ONE OF THE INTERESTING VOLUNTEERING WORK done by New York’s Tzu Chi volunteers is a weekly food distribution in Chinatown. I saw news about it many times on Daai TV and now I get to have a chance to be a part of it.
The youth volunteers take turns in being the chef and sous chef. Every week, they have to come up with a different menu, buy all the ingredients, chop them up, cook to perfection, pack them into Bento boxes and finally distribute the food to the 100 old folks living nearby. We were laughing and chatting all the while, having a great time while accomplishing something meaningful. Most of the grannies speak Cantonese and it is nice for me to know their language. A small kid helped me with the oranges while another volunteer collected the food stamps. Team work can really speed things up.
After all is done, I visited the Chinatown Tzu Chi office, which is really narrow and small. I can’t help being surprised at how the volunteers here manage to make full us of this limited space.
I WANTED TO WALK SOHO AND TRIBECA, and Candy and Nancy were kind enough to go with me. SoHo, is a fashionable district which got its name from being ‘South of Houston’. All the stores here are definitely upscale, including many of the world’s famous brands, such as Gucci, Louis Vutton, Armani and many more. Most designers have at least one boutique down here where high fashion is its genre. We entered many of the creative stores (doing window shopping of course), happy enough to find some that was interesting. There was one great big Apple store, where Candy could not sustain herself from playing a computer game. Another one sells all kinds of chocolate, everything is sweet here. There’s one with plenty of gross but cool stuff, ranging from animal skins to age-old fossils to mummified animal heads. I’m an animal rights activist, but considering that most of the stuff here is really out of this world, i’ll let them off the hook this time.
With all these expensive stores around, you’d be surprise to see that the roads here have an old New York feel to it. Nancy told me that the City prohibits owners from tearing down the buildings, so that they can keep the old New York architecture, and that is why they have so many gothic looking ones around. (That explains why so many frustrating repairs and renovations are going around everywhere). But it’s great to see some artsy artists trying to display their masterpieces here, making it feel so Parisian. Shoes on top of the street lights? I bet SoHo is so creative there’s nothing you can’t find.
WALKING SOUTHWARD, we arrived in Tribeca (Triangle Below Canal Street). I wonder why New Yorkers love their acronyms so much. I have no deep feelings whatsoever for this place, as most of it is typical of New York, the large stores and large crowds.
Just a few blocks further, we entered the Financial District, where the increasing numbers of skyscrapers are evident. I do feel a bit awkward in my khakis and T-shirt while walking down Wall Street and seeing the New York Stock Exchange building. It is unbelievable to finally see the place where billions of dollars go into transaction every single weekday. (Other than that, the building does look NORMAL).
Ground Zero of the World Trade Center looks like a typical construction site too, without the map and brochure, I would most likely walk past without any depressed feelings for the victims of September 11. However, the soil from the WTC construction site gave birth to the Battery Park City nearby. This beautiful park beside the Hudson River is really a good place for a walk. (The thought of stepping on the remains of the September 11 casualties did haunt me all the while). With the refreshing river and/or sea breeze, beautiful sights of New Jersey, me, Nancy and Candy fell in love with this place.
We passed by this interesting Irish Memorial that was constructed by an artist to commemorate the Irish famine back in 1845. The Irish cottages wall gave way to beautiful landscape of Irish plants, resembling the hills of Ireland. Standing on the small paths, it made me want to go to Ireland next.
ANYONE WHO’S HERE AT THE SOUTH STREET SEAPORT have no problems noticing that this is a touristy place. With crowds and their cameras at hand, various booths selling souvenirs and food prices that would scare the locals away, this is definitely a place catered towards earning the tourists’ money. I personally dislike touristy places as they look fake and commercialized. We took a quick look around and of the street performers and headed for dinner.
NANCY, CANDY AND ME, we’re all Peaceful Phlegmatics (according to the book Personality Plus). We are always accommodating towards others and thus can never make up our minds. We were sitting at Bowling Green park for half an hour just going to and fro with ‘I can take whatever you guys like,’ and ‘I have no idea where to go,’ and ‘So, how now?’
I was incredibly thankful that we found a Thai place just in time, saving us from wasting more of our time. The place was typically Thai, and we chose it because of its comfortable seats and air conditioning. The Thai curry turned out just OK as the celeries were bitter. The eggplant with basil was really nice but the Pad Thai fried noodles stole the show!
AT THE END OF THE DAY, my feet hurts but I was glad we completed an amazing feat, touring most of Downtown Manhattan (get the pun?). I bet my butt got smaller from all that walking, but never mind, cos’ I bet my waist got bigger from all that food.