June 14, Mon.
Last night's sleep wasn't bad. Breakfast at 7. The kind of energetic life is what I need but didn't or couldn't manage to have for a long time. I hope this trip will save me from my irregular and passionless life. It sounds pathetic, but I really think so.
A day has gone by. It's the second day now. The ship will sail out at 1500 today. Hopefully we can see the ship leaving the port before it gets dark. The faculty will have to meet 9-12, 1300-1430, and 1500-1600. I get a little in between time to take photos. Evening is reading and writing time.
The ship finally left Portland at 3pm . I take a few photos of the ship leaving. I also take photos of sunset from the deck outside thefaculty lounge. It is so chilly and windy. Lots of clouds, not a reddish purple kind of sunset. I really hope I will encounter some awesome, glorious, unforgettable sunset somewhere inthe ocean.
The ship goes into the ocean in the evening. My fear comes true: the swinging ship does cause discomfort in me, and I almost stay awake all night. After 3pm I start to get used to the swinging.
June 15, Tue.,sunny
Get up at 0630 to catch breakfast. One thing about shipboard life is that there's always plenty of time to meet and know people. During breakfast I chat with Wenzsu, a young man working in the computer lab. We are soon joined by Zheya the political science professor, and Kate the libarian and her husband Dave. We plan to do some shopping when we get to Vancouver.
Wenzsu tells me that the ship was sailing in full speed, 30 knots an hour. No wonder the Explorer is the fastest passenger vessel in the world. During the breakfast it slowed down. From the ship we can see the shore and mountains, some of which are still covered with snow.
The 0900 facultymeeting is postponed to 1000. Soon it turns out that we are to have a lifeboat drill. After the signals, all passengers are asked to put on life vests,and walk to the designated life boat. We are called by cabin number, andchecked if we are dressed warm, which means long sleeves, pants, etc. Women and children are asked to stand in the front, and men in the back. It is actually pretty interesting.
Its then the faculty meeting on the global studies course. The law program gets togetherafter the meeting. It turns out that I need to give grades (and be able to defend on the grades if necessary) before I leave the ship in Hong Kong. It is then agreed that I will give mystudents the exam after the 9th class, on the Korea/China day. TheKorean break follows the exam, so I will be able to grade the exams during thisperiod, and return the grades to the students at Class 10. Thetask of preparing exams for the two courses becomes imminent.
The ship arrives in Vancouver in the afternoon. People went to the decks to see her sailing intothe port. Photo time again.
Meeting meeting meeting! There's thefaculty/staff meeting on student life. Lee the student life directorentertains all of us by doing a Universal Apprentice show with his residentdirectors (RDs). He plays the Trump who dismisses or sanctions studentsfor their misbehaviour. I cannot think of everyone else who's more suitable for his job.
Zheya, his sonJun and I go to downtown Vancouver to get some warm clothes. We've all underestimated the cold air onboard. I am too stupid to bring my Canadian dollars with me. Now I have to exchange some US dollars in a convenicent store. A jacket for $15, acoffee mug for $17 , not bad, isn't it:)
One thing Zheya and I are both dying to do is to check emails. There is no phone, no Internet on the ship. I didn't know I could survive that long without the Internet. But there are some emails that you have to deal with. Work at home is pressingl, which really takes me back to the old depressive mood. We then havesushi. Vancouver is perhaps the cheapeast city to have sushi - as far as my knowledge is concerned. Call my dear hubby, but cannot reach him. Now it's the real world: work is pressing, and husband is not around! I have to try very hard to leave these thoughts behind.
Don't know if I'll leave the ship tomorrow. Maybe I should rather stay and get some work done? I'll see which mood I'll be in tomorrow and then decide.
June 16, Wed.
Marilyn, zheya, her son Jun and I go to downtown Vancouver. The funny thing is we keep running into semester at sea voyagers - as if this city is but an extention of our ship. Marilyn and I go to check emails. Zheya and chun go to see the city. Marilyn invites tons of people to eat at this downtown restaurant Cincin at 6. when we get there, Kate and Dave are already there. A wonderful dinner.
Everybody is amazed by Marilyn's enthusiasm and big personality. She remembers everybody's name in such a short time. She talks with every kid onboard. She tries to get people together. She surely knows lots of things. She's just great. She even wants to pay for my meal because I'm still a student. Normally I would feel bad if other people do that to me, but I know she means to help and nothing else. I can feel all the energy in her, and see everyone else cannot help but being drawn into the shining rays around her.
June 17, thur.
Today is the day students check in. The faculty is going to have a FDP (faculty directed program, usually refers to field trips in ports of call) to the UBC museum of anthropology. Those who don't join the FDP are encouraged to greet students at the check in stations. Marilyn of course chooses to greet students and offer them a warm and energetic start. I, on the other hand, am not interested in either.
