So, roughly half-way through my five-week trip to San Francisco, what’s going on? I haven’t been blogging much lately, that’s for sure.
For once, I took some photographs from the plane. Unfortunately my camera batteries ran out just as we were coming down on San Francisco, and my spare ones were in the luggage compartment above my head. Oh, well.
I got some first-level questioning at immigration coming in. No, not the sort where they take you to a separate room, become much less friendly, and have boxes of rubber gloves on the counter. This is how it went:
- …And what is the duration of your stay?
- Five weeks.
- …And what do you do in… over in Switzerland?
- I’m a freelance… internet consultant. OMG that sounds bad. …I’m actually here to work on a book project. Yeah I know I should never volunteer information.
- What’s the book about?
- Er… teenagers and the internet.
- Er… Well, the situation with teenagers and the internet, and what we’re doing about it in Switzerland.
- And what are you doing about it?
- Well, not enough!
- And? Come on, tell me more about it.
- Er… OK. OMGOMG Well, see, teenagers are really comfortable with computers and the internet, and so they’re chatting, blogging, etc. — they’re digital natives, see? — and parents, well, they’re clueless or terrified about the internet, and they don’t always understand what’s going on in their kids lives online, so basically, we have teenagers who are spending a lot of time online and sometimes getting into trouble and parents don’t know or don’t care about what they’re doing there, so we have this… chasm between generations and…
- Thank you. You can go.
The pick-up from the airport was wonderfully orchestrated and much appreciated. Being driven into town by somebody friendly rather than having to use unfamiliar public transportation really makes a difference. Thanks to all those involved (yes, it took that many people!)
Then, through some freak breakdown of all modern forms of communication (partially documented on Twitter), I ended up waiting outside on the sidewalk for almost an hour while my kind host Tara waited for me inside her appartment. We worked it out finally, and I was introduced to my (nice and spacious) room before going to hang out at Citizen Space. A nice dinner out with Chris, Tara and Jimmy to end the day, and I happily collapsed in my bed at a respectable local hour. You will have taken note that I did not collapse at 4pm feeling like a zombie, thanks to having taken melatonin on the plane. (It doesn’t seem to work that well for Suw, but it works perfectly on me, and I’m never traveling between continents without it again.)
The four next days went by in a blur of Supernova madness: too many people, too many sessions, food with ups and downs, parties with cupcakes and others at the top of skyscapers. I took lots of photographs and even a video sequence that got some attention.
During the next week, I started settling down. Met and hung out with old friends, made new ones, unpacked my suitcases, went walking around in town, saw Dykes on Bikes, the Gay Pride Parade, and the iPhone launch, photographed skyscrapers in the night, ordered a new camera, got my MacBook (partly) repaired, and even dropped in at Google to take notes of Suw’s talk there.
All this, actually, is documented in my Twitter stream — maybe I should add a whole lot of links? — be sure to keep an eye on it if you’re interested in a more day-by-day account of what I’m doing here.
Overall, things have been good. A small bout of homesickness a few days ago, but I’m feeling better now. I need to start focusing on the things I want to get done (blogging, writing, book, writing, fixing things for clients…) — holiday over now!
I’ve been thinking about my “work career” a little, too. I’m very happy doing what I’m doing, but I’m not going to be doing “Blog 101” for ever — I can feel my interests shifting somewhat already. I’ve been interested in the “social tools at large” department for a long time, but unfortunately it seems to translated to “blogging” in most of the work I do, so I’d like to expand my horizons in that direction a little. I’ve had a couple of talks with people in startups recently, and I realize it’s a kind of environment I wouldn’t mind working in — at least part-time. We’ll see what happens.
I’m also realizing that there is more potential than I first thought around the two main things I care about these days: teenagers online and internet language issues. Hence, the book, and also a talk on the subject of languages on the internet which I’ll be giving at Google this coming Tuesday.
Also in the “work” department, two other things have been on my mind. First, the idea of opening up a coworking space in or around Lausanne (Ollie is having the same kind of thought — we’re talking). Second, trying to find a solution so that I don’t have to do maintenance on my clients’ WordPress installations once all is rolling, or spend hours swimming in HTML, CSS and WordPress theme PHP template tags. Not that I don’t know how to do it or don’t enjoy it once in a while, but it’s really not the kind of work I want to spend my time doing. So, I’ve been starting to ask around for names of people who might do this kind of thing (for a reasonable fee), and even thinking of recruiting some students in Lausanne that I could coach/train so that they can do most of the work, and call me up only for major problems. So, see, I’ve been thinking.
Some people have been asking me if I was planning to move here. Indeed, 5 weeks in the city looks suspiciously like a scouting operation. Actually, traveling has an interesting side-effect for me: I tend to come back home thinking “gee, Lausanne is such a great place to live! I’m never moving!” Sure, I have some underlying personal issues which contribute to making me overly attached to my hometown, and I know that someday I might end up living elsewhere. But really, for the moment, I don’t think I’d want that.
And even though I’m told San Francisco is very “European” compared to the rest of the US (which I have yet to see) I can’t help seeing how “horribly American” it is. Don’t get me wrong, I really like this city and am enjoying my time here. I know that what I say can give wrong impressions (for example, people — especially Indians — read the story of my year living in India and think that I hated the country; it’s not true, I really loved it, and can’t wait to go back). But I walk around San Francisco and see all the signs with rules and regulations and “stupid” warnings (like, God, the pineapple chunks I buy at Whole Foods haven’t been pasteurized and may contain harmful germs! or, don’t use the hairdryer in the bath tub!), the AT&T Park and other manifestations of what to me is “consumerism gone mad”, I hear about health care and “you’re expected to sue” horror stories, visa lotteries for non-renewal, the education system…
So, yes, I’m focusing on the negative. And Switzerland, even though it’s a wonderful country ;-), has its negatives too. Like many natives all over the world, I’ve developed a selective blindness to what is “wrong” in the land I come from, considering much of it “normal” as I have been brought up with it. I know that. But too much of what I see here makes my skin crawl. I’m really enjoying spending some weeks here, I love my friends, the food and the sunshine, but I don’t think I’d be happy living here.
Well, this was one of these longer-than-expected posts, and it’s occupied most of my morning. My tasks for this afternoon are (in this order):
- one WordPress install for a client
- spending a little more time trying to see if there is hope for the aggravating Google Groups problem I bumped into, and if not, setting up a Yahoo! Group instead
- writing a post for bub.blicio.us or working on my book — whichever I most feel like.