One Month in San Francisco

Today marks one month since my arrival to San Francisco. Doesn’t feel like that at all––every day has been stuffed full to the brim.

Since I have zero time to write you a post (I’ve literally been working on homework nonstop since Monday morning and I’m STILL behind for tomorrow), I’ll just include an email I wrote to my advisor when he asked for a check in letter. :’) enjoy

Today marks my one month anniversary in San Francisco! Time flies when you’re having fun––or simultaneously accurate, when your every waking moment is filled with Minerva events. Things have lessened a little with the second week of regular class… in that, we’re down to one mandatory event/training/workshop/team builder/conference/once-in-a-life-time opportunity a day. :P
Beyond the stress of completing homework while attending the most prestigious conferences San Fran has to offer while doing yoga for twenty five hours a day broken only by meditating on the biggest questions of universe…. anyways!
Two minutes left.
At the Market, now, with many other students near by. We’re all taking advantage of $2 tacos at a place normally far out of our financial reach. Braden and I are sitting outside doing assignments and readings. (Actually, we’re both just trying to get into a good space to do assignments. Checking email, responding to surveys, emailing our advisor, our work study bosses, downloading python packages for extra make up work, so we can do readings and not wake up one day to find our metaphorical electricity turned off.)
Everything else is pretty good––love this community, love myself, all the good stuff.
Being an RA is hard, but I guess it was to be expected that students would flock towards anybody who seemed like they knew what they were doing, even if in name only.
Five minutes.
Hope you’re well!
WhatsApp Image 2016-08-23 at 11.24.55 PM.jpeg
Bonus picture. <3 lots of love, Phoebe

Week 1 in San Francisco, check!

I get no end of pleasure from telling people I live in San Francisco.

Which is fortunate, really, since my phone has been blowing up (relatively) with calls from pizza companies and law offices looking for people I’ve never heard of. No, I couldn’t have ordered that pizza, I live in San Francisco. No, I don’t know whoever didn’t return that lawsuit information, I live in San Francisco.

Oh, by the way––I’m a resident of California living in San Francisco.


One of the coolest things about this city is how queer-friendly it is. There are rainbow flags all over. Gay men pass holding hands and kiss in hallways waiting for the elevator in ritzy apartments. I saw this sign here and had to snap a pic because I’m so proud that places like this exist in the U.S.

The last week, I’ve been participating in RA training for my dorm. RAs, or Resident Assistants, provide peer support to fellow students living in the resident hall. (Which is the entire school at this point, all 160 of us.) This ranges from being a resource to students and providing info on the city, programming, academics, rules, etc. and being a link between the student body and the school administration.

It promises to be an awesome learning experience for me, as well as a lot of fun! I do enjoy knowing what’s going on and taking a leadership role, so this role seems pretty perfect to me. Training has been intense––in the last week, I’ve become first aid and CPR certified, participated in two peer counseling  and suicide prevention workshops, made name signs for all my residents, been woken up by the fire alarm going off 3 nights in a row (they’ve fixed it now I think, good practice though), gone through building safety lectures and pop quizzes, identity exploration, icebreaker training… and so much more. Oh, and we had to build most of the furniture from IKEA in the building by hand! #somanyskillz

I love how you can just look down a street and suddenly the world is falling away, overlooking a whole ‘nother part of the city in white and grey and light blue….

It’s midnight, now, so I’ll head to bed now and just leave you with some more photos and a revelation.  I have to get up at 7am tomorrow, and I’ve still got to read some Game of Thrones tonight. I’m halfway through the third book, and THE RED WEDDING JUST HAPPENED OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD–

Where Whole Foods is the first level of an apartment building (left) and Safeway has vintage-esk signs that remind me of bowling alleys in Tucson. Hills in the background, as always. 

So. Revelation.

I guess I can’t really speak for all of Minerva yet, or the other students, since we haven’t started school yet and the other students haven’t arrived yet.

But there’s something about this whole thing that is magical.

And in a way, the part that is so magical about it is how normal it seems.

I feel like I’ve been a part of this organization, that I’ve been with these other RAs, for the last 10 years. It feels like a natural extension of myself. I enjoy being around the people. I really like, respect, and trust the adults working on the project. My fellow RAs are the most mature peers I’ve ever met.

Part of this ease of mind comes from the fact I think I’ve finally stopped fighting myself. I haven’t started over completely in a while. I’ve lived with my family for almost my whole life, and for the past ~8 years in Tucson, Arizona. Even when I spent a year studying abroad in Panama, I clung to home and family. (I was 16 and had never been away from home before. And by clung I mean I kept myself updated on the occurrences back home, and had the mindset I would be returning. I was not always on my phone, don’t worry. :P )

Last year, I went to my in-state university in Tucson, where my dorm room was 5 minutes walk from my dad’s office, and old friend groups were easily accessible.