I start to worry about the teaching. Today is the check in day. Tomorrow is the orientation and alska/Russia day, with lots of activities scheduled. After these two days we will be in Sitka. Then there will be the first class. There is not much time left to get prepared. Since it is the first time I teach these two courses - Chinse contract law and Chinese courts, I am pretty nervous. So I decide to stay in my cabin all day to work on the teaching.
The result isn't too bad. I read a while and prepare for the first three sessions of the contract law course. For the court course I basically need only to follow my own writing. The thing I worry most is though, how to get American students who know nothing about Chinese law to discuss specific topics of Chinese law?
At dinner I meet with Fuji's wife Rebecca, who?s also currently a ph.d. student, working on women's movements in Korea. We find that we have many similar issues to deal with at this stage of our lives, and Rebecca kindly suggests the two of us form a graduate support group. We agree that in 10 days we will exchange a chapter, which is exactly the day before we arrive in Russia. This is indeed a wonderful incentive to keep me going.
Unfortunately there is the lengthy community-wise meeting, even though all the issues have been covered in the previous faculty meetings. It is followed by another faculty meeting, which gets me to think that unlike normal universities, we have been spending a tremendous amount of time on these organizational issues. Maybe it's necessary for the community building. Maybe it's the pragmatic side of me coming out and feeling troubled and bothered. At time of this I really hope I could be like Marilyn.
Nicole is indeed a great dean and a great person. Despite her prestigious position as the academic dean, she has been very humble to everyone and considerate to every need that faculty members brings. If it were me I would freak out that people ask all sorts of questions without realizing the limits of my ability and time. People ask her questions on equipments, syllabus, computers, library, etc. etc., while for some problems they could have gone to the library and ask the librarian there instead of taking her precious time. But she remains very nice and patient to everybody and every question that's raised.
June 18, Friday
Today is the Alaska/Russia day, which means there will be lectures and preports on Alaska and Russia. The ship seems to hit some rough water, and so has been rolling and pitching quite a lot. Out side the clinic on Deck 2 there is a huge bag full of pills for seasickness. I take one, but have no idea if it will work. Although I slept quite well last night, I have been feeling drowsy all day today. Guess the pill is working then.
In the morning we have the introduction session where every faculty and stuff member is introduced to the students. Afterwards each faculty member goes to sit at a table in the dining room at Deck 5, so that students can shop around and meet the profs. Quite a number of law students come to talk with me. They seem nice and polite - as far as the first meeting is concerned, which is a bit encouraging for someone such as me who has never taught in a law school. More people seem interested in the courts course than the contract course. I ask two of them why they do not want to take the contract course, one of them said that it is because they did not do well with contracts. I guess the first year contracts scared quite a few.
Maybe the pill is working too well. I take two naps (!) in the morning, one after breakfast, one after the meeting with students session by skipping the global studies session. I don't know if it's caused by the motions of the ship, but it has impacted on my normal functioning especially in terms of reading and writing. I decide to go to see the doctor, see if using a patch - which supposes to be stronger - will help. The nurse tells me that the drowsiness must be caused by both the pill and the motions, and for people who just start to take the pills perhaps half a tablet is enough.
Right, the one thing that is worthy of recording most : I saw 3 dolphins passing our ship during lunch. They jumped out of the surface a couple of times, but were soon left behind by our ship. They were black and white. Some people saw two whales, mother and baby, in the morning, which unfortunately I didn't see.
I attend the two Alaska sessions in the afternoon, but take another nap after that. After dinner I go to the faculty lounge for reading, while watching the sunset at the meantime. I thought for a second that I should bring my camera alone, but it would perhaps be a lot to carry: books, a pen, a coffee mug, and a camera. The task is even more difficult considering the ship is moving while I am walking! I probably should not expect myself taking photos at all times. I decide that I should give myself some time just to sit, relax, and read.
Before going to bed I set the alarm for 6 in the morning. I am determined to get up early to watch the ship approaching the shore. It is 11pm already, so I better go to sleep.
June 19, Saturday
I wake up before 5. Perhaps because I had too much sleep yesterday. Eventually I get up at6. When I arrive at the garden lounge, the kitchen crew are still cleaning. So I goto the upper deck to take a few shots. We are approaching Sitka. The shape ofthe mountains are gorgeous, water peaceful. So many fishing boats in the early morning. By thetime breakfast is ready, we can already see the small town of Sitka, and sunlightbecomes strong.
We can only getto Sitka by tender, which means we have to take a boat to get to the town. During our stay in Sitka we implement the fresh water preservation policy, therefore there isno fresh water between 0930 and 1800.
I work for about an hour before going to lunch. I catch the 1200 tender, and then call my dear hubby in Sitka(finally!). We are both excited about this first phone call. Its Alaska, my dear!
