This is what I used to see out my sitting room window in the Guesthouse at the University.
I thought these old houses were attractive, but apparently no one wanted to live there. My students were more happy if six of them were crammed into one apartment room the size of my sitting room. We lived in almost embarrassing luxury, and we learned that the Guesthouse was called the "Panda Cage" by the locals: a place for pampered and spoiled foreigners.
I was awoken my first morning by the sound of someone sweeping the street with a straw broom, even before the university loud-speakers came on with the national anthem and y-er-san-si exercise routine.
Once, I was sitting on my balcony overlooking this street, when a cat ran by. Someone came out of one of the side streets you can see, and asked me if I'd seen a cat. "Was it a white cat?" I asked, and, when the answer was a nod, I pointed down the way the cat had run. This very mundane conversation had added glamour and was a source of pride for me because it was all conducted in Chinese.