Category Archives: USA

Where is home?

“Where is home?”

This is a question that I have been asked many times throughout my life. By friends and family alike. To most, it is a simple question. “Where is home?” However for me, it has always been complicated. Being born in Texas, growing up in Indonesia and living in New Zealand for half of my life, means that I have several places to choose from. Throw San Diego into the mix, things just get crazy. This leads to questions such as “Do you not consider New Zealand home?”, “Where do you identify yourself with most thought?”, and “Where do you want to live the rest of your life?”

I have never truly known the answer. Honestly, home has been scattered for me. I have never truly had a place to call home. I have never felt like I quite fit in any one place. I leave parts of me everywhere I live, and in a lot of places that I travel. Part of me always viewed Texas as home, and I had always planned on returning there in the future. Indonesia could never be a home that I could return to, due to citizenship requirements, and so much has changed since I left at the age of 12, but it still has a special place in my heart. And although I have lived in New Zealand for 12 years, I have never felt truly settled there. I have never truly fit into one place.

However right now, I am sitting on a train, and reflecting. I am currently obsessed with a travel writer, Paul Theroux, and in a book of his that I am currently enthralled by, he writes that “You go away for a long time and return a different person – you never come all the way back.” And today this is exactly how I feel.

I left Wellington one year ago. I left New Zealand 9 months ago. And today I return.

I return, but I am definitely not the same person as when I left. Today I leave my heart in San Diego.

San Diego. Bridge to Coronado.

Who knew that 6 months could make such an impact on someone’s life? I sure didn’t. Not until now. My entire trip, throughout my travels in Asia, Europe and Africa, and even recently through the East Coast and Midwest of the States, I found that the best memories are those that you don’t expect to make. That you don’t have photos of. Instead, you have mental images, stories to tell, and memories that will last a lifetime. It is not the tourist sites you see, museums you visit or Broadway shows you see. It is the people you meet along the way. The people who make an impact on your life. That is the true difference between a tourist and a traveler. A tourist sees a city. They don’t experience the city.

Baseball game - Padres v Giants. Phi Alpha Delta.

And I definitely experienced San Diego. I had no expectations about San Diego. No tourist sites to see. I didn’t even know if I would make a single friend, or do well in any of my law school classes. So to leave my heart behind in this city, after only 6 months, truly amazes me.

San Diego Mission Beach

The people who I met, who I became friends with, and who I saw at least once a week if not every single day, are the reason that San Diego is now the place that I call ‘my home’. So, those in San Diego who made an impact on my life, this blog post is for you.

My amazing San Diego friends, you made me never want to leave. I extended my trip by two months so I could spend time with you. And even now, I am not viewing my trip back to NZ as ‘returning home’. My trip to New Zealand is a vacation. A very long vacation, where I will be starting a career at a law firm, but a vacation nonetheless.

Because, to everyone who I know from San Diego, you have truly touched my heart and changed my life. I am not an overly emotional person, but the very thought of leaving San Diego, and leaving you, made me so upset that I refused to acknowledge it. Because once I acknowledged it, it was real, I was leaving. I was leaving all of you. I cried more on my last night in this city, saying farewell to you all, than I cried when my first serious boyfriend and I broke up. When everyone was avoiding the topic, saying ‘see you later’ or just ‘see you soon’, and Jon straight up says ‘Good bye Jen’, I lost it. I couldn’t hold it together, hearing the words ‘good bye’. Good bye is final. It means no returns. I am still shedding tears, on a train to LA, probably making everyone around me incredibly uncomfortable. I will most likely cry until there are no more tears left. But that just goes to show how much you all truly mean to me, and how much San Diego means to me.

Because in San Diego, somehow, just somehow, I found a place to call home. This is not to say that I am not excited to return to New Zealand. I am. I can’t wait to see my friends and family. To eat a crumpet, have a flat white and enjoy a Monteith’s Summer Ale in the sun. See sheep, snowy mountains, and beautiful New Zealand landscape. Go for a run around Hagley Park. But it is no longer my home. I don’t think it ever was, but it was the closest place I had to a home. I truly cherish the past six months, the experiences I had, and all the wonderful memories. The good times, the bad times, and the absolutely ridiculous times. There were many firsts, things on a kind of reverse bucket list of things I never knew I wanted to do, until I did them. I don’t regret a single day, and I wish I could re-live every single day I was there. But alas, I am getting emotional, and I have a long journey ahead of me. Time for another glass of wine.

