Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Monday, August 18, 2003


I picked up my sister from Ithaca, NY yesterday. She was doing an internship at Cornell, working as a lawyer in some kind of enlightened, experimental family court. My sister just finished her first year in law school at Queens University in Canada. It was an 8 hour drive to get there and only 6 hours to get back when I decided to try some shortcuts against the advice of Microsoft Maps & Trips (a computer program that gives you Mapquest-like functionality when you are disconnected from the internet).

Ithaca was an interesting place. If you can imagine a city founded by hippies and based on hippy ideals then that is what Ithaca is like. Despite the city's size, there are no Starbucks, Burger Kings or McDonald's to be found; the city somehow blocks the entry of these mega-corps through by-laws.

The local restaurants only serve organic food, the eggs sold there only come from "free-range chickens." And the stores eschew polyesterl opting instead for cotton grown in the continental USA guaranteed to be assembled in non-sweat shop conditions. In a word, they seeking to live sustainably.

I went to a famous vegetarian restaurant there called Mooseheads famous for publishing a series of vegetarian cookbooks that is closely followed by a legion of fans. I purchased their "quick and easy" cookbook; translation: a cookbook for people who don't have time to cook.

Interestingly the people of Ithaca have set up their own currency called "Ithaca hours" which is pegged to the US dollar. The currency is designed to promote the local economy. They call their currency "hours" to emphasize a view of money that sees it as "potential labor."

Who are these people? They are mostly hippies, Cornell professors, and a whole bunch of lower-income people, who, despite lacking means still adhere to the city's ideals.

The city also has some interesting natural features. First the city has a series of gorges aka waterfalls. I followed my sister through a beautiful nature walk that consisted of a long upward climb that followed the path of a river. The river twisted through a series of mini water falls culminating in a super long waterfall at the end of the trek. Cornell has taken advantage of these gorges by situating its buildings in such a way that they overlook the gorges. Also there is one river that snakes through the middle of their campus. I tried standing under a waterfall -- it really is quite relaxing.

The tallest gorge is taller than Niagara Falls, NY. Not surprisingly, the city is full of hills. The hills are so steep that I actually wonder how people get around during the winter without sliding. Anyways, that's all for now. -H:)

Sunday, August 17, 2003

First Night in Cambridge

The bank machines across the street from my house dispense both Canadian and US funds. So with Canadian money in my left pocket and American money in my right pocket, I started driving towards America.

I love my sister. She helped pack my things, and did a super-fantastic job at that -- when I was busy running around taking care of other things. Whenever you leave for a new place, it's always wonderful to get that help from those you love.

I started driving from Toronto at 11am and started seeing signs for Boston and Cambridge around 10pm. On the way, I rang up Safa and had dinner before I even bothered to unpack. I arrived at my new residence past midnight to find the front desk empty.

How would I get the keys to my new apartment?

By a stroke of good fortune I happened to bump into the welcome coordinator, who out of sheer coincidence happened to be passing through the lobby at midnight. He called the "Facilities department," that had a 24-hour line to let people in after hours. A nice guy showed up about 10 minutes later, and he let me into my room.

I turned on the light to find a decent-sized, hexagonal shaped room. My bedroom door was detached from its hinges. In fact, the door it was lying against a wall, while a big screen TV on wheels lay against one of my walls. My apartment mate had e-mailed me to warn me about this.

Apparently his room was too small to store a projection TV his grandma had bought him as a graduation present. His TV was so large that he had to take my door off its hinges to get it into my room. I opened up the drapes to reveal a great view of the Cambridge skyline that included the Charles River. This was the 18th floor of a 24-storey tower -- not bad. The view was better than what had at home!

I unpacked what things I could -- and after unpacking the essentials including my comforter, and bedspread, I decided to go to sleep. I noticed that I had forgotten my pillow. No matter, I was going to sleep and after rolling up an extra sheet as a substitute pillow, I soon fell asleep.