Beijing is perpetually under construction. This isn’t some sort of grand metaphor or anything like that. Spend enough time here and you’ll be able to distinguish the make and model of a drill within three floors of it being used. It’s so prevalent that it took six years of constant noise before neighbors realized that one Beijing resident had built a miniature mountain on top of his apartment building.

I could spend all day flipping through the mental album of construction memories just in my current apartment. There was the time my downstairs neighbor decided the hallway was a perfect place to mix cement. There was the time my next door neighbor spent an entire afternoon using a tile saw outside my doorway. There was the time a business on the street figured 4:30am was the perfect hour to install a new neon sign under my kitchen window. There was the time the apartment under me decided to start off Saturday morning by hitting a balcony railing with rubber mallets until it fell off (Fun fact: it sounded exactly like a railroad spike being driven into my headboard for 2 solid hours).

Oh, the memories!

So, it probably shouldn’t have surprised me to wake up this morning and find that magical construction elves had appeared on my street overnight and installed a fence. In the middle of the road. Directly between my apartment gate and the grocery store. Because apparently it was too easy for me to get to the fresh produce.


It made me think about a poem I’ve always loved, partially because of the placement of the fence, but mostly because it just feels like a perfect description of daily life in China. Whether you’re getting on a bus, flagging a taxi, navigating the market, or removing a balcony railing, the soundtrack of the city is that of repetitive motion.

In the middle of the road there was a stone
there was a stone in the middle of the road
there was a stone
in the middle of the road there was a stone.

Never should I forget this event
in the life of my fatigued retinas.
Never should I forget that in the middle of the road
there was a stone
there was a stone in the middle of the road
in the middle of the road there was a stone.

(“In The Middle Of The Road”, Carlos Drummond de Andrade)

Posted by:Natalie

Writer. Internet Wrangler. Media Relations by day. Marketing for ATB Publishing by night. Big fan of zombies, cupcakes and candid photography. 我爱北京

3 replies on “Repetitive motion

  1. Apparently this particular grocery store had way too much business and the fence police decided to take action right under your nose. I would say, just move the stone, but that might not be possible!


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