SEA to SFO and Back

(Written 14 January 2012)

As I sat somewhat comfortably in my Economy Plus aisle seat this morning, waiting for the plane to take off, I wrote a little diary entry in commemoration of the journey on which I was about to embark:

Dear Consulate General of Spain in San Francisco:

Please take pity on me, a poor university student eager to obtain her long stay student visa PROMPTLY so she can get to Granada on time.

Yes, I bought my plane tickets already even though your website says I’m not supposed to. And yes, I do plan on getting there on the seventh of February so I can settle in and register for classes at UGR before they begin on February 11th.

So while I understand that processing these darn things generally takes four weeks, I only ask that you take pity on me, and that you make it happen SOONER than four weeks from now, if you please.

Sound good? K thanks.


Raya Polyak


So maybe there’s a reason professional letters or emails shouldn’t be written before five in the morning, especially after less than four hours of sleep…but hey, it ended up being a somewhat comical and ultimately reassuring start to my morning. It reminded me that, once I handed in all the documentation, there was nothing more I could do. The Spanish government will either approve or reject my visa application, and there is nothing I can do about it, other than wait and hope for the best.

Our plane pulled into our gate at SFO almost exactly at 7:20am, and of course I experienced the familiar feeling of anxiety as we all waited for the doors to open, for people to scramble to retrieve their luggage from the overhead compartments, and for them to file clumsily out of the plane, some but not all mustering a “thank you” or a “goodbye” to the flight attendants waiting outside the cockpit.

In a sleep-deprived and over-caffeinated stupor, I wandered around Terminal 3 until I found the airport train line connecting to the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station.

The SFO BART station, around 7:30am

The SFO Terminal 3 station, around 7:45am

The BART Blue Line, Powell Street-bound (downtown)

The SFO Blue Line, connecting to Terminal G and BART trains.

With Mumford & Sons on repeat, I took the Blue Line to the BART station, from which I caught the East Bay/Powell Street Bound BART train to the Civic Center Station by the United Nations Plaza. From there, checking dutifully with Google Maps on my mom’s iPhone, I made my way towards the Spanish Consulate, enjoying both the crisp morning air and the marvel of being in a new place, a beautiful city I’d only driven through as a child.

I found the Consulate around 8:45, and, realizing that I should probably get more nourishment in my system than two lattes, stopped in the first cafe I could find. It was called the Pacific Plaza Cafe (if I remember correctly, I didn’t take any more pictures until after my visa appointment), and I had a simple ham and cheese omelette; it reminded me of the giant, scrumptious omelettes from my first year residence, providing me with comfort now that the nervousness preceding my visa appointment was setting in. I gathered myself, and instead of idling around in the cafe, I chose to check in at the Consulate early in the hopes of getting in for my appointment earlier than my 11:30 scheduled time.

My plan worked, and I was in and out by 11:15. The attendant looked through all my forms, circled a few things on some of the documents, said it should take about three weeks, and they’d send my my passport with the visa printed in it as soon as it returned from Spain. It was, quite literally, a piece of cake. Paid the visa fee, he gave me back the forms he didn’t need, and I was out of there. So much stress and anxiety for such a simple process. And now it’s done. Couldn’t be more relieved.

I knew I didn’t have to get back to the airport until around 4pm, and my parents had suggested I check out the Fisherman’s Wharf down by the water if I had time. Luckily, finding transit down there was remarkably simple and straightforward, and while it was no glorified Vancouver Translink bus system, the bus did come on time, and it was CHEAPER than a one-zone, single ticket in VanCity ($2 as opposed to $2.75).

The waterfront air was cool and breezier than the downtown air that morning, but it had warmed up by the time I got down there, making my little perusal of Fisherman’s Wharf that much more enjoyable. The term “beautiful day” is definitely overused, but it truly was a beautiful, cool but pleasantly sunny day in San Francisco.


The “beach” just past the Fisherman’s Wharf, with the Golden Gate in the distance


Walking out to this little stretch of a pier, hoping for a better glimpse of the Golden Gate


Looking back on the beach from the pier


The Golden Gate Bridge (from the pier), the first thing I used to picture when I thought of San Francisco

After rambling through a bit more of the Wharf, I headed down to Pier 39, an impressive two-storied complex of shops and restaurants upon the massive dock of a pier.


Pier 39, from one of their designated “Picture Spots”


The city from Pier 39

I skimmed the menus of the restaurants, hoping to determine the best quality clam chowder (in a sourdough bread bowl, of course; what could be more San Franciscan than that?), and peeked into a few stores, but was most entertained by the collection of docks in a little “harbour” to the northwest side of the pier.


The sea lions of Pier 39…apparently they’re famous?

They were a lazy but noisy bunch, and every once and a while a several of them would feud over dock space…or perhaps in an argument over potential sea lion suitors? Maybe I’ve been watching too much Planet Earth.

And what capped off my brief but fun little San Franciscan adventure was Chowder’s white clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. So unbelievably filling, so unbelievably delicious. Couldn’t finish it, but still allowed myself a little digestion time before I began my journey back to the BART and then SFO.


What a yummy way to end my adventure.

Not only was today a fun little solo-traveling experience, it also essentially marks the end of this grueling pre-study abroad process. It’s hard to believe that process started two Septembers ago. I have applied for my long stay student visa, which, when approved by the Spanish government, will allow me to fly to and then LIVE IN the enthralling city of Granada for the next five months. I’ve done almost everything I can do to make this trip happen. Now all I have to do is wait.

And while waiting for things like this to transpire is not one of my fortes, that is, waiting is not something I usually do without some anxiety or nervousness, I’m determined to be patient with myself, while I wait for the Consulate to mail my passport and visa back to me.

Patience. It was the word that came to mind when my current trainer Saiko asked me to come up with a word to focus on during one of our sessions last week. This is out of my hands now, all I can do is wait and let it be, not let it affect me and stress me out or cause me unnecessary anxiety. Everything will work out in the end. It always does. And I’m going to take comfort in that.


One thought on “SEA to SFO and Back

  1. Alex:
    Not only did your dad send me the link to your latest posting, but I actually did receive a notice of it via email. I thought I had not, but it came in while I was in a too-long conference.

    As one who has had to learn the value of patience over and over again, I know that you are a lot smarter than I and will take it to heart and accept its necessity.

    I grew up in the Bay Area and spent the last 3 years of my undergraduate education at S.F. State. I am glad you enjoyed your sojourn there. But wait until you get to Spain.


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