Day 1 in Seattle

We reached SeaTac around 11:30am on Monday. Everything ran like clockwork, collecting the car, collecting our baggage, only thing was, the GPS took a long time to find us on account of the cloudiness :P We had to pull into a gas station after driving out of the rental carpark just to wait for a signal!

The proprietor of the University Motel Suites was really nice and let us in early. After dumping most of the luggage we’d need in the room (it had two bedrooms AND a kitchen. I could live there for the long term) we went out to forage for food nearby. There’s a little collegetown like attachment to the university (which looked super fugly on first impression, especially the tall brown building with the big W on it). One of the popular Thai restaurants there (Tom Thai, or something like that) had a pretty long queue and didn’t accept credit/debit cards :S Really? How much is the fee anyway? So we just walked into a random relatively vacant and decent looking restaurant (Zen Noodle Bar), which was rather meh.


They do pretty good braised eggs though!

The rain got really heavy during (and after) lunch, so we had to buy an umbrella just to get to campus! Really bad decision to not drive to school. And American Apparel sell their large umbrellas for $24 -.- The small portable ones that we could potentially bring to Boston and leave with Hr were like $33. Daylight robbery!


LZ and I split up (our meeting with Dan in Padelford was about 30 mins apart) so we could meet up then I guess. He’d found this combinatorics graduate class for me to crash, so I trundled on to Benson Hall (running 10 minutes late) and very embarrassedly pushed the door open into the class. Everybody stared at me (I hate showing up for classes late. Like most of the time I’d rather NOT go for the class than be late) and the professor said “I think you have the wrong class..” they must have thought I was an idiot, showing up to class wrong just as the semester was winding up. Gosh. She told me it was a freaking Chem Eng class, which makes sense, because I was in the Chem Eng building. But LZ had assured me that it was there and he looked it up online. Only he had looked up Spring Quarter and UW was still in their Winter Quarter. That little twerp! If I want anything done right I have to do it myself. Honestly. I know he’s not a details person but I can’t count how many times stuff has been screwed up precisely because he’s more of a “big picture” person. To be fair Dan sent a schedule that was for the Spring Quarter too -.-

So I left the Chem Eng building (after drying off a bit) and walked about campus awhile. Found The Hub, which is like a student center with food and entertainment and bowling and pool tables and ATMs, I guess it’s the equivalent of Willard Straight, but a lot more modern. Found a bunch of really nice cards and books in their bookstore and got a sociology book for Hr and a bar of tomato soap for LZ (it doesn’t smell like tomato at all :S)

Ze actually made it for his class, because the class he had planned to crash is one of those sequence classes that runs from Winter to Spring. How lucky for him -.- and he managed to squeeze some time in the grad lounge to chat with the grad students there. It would have been helpful to talk about their workload and the exams and other bits about how they liked it here but mostly, according to him, all they talked about was food. Like at one point, one of the students actually had to tell him “We don’t talk about food all of the time” lol. They were discussing the berries that could be picked around Seattle and discussing if cloudberries were edible. I think I’m going to like it there!


[Fern in the math dept building]

I managed to meet up with S.B., who told me about her work with Schubert varieties. Then I took Ze around the campus, to the Hub, and then we went to look at some housing options before heading back to the motel to look for a nice place for dinner and a Kate Spade store to exchange my engagement ring lol.


[The collegetown north of campus]

At 6:30pm we drove to the malls at University Village – they have everything. Literally. Red Mango, Papyrus, Crate & Barrel, AND it’s higher end counterpart, Room & Board, Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Din Tai Fung. Excellent shopping options. I picked up some aromatherapy diffuser refills from Pottery Barn and a can of crepe mix from Williams Sonoma (on request of Gracia) and then we drove off to Alaskan Way to have Low Country Boil at the Crab Pot!

I really like this town. Even the rainy weather. I like rain. You can’t be properly depressed and artistic when it’s bright out and everyone you know is throwing a frisbee around, but you can really mope when it’s rainy, and also be happy when it’s rainy, especially if you’re an indoorsy sort like me :) The weather is also not too cold, and the grass is bright green. And spring has already arrived here –

you can see the blue bells and the crocuses and the daffodils poking out, even while the rest of eastern and central america are still covered in snow. The one thing you won’t have is the sense of community people in the East Coast have when they get together to collectively gripe about their weather.

