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Going to sleep on my first night here was a little tricky, even though I was so tired.

In the apartment I chose the smaller room, with the slightly smaller bed, as my workmate Kim and her Fiancé, Brent, are coming over in a few week’s time.

The room is lovely, quite bare. White with white curtains, a bed, table and wardrobe. No power point though. It also juts out of the building and is right next to the street. Turns out Leavenworth Street is rather busy! Although, most streets here tend to be.

Night noises are filled with cars, and this hill is rather steep so the engines are revving with extra volume. There are also a lot of sirens that sound similar to wailing babies, and car horns, both alarms and people just tooting them seemingly for no reason.

There’s also a window between 12-1am where noisy people walk home after they’ve been to nearby bars.

Because I don’t have a phone or an alarm clock I woke up when I woke up, turned on my laptop and discovered it was 8:30 – not too bad. so I got ready for work.

It seemed really warm so I was debating what to wear – I peaked outside and saw people walking to work, they were all wearing jeans and jerseys so I figured it must be cold during the day and wore my jeans as well with a long sleeved shirt, got all my things together and prepared to walk.

I could have caught a cab if I wanted to, but figured walking would be a nice way to see the city. I googled the route – a 25 minute walk… that took me right through Tenderloin. Ummm, no thanks! I changed paths which added a few minutes on, but seemed a much safer option, much further away from Tenderloin.

The route seemed pretty straight forward, and easy-ish to remember, down the road, right onto Sutter, left onto Powell (that’s me!!), take that until I get to Market, cross that road onto 5th, then Clara was off that… but I didn’t want to take chances, so I loaded the map onto the work Tablet and off I went. Below is the map that tried to take me through Tenderloin! Here’s the map of my walk to work 🙂

walking-to-work-map

Venturing out onto the street was nice, there were so many people busy and walking, I got two blocks down though and saw someone sitting on some apartment steps, he looked homeless, and there were old videos and floppy disks sprawled across the street. I clutched the tablet tightly and crossed the road.

On the next block I saw a Hispanic looking person driving the flashed Audi ever – but then he got out and a guy my age, dressed in some flash suit just got in it without even glancing at the person who had brought it out of the parking building for him and drove away. This was my first experience of the wealth here. Young wealth – there’s so much of it. People are coming here for the tech boom and are millionaires over night when their companies have successful exits. It’s crazy.

I kept walking, and came to Stutter street, right on the corner is a coffee shop called ‘Cup of Joe’s’ – I should try that someday. I turned the corner, then some guy looking like he had no money in the world approached me, “Hey are you from here?” again I held the Tablet with two hands and wondered if I should really tell him “actually no, I just got here yesterday” I decided against that and just said “umm, sort of?”, he asked me where a shop around here was that fixed mobiles, I had no idea, he thanked me and started walking behind me down the street, I was terrified of getting the work Tablet snatched out of my hands so I stopped by a shop window and put it away in my backpack. Goodbye map.

Finding Powell Street was pretty easy, it was so busy! And steep, it seemed to go right from the bottom of the hill, all the way up, and it was a loooong way. There are also trams that go up and down, which seems to be a mega tourist attraction.

I started walking down the hill, which went pretty well… until I came upon a man directing people left and right from the centre of the footpath. He was a Hotel doorman, beside him was a cone on the ground. I looked down. There was a massive pile of human faeces on the ground, and it was smeared up in big clumps for about a meter and a half. And some poor person had trodden in it. I was sooo grateful to that hotel man, no doubt I would have stood in it if he wasn’t there as I was too occupied looking around at the buildings, and what turned out to be Union Square right across the street. Another ‘Welcome to San Francisco’ experience. This later turned into a new game of mine, ‘is it human?’.

On the next block I saw a T-Mobile shop, so I decided to go in and get a cell phone plan and sort out my Sim card. When it came time to pay this guy I asked if I had to tip him (another $6? har-har), but he couldn’t understand what I was saying! He asked “what’s a tap?” after I kept repeating the word “tip”, this was the first experience of someone finding it hard to understand me. He was very kind and explained you only tip people who are giving you a service, like bar tenders and taxi drivers. He offered some very good advice, and said if you go to a bar, the first tip you give a bar tender should be a big one, like $20 and he’ll look after you for the rest of the night, very attentively, and give you stronger drinks. Seemed legit, I might try that one day.

At the bottom of Powell Street was Market Street, there were people all around, crowding to get on to the Trams, and piling out of what must be the Subway. There were also more homeless people, and some old guy was standing by the Subway exit yelling things with a megaphone. I didn’t really understand him but he was saying something about children, future, economy and what not. No body was listening.

I looked around and found 5th, it was right there – thank gosh! Crossing the road is easy, there are no pedestrian buttons, everyone walks everywhere so it’s all built in, there’s a walk sign for when people can cross, and a red hand for when you can’t. Then on the streets that don’t have that, you just cross when the road adjacent to you has a green light, the people turning off always give way to pedestrians crossing the road. It’s a good system.

A few blocks down 5th and I finally found Clara St, what a relief. I had made it! Although the building was a little difficult to find, nothing like what I had imagined, there were just walls and doors, not really any signage – but luckily I found the buzzer and the right door and had to use a weird button system to call KLP (Kiwi Landing Pad) to let me in.

Then that was it, I was at work! Wow that felt weird. There are lots of Kiwis in the office, it was refreshing to hear people speaking that were from home. Shannon is a 21 year old intern here from AUT (lucky girl!) who kindly showed me how everything worked and helped me get my desk sorted, she’s been here for three months already so knows her way around. We chatted and got to know each other a bit then I got to work, playing catch up on everything I had missed coming over here.

