Following a desperately needed sleep in, we sprung to life to enjoy our third day in San Francisco. Our morning was spent exploring the city during some free time, followed by a photogenic cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge, leading into our inaugural group dinner and ‘Wildcats Circle of Life’.
During our morning of exploration, the delegation visited a number of San Fran’s famous locations. One group departed the hostel on a mission to view the painted ladies through their cell phone screens, a widely adopted group policy. On their journey the crew also encountered the Four Seasons houses, the infamous ‘That’s So Raven’ house, and dined at the Rainforest café.
Another team found their way into Chinatown and took full advantage of the myriad of identical souvenirs featured in every store. Unfortunately a splinter group decided to return to Fisherman’s Wharf before discovering Chinatown’s main attraction: The Chinese New Year Flower Fair. A plethora of food, trinkets and entertainment flowed through the bulk of the neighbourhood. This group continued on to explore the Financial District, enjoy the stunning views from the Coit Tower, observe a Sunday Service at the Saints Peter and Paul Church in Little Italy, and stumbled across the San Francisco Art Institute. Another group experienced some delicious Tunisian cuisine – one of the many cultures present in the Bay area.
In the afternoon the delegation mounted up on bikes and headed out to the Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito. On our journey of exploration and drama we discovered the gigantic Palace of Fine Arts, gazed upon gorgeous views of the Bay, inconvenienced serious cyclists, crashed into the mud (well someone did), and almost left behind a bag full of passports. A much needed ferry ride carried us back into the city.
During the evening, we ventured half a block to our group dinner at a Thai restaurant, followed by the first ‘Wildcats Circle of Life’. This involved recounting highs, lows and insights garnered from the city in a uniquely Disney setting. Our most profound insight was the poverty and homelessness just outside our door in the Tenderloin. It really put into perspective the racial and economic disparity still visible in America and provoked questions about poverty globally.
Day four began with the delegation finally coming to terms with jetlagged mornings, acutely aware that tomorrow we would simply be kicked back even further from New Zealand’s clock, but somehow it didn’t deter us from being overly excited every day. Powering forward, we stole free bagels from the hostel breakfast to stow for lunch and made our way out on to the San Francisco streets towards our first meeting of the day with Felipe Navarro, an International Fellow at the Center of Justice and Accountability.
‘Massive Biceps’ the security guard (Nik also admired his inflated triceps) greeted us at the bottom floor of the building, before sending us up to a tight knit team of attorneys and directors, where we were ushered into a room with coffee and a self-described ‘little Columbian guy surrounded by amazing people’ – SPOILER: Felipe was certainly no insignificant Columbian.
The CJA essentially works to deter torture and grave human rights abuses, bringing those responsible to account through civil litigation that employs US legislation and aligns with international law. Felipe himself has worked closely with cases involving Spanish speaking victims and perpetrators, and had made his way to the CJA after working for the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, the Refugee and Human Rights Law Clinic, and as a Columbian lawyer. The delegation was in awe due to how passionate and knowledgeable he was regarding the globally significant work that is done at the Center, and although he acknowledged the fine line between valuable amnesty and unjustifiable impunity, he left us with words that resonated with us all – “how can you look ahead without acknowledging the past?”.
After saying goodbye to Biceps and hello to shops in Westfield that haven’t yet journeyed to New Zealand, the delegation popped out 10 blocks along and 17 floors up in the Financial District, confused as to whether or not we were in a café/table tennis tournament/Silicon Valley TV Show, or the reality that was New Zealand Trade and Enterprise with Adam Bennett. We learned how subtle differences in NZ versus US business can stump Start-ups looking to expand, and that 10% growth was a cop-out goal, why not 10x? Suddenly our once Harvard bound political study tour had turned into us collectively planning our business ventures, obviously prompted by Adam’s enthusiasm.
The final leg of our jam-packed meeting day was at the Global Fund for Women, where our resident full-on feminists felt infinitely validated by the wonderful and well-travelled Jane Sloane. Inspired by such notable figures as Nelson Mandela, Al Gore, and Sheryl Sandberg, she shared how her journey to her position as Vice President of Programmes was propelled by a passion to support women around the world who were capable, strong, and powerful, and to give them a voice where people had neglected to. The Fund has resulted in Nobel Prizes for women, the eventual end of civil wars, and an emphasis on lived experiences being broadcasted to the world rather than people speaking for – and over – women.
The day finally ended with us all crammed into a single room, celebrating our final night in San Fran, borderline crying with laughter as the face-swapping app made an appearance. We <3 San Francisco!
Written by: Nikolas Black and Lisa Dick