01.28.10

Chinese New York

Posted in Down in Chinatown, Travel Log (N. America & Europe) at 3:02 pm by Benjamin Ross

Outside of the Middle Kingdom and Southeast Asia , there is probably no spot in the world more Chinese than New York City. When people think of American cities with heavy Chinese concentrations, usually San Francisco and Los Angeles are the first to come to mind. It often comes as surprise that New York City now has, by far, the largest Chinese population in the Western Hemisphere, and is the primary economic, cultural, and logistical center of Chinese life in the United States.

Throughout the 19th Century and the majority of the 20th, most Chinese immigrants to the continental United States came from Guangdong (the Cantonese province) and settled in California. In an era when ships were the dominant form of international transport, the West Coast was the logical destination for immigrants from Asia. Well into the 20th Century, even as air travel became increasingly feasible, most Chinese immigration still passed through the West Coast, since this was where the established immigrant communities were located.

Then in the 1980’s a dramatic shift in Chinese immigration occurred. Rural peasants from Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian province, just north of Guangdong, began emigrating en masse to the United States. The immigrants from Fuzhou did not share business and kinship connections with the established Cantonese communities in California, nor could they understand the Cantonese language, the lingua franca of most American Chinatowns at the time. Without ties to existing American Chinese communities, and with the ease of jet travel, the Fuzhou immigrants had little reason to settle in California, as previous generations of Chinese had done. Instead, they flocked to New York City, where a formidable labor vacuum was emerging out of the booming Chinese restaurant industry.

Since the 1980’s the Fuzhou population, and by extension the Chinese population of the United States, has grown by unprecedented numbers. With the quantity of Fuzhou immigrants long surpassing that of the Cantonese, New York has now become the main port of entry for Chinese immigrants in the United States.

Most Chinese immigrants in New York are not from the city of Fuzhou per se, but rather the small villages and townships in its rural periphery including Changle, Lianjiang, Fuqing, and Langqi Island. As someone who spent three years living in and around Fuzhou, the topic of Chinese immigration has always been of particular personal interest. So during my recent stop in New York, I made it a point to visit its various Chinese enclaves.

New York City has three primary Chinese communities, the Manhattan Chinatown on the Lower East Side, the Queens Chinatown in Flushing, and the Brooklyn Chinatown in Sunset Park. Excluding San Francisco’s Chinatown, each of the three New York communities on their own are more populous than any other Chinatown in the United States. The following is a photo essay from four days in New York. Enjoy.

曼哈顿 · Manhattan

Manhattan’s Chinatown is located on the lower east side within a massive tract of tenement housing blocks, not far from the former site of Five Points, the immigrant neighborhood showcased in the Martin Scorsese’s film “Gangs of New York.” For much of the 20th Century, the area which is now Chinatown was New York’s Little Italy.
The swarming, raucous, and grubby atmosphere of Manhattan’s Chinatown exemplifies the perfect marriage between New York City and China. With pirated DVD’s, fake Louis Vuitton bags, herbal viagra, and 50 cent patterned Chinese “famer bags,” there isn’t much you can find in China which can’t be purchased in Manhattan. It’s also probably the largest concentration of Chinese restaurants in North America, and at night vendors crowd the sidewalks hawking 烧烤 (Chinese skewers), 麻辣烫 (ma la spicy soup) and other Chinese street snacks rarely found outside of the Middle Kingdom.
As New York’s oldest extant Chinese enclave, more Cantonese is spoken in Manhattan than anywhere else in the city. The Cantonese still form a solid population base on the Lower East Side, however they are rapidly being eclipsed by the Fuzhou influx.
Chinatown’s boundaries are clearly delineated by its housing stock. As the tenements lie upper middle class residential high rises, which vividly contrast the immigrant housing in their shadows.
Although Fuzhou-ites can be found in all parts of Manhattan’s Chinatown, the commercial center of the Fuzhou population is East Broadway, aka 福州街 (Fuzhou Street)
For a particularly native experience, I recommend a perusal through the East Broadway Mall. With shops hocking phone cards, electronics, suits, and rice cookers, and a rudimentary basement food court selling authentic Fuzhou snacks and niblets, the East Broadway Mall (88 E. Broadway) could just as easily be located on a street corner in downtown Fuzhou.


