My grandpa immigrated to the United States in 1965, his wife (my grandmother) in 1968 once he saved enough money for her to come over. And then my mom and uncle came to America in 1970; those years their parents weren’t with them, they were being raised by their grandmother. I can’t even imagine learning a whole new language; English sounds so different from Korean.
He arrived in Portland, Oregon after a 35 day journey by sea. Once he got there, he had $9.50 in his pocket and had to get to NYC which cost $67.50 so he took a loan from a Seoul Daily News reporter which he repaid back. In NYC, he found a laminated-paper cutting position for $1.20/hour. His budget consisted of $32 for rent; $30 for food; $6 for subway tolls; and $10 for miscellaneous enabling him to save $118 out of his $192 monthly income. From a biography he’s writing:
I promptly wrote to my wife informing her that I got a job and would make almost $200 a month. I mailed it enclosing a ten dollar bill. Two weeks later, I received her reply telling me that everything was under control, and our two beautiful children were growing and healthy. They often asked why Daddy did not come home, especially at dinner time. With a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, I couldn’t continue to read until my emotions were under control. She said the ten dollars had helped her buy fuel and 100 grams of beef. She pounded the beef and made two small hamburgers for our two children. They really loved them. She finished the letter with, “I love you. Do not worry about us back here. Just study hard for your children and me!” She kissed the bottom of the page, leaving a bright pink print of her lips. This letter made me the happiest man in the world.
He then got a job at Cartier Jewelry retail store in Manhattan as an errand boy for $1.35 an hour –a fifteen cent pay raise. After 1.5 months of temporary employment, Cartier offered him a full-time job as assistant bookkeeper for $60 a week with health insurance and two weeks paid vacation.
More on my grandpa’s biography later. Reading it, I now understand why he talks so much about Cartier – it was his first job in America. He later enrolled in Brigham Young University majoring in statistics.
When my mom proposed my grandparents come to visit me in San Francisco I was all in favor. What did we do? Where did we visit? Well I felt like I became a tour guide in San Francisco, and a pretty good one 😉
- Ferry Building: visiting the Ferry Building is a must especially during the Farmers Market on Saturday. It opens at 8 am and I recommend getting there that early (or at least before 11:30 am). I’ve still gone during peak hours but it’s more crowded and there’s lines, especially for the chicken sandwich haha. I usually buy my groceries there so if you’re looking for a local farmers market it’s one place to go in the city. There’s other farmers markets too!
- San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge: there’s places to park to see the Golden Gate so just drive right over there and follow the signs. I once biked across the Golden Gate (and run of course) and the first time you’re always like, “Wow!” You can rent bikes too.
- Twin Peaks: drive to the top (or hike which I did with my friend Olga one time after we got some Boba Guys tea – visit there too!) and you’ll see a great view of San Francisco.
- Marin: if you’re looking for a hiking spot near the city Marin Headlands is the place to go. I’d recommend starting at Rodeo Beach. If you just want a view just of the Golden Gate then drive to “Marin Headlands Vista Point” which you can set in Google Maps.
- Google: I work here so I’m biased. But if you’re in the Silicon Valley why not go visit a tech company whether that’s Google, Facebook, or another?! Google also has an in-person store (not open during the weekends though) and there’s only 2 in the world. I took my grandparents to our campus and they loved seeing where I work. I take that back, I took them to the main campus, the Quad, our Google Cloud Sunnyvale office, and our San Francisco office. So they got a pretty good tour of Google 🙂
- Other places to visit which we didn’t take them to: a) Lombard Street – this is crookedest” street in the world, b) Alcatraz – the tour freaked me out hearing all those stories but lots of people visit here and love it c) Fisherman’s Wharf: one of those places you have to do, but expect it to be crowded with a lot of tourists. I like being close to Ghirardelli Square which is a cool spot. And if you walk from there along the water, what a view! d) plenty of museums like De Young Museum, Exploratorium, California Academy of Sciences, e) Coit Tower – go to the top, f) Lands End & Golden Gate Park, g) Muir Woods (I heard that now you have to reserve parking in advance), h) Painted Ladies (made famous by Full House)
Outside of San Francisco we visited:
- Napa / Sonoma: my mom took them to wine country which I definitely recommend. Napa is only an hour from San Francisco and you’ll see lots of vineyards / wineries. I like: Domaine Carneros, Far Niente, Robert Mondavi, Mumm Napa, CADE, Frogs Leap, and my favorite is Prager because I absolutely love port (you’ll see dollar bills all over their place) and I always buy a bottle. As you can expect it’s better to be a member of any of these places. Pro tip: check out their websites ahead of time and look whether you need to book a tour in advance. If you’re coming from San Francisco you can visit in one day, but if you choose to stay I’d recommend Carneros Resort – all time fav.
- Davenport: Great ocean views! Especially driving from San Francisco along the coast to get there.
- Other places to visit: Santa Cruz, Monterey, Carmel by the Sea, Healdsburg, and Berkeley (cool college town too)
I also have San Francisco restaurant recommendations – will save that for another time if it comes up.
It was great to be able to host my grandparents and show them around my city. Hoping for another adventure with them in the future 🙂 and super thankful for them immigrating to America – doing so took persistence and not giving up – they serve as role models to me every day.