San Francisco’s Portal Connects You To People Across The World
You step into a large, dark, golden box, and then the lights come on, and someone you’ve never met from across the globe is illuminated in front of you. Now talk, live with someone in Afghanistan or Mexico City, or…some other incredible place you otherwise might never look.
The San Francisco Portal is located on 424 Octavia St., right by the Ritual Coffee seatrains, Patricia’s Green, and David Best’s Temple. For it’s last two weeks in SF, the portal is pointed at Afghanistan at night and Mexico City by day (roughly). Next month it’s rumored to move near Stanford and point itself at a Portal in Tehran.
Inside the Portals are a life-size ‘Facetime’ dynamic, only you will not know the person, you will stand face to face with someone from across the world, and speak as if you are in the same room together. If you do not speak the same language as your counterpart, there is a translator there to interpret everything.
When I visited the portal last week it was pointed at El Progreso Honduras, and I had nice conversation with college student named Kittzya who studied electrical engineering and had a passion for her country’s native cultures. At first it was a bit intimidating, stepping into a dark room to meet a stranger, that day’s ‘Portal Curator’ Giselle Malina did her best to put me at ease, she suggested questions I might ask, assured me that I wouldn’t have to use my rusty Spanish if I didn’t want to, and reminded me that the person on the other side was going through the very same dynamic as I was.
And Giselle was right, and the video dynamic, audio, and interpreter worked flawlessly. Both of our nervous glancing at the ground and avoiding eye contact eventually faded away. When I asked my counterpart Kittzya what attracted her to the booth, she told me that she wanted to talk to a real American, because so much of what she hears about the US is manipulated by the media or only seen through pop culture. At that point we shared a smile, and opened up, relaxed and engaged one another. At first I had been apprehensive that the scheduled 20 minute conversation would go too long, but it was quite the opposite, in the end it felt too quick. As we spoke, Honduran school children ran into the booth, and peered at me from behind Kittzya’s legs, grinning, it was wonderful really, it made me want to step through and visit Honduras, it really felt like a window into their world.
If you want to experience the Portal, schedule a time to chat here. If you want to check out the next Portal Event where SF story tellers will trade stories with Afghanistan LIVE check out this event:
STORY SLAM with Afghanistan. Thursday, November 12th from 7:30-9:00pm for a Story Slam between SF and Afghanistan. The theme of the night is “Worlds Apart: Stories of Journeys from SF and Afghanistan.” Listen to true tales of love and adventure as our 3 story tellers in San Francisco pair up with 3 story tellers live in Herat to take you on a journey through time and space. Seats are limited and will be available on a first come first-served basis for a suggested donation of $10. – Dress up warm for this one.