法拉盛· Flushing

Hop on the elevated 7 train, and take it to the end of the line in Flushing. Disembark, and one is immediately transported into the most concentrated Asian population in the United States. To the east lies Koreatown, rather quiet and subdued compared with the massive Chinese colony to the west, which by most counts has now surpassed Manhattan’s Chinatown in population.
In terms of Chinatowns, Flushing is about as diverse as they come. Fighting through the crowds, one hears the sounds of Cantonese, Fuzhou dialect, heavily accented Northern Mandarin, Taiwan Guoyu, and shouts of “ma-sa-gee, ma-sa-gee,” all permeating through the noise and commotion.
The center of the Flushing Chinatown is at Main Street and Roosevelt, the third busiest intersection in New York and the busiest outside of Manhattan. It is chaotic, cramped, and crowded, even by Chinese standards. Flushing has a plethora of authentic Chinese restaurants and street food, making it an ideal spot for adventurous foodies. Like many ethnic neighborhoods in New York, one can easily consume an entire meal in Flushing without ever sitting at a table or using utensils. This is Chinese street food at its best, as many vendors and storefronts offer a multitude of Chinese finger food, much of it unavailable anywhere else in the US, and all at bargain prices.
After several rounds of street food grazing, I settled down to a meal at “Four Choise and Soup All Day Lunch Box.”
“Four Choise and Soup All Day Lunch Box” follows a formula common among New York Chinese dives: 4 servings are chosen from a buffet, plus a scoop of white rice and a bowl of soup, all for the low price of $4.95. The fare at “Four Choise” was was a unique blend of authentic Chinese 快餐 (fast food) and Fuzhou-style American Chinese food, which I found surprisingly tasty, albeit in small doses.
Owing to its comparatively low degree of commercialization and tourism, Flushing represents a less adulterated ethnic enclave than Manhattan’s Chinatown. With direct subway transportation to Manhattan, Flushing is an ideal destination for any traveler wanting to experience the Middle Kingdom on American soil.

布鲁克林 · Brooklyn

With so many ethnic pockets in the city, even many New Yorkers don’t realize that one of the largest Chinese communities in North America is located in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. Of the three Chinatowns, Sunset Park is the least touristy, and the most completely and utterly Fuzhou-ified. Passing along the main drag, 8th Avenue, the glottal sounds of the Fuzhou dialect fill the surroundings with hardly a word of Mandarin, Cantonese, or English spoken at all.***

Sunset Park is the place to go for the most uncensored Chinese experience New York City has to offer. As the youngest of New York’s three main Chinatowns, Sunset Park is home to a higher percentage of new arrivals than the other two Chinese enclaves. And without bona fide “tourist attractions,” Sunset Park’s Chinatown is NYC’s least frequented by outsiders. Businesses such as fish markets and 网吧 (internet cafes) appear to have been lifted right off the ground from Fuzhou and transplanted into South Brooklyn. Most restaurants serve an array of authentic Fuzhou cuisine and snacks, making it quite possibly the only Chinatown in America where one would be hard pressed procure that famous chicken of General Tso. And most shop owners don’t even bother to translate the Chinese characters on storefront signs into English.

To reach the Sunset Park Chinatown, take the D train to 9th Avenue and walk one street west to 8th Ave. Chinatown runs north and south from 42nd Street to 68th Street.

***It is a common misconception that the Fuzhou population residing in New York (and all over the US) does not speak Mandarin. While the Fuzhou dialect is the preferred language, since the linguistic reforms of the 1950’s the vast majority of Fuzhou children have grown up bilingual, speaking both Mandarin and the dialect. Only a tiny percentage do not speak Mandarin, and this percentage is likely lower than that of those who speak Mandarin but no dialect.

I stopped in for a meal in Sunset Park and you can probably imagine the novelty for the wait staff upon encountering a 6-foot white guy who can speak about 10 sentences in the Fuzhou dialect. After exhausting my limited arsenal of dialect, I chatted in Mandarin with the staff and several of the other diners, who were able to provide me with a detailed update on the constant state of construction in my old neighborhood in Fuzhou. Being several thousand miles away from your former home, and encountering a room full of complete strangers who recognize down to the address exactly where you used to live and work is an odd sensation to say the least.

The food served at the restaurant was typical Fuzhou fare. On the left are wontons, which in Fuzhou are referred to as 扁肉. The broth has a unique flavor which tastes quite different from standard wontons, or 混沌. Interestingly, the word 扁肉 is generally not understood outside of Fujian province, and the only place outside of Fujian (China included) I’ve seen it on a menu is New York.

