Saturday, October 25, 2008


Finally finished listing all my expenses for reimbursement by Columbia College Chicago - spent considerably less than last year (a big chunk of that was using Skype exclusively for telecommunications). Have been sleeping a lot, but haven't had any of that waking up after a few hours and not being able to go back to sleep that plagued me last year upon return. Am working on my pictures and hope to get them all up on Flickr much mroe quickly than last year. Before that, though, I have to prepare my presentation for Columbia College, so that's my next priority.

I'd like to put up some pictures that I really like but that didn't fit in previously. Here are a few from week 1...

Street scene ini Bangkok.

Vendors outside the temple near our hotel. The stacks of yellow and purple things are garlands of flowers.

Singapore by day.

Singapore by night.

The fried rice from the restaurant of the Kuala Lumpur Hilton hotel (the pink things are salmon chips, and they were better than I thought they'd be).

The chocolate ferris wheel in the KL airport. Each car has the brand name of a different chocolate on it. Mmmmm..... chocolate.

More to come!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

California Here I Come!

Had a lovely final morning in Tokyo before I had to be on the 11:45 bus to the airport.

Started with breakfast at the Palace Hotel...

...then went for a stroll at the Imperial Palace Gardens...

...with my friend Rosemary from Calvin College...

...after which we went to the lounge on the top floor of the hotel...

...where I had an $8 ginger ale.

Arrived in San Francisco approximately three hours before I left Tokyo, thanks to the International Dateline. Very glad to be back at home with Brian and Violet and Mort. Will post some more favorite pics that haven't made it onto the blog yet in the next few days. My thanks to everyone for their comments and support!

Monday, October 20, 2008


Well, we've had our last IIE fair (four hours of soul-crushing boredom), our last school visit (my table was mobbed after one kid who wants to play drums in a jazz band talked to me for a while, then brought all his friends over), and our farewell dinner (we almost got away without any karaoke but failed in the end to restrain ourselves and most assuredly shamed our entire nation). I've been to the Meiji Temple (see below) and have made a date with Rosemary for breakfast tomorrow and a stroll through the Imperial Gardens across the street from our hotel. If all goes according to plan, I have only to board one more bus and two more planes to get home. I've had a great time this year, but am really looking forward to being home.

Some highlights from the past few days:

Sunset at the Beijing Airport.

Mt. Fuji from the plane window.

Favorite building in Harajuku.

Favorite business name in Harajuku.

There was a huge antique market outside the venue of our last IIE fair, causing many of us to stampede the only cash station within several blocks (the vendors did not take credit cards).

My apologies for the fuzzy picture, but the item on the left was called "Barbarian Pumpkin Scone." At least one other person in our group got a better picture than me, I'll try to get it. I did purchase and eat the Barbarian Pumpkin Scone. It was somewhat pumpkiny but not at all barbarous.

Visited the Meiji temple with Emily, Jennifer, Monica, Joan, and Jason on a beautiful fall morning. Am ashamed to report that we stopped at Starbucks both before and after we were there.

Emily, Joe, Jason, and Erick having way too much fun at our farewell dinner at Fujimama's (great food and open bar, it's a wonder we ever left).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Winding Down in Tokyo

Seoul came and went pretty quickly this time, which is a shame since I really like the city. Managed to get to Dunkin' Donuts the morning we left. We had a gathering in the hotel lounge one of the nights in Seoul to help Aaron celebrate his birthday (he travels a lot for his school, and spends his birthday every year now on the Linden fall tour in Asia).

Beijing was very interesting and, according to those in the know, we continued to reap the benefits of the 2008 Olympic games in the improved air quality. There has to be some upside to see those little gymnast girls being replayed on every screen in town.

Took a taxi to Tian 'anmen on our last day in Beijing with my tour buddy, Jeff. Or, at least, we thought we were going there. Taxi driver dropped us off in front of the Palace Museum, where you have to pay the equivalent of about $6 to go into the Forbidden City. No, it's not a lot of money, but just on general principal we decided we would walk to the Square. After much comical consulting of Chinese maps and a seemingly endless trek down a rather dodgy side street, we reached out destination. Peteena insisted on posing with the Mao portrait (knew I shouldn't have brought her!).

Pictures below, first of Seoul and then Beijing.

The plane from Beijing to Seoul featured video from a camera mounted under the plane. The white curved line at the left of the monitor is runway lights. Seeing the plane land in real time and images is not as reassuring as it might seem.

