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My first Philly experience

Clairity's picture

    When I was rambling around in Philadelphia, the city was distant to me. I was just a tourist coming to visit, taking pictures and looking at everything through my fresh new eyes. Our role changes every time we visit a new city. In my hometown, I'm the host welcoming the guests. But here, I'm just a visitor waiting for the city to welcome us.

 We walked slowly towards the Art Museum, trying to catch on with the surroundings. In the opposite, the city residents walked in a much quicker pace. We saw a lot of runners and bikers exercising on the street all day, ranging from students to the old. People took their dogs out for a walk. The owner of a food cart stretched out his head and said hello to us, hoping that we would buy his food.

 We finally reached the museum, with the grand staircases in the front. As we were climbing up the stairs, I heard women shouting and cheering. Soon, a group of young men started racing on the stairs. One of them even took off his shoes and ran in bare feet. I guessed he was the winner at last. They seemed to have a lot of fun in their playing. It was already 11:40 when we reached the top of the stairs. Looking back, the landscape of Philly was right there, as high as I am. I really wanted to go inside the museum or walk around to take a look at the sculptures. But since it's a long way from the library, we had to head back to the Free Library to catch the Quiet Volume Show.

     Arriving at the library, we were given ipods for the mysterious Quiet Volume play. We were led to a desk with a stack of books. As the whispers in the earphones went on, we secretly set out on a brand new journey. I was told to listen to the various sounds in the library. To be frank, I used to think library is one of the quietest places. But I realized today that it was not exactly true. Footsteps, coughs, moving chairs, car horns outside... As the voice in my earphone reading, I heard the sounds of turning pages. I quickly raised my head, spotted a man doing the same thing. And I turned around. Another girl, too! But the sound went on after the girl and the man stopped turning pages. I suddenly realized the sound I heard was actually in the recording. Amazing! I couldn't tell the difference between reality and visionary at the moment. As I took off my earphones, I felt like I just had a dream. When I woke up, people sit next to me were already gone. I was still here, recollecting what had happened.As we walked back, I noticed something. Although it was the same road, the views in front of us and on our sides were largely different from before. More importantly, we were able to focus on admiring the scenery. On our way to the museum, we just wanted to find our way and tried not to get lost. Once we concentrated on this specific objective, the destination we set our minds to, we tended to ignore other things. On the way back, however, we were already familiar with the way. So we could keep our mind on the view, without any worries. I didn't feel like a stranger on the broad parkway anymore. I found a sense of belonging. I realized my role could also change with the time in the same city.

     Then, we wandered to the LOVE Park. Volunteers were lining up the people who wanted to take photos under the big LOVE sign, taking pictures for couples. Water drops from the fountain kept splashing around, but people's enthusiasm to take photos weren't lessened. Maybe this is what love is about. Despite the hardships, we still hold on to it, strongly.

     Later we roamed back to Franklin Institute. We were planning to take a break inside, but we found a nice surprise when we entered. Young kids were sitting on the ground, absorbed in the interesting live science class the instructor was giving. Meanwhile, their parents were sitting behind and also concentrating on the "class". I always have a soft spot for children. And watching them so engrossed in science, I lost my words. This is the kind of education you could rarely see in China. Children here are taught to see science as a series of interesting stories to explore, not a serious subject to study.

     I always looked forward to seeing China town. And here I was, standing in front of the gateway. It looked more like old Hongkong rather than where I live, but I could still sense that feeling of familiarity. People were celebrating the Mid-autumn Festival. Performers were singing the Chinese Opera on stage, while children were guessing riddles. The fried rice I ordered for dinner had a taste of home, making me miss my mom's cooking even more. I was satisfied. On my way back, I heard someone on the street talking about "Stinky tofu", which brought me a bit of happiness. Yes, I'm from where stinky tofu comes from.

     This is my first time in this city. I played by observing other people playing. I realize that your relation to a city depends on the familiarity between you two. The more you interact with each other, the closer you get. As Henig writes in Taking Play Seriously, it needn't "mean that getting to that end is the ultimate purpose of play". As long as we enjoy the process of playing, everything else is secondary.