December 3, 2012 | Mandarin
Sunset Park: The Third NYC Chinatown
One of my favorite field trips to date.
Yesterday I went to Brooklyn’s Chinatown, which is in Sunset Park, well into Brooklyn and just north of Bay Ridge.
8th Avenue Stop, New York City Subway
I took the N train to the 8th Avenue stop and started walking north. There before me on the right was New York Mart, a huge supermarket that even had a parking lot.
A grocery store parking lot is not something a Manhattanite sees too often!
The first thing that dazzled me as I entered the store was that the price of persimmons was a small fraction of what I pay for them at my local grocery store.
Actually, I didn’t even start buying persimmons until a few weeks ago, but now I am addicted. They are so soft when they are ripe that I always just thought they were rotten and ignored them on the shelves.
You have to accept that if they look pretty terrible and seem about to implode, they are going to be delicious. I don’t know if studying Chinese magically drew me to persimmons, because I didn’t even realize until well into my persimmon phase that at least some of them are native to China.
New York Mart
This Is a Big Store!
Dragon Fruit: I Wish I’d Bought Some
I did not see a single non-Asian person the whole time I was in the store. But no one paid any attention to me, even though I was taking pictures.
Prickly Unidentified Food
Seeing so much produce so centrally located in the store, as opposed to hidden around the edges as it is in many American supermarkets, made me happy.
And so much of it was just so fancy-looking. There was a ton of textural variety. Odd protrusions and spines and other things like that.
I don’t know what this prickly thing at left was, and the sign was in Chinese.
Can anyone help?
My next stop was W J Bookstore, where I bought kids’ books with practice grids for Chinese characters.
W J Bookstore, with Language-Learning Materials
I tried speaking a little Mandarin with the employees. I did not have a good ratio of understood utterances to total utterances.
I had to repeat things.
I cannot tell if my Mandarin-speaking efforts are annoying to people. Honestly, it has sometimes seemed that way. But I really can’t tell.
I love seeing financial services firms in New York with other languages on them. I’m not sure why.
Maybe because you know if the banks are offering services in another language, then the language must be really important to the community.
Financial Services Firm
Financial Services Firm
Financial Services Firm
Not a Financial Firm, But They Have Tea and Ginseng!
One thing that struck me walking down the street was how much food there was everywhere I looked. And such great-looking food, too.
Food Places Everywhere!
I was trying to think whether there are this many food establishments in other neighborhoods relative to other kinds of stores. I’m not sure.
I Need to Learn What These Are
The extraordinary variety of the food, and the number of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, have been dazzling. I am loving that about Chinatown(s).
For most of my adult life I have thought I didn’t care for Chinese food, but perhaps what I was really thinking of was bad Chinese food. A lot of the stuff I see in the stores is stuff I eat (or would most likely eat if I knew what it was and what to do with it). Piles of produce, interesting herbs and spices—how can you go wrong with that?
Some of the little Chinatown malls interest me. They are more crowded than I remember seeing in New York. Cramped stalls with merchandise soaring vertically up the walls, paralleling the way colorful signs clamber up the sides of the buildings outside.
Wah Fung Mall
Inside Wah Fung Mall
At Lucky Zhang’s, a grocery, people were studying postings in Chinese, but I don’t know what the postings said.
At Lucky Zhang’s: What Did Those Postings Say?
What Is This? I Saw It Everywhere.
Towards the end of my journey, I saw an eyeglasses place.
I thought maybe it was worth getting an exam there, since it would probably be inexpensive.
It was: a mere $35, which is way less than I pay in Manhattan. Who knows, I thought. Maybe someone would have a different (i.e., Chinese) angle on the usual eye assessment.
Nope. It was a competent but thoroughly conventional exam. I was informed that I was nearsighted, farsighted, and astigmatic.
Yeah. I know.
A Colorful Block
As I was heading back towards the subway station, I passed a New York Life representative standing out on the sidewalk with an information table.
Ni hao, he said to me with a smile as I passed. (That’s “hello” in Chinese.)
He then added a “hello” in English, but the fact that he reflexively addressed me in Chinese first made my day.
I said ni hao back and went home happy.