Curtis Reliford

Day 1 (06/18/16)

It’s 7 a.m. I’m opening my eyes in my new bed, new room, new temporary home. The room is not so small covered with a dirty, fluffy carpet. It’s connected with a tiny kitchen and not very clean bathroom. There are 4 windows with old blinds. Conditions are not the best in the world… but at least we have a kitchen, a lot of space which I share only with one person – Daria.

Crazy, interesting, brave girl. I could literally do everything with her. My friend who I’ve met 5 years ago during an entrance exam at the swimming pool to get into Academy of Physical Education in Krakow. I forgot my cap and towel. She was laughing about it but honestly she’s exactly the same. I guess that’s why we started to talk to each other that day. A month later I called her from England and we were screaming through the phone that we both got in. Then, parties, boys and never ending exam sessions. We graduated with bachelor. To participate in the program, we had to start a master degree. We are both on a gap year and probably won’t come back. You know, we have better things to do…

The day before we spend all day in the plane. I wish I slept during the flight like Daria but there were too many thoughts in my head. So… I’m leaving all my friends and a dream job as kitesurfing instructor to go to the other side of world, to unknown big country to work in a shitty job for almost 3 months? Oh yes, that was my attitude in the beginning. But it got better and better, the closer we were. Famous Scott McKenzie’s song got stocked in my head. When we finally landed in San Francisco it was cold and foggy (which is typical there). It took us “only” 6 hours to get to Santa Cruz, but it welcomed us very kindly. The bus driver, whose name was Dag, charched us 2$ (we only had 20s) and when we were walking to the final destination, suddenly he showed up in his private car and gave us a lift because he was worried that we couldn’t find it. Finally, we parked next to the oldest building in this city called “La bahia”. Out of nowhere I’ve heard someone calling “NADKA!” …

It was Michael, a polish guy who had been in SC one year ago. Several months ago we were speaking on skype about this place. Him and his friends made a warm polish welcoming for us.

The work&travel guide – Hanna took us to our room and I saw a big window in it. Did I mention that La Bahia is just next to the beach? It’s not hard to guess what kind of view we had… Immediately I moved my bed right next to the window, so the first think I could see was the ocean. And the first thing I could hear! I’ve never thought about it but I just couldn’t sleep because I was so fascinated about the sound of waves. It was different than in my country. Depends on the wind and swell, The Baltic Sea is either quit or it’s a loud constant murmur. Here? Gentle waves were lapping the shore between a long silence. Beautiful music that I was listening to for 2 and a half months.

In the early morning, I decided to walk around. It took me about 30 seconds to get to the beach. I discovered that the water was extremely cold, that we were going to work in an amusement park called Boardwalk which was literally on the beach and that the closest store was expensive as hell. Although we’ve changed the time zone we were too excited not to go to the center with our new w&t friends.

Downtown is basically one long street (Pacific Ave). There are a lot of restaurants, coffee shops, bars, surf shops and street artists selling bunch of unusual staff like drawings, hand-made bracelets or just playing music. There are many homeless people looking hippy and friendly. On the walls, I could see some good street art. You could feel the soul of this city, but no one really cares what you think.

We set up our bank account and went shopping. When we were sitting on the stairs next to popular store – CV’s, suddenly we heard loud music. It was coming from a huge track parked next to us covered with colorful drawings, slogans and American flags. First thing I’ve read was a big “PEACE” on it. I asked Daria “Hey, maybe he could give us a lift to Boardwalk?”

The track driver was a black man over 50 with a hat on his head. When we asked him a direct question about taking us, he was a little bit surprised but agreed. It was our very first time hitch hiking in US, but at this time I never imagined that we would do it through United States.

Curtis Reliford is a golden-hearted person who drives a big truck along the country to help those who need it the most. Inside of the vehicle there is some food, clothes and building materials. To make people aware of poverty which exists right around the corner, he plays Harold Melvin’s songs (very loud), so he can get their attention and they can read all those inspire words on his track and donate him. I highly recommend to visit his website HERE so you can learn more. What he does it’s truly amazing.

A ride with Curtis, tighted in the front seat, was one of the best experiences in my entire life. Drivers were tooting their horns, people were dancing on the streets, screaming, waving back and showing positive signs. And this guy? He is full of energy, kindness, constantly smiling and telling about his mission with passion. He asked us if we wanted to go with him to see something beautiful. I couldn’t say no! He took us for a proper West Cliff drive, where first time in my life I saw so many surfers in water, California houses and absolutely stunning shore. I felt like I was in a movie – music was playing on full volume and all those emotions! We were literally waving at everyone and laughing so much!

Finally, we arrived to the spot called Natural Bridges. It was a small parking on the top of the cliff where people come every day to watch a sunset. But we… we were celebrating it. Dancing to Michael Jackson’s music on a top of the track. There was more and more people coming during the golden hour. Children, their parents and people in our age joined us. Everybody wanted to wave the flag on the top of this machine! I can say It lasted almost an hour and I couldn’t imagine better first day in United States. The energy which was around us is really hard to describe, but it was REAL.

After one of the best sunsets in my life, we drove all this beautiful way back, playing the same music, waving at people again and constantly laughing. Well, except moments when Curtis saw “Popo”, he turned off the music immediately, not to get the fine. In the end of our amazing ride he gave us his business cards and thanked us for an awesome afternoon. It was so hard to tell people what we had experienced when they asked me “How was your day?”.

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Coincidentally, today is Daria’s birthday. So I dedicate this post to her (so as this blog lol). I hope you will have more days like this in your life and find a big purpose like Curtis.

At the end I’m putting Curtis’s speech which he gave to people in Santa Cruz, thanks to the non-profit organization called Santa Cruz TEDx. He’s one of many inspire people who had a chance to be on that stage.