South East Asia to San Francisco

Originally Published: December 29, 2014

The last stop on our journey was San Francisco, California. Returning to North America was quite a big shock for both me and my mom. One of the things we loved the most about some of the places we visited was the chaos  of things that seemed to work ; like the way the traffic motion was constantly zig-zag-ing but we rarely saw anyone crash, or the unevenness of the dirt roads that people somehow still managed to travel on, or the way the houses all looked different and weren’t cookie cut. We came back to North America at the time of year where consumerism is at its peak: Christmas, and people were in shopping frenzies trying to get the ‘perfect gifts’. I was personally shocked because I knew I was not the same person as when I left. It both scared and excited me. In San Francisco, there was quite a large population of homeless people and that was surprisingly something I didn’t see much of when I was in Africa and Asia. It made me sad to see the way people ignored them and moved on with their busy lives. I even encountered people who had no patience or tolerance for them either. 

 

In San Francisco, we stayed at Hostelling International, we chose their hostel because of their commitment to sustainability and their belief in meaningful, cultural travel. I will be writing a blogpost about their wonderful work in the new year so stay tuned to find out more.

Board of weekly activities the hostel runs

Board of weekly activities the hostel runs

On set of the interview with Anita (left)

On set of the interview with Anita (left)

One of the reasons we stopped in San Francisco before returning back to Toronto was because I was asked to be interviewed for an online TV series called ‘World Changers’, a series that highlights the positive work people are doing to end poverty. It’s goal is to redefine the media to be more inspiring and positivity based. The whole experience was so fascinating. I was interviewed by Anita Casalina, the founder of Billions Rising Foundation who created the TV show. There were three camera/sound crew people, one production manager and one intern as well. As a filmmaker, I was so intrigued by the pre-interview work,  seeing what goes into the technical side of the interview when there’s more than one camera, setting up the lights, cameras and sound check. I was so glad to be able to share my experiences of what I’d learnt over the six months with Anita.  The interview will be out in the new year and we will post it to our social media once it comes out.

The biggest reason however that we wanted to make a trip to San Francisco was to see the Sequoia trees. My mom wanted to show me them because my middle name is Sequoia and she had a special story that she wanted to share with me about my name. My mom knows an amazing photographer, Jerry Downs, he lives just outside of San Francisco and told us he’d be happy to take us the Muir Woods Forest, home to the Redwood trees (Sequoia Sempevirens). Jerry brought along another talented photographer, Joe Burull. I felt lucky to have two really great photographers by my side giving me tips on shooting as well. The trip was very special to both me and my mom. She told me the story of why she’d named me Sequoia. Just before her father was diagnosed with cancer at 62, he and my grandmother had visited the Sequoia trees in California. It was the last place he’d had his picture taken before he was diagnosed and sadly passed away. I never got the chance to meet him. My mom decided she would give my middle name ‘Sequoia’ because they are one of the largest, strongest trees in the world and can withstand many conditions, even fires, meaning they are resilient and strong and she wanted me to grow into a resilient, strong girl. The Muir Woods were quite a fitting place to wrap up my filming for a movie about hope and resilience. 

marla slavner