You stay classy San Diego.

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Four States Down, Four to Go

I am half way into my big east coast trip, and I am definitely getting back into the swing is travel again. I forgot how much I loved getting on a plane, knowing that soon you will be in a totally different place. What’s more, an unknown place yet to be explored by you. Sadly, in exactly two weeks, I leave the USA and return to New Zealand. I am excited to return, see family and friends, and start work as a real lawyer, but I am sad to say goodbye to America me. To California. And to this life. I left New Zealand nine months ago, and returning means the end of travel for a while. So I am definitely appreciating it while I can, doing lots, sleeping little, and visiting as many places as possible.

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And this trip is also full of many firsts. The first time to many American states – Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, and Washington, D.C. (Although not technically a state). I am half way through, on a bus en route to Philly. I am also doing things a bit differently, I am couch surfing my way through all these places. Yes, I stay at a strangers house, though hopefully by the time I leave we will be friends. So far I have slept in the living room of a house, on a couch, in a private room on a loft bed, and shared a studio on an air bed. All experiences, all part of my trip, and it has led to unique things I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

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And to me, that is what travel is all about. Going outside your comfort zone, leaving your mark, and taking part of a place away with you. Keeping memories of every single destination in your heart. And being a traveller, not a tourist. Tourists observe from the outside, and never truly immerse themselves. Travelers, however, experience a place in all it’s glory. I have been reading a book by Paul Theroux, called ‘The Tao of Travel’ and in it he states that ‘In Mumbai: A tourist would have been in a temple or a museum. I had been in a slum.’ Of course I did museums, and there were no slums to be found in Boston or New York. However I love this quote and can relate to it. Because travel not only holds the possibility of excitement, but also reinvention and discovery of ones self. And the possibility that you may fall in love with a place, be for the museums, skyscrapers, food, culture or even it’s slums, and never want to leave.

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When I arrived in Boston, I stayed out in Cambridge. My first evening was spent at a birthday celebration, at a bar on the other side of town near the end of the subway (“T”) line. I tried local brews, and socialized with people i had never met, in a bar I would have never been to otherwise. I fit right in, and by the end of the evening knew all the gossip of the group, and got back to Cambridge at 4am. Tuesday night was bluegrass at a local bar, and Wednesday drinks at the Cambridge brewing Company with couch surfing hosts and surfers. In New York, I stayed in Hell’s Kitchen and Inwood (end of the A line, up at 207th street). I went to the Brooklyn flea market and Hell’s Kitchen flea market, neither in the lonely planet. Had the most amazing grilled cheese from this deli on 10th and west 47th. Took the bus to New Jersey for lunch (no normal sane tourist would ever do that!!) And went to a movie on my last night with my host and her friend. All these people whom I had never met, taking me into their homes, sharing their lives. This human interaction, for me, is what travel is about. You can move through a city totally alone and invisible, as if people see through you. Once you leave, no one notices. It is as if you were never there, apart from the pictures on your camera. But if you interact with people there, your absence is noted. As was your presence. And these moments are not on your camera, they instead last as memories, in your head and heart.

Of course I have done tourist things. In Boston I did the freedom trail, had chowda and explored Harvard and MIT. It snowed, and I experienced some very very cold weather (-16 degrees C one day! I went for a 5km run around Harvard when it was -12). I had a martini at the Top of the Hub, 52nd floor of the Provincial building. In New York I went to the Met, MoMA, and the museum of natural history. I saw Chicago, went to the opera, and explored the Chelsea markets. However I also achieved another first while in New York – I ran my first half marathon.

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As many know, I injured my knee last April. I had been in recovery all last year and only was able to run again as of October 2012. I decided to do the half marathon 6 weeks prior to it taking place. I semi trained, and my goal was to finish. Not be constrained by my knee, or my asthma. No goal for time. If I had properly trained and planned months in advance, my goal would have been 2:15. 13.1 miles. Two hours fifteen seemed like a reasonable first marathon goal, had that been my goal.

