When walking in Flushing, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all of the options available behind every window. From restaurants to tea markets to massage parlors, the area is full of bustling businesses that all seem to cry for attention. Among these storefronts, and in a much greater frequency than one would expect, are pharmacies. It seems that with every turn, visitors are met with a new pharmacy containing the same products as the last, but under a different name. This attention to health services is likely a contributing factor to the area’s high standard of living and thus serves an important role in the community. Additionally, the prominence of these pharmacies helps to stimulate the economy of the area and provides numerous jobs to residents. For my exploration into Flushing’s Chinatown, I thought it would be valuable to visit one of these storefronts and inquire about the backgrounds of some workers and their impressions of the place they work.
While my initial attempts to interview a pharmacy worker failed as many shops were not willing to lose their employee for a few minutes while there was still work to be done, I did have a chance to walk around many of these pharmacies and get a real idea of what these storefronts were like. Most were relatively small, sometimes even sharing a floor with another business, but all of them seemed to be relatively popular. After being rejected from a number of these stores, I eventually found myself in Roosevelt Pharmacy, a shop about a block away from Main Street. From the moment I walked in, I could sense a feeling of community. Every customer seemed to know their pharmacist and was visibly comfortable in the environment, likely having picked this site as their pharmacy of choice a long time ago. Additionally, the staff seemed to work hard to accommodate their customers, with signs displaying the languages they offered on the wall and in-depth explanations of how each medicine should be taken flooding the air. There, I met Kimi, a young clerk who agreed to an interview on the condition that I didn’t take any pictures or videos of her. However, she was not able to leave her station, so I was required to conduct the interview while in line, with other customers conversing loudly in Mandarin next to us. This interview, as well as the various conversations held within the pharmacy, can be heard below:
Kimi’s story begins with her birth and early life in Southern China. When she was 12 years old, she took a trip to the United States to visit her cousins in Los Angeles for summer vacation. After spending the summer with her relatives and getting acclimated to American life, she moved to Flushing to live with her parents who had been residing in the community for some time. There, she was enrolled in an American school and required to learn English after having spoken only Chinese for most of her life. Initially, she was placed in a regular English class where she said she had a difficult time acclimating and often felt lonely, but eventually, she was placed in an ESL class with other non-english speaking students. While this transition likely helped her linguistic skills, she felt very bored after spending time in that class and ended up missing her more challenging English class. Kimi lived in Flushing for the rest of her adolescence until her parents bought a home in Philadelphia. She moved with them at first, spending 6 months in Philly before realizing that her true home was in Flushing and making the trip back. Since then, she has lived and worked in the community, with her most recent job being as a clerk at Roosevelt Pharmacy, where she has been employed for 3 months. She seemed happy with her situation, saying that working at the pharmacy had been a generally good experience for her.