We Don’t Need No Education

…or at least that is what it feels like at times. If I haven’t posted in three weeks it isn’t only because I’m a lazy ass but also because they have been pretty busy, what with me being pressured to finish my paper (just to get an automated reply that my professor took a vacation until October 10th) and school. Students confuse me at times – one day they are motivated, quick on the uptake and have great ideas. Other days – like today – they do not grasp simple concepts, interrupt constantly, are loud, unmotivated and unpleasant to interact with. Ah, to be a teenager again.
Other than that, I’ve been to two Safeways in the last week, a supermaket chain that you can find in most of the States and that is apparently pretty easy to navigate as every supermarket looks more or less the same. They really do, I was impressed. Not as impressed as by the frankly insane amount of different products they offer or as by the fact that apparently no supermarket in the States seems to carry Szechuan pepper, but still. I’ve even taken some pictures (okay, a lot) to add to that.

Other than that, nothing much has happened. I’ve discovered that pulled pork is delicious, that I really like Dr. Pepper and that you only need 4 people to really party, though it helps if everyone is actively trying to have a good time and will drink alcohol. I also discovered that pre-mixed cocktails, even the cheap ones, can be pretty damn good. We tried Long Island Iced Tea, which was a bit too sweet but still nice.

This weekend is the prerelease-event for Return to Ravnica, the most anxiously awaited Magic expansion in… at least 3 years. I’ve got a reservation for a spot both on a midnight release and on the next day – and if my luck and experience do not desert me, I should be going home with some prizes! It’s going to be a magical weekend, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Oh, and I discovered that American LARP players are apparently mostly pussies (the derogatory – they are not cats. At least not that I’m aware of). Really? Foam weapons? Aluminium armor? Not actually shooting arrows but throwing sacks instead? Jeez. More on that (maybe) later.
Till then, all the best


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School Is In Session

Alright, it has been two busy weeks.

Here’s what’s happened so far: I’m working Tuesdays through Thursdays at Gateway High School here in SF, observing and helping two teachers (Mr. Booth in English 12, Mrs. Clobuckle in Creative Writing). When I’m not doing that at the school, I’m either working on my paper or tutoring individual or multiple students. The latter is pretty simple, as questions and problems are – predictably – of a relatively easy nature. How to start an essay or where to find arguments for or against a certain topic, for example.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that Fast Food in the States is way better than in Germany, in price as well as in quality and quantity. I usually go for fastfood in the School’s lunch break: 5 minutes away there is a Subway, a Sushi Station a Panda Express, a Taco Bell and a KFC. Let’s highlight the Panda Express for now – it’s a Chinese fastfood place with „only“ 10 entrees to chose from, as well as 4 differend sides (steamed rice, noodles, veggies, fried rice). You get 2 entrees and a side as well as a (refillable) fountain drink for 9 bucks and believe me, that is more than enough to fill up. Why don’t we have good places like that?

Magic is still going well, with me winning two more FNM drafts for prizes. Spoilers for Return to Ravnica are starting to get released and this set is starting to look amazing. I’m really looking forward to the prerelease.

Other than that, me and Jason – the one designer from 2kGames working on Xcom – met up with two other guys, John and Jacobb (yes, two bs) today and played a couple of board games, some magic and hung out. Awesome evening.

Alright, thats all for now, probably more tomorrow or the day after. Here’s some pictures for now. The guys, what lactose-free milk looks like in the Lucky supermarket, some of my roommates here in my building (the guys from Austria) and some sights around the Lower Haights.

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Minutes and seconds are passing us by

Time is passing at a breakneck speed.

Today, I’ve been in the States and San Francisco for four weeks, and it feels like I arrived only a few days ago. Anyways, on with the news.

These last few days I’ve been making good progress getting to know my new neighborhood in the Lower Haights. I’ve got a laundry center right around the corner, a „small“ supermarket two streets away and a bunch of restaurants from budget to high-end right nearby. It’s an awesome corner of the city

Well, except for the internet. My house doesn’t have any and while T-Mobile worked well downtown, it’s total crap here. I barely have any connection and Skype especially is suffering from that. Well, according to my emails, I have used up 80% of my bandwidth AGAIN (and its only been 10 days!) so I’m really looking forward to changing providers to Verizon – they at least offer 10GB for 80 bucks with 2GB more for $10. I’ll have to buy THEIR hotspot as well though. What a pain.

