East Meets West, Or Is It North Meets South? - My Family Travels

This excursion in New York City started as any other would: with a subway ride. To a New Yorker? Commonplace. To a Floridian? I’m still wrapping my head around the idea that ‘underground‘ doesn’t have to mean ‘underwater’ like back home.  My father and I take line 6 and get off at Canal Street.

Honorable Mention 2010 FTF Teen Travel Writing Scholarship

This emergence from the subway platform into the sunlight started as any other would: in sight of the golden arches of McDonalds.

But here’s the twist: the writing is in Chinese. Welcome to Chinatown!

In true New York tourist-trap fashion, our first encounter with Chinatown’s inhabitants is a middle-aged woman that approaches us brandishing pictures of her merchandise.

“DVD? DVD?” She inquires. I recognize one of the films as something released in theaters only a week before.

“Ah, no thanks.” She frowns and shuffles around for more cards with pictures of shoes and handbags. We hurry on our way; there is much more to see here.

Although neither one of us is Buddhist, pure curiosity drives us to the Mahayana Buddhist Temple. As expected, there are many depictions of Buddha’s life and candles all around the room. What I didn’t expect was the glowing neon blue circle behind the huge Buddha statue in the front.

Chinatown has the remarkable ability to squish a great number of shops into a small amount of space. Much of the wares spills out onto the sidewalks. As expected from the Chinese influence, we see many paper fans and dragons, tea sets, and the like. However, the shops sometimes take a turn for the bizarre, advertising child toys that roll around in the street, figurines from Japanese video games, and one small container of live turtles.

I ponder these goods for a while, but soon my hunger gets the best of me, and we go on in search of food.

And by ‘food’ I really mean ‘ice cream’. If the hot New York summer’s day hadn’t convinced me, the adorable logo of a dragon eating ice cream and highly amusing menu of the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory certainly did. Here, apparently, my staples of chocolate and vanilla are ‘exotic’ flavors, while a list of flavors such as ‘Wasabi’ and ‘Taro’ are promoted to ‘regular’ status. One so called ‘regular’ flavor, Lychee, catches my eye. What Lychee was exactly I had no idea. A picture on the wall inside informed me that it was some sort of red, round fruit with a bumpy skin. Feeling no more knowledgeable about the mysterious Lychee as I was before studying its appearance, we get a little sample cup.

Whatever a Lychee is, it makes a pretty decent ice cream. Sweet, and blessedly cold.  However, a sample isn’t very effective in quieting my stomach. So we drop in a Chinese restaurant a few doors down, the Shanghai Kitchen.

Undecided as to whether we have time to sit and eat, we first ask if we can order carry-out. The woman who greets us seems confused by our words. We decide to just drop the idea, and claim a table instead.

My Dad munches on egg rolls while I sip at my wonton soup. I see a gathering of waiters at the front of the restaurant.

“Careeowt? Carry..out…?” One makes a carrying motion with his hands, and I hide a smile behind my cup.

“Take… out… TAKE OUT!!!” He sounds triumphant and I try not to spill my soup. I remind myself that we are Southerners in a strange land: we should have learned to speak New Yorker before we came!

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