When I arrived here on Friday after a lengthy flight and only six hours of sleep the night before that, the situation downtown seemed too much for me.
The streets were dirty, I smelled weed and I saw lots of homeless people and prostitutes. After five years of my quite conservative life in Austria – which I am known to complain about, btw – this seemed like a culture shock to me. In bed I found myself wondering what the hell I had been thinking, coming here on my own.
It is amazing how my point of view changed after 24 hours. Not only was I woken up by the sound of sea gulls and sunshine on my face, but I woke up with an open heart that embraced what it saw.
Now I feel like SF is a city of contrasts.Yes, the streets are dirty and waste is often thrown on the ground. However, it feels like the people living on those dirty streets are soft-hearted and non-violent. Furthernore, you see ads for organic restaurants and supermarkets everywhere, as well as you frequently find vegan cuisine and hybrid transport. Yes, there is weed smoked on all corners, but the druggies do not harm anyone but stick to themselves and their music. It is kind of nice to hear them singing or humming, I found. The prostitutes I saw made me pity them since I can’t imagine a life where my body belongs to the highest bidder; yet they seemed to be handled with cordial affection by most passer-bys. All in all this city of contrasts seems to accept people for what and who they are, with no negative energy directed at those that are different.
Maybe that is due to the fact that there is not really a “normal“ here in this melting pot of lifestyles?
I’ve noticed a warm, welcoming atmosphere in the two days I’ve spent in SF. Everybody seems to be at ease with the world. People stroll, you do not see anyone being in a hurry, so I have automatically slowed down. I have rarely felt bad vibes or heard people complaining about something or arguing. Instead, people smile a lot, or wished me a good morning standing at the traffic lights. I have never seen violence. Instead, I saw a man wearing a pink tutu (and nothing else) on his bike and people greeted him friendly. Guides or drivers on buses greeted me as if I had ridden their bus ten times and chatted with me. A couple of strangers accompanied me to the Golden Gate bridge and we chatted easily. I also saw street musicians being applauded to, painters being watched in awe, and homeless given bread or sandwiches.
Overall, this city or rather its inhabitants are very kind. I wish every place in the world was like that. Yesterday when I was walking home, I saw street art on a wall that said: “Be the change you want to see in the world“. It feels to me as if this motto is ingrained in everybody in this place.
Consequently, I feel totally at peace with me and the world. I do not hurry anywhere. I enjoy the sunshine and the slow pace. I appreciate the delicious food I buy. I smile at strangers. I take my time going from one place at another, wondering, standing still and enjoying. I feel like I can be who I want to be here.