Annunci

Day 3 in Boulder (Part Two) – The Days Are Just Packed

First, a general birthday shout out to a very special person: Happy Birthday Hanrong! You’re 27 this year! Gosh that’s old. :P May you find happiness (if not through relationships, then through hard work :P) this year. The last time your age was a power of 3 was 18 years ago! May you live to see the next power!
***

So here’s the continuation of our Boulder romp with Raghu on the sunday he was supposed to be working on his problem set :P

After we hiked up and down Flagstaff, we decided to drive to a nearby lake just to check out the view. This is all based on what the gps was showing to be nearby us on Rags’ smartphone. I wonder how tourists used to travel in the 90s without all this new-fangled technology.


We parked near this fire department (just a shack containing a fire truck actually) near Kossler Lake and spotted these wild pheasant (or turkey?) They were pretty huge and travelled in a huge bunch. Perhaps they were owned by the fire department.

There was a huge fence around Kossler lake – apparently it’s private property? I guess you can own a lake – I’ve fished at plenty of private lakes in the Ithaca area. But the view looked too good to resist (being blocked by a barbed wire fence). I spent about 3 minutes contemplating if I wanted to violate the law for a good photo op – nobody was watching anyway so over the fence we went!


Tell me you wouldn’t have done the same.


Kossler lake was beautiful, especially with the view of the two mountains in the background and the lake half frozen. Lots of blues and greens in our Boulder photos.


After the lake, we drove around for a bit looking for Gross Reservoir – a much larger body of water. Spotted a whole row of mailboxes to serve all the houses in the area to save the postman all the trouble of navigating these difficult mountain roads.


And we stopped occasionally outside several homesteads to take a photo of their view. It would be so amazing to live up here. Right now the gameplan would be to study in Washington and perhaps to do a postdoc or teach in Boulder.


This was some sort of horse ranch. We didn’t see any horses though.


Here’s the hilltop view of Gross Reservoir. Most of it is frozen over.


We trekked down from the top of that hill right to the water’s edge.


They really are like Calvin and Hobbes, but a better-behaved version that is much nicer to girls lol.


Here is Raghu throwing rocks at the ice to try to dislodge air bubbles or to break the humongous slab of ice floating on the lake.


And here are all his failed attempts lol. The ice simply refused to break.


A beautiful mirror like sheet.


The ice all around the edge is thawing slowly. Spring might drop in for a short visit this year after all!


Here we are after all the hiking, ravenous and tired, and finally down from the mountain. No new revelations or insights :P


I took this while L was driving us to the brasserie for (yet another) happy hour :P. It’s blurry but I still really like the photo because of the cute little trees.


At Brasserie TenTen on the recommendation of R’s roommate. We had a lovely time, a lovely end to a lovely day, and are already missing our favourite vegetarian/movie buddy/partner in crime/plus three big time. Good thing Seattle is only a 2 hour flight away!!

p.s. I just realized that the club comprising Calvin & Hobbes shares the same name as the reservoir! Get Rid Of Slimy girlS! lol.

Day 3 in Boulder (Part One)

10am: We woke a wee bit late and went to Raghu’s apartment to pick him up for breakfast at Panera :D I didn’t get out of the car but the boys still took forever, I dunno, preening or something. Probably playing with Rakka without me D:

11am: Had French onion soup with gruyere and a frontega chicken panini. Rags had the tomato bisque and some sort of vegetarian panini. We also ordered the bacon and spinach souffle, which was really nice, and a mocha frappe (I ignored the caffeine abstinence warning from the Inn’s concierge to combat altitude sickness)

The souffle. I have dreamed of this for so long. Perhaps one of the problems in Singapore is that we have so many restaurants and cafes but not that many reliable chain restaurants. I guess din tai fung or sushi tei could be considered a reliable chain restaurant, and I do crave some of their dishes, but just not the same way I crave things from Panera or Chipotle, which are reliable and cheap chain restaurants.


Our French onion soup.


And the chicken panini with chipotle sauce. We needed to load up before our hike!

