I’ve been in the East Bay for a couple of weeks now, and so far I really love it. People are generally friendly, and there is a great cultural and artistic side to the region.
I spend most of my time in Richmond, but it’s just one of 4 towns in a cluster in Contra Costa County. Most of Richmond is kind of an upscale community, with nice expensive homes and many people driving Mercedes, Lexus and BMWs. I also frequent San Pablo which is generally more middle class. Some parts are poorer than others with areas looking like a Mexican village. I occasionally go to a few stores in Pinole. Also nearby, is a much smaller town called El Sobrante, which has some of the least expensive gas. All of these towns are within 10 minutes of each other, during normal traffic flow.
I spend most of my time at one of the Starbucks in Richmond, using their WiFi. I’ve become a regular, and the baristas and I are getting to know each other. The most friendly of the baristas is a Latina girl named Elizabeth. She’s sweet, and talkative.
I got a gym membership at the 24 Hour Fitness, at the Hilltop Mall. It’s a decent place to shower, but there’s a lack of privacy. I recently found out of another place called Planet Fitness, which is only $10 a month, and has private shower stalls. That’s much more affordable, and friendly. Once my month at 24 Hour Fitness expires, I’ll be sure to transfer to the Planet.
I spend some of my time at the Hilltop Mall. I think it’s a pretty cool mall, but some people I’ve met say it sucks, and I should head to the mall in Concord. I’ll be sure to do that once I have a stable income.
I’ve also been encouraged to check out the city of Berkley, which had a substantial hippie movement, and is very pro-transgendered.
As much as I hate to live on welfare, sometimes, I have to humble myself. I was able to get setup on CalFresh (Food Stamps), and Medi-Cal (Health Insurance). I am able to eat pretty well with that, and I have a doctor’s appointment coming up soon. I should be able to get back on my medicines that I ran out of a few months ago.
I’ve found a church in Richmond. It’s the First Presbyterian Church (which is the name of the church I frequented in Shelbyville). The members are very welcoming, and accepting of me. They seem very keen on helping me out, so I can get back on my feet, and even just offering their friendship. I’ve met many great people here, and hope to meet more, and become more involved.
I registered at the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP), so I can receive mail, do laundry and have a nice hot meal. I visited a few other shelters first, but none of them have been as friendly as GRIP. GRIP has a good thing going, and I only hope I am allowed the opportunity to give back to them. An older man named Louis is in charge of a lot of the things there. He’s a large, African American guy, who can come across as very intimidating, but he has a heart of gold. I have a lot of respect for him. He’s helped me out a lot.
Finding a job has been tougher than I had hoped. I’ve got my LinkedIn updated, and my résumé on Craigslist. I’ve passed out business cards, and replied to job ads, but nothing is breaking for me yet. To make matters worse, AT&T Internet users (which seems to be a substantial population of the Bay Area) are unable to view my website. Fortunately, I am able to do a little work for my mother’s coffee business, and my previous employer in Indiana, over the internet.
Today, I had to meet a person at Point Richmond, which is on top of a mountain. This mountain overlooks a good portion of the Bay Area, giving me a view of Angel Island, Alcatraz, The Golden Gate Bridge, and San Francisco. I didn’t have time this morning to take photos, but I plan to go back to shoot a panorama tomorrow, or in the coming days.
At the base of the mountain, is the bay, with a small public beach. I plan to be visiting that in the coming week, since temps are to be in the 90s, on the mainland.
In closing, I think I’ve found my home. I’m starting to get settled in, and ready and able to be a part of this community. But my journey is only beginning. I have much more to do, much further things to discover and experience. And in time, I will. God’s got plans for me. I may not know what they are, but I have faith that his future for me will be bright.
One love, and be excellent to each other.