Now back in San Francisco after a year of sabbatical, my joy is the summer fruits and tomatoes. The dry farmed “early girl” tomatoes are sweet and the small ones, with a tight skin, pop the flavor; I believe they are better than anywhere else in the world. The plums and nectarines are perfect. The harvest at the Alemany farmer’s market (the first farmer’s market in California) is extraordinary despite the drought. Here are some photos, including the purple okra, which I will soon cook with the Punjabi garam masala and recipes I brought back from Delhi.
After one week of being back in this San Francisco home, I notice that time is a remarkable concept. It now seems that I had never left. The routines come back quickly, and despite some small changes here and there, things look the same. But I do notice that this city is expensive. The housing prices are exorbitant, but I think the food prices have increased, and the restaurants seem pricy. Two apples at the corner store cost more than three dollars! Maybe I am comparing things to Vilnius, where life is still quite affordable (for visitors). I also see many homeless people, and the buses are full and inefficient. People say the traffic has gotten worse, but scootering on my Vespa, I am mostly unaffected.
The El Niño weather pattern has arrived, and we are all hoping for a wet fall and winter. Flying back, through the window of the airplane everything in California looked like a parched desert. The state is brown and cracking. Now the air is unusually humid, and even the Pacific Ocean is warm enough to wade in, 18 degrees.
Getting back to teaching is a pleasure, and my Parasitology classes are full of students with backgrounds from all over the world. The classrooms reflect the diversity that is San Francisco. Everyone fits in, yet everyone is special here in this exceptional hometown.
The summers in Northern Europe are short, and when the sun is out, and the air is warm, it is a scramble to get out and enjoy the beach. I, like most of humanity, love being in the sun near the water. In Lithuania, my favorite place is the area around Nida, with the pine forests opening up into the big sand dunes and the Baltic Sea. The Lithuanians, plus a few Germans and other Europeans “in the know” come here because of the natural beauty and the vast, spacious beaches. There are bike paths and quaint houses painted in reds or blues. The water isn’t really warm, but on a hot day, it is perfect for cooling off. If I were in Sweden, I would spend the vacation in the Skärgården archipelago, and in California, it would be the Yuba River. I have found these to be my favorite summer sun places. Soon I will be back in San Francisco, tan and ready for the new Fall semester.
A beautiful Stockholm blue moon is the last I will see before moving back to San Francisco. My sabbatical is nearly over. I have been to a lot of incredible places this year, but I am not proud of how much time my body has been in airplanes. Despite being a conscientious vegan environmentalist, my carbon footprint is very high. Here is a map of the flights I have taken over the last year; it is astonishing to me.
The roads are quiet and many restaurants are closed. Stockholm in July is void of people. A very large number of Swedes go to their summerhouses, and the month of July is sacred – allotted solely for vacations. I heard that a big El Niño will bring California a lot of rain this fall. Here in Stockholm, the hope is that the rains will stop. This summer was wet and quite chilly, but still people have exited their city lives. Many have gone to the archipelago of thousands of islands near Stockholm. The sailing boats take eager Swedes out to the water, where they hope to enjoy the sparse sun and swim in the slightly saline Baltic Sea. I would also love to have a summerhouse on one of the islands, and although I get seasick, I can even envision enjoying a sailboat. I have become completely swedified, taking on the collective dreams of the society, and at this point, I can’t imagine a culture where people actually go to work in July.
Today was the Stockholm Pride parade, and suddenly the streets were full again. It is August, and like migrant rainbow birds, they are predictably returning. They say 80,000 people participated in the parade, and 5 times that many watched. Sweden is politically correct, and freedom and human rights are core beliefs. Over my more than 20 years in this country, Stockholm has gone from provincial to powerhouse; multicultural and multidimensional. With 10 million people in the entire nation, it is less than half the size of Delhi, but despite the long vacations, this is a society that works hard, and has a high quality of life. I believe that this is how much of the world could be if there were simply fewer people on the planet. Summer days in Stockholm are rare, but full of optimism.