Our flight from Cancun to Fort Lauderdale was uneventful and we got through Immigration in record time—found out back in December that Sangbyeong could come with me through any US citizen line, since we are married. Sweet! That makes our lives so much easier. However, our flight to LA was delayed…and we ended up landing at 1:45 in the morning! Good thing we don’t check baggage and my family is awesome. There was my sister, waiting for us. We drove the short way from LAX into San Fernando Valley, with the lights of the city spread below us like a reflection of desert stars in the wee hours of a week night. We finally fell into bed, but jet lag (and the sneaking around of my beloved nieces) woke us pretty early the next morning. And with no further ado, we dove into the LA experience. On that first day, we headed into Koreatown, where my sister and her family showed us around…but we did all the translating!
Our timing could not have been better…we arrived on a Thursday and the next day was the beginning of Passover. Sangbyeong got to have all sorts of exciting new cultural experiences, like koshering silverware and putting aluminum foil all over the kitchen. As he loves to cook, he also got to help prepare many of the traditional dishes…including gefilte fish! With one very sore arm, I was relegated to very simple chopping jobs and supervising. That night’s Seder, my sister and her husband were hosting, and we had a pleasant evening of singing and storytelling. The following day, we went with them to synagogue, the girls showed us around their school (attached to the synagogue), and we had the second Seder at another family’s home. On Sunday, it was Easter, which we celebrated by bringing a mini Passover feast to my sister’s aunt and grandmother in Long Beach…and going to Seal Beach ourselves! Despite the chilly waters, there was boogie boarding, swimming, and wading…as well as admiring the gangsta seagulls. Back at Aunt Nomi’s house, we picked avocados from her tree.
The following day, we spent relaxing in the morning, wandering around Tarzana. Yes, it is named after Tarzan. We took the nieces to the library and then walked along the main street to admire the animal signposts and have truly California experiences…like going to a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and stopping for a chia seed kombucha. It was time for some serious tourist-ing. So we hopped in the car with my sister’s husband, Sean, and the two girls and drove to the nearest subway station and headed the few stops to Hollywood. We peered into the lobbies of the fabulous old theatres, wandered through the tacky souvenir shops, watched the wild array of people traipsing the boulevard…but mostly, we read each and every star on the Walk of Fame. Seriously.
After that, we joined the herds of people trying to check out the façade of the Mann Chinese Theatre, except most of the courtyard was blocked by a commercial being filmed. Something involving horses, bulls, and a bunch of guys in cowboy hats. Go figure.
The following day was Tuesday, and the last day we intended to spend in the city itself. So we made sure to cover a lot of ground. First stop was visiting my sister at work, although it was a very quiet week to do that. She works at CSUN (CA State University, Northridge) and the students were on spring break. Nevertheless, we went to the campus coffee chain, the Freudian Sip (I love it so much), investigated the orange grove and pond on campus, admired the matador statue (it’s their mascot), and went to the huge campus library. Does that library building look familiar? If you watched the recent Star Trek movies, it should. Oviatt Library served as the backdrop for the scene at Starfleet Academy! It also appeared in Sky High, Battlestar Galactica, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I guess it is good to be a picturesque building so close to Hollywood. Unrelated to its film fame, it has an excellent children’s/educational collection in the basement.
We left my sister to her work and the fearsome five (again, Sean, Sangbyeong, the two nieces, and me) headed to the LA Zoo. We saw the famous crocodile mascot, seal feeding, otters playing on their slide, and many more.
My favorite spot…and I’m sorry, but not sorry for all the pictures…was the LAIR (Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Reptiles). It is a state of the art habitat and research facility, with six different areas and featuring several creatures that cannot be seen on display anywhere else in the world. Needless to say, for a snake-lover like me, it was half an hour of heaven. Not to mention that the largest donor of this was Slash, of Guns n Roses fame…or that another major donor was Betty White, commemorated in the room for snakes being called the Betty Bite and Squeeze Room. After that, the two nieces appalled to hear that Sangbyeong had never ridden a merry-go-round before, insisted on chaperoning him on the fun one at the zoo, with all its animals….I don’t know why more people don’t want to ride in the dung beetle with poo chair! Alas, Sangbyeong picked the panda instead.
It had been a busy day, but we weren’t done yet. We headed home to meet my sister, then turned right back around and drove through the rare rainstorm (yeah rain!) to the Dodgers game. Good thing it rained too, because we made it to the first inning only because of the delay. Our seats were wet, but our spirits high. It was another first for Sangbyeong…attending his first professional baseball game! We ate the foods, sang the songs, and generally had a good time. The Dodgers didn’t win, but we weren’t that fussed. We were just enjoying the time together with America’s favorite pastime.
The next morning, we prepared for a big adventure and headed north of the city, past Malibu, and headed to Leo Carillo State Beach and Campground. With their friends from synagogue, we set up tents and headed down to the beach. It was a bit chilly for swimming, but there was plenty of fun to be had with the crabs in the shallows, climbing the rocks, and watching the resident wildlife. We wiled away the afternoon in the sand and sun…and wind! Yet again, we saw a crew filming a commercial with a little girl walking around in the shallows. Just another day in Southern California.
We headed back the campsite to meet my sister and barbecued our dinner in the fire barrel. Sangbyeong loved using the fire mitts that let him reach right into the fire and move burning logs. After stuffing ourselves, most of us headed back down to the beach to watch the sunset before coming back to the campfire for dessert and warmth. At last, it was time to hug the nieces and Sean goodbye. While they camped out, we would be spending the night with my sister back at their apartment before she drove us to our train in the morning.
Hot showers and a good night’s sleep and we were ready to head up to Santa Barbara for the next leg of our West Coast adventure. As always, it is bittersweet to say goodbye to our loved ones…but that means we can start planning for our next meeting somewhere in the world.<3