Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Photos From East Lansing

I really fell down on the job of finishing this post about my trip to East Lansing. The upshot of it was that Y and I went to the library and worked and talked a lot. It does not seem momentous, but it did somehow change things in my mental landscape. It made me feel worthwhile and appreciated.

At about mid-afternoon, Y went home to take care of her daughter. I stayed on at the library, working very hard. I did, however, seize my one opportunity to walk around and look at things. Below are pictures I took during a half-hour walking around break I decided to take. I was worried about getting lost in the town-sized campus, so I decided just to make a circuit around the library (clock-wise).

One of the most noticeable land-marks was a big tower:

Here is a picture of the library, which was spacious and new-feeling, and had pretty reflective windows:

As I went around the corner, my attention was immediately captured by a river that was flowing by behind the library. It was a good-sized river!

There was a bridge over it, whence I took this picture. On the other side of the bridge was a stadium I think.

Back to the back-side of the library, where there was an awesome botanical garden. It was all under snow of course, but it must be really gorgeous in the summer:

Two plants from the botanical garden, some winter-hardy collard-type green, and something with white fluff.

Finally, on the far side of the library from where I'd started, ornamental grasses:

And a dry fountain, in which the snow had been shaped (raked? stamped down? shoveled?) into an impressively clean spiral pattern. It was quite startling and very nice really, like a zen garden.

It was pretty cold, so after one circuit around the library I was quite happy to get back inside. I worked really hard, both that evening and the next morning. Y came to the hotel again, and we discussed some questions I had as well as chatting more generally about the field we are both in. And then the shuttle driver took me back to the train station.

The trip was really worthwhile, even if the hotel was a bit pricey. (It WAS very comfortable anyway, good place to work.) I came back feeling a lot more confident.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Morning in East Lansing

It's not so often that I see the sun rise anymore. When I first met Pocket of Bolts, our apartments both had east-facing views (we were practically neighbors!), so we saw the sunrise very often, nearly every morning. None of the places we've lived in since have been like that though.

East Lansing must be very far north, because I had showered and dressed and gone downstairs to an expensive "continental" breakfast in the hotel restaurant, and come back to my room--and only then was it rising. Lazybones winter sun, early to bed, late to rise.

Here's another picture of the sunrise, with me in it because of the reflection. Pity about the window frame, but oh well. Still it gives a sense of the colors involved.

I must say I'm quite fond of this little hotel room. Everything here seems very solid. The wood is actually wood. It feels solid, like it was built to last. The walls feel solid too, and the wallpaper is a tasteful fibrous sort of textured stuff that reminds me of expensive writing paper. I have yet to turn on the flat, wide-screen TV, but it certainly minimizes the amount of space the TV takes up.

Oh and I forgot to mention the shower thing--it worked a lot better than I would have expected. It turns out that a wrap-around shower-curtain pretty much keeps all the water it. A separated-off shower stall turns out to be an unnecessary luxury. Despite my trepidations, the process went pretty much as usual, without a hitch.

But of course what you really want to know about is Y, my friend and professor from Beijing whom I was here to meet. She came to my room sometime after nine. I was a little nervous, but as soon as I saw her again, we both were very warm and friendly. Fortunately, the room was tidy enough and we each perched on one the beds and had quite a long chat. I bit the bullet and described my dissertation project to her. She seemed to think it was interesting, though she remarked on what a departure it was from what we had been talking about before. But not in a bad way.

She described the way she feels here surrounded by an academic culture very different from her own. It's such a shock, she said, and makes her doubt the worth of her own work. How well I understood that feeling!! I had felt exactly the same way in Beijing. Having at least some sense of both sides, I talked with her for some time about just how those differences in academic culture played out, some of the ways I had found of conceptualizing them, and how she might reconcile what she's doing to "our" way of doing things. We talked about her current research (I thought it was fascinating, and totally beyond anything I'd be able to do in half a lifetime, probably!), and how she might present that to a Western audience.

Finally, we got to talking about the project at hand, the translation/book proposal I had come here to help her with. But here I must leave you for now, because I want to do put in some more work on it before I get too tired. I leave you with just this picture of me lounging around in the hotel room. Many more pictures and thoughts from this afternoon still to come in the next post.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I Go to East Lansing

Suddenly things came together for me to make a trip to East Lansing to meet with a professor I had known in Beijing. In general I am timid about arranging things, and deeply reluctant to disrupt my familiar routines. But suddenly I found myself taking the initiative, making all the arrangements, and hopping on an Amtrak, all within a 48 hour time frame. Sometimes you feel like the universe is pointing a finger at you and saying, Okay, now or never. Go to it!

