Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Oakland Chinatown: May 27, 2008

Today, we went to Chinatown in downtown Oakland (marked with the "A"). It only took us a few minutes to get there on the bus, but it was so different from what we're used to! Some of us have never been before, even though we've lived in Oakland our entire lives.

We had new groups this time and got to choose which topic we explored. Our topics are still the same, though. Between the six groups, we looked at safety, aesthetics (how things look), health and accessibility, diversity, economics, and food.

Make sure you check out some of our personal blogs, too! Just click on the links to our blogs from the "contributors" section (below, right).

Oakland Chinatown: Diversity

By Delilah, Vanessa R., Jackie B. and Beatriz

On our way to Chinatown, we didn't see a lot of diversity. There was different kinds of Asians, but the most common that we saw were Chinese. Many of the older Asian people didn't speak that much English. They don't call it Chinatown for no reason!

When we walked by, people would look at us weird. This was probably because we were a different race from them, and we were all out during the school day. The economic differences in Chinatown really doesn't seem to be that great; everyone seems to be in the same class as everyone else in Chinatown (nobody is wealthy, but they're doing good enough to get by).

But, then again, there are some people in Chinatown that are very well off. There were a lot of very fancy cars parked in the street, and some people were dressed very nicely. We saw a lot of jewelry stores (3 on 1 block!); we saw a jade bracelet that was $4,000! And even though there are like 100 different markets in Chinatown, it seemed as though everyone of them was full of people buying things (which, of course, means that people have money to spend). But because so many of the stores, especially the clothing stores, get a lot of customers, it seemed that the prices are cheap without reducing the quality of the product.

Every restaurant and food shop had some different things on the menu, but it was pretty much all the same from store to store. There wasn't much diversity when it came to food. They had a lot the same resturants -- Chinese food, with some Veitnamese and Japanese places.

Oakland Chinatown: Aesthetics

By Jessica, Maria, Jackie P, and Valeria

Chinatown is a really different part of Oakland. The culture and beliefs there are different. The people there seem to mostly be busy, and have something to do all the time. The food was different. It was all mostly Chinese food, and other Asian foods. The older people didn’t really speak English. Walking down those streets was different because the people seem to be so different that the people in our neighborhood, different language, appearance, jobs and shopping lists. But the streets were just as dirty in Chinatown as they are in our neighborhood. We walked by a trash can and next to it there was a mess, with the trash spilling. It seemed like there wasn’t more space for garbage in the can, so they decided to throw the garbage next to it.

While walking around we looked at what types of cars the people drove. We noticed that they were mostly Hondas and Toyotas. The cars weren’t super nice but they weren’t old and beat up either. They were still in good condition and decent. This shows that they don’t have a lot of money but they seem like they aren’t living in poverty either.

While we were walking around trying to interview people, we saw a wall that was full of different colors. Guess what it was? Tagging! (Graffiti) Yes, we thought we were not going to see tagging because the people seem to like being there, and seem to take really good care of the place, but we were wrong. It was all over the place. Something else that we saw that was surprising was that the streets were dirty and cracked -- just like our neighborhood. Some things are all the same.

Oakland Chinatown: Health and Accessibility

By Miguel, Alejandro, Brian, and Juven

In Chinatown, we looked at how people with disabilities can access the city, and how people stay healthy.

What we learned about Chinatown was that there weren't enough places on the sidewalk for them to walk safely. Some of the sidewalks are hard to get around, there aren't that many ramps, mostly stairs and steps. We saw one may with one leg, and he was struggling to get up on the sidewalk before the crosswalk turned red. We think there should be more handicap rails not only in Chinatown but all over Oakland, because there are a lot of people that really can’t get on the sidewalk. There are also a lot of older people in Chinatown that can't get around easliy because of their canes and walkers.

There were not a lot of places in Chinatown to exercise or do any kind of physical activities, but there was a park where people might walk around. We did see people exercising in one school. We saw old people doing exercises in the park and in the school, doing aerobics and something called Tai Chi.

In Chinatown, we saw a lot of pharmacies and we tried to interview them, but they said no. But they seemed to take sickness seriously because there were a lot of pamphlets and things about staying healthy and people who worked there were answering a lot of questions for the people who walked in. Then, just a few blocks later, there were more pharmacies. They also had natural tea houses and places that sell traditional food so that people can stay healthy in ways that their culture tells them to.

In Chinatown, we also saw a lot of Health Clinics. We saw the Asian Health Center, with a lot of free information for people to take if they needed it. There was also a free clinic where people could go if they didn't have a lot of money. There was also a free clinic for Planned Parenthood and family advice.

Oakland Chinatown: Safety

By Daniela, Laura, Alejandra and Vanessa B.

In a 10-minute drive, we went from our school to Chinatown! Chinatown is a place that most of us have at least passed by, if not explored. As we got out of the bus and started walking, it felt pretty safe and calm. Everyone seemed to be very busy, walking fast through the streets and into local markets, restaurants and stores. We passed through a construction area, and as we walked in the actual street there were no cars that were driving too fast, or at least not fast enough to hit us.

Another aspect that gave it a sense of safety is that walking two streets up from Webster Street on Broadway, the police station is right there next to the freeway. They have their offices there, with all of their police cars and motorcycles. Because of this, it was very often that we saw a police car. That means that, if something is occurring in that area, they are able to arrive at the location even faster. In addition, because of the fact that cops are always at that area, we thought that might make it safer. If people know that there area lways cops around that area, maybe they are less likely to rob a place in Chinatown. We found out that the people who lived there didn't agree with us, though.