Then it is time for the1300-1600 wildlife quest trip. Before the trip I thought it all depends on luck whether we will havesome major spotting. Either I was wrong or we did have luck. We first see acouple of black dots, which turn out to be 3 or 4 sea otters. They are soonscared away and the shots I take are vague and remote. That is bad, I am thinking, maybe thats it, we wont see other otters.
But I was wrong again.Soon we start to see whales. They are Humpback whales. We can see their back and tale. The nice guide tells us thatit is common to see a mother and a cub together, and the mother will turn the taleup while the cub wont (or cant). It turns out there are quite a few whalesaround. We are told that they come from Hawaii. Female humpback whales mate and give birth to cubs in the warmwater around Hawaii, stay there for a couple of months till the cubs are oldenough, and then go north here to have a good feast. They breath, divein, and then breath again. A circle like this usually takes 5 or 6 minutes. Researchersfind that such circles can take as long as 45 minutes. Today we see as short as2.
Then there arethe lovely sea otters. At first we see many black dots in front of us, kind ofstill. As we get closer, we see that the black dots are actually moving. The details start to emerge: theirtiny little heads, tales, the way they swim (many ways in fact), the way theylay still on the surface with head, tale and two hands(?) up like they aresleeping.
Just when Ithink that the trip is about the end, we are brought close to a big rock inthe water. The captain says we will see stellar sealions. Then they appearbefore us, so many of them, bathing in the sun, on the rock, near the water. Theyare big, fat, and cute! The sounds they make are quite different from that of the elephantseals that I encountered in California.
The captain then brings us near a bald eagle nest. I do not see any bird in the nest, but take a lot of photos of the nest with my telephoto lens. When I look at the pictures, I find there IS a bald eagle in it!
The trip endswithout regret. It is 1600 now. I then take a little tour of Sitka by myself. It is a good time to buy postcards, write and send them out to family and friends. They must be very surprised and excited when they receive a postcard from Alaska!
After dinner,I chat with Bill, an engineer student from Berkeley and his roommateLogan. We end up talking about the American Idol "star" William Hung.
The two days in Sitka has been very hot. According to local sources, the record high temperature in Sitka at this time of year is 86 degrees, and yesterday it’s 82.
Today I wake up at 4, and decide to get up to catch the sun rise. The morning hue is colourful and gentle, although less breathtaking than I had expected. Unfortunately the sun is blocked by the mountains. What I see is basically a gradual lighting. I take quite a number of pictures, trying to practice the nuances among different speeds, apertures and exposure compensation.
At breakfast I sit with Rebecca and get to talk about the frustration and depression that we both have been experiencing. It feels nice to know that I am not the only one who is having a difficult time doing a ph.D.
Then I take the 0730 tender to get to the town. There aren't too many tourists around. I wander in the streets of Sitka, taking photos of things that I regard as interesting, some of which could be nice one, such as the one of the harbour in the morning light.
The historic park is quite soothing and relaxing a place. Tall trees, totem poles, ravens (I thought they are crow, but in fact they are much larger, almost as big as chicken), and all sorts of singing birds makes me feel that I am in an ancient rain forest.
On my way back, I see a woman working in the garden of the Bishop’s house. I approach her to ask her the names of the flowers I shot earlier. She’s quite fascinated at seeing the pictures. Then we start to talk about technology, travel, life in Alaska, etc. she is originally from Wisconsin. Brought up in a farmer's family, she never left home until one day she pursued her dream all alone to Europe. Then she followed a good friend of hers to Alaska, spent 20 years in the Kenai Peninsula, and then moved to sitka. Now she inputs data for a local school. The coat she wears while working in the garden indicates that she volunteers for the gardening work. She asks to take a photo of me, and then I take quite a few photos of her, her alone, her with her garden, and her with the bishop’s house. Amazed by the fact that I can take numerous shots and delete those I don’t want, she happily poses for me. In the end we exchange contact info.
It feels great to make friends like that while you travel. It feels as if I stay longer we could talk about just about anything. I don’t know if it’s her personality, or the facts that simple life in Alaska makes people more open and friendly and less suspicious of strangers. I keep smiling and saying "hi" to passing cars and people, as they do the same to me. Of course not every one of them would do so. But it’s pretty certain that if it's a local - young or old - you’ll almost certainly get a generally sincere smile back. But if it’s a tourist, not every time you’ll get a sincere smile back, and sometimes your smile will just be ignored (which I tested).
I return to the ship at 1100. Talk with marilyn for a while after lunch, and meet Chris, a young man from China. I am surprised that there is a Chinese undergraduate student onboard, because the fees for a SAS term is quite an amount in Chinese currency. It turns out that his university (shan tou university) recently starts to send students to take part in SAS. Chris is the second student in his university to get to be here. Candidates are to be selected through essay exams, and then interviewed by their Berkeley-graduated principal. Chris must be doing extremely well to stand out among so many students.
