A Tourist in My Own Town

Over the years, I have seen a lot of the Bay Area.  I think the Golden Gate Bridge is at the top of my list of all things San Francisco:  seen from Baker Beach, Chrissy Field, Land’s End, the Marin Headlands, or on the bridge itself.  It’s gorgeous in the sunlight, the fog, the mist, the rain, and at night.  Golden Gate Park is another favorite.  I’ve explored all 3 miles of it, and probably still have a lot left to see.  Then there’s Ocean Beach, Sutro Baths, and Fort Funston.  I’ve explored Pier 39 and seen the sea lions (one of the best attractions down there).  I’ve had clam chowder in a sour dough bowl, taken a ferry to Alcatraz, and biked all over the 7×7 miles of this city.  Then there’s the rest of the Bay Area:  Berkeley, Oakland, Santa Cruz, Marin County, Sonoma County, Napa County.

There is so much to see and do.  Although I’ve covered a lot of ground here in my 10 years, there is still way more to do than my remaining three to four months will allow.  I’m starting to feel the crunch of time closing in on me.  It’s a confusing feeling.  I am so excited to move to Sri Lanka and start this new chapter of my life that I wish it would all happen tomorrow.  But at the same time, I wish I had endless time to be with my friends and my family and my city.

Nob Hill Explorations

I’m not going to pout about leaving the people and the city that I love.  I’m going to make the rest of my time here really count.  Yesterday I went on a walk in Nob Hill with my dear friend Tonya, and of course our dogs:  Cali, Tonya’s dog and Abby, my dog.  Nob Hill is not the kind of area I would ordinarily think of to go for a walk.  I usually end up in Golden Gate Park or Chrissy Field for my walks.  But this was a different type of walk.  I read about it in a book called Stairway Walks in San Francisco by Adah Bakalinsky.

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Courtesy of the San Francisco Public Library. 

There are 27 walks in this book and they all feature stairways.  I thought this book would be a good way to see my city one last time before I go.  So I’m going to try to do all 27 walks!

We started at California Street and Leavenworth.  The first little alleyway, Acorn Ally, didn’t pan out.  It was supposed to have all these well-kept flower pots and flower beds.  It was also supposed to go through to Sacramento Street, which didn’t happen either.   We got a real kick out of how anticlimactic our first alleyway was.  And it said “No Trespassing” all over the place, so we got out of there.  We took a wrong turn down Sacramento Street, and had to go back the way we came.  Again, we found it pretty hilarious that our big walk had gotten off to such a rocky start.

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Transamerica Pyramid from the top of Pleasant Street.

We stuck with it, and found some beautiful views and alleyways we never would have found otherwise.  After walking on Sacramento Street for a while, we went down Jones, and then took a right on Pleasant Street.  Pleasant Street is a little one-way street with beautifully well-kept buildings and an amazing view of the Transamerica Pyramid.  I think this was my favorite part of the walk.

After Pleasant street, we made our way back to Sacramento Street, and found amazing views at the top of Mason Street.

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The Bay:  from the top of Mason Street.

We took Powell Street to California and went the wrong way down an alleyway called Joice Street .  We walked all the way to the end of Joice, passing a Chinese High School and a really cool mural,

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Cool mural found on Josie Street. 

when we realized we’d gone the wrong way.  So we retraced our steps and followed Joice to the first stairwell of the walk.  It was an uneventful stairwell, and wasn’t worth a photo.  But there were some cool houses nearby.

After Joice, we went up Pine Street, where there was a lot of traffic and noise.  Cali got scared and stopped walking in the middle of an intersection, so Tonya picked her up and carried her a little.  She is such a sweet pup, but she’s a total baby!

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Tonya comforting Cali after a trolly went by.  

Then we took a right on Taylor Street, and went up to California.  I should have taken a photo of it.  This is the part of Nob Hill that is famous for its steep hills.  We huffed and puffed up the hill, and finally made it to Grace Cathedral at the top.  The directions in the book had us walk down California, cross the street, and then walk back up California.  I guess there were landmarks to see, but we didn’t read about them, and thought it was kind of funny we went around in a circle like that.

When we returned up California, we went through Huntington Park where lots of people were hanging out.  Here, we saw the ugliest dog we’ve ever seen in our lives.  It’s head was the size of a larger dog, like a Lab or something, but it was on a smaller, long body, kind of like a Dachshund.  And the whole thing was super scruffy like a terrier.  I would have taken a photo, but I didn’t want to break my camera.

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Grace’s Cathedral 

From there, we pressed on to Grace Cathedral.  We climbed the stairs and cut through a courtyard with a fountain.  I thought it was funny that here, Tonya asked me if I’d seen Spotlight yet, which I hadn’t, but I’ve been meaning to watch.  We didn’t see any priests lurking about, but we decided to get going.  From here, our walk was just about finished.  We ended on California and Leavenworth, and then went to find my car.

We were super hungry and thought it might be a good day for a picnic, so we hit up Trader Joe’s for some wine and lunch, and then we took it all over to Golden Gate Park.  The dogs ran around for like two hours.  Well, Cali tried to get Abby to chase her for two hours, but toward the end, Abby wasn’t having it and just dug holes.

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They were so tired after the big walk, but they still had energy to play!  Well…Cali did, but Abby rallied.  

Since this was my first walk and I don’t have a lot to compare it to, I’ll give it 5 stars.  After the next walk, I’ll decide how many total stars it will be out of.  The company is really what made this walk special.  Nothing beats spending an afternoon laughing and talking with a good friend.  It was just a bonus that we got to take a cool walk and see some cool things while we were at it!

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Stay tuned for an expose on domesticated duck dumping in the Richmond District!  I’m completely serious!

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Getting Ready

But can one ever be ready for such a big thing?

Five months. There is so much to do.  It still doesn’t seem real. I’m so preoccupied with all the things I need to do to get ready. It hasn’t hit me that I’m really leaving. People all around me are getting sad to see me go, but my mind hasn’t begun to process it.

My mind is still hung up on buying the right crate for Abby, finding a good airline for her to travel on, handling all the paper work required to import a dog into Sri Lanka,

Abby Crate
The first crate was too small, but this one seems just right!

and of course how I’m going to pay for it all.

My mind still races around about how I’m going to move, sell, or give away ten years worth of stuff in my apartment: what should I ship, what should I bring on the plane with me, what should I sell, and what’s not worth selling.  It’s a different experience when both of your parents are gone.  You can’t just throw a bunch of stuff in their basement and think about it later.  In fact, a lot of the stuff I have is my mother’s and I have to decide if it’s the kind of stuff I want to keep.  I get 4.5 cubic meters of shipping provided by my school.  That’s actually good chunk of space, so I can bring things like that old love seat that’s been in my family since before I can remember, or the dresser that was bought for me when I was born.  But other than those items:  the rest is just stuff.  It’s a matter of whittling it down.

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All my possessions. 

I can get rid of some stuff right now, but it’s a little too soon for most of it.  I have to focus on all the other matters, like my visa requirements: the doctor visits for medical clearance; the police clearance, which is a whole story; finding my birth certificate; and getting ahold of all my diplomas and educational certificates.

There isn’t any time left to think about the fact that I’m actually leaving. And I don’t think I’m just leaving for the two-year contract, either. I’m already thinking much bigger. If I like Sri Lanka, I’ll stay for an extra two years and collect that $5000 bonus they give for doing just that. If I really like it, I’ll probably stay for six years, to be honest. And then after that: who knows! Maybe Africa. Maybe somewhere else in Asia. Maybe I’ll find a job in Argentina. The point is: this job in Sri Lanka is like a slingshot. It’s shooting me out into the wide world of international teaching. I’m absolutely thrilled about it. For the first time since I started teaching, I can really see myself doing this for the next 30 years. I love teaching. But for some reason, I couldn’t see myself doing it day in, day out, for even 10 more years. But now that I’ll be doing it abroad, I feel like it’s clicking. I feel like this is what I’m meant to do.

I’ve lived here in San Francisco for almost 10 years. That’s the longest I’ve ever stayed in one place.   It was absolutely amazing to be here for so long. I made some great friends here. I connected with my brother and his family in a way that I never would have if I had lived far away. It is hard to leave all this. Maybe that’s why I haven’t really been processing it too much: it’s really hard to say goodbye to all this, and maybe I’m still working out just how to do that.