Monday, May 5, 2008

I would also like to add the following video. Had to wait until Phoebe was all better from her brush with bronchitis, so it would be funny and not sad.


On the wharf.
Outside the Chinese Historical Society of America's museum housed in the former Chinatown YWCA.
Phoebe embracing her inner tacky tourist.
Of course, what is a trip to Chinatown without Chinese tamales?
Getting soaked on a bay tour, but we did get to make a wish as we passed beneath the Golden was awesome.

Phoebe and I have decided that San Francisco incorporates many of the best elements of our favorite American cities. It has the culture and class of an east coast city while maintaining the easy going nature of California. You might say it traverses cultural boundaries...

Our weekend was fantastic and we had a lot of fun just taking it easy. Friday night we went out for the greatest Thai food in existence, and kicked back at the King George Hotel downtown. Saturday we rode cable cars, had amazing sourdough french toast, visited the Chinese Historical Society of America, explored Chinatown, drank boba, strolled along the waterfront, bought salt water taffy, took a bay tour, got soaked, shopped for new clothes and had the greatest dinner of our lives at Fog City Diner. But that's not all! Sunday we blew copious amounts of money on an incredible dim sum brunch, rode more cable cars, hung out in union square, saw the SF Museum of Modern Art (with a dynamite exhibition of Lee Friedlander's photography), went shopping and did it all in time to board a 9pm flight back to our home away from home, LA.

Yeah, that's our twisted version of an easy-going relaxed weekend. Only about 24 hours left here in the city of angels. Today we are going to breakfast and organizing our comments and suggestions for CAM museum staff. We have seen/learned so much. It has been incredible, and tonight, to cap it all off, we are going to the Dodgers game with our dear Sylvia.

Going to be hard to get on that plane back to CO...

Saturday, May 3, 2008

So Phoebe and I have been throwing around two phrases on this trip: "California is like magic!" and "California IS the future!" I think we have officially substantiated both claims, but in case any of you at home need proof please observe the picture above...and note the gas prices. California is truly the future.

Outside of one of Chinatown's trendiest shops, Realm.

Phoebe and I after lunch with Sheryl.
Small herbalist shop in Chinatown that specializes in shark fin!

Today was another splendid day in the great state of California! This morning we were up bright and early with our bags packed for San Francisco. We arrived at the historical society and were treated to a wonderful walking tour of Chinatown with the ever-charming Eugene Moy.

Gene has encyclopedic knowledge of Chinatown and Los Angeles history. He was a spectacular tourguide and showed us so much. I am not sure where to even begin. We started our tour looking out over the bluff that Chinatown currently sits on to an urban farming project and the Los Angeles river. Gene gave us a brief run down on the old zanja system and showed us some of the physical remnants. It was pretty sweet.

We then made our way through New Chinatown and discussed all the different clan organizations. Phoebe and I noticed that all the association buildings were flying two flags: the American flag and that of the Kuomingtang, also known as the national flag of Taiwan. We found this surprising, and Gene explained that during the Cold War the inhabitants of Chinatown had been extremely vocal in their support of the Kuomingtang. There is only ONE red Chinese flag flying in Chinatown, and it was raised by Dave Lee who flew in the face of the Los Angeles Chinese community in asserting his belief that maitaining good relations with the motherland was more important.

Gene took us by schools, sewing shops, herbalists, groceries and temples. One of the temples we went to was extremely beautiful, having been completely rebuilt just a few years ago. He took us in and we were able to leave offerings for Matsu, a Chinese Goddess of the sea. It was a very interesting peek into the syncrectic religion and culture that pervades Chinatown. It is no longer uniquely Chinese, rather it is a shifting culture that has grown to incorporate elements of Southeast Asian, new wave Chinese and even Latino customs as well. Gene was also quick to note the changing nature of Chinatown.

Phoebe and I agreed that the comprehensive tour of Chinatown was indeed a good way to begin wrapping up our time at CAM. We were also lucky enough to have a nice lunch with many of our CAM co-workers this afternoon. It was sad we didn't get to spend more time with Sheryl, the collections manager, as she will be gone again when we return on Monday. She is really the person who made our time in LA possible. It was hard for me to say goodbye to her today, but I am sure I will see her again soon. CAM has begun to feel a lot like home, a place I could be long term...

Well, we are safe in San Francisco. We got to the airport, through security and off the plane without any trouble. We rode the BART into the city and made our way to the King George Hotel. Then we took a good recommendation and had some of the BEST Thai food in existence for dinner...It's going to be an amazing weekend.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Final Page

As of five minutes ago Pheebs and I have officially completed cataloguing David S. Soo Hoo's enormous scrapbook! In celebration we are going to give ourselves a weekend trip to San Francisco. But first, this evening, we are going to take a brief tour of UCLA with a former classmate of Phoebe's and go out for some Indian food.

