On June 14th, I arrived in San Francisco ( for staging, where I met my fellow 72 China trainees by playing dozens of ice breaker games, sharing identity maps, and spending a few hours reviewing the Peace Corps goals and expectations.
But before getting down to all that business, I had about five hours on my hands and decided to hike out to the Golden Gate Bridge. After scarfing down a quick lunch at Punjab, I filled up my water bottle with San Francisco’s surprising tasty tap water, pulled out my laminated map of the city, courtesy of my California Grandma Nancy, and headed off toward the bay!
The day was glorious–blue skies galore, a balmy 68F, punctuated with the cool ocean breeze. I found it funny to see wealthy ladies returning from yoga sporting Columbia down jackets over their leggings during such a beautifully warm day, and then remembered I’d probably soon be sporting linen and sweating profusely in the Chengdu heat, much to the curiosity and amusement of the 四川人.
Walking toward the bay, I saw 70 year old grandmas steadily trek up and down the steep hills, Pride flags festoon multi-million dollar condos, and young XC students huff and puff their way along the sidewalks.
Probably my dream house
A cool looking shop that I unfortunately didn’t enter
It took a good, long while, but I finally made it to the bridge. The Golden Gate was a lot smaller than I had imagined, though I didn’t get the chance to walk across it. After a few snaps and a cursory look at the visitor center, I rushed back to registration at the hotel by way of Van Ness and Eddy, passing through the Tenderloin. No longer did I share the road with tourists and yoga ladies. The sidewalks were filled with people smoking, chatting, making various transactions, some which seemed pretty sketchy in nature. The disparate journeys out and in of the city were jarring and it felt weird to be situated in a place where Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf and Goodman’s were blocks away from people begging for an evening meal.
I didn’t have much time to make the trek to the Bridge and had almost stopped and decided to return after being halfway along that dirt path that cuts through the grass and intersects with the tree
The remainder of evening was filled with official registration activities, 1,000 different ice breakers to meet my cohort, and the promise of a full day of basic training and more icebreakers the subsequent day.
Trainings went off without a hitch. I fell into the group of people surnamed M–Z, and together, we read workbooks, performed skits, and burned the Peace Corps mission and Core expectations into our minds.
That evening, a new friend from Portland and I hiked out to catch the San Francisco sunset on the beach at the end of the Golden Gate Park. Walking an odd 8 miles out reminded me how lovely America’s public spaces and people can be.
The next day, we left for SFO by 8:00 for a 2:00 flight. We played cards and ate average airport fare until boarding, where I sat by the window and two Chinese and their Shiba Inu named Ariel, who somehow managed to make the entire 14 hour flight with no bathroom breaks while sitting under the seats beneath us. Pretty dope.