Thursday, March 25, 2010

Brooklyn's Chinatown

I never knew. Manhattan's Chinatown is, of course, a neighborhood as well defined as the Upper West Side or Chelsea, but it was only last week that I learned that Brooklyn has its own Chinatown, in the well-established Sunset Park neighborhood.

While doing a survey last Sunday with several of my fellow Crew Leaders for the U.S. Census, we were assigned an old folks home with 100 separate apartments—where 100% of the residents were either Chinese or Russian. A good 99% of them did not speak English. You know what happens when you randomly knock on the door of folks that can't understand you? They slam the door on your ass! Good fun.

Actually, the majority of the residents were kind, if not baffled by what we were trying to accomplish. Finally, our supervisor O managed to employ the daughter of one of the residents to walk around and translate our intentions to the Chinese occupants. Score!

But that didn't help much for the Russians. There was one sweet lady who spoke limited English that wanted to make clear, after we copied the names of she and her husband from the name plate on her door, "No, he is dead. He's dead." I'm certain, in Russian, there is a more subtle way to term her life partner's demise.