San Francisco has got to be one of the best cities to be a world traveler just by staying home.

There are so many opportunities to experience new cultures, languages and cuisine here, you don’t have to go far to take a trip around the globe.

Here’s a recap of my multicultural week in SF:

It started with hosting Nathan, a new friend from Couchsurfing. Nathan is from Beijing, China but has been living in Tuscon, Arizona while going to University for the last two years. We had many, many talks about the pros and cons of American life and what to do about the travel bug as we toured San Francisco.

Me and Nathan (JinYuan) in SF

He was really excited to see such a big Asian population here, as he’s been feeling a bit isolated in Tuscon. He enlightened me on many things about China, including what it feels like to never have the opportunity to have a sibling: “I can’t even have a sister or brother. If I did, I would do anything for them!” I had never thought about that before. When he marries, he and his wife would be allowed to have 2 kids, because they each came from families under the ‘one child’ policy. We ate (ok, just he ate) rice and pork porridge at the D&A cafe, the Chinese restaurant next door that I had never been to except to give them their mail we got by mistake.

Tuesday night I went Salsa dancing and had fun speaking Spanish with my buddies and meeting dancers from Peru, Mexico and India. One thing I love about the Salsa scene is that you find people from every walk of life: Engineers, construction workers, teachers, and me….the unemployed freelance writer!

Wednesday I practiced a little Croatian on LiveMocha which is a good way to get started on the basics of a many new languages and network with a community of language learners.

Thursday I attended “Language Lovers” Meetup (www.meetup.com) and made several new friends for whom Hindi, English, Spanish, French and Japanese are their native languages. On the bus ride home I met a Bulgarian from Sofia and we chatted about his home town. This conversation brought me full circle for the week: My Chinese friend commented on how in America, you have to do everything on your own. My new Bulgarian friend, Alex,  works as a butcher at his Armenian friend’s Royal Market & Bakery in my neighborhood.

He had a similar comment: “In America it’s all about money, money. People can’t just enjoy life. But it’s still the greatest nation. You have every opportunity here. People don’t know how good they’ve got it.” I have to agree.

Last stop: my favorite Russian Bakery, Cinderella, also in the Richmond district. As I sat outside, a Russian speaking lady walked by and asked me something I couldn’t understand and I mumbled, “hmmm mmm” with my mouth full of poppyseed roll, which she took as a yes and went right inside.

Russian, Chinese, Bulgarian — you can find every type of culture and cuisine in San Francisco. Makes me feel like a world traveler while staying home.

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