The small city we live in now is hugely Chinese in demographic. There are four giant, full service Chinese grocery stores here, for instance. I have a feeling that Chinese New Year might be a big deal here. We had a little foray into San Francisco this past weekend and fooled around in Chinatown, watching people buying lanterns and food for the festivities and loading up the bottom of the stroller with rambutans and longan. I am not very Chinese in style. I like my Latin culture and my "island time" but I have a hard time with cultures that are particular or rigid or invasively harsh. I admire their stringency but I am kind of unsettled by their culture of wily, particularity. I look like I'm sick if I wear the orange-red color they are so fond of, I'm terribly fond of being golden tan from outdoor play and I really don't like bean paste desserts. I'd make a lousy Beijing expat. I do love the Chinese medicine culture with their emphasis on observing the body for symptom decoding and clues and their use of herbs and other natural remedies. I also love the lower sugar baked good in their shops. I think the flowers are amazing....the big, lush chrysanthemums and tuberose in fragrant bundles. I have some gigantic white lilies on my dining room table that we brought home with us. Each lily could be a full-sized lady's hat and the whole room is spiraled through by the drifting eddies of fragrance. I like that very much. I'm a little biased. China is a whole universe away and feels philosophically alien to me but I want to appreciate and understand my neighbors and connect to them. China is encroaching in my life. I did a little reading to inspire me. Wanna see what I found?
Here are my favorites:
- A photographer, making fashion role models out of Chinatown's elders. (We accidentally wandered past her studio and I peeked in the window and wondered what the exhibit was about as it was closed at the time and I hadn't yet read this article.)
- How Walmart didn't make it in Chinatown. The Chinese are frugal, but protests reigned and it didn't fly.
- Chinatowns in rural Connecticut. How the World Trade Center attack caused a migration and brought the Chinese out of NYC.
- The largest Chinatown in Mexico is in Mexicali. It includes a large population, and a warren of secret tunnels. Who knew!?!
- One man, eats his way through every restaurant in Chinatown, L.A. He gives you the serious lowdown on where the astounding stuff is and what it was like to do it all.
- Chinatown and public art are intermingled. The Chinese have embraced identity discussion in public spaces and expression of feeling and tradition emblazoned across walls and courtyards.