After breakfast we drove off to Flagstaff (it took about 15-30 mins) and paid the $5 parking fee at Realization Point. it was the first time I’d ever seen a parking by integrity box, where you put the $5 fee into a little wooden letterbox along with the stub from your parking coupon. I can’t imagine how often someone comes by to collect the parking fees from that box but it can’t be very often. And if this were implemented in Singapore, you can probably expect a lot of people just not paying.


View on the drive up to Realization Point. I wonder what the guy who named it realized when he named it realization point.


We got a lot of great shots at the look out point – see the red patch of buildings in the background?


Got a little breathless hiking but that’s probably more from the incline and our general fitness level than because of the altitude. We got used to it after awhile.


The boys were throwing snowballs at each other. Rags said this is what he envisioned when he read all those Calvin & Hobbes comic books when he was young, and Calvin’s dad would take him on romps to build character. Particularly when it snows, he’s always building snow forts and snow dragons and pelting Suzie with snow balls :P And you know, when you have none of that in Singapore with our unwavering type of heat, one has to have a somewhat vivid imagination and settle for a general delay in typical American childhood experiences.


Here they are realizing at Realization Point.


There were these camping benches, presumably for schoolchildren when they go hiking in the summer.


We did make it to the Summit! But because we drove out to Realization Point, it didn’t really take that long (we drove more than half of the way up already)


Here’s all 3 of us in the amphitheatre.


And the rest of the amphitheatre. Not quite sure what it’s used for, but it sure looks like the amphi in RGS!


The view is amazing. I was really pleased we (actually just Raghu, since Z and I are far too lazy to research this sort of thing) decided to hike here, and on this day with the deep blue skies.


We had a who-can-stand-in-the-snow-barefoot-for-the-longest-time contest and I won! Not very hard defeating those two pansies.


I love this statement on the culture of overpraising in the US. It’s the polar opposite here, and both cultures have their good and bad points.

We spent a long time walking aimlessly around, creating furrows in the snow, throwing snowballs at snow piles that have accumulated on tree branches just to get them to drop off. The spruce needle sap smelt a lot like lemon/citronella – the air was so fresh smelling and clean. Was my character built through this communion with nature? Definitely.

Day 2 in Boulder (Part Two)

1:00pm: At Whole Foods with Raghu


Whole foods is pretty amazing, as far as supermarkets go, with a TON of samples – I could certainly survive off their samples! So we’ve actually _never_ been to a Whole Foods before – Imagine that! Wegmans was always good enough, especially since I’m not particular about eating organic food nor about paying the premium for it.


They had really interesting produce, like Sumo oranges. I don’t even know that those are.


Look at the size of that strawberry! One wonders where they are imported from in this weather, probably the west coast. There was an article in the Sunday Times today about a tourist fruit farm in Hokkaido where you pay something like $8 to pick your own grapes and berries and other fruit. Oh it’s called Yamamoto sight-seeing orchard


And liangze’s favourite tomatoes. We’ve missed having cheap access to heirloom tomatoes! He couldn’t resist and bought a box of kumatos. I’m not a big tomato gourmet – can’t really tell the difference between kumatoes and camparis.


I love how market-y and rustic they make everything feel with their wooden crates and palettes.


I bought a cedar grilling plank even though I don’t have a grill. I figure it’ll come in handy for barbeques, even though I didn’t use it at the company BBQ this weekend, and odds are I’ll be bringing it back to the US :S


We really liked the fresh nut butter dispensers! So many varieties! Complete with the little paper cups for you to sample each one before committing. This is an important decision!


My favourite one was the honey roasted peanut blend. So amazing. The rest, I feel, are not as nice without some sugar or other additives haha. Told you I’m not an organicky person.


They also sold brookies! The first time I’m seeing these actually haha. A cookie baked on top of a brownie. I got one to try and it was really good. Even the pastries and cookies at this Whole Foods are good – we got a free chocolate chip cookie because we donated $5 to the charity that they were supporting at the time and apparently you get a free cookie if you donate. Then LZ felt bad because it seemed like we were donating just to get the cookie :/

We had lunch at the Whole Foods, which carries really delicious food

Here is my Boulder melt – brie, granny smith slices, and arugula sandwiched between two thick slices of brioche and griddled. Served with chips. It was amazing!


LZ got a margherita pizza.


