Nancy's Travelblogue

... there isn't a train I wouldn't take, no matter where it's going. -- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Location: California, United States

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Oral history, Oakland Chinatown, and Tai Chi

It was oral history that got me to Madison Park in Oakland on Saturday morning, but it's Tai Chi that will get me to go back. I received a flyer from Roy Chan, the director of the Oakland Chinatown Oral History Project (OCOHP), announcing  the Bubble Tea Chats* exhibition would be at Madison Park, on the edge of Oakland Chinatown. Since I was out of town for the main  event, I decided to catch it here.

The Bubble Tea Chats oral histories focus on the displacement of Oakland Chinatown families living in the Madison Park area in the 1960s, when their homes were claimed by eminent domain for construction of BART, Laney College, and the Oakland Museum. The narratives of these families were brilliantly recorded and preserved by Oakland Chinatown Oral History Project, Mills College students for KALW, and StoryCorps.

I learned on Saturday that there is another, contemporary story in the Madison Park area, a story of new immigrants who make this park their community center. These folks gather every morning for dance, Tai Chi,  and social activities. When I arrived around 9:30 there were more than 100 people, and Roy told me that if I had arrived earlier there would have been twice the number, and that this park hosts the group seven days a week throughout the year.

Roy also told me that these folks form a microcommunity within the larger boundaries of Oakland Chinatown. As new immigrants, they have found a home in the Madison Park area, and would  not be likely to venture a few block over to events at OACC in the Pacific Renaissance Center.

Everyone in the park was excited to see the exhibit, and I hope it will will inspire questions about the history of the this section of Chinatown .... about the Chinese families who came before them, moved in, moved out, moved on, and assimilated. The story of newcomers to Oakland is told over and over, from one generation to another, from one language to another -- stories of tragedy and loss, of hope and new beginnings, of hard work, setbacks, and triumphs.Each person you see in these photos has such a story.

The morning offered me a bonus, since I've been waiting for the right situation to learn Tai Chi.  The groups here are open to anyone at any level, and I even received a personal invitation to join, with an indication of the special spot to stand in -- the spot for beginners. I'll be there soon.

*Bubble tea is a popular drink in Asia.


Friday, July 02, 2010

Writer's Diary, #6, End of a chapter

Yesterday morning I packed up my computer, my printer, my research books, my espresso maker and said good-bye to Green Valley, Arizona, my writing retreat for the past month. The month by myself was a writer's dream, and I had the luxury to experiment with narrative styles, organization, design, and presentation -- seeking the very best form for this book. Even more of a luxury is the leisure to go back and revise if a better idea comes up. I left with what I think is a pretty solid first draft. We shall see.

Now I go back to real life to California -- to work, classes, gardening, shopping, and all the details that make up modern life. That's as it should be, and I know I'll get back in the routine quickly, and be happy about it.

This month was a treat, and the remainder of this book series will be squeezed in between more pressing duties, especially teaching three classes fall semester on top of my three day a week day job.

Hello life!

Here's a photo I tookon Hwy I-19 leaving Green Valley