After a lengthy nap in the afternoon, I get about one hour before dinner to work on my teaching. On the deck outside the garden lounge I meet a senior passenger from Vancouver, who indicates a strong interest in China. I happily invites him to join in my class tomorrow.
It’s 2330 now. The ship is rocking. I take half a tablet of Dramamine, hoping it will work. Time to sleep.
June 21, 2004
A busy and exciting day. See doll’s porpoises at breakfast, have classes (one in the morning and one in the afternoon, each lasts for 75 minutes) all day, and then attend the law program meeting on textbooks at night. There is not much textbook problem for my classes, but I cannot just leave to prepare for next day's classes because the meeting goes on and on... This is the biggest issue at SAS: there is so much to do - reading writing teaching meeting talking eating watching photographing sleeping - and yet so little time!
June 22, overcast – sunny
Our ship arrives at Kodiak at 0811. Because I did not purchase the field programs until the last moment, I am only able to take part in one program in Kodiak, which is the city orientation trip from 0830 to 1230. The local guide Jeff knows a lot about the city. He is from maine, and has been in Kodiak for 9 yrs. But I don’t like the city much - perhaps because I did not get to see the grizzlies. The last item of the city tour is watching Alutiiq dancing, performed by a local native group. That actually is the highlight of the day. It’s not those formal, well planned, sort of commercial, just for tourists kind of thing. Their native gawns are in black, red and white: black for Alaska, red for Alutiiq people, white for happiness (or something else that I can't remember). There are two boys sitting at the middle of the stage, with the girls and women circling around them. They would do a short dance, singing in their native language, with two girls drumming on the sides. Then one of the women, apparently the organizer, would ask someone to come up to tell the audience what the next song is about and what the dancing means. One of the boys is about 6 or 7 years old. The woman tells us that he is doing pretty well since he only practiced for 2 days. The older boy (about 13 I think) dances very well, as he has practiced for 9 years.
At noon I get off at downtown, trying to call my hubby. But his voice message says he’s in Iowa. Because of the 3 hours time difference, I have to stay at least till 2pm to get ahold of him. The bad dream last night about us breaking up really made me want to hear his voice badly. I meet Chris the Japanese literature professor, his wife Shigeko, and their two girls Bridget and Erica, have lunch with them at Mcdonald, then go to look for a payphone. There seems to be only one location with payphones, and there’s already been 3 persons waiting. Since there are 3 payphones, I think it shouldn’t be too long. But I am wrong. I end up waiting for more than 1 hour, which feels like a decade. I am so bored I have to play with my camera and shoot anything around. Fortunately one of the seagull shots looks pretty nice. And finally I hear his voice.
June 23 is lost. We slept at the night of June 22, and wake up in the morning of June 24. The ship has been rocking badly. I was trying to prepare for the courts class (there is no such thing as over-preparation for me!), but found myself heavily influenced by the motions, and had to lie down on bed. Fortunately I have prepared for the course last night.
The morning session doesn’t go well, since quite a number of students feel seasick, and one even has to leave in the middle of class. I also find it difficult to stand straight. There is not much participation. I don’t know if it’s because of lack of interest (this 2nd class is about the political structure of China), or lack of concentration of minds. Most students seems unfamiliar with the reading materials - perhaps people are too excited about being on the ship, or perhaps rules of Chinese political structure are less interesting then concrete cases that they have been used to in US law schools.
After class I rush to the clinic to get a patch for the seasickness - it is said to be more effective than the pill but requires prescription. A tiny patch costs 7 dollars, but lasts for 3 days. It seems quite effective on me, and I feel much better in the afternoon.
The afternoon class of Contracts goes pretty well - at least I’m satisfied. It’s about traditional society and law. Students seem confused, yet interested. Participation is not too bad - maybe because it’s easy to comment on contracts, business and society than the political structure of a state.
During lunch I realize that our oceanology profosser Billy’s wife Jeanne is a commercial artist and an expert in image processing. Jeanne is indeed a lovely lady and a passionate professional. She is also very kind to offer to teach me some basic skills of Photoshop Element (which I have in my laptop) after I express my interest. After dinner I visit her in her nice cabin on the 7th floor. Soon we both become excited about the amazing world of photography and digital processing. She teaches me how to use functions of Photoshop Element, and shows me her work. I learn a lot. And her work is just fabulous. I also show her some of the pictures I took, and am happy to hear that she thought I have potentials in that. For a beginner such as me, it is very encouraging to hear these words from an artist, even if she only intended to encourage me:)
I spend more than 2 hours with Jeanne, and have to leave because I have not finished preparing for tomorrow’s class.
The clock was turned back an hour last night, and I had a good sleep. Since I spent half of the night learning about Photoshop Element last night, I really appreciate this extra hour.
