Not My Brother’s YMCA

I’m looking out the 9th floor window of the Salisbury Street (downtown) YMCA in Hong Kong. Actually, I’m in Kowloon, all part of the territory so proudly reclaimed by mainland China in 1997 from the British, but Kowloon is the part attached to the mainland. The black and silver, soaring, hugely titled buildings — Panasonic, Olympus, Epson — across the harbour are on Hong Kong Island, along with Kowloon the densely populated, high-rising part of the “New Territories” of HK. (By the way, in Mandarin the newly returned “Special Administrative Region (SAR)” is known as Qiang Kang, “Fragrant Harbour”. It looks reasonably fragrant on this bright afternoon.)

It’s a city that works, that is remarkably clean, one that genuinely enacts the concept of “mass transit”, moving incredible numbers of people efficiently and, at least in the district where we are, making walking a useful and do-able way of getting around. They’ve maintained, through the decades, a lovely downtown park with massive old trees and lots of water.

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