
The rules were you had to have a infection letter. You had to wait 14 days from your initial positive. Then you needed a negative RAT test done by a medical professional within 24 hours of your flight to Hong Kong but also before starting your travel (tricky when you’re traveling for a long time).
This presents a problem in two ways.
The first is the flights. We had a hard enough time finding viable flights when we booked the trip. One set of flights had been completely cancelled. Another set of flights had to be cancelled because of the layover in Tokyo on the way home. You were required to fly out of Narita in less than 24 hours. Our layover was 26 hours. Additionally, overnight layovers were not allowed. So for a time, we didn’t think we were going to be able to get home because the flights were so messed up. Given our troubles just booking the return flights to begin with, trying to do that in a short amount of time would be almost impossible. For some reason, flights between the US and Hong Kong have just gotten worse and worse since the protests and COVID.
The second issue was the quarantine hotels. I had worked for months just to get the hotels I had. The rooms were almost nonexistent. Now add into that I needed 2 rooms, it becomes almost impossible. I was already spending $25k HKD (around $3k USD) on those rooms. There was the possibility that I would lose that money too depending on their cancellation policy.
Returning to work in time
Not getting home in time to start work was also terrifying. I am lucky because the head of my school is an amazing man who would work with us and understand everything. The policy in my company as a whole was if you’re not in Hong Kong in time for work, you could lose your job. My head of school though was always willing to work with us and understood the importance of getting home to see family.
I think he definitely understands because of the amount of teachers we’d lost due to COVID travel restrictions and the difficulty surrounding our ability to move in and out of Hong Kong. Many teachers moved on to other schools outside of the madness. Some chose to go home and work near family. Many regretted that they had to make that choice but saw no other option.
Upon getting out of quarantine, we were required to get PCR tests on day 9 and day 12.
This was a lot easier in Hong Kong than in the US (and cheaper… Or rather free).
There were community testing centres all over Hong Kong as well as mobile sites.
For day 9, I was able to make appointments at a mobile site near our home, but because it was T3 apparently it was closed. I sort of wish I had known that before we went, but it wasn’t too big of a deal because there was another place in Sha Tin. The unfortunate thing was we needed to take an Uber. The kids hadn’t brought Octopus cards because we were walking.
We were able to get the PCR tests in Sha Tin. The typhoon didn’t make it past a T3, so that was good.
Day 12 was over the weekend, so the mobile sites were closed (or at least they should have been).
We went back to the same community centre for the tests. We took the bus this time. Ha! The funny thing was there was a mobile specimen collection centre set up right outside the door of the community centre. I had gone up to ask if we needed to go there. I showed them my SMS, and they said no. Go inside.
To me, that’s really weird. Why have two right next to each other? There are many places that have so few? Neither was full or had a lot of people. Any of the times we had gone to this community centre, it has not been full. The only time we’ve had to wait in a long line was in the early days when they required everyone in the area around our school to get tested.
After this test, we were finally done with our quarantine madness. As long as we were negative, we were finished. I’m so grateful this whole experience was done.
Now we were able to return to (as close to) normal. We still had friends and coworkers in quarantine or on their way back. Luckily for them, the rules changed for the people who landed the day after we did.
Quarantine was now 3 nights with 4 days of home quarantine.