Chinatown – a hint of Asia – part one

Chinatown – a hint of Asia – part one

Greetings to readers across many time zones!  Summer Time (also known stateside as Daylight Savings Time) is here in the USA.  Only in America do we turn the clocks so soon and only in the past few years has this been so.  It made sense back in 1985 or 1986 to change the day that the clocks are changed to the first Sunday in April (instead of the last Sunday in April as was done prior to the mid 1980s).  But, now, it is still winter in North America.  Why then are we already on Summer Time?  There is a short term benefit, though.  Now, readers in Europe can read these essays before turning in, or retiring, for the night.

A hearty welcome to recent blog subscribers.  Please be aware of the monthly archives and subject categories on the blog site.  If the well of ideas runs (temporarily) dry, or this blogger suffers fatigue or “burn out”, you are sure to find some earlier essays of interest.  There are now over 200 essays on our blog site.  As well, feel free to tell some of your friends about this blog.  Blog site visitors are always welcome, 24/7!

Indulge me for another short paragraph on time zones.  Once upon a time, I was working for a company that had overseas offices in London and in Japan.  If we wanted to talk with our counterparts in London, we had to be sure to call them first thing in the morning as for them it was late in their workday.  When we needed to talk to the people in Japan, we had to wait until late in our own afternoon, as for them it was early in their new workday.  The world keeps turning.  (One of our engineers kept 3 clocks on the wall of his cubicle.  One for London, one for San Francisco, and the third for Tokyo.)

Dear readers, we will post a few picture essays this week and there will be more such essays for next week.  Please be aware that a hard hitting, 2 part thematic essay is coming mid week (North America time, and provided we do not suffer any Internet connectivity problems, the last of which kept us off the blog site all day on 12 February).  In part II, I may really let loose.  (No, it is not a rant, nor a screed.  It is, sadly, reality.)  We realize that not every one will read this upcoming essay, but we still encourage every one to read it.

We now offer some pictures from midday Friday, 8 March 2013.  We also provide some relevant background information.  We will try to get part 2 up on the blog site and in your email inboxes within several hours.  (Part 2 will be of new pics (of banquet style prepared dishes for the cooking aficionados) and fewer words.)

Chinatown – a hint of Asia – part one

Many Chinese workers were induced to leave southern China (by the hopes of a better life) and emigrate across the Pacific to the US in the late 1800s.  Many of these Chinese worked on laying the tracks, the rails, of the railroads in the western states of the US.  They were known as “coolies”.  (I do not know much about this word or why it was attached to the Chinese, or what it may have originally meant.  But, now it has a negative, disparaging connotation.)  As worker safety was not a high priority at the time, many Chinese were killed or maimed while building the railroads.  This was especially true while blasting through the Sierra Nevada mountains in eastern California to construct tunnels for the trains through the very steep, rugged, and largely inaccessible mountain terrain.

On a personal anecdote, when we were passing through El Paso, Texas on annual holiday in 1993, Lucy and I found that there was a small Chinese community in this west Texas city.  We ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant and talked to the employees.  We found that the local Chinese community got its start in the late 1800s with the Chinese laborers who were laying the rails for the Southern Pacific Railroad (built through the area in the late 1870s and into the 1880s).  So, Chinese labor on the railroads extended hundreds of miles into the continent and was not confined to California and Nevada.  (Why were we in El Paso?  One flies to El Paso, then rents a car and drives a lengthy loop to see 3 (somewhat remote) national parks.  Big Bend, Guadalupe Mountains, and Carlsbad Caverns.  You can do an Internet search on those parks for good pictures of them.)

Today, in San Francisco, many Chinese have moved out of Chinatown into other parts of the City.  They live in the more residential western sections known as the Sunset and the Richmond districts.  Many are entrepreneurs and small business owners.  Not just restaurants and laundries are owned by the Chinese.  There are Chinese owned and operated small construction firms, hardware stores, hair salons, food markets, commercial printers, and community banks.  As the teachings of Confucius stress the value of education, the Chinese are well represented in the professions.  There are Chinese doctors, dentists, attorneys (barristers), engineers and accountants.  As well, in the millions of square feet of office space in San Francisco, there are many computer programmers and secretaries of Chinese descent.

Lao Tsu (or Tse), the legendary founder of Taoism and a contemporary of Confucius and living at the time of the Buddha, once said:  “It is better to light a single candle, than to curse the darkness.”  (He may have been referring to his attempts at dispelling ignorance among the people.)

We also include links to 2 other, very early essays (with photos) that may be of interest to some readers (links at bottom).

Here are some pre-Spring, early blossoms in the front yard of a home in the Sunset district only several hundred feet from the cold waters of the northern Pacific.


early spring blossoms


Welcome to Chinatown.


wall art


This next picture is of a typical street scene in Chinatown.  In some of these photos, the Communist Chinese (red) flag can be seen flying (on US soil). This troubles me as it calls to mind the several tens of thousands (or more) of US servicemen (black, white, red and brown) who died, or were maimed, fighting communism in our 2 east Asian wars (Korea, and then Viet Nam).




This next pic is of an open air food market, one of many scattered throughout Chinatown.  These type food markets are plentiful in the Sunset and Richmond districts as well.

All these various fruits look delicious.  The blueberries, or bluets, in the rear in little plastic containers (upper left of photo) have been flown in from Chile or New Zealand as they are out of season in North America at this time (they normally ripen in mid to late summer).

The very dark green avocados (on the right) are a favorite of ours.  Ladies, take note, they do seem to be good for “men’s health”.  Avocados are grown in both the US and in Mexico.  (Buy them when they are firm, even very hard, and eat them “raw” when they soften up after 2 or 3 or 4 days (store outside of the refrigerator, and there is no need to cook or warm them).  If too soft and “squishy”, it means they are going bad inside.  Interior color should be a pleasant, light to medium green, not gray, becoming a dull yellow deeper in. As well, rinse them in tap water before pealing them to eliminate any possible parasites on the skin.  Always a good idea to thoroughly rinse produce.)


assorted produce


More produce.  Chestnuts and tomatoes (and green bell peppers in rear).


chestnut and tomato


Oranges.  Yummy!


oranges for sale


Dried ginger.


dried ginger


Dried oyster.


dried oyster






These vegetables (below) look somewhat like potatoes, but are actually a kind of Chinese radish.  They are called “daikon”.


not sure what this is


Red globe and green grapes (possibly from Mexico this time of year).


red globe and green grapes






Here are some fresh fish for sale.  Reminds me of the time many years ago when I challenged my brother-in-law, Paul, about his feeding live fish to other fish in his various aquariums.  He shrugged this off, and simply said “Big fish eat little fish.  That’s life.”


fresh fish


Now, to 2 views of the Transamerica Pyramid on the very northern extreme of the financial district.  Note that the storms of Wednesday and Thursday have moved on and we see blue sky.


Pyramid 2


Another shot.


Transamerica Pyramid


Our final pic is of a Chinese cemetery located a few miles south of San Francisco.  The fog is lifting or thinning and the sun may be about to come out.




Here are the links to the other essays noted above.  This first one is about the commuting experience within San Francisco.

This next essay is for rail fans everywhere.

Thanks for reading and viewing!

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