R, our resident vegetarian, got a full plate of veggies and pasta (the green beans coated in sesame seeds are pretty nice)


And naan/spinach/paneer etc. We thought he wouldn’t be able to finish and tried to help him (hence aforementioned green bean thievery) but he actually managed to! We were rather surprised. It must be the tall thing.


I ended off with a lovely cup of gelato, which was actually a tad too cold for me. It looks really sunny in the pictures cause we were eating in their alfresco section but there was a cold wind blowing. I don’t normally opt to sit outdoors (a singapore thing)

We drove R and his groceries back to his apartment (he loves american soy milk – weird! I think it’s too sweet and vanilla tasting and much prefer the chinese one which we grew up with.) After keeping the groceries and playing with Rakka, he took us to see the broken bridge near his place which he used to cross en route to school until the flood last fall, which rendered it impassable.


Here’s one end of (what’s left of) the bridge with lots of warning tape.


Managed to get a pretty nice photo of the two guys in front of a barn like structure.

R took us to the physics building to see the TA office (basically a big room with a lot of desks covered with messy grad student and undergrad homework being graded). Their toilets have a smart flush thing, where the flushing lever is bright green and pulling it up releases a different amount of water than pressing it down. I was really impressed! Then I saw it at Udub too haha and realized how backward Cornell is :P Unless they’ve since updated it..

R also took us up Gamow, one of the two Physics towers to see the view. It appears to be the highest building in all of Boulder!


I guess at one point it was unclear whether the building of Gamow Hall was ever to be finished :P Also interesting typo by the eponymous physisc professor.


So the physics lounge starts out looking like a regular lounge, sofas, light, a nice place to hang out.


Until you see the full length glass windows and the panoramic view they afford.


Gosh. And this runs all around the building.


Well clearly we chose the wrong major.


You can even see these windmills in the distance.


The whole campus is visible from here. Pity their highest point is the physics building and not a clocktower!
When we finally went down R showed us his pigeonhole (apparently the call it letter boxes there)


Look at that squished up name! There’s something to being Chinese after all :P

After the physics building tour we went off to the cinema in the nearby strip mall to catch the Lego movie! He was our main movie buddy in singapore, with whom we went to watch just about everything, from Cloud Atlas to the Conjuring (bad decision lol) and the Hobbit. So this was more a nostalgic activity for me, although I think maybe the boys actually wanted to watch it. The ad they ran to promote the movie in Singapore was really imbecile to the point of being irritating, so I wasn’t really interested. The plot was weak, the characters a little whiny, and I fell asleep for most of the movie :P Perhaps it was the conversion to a different time zone that made me really zonked out in the afternoon, that and the fact that we had a pretty heavy lunch at Whole Foods and had woken up really early for an equally heavy breakfast :P

After the movie, R took us to the bars around Pearl Street, notably, Sun Mountain (?), which had a humongous variety of beers on tap:

Colorado’s beers are really fruity and quite refreshing, but I am still not a beer fan.


We traipsed up and down Pearl St a little bit to work off some of the fullness from lunch and walked into a soda/candy shop.


I don’t think we have an equivalent for this in Singapore, a place that is so totally committed to providing a sugar high. Asians don’t really like things to be super sweet I think. They had a million varieties of soda here – we bought a 4 pack back – orange cream soda (my favourite), chocolate soda (which we drank on the shuttle from the rental station to DIA, and the other passengers on the bus thought we were having a beer lol), candy cane soda (which was more sweet than minty), and also a bottle of Ramune for Raghu to try – he’s never had Ramune!


After walking around till 8pm we finally headed to the vegetarian restaurant he invited us to to celebrate our engagement :) he was trying it for the first time too. The food was really nice! It was the first time we were trying hominy and harissa tofu.


I wouldn’t say the desserts are all that great but the food certainly was really good, plus they had 50% off their bar bites as part of the happy hour promotion. LZ had to retrieve my passport from the car though because of this Thai bitters martini with lemon and lemongrass. It was very nice!

