Monday, January 30, 2012

the getaway

I came to Chiang Mai early to slip into the quiet comfort of warmth and stillness...and anonymity. Tomorrow is my check out day from the little bungalow that has been my retreat. I will report to the hotel downtown, where several hundred of us will gather for our annual conference. I look forward to it for a number of reasons, partly because I am coming out of isolation and am emotionally and spiritually ready for the next eight days of fellowship, workshops, meetings and dinners on the terrace.

It's been a lovely two weeks at this place. Though not much more expensive than the budget YMCA that has been my default accomodation in previous years, it's given me two of the things that the Y can't: a pool and seclusion. I've taken to calling the owner,a retired man from the UK, "Sir Philip." The gecko brothers, on the other hand, still remain, "the gecko brothers."


My bungalow is on the far right.

The bikes are available for any guest to use. They don't climb hills very well, but are fine for quick trips into the nearby village.

There are three pools on sight. The largest is a lap pool. The two circular ones are more shallow and are generally offered for children. The water is as cold as I can stand it; get in and keep moving.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Do we get a prize?

Just linked to a newly published list from of the top 30 universities in China for 2012. If the minds behind the appointments have any credibility, then Harbin Institute of Technology is in the top ten. From the source (click for full article):

Rank 2012: 10

Rank 2011: 10

Score: 104.98


Located in the ice city of Harbin in Heilongjiang Province, Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) was formerly founded in 1920 as the Harbin Sino-Russian School for Industry. The university, a member of the C9 League, is generally recognized as one of China's top universities with distinct and unparalleled programs in the field of astronautics. Early in 1954, it became one of the first six universities in China designated to receive major support from the government. With its cutting-edge high-tech research, HIT has always been a leader in large-scale and highly sophisticated national projects. It has made great contributions to China's space and defense industry, including the internationally-renowned "Shenzhou Series Spaceship Project". It has created many scientific inventions, such as China's first simulation computer, first arc-welding robots, and the world's first advanced-level system radar.

Monday, January 23, 2012

in the gecko...

By the end of the day today (Monday), I will have been in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for a week. I usually arrive prior to my annual business conference. I've been staying on the outskirts of the city at a swimming facility that has three bungalows on site. I wanted to be secluded and away from the night bars and markets that monopolize the downtown streets. So far, I got what I asked for: I'm a 10-15 minute walk away from the nearby village, and the first things I hear in the mornings are the warblers perched atop nearby tree branches and the occasional dog chorus from nearby properties. There's an insomniac rooster somewhere around here, as well.

I also discovered that there is a turf war going on among the geckos that congregate on the outside walls of the bungalows. One of them has managed to break inside (not hard at all, considering that my windows are open during the day and my front door leaves enough room to allow light in through the bottom). He has claimed his stake above my wall-mounted air conditioner and has demonstrated a nocturnal fascination with the trash can that sits directly underneath. I know this because two nights ago, he rattled around in the plastic liner long enough for me to realize that it wasn't being stirred by air circulation. Once I turned on the light and started walking toward the trash can, he seized straight out of it and dashed to his hiding spot behind the air conditioner. I transferred the contents (few as they were) to the bathroom trash can, overturned the tempting one, and set my sandals on top. No more noise for the rest of the night.

Last night, the trash can was empty. I made sure of it. About 45 minutes after I turned off the light, I heard the unmistakable rustle of plastic. I didn't even turn on the light as I raised my head and - without even second-guessing his English proficiency - said, "There's nothing in there." He continued investigating a few more minutes. At one point, I got up to use the restroom and, as I turned on the light, I saw him scamper back to his hideaway. A few seconds later, I saw him dart from there toward the the large window on the same wall. He was darker than I remembered from the previous sighting.

Within seconds, I heard the the succession of clicks coming not from the one on wall, but from behind the air conditioner. I recognized the sound immediately; during a previous conference, my roommate and I had a gecko in our room, and he silently occupied a corner, save the peculiar little chirp that charmingly incriminated him. My trash can scavenger had, as best I could tell, kicked the intruder out of his spot that was likely claimed while he was, well, in the can. I had on my hands the cute reptilian version of a smack down.

No idea where the challenger finally ended up. I guess I'll find out tonight if there's a round two -- after I turn over the trash can.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Harbin Ice Festival 2012


(video courtesy of the Telegraph)

New Year's Day 2012

I was invited to dinner with one of my freshmen classes. Whoever made the decision of where to eat has good taste; we dined at a hot pot place with mirrors on the ceiling (but without the "pink champagne on ice") and a great view through the third story windows overlooking the street. With full bellies, we walked down the street, took a few photos in front of some ice sculptures and then retreated to the warmth of a karaoke room, where I contributed two mangled Chinese love ballads.

my favorite photo of the evening