Living in a Sauna, Steep and Busy

For those of you who live here, this will make the most sense. If you don't, bear with me. This is the only way I can describe this place: I am sitting in a courtyard in the shade of HKU's Main Building, drinking coffee on a bench under an open window. It is very hot, and the coffee is not refreshing.

On my left is the arched entrance to the Main Building, on my right is a winding road where every minute or so a taxi speeds past, driving toward upper campus or going south, headed downtown. In front of me the brick courtyard reaches another twenty yards to a line of flower pots where it suddenly ends, dropping off like a cliff over a busy road.

I can't see the road, but I can hear it and I can see the buildings that line it, and these buildings are so close that I can see people moving inside them. I can see the people's laundry hanging from their windows. I see the sign that says St. Stephen's Church; it barely stands above the flowers at the edge of my courtyard. In the building next to it, I can see a group of boys standing at a window. They are talking and laughing, probably making fun of each other. They are very close to me, maybe 40 yards away, and I think I could reach them in a few minutes if I wanted to.

But it would take much longer. I would have to make my way down the road to my right, avoiding the taxis. Then, wait at some four stop lights, squeeze past a group of uniformed school girls, follow an old woman for five minutes while others pass her and I wait for my turn, and then I would be lost. I would look back, find the courtyard-cliff, see the flower pots, turn to see St. Stephen's, and then count the windows of the building I want to climb and guess which floor the laughing children are on.

Life is exhausting work.

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