The other week we went to the cenotaph to pay our respects to those who fought for freedom during the wars. Remembrance Day is a time to stop and think about the freedoms we have and who we owe them too. It is a time to stop and appreciate those who made those freedoms possible. We are so busy burying our heads in the digital world that we neglect to put down the devices and see what is around us.
So to that end, after the Remembrance Day ceremonies, we decided to wander through Chinatown and take in the smells, the sounds, and the tastes of a different corner of this varied place we call home.
Everything about Chinatown seems a bit grittier. It’s a part of town that hasn’t been sanitized for the tourists and the parking is still reasonable. $5.50 early bird? Just a few blocks north the early bird parking starts around $15.00 a day.
I absolutely love the markets and the medicinal shops. They contain wondrous things, many of which I cannot identify. But they are disappearing. The developers salivate over the square footage and tout their plans for condos and office space to tower over the current two and three story heritage spaces. And they are winning because, although some of these shops have been in a family for one hundred years, the youth of today don’t share the same values their parents and grandparents do/did. They don’t want to learn the trade secrets, they don’t want to work in a shop. They have “bigger” dreams, different aspirations. And so as we lament the loss of these interesting and historic spaces, the shop owners have no one to pass their lives on to and close their doors. The spaces become empty, the city looks for new ideas, the ideas seem shiny and bright, and the breath of Chinatown begins to become shallower.
A pretty little pigeon found a warm place and a kind soul. In the entry to a shop on Keefer street the owner has placed newspapers on the interior overhang surfaces so that the pigeon can roost and the mess will be minimized. He perches among a few pretty objects and seems to be part of the decorations himself.
If there is one single thing that takes me into Chinatown on a fairly regular basis, it is steamed pork buns. There is something so comforting in holding a searingly hot and steaming bun in my hand, tearing the paper stuck to the bottom away from its doughy flesh, and tearing it open to reveal the steaming sticky sweet meat inside. The first bite is always taken tentatively, I’ve burnt the roof of my mouth too often, but I never seem to learn. Anticipation overcomes logical hesitation.
When I worked at the hair salon I would come down here with Lyra sometimes, if it was slow and we had time. We’d pick up a box of buns and take them back to the salon for ourselves and for others. It was always a delicious treat and one of the few times we probably weren’t going at each other over something petty.
I remember the first time I took Mom into Chinatown for a walk and stopped to buy a couple of buns. When I came out and offered her one she looked at me and said “But, it’s not cooked!” I just smiled and said, “Take it” and she laughed and said “Oh, it’s steamed, isn’t it!” That was followed by the expected sounds of appreciation as she bit into it and discovered the secret that lay at its core.
All that for about a dollar.
Pretty good deal.
Vancouver is such a diverse city, it’s always good to get out and explore it. Parts of it are disappearing and it’s being stripped and rebuilt without much thought to character loss. The only thing constant in life is change, that seems to be particularly true here in Lotusland.