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  • I love walking from Penn to Center City. I love watching the safe school zone slowly transition into the bustling Philadelphia downtown. So, on a beautiful Friday, I met up with two friends to walk.

    I always enjoy navigating through the streets and buildings and listening to the buzz of people and cars. However, that day, we decided to venture out. One of the two friends was a Philadelphia native, and he said he will take us to his favourite place: Valley Green, or officially, Wissahickon Valley Park. We took the Number 9 bus, and 20 minutes later, we arrived at the Henry Avenue and Gates Street stop right before the Park.

    Failing to find the entrance, we had to stumble our way through the woods to get to the trail. The park was tranquil and beautiful, and as we walked along the Wissahickon Creek, I savoured my time enveloped by nature. It had been a long time since I was in a forest, and the quietness made me forget about my life back at campus.

    Yet, strangely enough, my favourite part of our adventure through the park was near the end, at a bridge off West Mt. Airy Avenue. Just before an exit, as we neared the wooden arch, I saw the pillars had colourful graffiti—an unexpected sight. We had been surrounded by greens, browns, and grays, and suddenly there were small bursts of different colours only visible when one is near and alert enough to notice.

    These graffiti fit in with the surroundings in an odd way. The park may not seem like a likely place for these traces of urban culture, but the spray-on art made the park seem more hospitable. The graffiti were a reassurance to the alien passerby; they cried, “This Park is not simply for people to jog through—it is where people want to stay and leave their marks.” The graffiti comforted me also because they confirmed that although the park may seem like a massive (albeit pleasant) maze to me, it is still within the realm of the familiar city. The colours of the graffiti were visually shocking and pleasing as well--they had the effect of a patch of flowers. All the colours that I had not seen up to this point were a refreshing contrast to the colours around them.

    This surprising urban touch also seemed to signpost our entry back to the “real city,” as we were met with the cement road shortly after we walked under the bridge. I asked the non-native-Philadelphian friend if the graffiti seemed as significant to her, but she answered that she had not seen it.

    As the bus drove us back, the skyscrapers of Center City zoomed into view. Ironically, the most "city" symbol was painted in my mind after my escape to nature, and "nature" was on my skin on my way back into the city: decorating my legs were small leaves, and grassbug bites.
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