Busy days, some down time and “home”

Today is an unusual day. I have no plans, no dates, no sports, no yoga, no events to attend. This is a welcome change. Just the last two days are an example of how busy I’ve been. On Monday morning, I went to my sister’s house and from about 10-3pm helped tear down her old kitchen. Then we drove over to the beach and went surfing until about 5pm. Then I hurried home, grabbed my new bike and rode over to 6 o’clock Yoga in the Park in San Luis. Yesterday was similar. After cleaning up the house I went for coffee with my buddy Jim, then drove over to the Damon-Garcia Sports Fields and played soccer for an hour and a half. After a small lunch, I picked up the girls from school (in my car) and we drove over to Morro Bay to celebrate my niece’s birthday party.

Today the girls are in school and I’m on my own. As predicted, I ended up in a downtown coffee shop and hope to do some writing (one paragraph already done!!!). In September, I will start working for my university one day a week and for the Economy for the Common Good (ECG) for half a day. I will also continue helping my sister renovate her kitchen, do some additional volunteer word for the ECG and continue with surfing, yoga, hiking and soccer. I may sign up for the Guerrilla Gardening Club, a group of folks that goes around cleaning up and planting public land around Morro Bay. Maybe I will get involved in the local cycling initiative. There’s a store in town that offers free tools for people to fix their bikes and also has volunteers helping fix bikes. They are also involved in advocacy work to improve the safety and comfort of city biking.

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By Leif Arne Storset – originally posted to Flickr as Bishop Peak, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1820267

Actually, I may just take a hike up Bishop Peak this afternoon. The trail head is a three minute walk from my house. The peak is 1500 feet (470m) high and the trail is beautiful. The area is brown now as usual, unlike in the picture.

Check out my video report from Bishop Peak.

Home

Some of the major topics of my book Homing In were living in a foreign country, cross-cultural experiences, speaking a foreign language and experiencing home. Those are loaded issues and I want to explore them on my American journey. I am pretty sure I won’t be able to sufficiently answer them and it will be a challenge to approach them.

One question will be whether I feel more at home here, more “at ease”. I’m not sure yet but have had some interesting reactions. The feeling of being an outsider has faded, though not completely. In Germany I sometimes still feel like a foreigner, like I don’t totally belong. The feeling can be spurred on by comments a friend might make at the bar after soccer. He could be telling a little story to the group and reference a German band, musician or comedian of the seventies or eighties. He’ll then look at me, pause, and say “Oh, Gus, you probably don’t know Loriot, do you?” It may seem like a harmless comment and in many ways, it is harmless. The problem is, is that it reminds me of my differentness. I think is has an additional group function of defining the inner circle. But that’s for another time.

Here in my new home on the Central Coast of California I can claim to be a local, a non-stranger, a non-foreigner. I did not grow up here, rather about 200 miles south of here, but for California that is local. Nobody can treat me like a stranger here. Although I’ve been gone for 25 years this place belongs to me (not in the literal sense, ok).

Despite many factors that could make me feel uneasy here – like crime, widespread poverty, homelessness, turbo consumerism, fires, earthquakes, mountain lions – there is a certain sense of feeling at ease that I missed in Germany. Still, though, I feel rather at home and like I belong here.

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The girls enjoying our awesome new car

I was talking to one of the guys I played soccer with yesterday. After I told him I have been living in Germany for 25 years, he told me that he had moved here from Mexico 20 years ago. I don’t know how much our experiences have in common, but I did sense something. In the dominant culture of California there is a lot of discrimination and racism against Latinos. On the more personal side, though, they can continue to speak Spanish here and probably have a lot of family living here. In fact, California was once part of Mexico. It was the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 which gave the US ownership of California, about half of New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and even parts of Wyoming and Colorado. I don’t know if that gives Mexican-Americans more of a sense of home while living here. They must feel a large sense of community and belonging because the Latino culture is so widespread here.

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