IMR: 1999: May: 19 —  Wednesday, 11:01 p.m. (HK)
Room 1529, Harbor Rennaisance Hotel, Wanchai, Hong Kong, China

So now it's over. The International General Meeting at least, but fortunately not the Hong Kong trip.

The Hawai`i Luncheon went well. We pulled four tables at the last minute, and the guesstimate right on the money -- all 320 or so remaining seats were filled. A far cry from the 550 originally planned for, but considering some of yesterday's main plenary sessions had fewer than 50 attendees, we did quite nicely.

The room was decked out with fabulous floral arrangements to match the flown-in tropical tablecloths and the live band was playing up a storm. (Touristy stuff, sadly — "Tiny Bubbles" and the like.) The gourmet island lunch was a tremendous success, especially after the only mediocre food served by the convention center caterers over the last few days.

The governor was at his diplomatic and yet charming and joking best, actually getting some chuckles out of what has to be among the stiffest crowds around.

When delegates were heading out to the afternoon sessions, some called out "Aloha!" I think we made an impression.

The office is packed up. The computer vendors the conference company hired actually showed up only a couple of hours after the closing, ripping the computers, printers, cables and plugs out of there faster than Beverly Hills burglars. What was once a bustling hub of activity looks now like a deserted town after a tornado, papers, boxes, glossy brochures and crumpled PostIt notes everywhere.

[ Happy Valley ]Tonight, to mark the end of the meeting, everyone was bussed to the Happy Valley racetrack. It's an enormous facility, and even tonight, in the middle of the work week, it was packed to the gills. It was the closest our members would come to the everyday rabble, and when we were forced to stand in line out on the sidewalk to get in, some seemed positively petrified.

Fortunately the Chamber of Commerce had arranged for us to have a private box, although "small ballroom" would be a more apt description. We had our own betting windows, dozens of video monitors and a top-notch buffet.

[ Race ]Races were run every half hour, so at the signal that came like clockwork, everyone would place their bets and file outside to watch. Our gaggle of suits and gowns were considerally less energetic than the people over in the bleachers.

Yes, I did wager, starting with a paltry HK$10 (US$1.31) because I still couldn't stop thinking in American dollars. After getting a disgusted look from the bet-taker, I progressed to HK$20 and finally HK$70 on the last race. (With our members betting HK$10,000 and up, I was still very small potatoes.)

I lost every single race. None of my picks even placed. I suspect I'd have done better if the names of the horses were translated; for all I know my number 7 was "Future Hamburger."

It was fun, and I can see how addicting it can be. But to me, it was just horribly frustrating. I would have derived more entertainment for my money by throwing my US$30 off the top of a building.

I was on the first bus back to the hotel. I wanted the era of suits and ties to be over as soon as possible.

It's the first time I'm in this $200-per-night room before midnight. I'm listing to the "Hackers" soundtrack, and realizing it's the first music (save Kenny G, which played incessantly in the convention center) I've heard in nearly a week.

We're on our own from now on, the hotel room being the only thing staying on the company tab. We won't be living the high life any more, but still I'm looking forward to it more than I could possibly say.

Tomorrow is our "random wandering" day. David and Anne want me to go with them to shop for a digital camera. Maybe we'll see the famous Victoria Peak, or take the Star Ferry to Kowloon. We might get about to see lots of things, or lounge around one place for the entire afternoon.

God bless the miscommunication between our office and the meeting planners. If it weren't for their minor slip-up, we'd be on a plane to Narita in six hours.

The students volunteering at the meeting also offered to take us around town on Friday, so we're looking forward to that. It'll be great to see what the people who live here think is worth seeing.

Unlike the last meeting in L.A. — no downtime, the staff flown out the morning after it ended — here I have a chance to really enjoy myself.

I cried in the office today.

I had gotten a sweet e-mail note from Jen. But behind the mushy stuff and tales of fun, the only message that blinked at me on the screen was, "Katie is growing up without you."

She sleeps in a bed by herself. She can get down off the bed by herself. She grabs books and brings them to Jen for her to read. She's saying more words and standing more steadily.

She doesn't sound at all like the little baby I put on an airplane last Tuesday.

Freefalling, mindblowing epihanies like that really put things in perspective. Even after yesterday's exhilirating trip on the chairman's boat, even with the chance we have to explore the city tomorrow and Friday, the one thing I would positively give anything to see are the simplest things Katie has learned to do since I've been away.

I'm so exhausted I don't know whether it was a nightmare or a passing dark daydream, or even when I had it. But I know I saw in my mind this week how I most fear our reunion will go. I joke that Katie might run down the jetway to see me, but I wonder if, possibly, she might instead forget me altogether? What if, possibly, she gives me a blank stare and then starts screaming when I pick her up?

Tonight I wish I had my wife and daughter by my side. I miss Jen's eyes and kisses, and Katie's cute everything. I wouldn't even mind getting that sudden little toe jabbed up my nose at three in the morning.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 17 May 1999 · Last Modified: 29 May 1999