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Yesterday I took Kai to see his great grandparents. It’s not the storybook type of visit in the American sense. You know where great grandma’s house would be a cute cottage tucked away from the city. First, my ba noi’s house is not a house. Actually it’s a studio not more than 400 square feet in the heart of the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. They moved in during the early 90s. Of course their landlord has been trying to pay them out at 15K to move out so they can rent the place for triple. It’s never going to happen because ba noi refuses to be displaced.

Though it is hectic to walk through the grittiness of the TL to arrive at their place, it is well worth it. Inside I always discover new relatives that recently arrived from Viet Nam who are enthusiastic to talk about ESL classes at City College. Yesterday I was particularly impressed that we packed about 20 people in their studio. We ate banh beo, goi cuon, and bun bo hue while sitting on those mini plastic stools or on the floor. For a moment, I felt like I was in one those Spencer Nakasako documentaries. But even better, it’s our life. No matter how much upward mobility Kai and I may experience, his great grandparents will always keep us grounded.


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