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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 . . . .