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Best New Way to Keep Up With Boba Trends
I was born in ’52. There weren’t a lot of new immigrants coming in, and at the time, everybody was being Americanized. In my family, we tried to keep the language and the culture going. My father wanted us to speak Chinese at home all the time, and we went to Chinese school every day for six years.
Standing among some quiet residential buildings on 23rd Street and tucked not far from Chinatown’s cluster of restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores on Wentworth is the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago (CAMOC). Even with its doors flanked by two stone lions, hand-carved by artisans in China’s Fujian Province and donated to the museum by Chinese officials, CAMOC is pretty inconspicuous, and you might miss it if you aren’t looking for it. CAMOC is about as small as museums get, but contains much more than one might expect.
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) revealed late last year in their 2017 capital plan that a new seventy-five million dollar high school would be coming to the South Side. Initially, CPS did not release the location of the new high school, and several neighborhoods, such as Chinatown and Englewood, had been organizing and campaigning to be involved in the decision-making process.
The Goldilocks of American Chinatowns, Chicago’s Chinatown is not the biggest in the country, nor is it the smallest. Here, new and old blend together—old village dialects aren’t heard quite as frequently as Cantonese and Mandarin, but survive nonetheless. Historic buildings like the Pui Tak center stand shoulder to shoulder with new restaurants and bustling souvenir stores.
Chicago’s Chinatown is changing. Geographically, the area can be divided into two parts: the long, familiar stretch along South Wentworth Avenue, and the somewhat brighter section surrounding the Chinatown Square mall, directly to the north. A recent increase in investment is apparent—the southern half in particular has hitherto unimaginably glitzy stores opening up alongside, or in place of, the older restaurants and kitsch shops. Continue reading
I walked past a kind of fool’s gold in South China Plaza; plastic bobble-headed cats nodded ni hao in windows full of glittering souvenir kitsch, inviting my gaze to skim the surface. Crossing Cermak Road and feeling unnerved by the sense of culture up for sale, I spotted a blue-eyed Siamese cat peeking its head out of the shop door at 243 West Cermak. Above the cat was a sign: “Nam Bac Hang.” Entering the tiny shop, I saw rows of boxes with Chinese characters written on them, and glass jars filled with mushrooms and dried herbs. Locals were walking up to the counter asking for tea and formulas for their colds and allergies. Curious, I asked a young man standing nearby about the nature of the shop; he told me it was owned by his father, Long Huynh, a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine whose family traces their healing lineage back to the days of the emperor in ancient China. Intrigued, I sat down with Long Huynh to ask him about his family’s history, qi, and his medicine. Continue reading