Looking down

17 Sep

On a recent weekend I was walking home past the maternity hospital that is close to our apartment complex.  I looked down and at my feet was row after row of characters written across the sidewalk.  They kept going – I could pick out bits and pieces, but wasn’t really able to follow what the context was.  The chalk was different colors and made a striking appearance against the gray sidewalk.

I hypothesized that it could have been a student practicing penmanship as sometimes in the parks I’ll see people doing calligraphy on the ground using a big brush and water.  As I slowed down to look a couple of other people were reading out the lines, but again I couldn’t quite catch what they meant.

So, I took a couple of pictures.

Multicolored characters

Multicolored characters

Poetry or prose?

Poetry or prose?

Later that night, I asked Li what had been written on the sidewalk.  He read it, then looked at me strangely.  His  question was unexpected, “Was anyone else around when you read this?”

I explained just some other folks walking along and reading aloud.

The text of the majority of the sidewalk poetry was about a beggar on the streets of Shanghai and his tale of woe.  He must have written it on the sidewalk and been begging by the side of the hospital.  By the time I passed by he had either moved on or been asked to move on, leaving only his written chalk poem as testament that he had been there.

Noticing details is part of experiencing a culture.  I’m glad I noticed this one, but not so happy as to what the result was.

Have you ever looked down and seen something you didn’t expect?

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4 Responses to “Looking down”

  1. abc in shanghai September 17, 2014 at 7:58 am #

    Wow … powerful words I’m sure. I often see these as well and wonder what is being written.

    • gkm2011 September 17, 2014 at 6:59 pm #

      This one was so long – but I never hypothesized that conclusion.

  2. Naomi Baltuck September 17, 2014 at 8:02 am #

    How interesting. What an interesting story about a story. It’s nice to have your own interpreter!

    • gkm2011 September 17, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

      Yes, I am spoiled sometimes because Li translates for me. It just shows how much there is to learn and how many more stories there are to tell.

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