Koi watching at Pacific Renaissance Plaza
on December 1, 2016
At the center of Oakland Chinatown, Pacific Renaissance Plaza presents a mix of Asian culture and American daily life.
At 11 am, the smell of roast duck and chicken gradually floats into the air, along with the loud noise of chefs striking their knives onto cutting boards coming from the kitchens of restaurants. Shops around the building have Cheongsam and Chinese traditional paintings hanging in the windows.
People walk through the plaza, some with a burger or coffee, at a fast pace, and others with their hands in the pockets, taking their time wandering around.
In the middle of the plaza stands a metal fountain shaped like a “C.” Running water falls back into a round stone pond full of koi, or fancy carp, which for thousands of years have been raised to bring good fortune in Chinese cultures. A kid is staring at the carp. “Look!” he points at the pond and turns around looking for his mom. “Li Yv,” the mom says slowly in a gentle voice to the kid, trying to teach him the Chinese word for “carp.”
On the second floor, there is a small, delicate Japanese restaurant. A colorful koinobori (carp streamer) is placed at the door but is leaning onto the railings, disused. People line up in a nearby dental clinic to see a dentist.
This is also a regular “reunion” place for Chinese people. Seniors came here in groups to enjoy the sunshine and chat with each other. They sit on benches around the fountain in easy attitudes and look around while discussing topics like “What if Trump becomes the president?” “What do you think of the soda tax?” or “Do you know the guy running the clinic over there?”
Soon, the kid is put back into the baby carriage by his mom and the seniors leave the plaza in stumbling steps. There is a time when no human voices can be heard, only the sound of water splashing around, until other groups arrive to fill in the vacancies on the bench.
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