Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tufas at Mono Lake

Here is a sample of photos that I took last Friday at Mono Lake. I particularly like the first photo in this set–the sun setting above the Sierras seen through a hole in one of Mono Lake Tufas.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Only in California...

Is there any other place in the world where during one day you can experience a thrill of having a space shuttle fly above your head while you're climbing 11'000+feet tall mountain, in addition to a visit to a ghost town and a beautiful lake with bizarre rock formations?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Students Love Me!

Let me share with you something I'm very happy and excited about: yesterday I received my students' evaluations for the spring semester and they're better than I could have hoped for!

In each of six aspects evaluated by the questionnaires (instructor commitment to student learning, instructor preparation and organization, instructor/student interaction, testing, course objectives, and course assignments) the students judged my teaching skills above the national, institutional and unit means.

It means a lot to me, as I put my heart into teaching and I truly care about all my students. However, I wasn't sure if the students would be able to see it, as my teaching style is more strict and demanding than that of a typical American teacher. Luckily, it looks like not only students noticed but also appreciated it :)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Home: San Francisco

The more I travel, the more I become convinced that there is no other place equally beautiful and fascinating like San Francisco. Here I feel at home, and since our return on Tuesday afternoon I'm on cloud nine.

Already midway through my recent South-East Asia trip I started feeling homesick and I couldn't wait to be back in the land of "Hi, How are you?," strangers complementing each other and starting random conversations that might lead to life-long friendships.

It's quite ironic, as six years ago when I first moved to the US, I was very skeptical towards everybody asking me how I was doing, and I felt it was shallow and meaningless. Well, my attitude has changed 180 degrees since then and now I think it's rude when people don't do it :) I'm a living example that San Francisco makes people soft: "Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft." Too late for me!

I even started to wonder what's the point of traveling if all what's best you can find in your own backyard? It doesn't mean that I'm going to completely stop traveling, but I don't think I'm going to embark on a longer world trip ever again. Being away from my favorite city for more than two months is simply heart-breaking (*). Because of that we also decided to cancel/postpone a 10-day long holidays in Hawaii that we had planned for the end of September. We'll have a better time here, enjoying the city and nature around it, reconnecting with our amazing friends, and getting immersed in work!

Speaking about work, things have worked out amazingly well for us. Anil's job waited for him those past five moths (how good he must be!), and he went back to it this last Wednesday, less than 24 hours after we landed... Somewhat more surprisingly, a perfect job also found me while we were on holidays! I wasn't looking for one, as I was planning to take several months off to work on my personal projects, but when this exciting job offer and great career-enhancing opportunity arrived at my doorstep, I simply couldn't say no. So as of the beginning of this month I've started working as a Director of Retail Marketing at a new and exciting tech start-up that you'll all soon hear about :)

(*) PS My trip and being away from San Francisco for so long made me fully understand where Tony Bennett was coming from when he wrote "I left my heart in San Francisco"

The loveliness of Paris seems somehow sadly gay 
The glory that was Rome is of another day 
I've been terribly alone and forgotten in Manhattan 
I'm going home to my city by the Bay 

I left my heart in San Francisco 
High on a hill, it calls to me 
To be where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars 
The morning fog may chill the air, I don't care 

My love waits there in San Francisco 
Above the blue and windy sea 
When I come home to you, San Francisco 
Your golden sun will shine for me

 (**) This is only one of more than hundred songs written about San Francisco, some became more popular than others.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Wat Arun, Bangkok

Wat Arun Rajwararam–Temple of the Dawn–is located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, opposite the Grand Palace. The monastery is named after Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn, and it predates the Grand Palace. Abandoned for a long period of time, it was restored and rebuilt during the reign of Rama II and Rama III.

At the center of Wat Arun is a Khmer-style tower (prang), encrusted with colorful porcelain. The central prang symbolizes Mount Meru, the holy Hindu mountain.

The four corners surrounding the central prang are occupied by smaller satellite prangs, which are devoted to Phra Phai, the wind god.

Like the central prang, also the satellite prangs are decorated with seashells and bits of porcelain, and are supported by rows of demons and monkeys.

Very steep and narrow steps lead to a balcony high on the central tower.

From the tower, the views of Bangkok are spectacular.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

If your visit to the Grand Palace in Bangkok doesn't eat up a whole day and leaves you hungry to see more architectural wonders of Thailand's past, visit nearby Wat Pho.

Wat Pho is also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, or Wat Phra Chettuphon Wimon Mangkhlaram Ratchaworamahawihan. (I hope you understand why in my post I'll refer to it simply as Wat Pho...)

As the name suggests, Wat Pho houses a huge statue of the Reclining Buddha (Phra Buddhasaiya). The statue is 15 meters high and 43 meters long–that's a height of a 4-story building!

The feet of Buddha are also large at 3 meters of height and 4.5 meters of length.

They're inlaid with mother-of-pearl and are composed of 108 panels displaying auspicious symbols associated with Buddha such as flowers, dancers, white elephants, tigers, and altar accessories.

Next to the Buddha statue there are 108 bronze bowls indicating the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha.

People drop coins in these bowls as it is believed to bring good fortune. It also helps monks maintain the wat.

The Reclining Buddha is only one of over thousand (!) Buddha statues in the Wat. Others are smaller in size, but are still impressive due to their large number.

There are also 91 chedis (stupas), four viharas (halls), and a bot (central shrine) on the grounds surrounding the temple. Some of the chedis contain the ashes of Buddha and some the ashes of the royal family.

On the temple grounds there's also one statue of Budai, commonly known as "Laughing Buddha." I'd like to point out that he's a separate character, distinct from Gautama Buddha.