Morning in Downtown Portland

Pouring rain today in Portland, OR. Rain was a lot like Houston rain. Flooding in the streets, big drops. Add in wind and cold and very dark skies. But Mary B and I persevered with our plans to spend the day down town, hitting almost half a dozen spots on our list and wearing layered outfits. Top layer being rain repellent zippered parkas of which Mary and Queta seem to have many in their closet.
It was hard to find downtown parking spaces, even on a rainy day. Mary B drove her leased Nissan Versa, which she and I both like very much. Her very old and weathered Toyota Corolla is ready to give up the ghost and a 'new car decision' is in the works.
Our first stop of this day was sobering. We toured the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center. Mary had never visited the place which has a permanent exhibition of the history of Japanese in Portland of which I'll write a separate post. It was heartbreaking and more than embarrassing to wander through this exhibit that documents the story of Japanese people who lived and built communities in Oregon for generations and then, after Pearl Harbor, they were all hastily shuttled off to internment camps for the duration of WWII. What a shameful part of our national history.
There was a second exhibition called "What Are You?" Kip Fulbeck: Part Asian, 100% Hapa"
which is a series of portraits of bi-racial men, women and children coupled with their own responses to the question 'What are you?'. BTW, I've heard people asking other people, "What are you?" 'What', not 'who'? Could such a question not be rephrased? Be less demeaning in the asking?
Both exhibitions were sobering. So easy to see similarities with the way Latinos are treated right now because of new anti-immigration laws such (Alabama and Arizona to name two states who've gone totally overboard) and general and unceasing prejudice. I will return to these two exhibitions in another post.
Ever more rain as we departed the center to move on to the Chinese Tea Garden, a place Mary and I've visited, but which we wanted to see on a rainy day. It was truly beautiful this morning.
Loved the rain drops falling off the roofs into the ponds, making rippling concentric circles on the water's surface, ever widening. In the tea house we perused menus filled with dozens of descriptions of teas. I chose Puer Da Ye Cha - with an 'intense earthy aroma that is encouraged by 'wo Dui' or post-fermentation process that renders the tea dark and inky. It tastes like a really lovely compost smells. A 'deep in the forest' flavor. My cup was refilled with hot water several times. I liked this tea so much that I bought a tin and two glass tea cups to take home to Houston. ES and I will drink this earthy tea and become leisurely. It's wonderful and feels very healthy. Mary B chose a very different tea - green and much lighter. As I sipped my third cup, I began to remember Turkish tea in Istanbul and Urfa. Tea is good, both soothing and energizing at the same time.
We lingered in the tea house, listening to a musician who played an instrument that sounded harp-like. There seemed little reason to leave. We sat quietly drinking tea for almost an hour before we gathered our belongings. As we left, the musician was playing, not unfamiliar Chinese melodies, but 'Silent Night.' The first sense of Christmas in a Chinese tea house? Indeed.
There were more stops in downtown Portland today, but the hour is late. I am tired and so will return to write more tomorrow.
BTY, the young lady at the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center told us that the Japanese and Chinese communities in Portland were right next to each other and their children attended the same school. The kids were together in class, but walked to and from school on different sides of the street. That was then, but I'll bet stuff like this is still happening today in Houston with Anglos, Latinos and African Americans.
Reflecting on this morning, it appears that we gained a heightened awareness of multiple cultures within one city. Sometimes people's differences are appreciated, other times they are questioned. Or, on the occasion of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, American-Japanese differences were felt to be so threatening and dangerous that an entire people was sent to internment camps in remote deserts.Our morning was filled with rain and wet and new awareness.