Bathed in green


In backalley Pingdingshan, Henan province, a city dweller capitalizes on his or her collected (presumably otherwise unused) bathtubs. I had the chance to spend several days conducting research in this city I had the chance to to “take the pulse” of this alley, and this particular feature grew to be my favorite part of it.


Besides taking advantage of the bathtubs themselves, the owner is also utilizing an otherwise challenging-to-use section of sidewalk: this space is tucked into an alley that is wide enough to accommodate cars (although only one at a time), is somewhat far off the main boulevard (about 100 yards of twists and turns), and at the end of which are several government buildings and an apartment complex for the bureaucrats that work within them. Thus, foot traffic within the alley is limited – pedestrians seldom come down the alley unless they have business with someone in the government building (people seldom seem to). The family members of the bureaucrats seemingly all have vehicles, meaning the daily tasks of grocery shopping and ferrying children to and from school is done by car as opposed to by walking. For these reasons, the likelihood of a sidewalk-based shop succeeding here is remote (based upon the lack of daytime pedestrian traffic and distance from wandering strollers’ likely course).


Thus, the enterprising resident of this alley’s taste for fresh greens in their cooking brings this trio of bathtub-based gardens to life, and adds a pleasant (to me, at least) dash of color to a mostly gray and blue-hued backstreet. Although like many things on the street-level of cities, one could find trash sprinkled amongst the vegetation.

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