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On a weekday afternoon, customers scribble their names on the waiting list to be seated for lunch in one of the busiest South Indian restaurants in Fremont. Bollywood songs do not drown out the conversation as they do in other Indian eateries here, but they provide the mood music for the authentic food served on silver trays. Groups of six, eight and 10 wait as the hostess struggles to keep up with the crowd. On the corner of Mowry Avenue and State Street stands a space that has housed several pizzerias and restaurants in the last 20 years, but all of these places closed for various reasons, mainly a dearth of patrons.
The vibe of the place changed with the opening of the vegetarian restaurant Saravana Bhavan. The rags-to-riches founder of the restaurant chain is in an Indian prison for murder, but his business is booming around the globe. Its Fremont success coincides with the city's burgeoning Indian population.
Fremont, which some might consider a sleepy suburb, is my second home. My first home was Herat, Afghanistan, but my family had to flee the Soviet invasion. I was 10 when we settled in Union City inand eventually moved to Fremont. My family became part of the largest Afghan community in the United States. We ed the Latinos and other immigrants already here, but European Americans still made up the largest percentage of the population then. Today, Fremont offers a view of the pdrsonals of California and the nation.
Personals in Fremont, Nebraska, United States
Immigration policies under discussion in Washington now will determine what these communities will be in years to come. As the technology industry boomed in the last two decades, the faces of Fremont changed. The census shows that out of theFremont residents, 50 percent are Asian, including East Indians. Latinos have remained a consistent 14 to 15 percent and blacks make up 3 percent. I left the area inbut when I returned six years ago, the sleepy suburb was fast becoming an immigrant hub.
Software engineers and other information technology experts came here to work and stayed. So did less-skilled immigrants, who run taco trucks and drive perrsonals. The good public schools, low crime and proximity to both San Francisco and San Jose have made Fremont an attractive locale.
With the influx of these new immigrants came ethnic supermarkets, restaurants, jewelry and clothing stores, a cinema featuring Bollywood movies, places of worship, and a housing bubble that still hasn't burst. The average three-bedroom house in Fremont costs at least half a million dollars. The new immigrant communities have produced political candidates who run for local and national office. Some older Fremont residents resent the newcomers.
They seem to stake their claim to the city by flying American flags in their yards. But despite squabbles among groups mostly within each ethnic community, Fremont residents enjoy one another's food and festivities. To witness the evolution of the city, I dived into this cornucopia of cultures to find out what issues these new immigrants are talking about, their culinary delights and spiritual spaces.
When I asked Suzanne Shenfilthe city's human services director, what the immigrant community has changed in Fremont, she was quick to say: "Better restaurants. While the growth of the Chinese community has been gradual, the Indian community has expanded rapidly.
Fremont now offers North Indian and South Indian cuisine, halal meat for Muslims and a variety of vegetarian options. At Saravana Bhavan, my friend Rehana Bibia talent recruiter and foodie, explains the restaurant's popularity: "They make the food that my grandma made me for 18 years in Madras now Chennai. We just don't have the time to make food like this here. I waited 30 minutes until my thali tray arrived with six small bowls of vada, a deep-fried lentil snack; stews; rice; bread; dessert; yogurt; and sauces.
My eyes widened at the variety of textures and aromas. Bibi's dish is a thick batter of rice and lentils in the shape of a mini-pancake soaked in a tangy sauce. Her grandmother soaked, fermented and steamed this dish for 17 hours before these pancakes were served in her Indian home. The main entertainment for Indian families is eating meals at each others' homes, and their conversations typically revolve around education and money.
Unique to the Indian community in this city is that it includes most social classes and religions. The one place I found doctors and taxi drivers mingling, sitting on the carpeted floor eating rice and lentils, is the Sikh temple, the largest in the United States. Inside the decorative white building that seats 1, worshipers, everyone is welcome to pray, eat in the hour kitchen and listen to a live band singing hymns.
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The temple also offers rooms, where Fremont cab drivers can take naps during night shifts. The Chinese community is as diverse as the Indian community, with the earliest immigrants coming from Hong Kong and Taiwan, while newer residents hail from China.
The economic boom in the mainland is part of womeb Fremont real estate fremont continue to rise - Chinese with cash outbid other buyers dependent on bank loans. Among the first generation, ties to China remain strong and when there's a vote for independence from China, an exodus of Taiwanese Americans fly to Taiwan to vote, said Kimyo Hsiehan insurance agent, who was born in Taiwan. Hsieh, a year-old Hayward resident, comes to Fremont to shop. We met at Ranch 99, a large chain Chinese supermarket that offers a variety of fresh fish, sauces and noodles.
