And now I live in Boise

Everyone I’ve met has said, “you’ll love it here!” I’m only going on 5 days in my new home, and I can agree, I have a good feeling about this place.

After driving all night Friday, sleeping for two hours in a gas station parking lot with my head resting on Meeko’s bed, the dogs and I rolled up the driveway of our new home. I’m in the suburbs of Boise with a new roommate/landlord and his two german shepherd dogs. I unpacked the extremely stuffed Honda Fit (yes, my car still needs a name) and took a long nap on the floor in a pile of my bedding.

Within a few days I bought all the furniture I would need. In my many moves, I have finally learned my lesson- buy collapsable furniture! Now I have two metal shelving units that come completely apart, a foldable bench so the dogs can look out our window during the day, and two desks whose legs come off. If I had to move again in Boise, I could fit everything in two car trips easily.

Another good lesson for cheap moving: sell your old furniture on craigslist and then buy what you need from craigslist when you arrive. I can honestly say my Boise craigslist experience has been the most pleasant of any city. Everyone I met was extremely kind, helped me carry furniture without me even asking, and were happy to offer me local advice. Everyone also offered for me to keep their numbers and to call or email if I ever needed anything (or if I just wanted to hang out!) Yes, I actually made friends through craigslist.

Boise seems like this hidden gem of extremely nice (though admittedly, not very racially diverse) people. I wonder why more people wouldn’t want to live here. It’s almost like Brigadoon, fog and smoke included. There are occasional wildfires in the mountains. Walking around Boise State’s campus, I realized people passing by were smiling at me. Was there something on my face?? Were my shorts too short? Nope-they were just being friendly!

I’m still winding down from my first day of my teaching orientation. I can’t believe that I’m really here. Me, a graduate student, and a teacher in about a week. Meeting my fellow MFA cohort and the MA students as well made me realize we are all in the same boat. Everyone is a little nervous. Most of us are wondering if this is all a huge mistake. But, we all know by the end of the semester, all this worrying will seem so silly… the novice will become the expert!

In moving to Idaho and realizing how little I (and perhaps most of the world?) know about this area, I’m going to make a big effort to revamp my blog. I hope to capture not only my experiences teaching and being a student, but also what there is to do in Idaho and the Northwest. Thanks for reading!

Ina Coolbrith Park

Wednesday I woke up feeling like a cold was creeping up on me. With a sore throat, I decided to take it easier with my adventuring since I have a lot of pet sitting jobs over this weekend. After catching up on my errands, I took Meeko and Snickers for a two hour walk. We went to our usual Huntington Park where Meeko met a puppy willing to play chase. Snickers sniffed around and didn’t leave my side.

From there, we walked North on Taylor St. We had to manage some pretty steep hills. On one of them we met an Chinese couple with a really snappy chihuahua. They were laughing at how tough it thought it was. Meeko of course did not take it’s threats seriously and tried to get it to play.

Ina Coolbrith park was on a “100 must do” kind of list I’d found on a hipster website. The gardening was all well kept, and it did have some awesome views of the Bay. The park itself was all along one slope of a hill, with paths and stairs winding down it. This made it a little tougher for Snickers, so I’m not sure we would go back. Maybe the views would have impressed me more if I didn’t live in the neighborhood and walk around a lot.

On our way back home, we made another stop at Huntington park to make sure Meeko was truly exhausted. She chased some more puppies and begged for treats from strangers. After Snickers snapped at another dog, I decided we’d better call it a day.

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!”

Musings on the Cable Car Museum

A mere half block from my apartment, it is a mystery why I hadn’t visited the Cable Car Museum sooner. And it’s free!

I walked over in the afternoon, catching another great foggy view of Alcatraz. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing so much water on a daily basis. It’s always throwing me off. Even when I lived in Tokyo, the ocean wasn’t something I saw too often.

I’ll admit, I haven’t ridden a cable car yet. It’s on my list to do, but the fact is that I live right by most of the lines. I walk by 3 of the 4 lines almost daily, so I guess I haven’t found a situation where I’d need to use them.

The museum was full of awesome, well-written information. I actually understand how the cable cars work now! Check out the photo gallery below for a graph, but essentially, the cable cars have a claw grip that grabs onto a constantly moving wire. If the cable car is fully clamped onto the wire, it moves at it’s maximum speed of 9.5 mph. When the car needs to slow down, the cable car loosens it’s grip on the wire. Genius!

