The people shoved against each other. Gaudy colors flashed out at me as exotic objects caught my eye. All around me, people with black hair and black eyes chattered. I was in the Chinatown of San Francisco with my family.
We’ve toured through Fisherman Wharf and Japan town, driven through the golden gate bridge and rode on the cable cars before. But the place that never fails to awe me is Chinatown and the first thing on the list was to eat breakfast and I got to pick the restaurant. After a few minutes, I eventually chose a traditional looking one that was guarded by golden lions. In the restaurant, the first thing that I noticed was the noise. While the dim sum pushers were yelling their wares, the customers conversed in loud tones. Now, ordering from a Chinese restaurant is different than in a normal restaurant. You still order some dishes from the menu but if you want dim sum, you have to wave over the people who are pushing the carts with the pork buns, dumplings, deep fried rolls, etc. The price was reasonable with the dim sum at $2 to $5 a dish and specially ordered dishes such as pepper and salt fried shrimp or sweet and sour pork at $6 to $12 a dish. Also, in the restaurant were paintings of a phoenix and a dragon, which my parents told me was a good luck symbol for restaurants.
Next, we went shopping at the food stores and the tourist shops. There were fresh peaches, apples, grapefruits and ginger that sold at less than a dollar a pound while snacks such as candied ginger sold for less than $2 a bag. Meanwhile, there were seafood stores that sold live fishes, lobsters, and crabs, meat stores that sold fresh, roasted pigs, ducks , and BBQ pork, bakeries that sold all sorts of pastries at less than $1 each while the medicine stores sold interesting ointments and strange herbs that cured anything from mosquito bites to a bad cold. My favorite, nevertheless, were the tea shops that sold jasmine, Darjeeling and more at anything from $5 a pound to $100+ for a quarter pound. On the tourist side of town, stores that sold gorgeous pictures of peonies, charming bracelets, vases, and San Francisco clothing attracted my mom at me. On the other land, stores that sold real swords, daggers and useful electronic gadgets attracted my dad. And we were all drawn to the cute little cable cars and San Francisco post cards and key chains. At the top of the hill where the tourist shops stood was a beautiful view of the Golden gate bridge, the bay bridge and the Alcatraz.
This trip meant a lot to me. I am American Chinese and going to a place where I was able to submerge in my culture and my people really moved me. I also learned more things about my culture, like the fact that when you want a refill of tea at a restaurant, you have to flip the lid of the teapot up. This trip changed me since I was given deeper insight about our custom and our ways. Of course, the crowds were huge and cutting the line was very common in the food stores but I suppose that was part of the place’s charm. However, our photos did not turn out well and none of the ones that did were of Chinatown or of us. Nevertheless, this was a fun and opening experience and I am already nagging my parents to go again soon.
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