BayBridge

This is probably the second time I try to express myself in my second language. Maybe because of the english composition course I’m taking, maybe because the feelings I want to talk about were somehow created in that language.

Yesterday I was watching “Inside out”, yeah, that movie that I went to with great expectation, media saying it had psychologist advice to be produced, having taken a silly facebook test that said I was “Disgust” character, anyway, ready to bring my kleenex box in my purse to the movie.

Then, in the middle of the movie I saw that traffic sign “BayBridge to Oakland” and my heart stopped; that little girl about to cross the bridge, and this grown woman remembering herself in a semi-shock state driving through the same place, I cried.

Some context, two years ago I went with my family for vacations to visit USA East Coast, wonderful sights, one of my dream places visited, Yosemite National Park, even though the government shutdown; it was lifted just the night before our planned visit. Ours was first bus entering that morning. We visited San Francisco the next day and entered the city through BayBridge, from there I was able to take a picture of Golden Gate with my super zoom camera, that night we took BayBridge again to Treasure Island, I took wonderful sights of downtown with my camera. After that vacation I arranged to remain in San Francisco one week more, to attend some conferences and technical training.

Everything was set, I left my parents in LA and flew to San Francisco, picked the rented car at airport and drove to the place I had settle through Airbnb; everything normal and perfect.  I had a GPS to brought me there.

I entered the place, nice host, nice place, two cats, left my luggage and returned to the car to go to downtown to attend a conference when everything blew on my face.

A man told me: – Is that your car?
– Yes, I said – But I’m leaving now.
– The window is broken! The man said.

I saw the window and realized with horror that my backpack was missing, inside were my passport, my money, my laptop and my camera. I was only able to say: – Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God. Yes, I said that in english. They had also taken the GPS, but for my partial relief they didn’t notice my iPad, it was in a case that looked like a notebook, a friend of mine lent it to me, instead of the fancy iPad cover, that case smelt like him.

I called my bank to block cards, The host called police, they arrived in about 7 minutes, basically nothing to do, they took my declaration and gave me the consulate phone. Lord thanks there was one in San Francisco.

So, I took my iPad and posted a status that said more of less.  I was robbed, passport and money lost, please tell me if someone has friends in San Francisco, who can lend me money to get a new one.

Then a chain of prayers and good samaritans started: a friend and the relative of a partner wired me money, a friend whose birthday was that day, remained in chat to comfort me until the tow car from retal company came, a friend in Chicago and her sister helping me to make decisions in the phone, another recharged my skype account, another offered to buy an iPad charger I could collect locally; even there was a cat there willing to let me hug it in the mean time, the host partner gave me 40 dollars and they left me alone because they had a meeting.

I went in the tow car to the airport, the taxi cab expected to brought me there never showed up. While them were processing the car replacement (thank Lord I rented it with insurance) I went to the terminal to find a money exchange place. SFO seemed huge to me, one place told me they needed an ID, the other place told me, yes you can receive the wire transfer with a passphrase, but the girl who does it left by 5:00 pm. I sat down and cried in front of the counter.

The clerk gently said, – You seem so worried, and offered me a glass of water. I breathed and ask him permission to charge my iPad, then I contacted a friend of a friend through facebook, that had been introduced to me a week before the trip, and who offered to lend me cash. He said, ok, I can do it, but I can’t go to give it to you, today the BART is on strike, you have to come here.

So, I returned to the rental place, they were concerned because I was missing, I asked them about another GPS and they said, I’m sorry, the GPS was covered from lost, but not replacement, so they gave me a printed map.  So, I opened my iPad, found the friend of a friend address in Waze, and zoom in the whole route, so it could be preloaded. I had no data plan to use while driving, so not missing the route was very, very important, recalculation could be a total mess.

