By: Nathaniel Baird
The cold, hard concrete is unforgiving. Wet with a week’s worth of rain and caked in centuries worth of mud, the tattered slabs of concrete lay fairly unassuming. Uneven mirrors of rain and half-smoked cigarettes reflect the dull LED lights of the city in front of me. ‘Where am I?’ I think to myself as rain seeps through the trees above me and lands cordially on my bleach blonde hair. The answer was fairly simple: English class. In between the large concrete towers lay a small mountain of green and black where my English class quietly waits. Our coats are dotted in acidic rain as our lungs fill with the thick, dark smog that often hangs over Yangshuo like a spectre.
The winding steps that lead to the top of the pillar ahead, like every other surface, are wet. Lukewarm ginger tea fills my throat and, for a moment, I am transported back home. I lie on the couch, my toes tingle as blood rushes back into them, the NFL Sunday Night Countdown plays quietly on the TV in front of me, and I take a sip of my lukewarm ginger tea.
A sharp honk from a Hello Kitty moped jolts me back to my reality of wet stone steps, an endless monotony of honking, and dimly lit LED lights advertising a variety of food previously thought unimaginable. ‘Where am I?’ The question returns to my headspace again, with an urgency. I arrive at the top of the small hill. My hair, now as muddy as the stone below me, sits heavy on my head, soaked in rain. My gaze trends out from the top of this cold, wet concrete box I now sit in. Fog seeps down from the clouds above. A tiny man on a tiny moped desperately tries to find any traction he can on a road made of half mud and half potholes.
The mesmerization of the anarchism in action below is stunning. Rain pitter patters past me, running into the clogged gutters, already occupied with week-old newspaper and countless shreds of multi colored plastic. Honk! Beep! Screech! A kaleidoscope of mopeds circle the street below me. It is both beautiful and uncomfortable to see.
A restaurant owner throws the broth of a leftover chicken into the gutter. An exhaust pipe sputters black smoke into the city sky. My lungs lie comfortably inside me, coated with the sweet syrups of tar and carcinogens. I want to look at my phone, or the beautiful mountains draped in fog to my left, yet my eyes are glued to the city. The hustle and bustle of the streets is enigmatic. Seemingly a land of no laws — semi controlled chaos. Yet, as the glare of dim LED lights sharpen and the bits of chicken run together at the sewer grates, everything remains. Whole and unscathed, the anarchism prevails, and beauty is found within the functionality.