Even though we’re in a place with such interesting relief we postponed a hike to Sunday, which promised the best (warmest) weather of the three days we were spending here. I wouldn’t have minding joining the rest of the prospective grad student cabal on the Royal Arch trail but we were here to visit a very important person :P and besides that trail can be shelved until we come back for another visit. I really like this town and it’s a pity we’re not doing grad school here! Would have been fantastic living in a 3 person house. It didn’t take too long for me to acclimatize – I had headaches on our first day there (could be unrelated to the altitude) but was told to consume lots of water and to lie close to the ground lol. Which would have been good advice if the ground hadn’t been covered in snow. I normally have problems with altitude (more than the average person I think), as evident from my first day in Cusco, which has an elevation of about 3.4km. Our hostel there was up slope and I basically passed out in the lobby and left L to go forage for food for at least the first day. Boulder’s elevation is about half that, at 1.6km (it’s at the foothills of the Rockies), and the elevation of the highest mountain we climbed on the third day was only 2.1km. More on our hike in 2 days :) It was pretty fun and not even half as tiring as walking about Sacsayhuaman.

Day 2 in Boulder (Part One)

Woke up at: 7am+

Ate at Foolish Craig’s Cafe on the recommendation of the hotel proprietor – the portions are huge – hungover food, I’ll bet. It is obviously a college place – we got in on a saturday morning around 9am and there was a queue! We ordered


– The Foolish Craig crepe – these crepes are not crepes/galettes as we known them in Singapore/France, with minimal ingredients held together with cheese, but an open faced crepe with a crap lot of stuff dunked into it like potatoes and mushrooms and scrambled eggs. It was pretty crazy. We had it with cheesy grits on the side.


– Crab cake Benedict – These were actually really good crab cakes! With a decent Hollandaise sauce and a massive amount of home fries.

The service staff were pretty efficient despite it being so crowded. After Foolish Craig’s we headed down to the math lounge to join the school tour (and to look like we were quite serious about the grad day).


[Giant slide rule in the math lounge]
The guide (Erica, the lead TA) walked reaallly fast and I could barely keep up, what with all the phototaking. I was always trailing behind all the other students (at least by 10 steps), so it was not clear if we were with them or not.


[View from the math lounge]

We bumped into Erica 2 more times that weekend – once on Saturday, while leaving Gamow Hall (the 11 storey tower, on top of which is the Physics lounge), which affords a panoramic view of the mountains all around Boulder), and then a second time at the happy hour at Brasserie TenTen. Erica is kinda cute and bubbly and when she meets us she always goes “Hello Prospective Math Grad Students!” like we’re her little chicks or something.

THE SCHOOL TOUR

OK, so CUBoulder has an awesome campus. Really. Everything is so stylish in that red stone style (if a bit uniform). The school buildings were so archaic and modern at the same time, a bit like Brunel, but way prettier. Plus, you can see the mountains (Flatirons) from campus! Boulder has a 3-storey rule for buildings in order to protect the unobstructed view of the mountains.

Most notably, the CUBoulder gym is amazing.


[The olympic sized pool]


[Where you can spin while watching cute guys swim in the Olympic sized pool]

The basketball courts overlook the mountains – you literally look out at them when you play/exercise.

The student center shows the occasional free movie (right now it’s Frozen)

and houses several chain restaurants – Dominoes, Cold Stone Creamery, etc., but I didn’t see anything in the school bookstore worth picking up.

We also visited the library, which has

this great inscription, as well as


beds!


After the school tour we thanked Erica and sort of discreetly slunk off to pick Raghu up to go to Whole Foods :P

Day 1 at Boulder

Arrival: 11:30am
Weather: Rainy/Sleet-y
Car: White Toyota Yaris – we never noticed the ipod usb jack in the glove compartment until we returned the car 3 days later – what a place to put it! We made sure to use the usb port with the Boston car though.

I really liked the Dollar Rent-a-Car counter because they had a little screen for you to decline all their optional coverages without having to feel bad about turning a person down. The person at the gantry didn’t even bother searching for scratches and things! There is absolutely no point getting the Loss Damage Waiver with Dollar. The only thing is they require a gas refill receipt within 10 miles of the facility and let me tell you, this is no joke at the Denver Airport rental location. LZ missed the turn to Conoco and very nearly pumped the Toyota with natural gas. There is a Conoco a ways out before the rental strip but you have to look out for it. I wonder if Conoco is related to Sunoco. In all the confusion amid refilling the gas tank and catching our flight, it’s no wonder our blue folder (with tickets, receipts, flight/car bookings, our BSO concert tickets) was left behind in the car, and boy did I give him grief about it! I’m not really good at letting the little things go.