Again the morning class doesn't go as well as the afternoon class.
The seasickness patch makes me thirsty all the time - I never imagine that I could possibly be this thirsty, as I can even hear the sounds of dryness in my mouth as I speak. It is said that dry mouth, blurry vision, and memory loss are common side effects of the seasickness patch (among others). I guess I should not complain: what if I have to teach with a memory loss?
The Clock will be turned back one hour again this evening.
June 26, Sat.
The past few days haven’t seen good weather. We’ve had heavy fog and rain. Rumour has it that we might run into a typhoon, which sounds terrible. But another rumor says the typhoon has gone south. Sailing in a gray, foggy day really makes me feel that we are in the middle of nowhere.
I can't stand the dryness in my mouth. Following friends' advice, I took off half of the seasickness patch (because they said half is enough even for big people). Hope it still works.
Another day of teaching. Class 4 has gone. I’m so happy that the courses are almost half way through. The morning class is a bit more active than the afternoon one, perhaps because we were talking about judges and law students all know something about judges. As usual, class split into two groups, those who speak and those who don’t. Among those who speak, I can also see that some are more confined to the kind of US law school reasoning, while some are more open to issues outside rules and stereotypes. At one point I threw out a story in which a village farmer and a urban woman disputed over some informal dealting, disagreeing on whether there is a binding agreement. Quite a few students attempted to use rules they learned from their first year contracts to find that there is a binding contract and therefore the farmer should lose the case. Some had sympathy for the farmer whose perception was shared by his community, trying to find an argument for the farmer within the doctrinal framework. Still others tried to think about the reception of modern law in traditional society, arguing that formal modern law might not be understood by villagers and may even cause the villagers to lose faith in law. I really enjoied seeing the arguments going in various directions.
A student asked me to support their request to the dean to use the faculty lounge (for the alcohol, of course, as it is the only place on the ship where you can get it on a regular basis). During the 5pm faculty meeting this issue was raised but faculty members are reluctant to share this private and quiet place with alcohol-loving fun-chasing law students (and turn it into a bar). Finally it’s decided that the faculty will invite various groups of students to the faculty lounge at various time, so that they could enjoy it at some given time.
8pm is the safety meeting and cultural preport for Petropavlovsk. By the time I get back to my cabin it’s already after 2100. I haven’t read tomorrow’s materials yet.
Clock is turning back one hour tonight. It is Petropavlovsk-Kamchatka time now.
[Today the sun sets at 2246.
Tomorrow the sun will rise at 0559.]
The morning class today is about the judicial process - it goes not too bad. At the beginning I ask students to guess how many justices the Supreme People’s Court of China have. It is entertaining to have them to a multiple choice on this and amaze them by telling the fact: over 100. Imagine they know nothing about the Chinese system and have in mind the 9 justices of the US Supreme Court.
The a fternoon class is a bit easy today because students are assigned to group discussions on a set of Chinese economic contract cases in early 1980s . The students find these cases funny – almost in a ridiculous way – since all the cases ended with a paragraph stating that all parties are happy or satisfied. Then they are invited to think about deeper questions: why the judges had to talk to the party officials, and commune/brigade leaders? Why did they feel obligated to educate the people? Why didn’t they mention specific articles of the law? In the one case that the articles were mentioned, why? Why did they always mention policies? Why did they feel the need to tell in the end of the story that everyone is happy or that the court did the right thing? In the next class (after we leave Russia) I will summarize these thoughts, starting with describing the political economic and cultural conditions at the time, talking about how the roles of the law and of the judiciary should not be taken for granted, how the law and the judiciary start to gain the legitimacy, how contracts are gaining increasing recognition, and how massive legal transplantation may fail.
I sit in the garden lounge between 5 and 6 as this is my office hour. I saw Chris, the undergraduate student from China talking with his friends. He seems doing very well in this floating campus. Making friends and emerging into the American culture in such a short time isn't very easy. It is nice that he didn’t confine himself in a small circle. The young generation in China are not as shy and introversive as we used to be. This indeed is a generation free of all burdens from the past.
At the logistic preport at 2000, Woody announces that because of their incompetence, the ISE has fired the Zierra visa service. Of course the announcement was followed by a round of long applause. Numerous terrible stories about this incompetent visa service have been circulated among the shipboard community. The worst I heard so far is Fuji and Rebecca’s: their passports arrived at their home 3 hours before they left for the trip!
Tomorrow my volcano-hiking trip in PK will gather in Classroom 3 at 1030.
I decide to prepare for tomorrow's hiking by going to bed early, but as I stare outside my cabin window I am stunned: the entire sky is orange! And it is already after 2200! How can I miss it? I grab my camera and rush to the faculty lounge. Several faculty members are already there. Turns out that this is the most beautiful sunset in my life.
