Reentry

I don’t know what I’m going to write about in this post.  I have no ideas, just a few random, disconnected thoughts.  But I feel the need to write nonetheless.  I want those of you who worry if I miss a post to know that I’m fine, and that I have no idea when/if I’ll be able to get online at the refugee camp.  I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say about that experience, but uploading photos and posting may be a challenge, so be patient!

San Francisco wildlife

It has been nice to be in the US and to visit two states I had never seen before, but I’ve also been longing for the chaos of southeast Asia.  Walking around San Francisco, I kept asking my son, Ricardo, where all the people were.  I saw tourists and a few locals, but mostly had wide, empty sidewalks to myself.  On the day I biked through the city, I was usually the only biker in the bike lanes.  I waited at many red lights and pedestrian crossings with little or no traffic, because people here just don’t cross if the light is red.  There were no vendors in the streets, no motorbikes parked on the sidewalks, no chaos at every intersection.  At one point, I rode for an hour without even seeing a place to buy a water.  I’m used to just stepping outside and getting whatever I need within a block.

Never saw a bike lane in Cambodia!

I loved the scenery, the wide beaches, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the classic and modern architecture, the lively art scene, the delicious food from around the world, and I mostly loved the clean, crisp air.  But overall, it seemed kind of bland after spending the last nine months in Southeast Asia.  

Even the tourist sites were not crowded.

I’ve become accustomed to seeing people living their lives out in the open, but also being very reserved when it comes to expressing feelings.  What I’ve observed in America is the opposite.  People seem to be living inside and have little communication with strangers, but in public I frequently heard loud outbursts, tantrums, complaints about service, and the f-word.  There were plenty of friendly people, but a lot of it seemed scripted.  There are over 50,000 Uber drivers in San Francisco, and many of them asked the same question when I got in the car.

Modern art at the cathedral

And then there’s tipping.  After not really tipping over the past year, because it’s just not part of the culture, I’ve had to get used to tipping everyone in the US.  I’ve met travelers from around the world who complain about the tipping culture here.  Why is tipping such a big thing here and not so much in the rest of the world?  I’m also getting tired of spending ten times what I would pay for a coffee in Southeast Asia.

Ricardo and Robin

Well, this sounds like a rant, but it’s not meant to be.  I loved my visit to the West coast and met many, many great people.  I just wanted to capture some observations from my current perspective before I forget them.  This trip has reminded me that returning to the US in June will be an adjustment.  I promise to not go around complaining about everything, but I may share a story or two about how things were different when I was traveling . . . .

We still end up at an arcade, just like when he was a teenager.

Another bike path to myself.

Empty beach







Posting this from somewhere in China on a long layover.  Two more flights to go today, and one more tomorrow.

Comments (18):

  1. Paula Agins

    May 19, 2017 at 05:20

    Your words are so true. How did we get this way?

    Reply
  2. Betsy Zarella Flanagan

    May 19, 2017 at 06:35

    Love the pictures and seeing Ricardo Just a reminder that tipping is “expected” when you stay here Safe travels back, looking forward to hearing about your stay at the refugee camp.

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      June 12, 2017 at 07:18

      Do you accept Vietnamese Dong? I have thousands.

      Reply
  3. Lori

    May 19, 2017 at 07:40

    Just think about how much you will have teach us upon your return! We will all benefit from your experiences in many many ways!!!! I know we already have and look forward to more important life lessons when you come home.

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      June 12, 2017 at 07:19

      That’s why I’m writing now, so I don’t forget all of this.

      Reply
  4. Sharon Eash

    May 19, 2017 at 14:11

    I missed that you were going to be in SF. 🙁 I would have come up to see you if it was possible. I would have loved to see Ricardo as well. I will say that life in the Bay Area (SF) is not much like the rest of CA. 🙂 Though tipping is expected. lol

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      June 12, 2017 at 07:20

      Sorry we missed you, Sharon. It was a quick trip and my first time to SF or California. I’ll be out there again in November for a conference.

      Reply
  5. LInda A Wight

    May 19, 2017 at 18:03

    Back to civilization as we know it – though I never made it to S F. I think they empty the city during weekends 🙂 Nice to see you and Ricardo. Your head must be spinning such a long trip. Looking forward to hearing about the camps. Love,Linda

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      June 12, 2017 at 07:21

      I’m back from the camp. Feels like I’ve been away for months. Posts coming soon.

      Reply
  6. Rosie

    May 19, 2017 at 21:57

    Tim, your adventures pose many questions and thoughts of our world as we know it in comparison to the way of life in other areas. Truly a special experience for you! And all of us as readers.

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      June 12, 2017 at 07:21

      Thank you, Rosie.

      Reply
  7. Carole

    May 21, 2017 at 12:46

    Looks like you’re ready to return – and yes, I’m still complaining about the timing culture 😉 Take it easy out there!!

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      June 12, 2017 at 07:23

      Oh, how I miss those cheap meals and beverages at the Balcony Hotel!

      Reply
  8. Carole

    May 21, 2017 at 12:46

    Typo – tipping culture!! 🙂

    Reply
  9. Vicky Ann Deledda

    May 22, 2017 at 14:08

    After spending only a month overseas, I do agree with the comments you made concerning the difference between our two cultures. I do prefer the warm, friendly “non -complaining” attitudes of strangers that I had the privilege of being with, many who became instant friends. Thank you for bringing this to everyone’s attention. Traveling as we did, I’m sure, helps to build character.
    Nice pictures with your son!

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      June 12, 2017 at 07:23

      Thanks!

      Reply
  10. Marika Heughins

    June 12, 2017 at 10:30

    Everyone should experience the different cultures to see our culture through a different lens. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      June 15, 2017 at 03:20

      I agree!

      Reply

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