Our blogging may be a little scattered for the next few days, but stay tuned.

Today was yet another beautifully busy day in sunny LA. Weather-wise LA was a little more on the dreary side, but the exposure to all things cultural and intellectual was quite shiningly stimulating.

Life this morning was a little happier for me because we picked up some Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on the way to work; I so enjoy being caffeinated. Soon after cracking open the Soo Hoo scrapbook, we received a phone call from Pauline Wong, who told us to make our way across the plaza to the Biscaluz building because there was a field trip ahead of us…we were going to Little Tokyo. After venturing into Little Tokyo for our first bite of Pinkberry on day 2, Elena and I made it one of our goals to return and explore the area some more. Sadly, public transportation has skewed my sense of travel time (a 15 minute drive takes 45 minute via pub trans) and I wasn’t thrilled about making a trek to Little Tokyo. Much to my surprise, Little Tokyo is within walking distance. Yet again, public transportation has foiled me…BAH!

i would like to describe our relationship with the metro as one of both love and hate

I would like to describe today as among our most successful eating days in California thus far. For lunch we had Japanese curry at a Curry House, a Californian chain. As any one who knows my eating habits (cough cough, my mother), I generally do not appreciate the thick consistency of Japanese curry. Tastily enough, I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch of shrimp and onion ring katsu. Conversation with Pauline Wong and Steven Tran was deliciously engaging as well, we discussed: gender disparities in China and India, places where populations are shrinking, robot babies, physical therapy for dogs, and male prostitutes for middle-aged Japanese women.

Following lunch, Elena and I were dropped off at the Japanese American National Museum nearby, which is the most outstanding ethnic minority museum in Los Angeles (according to Pauline Wong). And the JANM is indeed impressive, with beautifully displayed exhibits, conference rooms, and its own archive/ resource library. The JANM was the brainchild of businessmen in LA’s Little Tokyo in 1982; from this beginning, they expanded and later moved into a more extensive space in 1992. Across the way from the JANM is also the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy, which informs people about the many individuals from all backgrounds who have shaped American democracy. After comparing and ruminating about the storytelling methods of the CAM and JANM, I fully understand the difficulties in creating a seamless history, which is not only educational, but tasteful and not offensive.

the Japanese American National Museum, pretty impressive eh...?

On a (much) lighter note, Elena and I visited Pinkberry after seriously contemplating the Chinese American narrative. We shared a medium-sized regular with captain crunch, mochi, and strawberries…tasty!

me in the plaza

Upon our return to the El Pueblo Historical Monument, Elena and I set to the task of editing text on Chinese New Year festivities. With our prowess in languages, we edited the piece in not one, not two, but, three different languages. Though I must admit my traditional Chinese reading abilities are a pretty rusty.

After leaving the office at 6:00p, Elena and I were successful in locating an Armenian restaurant in Glendale, supposedly the largest community of Armenians outside of Armenia. Funnily enough, the restaurant is called Elena’s Greek and Armenian Restaurant. We ordered far too much food (a plate of quail, shish and lamb, tabule, and falafel) and enjoyed every bite of it. Though we didn’t get to Zankou chicken, the Armenian food we had at Elena’s was scrumptious.

At this point in our trip Elena and I are desperately trying to cram in as much as we can. It will be pretty much impossible for us to get to everything done on our list. I suppose I will just have to come back next year…

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Please send an e-mail to Phoebe or myself telling us anything strange you may have noticed about this photo taken in the plaza. To enlarge the image simply click on it. Best of luck to all.

aIn-N-Out Burger
aKorean Food
aReal Chinese Food
aVenice Beach
aSanta Monica Pier
aThai Food
aOlvera Street
aCalifornia Adventures
aMonterey Park
aAmerican Apparel
aThree Story Forever Twenty-One
aArmenian Food
aLittle Tokyo
aJapanese American National Museum
aSpeak Mandarin with Phoebe's Relatives
aSpicy Hunan Food
Tacos de Trompas (Pig Snout Tacos)
Central Library
Indian Food
The Getty

I want to apologize for not blogging more frequently, but with all the beautifully exciting things to see in LA, I don’t feel horribly sorry because I’m enjoying living all these experiences.