(this photo is taken at 22:41.)
June 28, sunny
I wake up at 6am, glance outside the window, see the port, and goes back to sleep. The earliest field trips are supposed to gather at 0830. My trip (for hiking and camping at Avachinsky) is scheduled to gather at 1030. I realize that I am having a cold; and to make things worse, my monthly cycle has comedown to the weakest point:(... It is almost the worst time to camp outdoor and hike a volcano, but I really don't want to miss the trip...
On the way to dining room, I see Russian officers in uniform, checking passports and issuing visa for those who have not yet obtained a Russian visa. Things seem not going smoothly. At 1100 those supposed to leave at 0830 are still on the ship. The major reason - it is said - is that last year a couple of semester at sea students made good friend with a Russian kid, decided to improve his life by smuggling him onto the ship, and even managed to pass the port security, but eventually got caught at the gangway. The students had benign intentions, but as an immediate result they were expelled from SAS. More importantly for our matter, the Russian immigration officers become extremely strict on SAS after this event. Around 12 we finally made it to the tender. We were asked earlier to bring passport with us in Russia all the time.
After going through the passport check, people separate into their trip groups. Grabing a lunch box, soon we get to the trucks that are going to take us to the volcano. The trucks surprise us all. The two trucks are military style, old and worn, with big and tall tires – I guess they are from the Soviet time. Each holds about 20 of us. After a long and bumpy drive through dirt roads, dry river bed, and bushes, we finally arrive the base camp, 900 metres above the sea level.
Sleepbags and tents are distributed, guides introduced, and a nice meal served in the big wooden house. Then we are told that we will hike Avachinsky tomorrrow morning, but as warmup we are going to hike a nearby small hill called Camel today.
Camel indeed looks tiny. I thought it is nothing to hike a small hill like that, but I was wrong. The road to Camel is long, muddy and icy, and steadily ascending. I was soon left behind, with everyone else passing me by. I decide that I should not push myself too hard. I tell one of the guides that I will not finish the hike, and Sasha the Volcanologist escorts me back.
Sasha can only speak several words of English, and I can only say "thank you" in Russian. But somehow we manage to communicate with our hands, smiles, and pen. Sasha is a sweet and patient gentleman. Realizing that I am a photography fanatic, he frequently stops at various points and waits patiently until I finish the shots. I dedicate my favorite Camel shot to him.
June 29, overcast, rained a little bit
Last night was spent camping at the base camp. The ground is so hard, the mat so thin, that my back hurts a lot. It was so cold I had to put on all my clothes. I think my cold is getting worse, and my body resists any kind of movements. Once again I think, this is the worst timing for a volcano hiking!
Volcano Avachinsky, Russians call it Avacha. A long ascending. Like yesterday, I have to quit earlier. A young man becomes allergic to something he ate at breakfast and have to quit as well. Our youngest guide Vasily accompanies us back. The descending is much scarier. On the way back we get to experience the changeable weather of Petropavlovsk: winds and clouds would come and go in 5 minutes - you think it's a fine day, next minute it looks like it's going to have a storm; you start to worry about the storm, next minute the winds and clouds are all gone and the sky is as clear as ever! Because there are only the three of us, I get to have time to make photography stops. Using my telephoto lens, I take photos of a nearby volcano named Koryaksky. Koryaksky, or Koryaka, is a much more symmetric volcano and is said to be much harder to hike than Acacha. Standing on Avacha, looking at the light on the top of Koryaka, I suddenly have a strange feeling that I don't know how to describe. At the remote place that I never imagined I would come oneday. With people that I never anticipated to meet. Hiking a volcano while having a cold. Feeling a little dizzy while seeing a beam of light hit a volcano in front of me, like a pyramide being visited by ET....
As the clouds clear up, volcanos in the far sight start to reappear. My telephoto lens catches another symmetric volcano in the clouds (long after the trip is over my lovely guide Vasily would tell me in an email that its name is Viluchinsky).
We are the first to return to the base camp. The group will not return until a couple hours later. I get to talk to Vasily the 18 years old guide, Raisa the cook, and even played with two cute marmots at the base camp (who have no fear for human).
June 30, overcast
People say that PK has good and cheap caviar which could be a nice gift idea. So we set out for the open market in the morning - although my interest is not in caviar but the city. Walking in the streets of PK is an interesting experience: you see a city without design, and with old and shabby buildings, fashionable people, and wandering dogs and cats, all peacefully coexisting in the same time and space. This reminds me of my hometown in China in the early 1980s, but PK certainly has a more urban flavor, much more leather jackets, pointy shoes, dyed hairs, and dogs and cats who enjoy as much liberty as humans do.
