Sunday, June 21, 2015

The 26th Floor

I love conversations with strangers. In a short time we realize just how much we have in common and I realize just how many friends I have in this world that I have not met yet. When I am traveling by myself I feel even more connected with the world around me and how similar we all are.

I woke up bright and early after a beautiful day in the Botanical Gardens to board the Amtrak from Vancouver to Seattle. I met a lady who had recently moved to Canada from Japan and while the lush green pastures and estuary glided by us, we talked about culture, food, and journeys.

From the quiet and reflective vibe at University of British Columbia, I found myself slightly disoriented in the bustling traffic and massive skyscrapers. I felt small in the jungle of buildings and maze of people. I checked into our room on the 26th floor of the Sheraton. The room was so clean and luxurious that I quickly tucked away my suitcase not wanting to mar the pristine decadence of the room. I could see the world like a bird from the window. It was peaceful seeing those overwhelming city streets from so high up, and watching the cars and people move with chaotic precision.

I had a great time talking to Bhavna, Jonathan, and Sarah and stopping for several hour lunches and dinners. While preparing for our presentations and going to different sessions at the Washington State Convention Center, I learned about engineering, social justice, and life in general. On our last day we visited Pike Market and I picked up some dried figs and enjoyed looking at the quirky bookstore, music store, and magic store. I am grateful that there is so much to learn, and that there are so many kind people in the world.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Beautiful Vancouver

After a long hiatus, I have decided to start up my blog again to reflect on my adventures this summer. This is my second full day of summer, and already I have learned so much and have had several adventures.

I had the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone yesterday and present to a number of professors and professionals that I look up to at the Engineering Education for Sustainable Development Conference in Vancouver. Their support and feedback made the experience so fulfilling. I am so grateful to my mentor, Dr. Bhavna Hariharan, for being such a caring teacher, mentor, and friend to me this year. I can definitely say that taking ME 177 last year changed my life, and encouraged me to explore what I was passionate about with rigor. She has welcomed me with open arms into her research and teaching, and she opened my eyes to how engineering and social justice are linked in ways that lead to shareable prosperity. I enjoyed every stage of our work on developing globally prepared engineers from writing the abstract to presenting the research. I am looking forward to presenting next week at the American Society for Engineering Education conference as well.

Now on to the adventures! I got to meet some inspiring people at the conference, and I enjoyed going to the technical sessions. Today I decided to give myself some time off and explore the University of British Columbia. I spent a few hours at the Museum of Anthropology. This was the largest collection of non-European art that I had seen before, and I enjoyed learning about art from the Native American tribes, from many African countries, and from Asia.

 I was mesmerized by the large collection of everyday objects - cups, knives, blankets, and masks. It was beautiful looking through history's closet. In every line of paint and sinew of fabric, I could see the hands and hearts of people throughout time and space. I tried to imagine what these hands looked like. Were they wrinkled with age? If their fingers weathered by work, were their palms smooth or roughened? While the stories and forms of expression were so different, looking at them made me feel how connected we were. While our mediums are different, our stories have so much in common. Despite their many challenges, humans are strong and resilient. I felt humbled to be a small ripple in  this continuous ebb and flow of the human experience.

I strolled through the faculty neighborhood taking time to touch the petals and leaves that I saw. One aspect of biodiversity that I find so exciting is how many different types of textures there are. I met this charming French-Canadian professor. I asked him for directions to the beach, and he pointed me toward the "new beach."

The trail was in a densely wooded forest. The only sound that I heard other than my feet thudding on the wooden path was the sound of the wind rustling. The only fellow moving creature I saw was a prosperous (aka chubby) banana slug happily wallowing in a sheen of slime.

I approached the sound of rushing waves when I saw the sign. Remember that grandfatherly professor? This was no "new" beach. This was a nude beach. Thankfully, I didn't run into any awkward situations because the only creature there was an elegant heron lifting his slender neck with effortless poise. It was both intensely peaceful and unsettling to be so completely isolated. The looming snow mountains, the wide ocean, and the city buildings  in the distance were so idyllic, and I felt that I had entered a postcard.

After trekking back up through the forest, I let my feet soak in a couple of the fountains at UBC. I got my fountain-hopping fix from afar, although the experience made me already nostalgic for Stanford. It was refreshing to explore a place where I knew nobody and had nothing I had to do. I learned, wandered, wondered, strolled, appreciated, and wrote.  My idea of a perfect day.