On the right is a 包子 (bao), a steamed dumpling, common throughout China, but regionalized such that there is flavors vary from province to province (and country to country). The Fuzhou style 包子 is filled with sweetened pork, although quite different from the more common Cantonese 叉烧包 (cha shao bao), frequently served in most American Chinatowns.

Similar to the “Four Choise and Soup All Day Lunch Box,” many restaurants in Sunset Park also offer 中国式快餐 (Chinese fast food). 快餐 is common throughout China, and can be thought of as the Chinese buffet which is actually Chinese (as opposed to your typical US Chinese buffet which is about as American as Hot Pockets). Also, 快餐 restaurants rarely offer “all you can eat” deals (another very American concept), and instead either charge per serving or offer a package such as 4 servings plus rice and soup for a set price. With stir-fried green veggies, pork fat, squid, and whole fish, this Sunset Park buffet looks just as it would back in Fuzhou.

With its three bustling Chinatowns, each swelling larger every day, the Chinese are increasingly expanding their stake in the ethnic mosaic of New York City. Even in neighborhoods which have not been traditionally inhabited by Chinese, it can be difficult to find a street corner in New York where the sounds of Mandarin, or Cantonese, or the Fuzhou dialect cannot be heard. Much has been written about the Chinese (and specifically the Fuzhou) immigration pipeline into New York City, and further reading, I would recommend The Snakehead by Patrick Radden Keefe (which I reviewed in July) or The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee. I still have more to report from my recent trip to the East Coast, and I’ll try to have additional posts in the weeks to come.


 

01.17.10

East Coast Excursion ’09, Photo Highlights

Posted in Travel Log (N. America & Europe) at 1:37 pm by Benjamin Ross

With the ease of international travel in the 21st Century, as an American it’s easy to forget the array of urban tourism that the United States has to offer.  It had been since my roadtrip from Kansas to California just upon college graduation in 2003 that I had embarked on a true multi-stop adventure on American soil.  So with two weeks off work over the holidays, I set off on a journey down the American East Coast, taking me through Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.  Here are some of the photo highlights from the trip.

