Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ann Arbor, Michigan, Sept 2011

When University of Michigan invited me to give a talk, I decided it was time to go back to the US, four years after I left the country.

Yes, it was a free trip. Even better, Mr Hippo was also invited so we could keep company of each other.  But the important reason was the University was my dream when applying for a graduate school 10 years ago.  Yet, I did not bear any chance because back then they would not offer any scholarship to foreign students.

So, the trip to Ann Arbor was supposed to be like a dream coming true, however, I did not have much time to embrace the happy reality of "yahoo, I am finally here!"   We were only there for three days, and with the hazy feeling of being jet-lagged and rushing in/out of the city, it was all like another dream.

Three months later, I don't remember much about Ann Arbor and the only word popped into my mind was 'cold' when I searched my memory for any impression the city left .  It was late Autumn and the rain didn't help either.  The photo above shows part of the campus.  "It is just like another college town," Mr Hippo answered, when I asked his impression for Ann Arbor.  I have to agree, and I think I like Burlington, VT much better by comparison.  Of course I am biased, just like for me Ben & Jerry is the best ice cream in the world ("It is the time that you spend on your rose that makes your rose so important," said the fox in the Little Prince).

One not-so-commonplace episode in Ann Arbor was a dinner at the Totoro restaurant.  I just had to go there because Totoro is our favorite Japanese cartoon character (probably because it is also nicely-rounded?).    Not surprisingly, they have Totoro all over the place, Smiling ones on the counter of their open kitchen, grinning ones on waiters' T shirt, and even their dishes are Totoro-sized (shown in the picture on the right).  I had never used a BASIN to eat in my life!

Luckily it was only a salad and we managed to gobble it down as a couple of happy totoros would do.  Still, this experience taught me a lesson: Look around first, then order in a restaurant that has 'hippo' or 'elephant' or 'whale' in its name! 

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