It’s been a long couple of weeks to say the very least. I’m stuck between being excited about a big move and mourning with my community about constant injustices at the hands of police. Nevertheless, a few short weeks ago, we got on a plane to cross the entire United States to start our new life (‘ours’ includes me and my boyfriend Torin). The same week of moving into our new apartment we were out in the streets of a completely new place protesting for black lives. Not even fully unpacked and outside marching in a place I’m wholly unfamiliar with. All during a global pandemic.
Torin and I moved all the way from Durham, North Carolina to Oakland, California. When I said cross country, I meant cross country. We moved due to work; I had recently been laid off but was able to secure a job in the same general location Torin had accepted his offer in. He’ll be working for a tech company in silicon valley while I’ll be working in HR at an Amazon warehouse in the east bay.
Originally, when we found out Torin secured a job in the area we started browsing the San Francisco area for apartments. Soon after discovering Amazon had placed me in the east bay, San Francisco didn’t make much sense. After mulling over the perspective places to live we landed on Oakland. Although there were less expensive locations that were closer to work, we wanted to have a “city feel”. We were against coming all this way to just chill in the burbs, we wanted action (and oh did we get it).
As you can imagine, Coronavirus made this move very unique. Furniture would have to be ordered online. Apartments would have to be toured virtually. A pre-move visit was not in the cards for us. We were going in blind.
Choosing an Apartment
Since there is a global pandemic going on, we couldn’t really do a pre-move visit to look at apartments or the different areas so we did our research and decided. We did several virtual tours of apartments in the downtown Oakland area. Let me tell you, the price of living in North Carolina seems unrealistic when looking at California prices. It was definitely a shock to go from a $920 900 sq ft apartment to a 700 sq ft one over $3000. I still haven’t fully wrapped my head around it but I’ll get over it someday.
When looking at apartments, we used a scoring system to make sure we were on the same page about which would be the best fit. We divided scores into factors that were important to each of us then used the composite score to help with our decision. It was divided into layout/size, amenities, overall aesthetic, and then we had a section for each room of the apartment. We also had a section for notes where we listed any extra deals at the apartment.
One good thing (if any) about moving during corona was the great deals apartments were offering. That was a huge part of why we ended up in the apartment we did. We were able to get a few months rent-free and then 5 months at a great discount. Before even stepping foot in California we put in our applications and paid our security deposit, which we were told would be refundable if we got to Cali and didn’t like the place.
Leaving North Carolina
Our journey started with selling almost every piece of furniture I owned on Facebook Marketplace. When undertaking a big move it’s important to decide if it makes more sense to bring the furniture you have or just start all over. Starting over was the best for us, shipping furniture that far would be around the same price as a whole new set of furniture. This was also our first apartment as a couple so we wanted to make sure everything was something we both picked out.
If you are moving and want to get rid of your stuff Facebook will be your best friend. Although there’s plenty of selling apps people on Facebook are more motivated to buy. I think it was especially easy during this time because people are at home scrolling all day.
Before leaving North Carolina we both had to clear out our places. We tried to only keep things we absolutely didn’t want to part with. Luckily, I shipped my car here to California and we had the opportunity to put some things in it for when we arrived. We packed both of our TVs, I packed most of my shoes, some pillows, and a few other odds and ends. Other than what was packed in my car, everything else needed to be packed in our luggage.
We decided to fly with Southwest, and our flights were very cheap since travel has slowed down due to Corona. A flight that would typically be upwards of $400 was about$150. Part of our decision to fly Southwest was due to their 2 free bags policy. Considering we would surely have at least two bags with this big move it made a whole lot of sense. Although we had the free bags, one of my bags was 10 pounds overweight (no surprise there). Our flight was around 6 am so the night before we stayed with Torin’s parents and they sent us off. Masks were on and off we went. We had a brief layover in Denver and on May 28, 2020, only 3 days after George Floyd’s death, we were Californians.
NorCal Living – Settling in Among Protests
Our first nights in California were spent in a hotel a couple of blocks from where our apartment would be. We had a few days before moving in. Each night in our hotel we watched from our windows as people marched in the streets protesting police brutality. Scared to join since we were in a new place. Scared what could happen to us (by the hands of the police, not protestors) in a place where we didn’t know our right from our left, and what street our hotel was on exactly. If we had to get away quickly we wouldn’t even know where to run. One night when we returned to our hotel from getting food, police had set up shop right in front of our building. We got upstairs and watched again from our window. We sat with our thoughts, signed petitions, and posted our support on social media.
First weeks in our apartment
On May 31st we moved into our apartment in Oakland and started getting settled in. We had already ordered a couple of pieces of furniture, including our bed, mattress, and couch. For the first two nights, we slept on our blow-up mattress and awaited our furniture. We only ordered essential furniture before getting here because we wanted to see the apartment first. We’ve slowly but surely pieced together the rest in the 2 weeks we’ve been here but we’re still working. I hope to write a detailed post on everything we did to make the apartment feel like our own.
A little less than a week after moving in we saw another protest, but this time outside the window of our new apartment. We figured we knew our way around now and even if we didn’t, it was time for us to join our new community. So we did. It was beautiful. We followed the procession of people from all walks of life and races down to Lake Merrit in downtown Oakland. We listened to the organizers speak and then headed back to our new home. Our hearts full but heavy.
Some may say my move was during the absolute worst time, and I might even agree with you but what a time to join a community; when it’s hurting. Hurting not only because of the injustices against black people but hurting and empty due to a pandemic. I would argue I feel more attached to the community I’ve gotten to process this hard time with. I can say I’m glad to be apart of a community of activists, black business owners, and creatives.
All in all
From what we’ve seen so far I think we will enjoy Oakland and the surrounding bay area. This was a big move during a difficult time and I think we are doing much better than I’d expect. I started my new job last week and I’m looking forward to learning and growing with the company. We’ve already found a few good restaurants we like close by. Torin’s brother and wife are just across the bridge in San Francisco and my grandmother is a 2-hour drive away. We miss our friends and family but facetime works like a charm. I can’t wait to explore the area more and share it with you all.
I want to make sure it’s clear that the protests were not a blemish on our move but a highlight. I’d rather justice is fought for than not. The only blemish is Coronavirus. We are staying cautious and safe the best we can while attempting to explore.
Before you go, do me a favor and support some worthy causes. See below for organizations you should donate to and petitions you should sign. Black lives matter today and every day – see you next post.
- NAACP Legal Defense Fund
- Rebuilding Oakland Black Business Fund
- Third Wave Fund
- The Loveland Foundation
- Equal Justice Initiative