Heric Rubio, a Calexico native, chef and a former music and news writer, is general manager of 11 Westside in Hong Kong, one of several restaurants owned by another famous Calexico native, chef Esdras Ochoa. | COURTESY PHOTO
IMPERIAL VALLEY — All right, Valle Impe, it’s time for some real talk, from someone who knows a thing or two.
This whole coronavirus situation has got the world in a tizzy. But especially in America.
People are worried, scared, frustrated, annoyed, tired, and just straight-up bored. People are losing jobs, and businesses are shutting down. Because America was not prepared.
It’s not your fault. You didn’t see this coming. And when you did hear about it, it was something that was happening on the other side of the world, a place that seemed like it could never affect you. But it’s a place that I know very well.
I moved to Hong Kong almost three years ago for a job opportunity. I had no idea what to expect, but it was certainly a foreign land with customs and traditions and practices that I had no idea existed. In that time, I’ve been through a number of experiences that have solidified my belief that the people of this city know what they’re doing. From surviving the largest typhoon Hong Kong has experienced, to going through the months of unrest and protests against government policies and police brutality, and now dealing with COVID-19; it’s been a ride.
And it’s that last experience I want to talk to you about.
Wearing a mask is annoying. I hate it. I’ve been doing it since January, and now that summer is coming, I’m dreading that covering on my face.
Being stuck indoors sucks. Especially when you live alone, and your friends and family are a 13-hour flight away.
Managing a restaurant that has to cut its seating by 50 percent and close down the bar is dreadful when you look at your bottom line and realize you have to let some employees go.
I get it.
But just yesterday, May 5, Hong Kong’s government announced that bars could re-open and restaurants could relax their seatings, albeit with certain regulations to ensure for safety.
And you know why? Because people followed the rules. They stayed indoors, bored out of their minds. They wore their masks, because it’s a common practice here when a person is sick in the slightest. They kept their distance. And they stayed patient.
Hong Kong was the first region to get hit with coronavirus outside of Mainland China. But after going through the SARS epidemic in 2003, where roughly 300 people died, Hong Kong was prepared and willing to take any measures necessary to prevent the same outcome.
They are a strong-willed people that will protest and speak their voice and make their demands heard when deemed necessary. This past summer saw months of violent protests, clashes with police, thousands of arrests, and a number of deaths. But they were fighting for their rights as a people.
Not for their right to go to the beach. Or get their hair cut. Or go to the bar.
America, you are young. You have much to experience and so much to learn. It’s a trying time in the country right now. Even before this, the people were divided because of a this … ugh … in the White House.
But I’m urging you, this isn’t about politics. This isn’t the Democrats or Republicans, or whomever or whatever name you want throw around.
This. Is. Real.
I’ve seen with my own two eyes. I’ve watched fully suited emergency medical technicians locking down buildings. I’ve seen people get angry at each other for not wearing a mask. The sacrifice that Hong Kong has made to prevent casualties, both physical and economic, was difficult. But they did it. And you know what came out of that?
I can go get a beer at a bar tonight. Yes, it’s been four months in the making, but tonight, it’s safe.
A native of Calexico, Heric Rubio, 35, has led a lot of lives, but they’ve always seemed to revolve around food. From working warehouses, to writing about the scene, and eventually working in food and beverage, it’s a lifestyle that he has always been drawn to; and one that led him to Hong Kong. He is now managing 11 Westside, a California-style Mexican restaurant in Hong Kong with a menu designed by another Calexico native, Chef Esdras Ochoa, of “The Final Table” fame on Netflix. Though he spends much of his time within the restaurant, his time in Hong Kong has shown him a different perspective of the world. A perspective that—through his words—will help open the eyes of his hometown.