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!