与黄鼠狼为邻 / My Neighbor is a Skunk

与黄鼠狼为邻

我在香港(我的第二故乡)和北京生活了很长时间。我和夫人在这两座城都有住房。

这两个地方都是人口众多、现代化的中国都市,有着截然不同的独特气质。在过去20年,它们都发生了巨大的变化,但是以完全不同的方式在变化。

在这两座城市之间往来相当轻松和舒适,它们都拥有管理良好、设施和设备一流的超现代化机场。办理行李快捷高效,等待入境、海关和安检的时间也较短。无论在其中哪一座机场,我从下飞机到走出机场大门通常只需不到30分钟的时间。

持有香港身份证的香港居民出入特别行政区更为便利,他们只需将身份证在入境检查站的智能读卡器上刷一下就可以了。

在北京机场,如果持有亚太经合组织的旅行身份证,可以走外交护照专用通道,那里排队比较短。

我喜欢城市生活的舒适与便利,但也打心里喜欢户外活动,渴望离开拥挤的城区,贴近自然的和平与宁静。

对于拥挤的香港,有一点鲜为人知:它有大约40%的陆地面积土地被留给了乡村公园,那里有山丘、溪流、水库、沙滩、森林和野生动物,是回归自然绝佳的天然环境。

尽管从2008年奥运会后,北京的绿色程度大大提高,但很多人仍然倾向于把它看成是人口众多、扩张无序、堵车和空气质量永远都成问题的城市。

可是北京也有很多非常棒的公园。

我最喜欢的一个公园是日坛公园,它是位于北京CBD正中央的一片可爱的绿洲,有500年左右的历史,距离我北京的住家只有不长的一段步行距离。

不久前,我和公园里一家餐厅的服务员闲聊,他对公园非常了解。当我们谈起公园里的动物时,这位服务员告诉我,除了种类很多的鸟,他还经常看见黄鼠狼和刺猬——大都是在傍晚或天黑以后。

一开始,我有点不信,但他坚持说这里黄鼠狼和刺猬都很多,只是由于它们是夜行动物,大多数游客才看不到。

这让我感到非常高兴,特别是想到我在北京CBD闪亮崭新的摩天大楼里竟然还有黄鼠狼、刺猬这样的邻居。毫无疑问,它们当中许多的祖先可以追溯到明朝。

同时,这个惊喜也提醒我:尽管人类给环境带来的灾难,但自然界有时也能克服一切不利条件,设法存活下来,至少在一些角落里存活下来。

My Neighbor is a Skunk

I spend a lot of time in my adopted home town, Hong Kong, and Beijing, where my wife and I also have a home.

Both are modern, populous, Chinese cities, with very distinctive and different personalities. Both have changed dramatically during the past 20 years, but in very different ways.

Commuting between the two cities is comparatively easy and painless. Both are served by well-managed, ultra-modern airports with first-class facilities and infrastructure. Baggage handling is fast and efficient, and the waiting time at immigration, customs and security check-points is relatively short. In either airport, I can routinely exit the aircraft and be out the door of the airport within roughly 30 minutes.

Hong Kong residents with a Hong Kong Identity Card enjoy the convenience of entering and exiting the Special Administrative Region by swiping their I.D. card in a smart card reader at the Immigration checkpoint.

In Beijing, an APEC travel I.D. enables the holder to queue in the shorter lines normally reserved for diplomatic passport holders only.

As much as I enjoy the comfort and convenience of urban living, I am an outdoor person at heart. I like to get away from crowded downtown canyons and get closer to the peace and quiet of nature.

One little known fact about crowded Hong Kong is that roughly 40% of its land area is devoted to country parks. This offers a wonderful natural environment to escape into, with hills, streams, reservoirs, beaches, forests and wildlife.

Although Beijing is a much greener city since the 2008 Olympics, many people still tend to think of it as very populous urban sprawl with consistent traffic jams and air quality problems.

Beijing also has many wonderful parks, however.

One of my favorites is Ritan Park, which is a lovely green oasis right in the middle of Beijing’s Central Business District with a history going back some 500 years. It is a short walk from our home in Beijing.

Not long ago I got talking with a waiter in a restaurant located within the park, who was quite knowledgeable about the park. We talked about the animal and bird life in the park and he told me that apart from quite a range of bird species, he regularly saw skunks and porcupines there — mostly at dusk or after dark.

I was a bit skeptical at first, but he insisted that both skunks and porcupines are plentiful, if not often seen by most visitors due to their nocturnal habits.

This made me happy. I was especially happy to think that my neighbors among the skyscrapers of Beijing’s gleaming new CBD include skunks and porcupines. No doubt many of them have ancestries stretching back to the Ming Dynasty.

This pleasant surprise also reminded me that despite the havoc that we humans have wreaked on our environment, nature sometimes finds a way to survive against the odds, at least in pockets, here and there.


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