Africans, Asians, Hispanics. . .and Hipsters: Changes in City Heights
(Originally published in the San Diego Reader March 17, 2010.)
From the Killing Fields to the Noodle House
When Mark Lau was ten years old, he couldn’t add one plus one. On the day he began the fourth grade at Adams Elementary School in City Heights, he had been in San Diego for only two months. Prior to his arrival, he had spent eight months in refugee camps in Thailand, and before that, three and a half years under Communist rule in Cambodia. Rather than attend school, he was forced to work for his daily bowls of vegetable soup and porridge.
Many of his memories from that time are vague.
“I remember there was a tray that we held, it was for rocks. So that’s why I keep telling my kids, ‘Daddy was moving rocks back and forth.’ We didn’t know what we were doing. I was six, seven years old.”
Lau remembers the rocks, but he doesn’t remember where he had to carry them or why.
Today, half a block west from the corner of University and Euclid, on the north side of the street, Lau works out of two offices in a family-owned building. One office holds his accounting and tax firm. In the other, he conducts his business as a real estate agent and insurance salesman. The same building also houses two of his family’s restaurants: 777 Noodle House and the Great Wall Express. Lau acts as financial manager for both.
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