When Ordinary is Extraordinary

I recently read a wonderful blog post over at TheEmptyNestMom.com about her recent first whale watching adventure. Growing up in San Diego, whale watching was a field trip I went on twice during school. I remember bundling up (because San Diego winters are cold!), and going out on the boat. I always felt sick, but I was never one of the kids who fed the fish. We always saw whales, and on my first trip, one surfaced right next to our boat! While it was out of ordinary, I had never considered these trips to be an extraordinary occurrence. (It was funny how The Empty Nest Mom and I share an idea of what lies beneath the ocean’s surface!)

A drawing of a sea full of varying sized creatures swimming under a relatively small fishing boat

When you are around something all the time, it’s difficult to know that your normal is unusual for most of the population. Many times during my K-12 experience we went on field trips to the zoo. Although it is officially titled “The World Famous San Diego Zoo”, I didn’t think anything of it because San Diego has labeled itself “America’s Finest City”. The first time I visited a zoo someplace else, I truly appreciated how fine the San Diego one is.

Yet there were incredible things in this fair city that I only experienced when visitors came to town. The most recent experience of this was last summer when I was playing tour guide for a friend from college.

Despite the fact that we had a very long unit in the 4th grade about Native history, we never had any field trips. The oldest mission in the United States is in our city, but I managed to make to age 40 without ever going. I wasn’t even sure where it was! (Answer: Five miles from my house!) So we went to the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala.

It was great! I’d only been to one other Mission before (San Juan Capistrano many years ago) and had really enjoyed the experience. My friend and I read all the information on our handout, looked at every reproduction and recovered artifact, and had fun in the sculpture garden. Most fascinating to us were the excavation pits. Both of admitted that we didn’t have the patience that would be required to sift and document the exact location of each shard of pottery and bit of bone were discovered.

Tammy reaching up across a statue of St. Francis to pet the bird in his hand in the garden of the San Diego Mission
I'm trying to pet the bird in St. Francis's hand

What treasures have you discovered in your home town as an adult? What fieldtrips did you go on as a kid that you appreciate more now than you did at the time?

7 thoughts on “When Ordinary is Extraordinary”

  1. Several years ago my daughter and I arrived on the Italian Riviera – so enthralled and mesmorized to be there and upon checking into our quaint hillside hotel – noticed a poster behind the bell hop’s desk with the peaks of the Rocky Mountains across the bottom and C-O-L-O-R-A-D-O written across the top. (our home and where we’d just come from) To this Italian, we realized, Colorado and the Rockies were somewhere exotic. It was just our plain old neck of the woods to us.
    And when I was on a ski trip in Switzerland – staying in the little mountain village of Zermatt – I was so struck one morning by the little kids, walking with knapsacks on their way to school, over the cobblestone streets, past a quintessential Swiss looking church with ancient looking headstones in the graveyard surrounding it and cows with big copper bells around their necks lingering nearby. I wondered if they were even aware how much like something out of a fairytale/storybook they and their little Swiss Alps village were to me. Didn’t they know they were living like Heidi?? I’m sure the boy’s names were Peter. To them, I realized, it was just another morning of sludging along to school.
    For some reason, both of these moments have been reminders to me that gold and treasure really is, right at our feet if we see it. While I love to travel, I’ve never since been over-enamoured with “somewhere else.”
    And you’re so fortunate to be in Southern California – San Diego is llke Camelot. My sister, who lives in Carlsbad, reminds me of that every time it’s snowy and cold here. LOL
    Great reminder Tammy – and thank you for the shout out.


    1. Hi Barb,

      How funny that you had to travel to Italy to realize you live some place exotic! While living in England, people were not always thrilled with Americans, but once they found out I was from California, that was okay! To me it is just home.

      You painted a wonderful picture of Switzerland. I’m sure the kids thought they were “normal”, while your internal movie of the situation probably involves a soundtrack with yodeling!



  2. My daugher lives in Los Angeles but will soon be going to school in England and has made it her goal to visit all the missions in California before she leaves next fall. She goes to one in LA often and one in Santa Barbara – but just went last week to San Diego, and hit a few between there and LA – so, like, you, she said since she lives in the state – she wanted to take advantage of its history, culture and what is unique to it. She realized the same thing you did – that the oldest in the country is indeed, right where you are.


    1. Ms. A, Thanks for stopping by! Visiting all the Missions is definitely on my “to do” list. It is wonderful that your daughter is exploring the glory that is in our backyard.



  3. I always said to myself that because I lived in a famous place with lots to see, I would just go around and appreciate some of the places that other people make such a lot of effort to travel to… I never did however. I was always a little ashamed when people would ask me where things were and I could never quite put my finger on it.


    1. It is so easy to take for granted what we are surrounded by. We have seemingly endless “tomorrows” to go exploring. It’s amazing how fast time (and opportunities) pass.

      Whenever I start to feel like I “ought” to be visiting more spots, I invite people in from out of town or gather my friends who are natives of this city to go on a new-to-us adventure within our home town.


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