We begin our stroll at Yue Xiu Plaza in San Po Kong, passing by San Po Kong Sitting-out Area along Choi Hung Road, entering Nga Tsin Wai Tsuen, Tung Tau Estate and Morse Park, finally returning to San Po Kong city center. Chatting as we ambled, we took a short break at Tung Tau Estate parking lot. The journey took around two hours.
Over the past year, all our eagerly awaited travel plans have been cancelled, everything grounding to a sudden halt. When the rules change so drastically, it is all too easy to experience a sense of discomfort, unsure how to face this strange new reality. After an entire year of trying to find our feet, have you noticed that the sun, ocean and trees can nourish and energize us? Perhaps this is an opportunity for us to relearn how we can live in harmony with the world around us. How do we begin? “Take a stroll,” answers Him Lo, curator of Nan Fung Group’s “In Time Of” initiative.
Lo takes a stroll every day. From a walk after work to a planned trip to a nearby neighbourhood in search of hidden landscapes, he is ready to go whenever the mood strikes. Walks range from ten minutes to two hours — the possibilities are endless. Before we venture off, I ask him what he needs to prepare. “Since it’s a stroll, don’t try to make a plan,” he replies.
The best part of not having a plan is the ability to be present in everything that we come across. Passing through San Po Kong Sitting-out Area, Lo dissects the details of this inconspicuous park, analysing how different elements are designed to facilitate user interaction. He reminds us that the routine of city living makes it all too easy to become complacent. When we learn to ask questions, we may just find that everything, natural or man-made, has a story to tell.
Strolling around the city, public spaces offer delightful views. Along the way, Lo points out chairs that I barely notice. Indeed, as we walk along Kai Tak River, we come across some elderly men sitting on chairs chatting away. Passing by a newspaper stall, Lo notices that the stall is made up entirely of umbrellas, plastic chairs and wooden boards, a self-sufficient, standalone space of its own. To Lo, these local know-how are full of creativity and never fail to leave him in awe. As put by Scandinavian educational philosopher Ellen Kay, the most beautiful things are those created in response to people’s needs. All we have to do is use our imagination in our everyday lives, and we will discover that beauty abounds.
The creative process is similar to strolling —neither are about the destination nor the result. When we stroll, we come to realise that we can also be creative simply by adapting the way we see things. In recent years, young people have started to venture into Hong Kong’s city and countryside, experiencing different facets of this city firsthand. Lo believes that this is a very positive change. “By consciously observing our surroundings, we will be able to live in the present and truly connect with this city,” says Lo.
The concept of “Resilient Cities” has received much attention in recent years in the face of extreme climate and global pandemic. Cities are endeavouring to respond more astutely
in managing crises. To Lo, communities are worthy starting points, citing examples of how communities can get involved, such as offering regular home repairs, cultivating food for the community and so on. If everyone is willing to participate, even small steps can gradually make our communities better.
“Have you noticed that ‘Huinan’ (warm and humid weather between spring and summer in Southern China) has disappeared in the past few years?” Lo asks in a local cafe upon our
return to San Po Kong city center. The anxiety that city dwellers feel about the future may find its root in our disconnect with nature. When we contemplate cities of the future, perhaps we still have the opportunity to salvage our world from becoming “high tech yet low living”. Through “In Time Of”, a community initiative at the intersection of sustainable development, social design, and culture and arts, Lo hopes to encourage the community to explore different facets of life in preparation for the myriad possibilities of the future. Rebuilding bridges that connect our communities with the world lie at the very heart of our future cities.
Whether we walk or stroll depends entirely on our state of mind. If we are open to reconnecting with the world around us, perhaps then we can begin to imagine the next chapter in our lives.
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