But now… now I’ve left home with the intention of moving out completely. I’ve grown, I have my individuality and independence. I know how to take care of myself, and well. I know who I am, and more importantly, I have a good idea of who I want to be.

It feels like my entire life so far has suddenly paid off. All the hard work I’ve put in over the years shows suddenly in this moment.

I miss my friends, family, and town, but it feels so healthy to be able to shuck off all identities and impressions and obligations I no longer want to keep as a part of “Phoebe.” I can be whoever I want to be… namely, myself.

Hmm, I think I said that in a previous post. I just really like that sentence. :)

And I’ve accepted all the parts that make Phoebe, Phoebe. There are still some that I work ever day to change, obviously. But I accept them, I acknowledge them. I’m honest with myself and about myself. All those self-love workshops really did hit home––they just needed a full restart to kick in. That makes me happier than words can describe, so with that, sweet dreams, world.

This here building is the San Francisco Unified School District building!!! What!?! This was the third school/school admin building I saw today that looked like a legit castle. I mean I know Arizona is like last on the list of states that give money to education, but this is almost ridiculous. Ridiculously cool, that is!!

Performing Tourism Notes and Reflections

Note for new readers: This summer I’m collecting data for a research project I began last semester called Performing Tourism: Authenticity, identity, and mobility among youth travelers. To find out more about the project, scroll through earlier posts or check the Performing Tourism category. 
Wow, where to begin?

There is so many more dimensions to tourism than I thought there would be. Vaguely, I knew that the travel industry was big and influential. But now I’m beginning to see how the act of just one person moving from their home territory can have repercussions around the world. Tourism is more than just a business. It creates lifestyles that entire families will live for generations (think running a hotel or hostel in a small town). It puts value on skill sets that would otherwise be arbitrary (like the ability to create tens of mostly identical small wooden monkeys in a few days). It has the power to change the way famers do their business (we visited a coffee farm that went organic to set themselves apart and now make a large percent of their income from paying foreign volunteers). 


Agriculture Eco Tourism. I’ve seen this word in a few places, most recently as a sign on a fence of a local farm we passed. Since coming on this trip, I’ve realized that almost anything can be turned into a type of tourism and be given a name. There’s drug tourism, resort tourism, surfing tourism. (Remember, I define “tourism” as just the act of leaving your home environment for more than 24 hours voluntarily and for pleasure.)
My interviewees are here for a variety of reasons. Some are taking a gap year before university. Some are taking their kids traveling for the first time, and come to Costa Rica because it’s said to be an easier place to travel with children and will work their way up. (Security is a mass tourism trait, by the way.) Others just want to see a sloth once in their lifetime. They come on their own, they come with friends, they come with family. They come for the national parks, for the drug therapy camps, for the Segway tours.

(Really. In Quepos, the town we’re in right now, you can take a Segway tour of the beach.)

“I personally believe ecotourism is an incredibly powerful tool for conservation.”

Mark Wainwright

I’ve been curious about how tourism has affected conservation efforts. I think a good way to see the possible effect of tourism on environmental protection is to look at the difference between Costa Rica and Panama. They’re very similar geographically and I think similar politically, but the difference between the two countries when it comes to conservation is striking. 
In Costa Rica, there are signs all over the place asking people to watch and take care of the environment, not to throw trash, to respect the place. In Panama, I don’t remember any such efforts. On the contrary, trash litters the streets and it’s hard to find biodiversity because it’s been over hunted or otherwise destroyed. 
How much of the push to conserve Costa Rica has been due to 1. Locals recognizing the value of conservation, 2. Locals recognizing that the tourism-dependent economy relies on tourists who like to see signs of conservation, 3. Foreigners who who notice the same as locals in 2 and come to run hostels and research field stations, and 4. Foreigners who value conservation for conservation’s sake and come to one of the most biodiverse places in the world to protect it?
One thing I’ve realized since arriving here is that the push for ‘progress,’ development, and unsustainable production (mostly agriculturally) was due almost entirely to the actions and influences of “first world” nations like the US, Spain, and presumably England. The push for conservation is said to have started also with activists from these nations, in the 50s and 60s by foreign couples and groups who did things like buy huge tracts of land and keep it undeveloped. For example, the watershed of Monteverde was preserved by American Quakers fleeing the draft in the 50s, and the Children’s Eternal Rainforest was actually created with money raised by school children in Sweden and matched by the Swedish government and impressed adults around the world. 
Many questions to be answered!
On goes the research. 

