Monday, January 17, 2011

Chapter 2: The Old and the New

Today was a day all about Old things and New things- in particular how they can work together to create an exciting atmosphere.

We broke off into groups today and walked around the city. Not just a leisurely stroll for an hour or so- a 5 hour mission to cover as much ground as possible. The weather was chilly- but not terrible (I made sure to bundle up extra).

The first thing I noticed about Philadelphia is how the Old and New work so easily together. When good ol' William Penn first designed the city, he laid it out on a grid that has four main squares and everything situated around/inside them. This grid from the centuries ago is still being followed- with a few new variational diagonal streets. Everything flows into everything else.

There are massive New skyscrapers and the Old houses and wooden streets from our fore-father's time right next to each other. I know a lot of people who would scoff at this and think Why would they ruin it with ugly skyscrapers? But, it's not ruined at all. The buildings flow seamlessly and the skyscrapers don't look out of place. Philadelphia- the "Birthplace of the Nation" as it is sometimes called- has always been such an important part of our country. The skyscrapers- with their rows of windows and many fountains and statues- do add some beauty to downtown and also remind us that Philadelphia is still an important piece of the puzzle.

My favorite part of the walk was when we would turn a corner off of a rather bustling street, and all the sudden we were on a quiet, tiny road, barely wide enough for the smallest of cars. The houses were all pushed right up against each other- but they were all so different; different heights, widths, colors. It was beautiful and so peaceful- but still exciting because you could hear, almost as an after thought, things going on a block down. The houses looked so cozy- like if they were people they would be old friends who loved each other and wanted to hug and cuddle since the country was founded.

But enough about architecture.

It seems like Philly is alive everywhere you look. There are the most beautiful murals, mosaics, fountains and statues just bursting from every corner. The smells from Chinatown and restaurants on South Street are mouthwatering. The indoor market is huge and has everything anyone could ever want. With so many new things, I don't want to sleep- I just want to walk around and see everything in.

On the other hand- I'm exhausted.

I think the best example of Old and New today was also the most fun part of the walk. A friend from Earlham, Collin, convinced two girls, who were originally from China, to teach him some Chinese. It was- if anyone knows Collin, they will not be surprised- ridiculous and hilarious. He would string some sounds together that he thought sounded Chinese and try to, as he put it, "stumble into a word to look smart". All in all- Collin learned how to say "Ni-hao" and everyone involved got a kick out of that ridiculousness. But what I thought was great was how in the midst of "Old City" New friendships were being made while some were...struggling...with a New language. :)

Afterward, we all stuffed ourselves full from a plethora of different ethnic food options; Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Italian- just to name a few.

I got to know more people today, and have already fostered some friendships. I'm really excited for the housing search to begin tomorrow...we have three showings set up. Wish us luck!

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