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I completed it in 1:54. 1:54. I still can’t believe it. It was the hardest half marathon of all NY ones, as many runners after told me, and probably one of the hardest half marathons in my life, according to some. There was snow on the ground, it was -6 degrees Celsius, and the course was two loops around and through Central Park, which included one very steep and difficult hill – the Harlem Hill.

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I woke at 6, had a bagel with peanut butter, a banana, Gatorade, and put on my many layers. Stretched, made sure I had my inhaler, and took the subway two stops uptown to the park. Told myself ‘you can do this’. I kept thinking positive. Thought ‘You can totally do this.’ And I did. In under two hours. I still can’t believe it. I was in the top 2/5th of finishers. Number 60 in my age and gender group. My first half marathon, in New York, in the middle of Central Park, with snow on the ground. That, is a traveler story, I will never forget. The whole trip could be a failure, but it would still be my best visit to NYC, because of that achievement.

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And as I write this, I am on a bus to Philadelphia. Taking in the sights of the countryside, on this cloudy cold winter day. Moving south onwards to DC. More sights to see, more people to meet (and couches to sleep on!), more fun to be had. Hell if I have to leave America, put away my passport and say goodbye to traveling for a while, I am going out with a bang.

Farewell 2012…

I can’t believe that it is New Years Eve. December 31, 2012. The year has flown by so quickly. It seems like just yesterday I was finishing my job at Buddle Findlay in Wellington, getting on the ferry to drive down to Christchurch, saying goodbye to my home for a year. Researching and preparing for my round the world trip, and then again saying goodbye to my boyfriend, my Mom, and my friends.

Little did I know, at the beginning of this year, what 2012 would bring. It exceeded all my expectations – just blew them out of the water. 2012 will probably be one of the most memorable of my life, a year I will truly cherish. Not merely due to my experiences and the places I visited, but because of the people I met along the way. When I talk about my travels, especially through Vietnam, I focus on the people I met, not what temples or museums I visited. The people. Both tourists and locals.ImageMr Tien, my motorbike driver in Hue, who drove off road through the rice paddies, past small villages, and taught me all about the culture of central Vietnam. Luna and Tom, Hanoi locals who introduced El and me to the local activity of drinking lemon tea and eating sunflower seeds by the side of the road, whilst sitting on child size plastic seats. And I will never forget Abdul, our whiskey-drinking joyful guide in Tanzania, who had a personality larger than my Dad’s personality and mine combined. I will never forget seeing a warthog at the end of our first day, me yelling out ‘Pumba!’, and Abdul driving after him, rhythmically repeating Pumba Pumba Pumba. And driving through the savannahs, listening to ‘Circle of Life’, while he taught us all about the animals, the local culture, and his experiences as a park ranger. It was my very own Lion King.

And this year really helped me realize who I am as a person. I learned a lot about myself along my travels, and became more confident and stronger. I moved to San Diego, to a brand new law school, where I didn’t know a single soul. I had never even been to San Diego – I had no idea what to expect. I thought it could be an opportunity to reinvent myself – no one knew me, so I could be anyone I wanted to! However I soon found that I was the exact same person here. Just improved. I had no constraints on my personality based on prior high school dramas. It was refreshing, and reaffirming.

And as I said above, this year has really been the best year of my life. San Diego has been, and still is, the most amazing, beautiful city to live in. I found it hard at first. My first day of law school, when I ended up crying because I couldn’t decide what to wear. Going to a law organization mixer, not knowing a single person, but leaving having met over a handful of people, one of whom has become a very close friend. Trying to hold my own in law classes, where preparation is vital, participation is mandatory, and expectations are high. I spent more time in the library this year than my previous 4 years combined. But I have met the most amazing people, and had the best American experience a 23 (now 24!) year old American-Kiwi could have hoped for.

I flew to Ohio to spend Thanksgiving with a friend’s family, and experienced true Midwest hospitality. I got to visit her college, met her college friends, and even saw her college football team play, and dominate, their rival team. I dressed up for Halloween on three different nights. I went to Disneyland, learned to play flip cup and participated in a Color Run. I took the most interesting legal courses of my law school career, and really felt like part of a community. I was adopted for Christmas, and made to feel welcome and at home amongst a family I had never met.