Anyways, I’ve been to the small supermarket around the corner. Okay, yeah, you can’t tell but I’m laughing real hard here. What the people here in the States call „small“ is probably around 30% bigger than the largest one I’ve yet seen in Germany. It’s insane. 15 different brands of orange juice, 6 different brands of milk (only talking milk here, NOT low-fat, soy, almond etc. though they also have all of those in a bazillion different variations), vegetables and fruit in a frankly insane variety. Two whole aisles JUST FOR SPICES. I could keep going.

And here’s the kicker: When I arrived in San Francisco, I was quickly convinced that the living expenses would be very high. Okay, admittedly I was in Downtown – but I was quickly proven true. Anyways, the local supermarket is quickly doing its best to convince me otherwise, and the secret is simple. Buying in bulk.
Let me give you a few examples. If I buy chicken breast and only want one half (little less than a pound) I’ll pay around $3, for a grand total of $3.50 per pound, so $7 per kilogram. That’s about as expensive as in Germany. BUT: If I buy at least 1.2 kilograms, I only pay $2 per pound of ORGANIC chicken breast. The same works for almost everything, buying two, three or five of the same product (or sometimes even just the same brand, for example soda or ice cream) can save you up to 50% of the price. I can’t say that I’m unhappy eating flank steak for three days in a row if I only pay 8 bucks for two pounds.

Magic tournaments are going my way too, I’ve placed second twice and won the whole thing once now. Sadly, my local store – Gamescape – is apparently not big enough to qualify for From The Vault products, so I’ll probably be going to San Jose in two weeks to visit the Channel Fireball brick-and-mortar store just so I can buy at least five packs of the „Realms“ product. The math is simple: $35 for one pack of 15 cards on release day. Resale value one or two months later: at least $150. I’ll use one pack for myself, but that’s still $450 profit if all goes well.

I’ll upload some more pictures later and maybe talk a bit more. But now, my new friend Jason has talked me into watching Expendables 2. Could be some brainless fun. Here’s hoping.

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On the move again

Alright, there is more stuff to tell, but for now I’ll just upload the pictures.

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Crawling through the foggy city

And here I am once again. So much for daily updates, but this works better for everyone involved I think – if I only update every few days I actually have things to talk about instead of just going „nothing interesting happened today“ every second post or so.
Alright, let me tell you about alcohol in the States. It works quite a bit differently than in good ol‘ Germany: if you want to party, you should probably get out at around 10 PM at the latest, since bars actually have to close down at 2 AM at the latest, at least here in San Francisco, so much of what is considered „Nightlife“ here in SF would probably be considered early-evening-life in my dear home country.
Anyways, as you may have heard, American beer is terrible – and that is true as long as we’re talking about the regular brews like Miller’s or similar stuff. Local or speciality brews though are where it’s at and taste quite good (Though I have to say that American beer culture is kinda strange – I remember a girl squeezing a slice of lime into a bottle of beer. Strange stuff.)
Cocktails are great too. Well, the first thing one is likely to notice that cocktails here in the States are seriously strong stuff. Elsewhere, you’d expect a Cuba libre like this: Two fingers of alcohol, three if the bartender’s feeling generous, some ice, a slice of lime, coke to top off the glass. Here, it’s more or less the other way around – a lot of ice, no lime, enough alcohol to make an elephant tipsy and a dash of coke so it looks kinda brownish. I made the mistake of ordering Barcadi 151 with coke. Not doing that again, ever.

I also met some cool folks – a guy from Japan named K (seriously, that’s his name!), an economics student named Anthony (if you look at the pictures, it’s the guy on the bunk bed) a girl from Israel who was looking for some fig vodka (the dark-skinned beauty on the other pic), a traveling girl named Rebecca (the only OTHER girl on the pictures) who was really nice to talk to and some dudes from Australia who were really into beer.

Not much else happened, I have to admit. I got to second place in a Magic draft (M13) last Friday but won no really good cards from it – maybe I’ll have more luck this week. And I learned that you should really watch out when you are buying salad, even in an upperscale market – the „garden greens“ are not quite as tasty as what one might expect. I’ll likely either stick to spinach or some other leafy greens from now on, not a pre-cut mix. The italian cheese dressing is quite tasty though.

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Alright, I haven’t written in a while so this’ll sum up the days since my last post.

First things first, I went to Fisherman’s Wharf, and boy is it a tourist trap. Everything is insanely expensive and feels kind of cheap, though I got a couple of good shots here. I also took a tour of the city via bus, which turned out to be $25 well spent – Golden Gate Bridge,the Painted Ladies, Chinatown, Little Italy, etc were all there, the trip was certainly educational. I was especially impressed by the palace of Fine Arts, those pillars and buildings are HUGE and you feel like you are in ancient Rome or something!