Riding bus is also interesting: a bunch of foreigners in the bus of course would draw a huge amount of attention in this city that had been closed to the outside world for so many years. And considering the fact that people in the streets don't speak a word of English and we only speak one word of Russian, the ride becomes even more interesting. The more breath taking part, however, occurs when we get off the bus and have to cross the street. There is no traffic light or stop sign, and the fast cars and trucks will not stop for pedestrians. It takes ages for us to find a gap that's big enough, and it takes some ability to make quick decision and efficiently organize an entire group to cross the street hand in hand - especially when kids are involved...
I changed around 60 dollars into Russian rouble and bought some souvenirs from gift stores. Petropavlovsk was a closed military base during the Soviet time and was only opened to the outside world since 1991. This is a city without style since it didn’t expect visitors. But people I met were so nice that I felt I am in love with this place. During the hike and camp trip I had quite a few encounters with the guides and people who work there. Today in the postoffice, as I was writing postcards, an old man came to me, gave me a small box of bubble gum, and left. He did not say a word. I figure that he just wanted to show some hospitality to a foreigner. Later I tried to ask him how to write "China" in Russian, and he tried very hard to help. But he spoke Russian and I spoke English. So you know how it went. I ended up writing on the postcard “TO: CHINA”. I was not sureit will ever get to China, but at least the postoffice woman didn’t say anything.It’s 10:13pm, June 30 now. Starting from tomorrow, I will teach 4 days in a row, with the final exam on the day right after the 4th day (on the Korea/China day). Then it’s the 4 days in Korea, which should be more than enough time for me to grade the exams, and still get to travel in or around Busan. So basically my job will be almost done after the 5 days.
Last day of teaching. The courts session is great. I am able to get students to think about broader questions, and think in the Chinese context. I eventually manage to show them what is "ethnocentric". Student A thinks that when a judge follows a superior’s will and disregards the case, he is corrupt. Student B points out that the same situation might be corrupt in US but should not be called corrupt (in itself) in china, since Chinese judges are supposed to follow superiors' order. As this issue evolves into a debate between two groups of students, I am able to summarize the differences in their stances: One side takes a universal stance, arguing that no matter what legal system the judge is in, a judge should always decide cases based only on facts and law and maintain an impartial image; while the other side is more concerned about situating the judge in the context rather than imposing a universal standard. Of course there are pros and cons to both sides. This is the finishing touch that I intended. Excellent.
At noon we have a July 4 parade. The captain leads the faculty, staff, and the kids in this colorful parade on the 7th deck, which is followed by a BBQ party. While eating, some spot whales. I am lucky enough to catch a glimps. Earlier today some people declare they see Mount Fuji.
The night is relaxing. Have a couple of drinks at the faculty lounge. Chat with a few crew members. They are engineers from Bulgaria. The four men are all good looking, two of them are very handsome. I wonder if there is something special about Bulgarian fengshui that makes their men attractive.... Interesting.
July 5, 2004
Last night the ship was rocking a lot and I could not fall in sleep until early in the morning. I planned to stay in the cabin to catch some sleep, but then changed my mind and go to the Union to attend the global studies session. It turns out to be a reward. Don Clarke’s presentation on Korea was just wonderful. The Captain was announcing earlier in the morning that the Greek team has won the European champion (as he has been “forcing” the entire shipboard community to keep update and pray for the Greek team). By the same token Don shows us a series of photos on Korea’s victory in the 2002 world cup. It is such an enthusiastic and passionate ensamble. He goes on to show the Korean history and Korea's economic rise in a vivid way. He gets me to fall in love with this country, and in a minute I decide I should start to study the Korean language.
Exams from 1330 to 1730.
Heavy fog. From the nearby cargo ships I can tell that we are already in or very close to the port. But I just can not see the shore through the fog. The first trips are supposed to leave at 0930, but it’s 900 now and we have not disembarked yet.
Ken announces that today all shipboard members got to join the “busan fog viewing trip” for free. And indeed we did just that all day.
By afternoon it seems the chance of getting into port is slim. People are gathered and informed. In order to keep people from getting too bored various activities are arranged. The atmosphere is nice. People are understanding. Jokes are good too. Woody has earned himself a reputation for putting together 10 most asked – silly – questions, which becomes almost the most expected announcement of every preport.
The ship finally gets to the port in the evening. And by 2000 we get our passports. Everybody gets off. The harbour is in the edge of the city. Numerous restaurants of all sorts surrounds the dock. I spend my night out with friends, enjoying Korean side dishes and Korean pizza (pan cake perhaps). I also visit a Korean counterpart of dollar store, and get a box of Korean playing cards for 1000 won. The restaurant owner tries to teach me how to play it - it feels like Chinese mahjong, but it makes little sense to me since I don't play mahjong.
Grading papers all. Inefficient. Not too much to say.
decided to stroll the city alone. met a student at the info desk, took the bus together, and ended up wondering in the streets together.
bought ginseng for grandma.
