“Hi, I’m Mark and these two are Kali, the white one, and Darwin, the gray one.” I looked up from petting the wagging fur balls that had run up to me on my way out to the camper. It is so funny how Americans always introduce themselves immediately, as if names are the most important thing during a conversation. Europeans could talk for hours before exchanging names, as I had realized more than once during my backpacking years. My eyes met those of a tall and skinny short-haired man in the doorway. “Hello. I’m Liesbet. My boyfriend Karl and I are staying with Nick for a week to visit San Francisco. Our camper is parked in front of the house.” “Camper? Why are you living in a camper?” I told him exactly why and shared my lifetime travel goals with the excitement I always feel when elaborating on my passion. Before I realized it, an hour had passed. I excused myself, ran towards our home on wheels, grabbed the CD of my favorite Belgian band dEUS and rushed back to Nick’s place. “Where have you been?” Karl asked. “Talking to a neighbor, the one with the fluffy dogs,” I answered, handing the disc over to Nick, who is an amateur disc jockey, interested in all kinds of music.
The weeks had flown by and my relationship with Mark intensified. He would leave the door to his apartment open while at work, so Karl and I could walk his dogs, together with our dog Caesar. And, I could snuggle with Kali and Darwin as much as I wanted. Today, I am not leaving, however. I am here to stay, to move in. To cuddle Kali and Darwin forever. What will Mark say about all this?
This is an excerpt of the memoir I am working on. Mark and I met in an area of Oakland called Rockridge, in November 2004. He loved living there and I enjoyed it as much, when I tossed my existing life with Karl and Caesar through the camper windows and decided to stay – unbeknownst to Mark. Now, twelve and a half years later, he and I are still together and we have returned to this quirky area. Proof that following one’s heart can have a happy ending. 🙂 This location was one of the reasons we decided to apply for our current three-week house sit, together with the fact that it started on the day we returned from Belgium. It is always good to have a roof over your head after a long trip!
Our affinity towards nearby San Francisco was satisfied during a short sit in another area of Oakland in February – when we returned to this amazing city after an absence of 12 years – and when my cousin Griet and her husband Wim visited us and Lola in Sebastopol in the spring. This time around, we opted not to cross the bay back into the city of the Golden Gate Bridge, which we can see from nearby hills. Once the fog clears. We remained in the northern part of Oakland, revisiting fun neighborhoods and regional parks, where our “borrowed pets” Tucker and Stella could run off leash.
We met up with old friends we hadn’t seen in twelve years, like Steve and Kathy, Penn, and Eric, and made new friends with fellow house sitters Heather and Volkan. We got along so well, that we met up three times during our current Oakland stay.
While we have been socially deprived during other house sits, we sure can’t complain about that here! We even visited the Marin County Fair last week, to see UB40 in concert.
The nicest evening I had, was with my husband. On July 6th, Mark and I celebrated our tenth anniversary not too far from where we met. The official one, for readers who know the back story. It was on that day, in 2007, that Mark and I were married in Annapolis, Maryland, compliments of Homeland Security. We had a real party four years later in St. Martin with friends and family, on April 30th, 2011 – the unofficial wedding party. The owners of our current house sit left us a generous gift certificate to a local restaurant, Homestead. We decided to splurge there on an extravagant multiple course dinner. It was delicious and, between you and me, we could have never afforded it without that certificate!
In a couple of days, Mark and I are ready for a different adventure, which in a way, relates to the title of this post. We are leaving this house and its wonderful pets behind tomorrow and spend the night at a friend’s place. Eric will also keep an eye on our car. On Friday morning, we board a train from Oakland to Los Angeles. That ride will last twelve hours. Hard to believe, since it only takes 6 hours to reach the city by car. Then, we have an hour to switch trains (hopefully Amtrak is not delayed) and in the evening, we are heading towards Little Rock, Arkansas, another 50 hours away. Three days and two nights without a bed, a shower, a desk and wholesome, healthy meals. Once in Little Rock, around midnight, we spend one night in a motel, before jumping on a bus to Harrison, which is located three hours away. There, we will run an errand, impacting our lives as house and pet sitters. Yep, it will be an adventure!