Chinatown Field Trip

Meet Miss. Lee

My son’s second grade class went on a field trip yesterday to San Francsco’s Chinatown.  I was lucky enough to go along as a chaperone.  My family is no stranger to Chinatown and in fact we’re looking forward to celebrating in the streets on Saturday for the Chinese New Year Parade.  However there is always something to learn about a place – whether you’re a local or tourist.  Our tour guide was Linda Lee, the owner of the 29 year old All About Chinatown Walking Tours.  She was hysterical.  Very dry and quick witted and had the kids’ and adults’ total attention as she told us about Chinese culture, immigration, medicine and food.  She warned she would walk quickly and she sure did.  A group of 30 of us could’ve gotten lost in the crowded streets were it not for the students running to keep up with the tour.


Filling a prescription


I found the medicine discussion fascinating.  I had always wanted to go into one of the herbal pharmacies but didn’t want to just gawk.  This time I had an excuse to go in and gawk with the kids, as we saw prescriptions being filled of herbs and fungus (no idea what that cures) as well as ingredients for teas such as dried geckos, deer leg and various roots.  Linda had warned us ahead of time of some of the ingredients and differences of east and west medicine practices.  She told the children not to say “ew” or “yuck” to anything on the tour, but to say “That’s interesting!”

Next we went on to the Stockton Street food markets.  This is always a treat to see so much brightly colored, unique produce and fresh, even live, fish (and other animals) all in one place.  Some of the kids (and parents) were a little taken a back.  My son is always sad to see the live frogs.  I suggested maybe we could buy them all and set them free.  I shouldn’t have said that because he really wanted to.  Then I had to explain I didn’t know how we could get them to a safe place (there were probably over 100) and even if we did take them to a local frog creek they’d likely eat all the resident frogs because these were so large.  Luckily he was sidetracked when the kids started asking about the large prickly fruit.   I was happy for the distraction and glad that I knew it was a Durian.


Hand folding fortunes

Next it was to the Fortune Cookie Factory.  It is always fun to see these being folded by hand.  It’s been in business 49 years.  I learned that fortune cookies are enjoyed at chinese restaurants in all countries except for…you guessed it…China!


Buddhist Temple


Later we went to a buddhist temple, where we saw offerings of tangerines, flowers and candy as people lit insence and prayed to various gold and jeweled statues for health, strength and prosperity.  This was a non-descript 3 story walk up.  While across the street was an old traditional building which now houses a bank.  We learned about the various colors in chinese culture (red for luck, yellow for royalty) and signifigance of traditional curved roofs (evil spirits slide right off).


Four Seas

Finally we all had lunch at Four Seas on Grant Ave, a lovely banquet and traditional Cantonese style restaurant.  The kids loved the ornate decor.  Some of the children and adults chose to bring a lunch from home rather than eat chinese food.  Most of what I saw was cold, soggy take-out pizza.  What a shame to miss out on such traditional fare as fried rice, pot stickers, chicken chow mein and broccoli beef.  Most everyone tried and enjoyed the tea.  The egg rolls dissappeared quickly.  Three girl students at our table enjoyed the chow mein so much they were arguing over the left-overs (there was plenty for all).  My son and I were a bit dissappointed we didn’t have any buns or egg custards, but thankfully we’ll be back in a few days.