California Export

Sheila Suarez de Flores / 3 min read / Cli-Fi Imaginarium
21 December 2020

I squint and brace myself against the shocking kiss hello of sunshine. I step onto the deck and pause a second to let the warm embrace soak in. As my eyes adjust, I scan the horizon.

Hmm… seems calm enough. 


Do I think I am the captain? 

Funny, how quickly you get used to new surroundings and find your own self-important little routines.

Oh! What is that? 

A dolphin! 

A glimmer is catching a wave alongside us. 

A second one! 

I sometimes fancy myself a dolphin. Well, when not thinking I am a captain. Free and just catching a ride. This is my first time taking the transpacific route. Despite being on board for the past two weeks in much less space than I am used to, I feel freer than ever. 

“Hi Charlie!”

“Oh, hi Paul!”

Paul hurries off to who-knows-where and my neck muscles relax. He is very nice but I am decidedly not a morning person. Especially, after working a night shift at the cafeteria. I am lucky though. My container neighbors are a nice family from Shanghai, coming back for the summer. Quiet and discrete. My other neighbor is a container full of medicine made using Califorinian local crops, not yet reproduced elsewhere. Also, very quiet. 

Me? I am quiet but on a big adventure. I’m taking off a year before my studies to explore a new country. China! I can’t wait to taste some local delicacies I could never find near me and expand my vision of the world outside of a cell phone screen. I plan to eat a lot of noodles.

“Grgghh Grrrgghhhh…”

Alright… Alright… stomach… I’ll stop by the cafeteria before the gym.

An hour later I find myself gazing out at the seemingly limitless horizon as a bead of sweat trickles down my forehead into my open mouth.


I wipe my mouth on my sleeve and keep straight at it.   

“Shang-dy-an zai naal-eee?”

I mechanically mouth the words that struggle to find their fit in my brain. I still have an hour until Mandarin class. An hour to try to wedge it in before more is piled on. 


My favorite robot congratulates me on another hour of light use generated. It is not required, but sure is gratifying to move my body and keep our reserves up. 

Now where was I?

“Shang-dy-an zai naal-eee?”

Image by Jack R Castles

Avatar photo Sheila Suarez de Flores An American in France At the wise age of 14, Sheila was relieved to figure out she would always be a poet at heart, no matter her life path. Since then, she has moved countries (USA to France), swing danced a lot and changed careers four times. Currently, she is working in sustainability change facilitation and design. Meanwhile, she still writes prose, essays and short stories. Follow some of her adventures here: and essays here: View all posts
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