And all my experiences are thanks to the wonderful people I met here, who will always hold a place in my heart. I was meant to leave the USA on December 23, but I then postponed my departure until January 18. I am now staying until February 13. I don’t want to say goodbye to America, because that means I return to New Zealand, have to start work, and resume my mundane life without 3 story bars, the ocean on my doorstep and sunshine year round. However the real reason I don’t want to leave, the reason I kept delaying my departure, is that I don’t want to say goodbye. Goodbye to the wonderful people here. My amazing friends. My new family. They are the reason that despite 3 months of traveling through 13 countries, San Diego is really what made this year the best year of my life. Friends are the family you choose for yourself. And once I leave, once I return to New Zealand, I don’t know when I will see my San Diego family again. I know there will be many tears when I leave, and I may have to be dragged onto the plane against my will. Of course I am excited to return, and excited to see what 2013 brings, but I doubt any year will ever top this last year.

So here is my year in review. The places, and people, that shaped my year.

Yogyakarta - Borobudur, and the friends I made.

Yogyakarta – Borobudur, and the friends I made.

Siem Reap, and our wonderful tuk tuk driver, Mr Golden Stone, in Phnom Penh.

Siem Reap, and our wonderful tuk tuk driver, Mr Golden Stone, in Phnom Penh.

Hanoi and Hue - Mr Tien and I on the motorbike, Tom and El eating nam, and Mr Tien's cousin, El and me at the incense shop in Hue

Hanoi and Hue – Mr Tien and I on the motorbike, Tom and El eating nam, and Mr Tien’s cousin, El and me at the incense shop in Hue

Halong Bay Sunset

Halong Bay Sunset

Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang

Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang

Serengeti National Park

Tanzania Safari – The view from our camp in Serengeti.

Tarangire National Park

Elephants, at Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

My new brothers and sisters from PAD, at the Padres game - my first ever baseball game

My new brothers and sisters from PAD, at the Padres game – my first ever baseball game

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Cindy and Lauren after the Color Run

Nike Hoops!!!!!

Nike Hoops!!!!!

Thanksgiving with the Foleys in Mayfield, Ohio.

Thanksgiving with the Foleys in Mayfield, Ohio.

OHIO - Ohio State v Michigan Game

OHIO – Ohio State v Michigan Game

So thank you to my San Diego family. I will visit you soon. Never forget you. I love you all.

Beautiful Mayfield

So yesterday, I had my last law class. Ever.

It feels scary saying that, because I could always fail one of my finals, and therefore have to retake a class. But fingers crossed I don’t. I also plan on doing my masters in law in the future at an US law school. But for now, while that is still in the future and uncertain, yesterday was my last university class, last law class, last class after studying my ass off for 5 1/2 years (almost) straight.

In New Zealand, exams/finals are spread over 3 weeks, and include 6 days off to study between classes finishing and the first exam occurring. So often you get at least a week before your first exam, and they are spaced out. Not much to stress about. Here though, there are two full days before the first exam happens. And they only go for one week. I am lucky enough to only have two finals, because I am writing two research papers. One, I handed in yesterday, the other, I am working on today. But for the most part, I am not as stressed as my close friends, who have 5 finals. I can’t imagine sitting 5 finals over 7 days. The worst I was my first semester of university, I had three exams on the first two days of exams. Friday morning, Friday afternoon, Saturday morning. It was wonderful as it gave me an entire month vacation afterward, but stressful at 18 years old, first time sitting any university finals, having them so close and so early.

But to help relieve stress, I have been editing my photos from my recent trip to Ohio.

OHIO

I was there for 5 days over Thanksgiving and had the most wonderful time staying with my friend Lauren, being ‘adopted’ by her family for the holiday, and being treated to a real, family filled day of Thanksgiving celebrations. We even watched the parade.

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It was a huge change from California in terms of climate, landscape, and culture. It got down to below freezing, and even snowed when I was there.

Snow in Ohio. Columbus.

There were red and orange leaves, beautiful lakes, and small town suburbia.

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It was wonderful. A “once in a lifetime experience”. My first time in the Midwest.