Boston from airplane bird's eye view
The first stop on my trip was Boston.  Here’s a shot I took from the plane upon descent into Logan International Airport.
Reno, NV likes to bill itself as the biggest little city in the world.  I find this title more fitting for Boston.  Although it is a prominent educational, cultural, and economic center, Boston, the city itself, is quite small in comparison to other major American metropolises.  Even when you assume several of the surrounding municipalities figure into the urban core, Boston is still one of the US’s smaller major cities in terms of both area and population.
One reason for Boston’s compactness is that much of its street grids align up with their original designs from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  This means lots of narrow windy streets, some barely wide enough for a single car to meander through.
The result of Boston’s old street grid is that it is arguably the most pedestrian friendly major city in the country (San Francisco also comes to mind).  In four days, I was able to cover just about every city neighborhood on foot.
With its curvy street grid and bodies of water surrounding the downtown, Boston is not an easy city in which to find one’s orientation.  You actually have to know where places are physically located, as opposed to simply going by an address or cross street like you would in New York or Chicago.
Boston’s downtown is a fine conglomeration of buildings from the past four centuries mixed in with modern high-rises.
Boston Beacon Hill
I spent several hours on my first day exploring Beacon Hill, one of Boston’s most affluent neighborhoods, with its federal-style rowhouses dating back to the 1700’s.
Commonwealth Avenue Mall
Another one of my favorite walks in Boston was the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, a long, and uncharacteristically straight residential boulevard just west of downtown.  Com Ave’s straightness is due to it being built on reclaimed marshland added to Boston in the 1800’s, hence many years after the original street plan was laid out.
MBTA Red Line Boston
For my travels outside of the downtown area, I relied mostly on the “T,” Boston’s rapid transit system.  A week pass on the “T” was only $15 and I generally found it easy to travel wherever I needed to go within Boston as well as several suburban locations, by using the “T.”  As far as American transit systems go, the “T” is pretty swank, with comparatively modern infrastructure and rolling stock.  I also got a rise out of the public service recorded announcements from Boston’s chief of police constantly reminding everybody to “pay youa faaaa.”
Boston skyline
Boston’s compactness makes it an ideal city for rail transit and the “T”‘s per/mile ridership is higher than any American city other than New York. An extensive commuter rail network also connects surrounding suburbs and neighboring communities.
West End Boston last tenement
Boston’s West End was a downtown working class neighborhood, which before its demolition, was home to much of the city’s Italian-American population.   In the wake of Urban Renewal, and among much controversy, the West End was raised in the late 1950’s, ostensibly to make way for the Massachusetts General Hospital.  Many elderly Bostonians will tell you the real reason was racism and xenophobia towards Italians and immigrants.  This lone tenement is the last standing remnant of what used to be the West End.
Boston skyline
Overall, I have to say Boston is one of my favorite American cities.  It has a historical charm, but also modern sights and sounds, local flavor but also a wide array of foreign influence, and an active street life redolent of Old World cities.  Four days was the perfect amount of time to experience Boston, but I’m sure I’ll be back again to experience all New England has to offer.
The second stop on my trip was New York.  My plan was to do as much exploration of the five boroughs as I could fit into 4 or 5 days.
At 71,000 people per square mile, Manhattan is one of the densest places on the planet, including Third World nations.  To put that perspective, population density of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh is only 60,000 per square mile.
What I found most interesting in my exploration of Manhattan was its economic diversity.  In addition to the nation’s most expensive homes and commercial real estate, Manhattan is also home to numerous housing projects, immigrant enclaves, and various other low income dwellings.
As much as I try to avoid tourist traps, New York does posses several spots which I would have kicked myself for not visiting, such as Grand Central Terminal (pictured above).  While many American cities still have sumptuous rail depots such as Grand Central, the true beauty is that in New York (and much of the East Coast) these stations are still in heavy use by both commuters and long distance travelers, whereas in most other regions of the country rail transport has long since been replaced by airplane and automobile.
I knew I wanted to see the Statue of Liberty, but with a line wrapping itself halfway around Battery Park, an official visit to Lady Liberty would have likely consumed an entire day of my trip.  Solution:  The Staten Island Ferry.  The ferry, which is the only form of public transportation to connect Staten Island with the rest of the city, is a free service (probably because nobody would ever go to Staten Island if it wasn’t free) and provides impeccable views of the Statue of Liberty as well as the skylines of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Jersey City.
Times Square is New York’s be-all-end-all tourist trap.  By that, I mean everybody who visits the city clamors to see it, while everybody who actually lives there avoids it like the plague.  While I can imagine the crowds and tourists becoming annoying after a while, I could certainly get used to receiving all of my news in ticker format.
New York has, by leaps and bounds, the most comprehensive public transit system in the United States.  My 7 day transit pass cost $28, and there wasn’t a single location I could not conveniently reach via subway.
Once you leave Manhattan, many of the trains are elevated, which make for ideal sightseeing excursions.  This “L” goes through Williamsburg, one of the more intriguing neighborhoods in Brooklyn, with adjacent communities of Hispanics, Hipsters, and Hasidic Jews.
New York has more Jews than any city in the world other than Tel-Aviv, and one telltale sign was this dumpster, on which is written in Hebrew “shomer shabbos.”  If you’re Jewish (or if you’ve seen the Big Lebowski) you probably know this implies “don’t even think about using this dumpster during the Sabbath.”
Also in Williamsburg’s Hasidic neighborhood, I passed this specialty shop selling “designer coats.”  Every single garment in the shop was pitch black.  They were all out of thongs.
In addition to its concentration of Jews, New York also now has more Chinese residents than any other city in the Western Hemisphere.  New York’s original Chinatown is located within a sprawling expanse of tenement housing stock on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  In the past, this area was home to Manhattan’s Little Italy, which except for a 2 or 3 streets, has now been completely swallowed up by the expanding Chinatown.
Referring to “Chinatown” in New York is becoming increasingly ambiguous as there are now actually three bustling Chinese enclaves in the Big Apple.  In addition to the community on the Lower East Side, Chinatowns also exist in the Flushing, Queens (pictured above), and Sunset Park, Brooklyn.  I am working on a more detailed post on Chinese New York which should be coming in a few days.
Due to the constant influx of undocumented immigrants, there is no feasible way to accurately count the number of Chinese currently residing in New York City.  However, I’m willing to guess that as far as New York’s foreign population goes, the Chinese are definitely top 10, possibly top 5.
One unique aspect of the New York Chinese community is that it is predominantly of Fuzhou origin.  Whereas most American Chinatowns are still composed of a majority Cantonese (specifically Taishan) population, New York’s Cantonese population has been dwarfed by pipeline of Fuzhounese pouring in over the past several decades.