Even the school toilets in the girls washrooms in Seoul come complete with bidet.

Homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey, shot in the walkway between wings of the Lotte Hotel Seoul.

No, it's not the Swine store, it's the S. Wine store in Seoul.

My favorite buildings in Beijing.

Jeff and I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment after finally reaching Tian 'anmen Square.

Erick relaxes with a beer while Aaron listens to us entreating him to cut the cake...

...which we made short work of.

Me with my amazing interpreter, Tony, at the IIE fair in Beijing.

Arrived in Tokyo last night. The schedule is starting to lighten up - we have an IIE fair today (a much more polite affair here than those in China!) and a school fair tomorrow. Scheduled to leave Tokyo on Tuesday around 5pm. Should arrive in San Francisco around 1pm on Tuesday, some four hours before I even left Tokyo. Amazing! Will try to get up one more post before we leave, we get free broadband internet here at the Palace Hotel.

We Meet A Local Deity

We have seen many amazing things on this trip, and met some interesting people. None seems to be as revered as the gentleman pictured with us here. Throngs of people came to pay homage to him, and many gazed upon our person with reverence as well. While we respect the local deities, we find the attire very common and uninspired.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I've reached the point where I've begun counting down everything - how many days, how many cities, how many planes, how many schools (6, 2, 4 and 4 (plus two more big fairs)).

We were in and out of Shanghai pretty quickly. In fact, it felt like we spent more time at the airport than in the city. We got there early for our flight out to Beijing yesterday and had some time to kill (FYI: the airports in socialist/communist countries are not the ones you want to have significant down time in). Then, our plane had a mechanical problem and they changed planes and gates on us, necessitating a LONG walk through the airport (they list well over 200 gates at the Shanghai Pudong Airport), followed by a one-hour delay and jam-packed bus rides to the plane.

Made it to our hotel fairly late, but it is a nice one; much nicer than either of the hotels I've stayed at in Shanghai. But then, if you name your hotel "Shangri La" I guess it had better deliver the goods. My room is huge, but unfortunately a smoking room.

Have not been to Beijing before, and so was quite interested to get a look at it on the bus to International School Beijing this morning. At one point we passed the Olympic Bird's Nest and Swimming cube - much snapping of photos, mine are below.

I'll start with a few (or is that several?) photos from Shanghai and move on to Beijing:

It's not every hotel room where you find your very own, easily accessible, cabinet full of electrical wiring (this in the Hua Ting Hotel and Towers in Shanghai).

Took a nice walk our first day in Shanghai, starting at the hotel and heading toward Shanghai Stadium. Don't even ask me what this guy's about.

The infamous Shangai Institute of International Education Fair.

My favorite shop in the Shanghai Pudong Airport.

Inside the fabulous Shangri-La Hotel Beijing.

Outside the fabulous Shangri-La Hotel Beijing.

We had a nice lunch in a Chinese restaurant near our first school visit today.

The Swimming Cube from the Beijing Olympics (can anyone tell me how to rotate a picture after I've uuploaded it to the blog? I'm too lazy to re-do it.)

A fleeting glimpse of the Bird's Nest.

I must say, they're really milking the Olympics in China. I've seen endless replays in the airports, on outdoor advertising marquees, even in hotel elevators.

Tomorrow, on to Seoul!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Shakin' It In Shanghai

I managed to survive the Shanghai Institute of International Education Fair for a second time - it's probably as close as I'll ever get to the trading floor at the stock market. Or and insane asylum (keeping my fingers crossed on that one). People mob every table, regardless of what school it is, and take everything that isn't nailed down (including my bottle of water!). They elbow each other aside and talk over each other and don't seem to be phased at all when they find out that my school doesn't have an MBA, engineering program, math major, or whatever else they're looking for. They still want to know what our minimum GPA and TOEFL requirements are.

Had a spot of stomach trouble after we left Hong Kong. It was short lived and I'm doing fine now, but I don't have many pictures from Shanghai. Off to Beijing this afternoon (the one city on this tour I haven't been to before). Here are a few pics from our stay in HK:

We chow down at the cafe in the mall below our hotel.

Visited Stanley Market (where I managed not to buy alot of cheap crap).

We gather in the lobby for VERY early morning departure for school visits (don't we look perky?).