Hawk in Tree at Lauren's House, Mayfield, ohio

So when I get stressed, sitting in the library 10 hours a day like I did yesterday, I can look at these photos and transport myself back to peace, serenity and nature.

How can anyone not love Fall?

Metroparks, Cleveland, Ohio

The beautiful autumn colors.

Metroparks, Cleveland, Ohio

Fallen leaves.

Metroparks, Cleveland, Ohio

Untouched nature.

Duck. Duck Pond, Cleveland.

I love San Diego. But on days like this, I just want to go back and be there. In the crisp autumn air. Fresh air. You can smell how fresh it is. Crisp. Clean.

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Like New Zealand.

Whiskey-Drinking-Football-Watching-America Jen

When I arrived in America, a mere four months ago, I was excited about the possibility of ‘reinventing’ myself. No one knew me, so I could be whoever I wanted. I could dress a different way, be interested in new things and have a completely different personality, without anyone realizing. I could escape all the prior restraints on who people expected me to be, based on high school, college and work.

The funny thing is, even knowing that I could do this, become someone brand new, free from all prior expectations on who I should be, I am the exact same person here as I am back in New Zealand. Of course I am not absolutely the exact same person, because I traveled for 3 months, am experiencing new things, and of course learning and changing based on my experiences. But for the most part, I haven’t changed too much. The things that have changed are pretty trivial, and really quite entertaining.

For example, America Jen wears jeans whereas New Zealand Jen does not.

New Zealand Jen wears skirts and dresses. She owns about five pairs of jeans, but hasn’t worn them in over two years. However in San Diego, I own two pairs of jeans (including the pair shown in the photo). And I have worn each pair at least 5 times.

Further, America Jen drinks whiskey.

New Zealand Jen hates whiskey. Hates it. Hates the smell, the taste, the thought. But somehow, here, in California, for America Jen, whiskey is a common Friday or Saturday night drink. America Jen will order a whiskey in a bar and drink more than one. Happily. Any kind of whiskey. I have even had whiskey just by itself…yep..not even mixed with diet coke, 7up or even water.

What is wrong with me….

America Jen also watches American football. Actually enjoys American football. Understands and follows American football. And college football.

New Zealand Jen doesn’t watch sports on TV. She is not a sport enthusiast. Whatsoever.

New Zealand Jen is also not nearly as studious as America Jen. America Jen spends an average of 8 hours a day (during the week) doing law school work – attending class, researching for my two papers or doing readings and preparing for class. And add on around 10 hours on the weekend = 45. New Zealand Jen spent 8 hours a week in classes, and about 8 hours a week outside of class doing research and readings for class. 16 hours.

16 versus 45.

So actually, after looking at the above, America Jen kind of is different. She drinks whiskey, owns a San Francisco 49ers tshirt and Dallas Cowboys running shorts (I may follow football but I don’t necessarily have a set team!), and wears skinny jeans. She spends far too much time in the library, and therefore spends far too much money on iced lattes (which also, prior to California, I never drank).

But the important things haven’t changed. My morals haven’t changed, if anything they have become stronger. It has reinforced that I know who I am, and I am happy with that. I like my personality. I like who I am. I like my international background and the fact that I am ‘from’ New Zealand – it makes me who I am. I like what I like and what I don’t. The important things haven’t changed, and they aren’t going to change anytime soon.

I think the main part of this is that in a new country where no one knows who ‘you’ really are, you are more willing to do different things. Try things out. Be social. Be exciting. I realized this weekend that in the States, I never say no. I never turn down an invitation, be that for a night out, a breakfast burrito, an evening of study fun in the library, or a trip to the beach. If someone wants company, they know I’m in. I am only in California for six months, I might as well make the most of it. Take every opportunity that comes my way, and have every experience possible.

So that is why I drink whiskey on a Saturday night and Bloody Marys Sunday morning. Why I have been to two NFL games and spend 3 hours watching Ohio State college football on a Saturday. Why I even stay at the library until 11:30pm on a Monday. Because I don’t say no. Sure I may regret it on a Sunday morning after only 4 hours sleep, getting up to go to breakfast followed by the library. But I would rather do that than stay in bed a few more hours, missing out on what the day can offer. Because this year has gone by incredibly quickly. I don’t want to miss another day or waste a day away doing nothing, when the sun is shining outside.

In 3 weeks, I will have completed my last exam for my law degree. Ever. 4 weeks, and my last law school research paper will be handed in. The last component of my law degree. 6 years done. Finished. No more university classes for the foreseeable future. A day after I hand that paper in, I turn 24. I’m getting old. A week later, it will be Christmas, then New Years. Then before you know it, I will be back on a flight to New Zealand. I can’t believe the year has disappeared. It feels like yesterday that I packed up my room in Wellington, and like yesterday that El and I boarded our flight to Singapore. It feels like I only just got settled into life here in San Diego, only to be leaving in two months. So there is no way I am slowing down now. I only have two months left, but I am going to make them count.

Tomorrow I am flying to Ohio for my first American Thanksgiving in 20 years. My first time in the Midwest, and first time going to a college football game. I can’t wait. I packed last night and can barely focus on class today because I am so excited. Sweet potato casserole. Stuffing. Pumpkin pie. Cranberry sauce. Oh man. So excited. For my New Zealand friends, you may not know where Ohio is, only that it was a very important state in the recent US elections. I had to look it up on a map myself, and inquire as to why it is the ‘Midwest’ when in fact it is quite far east, especially as California is ‘west’.

After finals, I am planning on going to Texas for a bit, seeing family and friends, and spending a few days in Austin. Then once my lease finishes in January, I want to explore the Northeast – Boston, Connecticut, New York, Philly, Baltimore and Washington DC. Get some winter weather into my system before I return back to New Zealand. And again, try to do as much possible before I get on that plane to Auckland. Before I pack away my jeans and my 49ers top, have my last Bloody Mary and say goodbye to America Jen, as I don’t know how much of her will return back with me.

Color Run Crazyness

I know I haven’t posted anything in a while. My lack of posts is due to two very different reasons: One being that I have been so busy with school work that I have spent an average of 8 hours a day at law school in the past week, working on my two research papers and catching up on readings for my other classes. The second is that I have been so busy not doing school work, and so much has happened in the last two weeks that I don’t even know where to begin.

I celebrated Halloween on three different nights with three different costumes, went to a Charger’s game at Qualcomm Stadium last Thursday night, and tailgated in the parking lot beforehand, went to the Timeflies gig out at SDSU on Friday, participated in a 5km run and hit town Saturday night to show three girls from Ohio what San Diego clubs are like, spent Sunday at brunch with a bloody mary bar, followed by Coronado beach and then Mexican food and margaritas that night. So as you can see, I haven’t really slept in the past two weeks as I have tried to fit in all that socializing alongside school work, and this week I have had no time to blog due to my guilt about not doing enough study last week. Plus, looking at that list of activities, where do I even begin?

Probably the best part of last week was the 5km run I participated in. It wasn’t your ordinary run – it was a Color Run. Basically, you wear all white, and run, walk, skip or cart-wheel 5km around Qualcomm Stadium (the Charger’s football stadium). At every kilometer, you get fluoro colored powder thrown at you, so the idea is that at the end, you look like you were dipped in a Willy Wonka barrel of candy colored goodness. They have MGMT and other great music playing along the racecourse, and in reality you can’t fully run the entire 5km in a paced fashion, because once you hit the color zones, you try to get as much color as possible, and even do color angels on the ground. You have a bit of a boogie, then race on.

It was insane. We tried taking photos along the way, but of course there is color everywhere, so it is slightly impossible. So I will let the video below do all the talking:

Even though it was only 5km, and it was a fun run rather than a serious run, for me it was a big day. It was the first official race of any form that I was participating in since my knee injury in April. I barely trained, because I had only finished my physical therapy the week before, and my training had only consisted of a few 5-15 minute medium paced runs, to make sure my knee could actually handle the impact of running. I still had to take it easy, but I was determined to run as much as possible, as hard as I thought my knee could take. And honestly it was the best event to participate in as my first run back. It was also great having the support of two friends, Lauren and Cindy, to run with, and to enjoy the beautiful day that San Diego had to offer.

