Standing one week in between the city of my dreams and an island of mystery, this is an ode to San Francisco, the city I have loved.
I fell for you the first moment I touched your rain-kissed city streets, soaked in your seaside sunshine, and tasted your crisp ocean air. Something deep within me remembered you.
I remembered the wind howling as my great grandparents sailed across the Pacific Ocean towards you. I remembered the newfound hope they felt when they saw you. Courageously leaving everything they knew in China for an unknown but promising life here.
Growing up in Arizona I always wondered why artists sang so many songs about Cali. Californians who would visit would have this air about them like, "this is cool but you don't even know."
I remember writing in my diary in middle school about my first trip to San Francisco Chinatown where I was so excited to meet my "asian homies".
Imagine my surprise when I did make it to Chinatown and I didn't fit in. I realized how ABC - American Born Chinese I was.
That didn't stop me.
I loved the culture, the food, the creativity, the treasure-hunting, the exploring, the art, the diversity. I couldn't put it into words but I could feel the vibration.
In college I was clear I would move here. I wanted to do fashion design and saw SF as the spot. Any opportunity to be here, I came. But after one Spring Break trip and a series of unsuccessful interviews, I realized it would take more than a lofty dream to make it here. So I deferred my dream and spent three years focusing my efforts on making a difference in my own local community, Phoenix.
Then in May 2014, a job opportunity fell through and I had space to dream again.
My wise mentor said, "Isn't this exciting? You get to pursue your dream of living in the Bay Area."
I remember exactly where I was and how my heart felt when she said that.
It was as if my future self pointed her finger directly at the center of my being and said, "GO."
For the next 3 months, I worked 80 hrs a week to save money for the voyage. I didn't even have a job lined up but I was hellbent on making it happen. My hustle paid off, just before I made the leap, an amazing opportunity in SF came through.
Today, I step outside on Bush Street and Webster in Lower Pac Heights for a run. The sun is shining, wind is whispering, the rain has momentarily subsided. I smell the sweet sea breezes and feel the crisp ocean air as if for the first time.
And I wonder, why am I leaving this place? Off to Southeast Asia for the next several months to chase a wild unknown adventure, to find some uncovered part of me. While Asia is an alluring vision, why would I release this longtime dream?
I made it.
But that's the thing, you can't hold a dream in your hand. This was never MY city, this magical place is for Artists, Activists, Futurists, Lovers of all forms to find sanctuary. Some for a short time while others until the day they die. After being here for the last three years, I can see that SF is a sanctuary fighting for its soul. SF is the most expensive city in America but it isn't immune to real suffering: privilege, prejudice, and gentrification threaten the very culture we are all enchanted by. But SF is rooted. It was fashioned by love, founded in justice, and it will survive.
San Francisco is a survivor. A beautiful one at that.
And so I soak her in, I receive her majesty. I accept her suffering. I cherish her resilience. I celebrate her optimism. I feel for and fight for her existence. I honor the hope she has given so many immigrants and dreamers like me.
Thank you, San Francisco, no matter where I grow, I will forever love, believe in, and dream of you.
Kelsey Lotus Wong
My SF Treasure Chest for those find themselves in San Francisco:
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO:
- Ecstatic Dance Bay Area - Wednesday nights in Oakland and Sunday mornings in SF. Go to the SF one at The Church of 8 Wheels it's beautiful. They have yoga at 10am and dance from 11am-1pm. https://www.facebook.com/ecstaticdance.sfbay/
- Golden Gate Park - it's huge and incredibly beautiful, go for a long full day exploration by foot or bike. There are a few museums next to it including the DeYoung Fine Art Museum, California Academy of Sciences, and the Butterfly Museum.
- SF Museum of Modern Art - one of my favorite museums for stunning modern art from around the world. Free night is Thursday from 6-9pm https://www.sfmoma.org/visit/
- Mission Dolores Park and Birite Market - Mission Dolores park is well-known as one of the sunniest parts of SF. People do everything here from yoga to juggling to lovely picnics with friends. I recommend going to Bi-rite Market on the way. It’s a tiny market right next to the park that is quite famous for its selection of fine goods and delicious deli. https://www.facebook.com/DoloresPark/ | https://www.facebook.com/biritemarket/
- California Academy of Science Museum - Such a wonder to explore this center dedicated to learning about the natural world. Highly recommend checking out the Night Life every Thursday where the museum is open late. http://www.calacademy.org/
- The Center - Tea, Movement, and Community, the Center is a Teahouse open 7 days a week with lots of conscious community events and movement classes. It's right next to the Church of 8 Wheels, which is an old church converted into a roller skating rink that hosts Ecstatic Dance on Sundays. http://www.thecentersf.com/
- Bike Golden Gate Bridge - Rent a bike and ride through Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. It can be a bit challenging with the hills and fierce wind on the bridge so be prepared! Pack a lunch or stop in Sausalito for some lovely views and take the ferry back. I rented a bike once but usually I have my own bike. Many visitors use Blazing Saddles or Bay Area Bikes. You can also do a Segway tour of the city which is super fun. https://www.blazingsaddles.com/san-francisco/routes-tours/self-guided-tours/bike-bridge-sausalito-tiburon
- Chinatown - such a fun place to walk around, people watch, and eat. It's quite dense and full of color and mystery. If you like Chinese Food I highly recommend eating at R&G Restaurant. The crab is amazing!! http://rnglounge.com/
- Favorite Neighborhoods - Mission District - this is my favorite arts district of SF and a truly eclectic intersection of Mexican barrio meets hipsterville. Take a bus or LYFT and tell the driver you want to go to Mission St and Valencia and you’ll find many beautiful blocks to wander. Another favorite neighborhood is Haight-Ashbury, which is more of a Burning Man meets flower child spot. Its fun to explore vintage shops and cafe's.
- Favorite Juice & Tea Shops - Samovar Tea (all time favorite!) especially their turmeric tea latte and Ocean of Wisdom tea. The one in the Mission has a delightful egg jar with brown rice, sprouts, salmon, and sprouts! Beloved Cafe is new and I hear really a treasure as well. https://www.samovartea.com/ | https://www.belovedsf.com/
SOCIAL INNOVATION + DO GOODER COMMUNITIES:
- Starting Bloc - highly recommend this social innovation institute. Sign up for their email list and apply for a future institute: http://startingbloc.org/
- Hive Global Leaders - An amazing network of world shapers and do gooders, they host regular global leaders programs in SF - http://hive.org/
- Thousand Network - Another cool community I haven't formally joined yet but has a thriving group in SF - http://thousandnetwork.com/
- Impact Hub SF - A coworking space and social impact community, lots of great events and opportunities, join their mailing list - https://bayarea.impacthub.net/
- Impact Hub Oakland - same as Impact Hive SF but in Oakland, IHO community is home grown and down to earth https://bayarea.impacthub.net/
- General Assembly - coworking space with tons of learning courses - https://generalassemb.ly/san-francisco
ART & CULTURE COMMUNITY EVENTS:
- The Glint - experimental art events, coworking, and existential conversations - http://theglint.com/
- CultureLabX - monthly culture events - http://culturelabx.com/
- Creative Mornings - monthly morning creative talks - https://creativemornings.com/cities/sf
- Passion Co. - kickstart your passion project http://www.thepassion.co/
- Daybreaker SF - early morning dance parties every month - https://www.daybreaker.com/city/sf/
- Women Catalysts - workshops and talks from badass women in SF - https://www.womencatalysts.com/
- Good People Dinners
- Momentary Events
- The Long Now Foundation - futurist organization