Like many cities, San Francisco had horse-drawn cars. But with horses come other problems, like tons of manure. Interestingly, my neighborhood now has a variety of dog and human…. on the street. Some things never change.

One of the starts to the cable car was the invention of the wire system–this is the same system used today. I was reading a biography of the guy who invented it, and surprisingly he initially came to San Francisco as a gold surveyor. Through working around mines and other engineers, he learned a lot about the business, the tools, and more importantly, what could be improved. In failing to find gold and strike it rich, this guy gained the knowledge that would turn into his idea for the cable system. Coupled with his engineering skills, he created a new kind of wire that could handle a cable car.

Ever since my successful dabble with entrepreneurism (see my website here!) all my ideas about being a business man/woman have gone out the window. The stereotype in my head was more like a nightclub advertiser, stuffing handouts and business cards into unwilling hands. In my head, to be a business woman, I would have to act in ways unnatural to me. To be clear, this is what I thought would have to do, not what I think of all other business people. In starting my website, I found a voice for myself as a writing coach, and as a counselor to students and families.

Now, I see that my two years in admissions and four years as a student at Carnegie Mellon may not have led me to a “gold mine” of a concrete, guaranteed career plan. At the same time, I have soaked up valuable information like a sponge. Information that actually has a dollar value. It’s weird to think of a brain like that, but I’m starting to see that this may be the key ingredient to entrepreneurism. More so than a pocket full of flashy business cards.

As I think about what kind of career(s) I want to have, I keep finding little stories like this everywhere I look. Man goes hunting for gold, ends up earning it through quirky cable cars which long after his death come to represent the very city he moved to in search of gold!

On top of inspiring stories and history, I found gems in articles and photographs. Of course, seeing the inner workings of the cable system was really cool as well. Whoever designed the museum did a great job of making such an mechanical warehouse appear accessible enough for the casual tourist. I definitely recommend it!

20 days of exploring

Last week, Ashwin’s hypothetical plans to go on a well deserved vacation turned into actual plans. Using his hotel and flight points, he booked a 3 week adventure in Tokyo, Thailand, and Singapore. When I learned that he had tocatch a 9am flight this past Friday, I thought “we’ll see!” Well, he did make his flight, and is currently in my old hometown Tokyo!

As much as I would have loved to go with him, the timing was just not right for me. I will likely be starting a new job at the end of February (can’t say anything about it yet, but I am really excited about it!) and unfortunately, I just do not have the funds to cover 3 weeks of pet sitting for Snickers and Meeko. So, Ashwin is meeting up with a friend from college. I’m sure it will be an awesome ‘bro’ trip.

With a new job comes a new schedule, so I’m looking at the month of February as my last opportunity to really explore San Francisco. (At least the kind of exploring that is best done during the day). I’ve planned one new thing to go do or see every day until Ashwin comes home.

Yesterday, February 2nd, I had a job interview. So that was my ‘activity’ for that day. I know, not the most exciting start, but it counts!

Today I walked through a Vietnamese festival in Little Saigon/the Tenderloin on my way to take care of some cats for my pet sitting job. There were carved fruit bowls, Vietnamese pageant queens, and of course a lion dance. The next adventure for today is watching the Superbowl [….commercials] in a Ravens house in the middle of San Francisco. We’ll see what happens!

Grandview Park and a New Year

After a tough holiday season of multiple jobs and that horrible flu that’s going around, Ashwin and I finally went on our first mini-adventure of 2013.

We drove to the Sunset district to check out Grandview Park, a small park on the top of a steep hill with multiple trails leading up to it. The actual park was not that big, but the 360 view of the Pacific ocean, the bay, and downtown San Francisco were really beautiful. Of course, we rushed to get there in time to see the sunset, to maximize the photographic opportunities.

Up in Nob Hill, sometimes I forget that the ocean is right there. Like, right over there!

While at the park, we met another dog and his owner. Meeko tried to instigate a game of chase, but this dog wasn’t too into it. He was much more interested in sniffing Snickers.

Now that Ashwin and I are back to our relative schedules, we are hoping to pick up our weekend adventuring again! Unfortunately, most of what is on my “to see” list is outdoors, so we might have to wait until Spring comes to San Francisco.

