Saturday, June 13, 2009

Building Bridges by the Bay: The San Francisco Experience

San Francisco is a lot like Vancouver. Sure, we don’t have a famous bridge (although I personally think a Lion’s Gate sounds a lot more impressive than a Golden Gate) or a prison on an island (although those held in captivity on Vancouver Island due to ever increasing ferry rates may beg to differ), but there was a very familiar feel to San Francisco.

The conference that I was attending in San Fran was themed ‘Building Bridges by the Bay’, and was an opportunity for college health professionals across North America to share ideas, build relationships, and work together to create environments that support health and wellness. The theme was fitting – not just for the conference, but for the city it was held in.

Here are the ‘ABCDs’ of why I loved San Francisco so – and why it reminded me so dearly of Vancouver.

A city that may be as diverse if not more diverse than Vancouver – how wonderful it is. There’s something beautiful about communities that can preserve the heritage of their culture while living peacefully with others of all creeds, faiths, orientations, and ethnicities. Wandering through the Castro District, the infamous neighborhood where Harvey Milk brought due attention to gay rights and laid the groundwork for future gay rights activists to fight for their rights, was a humbling experience and a foray into the accepting world Milk must have envisioned.

San Francisco and Vancouver share a coastline – and what a coastline it is. While in Vancouver, finding a spot on the beach on a Saturday afternoon sometimes requires a 6am spot-holding stealth mission, the cooler temperatures in San Francisco allow you to actually appreciate the beach for it’s innate natural beauty – vast expanses of sand and the softly lapping waves – instead of the discarded beer bottles and incessant chatter you find on a sunny Saturday down at Kits beach.

Curious weather
Maybe it’s working up at SFU that has given me an appreciation for fog. There’s something mysteriously appealing about a fog-laden city – it brings a sense of calm to the rustle and bustle of the hectic Union shopping district, and bestows upon the Golden Gate Bridge a sense of furtive beauty.

Before and during construction, the Golden Gate Bridge was widely known as, “the bridge that couldn’t be built”, due to insurmountable difficulties like swift water and strong wind. With determination and vision, this impossibility came to being. I saw a similar determination in the eyes and hearts of gay rights protesters marching the streets of San Francisco in protest of Proposition Eight (which was sadly upheld in a Supreme Court vote on May 26). Despite this, the determination displayed by San Franciscans was voracious, and just as the infamous bridge was build despite ferocious opposition, so too will gay rights one day come to be recognized. In another must-be-mentioned show of determination, I must give accolades out to all the San Franciscan joggers and bikers who take on the hills of San Francisco – that may be, I must admit, the one department in which San Franciscans take the cake.

1 comment:

John Horn said...

You had me at "prisoners on Vancouver Island." I am impressed by how our experiences in Vegas and San Fran were so drastically different. Yet another argument for a formalized Cascadia region, methinks.

Very nice job, Ms. Burtnyk.