Nevertheless, I want to provide all you viewers at home with the briefest of brief synopses from the past 3 days:
Saturday ---
We woke on the earlier end of the morning to have a longer day at the beach. After falling asleep facedown in the gloriously warm sand, I decided that I’m probably more of a beach girl. Life felt very much worth living as we walked barefoot through the wet sand, beginning in Venice beach and ending in a stroll –with coffee bean and tea leaf blended drinks in hand- on the Santa Monica pier. [Please note that for the past 4 days I’ve been telling people we walked from Venice beach to Santa Barbara, which is approximately 150 miles off]. On our very warm trip home, Elena and I made a pit stop at In-and-Out Burger, and all I can say is DELICIOUS! Culinary adventures comprise the majority of our cultural excursions into LA, and I will be sad to leave all the wonderful food opportunities behind when we return home to CSprings. --- After a hop, skip, and a shower, we beautified ourselves for dinner. Saturday night was to be an occasion to meet more young people; rather, we sat through an awards ceremony for Chinese engineers in Southern California. Not to stereotype certain groups of people, but I did not anticipate a party thrown by engineers to be particularly hip or thrilling. To further compound this pathetic situation, the engineers are Chinese, a race not necessarily known for throwing wild parties. Nevertheless, I thoroughly appreciated having dinner at the LAX Hilton and enjoyed giggling with Elena.
Sunday ---
Last week we committed ourselves to return to Disneyland for California Adventures, which we did on Sunday. California Adventures is obviously a more adult version of the original Mickey Mouse-inspired amusement park, and I had a blast. We were much more adept at navigating this park, and the number of attractions was much more manageable. Upon entering the park, we all took pictures with Minnie Mouse and then we proceeded immediately to the Tower of Terror. Though this ride was terrifically terrifying and tons of fun, my favorite ride is Soarin’ Over California, which had multi-sensory components (i.e. the smell of pine trees combined with images of snowy peaks). Watching the Aladdin show was also pleasure, however sappy the script and plotline seemed to be. Elena got quite a kick out of the number of racially ambiguous actors in the show. With the conclusion of such a brilliant day, there was little more I could ask for… the jamba juice and a princess crown didn’t hurt.
Monday morning was difficult in that it was a little difficult to jump into another work week. Not to complain, but Mr. David Soo Hoo, compiler of the scrapbook we are cataloguing, was not the most organized of individuals. Amid the articles about Chinese American Angelenos, are advertisements for frog preservation and how-to-become-a-detective information. When Elena and I are not suffering from after lunch droopiness, Mr. Soo Hoo’s collection of articles can be quite entertaining. Post-cataloging, Elena and I decided to have an adventure in Hollywood. And we did have quite an adventure, getting lost twice and walking 3.5 miles to the restaurant. On the way to dinner we had a snack at CeFiore, shopped at H&M and American Apparel, and visited Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Dinner was tasty and dessert was delightful at Pizzeria Mozza, a restaurant recommended by our Professor (David Torres-Rouff).

When I said it was hard to get out of bed on Monday, I did not anticipate having to unglue myself from my bed on Tuesday. Least to say is that we were pooped out from our expedition in Hollywood the night before. Hollywood fell far short of my expectations; in place of all the glittery spectacular-ness people are encouraged to believe in, is a convergence of dirty streets and plastic-looking people. From these little shower-based ruminations, Elena and I rushed to get to the El Pueblo Historical Monument for some more cataloging. Mr. David Soo Hoo’s scrapbook now seems never ending; we had anticipated completing this project 3 days ago. Alas, the number of newspaper clippings, or more like whole newspapers, crammed in the back of scrapbook is quite substantial. I hope that tomorrow we will finally be able to put Mr. David Soo Hoo’s scrapbook behind us, well at least until I return for more thesis research…
After work, my aunt picked us up for dinner in San Gabriel Valley. We had dinner at a tasty little Hunan restaurant, where all the dishes are some form of spicy. With dinner in our stomachs, we wandered through a nearby Chinese market and amassed a nice little assortment of Asian snacks.

Well, now we’re home sweet home (at Gramercy Place) plotting our next expedition in LA…

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

We are going to give you a rare peek behind the scenes into the true magic of cataloguing museum collections. We only look uptight because museum work is SERIOUS business. Enjoy.



Hopefully some of you are interested enough to still be reading about our misadventures here in the land of magic, ethnic diversity and sunshine. I promise the following post is full of intrigue, excitement and racy pictures. It is my duty to relay how Pheobe and I spent the remainder of our weekend. So here it goes:


Saturday was GREAT! Phoebe and I were lucky enough to go to the beach on a day when it wasn't too terribly crowded. Venice beach was very cool and we were so relaxed by the end of our day tanning and playing in the ocean waters.

We made a pit stop by In-N-Out on our way home. It was a happy occaision for both of us! Then we headed home, showered and were whisked away to the LAX Hilton for a Chinese Engineering convention dinner. Let me tell you, Engineers=questionable partying capabilities. Really, though, it was a very interesting evening wherein we learned a lot about Disney's imagineering program and the upper echelons of Chinese society in Southern California. Still no husband for Phoebe...