Redwoods Part 2

Saturday we woke up ready for our big hike across the width of the park.  With lunch packed and extra water, we drove to the welcome center to begin our 6 hour hike.

In the beginning, our energy was high. We chatted and came up with new hypothetical questions for each other, like what creatures we’d put in a saltwater fish tank if we didn’t have to take care of it. Interestingly, we both said octopus. After the first hour we got quieter, stopping every once and a while to listen to the forest. With our feet crunching the pine needle floor, it was tough to appreciate birds calling in the distance or wind sighing over the trees. But in those moments of stopping and listening, the forest seemed louder than ever.

I read on one of the park signs that John Steinbeck described the Redwoods as “a Cathedral of silence”. With no technical sounds like cars or phones (no service the entire trip for me) all of the natural sounds became amplified. While this wasn’t the first time I’d noticed this about a forest, standing in the Redwoods just felt grander.

After hiking to the coast and back, we were tired and ready to relax. Unfortunately this took longer than it should have as we drove farther South than we planned, and then had to drive even further South to the closest restaurant. It is crazy how spread out things are in the very North of California.

We spent the night at a motel, I won’t lie– it was nice to be in a real bed again! We were too far South to go hiking in more Redwood forests, so we switched up our Sunday plans and headed to the coast. Somewhere off the highway we found an awesome KOA beach campsite area that we were able to park at for free. Walking in the waves and sitting on a big rock just watching the sea was so calming. Even without having a typical 9-5 job, it is still challenging at times for me to be in the moment and enjoy things. Trips like this help remind me that sometimes it is good to take a break from everything and disappear from the cell phone service world!

Tree? I am no tree– Redwoods part 1

Thursday morning, Ashwin and I packed up the car and headed 6 hours north to the Redwood National Forest. In planning our trip we learned that though dogs were allowed in the campsites, they were not allowed on any of the trails. Ashwin and I decided it was best for all four of us if the doggies stayed home. Between the wonderful doggy sitter/walker I met at the park and our awesome roommate, the dogs had their own mini-staycation!

With awesome snacks, a pop-up tent, sleeping bags, and warm clothes, we were ready to go! Unfortunately, I ended up feeling car sick for most of the drive and missed out on the lovely views of the coast–  a combination of a windy roads and being on the passengers side. When we finally arrived at our camping spot in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, we only had an hour of daylight to set up and cook dinner. Many of the sites were already taken by a mixture of RVs and tents, with people gathered around their campfires.

We parked under some tall Redwood trees and unpacked everything we would need for the night. Signs warned to keep all food in the trunk of our car or in the metal bear proof locker nailed into the ground. Ashwin worked on starting a fire to cook our chicken, and between his frat skills and my summer camp skills, we managed to get a good fire going!

Weather.com had promised me 50 degree nights… it felt more like 40’s. I slept in leggings, sweatpants, a flannel shirt and a sweatshirt and I was still cold! In that moment, I wished we could have brought the dogs with us because Snickers could have kept me warmer! I didn’t get much sleep, but our excitement about finally exploring the park got us up and moving.

The lady working at the welcome center gave us great advice on the best trails to hike. Friday we opted for shorter trails since we had to drive into “town” for more ice. We saw some of the largest trees in the park and got to see some Roosevelt Elk up close and personal! I will save my thoughts on the forest itself for the part 2, but for now I think the pictures speak for themselves. Friday was a great introduction to what the park had to offer, and after an evening of more chicken and reading by the fire at our new and improved campsite, Ashwin and I were ready to take on a full day of hiking on Saturday!

Stinsen Beach and a new sweater

I finally went across the Golden Gate Bridge! This Saturday Ashwin, the doggies, and I headed to Stinsen Beach: population approximately 500.

After a long and extremely winding drive, we drove into the beachtown’s main area.  It’s crazy how many micro climates there are in Northern California. This beach town was at least ten degrees warmer, and even though the breeze was still there, the sky was free from fog and clouds. We got a quick taco and quesadilla lunch at a restaurant with an outdoor patio. Meeko and Snickers each got a tasty nacho chip– yum!

