seeds – salinas chinatown

I went to a meeting of the Salinas Chinatown Renewal Project (Nov. 11), at the Buddhist Temple in Salinas. At the same time, Salinas was welcoming a delegation of guests from its sister city of Yueyang in China; a young woman was translating the talk to the delegation.

The Chinatown Project is amazing for the mix of people involved, of all classes, including the homeless, and all the many cultures represented: Japanese, Chinese, European-American, Mexican, Filipino, and African American, all with links to this one little troubled neighborhood in Salinas.

They all seem to be pulling together and determined to change it for the better, and yet be inclusive and caring of the people who live there now; they are planning to build a health services campus on the site, and affordable and transitional housing, along with the Chinatown cultural center and museum.

They also plan to configure the area to make it once again walkable, accessible, and connected back to Main Street Salinas. I’m impressed. They have a long hard road ahead of them, but they’ve already done so much, and I wish them luck.

After the meeting, we all walked out to the big bonsho bell in the courtyard, and Larry Hirahara and Wellington Lee swung the big log suspended from the bell-house ceiling, striking the bell so that it rung out through the darkness half a dozen times.

“I am one of the seeds scattered, and I have encountered so many others, day after day – in the market, on the street, at the airport. in some anonymous lobby, in a school-room, an elevator. there is a moment of recognition, eyes meet fleetingly, or not at all; the skin breathes in signals of the kindred. we are called americans. we came from different places, for different reasons, to be in this country. we leave behind habits, languages, ways of holding our bodies, families, friends, foods, market smells, traffic patterns, birds and their songs, vegetation, dust, mountains, rivers… in america we talk/walk/eat/dress american, to varying degrees of attendance. beneath the skin, in the blood stream, what had been left behind mingles with what is encountered day to day, in a constantly-shifting mix where seeing and being are porous, kaleidoscopic. it is an impossible task, to wear another’s skin. to see through the other’s eyes, to know what it feels like to be seen that way. the only thing for certain is that we all see differently. — Rene Yung, “Look to Home”

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