Pheebs enjoying her first bite of In-N-Out Burger. It was a big hit with Miss Jiang who swears she will be returning someday soon.
At the beach trying to take a photo of ourselves without dropping the camera into the waters of the Pacific. (I already did that on my last trip to the beach).
Me with the Santa Monica pier in the background.
Almost fainting from the intense heat and desert sun while waiting for a bus to take us home.

Phoebe and me with Pauline and her mother, getting the chance to chat with them was definitely the highlight of our evening.


Sunday Pheebs and I rolled out of bed around 7AM and caught a bus to meet Sylvia downtown. Sylvia brought us breakfast, which included casamiento (if you don't know what casamiento is you are deprived and I'll just leave it at that). We boarded another bus to Anaheim and were at the park gates as it opened...pretty exciting stuff. Our first stop was the Tower of Terror, and it was pretty much a non-stop screaming and laughing fest from there on out. What a wonderful day!

California Adventures was almost better than Disneyland, because we were more relaxed, the park was MUCH less crowded and definitely more doable in a one-day time frame. I also got to see Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Pete's Dragon, Mike, Sulley, Buzz Lightyear, Minnie Mouse, Chip and Dale and Mr. Incredible. Oh yeah, it was sweet.

Sylvia, as always, was the mastermind behind our transportation out to Anaheim and back. Here she is with Phoebe and Dopey.

The three of us outside the park entrance. We wanted to take a picture with the giant C, but some lady had parked herself and her seven children on it...

What did you do at work today?

Oh, nothing, just paraded around as a catepillar's butt. How about you?

I love Phoebe so much! As you can see we always compliment each other.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Just a quick post between the beach and dinner. In about ten minutes we will be whisked away to the LAX Hilton where we will be attending a Chinese Engineer's dinner. Phoebe may come back engaged...stay tuned. In the meantime enjoy our adorable beach clip.

Giving Pheebs the 'stink eye.'
Inside the Chinese Historical Society headquaters during our late night tour.
Holding a scroll while this truly hilarious elderly man did backwards calligraphy at the CAM dinner.
Phoebe's bruise, 'Chinita.' She received this little beauty when she fell down a stair on Sylvia's front porch.

Today will go down in history as one of the greatest days of all time. Because this day, my friends, I did more than my fair share of LIVING.

Pheebs and I awoke to sunshine and blue skies here in LA, and the nicest weather we have had so far. We showered, dressed, crammed down some breakfast and jumped on to the metro. We did our best to look nice today because we were invited to a fundraising dinner for the Chinese American Museum. We spent most of our day running around, helping to prepare things and enjoying the ride.

Today, as I am sure Phoebe has already mentioned in her post, we were privileged to meet Corky Lee. Corky is one of the foremost movers and shakers in the Asian American community, he is a photographer with a long history of activism. He was charming in his eccentricity, and had plenty of wonderful stories to entertain us. He actually spoke at Colorado College about three years ago, though unfortunately neither of us met him in that context. When Corky talked about the old days, and almost getting arrested while demonstrating his eyes lit up and the energy he emanated was infectious.

As Corky was sharing his life experiences with us I came to a powerful realization, I am LIVING. All of these wonderful seemingly random adventures that I am fortunate enough to embrace are making up the fabric of my own personal story. This time in Los Angeles has brought it all into such sharper focus...I am creating a life that I am proud to call my own. The people at CAM have been amazing, kind and shown me that pursuing what you love and have passion for has incredible rewards. Our interactions with them have been wonderful. Not only are they each incredibly knowledgeable about their fields and the history that surrounds them, they are also the nicest and most sincere group of people I have had the pleasure of working with in quite some time. They seem truly happy. The idea that such a complete and passion driven life is possible is pretty powerful at this juncture, and I am going to chase these feelings of fulfillment as far as they will carry me.

The CAM dinner this evening was also a great experience to add to the day. Pheebs and I found fulfillment in separating raffle tickets, chatting with Chinese American community members, making boba tea runs and laughing at all the madness that filled in the space in between. We marveled at our combined inability to understand Cantonese as well. When we were finally seated at our table we met Eugene Moy, an enthusiastic board member of the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California. We got to talking with Gene about our research and he lit up immediately and offered to take us over to the Historical Society as soon as dinner was finished.
Would you believe that Phoebe, Eugene, his wife, Steven (CAM's grantwriter), Pauline and I took an impromptu tour of the Historical Society's archives and offices at 10pm this evening? It was nothing short of incredible. I could not stop smiling! Gene showed us boxes full of artifacts from the Union Station dig that unearthed most of the original Los Angeles Chinatown. He also gave us a brief glimpse at some personal correspondence between a Chinese pioneer Asparagus farmer and his brother circa 1930. It was AMAZING. Furthermore, he was sweet enough to lend me some books on the Mexicali Chinese, who I am very interested in pursuing further research on. What a night!

