Such is one of the verses of the 1936 song “San Francisco” from the same name’s film. The first part of the song is as follows:
It only takes a tiny corner of
This great big world to make the place we love;
My home upon the hill, I find I love you still,
I’ve been away, but now I’m back to tell you…
San Francisco, open your golden gate.
You let no stranger wait outside your door.
San Francisco, here is your wanderin’ one.
Saying I’ll wander no more
Other places only make me love you best…
This last verse has always stuck in my head in the eight-plus years since we moved from San Francisco to Berlin, then from Berlin to Barcelona, where I live with my partner and our beautiful young daughter. Barcelona is our last stop on our way back to San Francisco.
I moved to San Francisco for the first time in 1989. As a gay man in my mid-20s, I was attracted to the City’s live-and-let-live attitude, as well as the progressive political views of its residents. I had grown up in Mexico at a time, and place where coming out of the closet was not a viable option. For work and then for “love,” I moved away and came back two more times. My last stint in the City was from 2000 to 2012.
In 2012 my partner and I moved to Berlin with our then 1-year old daughter. Although we loved living in the City, I had three goals in my life ever since I was a child myself: 1) go to college, 2) become a dad, and 3) live in Germany. Thus we moved away and lived in Berlin until 2017. My partner, who was pretty much over Berlin, suggested we move to Barcelona. Since he had indulged me in the move to Berlin, I agreed to move to Barcelona, and we have been here for two years.
The experience of living abroad has been advantageous for all three of us. Still, we miss so many things about the City and California in general, such as San Francisco politics, customer service, and, for my partner, the English language. He has been able to live and work in Europe with just English, but it can limit our social life.
So, we are planning our imminent return to the City and have started to mentally make the transition and logistically so. The first item is housing. Fortunately, we still own our house in Bernal Heights, but it is rented. The tenants, coincidentally, have notified us that they plan on moving out soon. Therefore, we will have a place to live in. The second item is work. Since we have been working as consultants for a long time, we need to seek out additional local clients in the Bay Area, in addition to the ones we currently have. To that end, we have submitted proposals to the City of San Francisco, as well as joining a local group of Business Network International (BNI.) Third, but equally important, we have been researching schools for our daughter, who will be entering middle school when we return.
Finding a school in San Francisco seems to be the most daunting task. In addition to the high cost of private schools, there is also the fact that enrollment Is very competitive. And although we have nothing against public schools, the various review websites give most public schools low ratings. That said, we have found a couple of public schools that seem to be as good or even better than some of the private ones. Please see our future article on finding the right school for your kids in SF.
So, we are getting ready to move back and are excited to be home again and be around our friends. However, we are also apprehensive about diving back in at a time when homelessness, drug use, and the other large city ills that plague the City are currently a standard in San Francisco. Mind you, there are homeless people and drug addiction in Germany and Spain, but the amount is far less than in the U.S. and, especially, in San Francisco. Another concern is the higher cost of living and PG&E’s inability to keep electric power consistently flowing into Northern Californians’ homes.
But after it is all said and done, we love and miss the City. We look forward to the Day of the Dead Celebrations in the Mission District, spending a day out at Golden Gate Park, attending Frameline’s film festival, and dining out at great restaurants; anything from low-cost taquerías to high-end eateries. Additionally, even from Europe, we have seen and heard how San Franciscans had responded proactively to the pandemic, rising racism and extreme political posturing. There has been and, hopefully, always will be that special energy that exists in the City, plus, if there is to be a social revolution in the US as many predict, we think it will be very present in San Francisco.
Jorge Romero, a principal at PM Workshops, is currently living in Barcelona with his family, but has lived in San Francisco in the past and still calls it home.