My Experience of Visiting Chinatown Personal Essay
I have always listened to people talking about China Town with a lot of interest. I have also read about Chinatown but it has never been clear to me how they looked like or even how life in Chinatown is like. Having not visited any China Town before, I really tried to imagine how they could be, but it proved to be an endeavour in futility. The essential questions continued to pester the mind; whether Chinatown is just an ordinary local town or replica of typical Chinese towns. The solution to these questions were only to be found by making a personal visit to Chinatown and confront with the reality on the ground. By so doing, firsthand experience came in hand.
A community of Chinese people that lives together in the same area, around a foreign city usually leads into that place being named Chinatown. Such an area becomes the working community for the Chinese.
Having no preconceived idea of how Chinatown looked like, the expectation one would have is to meet up with pure Chinese architecture. However, this is not what I witnessed because the architectural structures one finds are a mixture of both Chinese and American architectural designs. A few buildings that seemed to be at least one century old could be seen in the distance but, nonetheless, the surroundings are not instantly exotic. Though there is hardly genuine Chinese architecture, the few that are there are worth seeing. Examples from such were adorned with fire-spitting dragons and Chinese lettering. They were not, however, sufficient to make the buildings manifestly exotic. With a keen look at the people dashing along the streets, however, an aura of a foreign characteristic is perceived. The streets here are always filled up with people moving in both directions. The alleys are narrow and the buildings are decorated with Chinese writings and drawings.
Most of the people who live in Chinatown have their roots in a common place origin. Most of them are immigrants of Chinese descent. Nonetheless, traces of other people with Asian origins are also found. Therefore, it is not strange to find Thaïs and Vietnamese on the streets. Basically, the relationship of the people in Chinatown is cultural. It is the cultural ties of these people that hold them together as a community. The identity of Chinatown is founded on cultural factors and, consequently, the relationship of the residents is also culturally defined.
The people in Chinatown nowadays lead very busy lives. This is dictated by their main economic activity-trade. Many private businesses are found on the opposite sides of streets here. Therefore, the typical daily life of any residents involves attending to their business affairs. No one seems idle. Buying and selling is the order of the day.
By keenly inspecting the streets, one inevitably perceives of the kind of businesses that exist here. Shops are everywhere. According to Waxman, almost all deal in similar goods that range from clothing items to household goods and gifts and other souvenir items. Sea food markets are many, wherein lots of different sea creatures are traded. Markets that trade in traditional Chinese medicine are scattered everywhere. The most outstanding of them all are restaurants that sell Cantonese food which is attractive to tourists who visit the surroundings.
Walking along the streets, it is hard to meet with any other people other than the Chinese. They spoke a dialect that I could hardly comprehend. On further investigation, the language they spoke turned out to be Cantonese. However, on a good day and by sheer luck, one may meet with a Chinese who can communicate in English.
What seems to make Chinatown so precious to the inhabitants is the imposing sense of community. According to Zahra, this sense of community is what links the residents with their motherland.
Conclusively, Chinatown is an attraction for both locals and tourists. Individual Chinese from the vicinities of the city visit Chinatown for shopping as well for a feel of home. On the other hand, tourists and people like me are afforded an opportunity to learn and relate with Chinese culture which makes the whole affair a pleasurable experience indeed.