The course itself was crazy – trying to dodge people walking, and those walking with strollers with babies inside!! One poor child was wailing while we waited to take off. Poor child being subjected to the heat, the claustrophobia of a race start line, and having color thrown at you!! I  have  no idea how long it took us, as we weren’t taking the race all thaaaaaat seriously. But once we were done, had crossed the finish line, taken some post-race photos and devoured several cups of water, we partied.

This was probably one of my favorite experiences in the States so far. If I couldn’t run a marathon whilst here (due to my knee), at least I got to participate in this fun run. And in January, there is an electric run coming to San Diego, where you start at midnight and the course is all lit up and ‘electric’….so maybe that can be my farewell to San Diego, before returning to New Zealand and their boring and conventional running events.

San Francisco Shenanigans

Last weekend I decided to mix things up a bit and swapped Southern California for Northern California. I visited the beautiful city of San Francisco, stayed in a hostel, met other travelers and generally had an awesome time. One of my friends from law school in NZ is studying in Victoria, Canada, and so we met up for a catch up and tourist weekend. We saw Alcatraz, Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, and enjoyed some delicious dumplings in Chinatown. I participated in a Beer Olympics (and in the process learned to play flip cup) and attended my first American football game. Although my school work doesn’t thank me for it, it was fun staying in a hostel again, drinking cheap beer, sleeping in a bunk bed and getting very little sleep.

Alcatraz was a really interesting experience. It is one of those things you have to see when you visit San Francisco, and we were very lucky we booked ferry tickets in advance because they were fully booked!! It is pretty weird walking around a prison, but the audio tour was really informative and I feel like I learned something that day. The highlight of the weekend though was the football game. It basically took up the entire Sunday, so it had to be the highlight. The San Francisco 49ers played the New York Giants. We took a special bus out to the stadium, met other local fans on the way, and upon arriving we were lost in a sea of red (the main 49ers color). The stadium was HUGE, fitting over 60,000 people, and had security to match. The security guards had metal detector wands at the entrance, they searched your bag in-depth, and once you passed you had a long way to walk to find your seat. While watching the game, Rob commented how you never see any streakers at football games, like you get in New Zealand at rugby games. Then we saw the cops on the field with guns…that explained it.

Like I said, the stadium was pretty big, and even though we were pretty much all the way up the very very top, we still had a good view because of how vertical the seats are.

I also gave in and bought a 49ers tshirt, to really fit in. We had been at the NFL store earlier that day, but I didn’t want to spend $40 on a red singlet that I would never wear again. But when I was at the game, so many people had jerseys on and I just really wanted a tshirt. I didn’t like any of the women’s tops, so I ended up with a children’s top (I didn’t realize it was a kids top at the time of picking it out). It was $20 cheaper so I didn’t complain. And it was only a large – the extra-large children’s top was too big on me. Only in America does a 23-year-old fit a kid’s t-shirt…

So here is me before the purchase, trying to fit in with the correct team colors (and with the huge stadium in the background):

And here is me after, with the most awesome Heineken bottle ever!

I won’t discuss the game, because we lost, pretty badly, but it was still such an experience and so much fun to be at an actual football game and see it all live. You really understand it more being able to see everything happening on the field, rather than the close ups you get on ESPN. You also don’t see the cheerleaders on ESPN, so it was kinda cool seeing them live. Although I think the boys were a bit more into the cheerleaders than I was. It was also such an incredibly hot day, I wore jeans (and I never wear jeans) and I was DYING. You get given free towels when you walk in to wave around, and a lot of people were using them in more practical ways, like wiping the sweat off their face or covering their face from the strong sun beaming down on us.

Sunday really was an epic day, because not only did we go to the football, but we also walked the Golden Gate Bridge!! Last time I was in San Francisco, I visited with my Mom and we did Napa Valley, saw Berkeley, the Mission, Castro, Union Square, the Ferry Building Market and Fisherman’s Wharf. On our way back from Napa, we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, but that was the extent of our exposure. Wining and dining (and visiting the amazing bakery Tartine!) was much higher on our list of things to do. This time, however, the Golden Gate Bridge was up there. We got to the bridge after the game, around dusk, and had the most beautiful sunset views.

And lastly, my favorite, a panorama of the bridge and the water at dusk. You really need to click on it and open it up fully to appreciate it.