Take a Whiff: This miniature hutong turned out to be teeming with a rather bizarre, oddly non-combinatory mixture of smells. I felt like an overly curious puppy as I walked down the street, turning my face sharply from one store to another to reconcile each smell with a particular item or person.
In My Shoes: In this part I just kept my eyes on an old lady who was walking along the river, with a stick as well as an umbrella in her hands. I spent quite a time to figure out the reason of her visit. She walked so slowly, had a hard time geting through the steep incline of the beidge and did not give much notice to others. But finally I found out she was there to buy some stuff becaus she stopped at several shops at the time she passed by. I would like to believe she is going to buy some souvenirs for her grand-children of her friends. So you can never be sure that a place like HouHai will definitely deter any groups of people. And a public place cannot get embrassed about the vist of an unexpected visitor.
Tick Tock: In this part I just focused on a narrow bridge, which plays an important in traffic of the whole place. It lies acroos the river and serves all the cars, bikes, rickshas and people. We watched and observed the traffic through it and saw some unpleasant moment: Like a ricksha almost hit a bike comes through the bridge, from other side of the river. Like a car drove through the bridge and splashed some water on the people who were standing on the side of the bridge and taking pictures. In a word, the bridge seems to be an efficient route connect the both sides of the water but lack of design and management.
What's Your Stance?: At 4:29 PM on a hutong off of Dashilar Street, my group and I stumbled upon a mini park. On a trapezoidal plot of land formed by the fork of two diverging roads was a small sunken paved area. To my surprise, four large groups of 4-8 elderly men, 28 in total, gathered around tables playing games of Chinese chess. They crowded around the tables they set up, half standing and gesturing loudly to the game. The other half sat in chairs they brought along or on the steps formed by the sunken nature of the plaza. I stood on the corner and observed the environment and their posture for 6 minutes. No other people walked through the plaza—everyone left the old men to their enthusiastic games. The men leaned over or onto the boards, reached across their tables, and gently shoved others standing near them to point to a suggested move. Electric bikes and younger (middle-aged) pedestrians dominated the ~4 person per 30 second rate of traffic around the plaza. The traffic and commotion of shop keepers marketing their goods on the adjacent roads made the street a somewhat busy space, yet this plaza was a refuge for the elderly men of the area—what a pleasant oasis of community gathering we stumbled upon that afternoon.
This park was pleasant evidence of how urban planning can foster a community. A much needed clearing amongst the dense hutong of the area provided a meeting place for community members to enjoy favorite pastimes. While I’m not sure if the lack of diversity of occupants of the park is a positive of negative feature for the community, the park did seem to create a refuge for the elderly men.