December brought an end to a year that both topped the charts and sunk to new lows, and it also brought some new beginnings. Most importantly, I became an auntie on New Years Eve, just a couple of hours before 2010. My sister and her husband welcomed Finn Patrick McCormick to this wide world, and the $3,000+ tax break that came with their little bundle of wonderment. (I, meanwhile, was popping bottles of champagne with friends in Nevada City, California - at a cozy cottage and at a saloon called Chief Crazy Horse -celebrating Finn's arrival from a distance as best I could).
And speaking of new beginnings and the wide world, I started my role as Assistant Country Manager at Geographic Expeditions in mid-December, wrapping up my last shifts as a barista in the mornings and training at GeoEx in the afternoons. In contrast to last December, when I was gearing up to embark on a journey of several months around South America, this December saw me getting established again in San Francisco (though I use the word "established" quite loosely since it seems paradoxical to describe a wanderlustful drifter like myself doing anything along the lines of settling down).
In a fantastical world, my being an Assistant Country Manager means leading trips around the world to the "beguiling destinations" that GeoEx visits, when in fact it means being a sort of glorified receptionist. Yes, answering phones and running the mail is not what I had pictured for myself either, but it's, as they say, a foot in the door. I fill catalog and itinerary requests with a smile, and I drive to the post office in the 1987 Dodge Caravan with its interior that smells strangely of Play-Doh and its bumper sticker that reads, "My other car is a pair of boots".
I can't say I'm not a little soured by the fact that I could have done this job when I was 16, but the perks of working at GeoEx make the whole experience pretty darn sweet. The office, a former hospital building, resides in the Thoreau Center for Sustainability in the Presidio, a national park that served as an army post for 218 years. On nicer days I take twenty minutes to bike to work, coasting past fragrant eucalyptus trees and boasting palm trees and sometimes seeing blue herons perched in the tall grass along our driveway. Inside the office there are large, vivid prints of photos taken in all corners of the world, and plants, worn travel books, and ornate tapestries cover the shelves. Friday afternoons typically feature Planet Earth screenings or slideshows of employees' recent trips, and hopefully I'll have the chance to schedule a familiarization, "FAM," trip in the near future.
And so, while my current gig at GeoEx may be just a stepping stone, it is a nice, sizeable stone, and even though I'm performing elementary tasks like taking the mail to the post office, I can relish the views of the Golden Gate Bridge (and, on some mornings, the sound of the fog horns that are audible from my desk) while doing them.