Paper Bags, Designer Brands and the Giants

Ice HockeyCan’t believe today marks 3 weeks since we touched down in our new home city, San Francisco, USA! After a crazy month of goodbyes, organising (last-minute!) visas and flights, and finishing up at our jobs, we boarded a plane for what can only be described as the utterly crazy but thrilling adventure of moving overseas.

In the first week we found ourselves frantically searching for an apartment in the very competitive SF rental market, signing up for a bank account and standing in the 2-hour line to get a social security number. We tried out some of the local eating hotspots (hello Yelp!), caught Uber rides everywhere and attended some big sports matches but I thought the easiest way to share some important things we’ve learnt in this city was to tell the following three stories:

Paper Bags

I think the activity that really made it all hit home that this new city is our new home was my very first grocery shop.

Whilst I expected brands to be a bit different and knew there’d be some exciting new fruit and vegetables to try I kinda forget about three important aspects to a successful shopping experience:

  1. I don’t have a car so I have to be very strategic about my shopping because groceries aren’t the easiest items to take on public transport which brings me to my second point…
  1. ALWAYS remember to BYO heavy-duty bags. San Francisco banned plastic bags over five years ago and whilst they are generous in offering to “double bag” your paper bag they’re not the sturdiest apparatus for carrying home litres of milk which brings me to my third points…
  1. There are no such thing as litres or ‘liters’ as my American pals like to spell it, and I was quickly introduced to the imperial measurement system during my first shop – probably getting a bit too much mince when I forgot to measure in ounces and not grams.

Add to that getting my head around some different words for some of my favourite ingredients – like coriander is named cilantro (pronounced see-laan-tro with a Californian accent) and rocket is arugula (I’m still trying to pronounce it!) and I was officially ready to head to the checkout. Unfortunately my experience didn’t end there, I quickly topped it off by walking out onto the street with my paper bags which ripped and let my groceries go rolling, flying and somersaulting down the path and over the curb. 1 point USA, zero points to Caitlin.

Lesson learnt: invest in sturdy canvas bags for grocery shopping the moment you step foot in the States.

Designer Brands

Before we landed in San Francisco we had a quick 4-day stopover in Hawaii and spent a lot of time hitting the mall for bargains. The factory outlets in Waikiki are second to none and we stocked up on a few things that had been on the wish list all year; a new handbag, a couple of dresses, new shoes for both of us and a new suit for Navin to kick off his new job in style. It’s not hard to find these designer brands in SF too (yet not always with a discount!) but we quickly found these glossy store fronts juxtaposed with a problem that isn’t unique to this city but certainly a key characteristic: homelessness.

We were introduced to the sheer reality of this issue when we were invited to attend a charity dinner for local organisation, San Francisco City Impact on our first evening here. City Impact seeks to “intervene on behalf of the city” through providing access to health services, food and income opportunities for homeless people in the Tenderloin District. We were absolutely blown away by the stories of change we heard on the evening and when the opportunity came to give a donation, I simply looked down at the new clothes I was wearing and felt deeply challenged. I turned to Navin and said “I think we need to make a donation that equals the cost of all the clothes we’re wearing tonight.” After spending the weeks before our arrival trawling the Internet for rentals and being very aware of just how competitive it would be we probably weren’t in the position to be signing up for large donations, but if we weren’t ready to give, how could we be ready to buy all those clothes? It can be very easy to get caught up in a lifestyle of consumerism and wish-lists, but that night was a much-needed reminder of our huge responsibility and capacity to give to others wherever we may be in the world.

Lesson learnt: no matter what stage of life you’re in or where you may be living, look around you and you’ll find needs. You’ve been placed there for a reason so start giving!

The Giants

Giants VictoryWe’re not sure yet if San Franciscans are always this happy because we arrived in the city at possibly the best time of the year. Their boys; baseball team The Giants, had made the World Series playoffs (don’t you love how it’s “World” Series for American only teams?!) and history was about to be made. We quickly rushed to Target to grab some Giants t-shirts (and in another weird sign before we left, my brother-in-law found a Giants cap at a A-League soccer match the weekend before we left that I took with me!) and I brushed up on my little to no baseball knowledge so I wouldn’t sound like an idiot at the next game. The one thing that I LOVED about watching the final two games in this city was the World Series literally brought everyone together: people of different race, economic status, age, knowledge of baseball; everyone was on team San Francisco. As the Giants claimed victory in the seventh and final game, the whole city came alive with music, cheering, clapping and genuine happiness like I’d never experienced before. Sport = Community.

Lesson learnt: it’s time to brush up on my knowledge of American sports. I’m talking Baseball, NFL and Ice Hockey so I can truly embrace American community whilst we’re here. Anyone up for a Moneyball, The Blind Side and Mighty Ducks marathon?!

Those three stories aside, we’ve been asked a few questions over the last few weeks that we thought we’d answer in one big hit!

Where are you living, what does it look like and how long did it take you to assemble all that IKEA furniture?

We managed to find a great apartment on the 10th floor in a district called “The Western Addition”, about a 10-minute ride from downtown, views of Twin Peaks (on the non-foggy days!) and a 40 minute walk to Golden Gate Park. We’ve still got a bit more decorating to do but here’s how it’s look so far:

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It took approximately 17 hours across the weekend to set up all our furniture; I think Navin may have missed his called as an engineer 😉

And yes, we’re officially open for business – there’s a very comfy double sofa bed waiting for you 😉

How is Navin’s work going?

Really well so far! He hasn’t quite had a full 5-day week yet thanks to some days off to settle in and be a master builder, but he’s got his list of clients until April and already seems to be adding a lot of value to his team (would we expect anything less?! 🙂 )

And what are you doing Caitlin?!

I haven’t quite been gallivanting around the city just yet as we’ve been focusing on apartment hunting and moving into our new place. I registered for an ABN and I’ve started freelancing as a marketing consultant for a couple of different charities and companies to keep me busy during the day before I can start my official job hunt in February next year! One of my best friends is coming for a 2-week visit next Saturday, so I’m looking forward to being a real San Francisco tourist with her 🙂

How can we be praying for you guys?

Hayes ValleyMostly, a lot of praise points! We’re so grateful to have found a place to live so quickly that’s close to Navin’s work, opposite a Safeway (so I hopefully won’t have any more broken paper bag incidents!) and a quick bus ride away from our new church. Which brings me to our next praise point – we’ve found a great church at Reality SF! It’s a lot like our church back home, has a great heart for local and global mission and a strong community of young adults. We’re looking forward to learning how we can get more involved in the community over the coming months. We’re also really grateful for a couple of people (thanks Soo-Lin & Ban!!) who’ve made our transition here very smooth – driving us to church, taking us out for lunch and giving great advice for local apps for just about everything (and I mean everything, the apps in SF are a lazy man’s dream!)

You can be praying for a few things too. We’d love prayer as we focus on building deep and meaningful friendships. We’re at a funny age where a lot of people have already made their friendship circles and other than work and thankfully church, it’s not as easy to meet people. I’d also love pray for patience as I wait for my Employment Authorization Document to arrive and prayer for Navin as he settles into his new job and rhythm with his new team.

Thanks so much for your prayers and well wishes over the last few weeks, it’s made our move much more manageable!

We’re just a Skype or a What’s App message away and we’d love to catch up with you! Just send an email to caitlin.ramrakha@hotmail.com for details 🙂 You can also subscribe to my blog below so you’re the first to hear about our San Francisco updates! Or just favourite this page.

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