16 July 2007

Coming to America

When I got home from my friend’s baby shower last Wednesday, I received surprising news from my husband: My uncle and cousin were arriving from the Philippines on Friday. What? In just 2 days?

Growing up, my relatives in the Philippines were like characters in stories from a far away land. My mom repeatedly told stories of how her big brother took care of her and her 3 sisters all by himself at the age of 12. While their parents lived and worked in the city with the 2 youngest ones, her brother fed them and clothed them and sent them to school in the provincial village of Pinamungajan. Sometimes all they had to eat was what they could grow or catch themselves. They always had to ration the peanuts, bananas, camote or whatever they had so that it would last until they could afford to get more. Eventually the family was reunited and moved together to Manila but those years of sacrifice and scarcity still have their scars today. And so when my parents immigrated to the States in 1975, they always planned to reunite their families. But after 32 years, only my lola and my grandpa have ever visited us over here. And no one has come to stay.

So, it felt surreal to see my uncle and my cousin here in my house. Before our trip last May, I hadn’t seen my family for 7 years. And now twice in one year? Incredible. This is their first trip to America so we are so eager to show them “everything”. We had already planned to attend a wedding this past weekend in San Jose so they joined us for the road trip through California’s heartland. To them, the rolling golden hills, flat fields of cotton and vast vineyards were foreign landscapes. The roads seemed so empty and orderly compared to the Philippines, they said. Where were the buses? Where were the crowds of people waiting for the buses? For their first lunch in California, we ate at the In N Out in Gilroy—well, we found the crowds. That night, during the wedding reception, we watched the dance floor fill up with aunties and uncles doing the cha cha, and the older generation schooled the younger. Mom leaned over and whispered, “your Auntie Manang and Ninong Goody used to dance cha-cha all of the time.” They were my cousin’s parents- the cousin who unbelievably happened to be sitting at the same table with us. It was as if she hadn't yet adjusted to being able to share her memories of her brothers and sisters with someone who actually shared some of the same memories from the Philippines too. The day after the wedding, we drove up to San Francisco to see the Golden Gate Bridge. Unfortunately, we only have pictures of them in front of fog! Later we enjoyed lunch on Fisherman’s Wharf. Well, we enjoyed it but I don’t think my uncle liked the clam chowder much. The cool breeze off the bay was another reminder that they were far from home. In a few days, they will be attending a professional conference in San Diego. So in their brief 2 week visit, they will have traveled nearly the length of California. I hope we get a chance to take them to the beach. They should see the Pacific Ocean from this side, don’t you think? If your cousins had only 2 weeks to spend in California, where would you take them?


Mama's Moon said...

Oh my, there's so much of California to see!! And in only two weeks??! I remember when a cousin finally got a Visa for a visit - the first time he stepped foot at Safeway he wanted me to take a picture of him in front of the apple stand where they were all stacked neatly in a row. He was so amazed at all the food that was available - and how pretty it all looked! Needless to say, we didn't have to go far in order to entertain him!

xiaolin momma said...

Two weeks in my home state - Since you are already headed to San Diego I'd also stop to see a mission, maybe the one in San Clemente. While in San Diego, i would check out La Jolla and Coronado Island. I'd maybe take them to a baseball game at Petco Park - they have great bleacher seats for $5.00. The park is shiny and new.
I might take them to see Beverly Hills, all my relatives feel the need to take pictures in front of the BH sign. While in LA, I'd hit the Getty museum in Malibu. It is gorgeous drive and a way to see the beach that is SO californian.

You could also do a quick side trip to Las Vegas:) something my relatives ALWAYS want to do.
Have Fun!

mamazilla said...

is it too late to take them to tahoe (not just for gambling!)? what about big sur? or monterey - like the aquarium? if they're into golf maybe a walk around pebble beach?

can i just say - I MISS IN AND OUT SOOOOOOOOO MUCH!!!!!!!

Grace said...

Any of these places would be on my list for Southern California:
San Diego Zoo
San Diego Wild Animal Park
Legoland in Carlsbad
Del Mar Racetrack (for some races)
A relaxing day in La Jolla with a sunset dinner on the patio at George's at the Cove
Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute
Knott's Berry Farm