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The California Diaries – getting a taste of San Francisco

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So here I am. After much babbling about sinking Europe and dreaming about faraway lands, I finally got on a plane and landed, almost a day later, on the other side of the planet. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds: I had to place children and dog before even packing and it wasn’t without a pinch of anxiety that I left all of them behind. The day I brought the small ones to their grandparents seemed exciting at first: after all, they had been waking up at impossible hours for the past two weeks and with my husband we started fantasizing about wonderful things we would do once alone. Watching 2 movies in a row at the cinema. Having sushis at midnight. Waking up naturally at 7:30 and not being screamed out of bed in the middle of the night to bring some hobbit  to the loo. It sounded like the best holiday ever. Truth is, when I came back home it was snowing again and I didn’t feel relieved. I felt lonely, and so did my husband. Two almost middle-aged persons in a deadly silent house. We ended up watching TV and eating pizzas instead.

24 hours of loneliness later we finally were on the plane. First consideration: California is FAR. I mean, really far. Way further than it looked on the map and definitely further than in my imagination. By the time we got to Washington I was already tired of being on a plane. Six hours later, squeezed in the middle seat on an audio-entertainment free airplane (I didn’t know they still existed!), I was starting to lose my sanity. But then the lukewarm California breeze made it right again.

We are staying in a lovely room in Potrero Hill, a sweet neighborhood not far from downtown San Francisco, all community gardens and young families and organic restaurants. The concept of ORGANIC has been the first one to surprise me in California. It’s actually just a label here. I mean:  European organic is a lifestyle, on top of being a label. An organic restaurants serves healthy food, mostly steamed or raw. In California, organic looks like a label they put there to make you feel better. It certainly certifies the natural and pesticide-free nature of the things you’re buying but that’s it: it doesn’t preserve you from the deep-frying or the char-grilling.

I have the impression that food wise Europe is someway ahead. All the Starbucks display the number of calories of any pastry they sell (nothing below 370 calories, if anyone’s interested) but they don’t have a fat free version of anything. I imagined California as the realm of vegans, vegetarians and extremely healthy people and…well, they maybe are compared to the rest of the States but they really aren’t by European standards.

Apart from food considerations, San Francisco is a livable, medium-sized city (I expectd New York with sun but it’s actually way smaller) where everyone on the streets seems to be young (but then in Europe everyone seems so old), hi-tech and laid back. I had never been on the west coast and all I knew in the US were New York and Boston. Two very European cities, where people are stressed out and yell a lot (espacially in NY). Well here in SF everybody’s calm. No yelling, no stress, no endless lines to get a table at a restaurant. Surprising. Awesome.

Today we leave the city and start our journey to Los Angeles. I haven’t figured out yet if I could actually live here. I have to admit it hasn’t been love at first sight but it certainly is another world compared to the one I grew up in.

PS I had taken lovely pictures of the art-themed cakes at the SF Moma (there was a Mondrian cake, a Rothko PB&J toast, Frieda Kahlo biscuits and so on..) but clumsy as I am, I managed to lose them while doing a back-up. I will take more in the next days, hopefully.

Tale of a very conventional adventure (part II)

I should stop this part I and part II thing since between one and two I usually forget what I wanted to write about. I should just accept that at some point during part I someone will disturb me and ask me (not always in this order) to: walk the dog, fill a glass, go to the pharmacy, find a playmobil sword or gun or knife (why, why on earth are those SO small?), buy more bread, phone the electrician and so on…I should just let it go: I am in a phase in life where I can’t sit still for a whole 20 minutes without being interrupted. So, starting today, no more to be continued on my posts.

Where was I….yes, jumping off boat. It is a little more than a metaphor at this point: I actually lose myself in Titanic-esque fantasies about a Kate Winsletish version of myself flying off old, slow, Boring Belgium to reach some sunny beach, a sort of garden of Eden where people exchange the golf club membership against staying up at night talking and questioning and wondering what they can do to improve their lives, other people’s lives and the world. Where people still have some kind of romanticism, I guess.

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Where to, then? (I have been thinking this out for the past 5 years so I really went through every possibility).

1. I am an idealist but also have practical requirements: I am done with crappy weather, skies so low you can touch them and year-long tinted with all nuances of GrAy:-) Garden of Eden has then to be at Naples’ latitude. (minimum)

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2. I appreciate the kind of comfort some people used to enjoy a century ago (i.e. lots of help, space and very few mundane tasks in everyday life) but I need a certain freedom to do my own stuff and to explore my surroundings if I feel like it. Which pretty much excludes South America and, partly, Middle East and South Africa. I couldn’t survive in an expat compound where I am surrounded by help but can’t go buy oranges by myself.

3. I really, really like skyscrapers and urban surroundings. Anything fast-paced, like an 80s film.

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4. I am an Italian girl who grew up in the late 80s-early 90s. Most of my teachers were born at the end of the war and were just in love with the idea of America. It really was the garden of Eden, the  magical place where people were really free, and brave and active and…DREAMERS! I guess I absorbed part of that during childhood and somehow the US have always been part of my fantasies.

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5. I am an Italian girl who graduated in 2000. During my last year at school everything was about Asia. I even took a class called “The Asian Development Model” and I got top marks for the first time. I was fascinated. I took Mandarin classes (lasting a mere month, lazy me) and thought of moving to China. That would have required more braveness than I was prepared to. So I took that plane to Belgium.

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America or Asia? Wherever it will be, I am soooo ready for a fresh start!