Monday, November 05, 2012

Sandy in China

When something as horrible as Hurricane Sandy happens—and out of necessity you become inwardly focused—you wonder if anyone outside of your immediate area can really relate to what’s happening and the impact it has, whether lack of power, heat or hot water; closed schools; closed businesses; being disoriented in a shelter; long (possibly fruitless) gas lines; or the ongoing search for food. As many as 40,000 people have become homeless in the wake of this storm, according to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
You tend to believe that anyone in the U.S. would understand, but when Katrina occurred a few years ago, few outside of New Orleans could relate to the devastation that occurred there, despite the extensive news coverage, until they met people who actually lived it.

My wife and I were in China during this horrific storm and, yes, some of the people in China asked about how we were faring following Hurricane Sandy…among them some of the Chinese professional staff in our hotels, other Chinese we encountered, as well as other Americans we met while traveling in multiple cities in this huge country. It was heartening that those on a distant continent were concerned.

We got most of our news through CNN and there was Hurricane Sandy coverage in the English Chinese dailies (and we assume in the Chinese newspapers), but even we could not relate to it the devastation on a granular level until our return—hearing the individual stories shared by friends and associates…the stories of how they were coping (e.g., showering at health clubs, sharing hard-to-find heaters among families, using the floor of a bank lobby as an office because of power access, sleeping at friends’ homes who did have heat. And the list goes on.)

Because of the lack of public transportation, many people at Makovsky were trapped in their respective home communities or in other U.S. cities where they had traveled prior to the storm, but however they could, they carried on: working from their homes, accessing power at commercial operations such as Starbucks and communicating via a Webex program set up by our IT folks so we could continue to service our clients, whose understanding we appreciate. This week did not get away from us. Progress continued.

Communications during such times are challenging, but we improvise and make it through. A communications bonus is knowing that others care.

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