aReal Chinese Food
aSanta Monica Pier
aThree Story Forever Twenty-One
aJapanese American National Museum
aSpeak Mandarin with Phoebe's Relatives
aSpicy Hunan Food
Tacos de Trompas (Pig Snout Tacos)
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:
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.
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…
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...
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.
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?
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.
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.
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…
Pheebs in the plaza.
Two Phoebes...considering a history thesis proposal.
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?
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.
Don't you wish you were cool enough to measure archival documents?
Newspaper article on the opening of New Chinatown.
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.
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…
I’m not going to lie, beginning the day was much more difficult than we would’ve liked. I was not pleased at all to leave the warm comfort of my bottom bunk bed (if you didn’t figure this out, Elena and I have a bunk bed). After dragging my sleepy head out of bed and into the shower, I was a little more prepared to take on the day ahead of us.
Waiting for public transportation is not something I’m used to, especially since it’s virtually nonexistent in good ol’ Colorado. And so we waited for the bus, we waited, and then we waited some more. Finally the bus 33 arrived, and Elena and I took a sigh of relief. Upon arrival at the El Pueblo Historical Monument, we realized that the front of the Pio Pico Hotel was being prepped for a movie! Later in the day, when we were leaving work, movie people even shooed us away from the set. I have a strong suspicion that I saw Alfonso Cuaron today, though with my horrendously lacking skills in movie trivia I may be horrendously wrong.
As soon as I downed a full bottle of water and a handful of cough drops, Elena and I set to work…watching home videos of Chinese Americans from the 1950-60s. From my interpretation, the protagonist of these home-made films was a little mischievous Chinese American boy, whom we dubbed bad di-di (little brother in Chinese). Although there was not sound with these videos, the material was fascinating. Here, encapsulated in a 3 part, 6 hour long movie was the experience of a Chinese American childhood. In many regards, this Chinese family experienced many quintessential elements of American life (i.e. opening Christmas presents, having fun in Disneyland, visiting the Grand Canyon, and etc.). Yet there was a repeated return to images of life in Chinatown, of lion dances and family gatherings. The videotaped images provided by this Chinese American family exemplify the fusion of Eastern and Western cultures.
After watching several shots of the Phoenix Bakery in the movie, Elena and I would relive history during our lunchtime hour, one bite at a time. Our eating adventures in LA continued after work as well, when our fellow volunteer/interns offered to take us to frozen yogurt in Little Tokyo. In one afternoon, Elena and I were lucky enough to sample two competing frozen yogurt stores (Pinkberry and CeFiore), which are located across the street from one another. Much to my delight, I found the stuff (at both locations) absolutely marvelous!
Well, I’m fast fading and should likely get a good night sleep before we go to Disneyland tomorrow!
We would like to dedicate this picture of Elena working on her senior essay to Professor John Williams.
As someone who calls Colorado Springs home, I should like to say that my adventure began yesterday afternoon when Elena and I waved goodbye to campus. Despite the deceptively beautiful weather we enjoyed the day before, as soon as we merged onto the highway Mother Nature insisted on being unpleasant. But we successfully negotiated the treacherous and blizzard conditions on I-25 and made it to the mile-high city in once piece. [Please note that both Elena and I were wearing flip-flops when we left Colorado Springs]
On the day of departure I, in my overzealousness, woke up at 3:00a to drowsily prepare myself for two and a half weeks in sunny California. From 3:00a until 10:00p west coast time, life has been go, go, go... After waking up Elena at 4:00a, we departed for the airport in the dark and dreary pre-dawn hours. Flying to California was easy and pleasant; I spent most of the flight sleeping awkwardly schlumped over the empty middle seat. Post-arrival, we lugged our luggage (which involved some dragging, kicking, and yelling at times for me) from Union station to the Chinese American Museum in the El Pueblo Historical Monument. The museum itself was not difficult to find, as red Chinese lanterns provided wonderful place markers.
Almost immediately upon arriving at the CAM we were welcomed by …
[*At this point in my blogging I was virtually drooling on my laptop I was so tired. As a result, I am offering not one, but two blog posts tonight.]