Being here is incredible. Each day gets better and better. Tomorrow it is off to Venice Beach in the morning, In and Out Burger in the afternoon and a formal dinner with the CAM folks in the evening...we are truly LIVING.

Please excuse the picture of my demented face below; if you didn’t know, I will be going to the Beijing Olympics as an intern and they needed a headshot. No worries, I did not send them the aforementioned photograph.

Life was unbelievably exciting today, with several notable meetings; this further evidences the constant mental stimulation we’ve been experiencing while in LA. Elena and I didn’t return home until about 11:20p, after Pauline graciously drove us back home to Gramercy Place. I’m sure our mothers would be pleased to know that we weren’t wandering the dark and dangerous streets of LA after dark. We arrived home so late because tonight we attended CAM’s first (annual?) spring banquet. Though the pre-dinner moments were a little hectic- including Elena and myself hastily counting and ripping raffle tickets- the dinner went over marvelously and was a huge success. Dinner was a delicious nine course meal at the Golden Dragon Restaurant in LA’s Old Chinatown. Besides the fabulous dinner, Elena and I enjoyed the company of Eugene and Susan Moy, prominent members of the Chinese American community in LA. Although Mr. Moy now resides beyond the boundaries of Chinatown, he can call this section of LA his birthplace. Through the course of dinner Mr. Moy and I discussed my potential thesis project (transnationalism), a Chinese American asparagus farmer, and the Chinese Historical Society of LA. During the post dinner commotion, Corky Lee (a Chinese American photojournalist we met earlier in the day) introduced us to his actor friend, Tzi Ma. Tzi Ma is of Red Doors fame, and may also been seen in Ladykillers and Rush Hour. Not only did we get a picture with Tzi Ma, but also one of Corky Lee and a member of the Chinatown court.

Following this exceptional meal, Mr. Moy was kind enough to take us on a tour of the two buildings that houses the Chinese American Historical Society. This historical society, of which Mr. Moy is one of the founding members, was the group that brainstormed the idea for the Chinese American museum back in 1979. Consequently there is tremendous overlap between the board members of the historical society and the CAM, including Mrs. Suellen Cheng and her husband. Tucked away in two unassuming turn-of-the-century houses, the Chinese American Historical society stores a decent collection of archives, its own library, and an intriguing assortment of artifacts. Amidst their catalog of rare items, are the transcribed letters of the Chinese American asparagus farmer, as well as the remnants of Old Chinatown after it was razed over to build Union Station. Elena and I have also been penciled in to have Mr. Moy give us a personal tour of Old Chinatown next week. sI consider myself lucky that I happened to flop down in the seat next to Mr. Moy, as without that random encounter I would’ve never met him and been introduced to the treasures of the Chinese American community. I’m also thankful that Elena allowed me to tag along, and share in this wonderful intellectual adventure. Speaking of intellectual adventures, we’ve spent a good amount of the day explaining the unique qualities of Colorado College, primarily the 3.5 week block plan that allowed us to embark on this LA adventure.

The day we enjoyed prior to the banquet was fun-filled as well. After arriving at the CAM, we continued on the scrapbook project that Elena and I’ve mentioned in earlier posts. Photographing and cataloging has opened my eyes to the nature of museum work, and I wonder if I am capable of pursuing such a field. If I do, or if I don’t, I’m so happy to be immersing myself in the field and fully experiencing not only museum work, but also the lives of those we’ve seen in the home videos and now seeing in the scrapbooks. Time flew by, and before we knew it lunch hour arrived. Elena and I venture to the Biscaluz building to meet some of the staff and Corky Lee for lunch.

Corky Lee was another intriguing personality we had the pleasure of meeting. Not too long after introductions and a couple handshakes, Corky began talking about his photographing of fortune cookie production, and this supposedly Chinese culinary item may have begun in Little Tokio. When we indicated to him that we were students at Colorado College, he had some fascinating things to say about Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods and the Air Force Academy.

Over pad thai, yellow curry and green papaya salad, our lunch party engaged in an thought-provoking conversation about the position of Chinese Americans in modern day American society. With the ever expanding Chinese economy and its associated soft power, Americans are feeling more and more threatened by China. And should the situation ever arise where Americans were losing their jobs, this could be attributed to the exporting of labor to China. Corky noted that Hilary Clinton even recently mentioned an unfair trade of American jobs for tainted Chinese goods. Race-based discrimination is not a new thing in history, with Japanese interment camps in the WWII era. And these embarrassing parts of American history are likely to occur again, if they aren’t occurring as we speak…Guantanamo Bay? According to Corky there are currently 2 Chinese Muslims being detained at Guantanamo.

