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!

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!

A Snickers in Golden Gate Park

Sunday afternoon Ashwin’s Dad met us at a lake in Golden Gate Park. Our main goal was to tire Ms. Meeko out, but Snickers was the surprise star of the day!

The park itself was beautiful, and we met lots of friendly puppies. Children of all ages were smiling at Meeko but for once she was oblivious. All she cared about was the soccer ball under Ashwin’s arm. That may sound cute, but I was annoyed that she couldn’t just relax and enjoy her walk like she usually would. We made a mental note to bring a bag for the soccer ball next time.

Back in her youthful days, Snickers was an avid swimmer. An Olympic champion of chasing ducks across entire ponds. I have many memories of being done with a walk and calling out to Snickers to get out of the water. She would turn her head towards me like, “Yes I heard you, but I’m not done yet!” and keep swimming. Now when we come across a body of water, Snickers doesn’t always feel like swimming. But not this day!

As soon as we came up to the shore of Stow lake Snickers started getting excited. Her little tail was wagging and she was growling playfully at the ducks. The ducks on the other hand were more like, “What, you want some of this? Come and get it if you’re so tough! *quack*” Snickers kept putting her front paws in the water, then changing her mind. All of the sudden she was climbing out onto a fallen willow tree that was hanging over the water! She was 2 feet above the water standing on this tree when she realized that she was stuck. At this point other people had stopped to watch and were taking pictures. Ashwin and I were laughing and calling to her “Snickers! Why are you in the tree?” She tried to turn around but lost her footing and fell into the water.

As she doggy paddled back to shore, the look on her face was priceless. She was so embarrassed! When she pulled herself onto the shore, she walked past us and the other people and shook herself off on the other side of the path. “It’s okay Snickers, nobody saw you fall” I lied.

After walking up the hill on the island in the middle of the lake, Snickers went round 2 with the ducks on the same shoreline. She successfully chased them and then came back to me. Much better!

My only regret for the day is that I didn’t get a video of Snickers in the tree because I was too busy holding onto Meeko’s leash.

A Fair in Japantown and seals!

Today was our first official fun day in San Francisco. It was also the first day we did not work on a “project” for the house. Hooray!

We set out around noon for the 39th Annual Nihonmachi festival in Japantown. There were a variety of craft tables, beautiful ceramics, and food trucks. For lunch we went with some tasty seafood ramen noodles with shrimp tempura on top. This went perfectly with the bag of Japanese candy that we bought a few minutes later. We got fruit gummies, chocolate covered pretzels shaped like mushrooms, and of course some Pocky sticks. Walking through a stationary store nearby really brought back memories of going to school in Japan. All of the fancy mechanical pencils and the erasers shaped like mini bento boxes. I even found the erasers that smell like different kinds of soda! After watching several performances of Hawaiian and Tahitian hula, we hopped on the bus back to our apartment.

Ever since I got to San Francisco, Ashwin has been promising that we’ll go to the pier and see the sea lions. Snickers decided today was the day, so she got her coat and we all piled into the car. Driving north, it was clear that this was a tourist hot spot. I was expecting just a pier, literally a dock. Instead, this was a full out boardwalk with 3 levels of wooden board floors. Luckily, dogs were allowed seemingly everywhere. Moving through the crowd got tricky at times, but often people were too busy staring at the “Lassie dog” to care if we squeezed by them.

Our first stop was to see the sea lions. About twenty lazy mammals stretched out on square floating docks in front of a crowd of people taking pictures from the dock. We held the dogs up so they could check them out. When the first sea lion made a noise, Meeko’s ears went straight forward. She was definitely interested! We were both hoping that Snickers would growl at the sea lions, but she just watched from her perch in Ashwin’s arms.

After exploring some of the boardwalk, Snickers was getting tired and refusing to walk at our pace. Ashwin graciously agreed to carry her for the rest of the time. As you can see in the pictures, Queen Snickers was perfectly happy to relax upside down in Ashwin’s arms. Such a baby! On our walk back to the car she was putting smiles on many faces.

I am really excited to begin exploring more of the city. In other news, I finally found a good Pho place walking distance from our apartment in Chinatown!

Our new place!

After two weeks of unpacking, errands, and figuring out where the dogs should go pee, I am ready to start writing again!

By some miracle Ashwin found us a very nice place in the neighborhood of Nob Hill. There are six apartments in our building, and we are on the top floor. The ground floor has a small market, which is very convenient. I wave hello to one of the guys that works there every morning. He also touched up the paint in our apartment while we moved in.

I’d like to state for the record that there was no moving crew. It was just Ashwin and I, moving the rest of his things from his old apartment to our new one with a U-Haul. I’ve never been so happy to see a split box spring! When we emptied out the car it was a very strange feeling. I’d been living surrounded by my things for over a month and to seeing it spread out made me realize how full the car had really been! Between the various spices that had spilled and the vinegar spill back in North Carolina, the car was not smelling good at all once it had baked empty in the sun for a few days. Had I just gotten used to it??

So far Snickers’ least favourite thing about San Francisco is the hills. Specifically the one we live on. It is actually at 45 degrees. At first, I was having them go potty in the little dirt squares around the street trees on our hill, but Snickers was really having a tough time balancing while she peed. And then it would all just run down the hill. Now we go around the corner to a nice flat street, four times a day.

I am so glad that my trip is over as I am really anxious to get writing! It is hard to believe that August is here already–only four months until my first graduate school application is due.

Location: Home in San Francisco, CA

33 days left in Pittsburgh

There are officially 32 days left until I leave Pittsburgh. It’s strange how much this city has become home to me. It’s now in second place for “Longest amount of time living in one general geographical area”. First place is still Western New York, though I would argue that Amherst, East Amherst and Lockport(-ish) are all so different that it shouldn’t really count.

I came to Pittsburgh as a freshman at Carnegie Mellon University in the Fall of 2010. Now I have 32 days left in my life as Assistant Director of Admissions at CMU, living in a row-home and shopping at Giant Eagle.

As my first entry, this is my official declaration to the world that I am going for it. After two years of living a fairly average and socially acceptable life (for a humanities major anyways) I realized that not only was I unhappy, but the one thing that took up most of my time (my job) was preventing me from doing anything about it. After being rejected from all nine MFA graduate school programs that I applied to, I knew I needed to take drastic action.

In 32 days, I will finish selling off my furniture, pack up what’s left into my car* and drive across the country from Pittsburgh to San Francisco where I will be living with my boyfriend and working exclusively on writing stories for my applications. I hope you will join me and see how it all works out!

Also, my name is Jackie Sizemore.