I started to drive following waze instructions, second time in my life driving in USA (first time was that day in the morning, automatic car for first time too), that brought me back to San Francisco, and to that place again, the sign “BayBridge to Oakland”.  I continued driving, in semi-shock state, afraid of committing a traffic infraction, realizing people there drive like people in my country, so acting in some things like being at home, like when you have to change your lane; panicked about losing the route, it only had to recalculate once that I left the high way, and did it in fashioned way to my relief.

I arrived San Leadro and was unable to find the address. So I parked the car and looked for any available person to ask about. It was night, I only found a woman with a child who refused talking to me. Then I entered a Seven Eleven store and asked the clerk, in his Apu accent he told me “I don’t know, ask him” pointing to a customer. That man heard my need to find an address, he said let me help you out.  I briefly told him my story, being robbed, no money, looking for a friend of a friend.

– Where are you from?
– Colombia
– British Columbia?
– No, Colombia South America
– What the heck did you come here?

He told me about himself, ask me where my car was, I brought him there. – That’s a bus stop, you have to move it from there or it will be towed away. I drove to his house, in a total nervous way, we arrived his home, that he shared with another two men. One man was in the living room, like sleeping; He said – He is stoned, don’t pay attention to him and don’t make noise. We went to his room, I asked him if he had an iPad charger, it was in 10% I think so. I opened facebook to contact my friend’s friend, I sat down in his bed, it was a water one; I told him that be very bad for his back. He offered to stay with him in case I didn’t find the person.

He answered, told me that was not expecting me because of the delay (after I found out there was a shorter route not going through San Francisco) and corrected the address I had written wrong.  The man from Seven Eleven told me it was near, we could go walking and meet half way.

When we were on the street approaching he said:
– Is him? (referring to a tall man approaching to us)
– Yes he is.
– Do you trust him? (Yeah, the man I just met behaved protective)
– Is a childhood friend of a friend of mine, that I trust totally.
– But he is black.
– Yes he is. In Colombia we have an Island called San Andrés, all people there is black, is normal.
– San Andreas? Like the game?
– Mmmmm, yes, like the game. I said shrugging.

He greeted us and companied us to the house were the car was parked; He said I should go to his place, I totally agreed, the image of the stone man in the sofa still was in my mind. The man from seven eleven drove, my driving skills not exactly impressed him. We said goodbye and thanks, he offered to company me the next day to consulate for my passport.

I went upstairs, met his roommates, adorable people. He said – Do you want to eat? Tears came from my eyes for the second time that day, It was about 10 pm and I hadn’t eaten anything since a granola with soy milk at 4am in LA.

He offered to stay night there instead of returning San Francisco, I agreed, especially because my driver’s license was stolen with my passport. Yes, I drove from airport knowing I had no license to do so, but I had to. I called my Airbnb host to tell her I was going to remain in San Leandro, she sounded relieved that I was ok. That night I felt asleep smelling my friend’s lotion in the iPad case, that fragrance was like home aroma to me being that far.

The morning after I woke up, called the seven eleven man but he didn’t answer, so I prepared to go to San Francisco by myself. I bought the travel checks Consulate requires for ID and passport expedition. Daniels (the friend of my friend) brought me to the BART the day before and explained me how to use it, he also lend me a phone with data plan to use. Seriously, this world is full of wonderful angels.

I arrived downtown, I already know it a little from my vacation visit, the hotel was there, I took the pictures I need and I went to the consulate. Lovely people too, gentle, heard my story, even the consul. I had my ID request and a temporary passport. My soul came to my body, my strongest fear was vanished, I had a way to take the flight back next Sunday. Then I went to the startups conference I planned to attend.

My sister messaged me, bank called her about a woman who found my backpack and passport, I called her, she said she could return me my papers the next day, I said ok.

Since that experience I said, things here are like at home, and people who return your documents could be related with thieves (sorry good lady, I was afraid) I called the friend of another friend, a Mexican, who called the day before offering help me out even he had no job in the moment, and ask if he was able to company me the next day because Daniels was working. He agreed.

