Years ago, I visited Hong Kong, the closest I ever got to mainland China.  It was still under the British, but they were counting down until it was returned to China.  I loved all the exotic things about it, the foods, the smells, the bright colors, the fabrics, waking up to watch the people do tai chi in the park, all the beautiful people.  Of course, I was coming from Oklahoma, so it was definitely not like my home.  These days, I have a Chinese boss on the campus of Oklahoma State University and see Asian people everywhere I go.  I still don’t speak or read Chinese, but it’s a tad bit less foreign.

Chinatown in San Francisco is always a must see when I get to be in that interesting city of hills and history.  This time I didn’t get to eat, but I took the time to watch new things.  There are always the signs and the lanterns…I love this corner on Clay Street with the wonderful street lights and lanterns and where I have feeling of my son, Clay, around me…the first Chinatown I ever visited was in Seattle with him…DSC_0528There were old signs…DSC_0359And signs that mixed the old with the new…DSC_0507DSC_0522When you look up, you see signs of the family life going on above you…DSC_0508And, down an alley, you can find a tiny fortune cookie factory that produces 30,000 fortune cookies a day to be sent around the world. They give free samples and you can watch this lady make them so quickly. They offered to let me write my own fortune, but I’m not sure that would work.  After all, don’t you want the surprise of seeing what the cookie gives you?DSC_0516DSC_0518I was trying to find a mah jongg game in progress to report back to my friends who share the Americanized version with me, but found none. In the parks, I discovered Chinese Chess played by men surrounded by their friends who quietly watch and then shout excited comments when a play is made.  One game was crowded and always quiet.  My friend said that must be the money game. DSC_0369Nearby, this man enjoyed his cigarette, unnoticed by any but us..DSC_0377On a Sunday, amidst families and tourists, there were groups of women playing a poker-like game, dragging their crates and cardboard boxes to the park.  Some would stand up and throw the cards down ferociously, adding to the fun of watching.  DSC_0533Walking the streets, ducking in the shops full of made in China trinkets and treasures, listening to the foreign voices, smelling the delicious smells, peeking down the alleys…a few hours in Chinatown is always a fun stop.  A peek into another culture that will always seem mysterious and exotic as the residents keep the traditions of their homeland in the land of opportunity.