Sunday, December 07, 2014

Chinatown: My Favorite Part Of Manhattan

English: Chinatown, Manhattan, New York City 2...
English: Chinatown, Manhattan, New York City 2009 on Pell Street, looking west towards Bayard and Mott. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I was just there yesterday. I was in a no English zone for half an hour. Part of it was a woman patting on my chest while I lay in a reclined chair letting her look into my ear. Calm down, be brave, you will get through it.

I like NYC, period. I will walk any block in the city. Because I like it so. And I don't differentiate among the boroughs, except for Staten Island, that I think is a legitimate part of New Jersey, or even Delaware.

But Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan. These three are a cluster. The Bronx is a little off. It is not in my route. One day years ago I realized the borough I have walked the least is The Bronx. So I camped out at a college friend's place for a month and walked that borough out thoroughly, left to right, north to south, east to west. Walking is the only way to see a city. There is no other way. You have to see at a certain slowish pace. I realized The Bronx of the popular imagination is only the southern Bronx, right north of Manhattan. I got called upon around there for taking a picture. What do you think you are doing! Someone yelled. I don't know if I got scared, but I did get uncomfortable. Okay, maybe a little scared.

Manhattan, Brooklyn: I have walked everywhere. Queens is just so big. I have walked many parts of Queens. But walking everywhere in Queens is quite a task. I am on it. I have walked from Jackson Heights to Jamaica to Flushing and back to Jackson Heights many times. I call it a walking kind of marathon. It takes a good part of the day. At the end of it you are guaranteed a great night of sleep. You are so dog tired. Walking to Astoria, to Long Island City: no big deal. I once walked from Jackson Heights east all the way until I was in Nassau County. And then I walked back.

Chinatown in Manhattan is awesome. The British colonized us, and then they left. Otherwise India and China were the richest countries on the planet for thousands of years. Europe was barbaric people land. India and China might again get their act together this century. And I mean that in a win win way. America does not have to lose, Europe does not have to lose, for India and China to win. If it were not for the strong Chinese economy the 2008 recession would have become a global depression. So there's that. And it is democracy like in America that will help India realize its true potential. For all those centuries India was feudal. There were kings, monarchs, emperors, some good, most not so good.

Chinatown in Manhattan is so different from every other part of Manhattan. And to think I grew right next to China in Nepal. But the British left and left a whole lot of them behind. I had a British education growing up, at a British school too. And so I grew up in the worldview where the only place China was next door was on the map. Otherwise China was nowhere to be seen. Britain and America felt closer than China. It was in the education.

Dumplings in Kathmandu are the staple snack. And so in Chinatown I am in dumplings town. It is a treat. I got 100 frozen dumplings last night, to go. It was a feast.

Chinatown is big and unique. Not even Harlem has it. And Harlem is considered the black capital of America, rapidly becoming more Hispanic and white. But Harlem is still English. Chinatown has Chinese characters on all sorts of signs and boards.

I am a bargain shopper. I don't believe in buying expensive. The exact thing can cost you three times, five times more in the wrong location. I am not up for that. And Chinatown beats even Queens on prices. I don't know how they do it. Let it be their secret sauce. A 10 dollar haircut in Jackson Heights can be had for five bucks in Chinatown. It should have been the other way round. I hear you can get vegetables in Flushing for really cheap. Flushing is in Queens, and it is actually bigger than the Chinatown in Manhattan.

China is so flush with cash, it wants to build bullet trains in India, not as foreign aid, but for profit. I am all for it. China is better positioned than anyone else to engage in massive infrastructure projects in Africa. And Africa is the ultimate sleeping giant. I think most people don't realize the African economy is coming along really nice. By the end of the decade Africa will be fully on the global map.

Beijing has grandiose plans to become the capital of the world. You should be able to take a train anywhere on the planet and end up in Beijing. I would love a Lhasa to Lumbini railway that also extends to Beijing and Delhi.

The Chinese are doing something right. They are not a one person dictatorship. It is a dictatorship of a political party. Which means a lot of patriotic people end up at the top. It is an alternate system. China can teach campaign finance reform to America, for sure. The Chinese have pulled hundreds of millions out of poverty. India needs to. And now India is poised to become the fastest growing economy on the planet. It has trillions in catching up to do.

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