Week 4: SUSI goes to California

5am on week four’s Thursday I traveled to San Francisco with my now-dragging companions – a whirlwind 3-day trip packed with tours of Google and YouTube on the itinerary along with light hiking at John Muir Woods, a bay cruise and shopping downtown. Trip highlights lie with, among others, the raucous bay cruise as we all stood at the bow of the vessel getting soaked by the spray and cracking up as we lost our collective balance with every crash of the waves. The YouTube tour and interactive sessions were a huge treat, as was the Muir Woods trek where “Dr. David” and I were handed trail maps and put in charge of 14 students. What a debacle. Neither Dr. David nor I have any sense of direction. Somehow the directive signs saved our poor followers and although 15 minutes late, we returned to the shuttle in tact.

I should interject at this point that by week 3 the students had all settled in to how they would address the instructors. Early on I was “miss” or “misses,” but as comfort zones increased I became “Doctor-Professor Rebecca.” Sometimes “Rebecca” was dropped and even other times they would fumble with a “Doctor-Professor-Misses-Rebecca!”

But I digress…

What was magical about this trip is that I experienced SF in a way I never had even living in its outskirts my entire youth and visiting it countless times since my late teens.

  • I saw the underbelly of the Golden Gate Bridge through the eyes of young men and women seeing the ocean for the first time as the shadow of this magnificent structure hovering over the waves crashing on the rocks by the shore. I
  • I stood on the bow of a massive boat sharing squeals and laughter with students who had never heard of Al Caltraz [a word rooted in Arabic by the way].
  • I walked with ladies adorned in hijab along the pier as they marveled at street performers; nervous
  • about getting too close.
  • I watched from a distance as a soapbox preacher ranted to a sole observer only to realize it was Muhammed “Kurdy” (from Kurdistan) right under the nose of the Jesus-loving, Koran-banning, scripture-reciting disciple. Kurdy was video-capturing his performance with a little digital camera- shocked and amused by this odd fellow preaching the word of God- and right in the middle of a busy shopping district.

“This never happens in Kurdistan!” he said fully engrossed by this ‘holy man’ with a battery-powered microphone attached to his collar.

  • I ate Yemenese food – twice -a 3-hour process of eating, laughing, telling stories and chatting with the employees. I fell in love with shambooza (meat-filled pastry), the sweet taste of Aden tea, and couldn’t get enough of their version of baklava for dessert. I marveled as the students interacted with the waitress (she knew Yazan’s uncle back in Palestine), and the manager- a fellow from Abdullah’s village in Yemen who came to America to study. And, of course, the hilarity of flagging down a taxi in the hobo-ladened neighborhood of the Yemeni restaurant where we were surrounded by the staggering dealers, pushers and peddlers of the city’s core (scary!!)

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