Friday, September 9, 2011

Week 2 USA: Seattle & the APSA

Stany and Shanty seem very small in this photograph of the most massive escalator I have ever seen. Inside the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle, there are three tiers cascading one after the other while extending to the fourth floor of the building! It is like a metal waterfall carrying people rather than water! By comparison with Portland or anything before seen in their experience, everything in Seattle seems massive: 60 story buildings (Shanty counted), extreme traffic on the streets, and the famous Space Needle rising to 605 feet (184 m.) making the skyline appear quite unique.

Driving 3.5 hours to Seattle from Portland, I decided the most dramatic entrance into the city would be by ferry boat across Puget Sound from the U.S. naval shipyard in Bremerton. It had been many years since Kris and I had taken this hour long ride and our timing allowed for the sun to be at our backs near sunset so as to have the best photo opportunities of the skyline from the water. My nostalgia was rewarded with sunshine as we drove our 10 year-old van onto the massive ferry (designed to transport up to 120 automobiles). An elevator up to the observation deck gave us access to an open platform on the front of the vessel where the only negative required us to endure a fairly cool evening breeze of salty air. The departing view of Bremerton was spectacular with three aircraft carriers docked in plain view. Large jelly fish could be observed in the waters passing quickly far below. Views of the Seattle skyline emerged as amazingly as expected. The ride was further enhanced by friendly conversation with a lone passenger, Paul, a software salesman now from Pittsburg who surprised us all by generously offering us drinks!

Upon arriving in Seattle nostalgia prompted me to suggest dinner at Ivar`s Restaurant on the waterfront. When I was a child living with my single parent father just south of this city, my Dad and I would take a pilgrimage to Ivar`s every time my grandparents visited from Kansas. Grandpa loved the fish & chips while Grandma liked the famous clam chowder and prawns. So it is we enjoyed the sunset over Puget Sound eating at Ivar`s. Only my nectarine salad was moderately priced and Stany successfully won the battle with me to pay the bill. Stany`s generosity was consistently present throughout this trip and he and I struggled to accommodate one another by generally taking turns on spending issues. He can be very insistent yet compromise was possible!

Our primary reason (excuse) to be five days (4 nights) in Seattle was for Stany and I to attend the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA) that was held at the Convention Center featured in this week`s photo. We soon discovered why such a massive venue was needed, as this year`s event had over 7,000 people registered! Book publishers present were housed in a huge ballroom, with at least 75 displays enticing attendees to browse, adopt texts, or buy. Stany and I spent hours in this ballroom and I left with five books (3 at no cost and 2 at a discounted $10/each), with 4 additional complimentary copies to be mailed to me. Together we also collected a large variety of pens and other souvenirs available free of cost by the vendors – a stash that will help satisfy the need for Stany to provide gifts to many acquaintances upon his return to India! In these ways we helped recoup the substantial APSA membership and conference registration fees!

A most pleasant surprise was when we found Andrew Reiss at a display promoting Fulbright applications. Dr. Reiss had come to Portland Community College in the Fall prior to my departure for India – and remembered me from that brief visit two years ago. Very impressive! He, in turn, was impressed with how Stany and I had organized ourselves to each be granted a Fulbright to one another`s institutions in quick succession. It seems that such a thing is quite rare and, Dr. Reiss thought, likely worthy of having an interview arranged by Fulbright folks in Washington, D.C. (probably via phone or teleconference). Stany and I agreed to cooperate with any such request as we both, with great sincerity, feel indebted to Fulbright both for the opportunities we have had and for positive future educational outcomes that cannot fully be now seen. Dr. Reiss and I will be in ongoing communications regarding how Stany and I might be helpful.

Other activities associated with the APSA Conference included attending several panel presentations (often with only as many people in the audience as there were members of the panel), my attending a meeting of the Political Science Education Section(PSES) of the APSA, and making contact with many folks who may evolve into future relationships. At least two such people may apply to fill forthcoming teaching vacancies at my home institution, while I may share with several others multiple common interests at the APSA Teaching & Learning Conference now scheduled to take place in Washington, D.C. next February. At the International Reception, Kris and Shanty joined Stany and I in sharing with many Conference attendees coming from all over the world. Conversations with Political Science Instructors from Ghana, Turkey, and Argentina were especially stimulating, resulting in photograph gifts being sent out by me after our return to Portland.