I had given my final exam this morning, and left for the train straight from school (after a few hours of errand-running and general bustle). Here are some pictures I made out the train window. It was a dreary drizzly day, and got dark very early. Of course none of the pictures are entirely in focus, but there's always something wonderful about catching a tiny moment of landscape as it hurtles past.

It's like a story-book world. The photo quality isn't good, but somehow they seem to have more feeling and interest in them than photos of things that are still. No?

The hotel sent a little shuttle to come pick me up at the train station. The driver was very nice and told me things about MSU, such as that it is practically self-sufficient and like a town unto itself. I had forgotten that MSU is the gargantuan one! I hope things work out all right with meeting my professor tomorrow. Clearly there's no just "wandering over to the library" the way I had kind of envisioned. I mean I had downloaded a campus map. I just hadn't realized the scale...

Here is a picture of my little hotel room for Pocket of Bolts. It is not a very good picture, but I will try to take some more interesting ones tomorrow. It is a small room but comfortable. It has the feeling of being nice quality but spartan. I suppose that's appropriate given the mascot of MSU (the spartan, ha ha). There are two interesting things about it: it has a flat screen TV, and there is no bathtub. The shower is just a corner of the bathroom that has a drain in the floor, and divided off just by a curtain, not even by a glass wall. So everything in the bathroom is quite water-proof. But I'm not complaining. It's comfortable. The sheets are soft. There's a little desk and nice-smelling soap, and wireless of course.

I miss Pocket of Bolts! But aside from that, I am doing pretty well. My professor called me a while ago, and we arranged to meet here at 9 tomorrow, so I had better turn in. I didn't get much sleep last night, and I am quite weary!

But stay tuned for my further adventures.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Thanksgiving of Two Families

An Essay in Mostly Pictures

My parents' flight was canceled, and they had to be rerouted, and instead of having a relaxing afternoon with them and a pleasant dinner, I didn't get to see them until one in the morning, when they straggled in very weary and relieved to have arrived.

Pocket of Bolts' mom, however, arrived the next day and had no trouble with her flight. Here are the four of them bundled up to go out on our first night all together.


We don't usually get the paper, but my dad likes reading it in the morning. As it turns out, Pocket of Bolts does too.


The whole troupe came down to our school to see our offices and classrooms. Here is my mom and me at a restaurant I really like. Love this picture; wish it hadn't come out so blurry.

Here is just a random picture of Pocket of Bolts looking very tall in our red living room. Mostly our high-ceilinged apartment makes us look dwarfish, but this must have been some funny trick of perspective. Doesn't he look jolly?

We worked hard on this puzzle. It was a good ice-breaker. It was a thousand pieces, and depicted some kind of peaceable kingdom jungle scene in which the lion lay down with the lamb (but only the lion got a good night's sleep, as the saying goes). Pocket of Bolts and I found it particularly addictive. Mom and dad are old hands. PoB's mom didn't think she would enjoy it, but eventually she got into it too.


It was a white Thanksgiving.


In the middle of the day we all went for a walk down to the lake. The snow had mostly melted by then.


Then we were tired. I crawled in under the futon on the floor (on which we'd been sleeping, having given all our beds to guests).


Everyone else made themselves useful in the kitchen, and produced a magnificent feast. (I like how the picture of me standing next to the table makes me look like I was responsible for the feast! Actually, I hardly lifted a finger.)


Pocket of Bolts' mom rolling up her sleeves to tackle the great mountain of dishes.


The two moms sitting side by side, followed by my dad chatting with Pocket of Bolts' mom. Note that this was the first time our parents had met each other.


My bro said this picture of me in my pjs made me look about fourteen. My Chinese friend said it made me look elegant and cultured. Different visual codes are so funny.


Pocket of Bolts' mom left early on Friday morning. Also, it got cold and some water that had collected in our deck chairs froze, capturing a stray leaf.


My parents stayed on, and while dad rested, mom and I went all over town trying on wedding dresses. One of the places we went was the Macy's bridal salon, which proved to be way too fancy for us. However, I did try on this dress which had an incredibly beautiful train. And also we saw the gorgeous ceiling of the old Marshall Fields building. We thought the Macy's very poorly laid out--bad signage, illogical arrangement. It was a frustrating place to get around in and I can see why Chicagoans are so resentful of its taking over from Marshall Fields.


Well, that's my photo-essay on Thanksgiving. Sorry it is so belated! But the whole thing was grand and exhausting and came right before I had to start doing a lot of work for the end of the term... so I'm only now getting to it...