At lunch time Shannon took me to Whole Foods, it was just down the end of the street. It’s like a big Supermarket, but full of ready made food, locally sourced, ethical stuff, organic food, and varieties of every different kind of healthy food imaginable. This is nothing like the America I was expecting, but I think Whole foods deserves a post on its own one day, so I’ll get to that later.

We ate lunch on a rooftop, it was cool! I met some new people and literally sweltered in the heat. It was SO hot, hot like a New Zealand summer, and I had put on Jeans! And a big long sleeved shirt! What was I thinking? Even in the shade I was sitting there sweating in despair as I was realising that I hadn’t brought any summery clothes with me at all 😦 I don’t know why but I thought it would be cold here, like Wellington, but it wasn’t. It was soo bloody hot.

Later in the afternoon I looked at phones online, but the foreign currency card I had didn’t work for online payments – so I had to go back to the store to get a phone. Darn. Shannon also had to go and meet another Kiwi guy whose coming in for three and a half weeks so off we went back up to Powell Street. She was telling me about good places to shop, that was handy.

When I got back into the T-Mobile shop I nearly purchased a new phone, but found out it had half the storage and was $50 more than the one online – whaat. I’m so stingy so figured I’d just try ordering the phone online again to save $50 and went back to the office.

Mike was the new guy, he is the CEO and co-founder of a website called Cloud Cannon, something for web designers that lets you import your html and CSS coding for a site from Dropbox and creates your site in like 30 seconds, much easier and simpler than sites like WordPress, and you don’t need to worry about hosting etc. It’s a great idea, and he’s only my age! There are so many young entrepreneurs around here that it’s just plain inspiring. There’s also a guy in the office called Olly, he’s 19, also from NZ, and is working on his 3rd Startup called Kandid – an app very similar to Snapchat but more social and group focused. He’s been here before but went back to New Zealand, worked for a year and saved enough money to come back over, now he works constantly on his App and also does design work on the side.

Cat Robinson, the Director of KLP is like a start up mum, she looks after everybody here, her help is immeasurable, and she’s great at putting people on the right track and making connections – her help is invaluable, but she’s also damn lovely. When she got in she took me out to coffee a few streets down to this place called Elite Audio – notorious for their amazing coffee art. I got a soy Latté, it was delicious. In the afternoon she took Shannon, Olly, Mike and Myself on a mini tour, we went to Twin Peaks, a famous tourist attraction here that gives you 180 degree views of San Francisco, it’s height second only to Mt. Davidson. The view was stunning, photos didn’t do it justice, we could see everything! Cat gave us a little run down of the city, pointing out the Candlestick, The Presidio, Golden Gate Park, Alcatraz, and main parts of the city, there was so much view and so much information it was hard to take it all in.

After that we drove past places like the Painted Ladies and the famous house where ‘Full House’ was filmed. We went through lots of different parts of the city, including the places where the really rich lived, and on the way to get there we saw a few places of the poor. Like, the really poor. A lot of them lived in Underpasses below highways and bridges, they each had their own sections by the big concrete pillars that supported the roads and bridges above, some of them had tarpolens up, some of them had trollies full of stuff and rubbish, and some of them were just sleeping on cardboard. Cat was telling us that many people that are homeless around America come to San Francisco, because the climate makes it easier (with this heat I could believe it), and because in some places it’s illegal, but not in San Francisco.

We did this for maybe an hour or less, then Cat had to go and pick up her daughter from school. Mike was staying at this place called Start Up House, so we went there to drop off his bag and check him in. Start Up Houses are pretty common in this area, they’re places where people working in Startups can live and work and collaborate. The rooms in this one were big with lots of bunk beds, and separate spaces for men and women (thank god) and joined working spaces for everyone. There were so many people there, and probably working all through the night most nights. The lady we spoke to, Rose, was very friendly, and keen to hear more about IndieReign and Shift72, so she invited us to join in on the events they host there every week, it sounded cool.

On the walk home I stopped in at this place called Nordstrom, Shannon had pointed it out earlier so I was keen to check it out. The particular one I went to was a discount store, so all their really fancy stuff was on sale. It was amazing, Men’s and Women’s clothing here is quite different, and everyone seems really stylish, and after my hot day, I was keen to get something cooler to wear. I tried on a few different things but wasn’t sure if I should buy anything from the first place I went to, so I just grabbed some sandals. The line to buy them was soo long, there were about 15 people ahead of me, I wondered if there was some sort of sale on as this was about 7pm on a Tuesday evening, but it turns out that’s completely normal. Shops here are open until at least 10pm every night. Even Mondays!

Walking home was nice, it was ALL up hill though, I guess I’m lucky, all down hill on the way to work, all up hill on the way home, and going nearly three KMs up hill is quite a walk, which I like.

There were lots more homeless people around in the evening, people holding cups out just sitting down on the side of the road, and people standing on corners repeating the same thing over and over “Can you spare a quarter? I’m Homeless. Can you spare a quarter I’m homeless”, “Can you spare a dollar, god bless you. Can you spare a dollar god bless you”. It was really hard to just walk on by, in a city of so much wealth I’m struggling to get accustomed to seeing so much poverty. People seem to be at such opposite ends of the spectrum here, it’s so different to New Zealand. If you lose your job and run out of money here, there’s nothing you can do, you’re out on the street, there’s no welfare or support here, so people just have to live on the streets.

When I got home, I was so hot and tired, what a day! But apart from the poo on the footpath and seeing all the homeless people, I very much like this city, it’s colourful, cultural, creative, healthy, and motivational. I really hope my day didn’t bore you, but I’ll try to keep the blog posts coming 🙂

Cheerio!

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Astounding Wealth, Human Poo, Poverty, Heat, and Amazing Views: My first day in San Francisco.

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