Travel observations

August 2, 2005, [MD]

Here are some quick notes on my travels so far:

Getting out of Mexico:\ The bus was supposed to come to Coyotitan, the little village, at 6 in the morning - but that one never showed up. So I had to wait until 9. I got some tasty chilaquiles at a restaurant across the road, and spent the time in the shade, in a ditch, waving away insects. Then we went to Culiacan. From there, I quickly got a cheap (690 pesos - 70\$) bus to Tijuana. It was not super-luxurious, but nice enough, and with lot’s of movies (including Voces inocentes!). We arrived in Tijuana early in the morning.

Border crossing:\ I actually thought there would be an hour of desert driving between Tijuana and San Diego, but they are completely adjacent. I tried walking to the border post, but they sent me back to the house where all the Mexicans were waiting for their visas. We stood in the scorching sun for about three hours (would it be that hard to put some shades out?), and then they let me in. The officer was very aggressive, claiming that I had overstaid my visa in the US (they gave me 3 months when I was flying through Los Angeles on my way to Mexico, and they never registered me leaving). He asked me a lot of questions, and talked to his boss. In the end they let me through.

San Diego:\ The contrast between San Diego and Mexico is big, especially since all it takes to get there is walking across a bridge. For the first few hours I kept speaking Spanish to all the shopkeepers, and they all answered me in Spanish without problems. I left my luggage at the Greyhound station, bought my 45 day unlimited ticket for \$550 (they wouldn’t give me the student discount, even though the webpage says I should be eligible). It was the first time they had sold that pass, and the manager had to come out with the instruction booklet.

I took a trolley down to San Diego downtown, walked around for a few hours, had a huge meal of fried noodles, saw the pier… San Diego is a very nice city, clean, spacious, nice buildings, warm weather, on the sea. But it’s weird - it kind of feels like a museum or Disneyland or something, everything is kind of too perfect and clean and nice and fancy. I still had a good time there recovering from the bustrip. It was also my first tip-off that California would be quite different from the US that I had seen in my only previous trip to the States - through Pittsburgh and Buffalo.

Going up north/Santa Cruz\ My first Greyhound on this trip left at 11PM, and arrived in LA at 3AM. I slept part of the journey. LA Greyhound station was a bit scary, especially at night - a lot of sketchy characters. There was a black angry boy next to me, talking on the payphone for about half an hour with some friend of his, swearing and cussing about his mother, his girlfriend (f*ing bitch), how he was going to kill them all etc. There was also some problems between the driver and some passengers, and we got off to a late start.

I slept much of the trip, and arrived in Santa Cruz at mid-day. Of course, I had lost the note with my friend’s phone number, and had to find the public library, in order to log on to the internet and get his number again. Then I called him, and he came to pick me up. We went to a veggie cafe, and I had a huge veggie-burger with fries.

I had worked with Jason virtually all summer, from Mexico, and it was interesting finally seeing him. I was staying with him and his partner in their beautiful house outside Santa Cruz. Great to sleep in a nice bed, have a shower, eat good vegan food, etc. We tried installing Linux on his computer, and somehow problems accumulated to the extent that we had to buy a new harddrive. I felt very bad about it, luckily we barely lost any data, and it all more or less sorted itself out in the end. BACKUP!

We saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which I didn’t like much. I made them my famous scrambled tofu, and off I was.

Palo Alto\ I went downt to Palo Alto and wandered around Stanford University all day. Unfortunately a very good friend of mine who studies there is in India right now, and I had nobody to show me around. Also, there were not many students there because of summer break. It was still interesting to see, and fun to know where my friend studies.

I then met up with Charles H., my history professor from my high-school in Italy, that I had not seen since. He has two kids now, adorable ones. I staid with his family for two days and we had a good time catching up.\ \ San Francisco/Madera\ I took the Caltrain in to San Francisco, and went to meet Leroy, a former student of Charles who lives in the Castro area (the gay area) of San Francisco. I dumped my stuff there, walked around for a while in this beautiful hilly area with lot’s of great shops, restaurants, … I even got a free paper-copy of the Onion. We had a wonderful lunch in his lush gardens, and then I went on to Madera.

In Madera, I had my maiden voyage as a Hospitality Club guest, and a good experience it was. I was staying with Steve D., social worker and ESL teacher, and his wife and young boy. They were wonderful hosts, taking me around Madera and Fresno, we had great food and good talks, and lot’s of playing with little Edgar. He also had a big US map on the wall that I used in planning my travels (see previous post).

San Francisco/Berkeley\ I came back to San Francisco at two PM, and walked around in Chinatown and Nob hill (the snobby area). On the way down to Fisherman’s wharf, I came across the Norwegian Seaman’s Church, which is kind of famous. I popped in, and was offered waffles and coffee by a very nice Norwegian working there. I read some Norwegian papers, and had a good chat in Norwegian. I also realized we have elections coming up - probably I’ll arrange to vote by distance from the consulate in New York.

Now\ And now I am staying with a friendly couple in Berkeley, two Dutch people, one of them a UWC grad. I was going to stay with a Hospitality Club member in San Francisco, but that fell through, so I was a bit desperate. Leroy (the friend I had visited on my first trip through) suggested I mail the UWC mailing list in the Bay Area. I was sceptical, since I needed a place to stay tomorrow, but within three hours I had three positive answers! (And one more came the day after). Amazing.

In two days, I am off to LA.


Stian Håklev August 2, 2005 Toronto, Canada
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