Nearly 21 years ago, Rosaline Hui and her husband packed up their things and moved from their native Hong Kong to Portland. Only a few years later, they started up the Portland Chinese Times, a Chinese-language newspaper serving the region's growing population of Chinese-speaking immigrants. With their office at Southeast 87th Avenue and Division Street, Rosaline is also deeply involved in organizing and advocating for the local neighborhood, including serving on the Jade District steering committee.
On starting out in the neighborhood…
When I first came to Portland, in the 90’s, I think there were a few Chinese restaurants here, but not for Chinese people! They were Chinese food for Americans. So, we had to go downtown to Chinatown to find groceries and have dim sum.
A lot of Chinese immigrants started to move here because Portland wasn’t as developed as San Francisco, so people saw a lot of opportunity here. And a lot of them started their businesses along 82nd. In Chinese, the number eight means “rich” or “wealthy”. And the number two, the sound it makes, means “easy”. So "eighty-two" is a very, very good number – if you believe in feng shui.
When we came over, a lot of Chinese people living in Portland didn’t have a channel to communicate with the mainstream. Most of the time, they lived on their own, and a few were very disconnected. Since we started the newspaper, we help them communicate, we organize events. So, it helps Portland feel more like home for Chinese people.
What was your impression of this neighborhood when you moved here?
I didn’t like it. To me, the neighborhood seemed so old and kind of messy, and nothing but car-lots. When my husband and I came here to visit for the first time, just for one week, the Oregon environment seemed so green, and the atmosphere was so much more relaxed than anything we had experienced in Hong Kong. There, you know, they city is awake until late into the night because it’s so hot, that’s when people do a lot of their business, meet with friends. But here, after eight o’clock: nothing!
How have your opinions changed?
They have changed a lot. With all the Chinese businesses that started here along Powell and Division, it’s started to feel like a new town. We call it New Chinatown, sometimes.
There is a Chinese-American developer here who built a lot of houses in this neighborhood, so that when these families move here, they can live close together. This is important because not a lot of immigrants know how to drive, and some are too old to get around besides walking. It becomes very inconvenient, and very lonely, to be isolated like that. So, a lot of them look at renting near 82nd, that way they don’t need to worry about where to get Chinese groceries, where to get insurance, where to eat dim sum. Then, when they get to know the city a little better, maybe their children leave home to go to school, they are ready to look at other places in the region to live.
What should people know about this neighborhood?
Well, for the people I work with and write this newspaper for, I want them to know that the city and Metro want to make the area better, but they need to be involved. I want them to know that we deserve to be a part of it, to have their say, but it’s really hard. All of the business owners here are so busy, that they never have time to make it to meetings or workshops. I realized that if you want to know what the business owners are thinking, if you want their opinion, you have to be more creative than just setting a time and hoping they come.
What would you like to see change?
I would like to see safe, pedestrian-friendly planning. Because there are so many stores here, that if we just have better planning, it would totally change the face of the neighborhood. Everything is so close, you could just walk everywhere. But safety is such a big problem here, especially around 82nd. Down on Powell, near here, there is a senior housing building – lots of Chinese and Russian elderly people there that can only walk around the neighborhood, or bike around the neighborhood. So, to make the neighborhood safer for them is very, very important.
Also, around the neighborhood, there is no green space for kids to exercise, for adults and elderly people to relax. So, looking at the air pollution reports, it's no surprise that there are these problems.
Read other stories from around 82nd and Division