How I ended up talking about lotto tickets with a taxi driver

Tuesday was full of adventure. I went to the California Academy of Sciences which was a mix of natural science exhibits, an aquarium, and small animals. The best part was this rainforest dome, which took you through each level of the rainforest. Butterflies and birds flew freely while frogs, lizards, and spiders camped out in beautifully designed cages. I’ll leave the rest of that visit to the pictures, but I was really impressed with their frog collection. I saw some that I’d never seen in person before!

It did make me miss having my own little tree frogs. For those who don’t know, I had two White’s Dumpy tree frogs, one of which I had for ten years! They can live to be up to 20 years old in captivity. They both became very sick about a year ago, and after extensive research I finally figured out what it was: Chytrid. Unfortunately, by that time it was too late to try the experimental treatment I’d found online. This disease is spreading like crazy all over the world to pet and wild frog populations. If I ever have tree frogs again, I would need to boil any water they came in contact with, and clean their cage with bleach rather than soap. If you’re curious, you can learn more about the disease here.

The only thing I would not recommend about the Academy of Sciences was the lunch. I regret not going back out into Golden Gate Park and buying a hot dog.

After spending about 5 hours at the Academy of Sciences, I headed over to the Japanese Tea Garden. I paid my $5 for residents, thanking myself again for getting my license changed over. Once inside, I realized there was a free city tour starting. I signed my name to the participant list and was treated to a one hour talk about the Tea Garden’s history and the garden itself.

The main family associated with creating the Tea Garden is the Hagiwara family. In the early 1900’s, a wave of anti-Asian racism swept through San Francisco. Hagiwara was let go from his job of managing the garden. He was eventually re-hired about six years later, but after he was first fired, he went and started his own Japanese garden a few blocks away. It was very successful  and likely one of the reasons he was eventually asked back! Of course, when the internment camps began during WWII, the Hagiwara family was once again kicked out of the garden. Our guide said he got to meet the descendant (Great-great-grandson I think?) of the original Hagiwara six months ago.

I also learned more about the Japanese philosophy of gardening, that what you take out of a garden is just as important as what’s in it. The empty spaces are just as meaningful. This is the basis for what has become known as “Zen gardens”. Throughout the tour, it became clear to me that our guide was a practicing Buddhist. At the very end, we were asked to please donate to the city guides so that they could continue to train guides and print maps. I’d found a dollar on the ground at the museum, so I thought it was fitting to put that same dollar in the envelope.

While the free tour was great, all the standing around had left me chilled, so I treated myself to a taxi ride home. I never know whether the driver wants to chat or not. We were quiet at first but after some small talk he asked where my accent was from. Apparently, I sound Polish? That’s a new one.

We ended up discussing British spellings of words, accents, and even pondering where the “American accent” came from. His take was Native American speech had influenced it. My take was all the different European accents melded together. But truthfully, both of us were just guessing. What is the American accent anyways, seeing as it varies state by state? A question for another day perhaps, or another cab ride. He thought of some other things for me to do during my 3 week adventure (San Francisco Zoo? See the symphony?)

As we pulled in front of the Pine and Jones market– that’s the store I live above–he decided he was going to stop and buy his lottery tickets for the week. He seemed to want my opinion, so I explained my observations of lottery winnings and losings from my time as a gas station attendant. He listened carefully and asked a few clarifying questions. “So you mean I’ve been wasting my money?” We laughed. “Okay maybe just this week, last time,” he concluded. “Maybe next time you see me, someone else will be driving me!”

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