…Sheryl Nakano, a wonderfully nice woman who has done marvelous things for the CAM. As the baby of El Pueblo Historical Monument’s museums, the CAM is still trying to come into its own. And though there are hurdles to be overcome, I optimistically believe the CAM will make everyone proud in the future. After dumping our luggage behind a desk, Sheryl gave us the low-down on our projects. Our first of two projects comprises of watching the home movies of two prominent Chinese-American families, and the second mission will be to go through fairly fragile scrapbooks from the 1930s.
Following the explanation of our projects, Sheryl graciously gave us a personal tour of the CAM. The exhibit I found most intriguing was the Jake Lee watercolor exhibit. Despite being a Chinese-American painter, who painted scenes of Chinatown, Lee aimed to distinguish himself as an American-Californian watercolorist. To disguise his Chinese-ness, Lee painted quintessential American scenes of barns and fields, but elements of Chinese painting seemed to creep into his works (i.e. plum branches snuck in through the corner of at least one of his displayed pieces).
With a better understanding of the museum and its mission for the future, Elena and I were then whisked off to be introduced to the curator and one of the founding members of the CAM before lunch. First we met Pauline Wong, a newly graduated PhD student who studied informal education. While speaking with Pauline, Suellen Chang dashed in to announce she misplaced her sweater and would be back to meet us more formally. Though we only exchanged two-second greetings, Mrs. Chang left quite an impression. Much to my surprise, Mrs. Chang (one of the founders of the CAM, and a prominent person at the El Pueblo Historical Monument) was nice enough to take us out to lunch. Not only did I enjoy a wonderful cup of horchata, but had a stimulating conversation with Mrs. Chang about transnationalism, and the role of overseas Chinese as middlemen for the movement of goods and ideas between east and west…I think I have to write a thesis now…
Thankfully, Pauline was nice enough to drive us to Gramercy Place, and I was thoroughly pleased to have a place to rest my head. Almost immediately after checking in I checked out, taking a splendiferous four hour nap. Napping completed, Elena and I ventured to the nearby grocery store for provisions. In our excursion I believe I stuck out like a pine tree in a forest of cacti, it’s a little awkward but I’m okay, I like awkward.
Well, I must go prepare dinner while Elena finishes the last bit of her senior essay. Toodle-ooo!
A replica of a working Chinese herbalist shop was once housed in the Garnier Building.Today was fast and furious. It started at 4am with Phoebe knocking on my door, and there hasn't been a dull moment since. We got to LA without incident. In fact, I might actually characterize the journey as pleasant. Pheebs was excited to be back in Cali.
We arrived at the museum a bit earlier than expected this morning. The wonderful Sheryl Nakano was there to greet us. She has been instrumental in setting up this internship opportunity, and was so excited to finally have us. We spent most of the morning looking at the collections and talking to Sheryl about her truly incredible work in getting the museum off the ground.
She has been working for about five or six years with twenty years worth of donations that had never been properly catalogued, sorted or preserved. The response from the Chinese community in LA to the museum has been overwhelming, and the sheer volume of donations is daunting. After all these years, she is still plowing through artifacts and documents. We got a chance to look around and see all the work that is cut out for museum interns and employees for years to come. We will be looking at some really awesome scrapbooks from the turn of the century and transcribing some oral history recordings. It will be fantastic.
We got to meet all the museum staff including Suellen Cheng, curator of the El Pueblo Historical Monument (which most people know as Olvera Street and the surrounding plaza area). CAMLA was originally the vision of Suellen and her husband, Munson Kwok. It is still their baby, and this year the museum will turn five years old. We were lucky enough to have luch with Suellen in Olvera Street, and it was fun to pick her brain. Overall, every single museum employee we met seems ecstatic to have us here.
Our digs here in the city are also pretty sweet. We are in an old mansion that has been converted into a hostel, right on the edge of Koreatown. It's ecclectic to say the least. We went to a local gorcery store tonight and stuck out like a couple of sore thumbs. I can't decide what gave us away. Could it have been Phoebe's JCrew fashion tendencies or perhaps the fact we were speaking English to each other? No matter, everybody we've encountered has been friendly and hilarious.
Well, I am tired so I'll just stop here for now. Please pray for Phoebe; she has the black lung.