Wednesday, March 27, 2013

San Francisco, Community :Day 1

San Francisco, Community :Day 1

Day 1: Immersing in a Community

As I drive up to the platform of the Caltrain station, I lift my bags out of the car and begin looking for my immersion group. I hear my name called by a group member (Josue), and see a few familiar faces wave from the other side of the train tracks, as I headed down the stairs towards the platform sign "To San Francisco . On my way down the stairs, I see campus ministry staff member Matt Smith* who greets me on his bike and stops by to visit the group before we leave to which us a safe and meaningful trip/immersion experience.

About a minute later, our train pulls in, and we all lift our backpacks, sleeping and duffel bags towards immersing ourselves in a new community and experience together for the next 5 days of spring break. Talk on the train consisted of gratitude for a much needed break of simple living, from the frantic and fast pace of an exhausting finals week and ending of winter quarter, and Subway sandwich dinner orders.

(A Caltrain conductor noticed/commented about the pile of luggage of our group in the corner and asked where we were headed.)

Shortly afterwards, in about an hour, we arrived at the Millbrae BART station, our second stop and transportation connecting us to SF, as we clamored hurriedly off the train to our next destination.

At the BART station, there we at least several long flights of stairs through to our train, much to my dismay of having a slightly heaving rolling carry-on, wishing to have perhaps followed the 'simple living' in packing a bit lighter (and for an elevator).

However, struggling down the steep narrow staircase with my sleeping bag, luggage carry-on, and backpack, while a large mass of people were traveling upwards the opposite side of the staircase with half of my group behind (and in front) of me, I hear a woman's voice inquire "Do you need help?". As I turn around simultaneously, a woman with sunglasses held the other end of my bag, helping me carry it down the rest of the stairs, as I breathlessly thanked her in appreciation.

Then when I entered the BART train, one of my group members offered to trade, carrying two lighter sleeping bags for my carry-on luggage after we got off BART. I agreed in gratitude and thanked the brave and strong individual (yes there were a few more flights of stairs).

Escalator pulls up to the city street, and I am excited. We had arrived and were immersed in the City. I visited SF every now and then as a local with my family, but knew this would be San Francisco from a different and unique perspective, with excitement and insight into a community rarely seen from trolley cars, Muni buses, and the Golden Gate.

We got off at the civic center, and met our companion, Sean, a graduate Jesuit theology student, who greeted us near a prominent fountain in front of SF Federal Building.

We then walked a few blocks to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, our home for the next few days, and duration of our immersion experience.

There we met our host coordinators Anjali and Michael from St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVPD) , who greeted us with open doors,while we entered the building. Anjali and Michael provided a brief overview, introduction and tour of the organization facilities, its purpose and services offered, by the society for over 100 years.

After looking over our volunteer handbook and journaling our experiences thus far, we went out to a local market to shop for breakfast items and groceries at a convenient local can urban  market around  the corner (similar to Whole Foods*/many organic items, including a $15 jar of peanut butter, much to the disparity of later learning that the budget for a tray of food for a client at MSC food service, for many members of the Tenderloin community and homeless individuals is only about $1.25 to $2 dollars*).

We ended the day with a brief reflection, going over our journey and trip here so far, which led to a realization personal experience thus far that community can be found even in the most unexpected forms the moment we need it the most.

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