We also got hoaxed into renting their ez pass meter for paying tolls, at $11 a day, and we only used it en route from Denver to Boulder, and then back when we were returning the car from Boulder to Denver! Daylight robbery. I could have just told my GPS to avoid the toll routes. Speaking of GPSes I’d better install the Tom Tom software on the computer so I can buy a map of Italy (or Europe, whichever is cheaper) for his conference in May.

En route to Boulder on the highway it started snowing/sleeting and visibility was capped at the car in front of you. So we actually entered Boulder without ever really knowing it – saw the university first! The only indication we had reached was that we were 3-5 minutes away from the estimated ETA at our destination, the Boulder University Inn. This was one of the 3 options given by university staff for us, and the dinkiest option, probably because we asked her to reserve the room pretty late, and other departments were apparently also having their recruitment days. Huge step down from the Courtyard Mariott at St. Jacobs!

The university itself was amazingly pretty – all done up in shades of red rock. Apparently one building started in that style and all the rest sort of followed, so much so that you can easily distinguish the university from the surrounding buildings part way up to Flagstaff summit. (Hint: The university is red)

So after we got the motel room (checked in early – every single place so far has allowed us to do that as long as they have a room available – Niagara Falls, Boulder, Seattle, etc.) we hurried to the university to join the visit day partway. They planned for us to meet with a slew of professors from the morning onward – needless to say I missed most of that because we were running later than their schedule. I did crash the coding and cryptography class (which was for undergrads ?!) – the undergrads were really funny and not too bright but they were way more interactive than those in all my math classes, combined, and I could see how that professor would have fun teaching them. She was going through the Miller Rabin algorithm for primality testing and the kids were giving all kinds of hokey answers as to why some numbers failed the test and others didn’t (without knowing what the test was testing for, i.e. -1’s which give 1’s upon squaring). I met with her after the class along with another student and they spent a lot of time unpacking Apollonian circle packings which I know absolutely nothing about. All the lecturers at Boulder were pretty clear, I thought, but I wasn’t all that interested in number theory and the program had an about 50% passing rate for their PhD program – not too promising!

Anyway to tell the truth, we were only there to see Raghu :P The reimbursements they provided were only $300 apiece and the motel they booked was pretty crappy. We went to find him after the faculty research talks and his apartment has a sort of whiff that has to do with unwashed dishes, primarily because his dishwasher had broken and his roommate was incapable of washing dishes without a dishwasher. R asked about the ring, which I wasn’t wearing at that point because it was a size too large and we had not yet exchanged it. Then we talked about the mechanics of finding out the ring size of the girl if you want to keep the proposal a surprise lol. How does one do it discreetly? LZ was neither accurate nor subtle when he tried to find my ring size. R’s roommate has a cat! I don’t know what kind but it was fluffy and hairy and fat and SUPER cuddly. I hope Soda doesn’t see this but I liked Rakka better hahhaa. She let me pick her up, and apparently that’s all it takes to get me to fall in love with you.


Look at her all coy.

R says his roommate says that she is a chick magnet, and R has not seen anything to dispute that fact yet. Rakka jumps at rustling plastic bags but comes running when she hears her food container being shaken, same as Purr, the cat in my brother’s apartment right now. R’s kitchen was like a disaster zone, we wore our shoes all through the house (except to his room). I decided to use the swiffer on it and vacuum a little while he was studying for his midterm later that day :P We arrived on a Friday and he had a test at like 7:30!? On a friday night? Is that even ethical? He told us to go for some improv night in one of the halls but we (I) were too tired to make it. We drove him to his exam venue and then back to the motel, and I feel asleep on the bed during his exam and only awoke for a late dinner at Chipotle on Pearl St after he was done with his paper.

After dinner he wanted us to go for drinks but neither of us had thought to bring our IDs haha! We wound walking through Pearl St in the slush (it had snowed that day, and everyone in Boulder was super apologetic for that abnormal weather, and said that they normally get 300 days of sun a year! Waterloo also apologised for their weather. At the risk of sounding narcissistic, the bad weather literally followed us wherever we went – first day in Waterloo, the coldest day they’ve had in 30 years. Week in Ithaca, still in the middle of the worst winter since most of my profs had joined Cornell. First day in Boulder, rain and snow and slush – with only 65/365 odds of that happening. First day in Seattle, caught in the rain and had to buy a $24 umbrella. 3 days in Boston – snow storm upon arrival. The _only_ place we saw the daffodils and crocuses (croci?) out was in Seattle, and even then they were covered with raindrops!

