One day I turned on the TV and what I saw gave me hope. There was that show with the puppets-- Sesame Street. When I saw that show, I felt like education in America was so accessible. It's like it was being given away for free. By that time I had two young daughters-- Amy was born in 1982. I knew that both of my daughters would be able to be successful in a country that let everybody learn. That is one of the only things that I had hoped for that came true since I lived in America. My daughters are successful. It makes me so happy to think of them because they have what I couldn't have.
When I was a little girl in Korea, our family was so poor. My sister and I had to quit school to find jobs and make money to get ready for our immigration to America. We had to make money for airplane tickets, documents, and things like that. After we came to Guam I wanted to start high school but the school officials told me I was too old. So when I think of my daughters, it's like a dream.
I started working after a couple of years of living on the mainland. Amy, was only about three years old and Christen was five years old when I started to work. James would come back from work and we would have dinner and put our daughters to bed. We would go to downtown San Diego to the Horton Plaza mall and clean up the movie theaters there. We would leave at 9 or 10 p.m. and come back sometimes 2:30 a.m.-- on the weekends we finished around 4 a.m. We would come home and Amy would be sleeping but Christen would just be sitting up in bed, with her eyes wide open, not crying or anything but just waiting for us. It's illegal to leave your kids home alone! If they had cried and the neighbors called the police they would take our kids way. We would have had to get a lawyer. But we didn’t know that. We couldn’t help it. If we had known it was illegal we wouldn’t have done it. That was my first job in the mainland. Together, James and I made about $1,500 a month. We didn’t get paid by the hour. It was contract work. We worked there for about two years. Now, when my family and I go to Horton Plaza to shop or eat at Claudia's Famous Cinnamon Rolls, I can't believe how far I've come. Even though we worked there until the very early morning, I never regretted coming to America. I could ask myself that 10 times or 100 times and I always think that it was a good choice to come here.
At that time James also had a job doing maintenance work at the Holiday Inn. After we had been in San Diego for about three months he looked in the American papers for jobs. It makes me laugh to think about him going to a job interview and not knowing very much English. When he told me he got the job I didn’t believe him. But he did get the job! When I think of my husband finding jobs with just a little bit of English I think it must be God’s blessing. The man who hired my husband must have a kind heart. Even in Guam when James first came to America he found work at the Hilton Hotel. He says he could survive anywhere, even in Africa. I ask him, “How could you survive in Africa?” And he says it is because God protects and takes care of our family. He is right.
It was around the time that my second daughter was born that my faith in God had started to grow. When I was little girl in Korea I would go to Sunday school every week. Sometimes my brothers or sister would come along, but my parents never came to church. I would go every Sunday because I loved hearing Bible stories, drawing pictures, and singing songs like Jesus Loves Me. Even though I went almost every week, I didn’t know God. It was just a place for me to go and be a child. There, I didn’t have to worry about taking care of my brothers and sister, finding food, or carrying heavy loads of dirty clothes to the river. I could go to Sunday school and have fun and have no responsibilities. Even when I was a young woman in Guam, I went to church every week to listen to the choir. I still didn’t have faith in God, but I loved listening to the beautiful voices of the choir. It wasn’t until after I married James that I became a true Christian.
For me, when I first came to San Diego I thought, “I have to find a Korean church.” In America, Korean churches have a lot of members who weren’t Christians when they first started coming to church. They’re new immigrants who need to be with other Koreans. They have to go to a Korean church because that’s the only place where they can see other Koreans, make friends, and hear about the news. After they start going to church I think a lot of them start to have faith in God.
For my husband and me it was different. When we started to go to church in San Diego, for us it wasn’t about making friends. We just wanted to go to a Korean church so we could worship God. We went to a Korean church because we wouldn’t be able to understand anything at an American church.