Sometimes, I want my old life back. Sometimes, I wish I was in that condo at 3400 Richmond Parkway, No. 1906. Sometimes, I wish I was still flirting with my next door neighbor, swimming in the heated pool, relaxing in the Jacuzzi and watching Bill Maher on HBO. I loved smelling the air after a California rain, or running over to Hilltop for the latest sale at Macys or Penney’s. I miss getting up on Saturday morning and going to the Farmer’s Market in Pinole or El Cerrito. After that, I’d go to Trader Joes and do my weekly shopping. Or, I’d go to Peet’s coffee to get the latest import and sample some of the old ones.
I miss browsing at Ross and sometimes spending hours at thrift stores and garage sales. And 23rd street in Richmond had at least half a dozen bakeries with pan dulce from all over Latin America. I miss my students and practicing my Spanish while they were learning English. I miss the passionate ESL teachers that I worked with and their commitment to their jobs and to the surrounding community. I miss hanging out with my colleagues and friends at the small Catahoula on San Pablo Avenue.
I miss the small breakfast restaurants, and the intimate brunches with my daughter and I miss that sometimes, friends would join us. I miss cooking brunch and experimenting with baking different flavors of breads.
I also realize that had I stayed in the SF Bay Area, I would still be working two jobs, just to make ends meet, because ESL teachers are never employed full time. And, even on the occasions that they find a full time job, the wages are so low that it is impossible to live comfortably. I remember that the ESL teachers I worked with had roommates, or husbands, or wives living with them. They had someone who provided a second income, someone who helped them feel comfortable living in the Bay Area.
If I had stayed in the Bay Area, I would likely never have seen the Burj Khalifa, or the Pyramids of Giza, or the Sphinx. I would probably never have seen the mummy of King Tut, or the Valley of the Kings. I would have known Abu Dhabi only through what I’d seen on the movie screen, which was a gross inaccuracy of that wonderful and wondrous city.
I would never have seen my country from the perspective of an expat, or seen news about my country that I’d never have seen otherwise.
I would never have met some of the interesting and incredible people that I’ve come to know. I would never have known that Saudi women and strong, smart and resilient.
I would never have seen the Bosphorous or the Hagia Sophia, or the amazing and incredible Grand Bazaar.
And, the SF Bay Area will always be home.