Notes from the front: muddy feet and small dogs

Alisa-WalkaboutAn upbeat hip-hop song plays lightly through my smartphone as I place a headphone to my left ear. I squeeze my phone into my pocket and let the right earbud dangle.

As I walk away from my house, my neighbor’s 1957 Chevrolet engine rumbles and a strong smell of motor oil makes its way to my nose.  I swing left to get away from the smell and stroll past the first few houses. You know, Sacramento is not such a bad place. I’ve always been told Sacramento is boring or scary. People say, “There’s nothing to do in Sacramento.” Or, “It’s so dangerous in Sacramento.” But they are wrong. To me, the little things in Sacramento are what make it beautiful.

After a few minutes walking through my neighborhood, I see a group of teen boys playing basketball on an elementary school court. They jump, laugh and run. The looks on their faces are serious and determined. Silver fences surround the school; the only opening is locked with thick chains. Continuing my walk, I notice a dark brown wooded fence. The fence extends for another 20 feet and stops at a home’s front yard, bordered by green lawn. Beautiful bright pink flowers bloom across the side of the house. I really want to pick a flower but am scared of getting caught.

The street is wide and black and the cement sidewalk is cracked and broken. Each house has one or two empty trash bins on the street, so I guess the trash has been picked up this morning. Above, rows of palm trees soar into the sky. The sun is so bright and hot I can’t take another look. A family sits in their front yard. Several people are on chairs and a few are walking around. Their words and laughter are loud enough to be heard from the other side of the neighborhood.  Children play with a water hose and dance in the grass. Their feet are muddy.

A high-pitched bark startles me. It comes from a light brown Chihuahua. The dog moves closer and barks as if I have done something wrong. The dog jumps as it barks and my heart beats faster. I turn my head, looking for the owner, but no luck. Finally, a man in baggy clothes shouts, “He won’t bite! He just acts like he owns the street.” The man stands next to his friend who wears a white tank top. They each hold a beer in their hands. I fake a smile and feel slightly embarrassed. The dog stops barking when I pass its house.

The sun goes down and the air begins to cool. I’m just a few blocks from home and can smell the fumes from my neighbor’s car. Across the street, an old woman stands in her yard watering the grass while her husband fixes their mailbox. I smile and wave at the old man.

“What a beautiful day it is today, right?” the old man says. I reach the gate of my house and pause for a moment. I never imagined that just a few minutes of walking around the neighborhood could bring such a sense of peace and comfort. My walk is over but these things are exactly what happened and why living in Sacramento is beautiful.

Alisa Xiong

About Alisa Xiong
Ms. Xiong is an on-camera interviewer for the Hmong Report on Crossings TV, and is continuing her studies at California State University, Sacramento. Her passions are photography and community service, and she is uniquely interested in telling stories about the Hmong community. Her volunteer service includes assisting My Sister’s House, which provides shelter to women escaping violence.

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