The place where we met up with our group, on Webster and 9th Street, had two security guards making sure that everything was okay. I honestly felt that Chinatown was very safe at that moment. After conducting interviews, we realized that although we didn’t witness any threats,s tore owners have witnessed a lot of robberies and others that live around that area don’t think that it is as safe as it can be.

One of the people we interviewed in Chinatown was a lady who worked in a clothing store. She was very nice, very sweet and talkative, and full of personality. She talked to us about how she does not feel very safe in Chinatown and in the Downtown Oakland area, especially after 7 p.m., because it isn’t secure enough. She said that she was very scared to walk around alone because of her past experiences and how she got robbed once. A man on a bike rolled up beside her and tried to snatch her purse, she tried to pull it back from him but he succeeded and took off with it. After that, she is terrified of walking around there at all, and says that she always goes home as early as possible, where she actually feels safe. When I asked her what she does to try to keep herself safe, she told me that she tries not to show that she has anything valuable on her, like her cellphone or money hanging out of her pocket, and she tries not to wear anything too flashy or expensive like “Coach purses or shoes” she said.

In Chinatown, we interviewed people about safety and if they think there community is safe or not. We interviewed a librarian about how he feels about this issue. We asked him if he's ever been robbed and he told us he has never been robbed but he has heard that the library has been robbed before. He told us what he does to prevent from getting robbed. Some of the advice he said was not to wear any expensive bags or anything that is expensive that people might want to take from you. He told us how homeless people go inthe library and sleep there. When a homeless person goes in the library they ask them to leave and if they refuse they call the security to take them out. They do this to prevent things from happening.

In Chinatown, we got to interview a police officer and a security about safety. The police officer said that he wasn't scared to walk alone at night because he always carries his weapon with him. He said that it does get dangerous at night at Chinatown. We asked him if he ever got robbed and he said he hasn't but that his family members have. He also said that valuable things shouldn't be left around because people will steal them. We also approached a security officer and when we asked him if we could interview him, and told him that the questions were about safety, and what did he do to keep people safe in Chinatown . He said he didn't know. That was weird because he’s a security officer, so he should know how to keep people safe and himself too. His excuse for not knowing these things was that he barely started that job but we think that that's no excuse.

Oakland Chinatown: Economics

By Claudia, Amairani, Jasmin and Ernesto

The stores that we saw around Chinatown are a lot of super markets, bakeries, Bubble Tea places and florists. They also have a lot of jewelry and Japanese and Chinese restaurants. Jobs we saw were mostly working in restaurants and small food stores, and there were a lot of restaurant owners, bakery owners, and much more.

In Chinatown, it seemed that there were people from different economic backgrounds. The people in Chinatown were often dressed professionally, but there were also people that were dressed with regular clothing - not all fancy. We also saw people wearing working clothes, some were all dirty and others were really clean. We saw many people driving nice cars, some were expensive, some were just reliable and well-kept. For example, most of our interviewees said they drove Hondas and Toyotas, and we also saw many people driving BMWs, Mercedes and Odysseys.

We interviewed people from Chinatown and a lot of people seemed to not want to talk about what they do in their spare time. A guy who worked in the bank said he likes to play tennis. They didn't really tell us what were the most popular things people in Chinatown do for fun, because they thought it was too personal a question.

In Chinatown, there are a lot of banks that give services in both Chinese and English. There was Bank of America and Wells Fargo branches right there, as well as a few others. It seemed like people around the area can go an open an account pretty easily, and we didn't see a lot of check-cashing places (like we do in Fruitvale). It is good for people to open an account to have interest in the money they would put in, and have a safe place to keep their money.

Oakland Chinatown: Food

By Yesenia, Cinthia, Lesley and Olivia

The restaurants in Chinatown were very different than what we had seen in our previous visits to the Fruitvale and Walnut Creek. Chinatown's restaurants had different varieties of Food. The most common foods that we saw there were rice, chicken and a lot of different type of seafood. In Fruitvale, we saw the same food, but cooked in different ways, mostly with Mexican spices.

As we walked through Chinatown, we saw many small markets, which sold vegetables, fruit, meat, seafood and dried foods. We also saw different bakeries and pastry places that sold really colorful cakes. There were also Bubble Tea places, which was a new thing for us! They are like milkshakes or smoothies with chewy balls of tapioca at the bottom. They give you a big straw to drink it through. We also bought some to try it. We decided they taste like regular smoothies, except with tapioca balls on the bottom, which they called "pearls". The balls didn't really have that much flavor. Some of us liked it, but some of us didn't like the chewiness of it.

Chinatown didn’t really have a diversity of food, because most of the places sold some kind of Chinese food. But it seemed that there is a lot of people around that enjoy the food there. Some food we saw was chow-mien and chicken that tasted sweet (sticky orange). Some food was sweet, sour, or savory. There were a lot of steamed buns, sweet breads, sandwiches (Vietnamese), and the breads in the bakeries were fresh and sweet too.

In Chinatown, there weren’t any fast food places like McDonald’s or Burger King. We think that is because Chinese people make their own food fresh and healthy, and they put a lot of ingredients that are tasty, and it's fast anyway. The people there didn't seem them overweight, and we think that is because the food had so much vegetables and other ingredients, and not a lot of unhealthy things in it.