1 The Echo Park Lotus Festival | Learning From Strangers

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turtles of echo park los angeles

The Echo Park Lotus Festival

I went to the 38th annual Lotus Festival with Andriy this weekend in Echo Park. The festival is a community event that highlights the Chinese American culture with dragon boat races, hands-on workshops, games, performances and delicious foods.

We had quite the morning taking the city bus from Koreatown to Echo Park. The park is about four miles north from where we live in KTown and always jammed with traffic, not to mention and to be quite honest, we planned this trip poorly and ended up spending way too much on transportation. Hint: if you buy a $9 reusable LA tap card (metro card) for the day, you’ll save double the money. Without it, it’s about $1.75 per trip and head, so it adds up, especially in a sprawling city. You can find select locations where tap cards are sold here.

En route, we watched some guy cut his hair on the bus (gross!) with a pair of paper scissors. We also managed to save one bus fee because the money machine was broken, we also saw a homeless man throw his cigarette butt at a car driving by with its windows rolled down. There are lot’s of character types in LA, as you can see. I usually compare LA to a kovbasa sausage – it looks delectable on the outside but once you cut it in half, you see what that sausage is really made of… mystery meat, cartilage, not so tantalizing food dyes, etc. You get what I’m saying, but most of all it’s the good and the bad that make a metropolis so interesting and it’s no wonder everyone wants to live here.

The weather was cooler in the morning as it usually is and became pretty unbearable fast. Nobody warned us about how hot it can get in LA. The last weekend, in fact, reached 115 degrees Fahrenheit which was frightening, plus 65% humidity. Yuk! At some point we decided to ditch the bus and hail an Uber. We arrived at the Lotus Festival with the AC blasting and Janet Jackson’s “All For You” playing… man, I felt nostalgic for my childhood days in Washington State where I would choreograph dance routines with my sister and some of the other neighborhood kids in our front yard. Blessed be the simpler days of our lives.

The Lotus Festival was hopping to say the least. I had been in the mood to be around a large crowd all the way to the event but the second I arrived I was like, “oh hell no!” I guess it was a combination of having such a rough start to my morning regarding transportation and the heat with humidity. Nonetheless, we made the best of our time by exploring the many vendor tables that were giving away plastic junk and crap and one specifically that offered a $10 composting workshop. I signed up because I want to learn how to minimize my waste footprint as well as improve my houseplant knowledge. I am currently in the works of making my home more “homey” with indoor plants and a bright color palette. Otherwise, there was a vendor that provided matcha tea brewing classes in the traditional Japanese way which was interesting and a main stage where traditional Chinese dances took place.

Then we walked around the park a bit to soak in its ambiance of the Lotus Festival- I, with a spiral cheddar potato stick in hand and Andriy with some of the free bottled water a church group was handing out. For there being such a loud crowd, there was still beautiful wildlife present, including turtles, fish and a variety of birds. I especially enjoyed how busy the lake moved with the large swan paddle boats and the house tunes coming from the event’s beer garden. Some folks enjoyed catch and release fishing while others sat in the shade with their lovers and, of course, it wouldn’t be LA without the parking police, the most hated people in this city I think, giving out $70 tickets to rows and rows of vehicles. In my time in LA, I’ve thankfully and unfortunately only accrued two parking tickets. Eventually, we’ve become pretty good at evading them. Knock on wood.

Feeling like we got the most out of the Lotus Festival, which to be entirely honest, I likely won’t go again, we made our way back home and this time by foot – yes, we walked the four miles back home to Koreatown. I am used to walking a lot anyway having lived four years in Europe where everyone walks everywhere and having no car in large cities as a tourist. I’ve found that it’s the best way to learn your city and the types of neighborhoods it contains. I had done this exact route by car once but it looked entirely different by foot this time and finally it dawned on me that my mental map of my new home is starting to come together. Nonetheless, the only thing I dislike about walking through neighborhoods is being hounded by people asking for money. It can be an overwhelming experience when it’s happening every block for four miles. I am trying to paint you a picture here that LA is overwhelmed with a severe homelessness situation and it’s growing. I don’t think there is a solution to this at this rate, to be honest, and it’s very unfortunate.

By the time we got home, you can imagine, I was thoroughly exhausted and feeling peckish. I went for one of my favorite treats these days: fresh tomatoes with lime juice and avocados with garlic salt and pepper. Yum! The vitamins in this meal really sink in throughout the body and from the inside out, which is I’m addicted to it. Plus, California beams with incredibly quality produce.

We finished the day with a movie and tea in bed, which we thought was a well deserved evening in because of the ground we covered earlier in the day. Plus, many of us are staying indoors these days to evade the heat. The now for me comprises of figuring out how to stay cool during the high summer months in LA. Wish me luck!

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