Chinese families of Yale students grow a garden, tradition

In this Thursday, June 4, 2015 photo, Wang Nairu carries water to a garden, in New Haven, Conn. The once-vacant city block, on the northern edge of Yale University’s campus, where his daughter is a postdoctoral student, has been transformed into a garden of vegetables and spices, tended carefully by a community of grandparents from China. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

A once-vacant city block at the northern edge of Yale University now teems with exotic herbs and vegetables, tended carefully by a community of graying people from China who are here to look after grandchildren as their own children cultivate careers at the Ivy League school.

In the trellis-filled garden, a patchwork of small lots that are passed from family to family, they find friends, a routine for daily life in new surroundings and familiar vegetables that are fresher than anything they find in local markets.

“The sun is shining. I’m sweating. It’s good,” said 63-year-old Zhang Zaixian, of Beijing, who was watering chives one day as her grandson attended preschool. “I am happy.”