After the conference I took BART again to collect my luggage, even I had paid the Airbnb place I didn’t want to remain there and Daniels offered me to stay at his place. I thanked the host, because of her concern and her cat, that was there when I needed a living creature to hug. She drove me back to BART station. That was me in the train with the huge suitcase, all things together. That night I felt asleep again smelling that aroma.

The next day I went to the conference again, then a misunderstanding came, a partner’s relative who had wired me money, that I was unable to collect, got upset because I tweeted from the conference that against all odds I was able to be there. I felt so helpless, I didn’t want to disturb anyone, that experience was bad in ways I was unable to express, I didn’t know how to answer, I just said, please ask your money back and I will compensate your expenses. I also wrote to my friend to tell her the same about her wire, so she recovered her money.

In the afternoon the Mexican came in his motor cycle and brought me to the church the woman told us to go. She looked nice, gave me my backpack, my scarf, my passport, the blocked credit carts, a folder with papers and the iPad stylus, maybe they thought it was just a pen. I thanked her, I gave her no money, sorry, I was unable to trust her in that moment. When the lady left I talked to the Mexican, his name is Jorge, he told me about his life, the meaning that park we were in had for him, I told about the twitter incident, I cracked down for third time that week and cried, he hugged me, oh Lord, that was so sweet and kind from him not knowing me. He left me in downtown to finish conference. I missed the conference after party, I was cinderella taking the BART to San Leandro.

A friend of mine complaint about me not putting an update in Facebook about I’m ok now, so I did for general relief and thanked everyone for their prayers and help.

Thursday I had scheduled a class visit to Stanford School of Business, so I took the borrowed phone, and the knowledge Daniels gave me about getting public transportation schedules using Google maps. I had all planned to arrive on time, I saw from the bus crossing a different bridge the protected bay beaches, full of ducks that nobody disturbed. I planned everything… excepting that Stanford is not a Campus, is more like a town, and I had no idea they had internal free buses, and I was afraid to take them. So, I walked to the place, got lost, and arrived 1 hour late. They gently indicated me there was another one in the afternoon, I accepted.

I lunched the Venezuelan version of Arepa, that was nice in that foreign place. I attended the class visit with my sneakers, jeans, and that huge purple jacket homeless-long-style, while other people were in their suits, and heels. I though, ok, I can’t afford studying here, but I can learn how this works, this was I wanted to see.

Class was about entrepreneurship, I loved it, they had real founders in class, answering real questions.  Yes I came there to see exactly that.  They still send me emails to apply. Oh, it would be lovely if I could afford tuition, or any kind of patron would sponsors me.

The next day I had a tech training in Android, I had no laptop, I tried to buy one online using my sister’s credit card, but they only accepted local ones. Then, that sweet angel called Daniels lend me his laptop to attend.

That training was the realization that all things I took for granted about my technical english were not good. i had seen all those words written tons of times, but not spoken. I became the slow student of the class in a sudden, I complained about the speed, the man next to me in the table helped me. Really, I found no other thing than help and kindness there.

Saturday was free day, Daniels brought me to Dolores Park and other beautiful places to see street art, we lunched Colombian food and laughed, by night we went to Piers, and I saw BayBridge again, calmly, beautiful, while a fisher kicked a crab for eating his bait, in front of an astonished coupled who said, look that lovely animal 100 milliseconds before.  We laughed again.

Then we went to the BART on time to attend mass in San Leandro’s parish. I had too much to thank Lord.

I came back to Colombia on Sunday, I drove back to airport using Waze again, no BayBridge this time, short route. But part of my heart was in San Francisco, near BayBridge.  The photo of it in this post was taken with my cell phone. All the images I lost with my camera are saved in my heart, and my father is a good photographer who shared me his in replacement.

All those things taught me lots of things, about kind people, real angels, about trusting them, about having my securities removed and trusting only in God’s help, and how it worked totally perfect.  I should remember all that more often.

This story has a second chapter one year later, that I will tell in a future moment.

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