Tuesday, August 8, 2006

San Francisco Consultations

Posted in Foreign Service Life, Generalities, Travels at 11:44 pm by graceandpoise

Having largely finished my mandatory consular consultations with our Homeland Security friends in San Francisco, I have the following to say to any other FSOs who need to do similar consultations:

— Stay at Club Quarters. It charges per diem rates, it’s clean and comfortable (even if the rooms are smallish), and the staff are all really great. And perhaps best of all, the location (two blocks toward the water from the TransAmerica building) means your walk to the San Francisco DHS offices is less than five minutes. There is also a shopping center kitty-corner from the hotel for anything you forgot to pack and a Starbucks and a restaurant on the ground floor of the hotel’s building.

— The consultations themselves are more useful and more interesting than I was led to believe. Don’t think of it so much as yet another box that needs to be checked, but rather as a golden opportunity to become futher enlightened. You might even get to be there when someone hears that coveted sentence, “Your green card should arrive in the mail in the next two to four weeks.” or witness a group of people becoming U.S. citizens. A moving experience.

— Sometime while you’re in San Francisco, do yourself a favor and pick up some clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. The bread’s the best part of it, though the chowder holds its own (I still can’t say it compares to Ivar’s clam chowder though).

— Do some wandering. Go and enjoy the diversity that San Francisco has to offer (i.e. Nob Hill for some ostentatious wealth, Chinatown for an early immersion experience in things Asian, North Beach for some great Italian food and to hone your romance language skills…), and even spend some time in the touristy areas like Pier 39, Ghirardelli Square, and Fisherman’s Wharf. Wear comfortable shoes.

— Treat yourself to a good dinner. I went back to a place in North Beach (curiously, no beach anywhere nearby) that I’d wandered past earlier in the day and sat at the bar and had a really good Italian meal, complete with a couple very enjoyable glasses of wine. There was a table of four older Sicilians sitting behind me by a window, and they had drunk just enough wine that some of them were singing unabashedly. They were surprisingly good singers, though, and they were singing some of those semi-melancholy old Italian love songs that evoke such vivid memories of the Mediterranean. All in all, a great last dinner in the U.S.

I get on a plane tomorrow after a morning spent with the Customs and Immigration folks at the San Francisco airport. My next post should, if all goes as planned, be from Seoul.

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