By my count, Queens is quite possibly the single most ethnically diverse locale on the planet.  After my trip to Flushing, I followed the elevated tracks of the 7 train on foot, en route through a kaleidescope of ethnic neighborhoods such as Corona (pictured above), one of New York’s main Hispanic enclaves.
Due to its population density, New York is one of the few American cities where mass scale street vending is feasible. Vendors such as the one pictured above, can be found on nearly every street corner hawking fruits, vegetables, hot dogs, falafel, DVD’s, watches, bagels, iPods, women’s underwear, or a multitude of other household goods (yeah, it’s basically just like China in that respect).
Relative to its population density, New York actually appears to have a relatively low number of homeless people living in the streets.  I noticed this to be the case even when visiting poor neighborhoods in the South Bronx.
While I was able to see the majority of Boston in 4 days, this was certainly not enough time to adequately explore America’s largest metropolis.  New York is enormous, in terms of area, population, and population density.  This was only my second visit to the Big Apple, but I can say with Schwarzeneger-esque certainty “I’ll be back.”
Next stop on my trip was Philadelphia, and what would be more fitting than commencing my travels with an authentic Philly cheesesteak?
Philly has 2 “famous” cheesesteak spots, Pat’s and Geno’s, both located on the same street in South Philly.  Locals have conflicting viewpoints on which is tastier, and many will even tell you that the best cheesesteaks are at neither. I tried Pat’s.  It tasted about as good as it looks in this picture.
Philly is an interesting town, and the setup actually reminded me a lot of Chicago, with a downtown of skyscrapers and high-rises, surrounded by a checkerboard of diverse neighborhoods.
The difference however, is that much of Philadelphia is still suffering from the massive white flight and ensuing urban decay of the 50’s and 60’s.  This has left many of its neighborhoods outside of Center City (that’s what Philadelphians call their downtown) in a crumbling state of neglect.
Center City, for the most part, is still in healthy shape as droves of city dwellers and suburbanites alike flock downtown every day for work, shopping, and nightlife.
Philadelphia doesn’t receive many accolades for its architecture, but I was a big fan of the downtown skyline, especially with its matching blue toned buildings.
In the geographic center of Philadelphia stands the City Hall, which when it was built in 1901, was the tallest habitable building in the world.
Alright, I know I’m going to get some heat for this, but the Liberty Bell is possibly the most overrated tourist attraction I have ever seen.  Even after reading its history I can’t get over the fact that a) it’s basically just a bell and b) it’s much smaller than it appears in middle school social studies textbooks.  I can think of at least 10 tourist attractions in Philadelphia alone which are more worthwhile.
One of which is Elfreth’s Alley (pictured above), which is claimed by many to be the oldest continually inhabited residential street in the United States. Most of the housing stock dates back to the early 1700’s.
Another Philadelphia neighborhood which I joyfully explored for several hours in single-digit temperatures was Society Hill, which contains the largest concentration of 18th and early 19th century housing in the United States.
In the intermediary area between the skyscrapers and antebellum row houses of Center City and the sprawling tracts of suburbia, much of Philadelphia is in a state of severe urban decay.
Scenes such as these two above, taken in North Philly near the campus of Temple University, are common throughout much of the city.  Philadelphia’s former status as a manufacturing powerhouse and the ensuing evaporation of jobs to globalization has left the city with a massive population urban poor inhabiting the inner city’s dilapidated housing stock.
Philadelphia’s economic troubles are overtly apparent in its public transit system, appropriately called “SEPTA.”  SEPTA stands for “Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority,” but to most people the name sounds more like a particular adjective which could accurately be used to describe the system as a whole.  Fares are still paid using tokens, and day passes must be shown to SEPTA employees, who using a whole puncher, hand mark each pass before allowing the customer to pass the turnstile. Unlike the Chicago “L” however (America’s other ghetto-fabulous public transit system) SEPTA’s coverage is not comprehensive, and consists of only two subway lines which intersect at a massive unused underground mall/public urination ground below City Hall (pictured above).  Thus, unlike New York or Boston (or Chicago), I would imagine surviving in Philadelphia without a car would present significant transportation obstacles.
Philadelphia does show signs of a resurgence, and areas such as Northern Liberties (pictured above) are experiencing gentrification as young professionals flock back to the city.  Philadelphia’s proximity to New York and DC, and its affordable housing (not to mention its GDP, which is still 4th in the nation) are proving to be driving factors in Philly’s urban revival.
Let’s put all that serious stuff aside and get back to what’s truly important–food.  This was Philly Cheesesteak #2, purchased from a street vendor in Center City.  At $4, it was about half the price of the cheesetake from Pat’s…and it tasted about half as good.
The real culinary sleeper from my trip however was the Italian hoagie which I sampled in South Philly’s Italian Market.  Although the cheesesteak receives most of the fanfare, I’d say I enjoyed the hoagie almost as much.
I planned my stay in Philadelphia to coincide with the Kansas v. Temple basketball game at the Liacouras Center.  As Jayhawks fans from DC, New York, and Philly all descended on the Temple campus filling up half the arena, this quite possibly was the largest congregation of Kansans ever assembled in the city of brotherly love.  KU won 84-52
“Aaaaaa-driannnnnnn”…(Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
Philadelphia is definitely the most underrated city on the East Coast, and possibly in the country as a who;e. People love to rag on it, and with good reason. It’s old, grey, run down, and is easily overshadowed by New York, DC, and Boston.  But Philly has a unique charm (not to mention enormous historical appeal) which comes in no small part from playing second fiddle to its neighbors.  It’s hip, affordable, unpretentious, and at its heart, a down home blue collar All-American kinda town.  With America’s inner cities currently in the midst of massive urban regeneration, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Philadelphia as a major benefactor of this trend.
The final stop on my trip was Baltimore, where I only had two days to spend before heading back to Chicago.  The highlight of my Baltimore stay was the Lexington Market, a venue of exchange which has existed on its current site downtown since 1782.  Today, the majority of the patronage and many of the businesses owners are African American.
From crabcakes to fresh vegetables to homemade doughnuts to pig legs, and even raccoon meat (no joke), you can find just about anything at the Lexington Market.  Mixed in with grocery vendors are restaurant stalls which hawk prepared Baltimore seafood, Southern style fried foods, and yes, American Chinese food, which these days seems to be just about everywhere.
This shot is from one of the Southern joints.  I had tried pig tail before (although never at an American restaurant), and I don’t even know what smoked jowels are.  Unfortunately at the time of this picture, I was already stuffed full of crabcakes (another highlight of Baltimore) so not much to report here on taste.  But it does look enticing though, eh?
After 4 days in Boston, 4 in New York, 4 in Philly, and 2 in Baltimore (pictured above) I headed back home.  With so many major cities in close proximity, all easily accessible with public transportation, the American East Coast makes an ideal destination for a multi-week backpacking excursion.

