This is not that far from my last post, as the smoke cleared just in time for Thanksgiving.
Flashback to the pre-departure session for outgoing exchange students in June. Not only did I meet other students going to UC Berkeley, I also met the students going to the other UC campuses. Here I met Benny and Daniel, who were going to UC Santa Barbara.
They said that they were coming up to San Francisco over Thanksgiving and asked if I wanted to catch up; and of course, I said yes. My friends at Berkeley had gone home over the long break – which was even longer because classes were cancelled (check my last post) – and it would be nice to see some familiar kiwi faces in California.
Flash forward to Thanksgiving weekend, and I took the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train into San Francisco, where I met Benny, Daniel, and their group of friends from UCSB.
Side note: at the beginning of the semester, UC Berkeley also gives you a clipper card, which is similar to the Auckland Transport card. It allows you to use AC Transit buses for free, and you are able to charge money onto it to take the BART trains
We went to see the murals in the Mission District, it was nice to just walk around and take in all the street-art. Not the most typical thing one would do in SF but it’s these hidden gems that make your trip special.
We also went to the Castro District, or The Castro, which was one of the first gay neighbourhoods in the US. It remains as one of the most prominent symbols of the LGBT community.
We also went to the infamous Golden Gate Bridge. One may wonder why the red bridge is named the “Golden Gate”. The bridge is actually named for the Golden Gate Straight, the narrow entrance between the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay. The bridge was getting lit up as it was getting dark. There was also a LOT of people, which is what you would expect with such an iconic monument.
But as I was coming back from the bridge to the carpark, I noticed some of the others crowded around the car. As I got closer, I saw that the car window had been smashed, and everything was gone. At that point, I think none of us really knew how to react; this was what happened in movies, not in real life, and especially not to us.
In case you didn’t figure out where this was leading to, I was one of the unfortunates who had my bag taken, which had my wallet, bank cards, ID’s, room key etc. etc. The next hour or so was a blur; freezing my bank accounts, talking to the police, and worst of all, calling the parents. Because I had no way of getting home, I ended up staying the night with the UCSB crew at their AirBnb which was all good fun; it turns out getting robbed really helps you bond. So, the point is, travel insurance is key.
Also, some other safekeeping tips:
- Try to take your belongings with you. If you must leave them in the car, put them in the boot.
- Always have a look around your surroundings when putting things in the boot, people may be watching.
- Try not to wander around by yourself at night; this is also something that is emphasized at orientation.
- If you do happen to get robbed, call the police, report what you’ve lost; the police report card should exempt you from any replacement fees. Freeze all bank accounts if necessary.
In case you’re wondering, a few days after this incident, we got a call from an officer saying they found some ID’s – turns out that the robbers had targeted that carpark and smashed other cars. They had taken everything that was worth money and left behind our ID’s; student ID’s, driver’s license, passports. So I suppose there is a silver lining, but lesson learnt.