California Dreamin'

I initially wanted to start by saying “it is a dream come true…”, but I decided not to. Instead, I would like to start by saying, “I feel unspeakably blessed that some of my life milestones have been accomplished here in the land of dreams – the USA.” Using my cultural enrichment allowance and my savings (I am usually not good at saving money but I did it, because I knew that it was for a greater cause), I had an opportunity to take a seven-day long adventure in Southern California for my Spring Break.

Griffith Observatory: Charlie's Angels - Full Throttle, was filming one of its scenes here!
Griffith Observatory: Charlie’s Angels – Full Throttle, was filming one of its scenes here!

San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Clemente, and Santa Barbara are the cities I visited during those seven unforgettable days. In Los Angeles, the places I enjoyed most were the Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood Boulevard and Santa Monica Pier. The Griffith Observatory is where my all-time favorite movie was filmed: “Charlie’s Angels.” I had a chance to take pictures where Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, and Demi Moore once stood, and of course, I took a picture in front of the famous Hollywood sign. It is not something to miss (though I was hoping that the sign would be bigger)!

Dery Rovino 2On Hollywood Boulevard, I had a chance to walk on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame landmark. I took pictures with Boyz II Men’s and Tom Cruise’s stars: some of my favorite people in the entertainment industry. Taking pictures with the star belonging to my childhood heroines Destiny’s Child was on my bucket-list too, but I didn’t have the chance to do so since there were too many stars and the sidewalk was extremely long.

Unlike Los Angeles – which is known as the city of stars and the center of entertainment – San Diego is famous of its contemporary buildings and the breathtaking views on its shores. I had a chance to visit Coronado Island, located a few miles off-shore from downtown San Diego. I went there by ferry, taking pictures along the way.

Dery Rovino 3Before moving to the next destination, I had a chance to visit one of the most beautiful parks ever designed in San Diego: Balboa Park.

On our way up north, back to Humboldt State University, we had a few stops at San Clemente and Santa Barbara. I had never heard people talking about San Clemente as a town that was particularly special, but I was wrong. They did not talk a lot about San Clemente perhaps because they haven’t had a chance to visit it yet, or it has been kept secret for its mega-breathtaking scenery. Dery Rovino 4


Above all beautiful places I visited in Southern California, I must say that San Francisco was the only place that engraved the boldest impression in my heart. People tend to say that San Francisco is one of the busiest, most expensive cities in the USA to live in. Nonetheless, I could feel the classy atmosphere, the meticulously organized buildings, the ambiance of warmth, and the kindness of the people residing in this city named after Saint Francis of Rome.

Dery Rovino 5The first time I set foot in the city, I was greeted with the full-of-green festivities of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown San Francisco. Besides the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, San Francisco has many more parades, such as the LGBT Pride Parade which is held in June every year (I am so sad to not be there this year), Chinese New Year Parade, and more! I suppose it is the culture of San Francisco residents to have that kind of parade for a purpose: to celebrate the diversity, any kind of diversity, among them.

Above all of the places I visited in San Francisco, The Castro District (The Castro) is the most memorable. This is not because this place has the most breathtaking scenery, or the best architecture, but because of the history that lives within each corner of it. Unlike a number of places in the world which disregard the topic of sexuality, The Castro is one of the first places in the USA that celebrates the diversity in sexuality and utilizes it to boost  local economic growth. The bars, cafes, stores, cinemas and houses are implementing a so-called “gay theme” and ALL of them have the rainbow flag (the “international” flag of LGBT community) waving in front their buildings. Surprisingly, at the end of the main street, there was a gigantic rainbow flag, waving in pride, greeting every driver and pedestrian coming to the district. Dery Rovino 6

In this district, I was blessed with the chance of witnessing people of the same sex holding hands, hugging each other, kissing each other good night, or eating dinner on a bench together. There was a genuine happiness in their eyes. These moments gave real definition to the notion that “love was in the air.” Sadly I didn’t have a chance to talk to them or ask about their experience of living in the district as I was too amazed for the whole four hours of my visit. This is an amazing experience for me because as a person who has a deep concern toward LGBT discrimination, having a chance to experience and be a part of The Castro community even only for a few hours gave me hope that one day, the whole world, including Indonesia (among the most conservative places in the world), will be a better place for my LGBT brothers and sisters. If The Castro district could do it and make the best of it, why can’t the rest of the world?

This is officially the best seven days of my life, and I am so glad and proud that I will be able to share many more experiences exploring the USA. I hope more students in years to come – or anyone in my country – will be inspired to pursue a scholarship in this land of dreams. Thank you U.S. Department of State and World Learning for helping me reach my life milestones!

– Dery Rovino, Indonesia, Humboldt State University

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