The soft-spoken father of two said the younger generation wants better public schools. One Fremont elementary school offers a Mandarin-language immersion program, but free Chinese students attend the many private after-school Frse schools. He said that the Chinese who womrn come to Fremont forget old-country rich tensions and unite in business. That solidarity is apparent in Pacific Commons, a new and sprawling shopping center, where Chinese restaurants and cafes dominate.
Chinese of all ages gather for meals and pearl tea. My former neighbor Bing Zhaowho was a surgeon-turned- fashion model in Hunan, China, took me for Hunan cuisine at Shao Mountain restaurant. Zhao said it takes fre,ont 15 minutes to make this woman at home. Hunan food involves a lot of oil, salt and hot pepper. Full, but still wanting to explore, we headed next door to Snowflake tea house, where I ordered a taro milk tea with tapioca. We sat outside because inside is claimed by teens who like loud music.
They plop down on purple velvet seats with their laptops, speaking a mix of Mandarin, Cantonese and English, and enjoying the free Internet access and board games. Zhao, woomen, and I talked about religion. She's a Christian, but more and more Buddhists are coming here from China. The project took 10 years for the cities to approve. The Latino community comes from different Latin American countries, but the majority is from Mexico, and many newer Mexican immigrants came to reunify with their families from Michoacan state.
Some are undocumented, and most cannot afford to ridh a home in Fremont. Ana Leonfdemont city case manager who personals with recent immigrants, said expensive real estate is the reason the Latino population has not increased here as in other parts of California. Many move to Newark and Union City, less expensive cities bordering Fremont. They rent out rooms and live with other family members," Leon said.
But the Latinos who have been a part of Fremont for decades have contributed personaals its economy and culture. Mexican food pfrsonals a staple in the city.
Leon, a native of Mexico, and I met at one of the four Spanish-language immersion schools in the city. When we asked a group of Spanish-speaking parents sitting in the courtyard to recommend a good Mexican eatery, they all said the taco truck parked behind Monument Plaza. Ofelia's taco truck has been part of the city's culinary scene for 22 years. Chef Jorge Huerta whipped up my combo meal in 10 minutes.
Leon and I sat on thin wooden benches behind the truck in the company of pigeons. We had fresh beans cooked to perfection, fresh tomatoes in the Spanish personaos the taco was delicious. I washed it down with Sangria Senorial, a Mexican soft drink that's akin to root beer. Leon said her Latino clients' most pressing issue besides housing is immigration reform. They are anxiously rcih Congress will pass the immigration reform bill so that they can live without fear and become Americans who can presonals access to health care and jobs like Asian immigrants do.
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A noticeable of Latinos have converted from Fee to become evangelical Christians, but the majority, young and old, gather for church on weekends at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. Most Afghans are refugees who sought political asylum, while the majority of other immigrants in Fremont came to prosper. Those whose families arrived 30 years ago, like mine, were elite technocrats.
With the country still at war, Afghans seeking safety continue to arrive. They struggle with trauma from war and domestic violence. Engineers and doctors work blue-collar jobs and open small businesses but push education on their children. The second generation has a growing professional class moving out to places like San Ramon and Dublin. We Afghans are perhaps one of the smaller immigrant communities here - s vary since the U.
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Fremont probably received more media gremont after Sept. Most of the Afghan businesses are in the Centerville district, including De Afghanan Cuisine, my favorite. The restaurant also includes a tiny take-out counter a few doors down. But I frequent the bigger space, where I can enjoy the murals and a sculpture of the ancient Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban in the Bamiyan Valley in I listen to the legendary late Afghan singer Ahmad Zahir, and eat the juicy, frree kabobs.
This is where I feed my nostalgia. Afghans often talk about events taking place 9, miles away. In the 12 years since the U. But Fremont's serenity and rolling hills remind Afghans of their lost cities.
Weekends at Lake Elizabeth are when the United Nations of Fremont come together for picnics, bike rides and water slides. Kids from all backgrounds play at the new playgrounds. The scent of barbecued meat fills the air as kites dot the clear sky. Even a few white families can be spotted among the crowd. Annapurna Rao, a native of India, had a message for residents who resent the influx of new immigrants.