Anyway after slushing around on Pearl St we wound up at Trident Bookstore/Cafe, and I bought a bunch of books, postcards, and pottery (yes, again! I felt justified in doing so since I’d left most of the 15 steps pottery I’d bought in Ithaca at Chris’ house to be picked up when I come back in August :P) There was a cute pop-up book about a little boy looking for his mommy that featured a lot of mummies (the egyptian bandagey kind). After shopping in Trident there was some more milling around Pearl St with our resident hip person pointing out various grungy bars with reputable beer selections before we called it a night and sent him home.

I really like the vibe in Boulder. It’s sort of an affluent-hippy mix, and those are the best kind of hippies. Not to discriminate against poor people or anything (I consider myself ‘poor’ in Singapore), but at the very least I am able to earn my own keep and not impinge on other people’s hospitality – I would never ‘crash’ someone’s home because I can’t find housing – LZ’s and my policy is to always book a hotel unless we are extremely close to the ‘host’ and would LOVE to have that host stay with us or know that that host would love for us to stay with him/her, and to never plan to stay somewhere for extended periods if we do not have housing at all. We liked the pretty varied and interesting selection of books in Trident – everything was so buyable. I don’t think I’m exactly a shopaholic, but we don’t really have bookstores stocking such cool and affordable books in Sg. I also found a nice box of Frank Lloyd Wright postcards there!

5th Day in Ithaca (6th Mar)

This was the final day we would be spending here for awhile, but we promised everyone we would be back in August or September to pick up some stuff from Chris’ place before school begins.


We had another round of burrata in the morning, and Rich even tried a little. He said “That’s a big mushroom!” Cause I had poured some balsamic vinegar onto it and ground some black pepper over the cheese. I don’t know if he liked it but he certainly took a mouthful!

Then we invited him to trek with us at Sapsucker woods, which was too much socializing for him :P So we brought Buster instead.

Sapsucker woods was cold! But the sun was out that day, so we had lots of good sunlight for photos and blue skies.


[Telephone pole cutting through the woods]

Lots of the birds were hibernating, apart from the woodpeckers. We managed to catch 2 cardinals, all majestic and stark against the wintry landscape. One wonders how they survive/escape predators with their bright scarlet coloring. They must not be very good to eat!


[Squirrel nest in the trees]


[Woodpecker holes]

Chris pointed out rabbit burrows and woodpecker holes in the trees and squirrel nests and all sorts of animal footprints. It was a lovely romp, apart from the fact that my ears and toes were frozen by the end of it.


[Me and my Ithaca-mom]

We spent most of the time hopping from patch to patch of sunlight, running through the shadowy parts to get to the warmth of the sun -> certainly something one would never contemplate in Singapore.

We also paid a visit to the ornithology lab viewing gallery and the giftshop – the geese sitting on the frozen lake were so still that chris mistook them to be decoys – until they all moved :P


[Sitting ducks]

I bought a red cardinal finger puppet from the gift shop and LZ got a rabbit finger puppet to accompany it. We also got a gift card for Chris for opening her beautiful home to us – she seemed rather interested in a few of the hummingbird feeders in the shop.


[Boardwalk in Sapsucker woods]

Did you know that sapsuckers are a kind of bird? I guess it should be obvious (given the location of the ornithology lab) but we’d never thought about it before. Chris knows it because she was supposed to think of a bird name for her group when she was in Sunday school years and years ago, and of course she couldn’t choose something as normal and boring as “robin”, or “wren”, like the other groups did. She actually looked up a bird book and arrived at the longest name she could find: “Yellow-bellied sapsucker”. Lol.


[A yellow bellied sapsucker]


Most of the trees looked like this.


This one was still bright green! Chris says it’s hemlock.

