First impressions

Arriving in a snow covered Detroit felt strange. The beauty of the snow, the white patches where no one has yet walked and you can be the one to make the first footsteps. Driving from the airport to Popps Packing, (the artist in residency were we are staying), we've seen vacant houses, as expected, but here in Hamtramck we've also seen al lot of busy shops with huge piles of fruit and vegetables. Shops with car parts, shops with telephone parts, shops where you can get fabulous hair and so on. On our first day we were told that here in Hamtramck, a small city inside of Detroit, there is a large Arab community, aswell as comunities from Poland and Yemen.

We make walks around the neighbourhood every day. Some area's seem more like forests than like a huge city that was once crowded with people. Big trees grow through houses and over the road. The smaller roads are not sprayed with salt like the main streets, so cars that pass through drive slow. Other walkers slip and slide along and we are greeted by them with a ' How are you doin'. It feels like a village.

Having fixed up some bikes covering greater distances is now a possiblity aswell. A picture that everyone must have seen is the big Detroit central station: one of the cities most famous ruins. Which turned out to be not a ruin anymore! Surrounded by high fences and some tourists, the station looked surprisingly new... Not one broken window, no graffiti... Doing some online investigation, it turned out the city of Detroit invested a huge amount of money to have the station fixed up. New exterior, electricity, gas and water, but no new use for this building. It seems strange to renovate a building that is not going the have a function in the near future other than being a touristic attraction. But then why fix it up when tourists are there to see decay?

When walking, the two big black dogs that live at Popp's Packing, come along. They enjoy the walks and to us they provide a sense of security. A person with bad intentions such as robbing us, would think twice to try and defy these tough looking animals. (And me and Jop also looking pretty tough ourselves, ofcourse.) These were some of my first thoughts. All these stories about Detroit being one big Hood, and friends warning us 'not to get stabbed' made us feel alert when walking. In real life walking (note: at daytime) here feels really relaxing. The sun shines on the snow, there are squirrels and trees, it's really quiet and peacefull.

At night though there are some places where I would rather not be at that time of day. A lot of dark corners, beggars and confused folk come out. I guess these are the spots where, as someone put it nicely: 'You just don't wanna be the stupid tourist wandering around at night, on your own, with a big camera around your neck...'

 Talking to some people that live here, they express to us that things are changing. Things are  'getting better.'  Some local artists were sad that the raves they held in the downtown skyscrapers were no longer possible because of new investers and activities. Must have been cool.

And here's a critical, alternative Detroit news website, quite interesting to read: Motorcity Muckraker

More stories coming soon. 

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