Thus far in LA, every day has been better than the last. And I hope that the days just keep getting better. Tomorrow morning Elena and I are going to the beach and enjoying the beautiful California sunshine. Tomorrow night we’ll be attending another banquet-like function for an association of Chinese American engineers. All I can say is that I’m eager to see what thrilling adventures we’ll have tomorrow…

Friday, April 25, 2008

Name: Phoebe Jiang

Height: 5'3

Weight: 135 lb

Eyes: Brown

Hair: Black

Individual is demented and may be armed. If you see her please contact your local police station immediately.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Mei Wah Girls were a famous Los Angeles-based drum corps organized by none other than our dear friend David Soo Hoo.
Pheebs in the plaza.
Two Phoebes...considering a history thesis proposal.

Today we continued plowing through the scrapbooking…argh. It is actually incredibly interesting work, between the actual articles we are searching for and recording there are other little snippets of popular American culture from the war era that are pretty entertaining. Old ads for cigarettes, exotic entertainment, ex-lax and family vacation destinations have been both fun and educational. Phoebe is pretty sure that she wants to focus her research on war-era Chinese Americans, and I can’t say that I blame her. It’s a darn interesting topic, and much easier to research than nineteenth century Chinese American history.

So life here in the city of angels marches on. Pheebs and I are starting to feel very comfortable with all the bus routes and various modes of mass transit that take us all over the city. We definitely stick out on public transportation, especially in the neighborhood where we are currently residing, but people are generally helpful and friendly. We’ve definitely piqued the interest of the hostel’s Mexican housekeepers. They have started speaking to me in Spanish and asking me all sorts of question about what two young girls might be doing on their own in a place like LA. Their concern and inquisitiveness are very endearing. It’s been fun to pull my rusty language skills off the shelf and put them to good use. I feel I get better responses from most people when I speak to them in Spanish.

Working with documents and trying to think critically about the assimilation and integration of Chinese American into the ‘Great American Past’ has been fascinating. Where my research and work has primarily focused on the Chinese immigrant struggle to establish permanent and proactive communities, most of what the museum collections entails is the social integration of the American-born generations. It has been an interesting way to follow up my senior essay. There have been surprisingly few, and by few I mean almost non-existent, attempts to create a narrative that critically engages the struggles of the first generation and those of the second generation in a seamless narrative. I believe this is a gaping and critical hole that needs to be addressed soon, while oral histories are still available.

Being cooped up with dusty documents all day is difficult, especially in sunny So Cal. Therefore, Phoebe and I have taken to spending our lunch breaks wandering around the plaza. For those of you unfamiliar with the physical location, the Chinese American Museum of Los Angeles is located right next to the El Pueblo Historical Monument which also encompasses Olvera Street, aka Mexican-themed Disneyland, at the. It is interesting to watch all the American and European tourists marvel at the Mexican vendors, Aztec dance groups and beautiful historical architecture. Now Phoebe has developed a fondness for two things sold in the plaza, horchata and churros, so we usually go in search of one of the two before our lunch is finished.

Tonight Phoebe and I embarked on a new cultural/culinary adventure. The adorable Ms. Sylvia Arias invited us to have pupusas, the Salvadoran plato tipico, at her home. Her mother was amazingly hospitable and fed us until we were completely stuffed. We had a hard time moving after dinner, and collapsed onto the couch to watch movies and play guitar hero. It was a great night, until Phoebe decided she wanted fly down the stairs and took a spill on to the front porch, see picture above. I also think it is worth noting here that every time we venture into east LA Phoebe gets hit on. Today a ten year old whistled at her from a passing school bus, while we were waiting at the bus stop. The incredulous look on her face was totally worth the awkwardness.

Well, I could go on for a while about all the hilarious and interesting things that befell us today, but I will leave you with just one more cute anecdote from this most glorious Thursday. This morning, on our elevator ride up to the museum’s administrative offices Phoebe and I discussed how awful it would be to get stuck in an elevator by yourself. In a completely unforeseeable and hilarious turn of events this very afternoon after we returned from the plaza and had fallen back into the rhythm of taking pictures and cataloguing, we heard yelling coming from the elevator. Sure enough, someone was stuck in there, by themselves and without a cell phone. We quickly alerted the museum’s senior staff and soon the fire department arrived on the scene. This was definitely the highlight of my day because the firemen were…well…dreamy. Two of them engaged us in flirtatious conversation while we waited for security to turn the power off. Apparently the same fire house gets called out to the museum every few months to deal with that elevator breaking down. Now, Phoebe and I are thinking up ways to get stuck in the elevator before we leave. Just kidding…or am I?

P.S. For any of you who are still unaware, as of yesterday I officially accepted a job working at a Girl Scout Camp in Alaska this summer!