The main stretch of beach turned out to not allow dogs. This led to an Ashwin rant wondering why the world was against doggies. Unfortunately, I think it comes down to people not picking up their doggies poop. I certainly wouldn’t want to walk around stepping in that! Though in reality, all the sidewalks in San Francisco are covered in dog pee so…

We drove a few blocks north to a different section of the same beach, designated “County beach.” In other words, dog friendly! There were much less people, and all the dogs (except for one, but he was leashed) were well behaved. Meeko quickly found some friends to play chase with and graciously shared her favorite squeaky tennis kong with anyone who was interested. She even play wrestled for the first time with a 2 year old puppy! It was so fun to see her play biting, and teasing the other dog even though he had her pinned upside down in the sand.

Snickers had some pep in her step and even chased Meeko a little bit! She didn’t care for the cold water though, so we stayed away from the waves. We walked far down the beach, watching huge cargo ships floating slowly in the distance. Meeko entertained herself by galloping in circles around us while Snickers stuck by my feet. As we were leaving the beach, Snickers found a dead fish to roll in and got a second wind of energy. She sprinted around us, obviously very pleased with her new scent. I told her “We’ll see who’s laughing when you are getting a bath”

After some oatmeal shampoo and more running around the house, the dogs settled down for a nap and I made some chocolate chip cookies for the humans in the house. Ashwin said they were the best ones I’d ever made!

In other news, Snickers got a new sweater so she isn’t so cold on all of our hardwood floors. I think she likes it!

Adventures and Ventures

This weekend, Ashwin and I made a pact to go have fun. Great success!

Going off of a tip I received from a friendly dog owner, we headed out Friday afternoon to check out Sterling Park. Snickers was having a sleepy day (again) so we only took Meeko, her soccer ball secretly hidden in a backpack. Our path took us up the most crooked street in San Francisco. The street itself is one way, and reminded me of one of those wooden marble chutes where you watch the ball go back and forth. There were tourists lining both sides of the street, tourists jumping out of the cars on the actual street, and of course a crossing guard at the top and bottom of the street attempting to control the herds of people taking pictures in the middle of the road.

When we finally found Sterling Park, it was just not that interesting. The few dogs we did see were all on leashes walking on the path. Maybe I misinterpreted the advice I got at the little park by our apartment, or maybe they were just wrong! Ashwin decided that we should keep walking north, all the way to the water. Meeko was up for the challenge, but I dreaded the walk back.

When we arrived at the San Francisco Maritime park, it still felt like a tourist area, but less chaotic than the crooked street. We played soccer on a big stretch of grass while people looked on and laughed at the funny little dog. At one point and adorable Chinese boy (maybe 4 years old?) started taking an interest in Meeko. He didn’t speak English, but eventually we got him to kick the soccer ball. His parents thought this was hilarious, and once the boy gained some confidence in his soccer skills he really started smiling! Meeko was wonderful with him– she seemed to understand that she needed to play differently with him than she usually does with us. When the boy decided to start throwing the ball instead, he would clap his hands and giggle every time Meeko got it.

It was a long walk home up all of those hills and stairs (or stairs on hills!) but we all had a fun time outside and I got to see another part of San Francisco!

Saturday was a little more human oriented, getting Pho in Chinatown with our roommate and then heading to the Mission neighborhood for Bi-Rite ice cream. The line went out of the door and onto the sidewalk. They actually had those little portable railings to block off parts of the sidewalk. The wait itself was not too bad, but the ice cream was pretty awesome.

Ever since I moved to San Francisco, I have been seeing the advertisements for the Cindy Sherman exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. She is one of my favourite photographers, and was really a big influence on me when I started doing photography.

On Sunday afternoon Ashwin and I finally went. The museum itself has 5 floors with a big modern staircase running down the middle. We started at the top with the rooftop sculpture garden, then worked our way down the floors. The Cindy Sherman exhibit was a collection of her life’s work so far. Many of the pictures I had only seen in books or online, so to see them in their original form and size was incredible. I loved seeing her first big project, The Untitled Film Stills. Also fun was seeing Ashwin’s reaction to her “mannequin” phase… Back when I lived in Buffalo, I volunteered at the CEPA gallery auction where I got to hold the artwork as it was auctioned off. I was the happiest 16 year old ever when I held up this huge Cindy Sherman photograph. Sadly, that photo was not in the show.

We finished the day off cooking Ashwin’s signature chili dish and watching Adventure Time while we folded laundry. I’m thinking we’ll need to start a list of everything we want to do in San Francisco so that every weekend can be just as fun!