By Vicki Lau
For as long as I can remember, I have always lived in the same area my whole life. I only remember moving once, but it was merely across the street. Even though, technically, I live in Solano Canyon, spiritually, I live in Chinatown. To me, my real neighborhood is nothing more than just where I live. Chinatown is my real home. To describe the atmosphere of this tourist hot-spot through the eyes of a resident would be like writing a novel (which is not what blogs are for). Thus, here is a gist of the people and places that are significant to me.
Throughout the time that I've been alive, Chinatown has undergone a number of changes. The cause of many destruction and displacements all lead to one cause: gentrification. My friend used to live in one of the oldest and historic homes in Chinatown. Unfortunately, when the Orsini Apartments stormed into town, all it took was a bulldozer to knock families out of treasured homes & demolish the small but missed BBQ King restaurant.
If I had to choose one place to escape to in a time of confusion, it would be the library. The Chinatown Branch Library played an important role in most of my childhood. Everyday afterschool or on the weekends, my friends and I would go to the library (although, not necessarily to read). Every kid went there. It was the hangout spot. Now that I'm older, I rarely go to the library, but it is always there whenever I just need some peace.
Believe it or not, my elementary school is the place with the deep personal meaning to me. If I could go back to any period in my life, it would definitely be around second grade. Everything, from the three murals to the once huge staircases, holds a special memory in me. To think that I could have easily attended my home school, Solano Elementary, makes me quiver inside (although I always wonder how my life would be different if I did).
My biggest mentor is my fourth grade teacher from Castelar. Mr.Chang was not your ordinary elementary school teacher. He taught our class about the real issues of the world and introduced us to new ideas. Mr. Chang still plays a big part of my life today, leading the Chinatown Kung Fu & Lion Dance Troupe as well as the Mentor+Mentee Project.
Even though I do not know them personally, I relate to the nonchalant kids of the neighborhood every day. I volunteer for the LA's BEST Afterschool Program at Castelar Elementary School many times a week. I was one of the first kids to be in this program when it started (my 2nd grade year). Now, when I see the young ones, I feel like I am reliving my elementary years through them.
A whole bunch of activities come together at the Alpine Recreational Park right across from Castelar Elementary School. The activities run the gamut from basketball leagues to kids' programs. I am a proud member of the Chinatown Kung Fu & Lion Dance Troupe and we practice every week at Alpine. =]
Although Chinatown is covered in Chinese restaurants, a lot of my friends love going to eat pho (type of Vietnamese food). There are a good number of pho restaurants in Chinatown like Pho Broadway and Pho 87.
A place that I am afraid to cross paths with is the smelly poultry store. Whenever I pass this live poultry store, I always speed walk and hold my breath until I turn purple (well not really). The "breathtaking" (ha ha ha) smell of live chickens scrambling in a cage makes me gag everytime.