Grading paper. Several naps a day. Low energy. Finish by 1 or 2 am. Spent some time on the presentation at the core tomorrow.
Through mouth of yangzi, into huang pu river, I'm finally home. I have flied between the two countries many times, but never felt that strange. This time I will only stay for less than 3 days. Unlike my previous trips back to China, this time my mum and my grandmas are coming to see me. According to the plan, they would take the overnight train to Shanghai last night, and would have arrived in the hotel by now. They are expecting me at around 10am since our scheduled time to disembark is 900. But we haven't talked ever since my journey took off.
The schedule is delayed again because of all the immigration procedures. I manage to borrow cell phone from a port agent to call my mum that I will be late. Mum says they will wait for me for lunch anyway.
Get off the ship after 1. Take a cab to Nan Jing road. Before geting off I asked the cab driver where I got on and he said sth. different from what the green sheet stated. (later it turned out that the green sheet has it wrong and many students go to a wrong place at the end of the three days, which become a thrilling experience of foreigners in strange city)
I will be spending the three days with family.
I will be leaving the ship on July 18, the last day in Hong Kong, and stay there by myself for 3 more days before flying back to US. The faculty had thrown a farewell party for me in the faculty lounge last night.
Since the days in Busan I have been feeling low. It is time that the insufficient sleeps, heavy workload, and energy consuming shipboard social life take their tolls. The excitement keeps me up for that long. I have been living in a bubble, a beautiful utopia where people are so open to the world around, so sincere and so eager to reach out. We never stop learning from others. We listen. We care. We are so happy in this world that we fear how we could live without it. But we all know the bubble is going to burst one day. Sooner or later.
Yes I am leaving sooner, while others get to stay in this bubble a little longer.
Today is the first day in Hong Kong. We will be docking in the nice and convenient Ocean Terminal. But the ship turns around and sail away just when I see the piers of Ocean Terminal. Said a typhoon is going to hit the city, and it is not safe for our ship to stay in the terminal in a typhoon. The ship eventually anchors in the middle of the water not far from port.
I actually enjoy the extra stay on the ship. Friends get to talk and witness the exciting "typhoon viewing trip". Unfortunately the typhoon seems to have little impact, and as I return to the "typhoon viewing trip" after a nap, the typhoon has already gone.
The ship sailed into the beautiful victoria harbour in the evening.
July 18 sunny
The ship is scheduled to stay 3 days in Hong Kong. Then she will sail to Vietnam. I, however, will get off on the last day in Hong Kong. The typhoon costs people one day, which leaves them only 2 days to tour the city.
Yesterday was rainy. Becky, Mary and I first went to the post office to send home stuff that we cannot carry with us. Then we went to the Museum of Art. It is a pleasure to introduce and explain Chinese caligraphy to friends from another culture. Loved it. Then we went to Nathan road to have wonderful dim sum. Becky and Mary are the only Caucasions in the restaurant - which is our criterion for good authentic restaurants.
Today Larry, Marry and I went to take the star ferry: the oldest and cheapest way to cross the victorian bay to Hong Kong island. We strolled in Zhong Huan. I love the pedestian escalator - it is a great urban design. We spent some time in Hollywood road, and had dim sum. Then we went to the peak.
Back to ship. Took my suitcases to the hotel and checked in. Had Dinner with becky, larry and borshan. Farewell.
Yes I am alone. After all these days. Extremely sad. And I have a feeling that I'm going to get sick soon. But I got to do something while I'm still in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is one of my favorite cities. A city with color and variety. I am speaking English, Mandarin and Cantonese (a little) at the same time - sometimes you have to: some people can speak Mandarine well, some people only understand Cantonese, and most people speak Cantonese with ocassional English and Mandarine words. It is funny: once when I was in a cab, the driver somehow assumed that I am from Taiwan; as he found out that I have never been to Taiwan, he guessed that I am from Singapore; his third guess is Malasia. I asked him why he wouldn't guess Mainland China, he said something like it is the way I use Mandarin, Cantonese and English. My guess is that I have been on the ship for too long and three days in Shanghai is just too short to recover.
Went to monkok to buy dvds and vcds. Tried ???, a Chinese fast food chain. Very hong kong style.
This is one of my favorite Hong Kong building reflection photo. Colorful glass surface of an upscale office building reflects a neighbouring old residential building.
Took subway to crossway bay. From there walked to admiralty. Then took the double deck bus 90b. sat at the first row of the top deck. Great view. Saw central, queen’s road, hong kong university…. , to Aberdeen.
Went to the star walk to photograph the Victoria bay. Got back at noon. Packing. Checked out. There was still about two hours. So I went to see the movie ‘house of flying daggers’ – or shi mian mai fu. Back to the hotel. Took the arranged shuttle to airport. Goodbye hong kong.