Day 1: Arriving in Costa Rica!

June 14th.1pm Costa Rica time.

I’ve made it! After almost 21 hours of travel, I’ve made it to the hostel I booked at the airport this morning. I feel a little strange, partly because the familiarity of a Central American city is oddly home and foreign, and partly because I’ve only slept two times for about an hour each. O.o
Now I’m at the Alajuela Backpacker’s Hostel, a budget lodging venture on the corner of a busy street, looking out onto a pawn shop, a vape shop, and a cute children’s park. I’ve been watching the traffic move; I’ve learned to expect the whichever possibility seems most expectedly unexpected. Sometimes cars stop, other times they don’t. A few pedestrians will walk without looking, others wait at the corner for a clear opportunity to cross safely. 

^View from where I write this.

I’m sitting in the hostel’s lobby area, as check in is not until 2pm. I might venture out, but it started to rain not too long ago and my umbrella is in my (big) backpack…which is somewhere in Miami? American Airlines said they’d drop it off here when it arrived. I checked it in Tucson voluntarily as to save myself from hauling it for 20 hours who knows where. I will never let go of my bag again. All I really want to do is sleep and change clothes, but as neither of those options are open right now, I will blog.

Honestly, last night (this morning? Time is a blur), sitting in the completely silent and closed Maimi airport I began to have a few doubts about the trip, mostly when I realized that I had minimal ideas on what to do when I got to the airport, and no idea what to do once I left it. 

Lesson Learned: While traveling, find a hostel ahead of time if you’re not familiar with the landscape. Book if possible. Make the process easier on yourself by downloading an app like HostelWorld if you’ve just a phone. Do this when you have reliable internet. Don’t wait for, say, the Miami airport. XP

But it all worked out okay. (Positive reenforcement for leaving things to the last minute. Just like studying––they try to get me to study, but it’s hard to make myself do it when I still get As.) I booked this hostel for $15/night (more than their ads online say it would be and more than I really want to pay, but it’s close to the airport), and wrote down a list of what I was most afraid of. Then I wrote a list of ways to conquer each fear. 

(In case you’re curious: mostly, I’m afraid of being broke. I don’t know how to be without money. I’ve worked odd or regular jobs since I was a freshman in high school and my parents gave me an allowance, and since I always saved it, I’ve almost always had money. Suddenly, the prospect of going on this 6 week long adventure and having to pay for associated costs was a stressful thought when Minerva looms over me. Luckily, my parents have contributed quite a lot, and they and my community SoCo have made it possible for me to go on this trip. It literally would have been impossible otherwise. On that note, my GoFundMe is still up and accepting contributions!

The best part of my day, the part that assuaged all my doubts about traveling to Costa Rica alone, was walking out of the airport. As tens of men suddenly started trying to get me in their taxis, my old habits and skill sets returned. I waved them all away casually, without thinking about it. Four years ago when I first visited Costa Rica, I had been overwhelmed by the mass of strangers talking to me in a language I could barely comprehend. The hostel’s website had mentioned something about a five minute bus… So naturally, I asked a taxi driver where the bus to Alajuela was. He gave me good instructions; the bus stop was close enough we could see the buses passing. After a bit of verbal stumbling––I have practiced Spanish very rarely over the last two years, and not in the transportation domain––I got on what I was told was the right bus. Unsure of public transit customs, I asked how much it was. It was some huge number I didn’t recognize, and I remembered with almost fear that they used Colones here, where the exchange is some 500 to the dollar. I can barely count that high in Spanish. “I’ll just take a taxi,” I said, and made to hop off the bus. Everybody was watching as the driver called after me, “hold up, they’ll change you twice as much than they should!” I stepped right back up. “You’re right,” I said, took a deep breath, and pushed forward. With the help of an English speaking woman who knew where the park was, I got off at the right “stop” (bus stops are more of a vague concept here than a concrete structure (literally heheh)). She told me to walk two blocks behind us and then three to my right. I thanked her and started of, head held high. On that bus, hearing the Spanish all around me, the brightly colored houses, the street venders selling all sorts of things, the driving unlike anything else I’ve experienced, I felt a part of me come home. 

So there I was, walking down this unknown (unlabeled) street in some part of San José, Costa Rica. (*Note: I found out later that I wasn’t even actually in San José, I was in Alajuela, a town close enough to San José buses run there for 535 colones–a little over a dollar–every 15 or 30 minutes. But still not San José.) I was on my own, with no plans to meet up with my group until the day after next. The Maps app on my iPhone is my savior in Tucson, but here it knows nothing. Instead, I had vauge directions I could only hope led me to the right place and weren’t the product of a joke or misunderstanding. (*Note: Again, later I found out there were two children’s parks, one 6 blocks away that was much more popular and by rights I probably should have received directions to that place when I asked. Sometime I wonder how I get/do anything.) Ticos––Costa Ricans––of all ages passed me. Many men stared at my chest or my face and called out to me: “princess” and “beautiful” and even a “welcome.” (Not as bad as Panama though, nowhere near. The youngers made eye contact and looked away. They younger they were, the longer that contact was held. I never seem to catch the women’s eyes.

(Hmm. Reading this over, ready to post, I realize that it’s no wonder my mom worries about me traveling. I have given her good cause. :P)

Just when I was considering hopping into one of the many taxis, I turned the corner onto a park, and the hostel appeared before me.

Now it’s almost 5pm, when the bar opens. I plan on checking it out, either as a place to just escape the gasoline fumes that permeate the first floor, or as a place to meet my fellow travelers. The main reason I’m doing this trip is to meet them, after all. Other tourists.

I have the rest of today and tomorrow here in San José, before I meet ITE early Wednesday morning. Today I will use to recover from my long trip and hopefully this cold that’s getting worse, and then tomorrow… I may do more of the same. The gas fumes are overpowering while walking around the city, causing my throat (already sore) to swell. It depends on how I feel tomorrow morning, I guess, but based on experience I doubt I’ll feel much better for a few more days if not a week or two.

Bar’s opened. Good night!

Journal post: May 8th.

Hey y’all,

This’ll be a post of thoughts and reflections I have to share. If you’re looking for info on Minerva, on Performing Tourism, or Panama, you can skip this post. :) It’s going in the Journal category.

First, because it’s on my mind, K-pop boy bands are the best.

Like, literally the BEST. *dies a little from happiness* So rarely in American music videos are there a bunch of really cute guys objectifying themselves for my female eyes––the gender roles are usually reversed (if you agree, check out Marina and the Diamond-it’s awesome except one instance of cultural appropriation). And because I don’t speak Korean, I don’t hear anything sexist or gender normative while listening!

Watch this and this and tell me you don’t agree. (@Jacob.) And this. Also this. And– I’ll stop.

What else am I currently fangirling over? Why, I’m happy to share!


I just finished watching Darker than Black: Gemini of the Meteor after rewatching Darker than Black. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the second season, I still can’t get enough of the characters. Especially Hei. BECAUSE HE’S SO FRIGGIN CUTE OMG. I’m back to being in love with a fiction character, a habit I thought I had dropped years ago. Oh well. I highly suggest it anyways.

Attack on Titan is a great anime as well, in which humanity attempts to beat back “Titans,” naked, mindless giants who eat humans alive… even though I’ve started having nightmares since I began the show. In one I spent a rather lucid four hours thinking I was going to die soon because I had joined the equivalent of the Scout Corps and new recruits don’t survive very long on average. The other was about hiding in a house on top of a hill with my family as Titan like creatures who were intelligent and organized stormed us.  O.O Still worth a watch.

Now I have to wonder if new readers who saw my Minerva analysis (which was rather well written and formal if I do say so myself) are wondering what on earth the rest of my blog is like after the above paragraphs. XD

Also on my mind is the question of mula. Money. $$$. I’ve finally paid for my trip to Costa Rica this summer, a trip that I planned before I even found out about Minerva. It was the thing I was splurging on because U of A wasn’t costing me a lot of money, and I was ready to get out of Tucson for the summer. But now, there is a lot less money in my account than I was prepared for, now that Minerva is coming up hot on my radar. Financial stress isn’t that fun, you know? I don’t really know where to talk about this, either. It’ll all work out, I know… but what is “it”? Idk. On my mind. I’ve asked to increase my hours at my part time job and school will soon be over with so I can spend more time applying for scholarships. Esp. because just paying for Minerva is a little stressful, but all the traveling and living costs I could take on to take full advantage of the cities I’m living in is hard to resist when thinking about how much in loans I could take out. How far should I go to invest in my future and take advantage of this life I’m living? How much should I refuse to take out so my future self feels less financial burden?

Three cool things I’d like to share:

Interesting way to make music :P


Real life Quidditch! (I’m a huge HP nerd as well)


New York Times article on women’s sexuality in the Middle East.