Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Inside one of China-town's Markets

"All under heaven is for the good of the people," by Dr. Sun Yat-sen.

This statement is on the famous double dragon gateway that arches over Stockton Street. Built in 1970, it welcomes all to the official China Town of San Francisco.

All under heaven is good for the people! What a gospel Principle! And what a way to begin one of my favorite and absolute musts when I am in San Francisco. Thor and I missed it our first trip, but when we had the opportunity to visit again some 20+ years later we fell upon China Town like a 15 year old girl for a boy band! We couldn't get enough of the sensations that await all who walk down its' streets.

A great example of efficiency and beauty is the display in this market. Literally thousands of different herbs, veggies, spices, dried fish and all manner of unnamed products line the immaculate shelves floor to ceiling in gallon and half gallon glass jars topped with shimmering chrome lids. It made me feel quite dull as I stood there in awe and wonder. I feel as though one would have to be born into the culture and grow very old to have enough time to understand the scope and possibilities of use for the items on display. All natural and all with specific purpose. It made me think of Western remedies and what little we do that is truly natural anymore. I must admit that I was fascinated by the top row in this photo which shows bags of "fins" in a variety of sizes as does the jar at the left of the second row. All I know about fins are the infamous soup. (...And I am sure there are many more uses for them!) The proprietor of the store was proud and pleased to allow me to photograph his truly bright and pretty store.

My first introduction to Leechee fruit was, in of all places, St. George, Utah! Perhaps not the genuine preparation, these curious little fruits were very delicious, preserved in their light sugar syrup. About ping-pong ball in size, it takes two bites to enjoy one. With a leathery skin similar to that of an avocado, it gives slightly under your touch. The pebbly/spiky leather is peeled easily away revealing the palest of pink, almost white soft fruit. Akin to the feel of a pear in your mouth the sweetness will surprise your pallet. I am just entranced with the colours! Rich rosey pink to magenta and mulberry contrasted with the flat kiwi green. It's a designer's dream and I just know that when Heavenly Father was sketching out this one He took suggestions from toddlers! You can purchase Leechees in most large chain markets, give them a try!

Along side of these leechees I saw flat peaches, long beans - looooooong beans! They had to be at least 18 inches! I wanted to grab up a bunch to take home - delicious! The aroma of all the freshest of apples, nectarines, and a fruit I do not were heady and intoxicating! The streets are lined with market after market with nothing but fresh produce some still in the packing boxes. Some decorated with beautiful flowers and greenery. It fills your eyes as much as the pallet!

If you plan your trip for the afternoon, you have planned it too late! Wake up early and head out to the market for breakfast. My suggestion will invite you with its' aroma for half a block - NO EXAGGERATION! These little cuties are calling you with the sweet vanilla cup-cake-y scent that almost forces you up and into the store. Again I was met by a very happy, proud and welcoming owner who was pleased to allow me photographs. We tried to communicate in the usual way, by raising the decibel level! After a few minutes we both laughed and brought it back to the normal pitch! She showed me her tools and irons and even the batter. Watching her carefully pull the round fluffy balls from the iron and onto the plate in one piece was a treat. I think anyone would have fun eating the waffle one little ball at a time! Imagine your toddler's smile when he was given the tiny little fish! (to the lower right of the "normal" waffle) That happened to be my favorite and I searched all morning for an iron like either of them. (no luck)

As you walk through China Town we need to remember we are uninvited guests. We need to be aware of our facial expressions, pointing fingers, and all remarks we make may be misinterpreted as rude. The visual stimulations, scents, sounds, and culture can provide so many opportunities for growth and learning, but can also seen strange, odd, and sometimes even shocking. I would suggest saving most comments until you are back at the hotel. Ask permission before taking photographs. Smile, say hello and thank you -even if you think you are misunderstood, politely nod when eye contact is made. Stand back more towards the curb and allow the regulars to do their shopping. Thor and I are fairly short, 5'7" and 5'4" respectively; however we towered over many of the folks. Imagine if someone were that much taller than you and was in your way as you tried to do your weekly shopping. Be as polite as possible.

Most of the folks I met were courteous, friendly and willing to show and teach me new things. Some were not as accommodating and I knew they felt I was an intruding tourist. Try not to be one of the rude, gawking, and loud - remember that it is a different culture and what is normal for us may not be for them. Yes, it's in the U.S., but just like most towns with a majority of immigrants, there is an adjustment for both cultures to be made.

Bring a few dollars and stroll through the shops for a genuine souvenir. If you don't plan on a purchase be careful to stay out of the way of those who will be. If you are being an observer, do so from a distance; if it is possible, ask if it is o.k. for you to stand and learn what they are doing. If you are denied a photo op or entrance, just say thanks and leave. There is sure to be another interesting shop a few stores down that will welcome you.

add to sk*rt

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