As a side note, readers might be wondering why I did not include Washington in my itinerary, and the answer is twofold.  Firstly, I had already been to Washington, twice.  The other cities (sans New York) I was all visiting for the first time.  Secondly, a focus of my trip was to explore the older of the urban cores of the United States, thus my stop in Baltimore as opposed to the nation’s capital.   Expect more posts on more specific aspects of the trip in weeks to come.


 

01.02.10

4 days in NYC, now in Philly

Posted in Travel Log (N. America & Europe) at 9:13 am by Benjamin Ross

Time for another short update…I’ll have more thorough write-ups and pictures once I get back to Chicago. I’m in Philadelphia now, after 4 days in New York City. I had previously been to New York only once, so I spent a majority of my time exploring, riding around on the subway and exploring the city on foot. In New York, I was especially interested in its Chinese communities, as the major influxes of immigration for the past couple decades have been coming from Fuzhou, and I spent considerable time exploring New York’s three Chinatowns. My travels in New York also reinforced how effective public transportation can be when people reside in high density urban areas, as opposed to the suburban sprawl which has overtaken the US throughout most of the last half century.

Here in Philly and at my next stop in Baltimore, I plan to explore a cities which have seen more prosperous days in years past. My initial impression of Philadelphia is that the city looks and feels a lot like Chicago, only without much growth and development over the past fifty years, and considerably less ethnic diversity. I’ve already had my first cheesesteak (Pat’s) and today am going to see my first Kansas basketball game since moving back to the US (They’re playing Temple). Go Hawks! I’ll have more in-depth updates when I get back.

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