Stav and Phi Phi try on sunglasses at the Night Market (yes, there's Stanley Market, a day market, a night market, a weekend market, and probably more in Hong Kong).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

We Wait

Greetings to our Legions of Fans. We know our beloved Legions are concerned for our welfare.
After many months at leisure, we are traveling again. Many hours in darkness, followed by sequestration in various hotels (admittedly fine ones, but prisons nonetheless). We presume these are safety precautions to protect us from our enemies, though how any could not adore us we cannot fathom. Briefly we returned to the land of our great glory, but were cruelly whisked away again. Rumors of unrest; alas, they are not ready for our return.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Morty, Goodwill Ambassador Par Excellence

Walking the dog makes meeting people in our neighborhood much easier. Just this week I've met two families who live on our block, both with kids--the kids are usually interested in Mort, and the moms think he's cute (or at least say he is), and he's his easygoing self, happy to sniff them and be petted or (gently) tugged around. One of the families lives in the house to the north of us, and the other just bought the house that was for sale several doors down.

But Mort's most effective act of good neighboring has been winning over the woman who lives across the street. This is an older woman who is always concerned about where people park. She has (loudly and publicly) expressed her displeasure at our parking in the street rather than in our driveway because it takes up space that folks without driveways could use.

There are a whole bunch of reasons we don't park in our driveway, beginning with the impracticality of shuffling around three cars and a truck belonging to two households, etc., etc. I had been meaning to talk with her at some point, and offer to move our car into our driveway temporarily if she had family or friends visiting her who couldn't find a place to park. In keeping with my conflict-avoidant nature, however, I hadn't quite gotten around to approaching her, afraid that she wouldn't be mollified by this offer, and we'd end up further at odds.

... but it turns out she loves our dog. She called out to Mort & I as we were returning from an afternoon walk earlier this week--actually, what she said was, "I love your puppy." So we had to go across the street and say hello. She couldn't get enough of Mort, just kept petting and praising him, and was perfectly civil to me. Neither she nor I said anything about the whole parking thing. To tell the truth, I wasn't completely sure this was the same woman, because she was much more pleasant.

Then today she was out and greeted us again as we were on the home stretch, so we went over and she invited us into her yard. We hung out for ten or fifteen minutes, she alternately loving on Mort and talking to me. He, of course, made himself right at home on her porch. We eventually got around to talking about the parking issue. Turns out she can no longer drive, but used to have a handicapped designation on the space in front of her house. She likes to have her children park there when they come to visit. I did offer to move our car whenever her people need space, but she said that wouldn't be necessary... I think she just has some frustration about the neighborhood in general (parking, people don't pick up their trash, etc.), but when your neighbors have a pug, how frustrated can you be, really?

So here's a short video in celebration of Mort's natural diplomatic skills. OK, it has nothing to do with that, really, but here's a new Morty video anyway, with a brief cameo from Violet. Sorry it's so underexposed:

Now if only we could convince him that it doesn't behoove a good diplomat to bark at everyone who goes by the side windows...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Odds and Ends

Enjoying a little down time in Hong Kong. We don't have any full days off this trip, but Friday and Saturday are pretty light. We have an IIE fair (Institute of International Education) in the hotel across the street Saturday, but it's over at 4pm and then we have an evening to ourselves. Sunday we check out at noon and head to Shanghai.

Here are some of my favorite pictures that I haven't posted yet.

Melissa entertains us while we wait for a school fair to start.
A banner with the school motto at Overseas Family School in Singapore

Godlove (or, as we call him, G-Love) poses with the scary DHL mascots at the IIE fair in Bangkok.

Passing through clouds on the plane to Ho Chi Minh City.

Elections were drawing near in Bangkok, and there were candidate posters everywhere. Each candidate had a number that had to be listed on their poster. This guy had TONS of posters - he always looked pissed, and usually had the binoculars.

And here are a few new pictures from our brief stop in Kuala Lumpur:

Passing by a huge shopping complex on the bus.

WOW (also shot from the bus).

Lots of people get in each other's way at the reception desk of the JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur.

The younger kids at Mont Kiara School in KL were into some serious jumprope. At one point they had five kids in, and managed to keep that up for half a dozen jumps.

And lastly, while there is little opportunity to go birding on this trip, I have managed to identify a couple of the birds I saw hanging around the pool in HK, like the Spotted Dove: