From-the-road-blog

From-the-road-blog

 

1-10-15: Great date, look at those numbers.

This is the first post from the road. I left a little over two months ago, and am near the end of my time to and in San Francisco. Agreed this is most delayed; but I did have a bumpy start… and a challenge to my personal resilience. This started with a visit to one of our sons and contained the usual overseas travel craziness: lost hand warmers, time zone adjustments, airplane sleep and food.  We witnessed our 20 year old navigating his new and temporary life with grace, fun, and connection to the other students. Five days in (rainy, more on this later) Budapest, NEXT: one day in MN to kiss the other kids and the dog good-bye, NEXT: 4 days driving west. Sustainable observations from that road: lots of wind turbines. Lots.

We arrived in San Francisco late on a Friday afternoon, where residents were beginning to cheer about the steady rainfall. Much awaited, for the reservoirs and snow cap levels have become dangerously low. The Bay Area was experiencing a possible end to a 3 year drought. And it rained my first 2 weeks here…

1-11-15

re·sil·ience        /rəˈzilyəns/

noun: resilience; plural noun: resiliences

  1. 1. 
the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
  2. 2. 
the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

I was failing miserably by definition #2. I was many miles and months away from my stuff: family, friends and community, emergency stored supplies, geography. I was scolded by a resident for complaining about the rain, I needed several ‘emergency’ phone calls home. One of these calls helped me realize that this was not (just) culture shock, but an opportunity to flex my resilience muscles and adapt (with grace if possible) to new conditions.

I figured out how to get exercise, started learning my north-south directions, and living out of two suitcases in a one-room apartment with my husband. I came to understand that the underpinnings of any assured thing: your relationships, your environment, your daily routine, can benefit from a shake-awake. As in, is this still good for me? And how will I react if said assured thing is no longer true? Fall down, wobble a bit, regroup? After my wobbly start, I began to pay better attention to my new surroundings.

One of the first things to learn in San Francisco, IF you are lucky enough to have a roof over your head, is the waste management system. San Francisco has banned plastic bags.

This makes grocery shopping interesting. I had packed a few re-usable bags, I thought for hauling laundry. Turns out we needed them for food too. In the larger stores you can buy paper bags at 10 cents a pop, but you learn very quickly to carry a backpack and a reusable bag, just in case you decide to make a purchase while out.

The waste management system has three containers on garbage day: Landfill garbage, Recyle, Compost. In fact, composting is mandatory.

And it is used to (re)create soil. Starting to love this place.

Much, much later–Local Economy (in SF)

One of the first things I noticed about San Francisco is the number of small businesses, mom-and-pop operations everywhere! In a fancy downtown area there were some big department and chain stores, and I did see a few Whole Foods. But it seemed for the most part that each neighborhood provided all necessary services for the residents: food stores, restaurants, laundry-mats and cleaners, clothing, hardware, shoe, and gift shops, doctors and dentists.

 

So I looked in this, and found out there were specific zoning laws that kept big-box stores from setting up shop in many San Francisco neighborhoods:

http://sf.racked.com/2013/6/7/7666399/five-things-to-know-about-sfs-formula-retail-policy

http://www.covbrands.com/2013/12/10/the-campaign-against-chains-formula-retail-in-san-francisco/

All this to note there is a distinctly non-suburban feel to the whole city. You can feel it when you cross from one section of town to the other: it looks different, smells different, and tastes different. REFRESHING!!

And, of course, as most everyone is either walking or using public transportation, a daily stop on your way home for a few items becomes 1) not such a big deal, and 2) a chance to interact with your neighbors.

One exception: never explained. The proliferation of Walgreen’s and CVS drug stores. Three, four, five in every neighborhhod.

 

Traveling with stuff: Bob and I are carrying our life in a Volkswagon Jetta.

Clothes for all seasons except MN winter J, 8 pairs of shoes/boots, 6-foot karate sticks (3) and weights (also 3), yoga mat and a block, 4 milk crates to hold the work gear and books, magazines, notebooks, herbs and essential oils, DVDs, some food, water bottles and coffee cups.

It’s a lot to ask of the car, it’s also a lot to ask of a couple that has expanded their stuff into a 4 bedroom home (with basement.) But, even with the occasional lost-item freak-out, it has been surprisingly fun to adjust to making due with what’s in the car. We have added some books, and a few interesting jars.

Mental note to self…clear closets in April/May. And now a jump to Florida. I have never, ever seen so many thrift and re-sale stores. Some appear to be specialty like furniture or children’s clothing; some are affiliated with a non-profit. I have also seen some very big flea markets down here as well, on the weekends with packed parking lots.

They re-sell everything down here! Yesterday I saw a sign that said ‘We BUY anything. Call….’

Housing

Some of our short-term arrangements, and both of our long-term ones, were secured through www.airbnb.com. An interesting site people use to advertise extra space in their homes for rent. Often more comfortable than a hotel room, and cheaper, this idea was created as part of the new economy–the sharing economy. Well, kinda. Our SF place was smack in the middle of a neighborhood being slowly gentrified, and we couldn’t help but wonder about the final impact of our rental monies. On the other hand, airbnb has created an international marketplace for rooms (shared or not), apartments, and even homes that folks can use to supplement incomes, for now, by sharing for a price. ex. Our FL rental is at a   home with a guest suite on the other side of the patio. He’s not using that guest suite, so we are!

 

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