Also, I discoveredy that I apparently had my camera in .3 megapixel mode, which is why the pictures were so very small. The quality should improve somewhere around the end.

And then, I walked back. My feet still hurt just thinking about that – San Francisco is built on many hills, and it sure felt like I was touring over all of them.

The beer sampling in the evening went well, two out of three beers were quite tasty though I didn’t much like the pils we had. It was way too weak, felt like drinking bad tap water.

Other than that, I also walked to the place I’ll be staying at from August 4th onwards, and the neighbourhood is really nice. I think the stay there will be fun. Hopefully also not quite as expensive as Downtown, though that shouldn’t be hard. (No pictures yet though)

I also went to the shop Gamescape nearby, and though it isn’t quite what I’d call Nerdvana it certainly comes close. I know where I’ll be spending most of my Fridays now. And yes, apparently they have every book for the New World of Darkness ever released. For sticker price, too.

And that’s it for now, I want to get out of the house. Maybe try out that mexican place down the street for lunch, their food looked tasty – or maybe that japanese restaurant in the mall, I got a coupon for them.


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Settling in

Alright, I didn’t write yesterday so I’ll do both days now.

Yesterday I got my sunglasses, and they are pretty cool. The people at the shop were really nice and helpful and I quickly found a model that I liked. 50% off of the glasses was good as well.

The one thing that keeps popping up around here (other than the homeless people everywhere, but even those are courteous – and none of them have tried to rob me yet) are street musicians. There are drummers (a lot of them, some good, some bad) and stranger stuff, like people step-dancing to the sound of someone beating on upturned pots of all things.

Anyways, other than that I discovered that pastrami is my new favorite sandwich meat and I am kind of pissed that we just don’t have that back in Germany. It’s a pity, really – the stuff is friggin‘ delicious.

Oh yeah, I also got a new haircut today, probably my most expensive one to date ($40), but at least its a good one. Service there was great as usual.

I was kind of miffed at two of my roommates today – while I was having my usual Monday evening Skype RPG with my friends, they just came into the room and went on talking to each other quite loudly. For 2 hours. I mean, what the hell? Problem was that I couldn’t very well tell them to shut up, because this is their room as much as it is mine. Still went off without a hitch in the end, though.

Nothing else really happened in those two days, but I feel I’m getting a hang of life around here. Tomorrow I’ll go to Fisherman’s Wharf and there is a free beer sampling in the evening where I might meet some new people (I’m the only one on the list right now though, so maybe I’ll have to wait another day for that…).

That’s it for now.

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Arrival sans flowers in my hair

Alright, this is my second rewrite of this particular post. I’ll just skip all the unimportant stuff since I don’t really want to write the same things again and again.

My flight to San Francisco was okay, but a bit cramped. If you are taller than 6’5 (like me) – either get a seat on the aisle next to a small person or don’t fly economy class. My knees were killing me.

When I arrived at SF International, I „quickly“ went through the check-in and customs (this is sarcasm in case of the first, as I had to wait in line for nearly 2 hours, but factual in case of the second as I was just waved through) and got a taxi to the city. 50 bucks later I arrived at the HI-Hostel Downtown. Not a bad place, I can recommend it.

Anyways, I met my first roomie, Savion (pic of him is below) who is 16 and aiming to go to Julliard, a very prestigious music college. He’s an all-around nice guy. We hit it off right away and went to explore the city. The central mall is HUGE and feels uber-decadent (though I haven’t been to Macey’s yet, so we’ll see…).

Burgers at a joint called „Super Duper“ were great and made up for the crappy food during the flight. 25°C (or in the high 70s on the Fahrenheit scale) and little wind made the city quite unplesant but we quickly found some shadowy parts that were very pleasant to be in.

A lot of money was spent on essentials too – tooth paste, a data plan and a mobile plan (costing a cool $100 a month), adapters for the wall sockets, etc. Tomorrow I’ll be getting new sunglasses.

And now, I’m off to bed.

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Prep Time

Whatta day. Packing my bags for the flight tomorrow, I’m coming to a total of ~36lbs., which is 10lbs. below what I can transport; which is awesome, since it means that I can bring back extra stuff for me and my friends without paying extra for the weight (assuming that customs doesn’t have to say a thing or two about that…).

Anyways, my things are tucked safely away and my heart’s beating really fast. My first time abroad on my own, it’s quite a thrill. Everthing that I want to transport in my onboard baggage fits as well (thanks to my dad buying me a new bag).

San Francisco, here I come!

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