Monday, October 16, 2006

M32 Edge of the Ocean

There's a place I dream about

Where the sun never goes out.
And the sky is deep and blue.
Won't you take me there with you.

Ohhh, we can begin again.
Shed our skin, let the sun shine in.
At the edge of the ocean
We can start over again.
--Ivy "Edge of the Ocean"

The other night, I signed a lease on a flat in San Francisco's the Mission Dolores neighborhood, just a block from the park. My new place is huge, on the top floor and set on a tranquil, block-long street with no through traffic.

If I walk a block south, I am in the heart of the gritty hipster haven, the Mission. A block in the other direction and I am in the 18th Street “gourmet ghetto" with its plethora of cafes (including one I am dubbing "cafe-cutie"), health food stores, bakeries and Michelin-rated restaurants. Together, they have some of the best restaurants I think of. Anywhere. Fortunately, Amoeba Records is at a safe distance, in the Haight, thus I don’t have to factor into my rent what I would spend there. There is not a chain store in spitting distance.

The Mission is the Latino neighborhood should I want use the subjunctive tense in Spanish for giggles. Maybe I will just torture an unsuspecting immigrant with my accent that’s one part Mexican, one part Norte-Americano, one part Brasileiro and the other Argentino. I’ve spoken Spanish every day this week.

To me, San Francisco is paradise. I am a ten-minute bike ride to work. Just 20 to get over the Golden Gate Bridge and into Marin. 15 to the Marina. A few less to Pac Heights or Russian Hill. 5 to SOMA and my new favorite restaurant on the planet, the all vegan, Gratitude. If I want to be at work by 9, I can leave just fifteen minutes earlier on the BART subway or the beautifully restored, colorful 1920's trams that run along Market and Church Streets.

The people are smart, cool, progressive, friendly and healthy. They work hard and have good careers, but know how to play equally hard. I am impressed with how nice people are and how they talk to me everywhere I am.

I have a feeling it's not going to be as hard as, say, moving to a country where I didn't know the language or even a single person. But I won't make any predictions, I am sure they'd just come back and bite me on the ass.

As psyched as I am to be in SF, I am sad to leave el DF. This is my last week here and I am feeling some serious saudade. The hardest part is leaving friends behind. But, as the one whom I will miss the most, Claudia, reminded me today, we’ll always be in contact and San Francisco is a just quick flight 4.5 hour flight to Mexico City.

In the same way I am about to reconnect with San Francisco friends Doug, Cynthia, Mary, Josh, Dylan, Dave, Becky and Doutschan, I know one day, when I least expect it or plan it, I will reconnect with my friends here.

My friends have shown me not only the best of their countries, but they also shown me what I consider to be the best of the world. I hope I showed them that there are Norte-Americanos who didn't vote for Jorge Arbusto, who don't support the US current administration and who are actually enthralled by other countries, cultures and languages.

Moreover, people in general and my friends in particular, showed me patience when I was lacking it. They showed me understanding and tolerance of cultural differences and in doing so taught me to be more empathetic and tolerant. They showed me there are different ways to do things and to think about things. They showed me how things can work out without forcing them.

Without them, I’d have a lot of photographs, but few experiences and nothing to tie me back to the rest of the world. I wouldn't feel changed.

I am thankful to have had the opportunity to step further outside myself than I thought was possible. Mexico City wasn’t exactly the best place on the planet for the outdoors, biking and healthy lifestyles. But two years hence, I've grown in ways I couldn't have imagined before - even if I don't ride as quickly as I once did. I can speak Spanish and even Portuguese especially when aided by my favorite type of beer in the world, Brazilian schopp. I’ve discovered my love for other countries and cultures and someone else paid me to do it.

I feel like I have come full circle. Like the kid in "The Alchemist", Santiago. He sets out to find a hidden treasure and travels in search of his dream. At first the universe conspires to help him but he has to over come many obstacles to get where he wants to go. When he gets there - it's not where he thought it was. (I don't want to give away then of the story). He survives by keeping his dream alive and listening to his heart.

It might have taken me two years to admit, but I miss home. I miss soy sausages. I miss riding. I miss bikram. I miss my friends. I miss normality. I miss healthy-lifestyle culture. I miss clean air. I miss green. I miss my snowboard. I miss snow. I miss 20 brands of cat litter. I miss having my own furniture. I miss halloween. I miss speaking English. I miss convenience.

And I will miss Mexico.

It doesn't seem to make sense to send musings from Mexico if I am in San Francisco. So other than posting a few laggard trip reports, I will retire this blog, but it will remain online.

Who knows what SF brings? Most likely not what I expect. At least it will make a good story for a future blog or yet-to-be-invented medium.


gwadzilla said...

the alchemist
a wonderful book

I had an long anecdote typed out
but it was too sad to post

Brian Kemler said...

thanks joel - you gave me the book. i would like to read your comment if you want to email it. ciao! bk