We also managed time to play tourist, taking three afternoons to explore the famous Pike Place Market area and Seattle Aquarium as well as the Space Needle and Seattle Center (where I had attended the World`s Fair in 1962). Memories too many to mention would include watching children play in the massive fountain at the Seattle Center, listening to live music from an Ecuadorian folk group while Shanty and Stany went up 605 feet to the top of the Space Needle (=184m), and listening to a lecture from a scuba diver while she was among the fish in a huge tank at the Seattle Aquarium (seen through a widow at least 10 meters high and 15 wide. Most tasty of all our meals out, by far (in my opinion) was an all-you-can-eat Indian lunch buffet at Pablo`s at 3rd and Pike. Stany and Shanty also seemed very happy with their first native food in at least 10 days!

During our nights of sharing a large (2 queen sized beds) room at La Quinta Inn, the four of us lived as harmoniously as members of one family should, excited with the prospects of each new day. Stany was able to achieve email contact with a former classmate of his from India living in the Seattle area, resulting in he and Shanty having dinner out with Krishna and his wife (a reunion after 25 years)! We hope that these family friends will come down to Portland to continue the sharing begun in Seattle.

Our 4th night in Seattle we stayed at the home of my former step mother Ellen and her new husband Al who live in Mill Creek (about 30 minutes from downtown Seattle). Stany and Shanty were in awe of their fine home (including gargantuan bedrooms) as well as the recreational vehicle (RV) in their driveway (complete with its kitchen, bathroom, living area, and bedroom with queen-sized bed). My step-brother Mike and step-sister Carrie (with her daughter Katie) joined us for a fine meal provided by Ellen and we were able to talk well into the evening. Very pleasant. The next morning, after calling my Aunt Eunice (who was not feeling well enough for us to visit), we decided to postpone attending church so as to get an early start towards Mt. Rainier
(a substantial detour on the way back to Portland).

How could we not go to Paradise, when we had the chance? The drive to Paradise Inn (as high as any road goes on Mt. Rainier) was slow due to traffic associated with the Labor Day Holiday. Nostalgia again was mine as we slowly wound our way up the two lane highway I recalled from my childhood. I last traversed this route with my father and grandparents when I was 12 years old. 50 years ago. Even in early September, there was still snow when we arrived at Paradise Inn (much to the joy of Shanty), but not the Ice Cave I had hoped to enter again. A park ranger told me that the famous Ice Cave in my memory had fallen victim to global warming some 20 years ago. Perhaps that can also be explained away by those politicians still denying the reality of global warming and the human factors contributing to it….

Having missed by 15 minutes an evening Sunday evening Mass in Portland, we attended church at The Grotto on Labor Day morning. The Grotto is maintained by the Servite Order of the Catholic Church and is an area full of tall evergreen trees set against a cliff that rises to about 50 meters. Quite, serene, spiritual. Close to The Grotto we went to the top of Rocky Butte where, from a fortress-like structure, there is a fine view of the Coulumbia River Gorge, the Airport, and (about 4 miles distant) downtown Portland. Later in Labor Day, our housemate Iris joined Stany, Shanty, and I to visit the Pittock Mansion in Portland`s West Hills (with an amazing view of the Willamette River, downtown Portland, and Mt. Hood). From there we went to one of the largest rose gardens in the world at Washington Park. Recalling how much her deceased father loved flowers and trees, Shanty there proclaimed how ``This is heaven``! The roses were still almost entirely in bloom, displaying a variety of colors almost beyond belief. Stany and Shanty will certainly remember Portland as many do: the City of Roses.

On day 13 of their time in Oregon, I gave Stany and Shanty a short tour of all three campuses of Portland Community College from smallest to biggest starting with Cascade (about 25,000 students), to Rock Creek (about 30,000), to Sylvania (about 35,000). Urban, to rural, to suburban. We managed to have time to meet and share with all three Division Deans with who Stany will be working Nancy Wessel (at Cascade), Karen Sanders (at Rock Creek), and Loretta Goldy (at Sylvania). We also met with two of three campus Presidents, David Rule (at Rock Creek) and Linda Geis (at Sylvania) – both of whom invited us out to share future meals prior to Shanty`s scheduled departure on October 10th. Judging from photographs taken, my impression was that Stany and Shanty were very taken by each campus – but may have liked the physical presence of Rock Creek the best, with its 240 acres of woodlands, wetlands, and farming area.

Tomorrow Stany and Shanty will begin their third week in the U.S. in Florida (where they will be for 5 days), followed by Texas (where they will stay 2 days). This hectic schedule is to see relatives from Kerala living in the U.S. while also finding out there is much variety to this country beyond the Pacific Northwest. They willo return to Portland in a week`s time full of new adventures to tell us all about!

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