From San Francisco California to San Francisco de Quito

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As my kids and I get ready to leave San Francisco CA, the city where we reside in, to go for a couple of months to visit San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador, the city where I grew up (including a 2 week stop in Costa Rica to visit my sister and her family), I already feel nostalgic of the fog city I leave behind.

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Both San Franciscos share a good number of curious similitudes.  Though San Francisco de Quito (the full name given by its founders) is in the Equator and San Francisco, California, in the Northern Hemisphere, both cities are full of hills, they both have almost exactly the same weather and vegetation year round, and both have a gorgeous fog that rolls in in the evening and rolls out in the mornings. I’ve checked the weather for both at the same time and, except for some picks of cold wind and unusual heat in San Francisco, CA, or some picks of strong sun at noon in Quito (short name it’s known for), they share the almost the same degrees. Their similar environments are due the fact that their location creates pocket weather zones for both.  Their spring weather pocket is due to, in the case of Quito, its altitude of 9000 feet, and San Francisco due to its location in the bay, fog and currents.  Another similitude was the arrival of the Franciscan orders to both areas, giving their name to both cities.  San Francisco’s first mission was built by the Franciscan order, as well as one of Quito’s most beautiful colonial churches and convents. Because of its mild weather, many orders of priests, established ground in Quito creating dozens of colonial churches and convents within a small square mileage. Both cities have very courteous and friendly people, perhaps due to their physical beauty and mild weather conditions.

ImageBoth cities are very different many other ways.  San Francisco’s natural beauty comes from the gorgeous bay and ocean that surrounds it; while Quito’s natural beauty comes from the magnificent Andes Mountains it’s nestled in.  San Francisco’s old neighborhoods are made of beautiful Victorian or Edwardian houses from the late 1800 to early 1900s, while Quito’s colonial town is full of Spanish style houses dating as far back as the 1530s. Quito’s population is composed mainly of mestizos (racially mixed Spanish and indigenous), a small purely indigenous or purely Spanish descendants and a small afro-Ecuadorian population, while San Francisco Bay Area’s population is one of the most diverse in the planet.

There are many pros and cons about living in either city. One of the biggest pros of Quito is the fact that, since most families and friends stay in the same city for most of their lives, people have deep and long lasting relationships.  I’m still friends with people who were my classmates in kindergarten, and most of my high school classmates, even if they went to study elsewhere, reside in Quito now.  A big pro of San Francisco, is the fact that there is a huge diversity of races, religions, sexual orientation, and more, together with a strong respect and appreciation to diversity.

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I want to take advantage of my having a large set of family and friends in San Francisco of Quito and establish good long lasting relationships between my kids and them. I also want my kids to grow up honoring diversity the way most of  San Francisco California does. I’m lucky that way, as I want to, as much as possible, offer to my kids the best of both San Franciscos.

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Memorial Day visit to the Presidio cemetery with my family.

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On the morning of Sunday May 26th, my husband took us to visit the national cemetery at the Presidio in San Francisco, where we live, to honor the US citizens (not saying “Americans”, as this term applies to North, Central and South Americans) who participated in the wars of the U.S.  My husband comes from a Quaker background. Quakers are known for opposing wars, and being incarcerated as conscientious objectors, but he wanted to go there to teach the kids respect for others who’ve had hard lives and had participated in the creation of a country that he loves and believes in. He wanted to teach the kids that holidays are not just for shopping, but have a little time to think of events that have happened and meditate about certain moments in history.

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I, as an Ecuadorian, was torn with the idea. Though I recognize the value of the US participation in World Wars I and II and of certain well-conceived diplomatic policies that helped the world, I feel the US has in recent (Iraq, Afghanistan) and not so recently (Vietnam, El Salvador, Chile) history, interfered on other countries affairs in an unjustified way and often without the consent of the United Nations. I decided to accompany them anyway.

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The military cemetery at the Presidio is located on a hill overlooking the Bay Bridge and has probably one of the best views in the world. There were some celebrations happening at the bottom of the hill. We wanted a private observance, so we hiked with the kids all the way up to the highest corner, where there was no one else. We brought two flowers, and each child chose the grave of a soldier, preferably one who had died a very long time ago and had no one visiting him, on which to place the flowers.  It was a very meditative morning, in which I learned that Memorial Day is not meant to honor the politicians who send young kids often to the wrong wars, but the duty and sacrifice of the ordinary men and women who participate in them.

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We talked with the kids about the importance of diplomacy. I used as an example Diego Cordovez, a diplomat from Ecuador who coincidentally died Saturday may 25 and was nominated to the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating peace with Afghanistan years before the wars.

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I never thought I would be in an U.S. military cemetery on Memorial Day, but thanks to my husband I went and had a contemplative morning in which we honored life, sacrifice and Peace.

The Mission – San Francisco

Low Riders in the Mission

How incredibly awesome it was for me to be able to see with my 7-year-old a low rider car procession going by 19th street and Valencia, in The Mission District of San Francisco. The cars rode today April 12, 2014, together with bikers, dancers and marchers, as part of a post-birthday parade celebration in honor of  Cesar Chavez.

I felt like we were witnessing history in action and as if we were casts of the film La Mission.

 104090045I was lucky to bump into the procession after delivering my 11-year-old daughter to our local theater academy,  The Marsh*.

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I loved the parade and it was awesome to see, in this now gentrified hood, the traditional players of The Mission parade with so much pride and vibrancy.

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Unfortunately my daughter missed it, but took her to Dandelion Chocolate for some hot cocoa as a consolation.

Gorgeous Parade!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

*The Marsh: Mission District performance space and academy which offers acting, dance, and design classes for kids and adults. http://themarsh.org/