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Stories From Chinatown, Stories From The Sea: A Personal Retrospective

When I came up for the name for this blog, I wasn’t sure if anyone would get the reference to PJ Harvey’s 2002 LP, Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea. I wanted my blog to capture the same motley of invigorating emotions that underpinned that album. I wanted it to be exciting. I wanted it to be bold. And, of course, I wanted to tell stories—the kind of stories that provide unique perspectives of this ethnic enclave.

And for the most part, I think I was successful in shedding light on Chinatown and its plentiful residents. But it wasn’t a cake walk I assure you, especially with the impeding language barrier I faced. My friends would comment why I even chose to report on Chinatown, since I can’t even speak an inkling of the language. I’d respond with a curt “Well, I like the food!”

It wasn’t until I wrote my piece about Chinatown’s Alleyway Tours did I realize that beneath Chinatown’s touristy exterior—filled with toy snakes and bamboo backscratchers galore—there’s this enclave brimming with momentous stories about the neighborhood’s history, as well as the people who grew up there.

After taking these crash courses of Chinatown history during the alleyway and ghost tours, I became more involved with the sociopolitical climate of the neighborhood. I then took on my biggest assignment yet: covering the Chinese-American communty’s furor over the recently introduced bill that would make it unlawful to possess, sell and distribute shark fin.

By talking to Chinatown activists and leaders, as well as prominent political figures in the Bay Area, including Senator Leland Yee and Assemblymember Paul Fong, I’ve gained a broader perspective of the neighborhood as a close-knit community as well as their cultural beliefs.

This blog served a greater purpose than simply fulfilling a requirement for my reporting course. It served as a sort of conduit that conveyed Chinatown’s culture and history through personal vignettes. I wanted to create each story from a very human perspective.

These stories that you’ve read don’t even scratch the surface of Chinatown’s mystifying history. It’s as vast and mysterious as the sea. Sure, these are stories from Chinatown, but I’m still working on the “stories from the sea” part.

One response

  1. toltendo

    You know, after reading about the issue with the Chinese culture of shark fin soup in San Francisco, considering the city hosts a wide variety of cultures, ranging from American (Castro, Hippie movement [Haight]) to ethnic minorities (Chinatown, Japantown, Manilatown [I-Hotel], Mission), it seems that communities gives us a way to identify ourselves, whether or not we may not fir or live in that certain community, it broadens our view of acceptance and understanding of different people.

    June 1, 2011 at 7:40 am

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