On the way into our landing, the nurse and I trade places so that I can look out the window. Fabulous sandy hills dominate the landscape below. The hills run parallel the on-coming ocean and pines line the sides of the hills farthest from the sea.
Outside, the landscape is flatter, drier, and foggier than I'd expected.
In the airport, I find a wireless access point still within the secure zone and check to see if I have any lodging offers. No dice. An acquintance of Jusko's—Aglo—has mailed to say that although she doesn't have room for me to stay with her, we could go rock climbing and visit a MakerSpace. She also notes that she's familiar with Huun Huur Tu, one of my favourite bands. I write her back and we agree to meet at an Indian restaurant somewhere in the Mission District around 8:30PM.
Almost as soon as I decide this, I hear my name on the airport's intercom. My other bag! I speed walk to the baggage claim area, only to find it locked and deserted. I go to the Sun Country ticket counter, and find it abandoned. Eventually, I find an information lady who directs me to a phone. I'm on hold for at least ten minutes before someone on the other end of the line tells me I should go to the Sun Country ticket counter. I go back and see a couple of people at the very far end. I'm reunited with my bag!
My next stop is the car rental place where the nice people defy the poor reviews the agency has got and change my dirt-cheap reservation for the following day. Then it's time to get into the city.
Man! The BART tickets are expensive! $8 for a one-way ticket into San Francisco! At that rate, my trip in and back will cost almost as much as a day with the car… except that this way I don't have to worry about parking. I get on-board and we glide in towards San Francisco.
I'm really excited about being here. And not just for flowers in my hair. Back when I was staying with Christine in Eindhoven, I'd told her that I'd spent a long time trying to use my programming as a tool, but that I'd begun to wonder what would happen if I pursued it as a means to its own end. The Hackathons these past couple of weeks have been an enjoyable switch-up from my academic work: fast-paced, focused, team-oriented, results-driven. And now I'm here, close to one of the pulsing hearts of that world.
Outside, San Francisco slides by, a lot of small, densely packed houses ranging down hillsides with a sprinkling of trees. This part of the city, at least, is not so pretty.
I've been fielding calls from people interested in joining me on my trek northwards. One of them, Chen Qiu, explains that she can't go with me any longer because she's unexpectedly bought a plane ticket to New York. And, for most people, that would have been the end of it. But Qiu invites me to meet her at this place. And what better things do I have to do?
To get inside, I have to sign a waiver. I joke that all the creativity inside will kill me. On a wall behind the desk, a huge National Day of Civic Hacking banner greets me. Wandering deeper into the building I discover that it is possible to get hurt here: a chunk of conduit has been set up as a giant slide leading into a pile of pillows.
Searching the rest of the building, I don't find Qiu.
Outside, I give her a call. “I'm by the City Hall, but I'll come back. Don't go anywhere,” she says.
Not so very long later, we're walking along past the City Hall. Qiu's an auditor from China taking a three-week vacation in the U.S. She was here before, about four years ago, but on the East Coast that time. I tell her that I need to get to the Indian restaurant pretty soon to meet up with Aglo. I begin asking people for directions and, of course, everyone is pointing us in different directions. Qiu whips out a tablet computer and interfaces with it, but she doesn't have an internet connection.
More asking, and a bunch of wandering, eventually brings us to the Little Delhi Indian restaurant. It's exactly 8:30PM. I'm on-time, the way i like it. Qiu and I go inside and reserve a table for six. When, fifteen minutes later, Aglo hasn't appeared, I go outside and snag an internet connection. She's sent an email (her phone is “hell of broken”) saying it'll be nine o'clock before she arrives, at least.
Back inside Qiu explains that she'll have to leave around 9:40PM to where she's staying in Mountain View. We order some somasas, poori (deep-friend naan bread), and a vegetable korma. (Kormas being my favourite Indian food from Bristol.) While the food is on its way, we talk about civil freedoms in the U.S. and China, and about Wuhan, the city where Qiu comes from in Central China.
The food arrives and WOW! is it tasty! I've had some good kormas, but I think this one tops the list. Qiu's missed her first train and says she cannot miss the next one. The waiter appears to let us know that the kitchen has closed. Still no Aglo.
Christine's pulled through and let me know about an acquaintance she has down in Mountain View who'd be willing to let me crash at her place. It's late, but not so late as to make it impossible to get down there. Qiu and I begin boxing up our remaining food, which is when Aglo appears, pokes a head into the restaurant, and then disappears almost as quickly as the waiter explains that the kitchen's closed.
I jump out to wave and she and the group stop, recognising me. They decide to get food at the restaurant across the street, while I take my bags and walk Qiu to the station. She gives me a couple of Wuhan postcards, a hug, and then disappears onto the Muni.
I know that by the time I've exchanged pleasantries with Aglo and company that it'll be too late for met to make it down to Mountain View without feeling that I'm imposing, so I text this to Christine's friend, who responds immediately and positively. A part of me is instantly regretful that I won't have the opportunity to meet this person.
Algo & Co. make conversation for a half-hour and then the group breaks up, going to their respective homes. I'm left standing in the middle of the Mission District, still with no place to stay. Up the street, a hostel sign glows at me. Their prices are too steep, but they give me a list of phone numbers for all the hostels in the city. I make some calls and begin walking.
The Amsterdam Hostel looks a little like a row house, but is much more spacious inside; they hook me up with a cheap bed for the night. I come downstairs intending to write my blog, but get pulled into a conversation with a girl from Quebec. Her boyfriend is lounging on the far side of the couch from me having a quick-paced conversation in Spanish with guy on the other couch in the room. Quebecian tells me about teaching for nine months on a Native American reservation near James Bay. She met her boyfriend when she was working at Mother Terese's in India and he was traveling through. He continued North, she went South. Then they met again. Then they traveled separately to other parts of India, and then they met again. Then, she says, they decided to travel together. And now, after three years of that, they're working their way westward around the world. To Hawaii next, then the South Pacific, Asia, and onwards.
Anyways, that was yesterday, and now I need to get out and meet today!