chinatown

A Very Merry Chinatown Christmas

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Santa Claus is real. And he somehow fits in that 6-inch diameter of a chimney in our beloved (and cramped) kitchen in Chinatown. Teachers wouldn't lie to us...

Waiting for Christmas morning was always a delight growing up. Even better than Saturday morning cartoons. A torment for my parents really because it was a whole lot of tossing and turning and no sleep whatsoever the night before. And somehow, my mom would secretly lay out a few gift-wrapped presents in the living room next door during my tossing and turning escapades.

And when the clock struck 6, it'd be a silent and mad scramble out of bed, slowly tip-toeing loud as can be across the rickety wooden planks into the room next door. 

And plop on top of the coffee table would lay a perfectly wrapped present. Blue was mine. Red for Diana. The glee on that kid's face...boy, I wish I could go back to that Christmas day.

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And as we grew up, I realized we used to get most of our gifts from the local fire department but on occasion, Mom would buy us our favorite Sanrio gift items (of course, they were always related to education).

Happy holidays!

The Big Story of Where Your Family Came From

Revisiting the village of our ancestors in China

Revisiting the village of our ancestors in China

"I'd like a full order please." - Restaurant Customer

(15 minutes later)

"Sir, here are your four orders." - Mom

This was a story my mom told me when she was a freshly minted immigrant in the US working in a Chinese restaurant in the 80s. Mom had no formal education let alone any English language skills at the time. The customer had ordered a "full order," which she mistook for "four orders." 

She laughs it off now because the restaurant owners (luckily) were nice and could empathize. But It was tough. As much as I can try to empathize, I simply cannot imagine myself moving halfway around the world to a foreign land with literally a suitcase, an address, a few hundred dollars of life savings between 3 people, and no education. 

Growing up, stories of hardships were lectured around the dinner table to motivate my sister and me to study and work harder. That work ethic was ingrained in our minds, but the stories haven't resonated with me until now...

You don't realize how fast time passes until you look your parents in the eye one day and wonder...

"Where in the world did these wrinkles and patches of white hair come from?"

I've always been intrigued by stories, and there is no story more important than the one about you, your family, and where you came from.

Growing up in Chinatown...

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...as told by a young, naive, but pretty happy kid.

7AM: Little rays of sunlight creep through the shanty curtains that tickles my eyelids to announce that Morning has arrived. However, I already know that the day has begun not from the reflective beams of the morning rays but by the sounds of emphatic debate from Chinese passersby, mostly elders, on their way to morning tea or Tai chi. This is waking up in Chinatown...

8AM:I lazily untangle myself from my covers in an attempt to wake up while every little movement produces a loud screech from my metal bunk bed (knowing fully well my sister below me and parents beside me are still trying to sleep). It's Saturday, and Pokemon is on the WB channel at 9 am!

9AM: We don't have a bathroom, so I brush my teeth in the kitchen sink and proceed to use the communal toilet in the hallway that is shared by 20 other families. The grandma in apartment #4 always has her door slightly bolted next to the communal toilet to make sure people are respecting "her" toilet. She's scary. 

10AM: The Chinatown Library is opening! I race up the hill and down Powell street to claim my computer spot in line before the library opens. The doors open, and it's a race to grab the first 1-hour limit of computer time to play MUD (Multi-user Dungeon). Besides sports, playing games like MUD would ultimately become my passion for a good chunk of my youth.

5PM: Holy crap, I forgot to eat lunch. Probably because the boss hunt was so intense. The library is closed for the day, and it was a good day because I "leveled up." Success never felt so good. I follow Stanley and his older brother down to "Chinatown Playground" on Sacramento to hang out with the "cool kids." All these big kids with their oversized North Face puffy jackets and slick haircuts are just lounging around...they seem so cool. Yeah the cool kids, I thought.

7PM: Dinner time. Oh my god. Frog again? Whyyyy? "It cures cancer." However, I've already come to disbelieve anything my parents say about food since they say eating certain foods will cure cancer or give you better eyesight. Why we gotta be so Chinese... 

8PM: Crap I still have Chinese homework to do! I'm dreading having to recite this Chinese poem about the moonlight on Monday. Why do I gotta go to English school AND Chinese? Life is so unfair...

9PM: "Stop playing your Gameboy, you're going to go blind!" Pokemon and Gameboy pretty much made me the first one in my family to become nearsighted. You should always listen to your mother...

10PM: My bedtime routine usually consists of going to bed and fooling around until 10:30 pm before my mom comes in and yells at me and my sister to go to bed.

...what a great day. Looking forward to going to the library again tomorrow to play MUD.