Last night, while eating dinner at 10:00p, Elena and I decided that we are still on Colorado time. While in some regards I agree with this observation, in other instances I believe I’m just being lazy. Generally I consider myself to be a night owl, but in LA I’ve been falling asleep at the 1:00a-ish hour. At home, to go to bed at 1:00a is a pleasure, but as I’m in LA, I feel a little like an old lady. Well, Elena and I should realign our sleeping schedules soon or I fear we’ll be maintaining 11:00a-7:00p work hours, which we did today…

Personally, I have no issues with arriving at work at 11:00a. But speaking in more logical terms, I doubt that life works like this. Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly believe that Elena and I accomplished much more than I anticipated we would today. After days of soundless and somewhat scatterbrained home videos, I was thankful to have a change of pace.
Today Elena and I diligently meandered through pages of David Soo Hoo’s scrapbook, which has its own randomly eclectic quality to it. Amidst the articles of the Sino-Japanese War and Chiang Kai-Shek was an article entitled “Does Your Husband Wish He Was Single,” and another article expounded upon on a rating system for your significant other. Reading these wartime newspapers was particularly enlightening as there was tremendous emphasis on China and supporting the Chinese war effort, not only by the Chinese American community, but also in the greater American population. Despite this newfound appreciation for China (we read an article about US legislation repealing the Chinese Exclusion Act at Whitesides) and Chinese Americans, Orientalism sneaks in and rears its ugly head. On one LA Times cover page, there were a good number of geezer-ly Chinese men with wispy white beards and Chinese hats. What was most striking about this page was the caption about a “lower caste Chinese man.” Lower caste? Caste systems didn’t even exist in China; I think the writers were getting China confused with India. Furthermore, Elena and I witnessed and photographed further evidence of Orientalism – Chinese exotic dancers. Elena noted that these “Chinese nudies” could have instigated what we understand today as the Asian fetish. Not only do I find the fetishes strange but a little creepy as well [please note the picture of my incredulous expression]. Because of our pre-work slacking and coming in late to the office, Elena and I finished up at the CAM at about 7:00p.

Following a productive day at the office and some stimulating conversation about Orientalism, we ventured into Chinatown for dinner. I was a little worried about going out into the dark, especially after Linh (CAM’s PR person) asked if we had mace. Thank goodness, I had Elena by my side because scary wasn’t so scary anymore. May Flower was on our menu tonight, with good food and a community feel to it. With a full stomach of tasty Chinese food, Elena and I clambered into a metro subway car headed towards Ktown. Ktown hosts a nice little Pinkberry knockoff called Yogurtberry, which houses similarly pink furnishings. Though the peach yogurt and mochi was tasty, we will likely be returning to Pinkberry in the near future.

Looking like a very serious, yet fashion conscious historianne.
Don't you wish you were cool enough to measure archival documents?
Newspaper article on the opening of New Chinatown.

So Phoebe and I are delinquents...we definitely blew off our blogging duties yesterday. But I promise we will make up for our absence with pictures and good stories.

Yesterday we arrived at the museum around 9:30AM and got straight to work viewing and making notations on the Jung families home videos from the 1960's and 1970's. They recorded some very interesting family vacations and gatherings. It was fun, but Phoebe and I were ready to move on to something a little more stimulating. After lunch time we definitely got our wish.

Our newest project is inventorying and photographing a scrapbook put together by one of Chinatown's more prominent citizens, David Soo Hoo. Apparently, he was a very delightful man who was an arm chair detective. His scrap booking is wonderful. Phoebe thinks he had a short attention span, as he put things out of order and all over the place. I think the newspaper clippings, programs, pamphlets and blueprints he left us are pretty invaluable. Pheebs and I are picking up good stuff for our research. Most of Mr. Soo Hoo's scrapbook focuses on LA's Chinatown, WWII and the Sino-Japanese War. It has been very interesting to look through.

Our touchstone at the museum, Sheryl, left LA yesterday. She has some traveling to do, and we will definitely miss having her. Everyone else at the museum is very nice to us and we love interacting with them, but Sheryl is the one who really made all of this possible for us. Luckily, we will see her again briefly next Friday.

We concluded yesterday like two old ladies. We went shopping at our local supermarket, made spaghetti for dinner and planned to watch a movie but fell asleep instead. Ahh, the beauty of eighth block in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Goodness, it’s been a while since I last blogged; now can people understand why I’m bad at facebook?