After sapsucker woods we headed to BJs to refuel the tank (Chris has a group discount) – we managed to get the fuel to be exactly $10! Never happened before. Then we went to Friendly’s for lunch. The one in Pyramid mall has closed – Chris says it hasn’t been doing too well these days :( She got the all American burger,

we had a clam chowder,

and I had my typical honey BBQ chicken melt with waffle fries.

It was awesome but a bit too much (despite us only ordering 2 mains) Chris gets a senior discount (maybe 40% off? That is Friendly’s largest customer base I think) and a free scoop of ice cream, so I opted for the forbidden chocolate and cotton candy flavours. (She didn’t like the cotton candy).

After lunch we drove down Cayuga Heights Road to Sunset Park – it’s not directly on the roadside (Cayuga Heights Road) but rather amazingly I remembered which turning of Wyckoff the park was! All this driving around really helps us to color in bits of the Ithaca road map in our heads. I’d forgotten lots of things, such as how you can’t go straight down State St to the Commons, you have to turn right onto Green (or is it Seneca), and I couldn’t really navigate to Zaza’s smoothly from church. I’d even forgotten which road Kilpatricks was on!


[You can see most of Ithaca from Sunset Park]

We headed back home after Sunset Park and I rather ungratefully fell asleep while Chris made gingerbread cookies for Olympians. I think I said I would help but all the hiking in Sapsucker woods made us really tired. She woke me at around 4pm to remind us to head to the Schoenfeldts, since we had promised to visit the kids and we didn’t want to disappoint them.


I and K have been really into the making of rubber band bracelets, they both have looms and a ton of colored rubber bands, and K was really impressive! I was also a perfect elder brother, constantly complimenting her indirectly, saying she was the best in the class, that she was even better than the instructor. I didn’t really see any signs of oppositional disorder.


This is Lily the cat.

We had to leave for the clock tower at 5-ish, so we gave everyone hugs and promised to be back in August. The intake batch of compets were having their first briefing so I got to see Keith and Jen!!! Only didn’t get to meet up with Gretchen/Marisa on this trip. Bryan and I zipped through the passacaglia and HK came up too and we got to duet Fuzzy Blue Lights. I think as someone coming back to the chimes after a long hiatus, playing the higher note bells are easier; I was really clumsy as a secondo. There was also a new propped piece by some random guy who I hear was not from Cornell, but arranges pretty nice music. It is one of my favourite songs and so apt for my last concert for some time – ‘I’ll be seeing you’. I think it made Chris cry, the arrangement was so pretty, although I kinda squiffed around the middle part. The Schoenfeldt kids came up the tower, and so did Sandy! I was so proud of her. They had to rush off to Olympians, but I could stick around and take some final shots of the view, some of me and BHC and HK, and then we headed off to Zaza’s for dinner.

We left Brooktondale around 3:30am in the morning to catch our 5:30am flight from Elmira to Chicago and then to Denver, but US Airways cancelled the flight because “the pilot/crew had not had enough sleep or something”. Seriously? They redistributed everybody to other planes (I guess they can just do that since there were so few of us) but our “new” flight into Denver was about 5 hours after our original ETA, which also meant that we would miss most of the grad day at Boulder. Gah!

So we got on a Delta plane to Detroit and set about trying to get on an earlier flight (via Delta), but the Delta service desk wouldn’t/couldn’t help us, because our tickets were booked under US airways. About 5 million calls later we finally got on an 8am flight at Detroit to reach Denver at 10:10am (earlier than our original ETA). I think the reason the Delta guy at Elmira didn’t get me on the 8am flight (instead booking us on a 12pm flight.) was that the 8am flight only had economy plus seats. How can US Airways not pay for economy plus seats when they already screwed up our original flight? Even though we finally FINALLY got seats (after some rather irate calls, which I am ace at making) on the earlier flight, our baggage didn’t make it on the plane (thanks to airline bureaucracy that made it too late for the counter people to track our bags and get it on the correct plane), so it went to Denver on the later plane and the Delta people delivered it to the Boulder University Inn for us, and it was in turn received by the concierge. We didn’t so much as have to lift a finger, except to give the Delta Baggage Services our information at DIA. Delta’s service was impeccable throughout (apart for the ****** at Elmira).

Other than this little hiccup, our time spent in Ithaca was simply perfect and I was super happy to be able to spend all that time with people I’ve missed dearly for the past two years.