If you didn’t know already, Elena and I went to Disneyland on Sunday, and it was AWESOME! During the drive to Anaheim, I was worried that Disneyland would not be as magical as I remembered. And now, as a semi-adult, I thought this little trip down memory lane could turn into an ugly, hokey, misadventure. Strangely, as we drove into the Disneyland parking lot, a foolish grin began to creep into my mouth and disease the rest of my face and attitude – I was thrilled to be going to Disneyland! I would maintain this oafish expression for the duration of the day, smiling and gawking at virtually everything I encountered. And the lady who sold us our tickets made it truly magical by giving us the SoCal residents’ rate of another visit in the next 30 days; therefore, Elena and I will be returning to Anaheim for part II at the California Adventures section of the park. Our first ride came after 45 solid minutes of waiting in line, but Space Mountain was well worth the wait and conversation. During one of our lines, Elena mentioned a rumor she heard about Disneyland having a maze of tunnels underground to transport trash and characters in costume to preserve the magical-ness of the park. While there is much to say about the fantastic grounds keeping, ridiculously entertaining rides, and the general magical aura surrounding the space, Elena accidentally got hit by a custodian with a trash bag in the bathroom. Although this trip to Disneyland consisted of trying many more rides (I was too wussy the last time I came), I remain attached to the Matterhorn. For me, the Matterhorn is particularly nostalgic because it reminds me of when I, and my younger sister, Connie, rode the ride ten plus years ago. At the end of the day, all I can say is that I LOVE DISNEYLAND!

Sunday comprised mainly of me being a little more lazy. Since we’ve arrived in LA, Elena and I have been on the move constantly, even for fun extracurriculars, like frozen yogurt. The moral of the story is that I was very happy to sleep in while Elena finished up her senior essay. But the day did not go to waste, as we ventured out in the evening to have Korean food at the BCD tofu house. Dinner ended up being a wonderfully exciting cultural excursion in KTown (Korea Town). One thing I’ve come to realize while in LA is that anybody and everybody is in LA; the cultural diversity here is a little mind-boggling for a girl who comes from homogenous Colorado Springs.

After such a superb weekend, it was obviously a challenge for Elena and I to drag ourselves out of bed and out into the world. Prior to jumping back into reality, emails were at hand for me and I have officially submitted a request via email to write a senior thesis in the history department! Not too long after arriving at work, Sheryl informed Elena and me that we would be venturing to Whitesides for the afternoon. With such an unassuming name, Whitesides proved to be everything I did not and could not imagine: dirty, covered in dust, with cobwebs a plenty. Despite the dark and dusty nature of the building, its innards proved quite fascinating and is likely very valuable. I had a field day taking pictures of books, old newspaper headlines, and random pieces of paper. One of my favorite things we encountered today, was the clothing menu for Irene’s, with annotations by Mabel C. Wong, apparently a connoisseur of fine clothing. Whitesides was a fascinating experience and it’s very exciting to dive headfirst into this historian/detective work, I wonder if it’s something I want to do for the future…

Monday, April 21, 2008

Could life out here get any better? Each day there is something to discover, someone new to meet and all the good food you can possibly afford! Pheebs and I are wondering how we will be able to board the plane back to Colorado.

Yesterday we took a break from the madness and had a stay-in day. I worked on my senior essay and Pheobe just relaxed. We did take Sylvia out for Korean food in the evening. It was amazing, and I am now in love with Kimchi! We ended the evening at a Coldstone off the USC campus, people watching and waiting for the bus.

Last night was a long haul, I'll not lie. I stayed up well into the wee hours editing my paper. Words cannot describe the joy/pain/nervous excitement I felt when I pressed the send button and shipped my labor of love off to my dear advisor. And now that the Albatross is off my neck...I feel like a free woman!

This morning when we arrived at CAM, Sheryl informed us that we were taking a field trip to a warehouse storage facility on Whitesides, just a little ways down the freeway. We loaded the white gloves, camera and other accession accessories into the car and made our way down to Whitesides. The warehouse itself houses a great deal of El Pueblo Historical Monument's artifacts, CAM's collections have been relegated to a small room in the back. It was cozy, and by cozy I of course mean dusty, dank and cramped.

Despite the surroundings, we had a blast going through boxes of old photographs, books, newspapers and correspondences. Above I have posted some pictures of a few of the more interesting finds we made. We were sorting through items donated to the museum from the estate of Mabel and Y.C. Hong.

Y.C. was the first Chinese lawyer in Los Angeles, American-born and self-made he was a powerful leader of the Los Angeles Chinese American community. Mabel Hong, besides being a clothes horse, was also an extremely well educated woman and important community leader. Their books and correspondences were fascinating, and we unearthed some surprisingly valuable documents. Museum work so far has been a blast!

This evening the lovely Miss Jiang and I decided, on a whim, to go explore Pasadena. We hopped on the metro and found our way to Colorado Boulevard. A visit to our beloved yogurt shop, Pinkberry, the Gap, Forever 21 and J. Crew ensued. Ahhh retail therapy...sort of a self reward for finally finishing the essay.

My new sweater looks smart and sassy but is not extremely functional...kind of like me.