June 28, 2006

It's a whole new world!

Heard of the phrase "kenathu thavala" (frog in a well), the frog's world is the well around it and it thinks there is no world beyond the well (somewhat like H.G.Well's The Country of the Blind). So, anyway, two frogs from Lexington set out to see the world last week (I wouldn't go as far as saying we didn't think there was a world beyong Lex but well, it's a whole new world out there :)

The first thing that struck me about Seattle is that the city is aged, the buildings, the huge trees and even the weather seemed to suggest a place that had aged. B~ told me Redmond was much younger (built after MSFT came up), to me Redmond seemed old too (maybe it was just the weather that day). So, anyway, we wandered about the wise old cities and I liked quite a few things about it:

  • Let me begin with coffee because I think Seattle is to coffee is as Kentucky is to horses and KFC (tell any relative about Kentucky and you'll know what am talking about :) - There really is a coffee place every street! And not just Starbucks, there was this cute artsy coffee place (bottom row, first two photos from the left) that we went to at Pike Place in Seattle, then we had Seattle's Best Coffee and strangely enough, we didn't have coffee at Starbucks in Seattle. We did take a picture in front of the very first Starbucks (top left-most pic) though!

  • Pike place is this really neat market place in Seattle, we went early morning immediately after our Canadian Visa appointment and people were just setting up their stalls, within half an hour, the entire place filled with rows and rows of fresh flowers, fruits, produce; it was fun just to walk around and watch the busy morning unfold in this place. We then wandered around to this candy shop which also happened to sell kites. The lady there asked me if I recently got married (she was so thrilled that she was right) and since we bought a bunch of kite stuff from there, she also gave us honey-roasted popcorn (bottom row, two pics to the right) on the house. I will vouch that it's the best popcorn that I have ever tasted in my life!

Our Visa Stamping Appointment...

was anything but what we expected. First we got kicked out because we carried sealed envelopes (our official transcripts), "Go to the back of the 8.30 line!", the burly guard roared (it was as if I was in school again, only that noone had screamed at me like that in school!). So anyway, we went to the back of the 8.30 line and started giggling because the whole episode was so weird. First they ask for official transcripts, then they ask us to open them (to be fair, we didn't open them all and that was our fault) and then he strikes through our visa appointment letter (quite traumatic for B~ who hates even the lightest pencil marks on his books :) we get thrown out, anyway we sobered up lest we should get thrown back to the 10 AM line (he actually threatened to do that) and then were let in. The guard must have felt bad for us because he said, "See that guy there?" (pointing to a confused looking chap hovering outside) "I sent him to the 10 AM line!" Joy. Poor chap.

The interview inside went smoothly for the most part but k has a different version of the interview. Anyway, the good thing is we got our visas stamped after all that. B~ commented that he hated talkative interviewers, he said, "Imagine if they go on yapping for 15 minutes and then say, 'that's all very good but your visa is rejected'" :) I did see one woman denied a visa (she was there for a H4 to H1 transfer)...

Sights and Eats...

We went around Vancouver, Whistler and Victoria and saw the usual places - Capilano Suspension Bridge, Granville Island, Butchart gardens, scenic drive to Whistler, biking in Stanley Park, Robson Street, BC ferries...Ikea(!) - all fun. We ate food ranging from greasy Indian dal and questionable vegetable-curry in a small, dark restaurant with one-man service (he was the waiter, cook and cashier!) to expensive Greek leafy wraps with lemon sauce! In Seattle we ate twice at Thai restaurants, King and I and Thai Ginger - the pad thai definitely had a whole lot more oil than here at Lex. We had pasta, icecream and coffee all for less than $10 each at Old Spaghetti place - beautiful decor with tinted glasses.

Worth remembering...

- that the suspension bridges make the tree stronger! Also that they would have to rebuild the bridges once every 4-5 years because of tree growth! That's a douglas fir that k and B~ are hugging in the picture above. We saw some that were more than 300 feet tall, older than us by atleast a couple of centuries and more than 20 feet in circumference! We actually bowed down to one of the Grandma douglas fir trees!

- At Butchart gardens, the flowers mainly stole the show but it was fascinating to watch the different varities of leaves and plants that surrounded them! (Note the second row in this picture-collage).

- On the way to Stanley Park, there was the cutest cupcake shop (bottom right most pic), I just had to eat one!

- Microsoft is everywhere, literally. It's hard to escape it when you live on the campus, MSFT somehow manages to enter most conversations, there is less of a home-work distinction there than here...

- So we heard quite a few quips about our "small town" life :) Ku~ asked if we still had only two roads (one for the University and one for Companies) or if they were building a third road. Driving in downtown Seattle was kind of...wild compared to Lex (you know the two roads that we usually drive on :)

As k put it, the trip gave us a chance to get a different perspective, to catch a glimpse of a different life style, to take a peek at a different work-culture, to catch up with friends, to raise eyebrows at the real-estate prices and all that good stuff...a nice little breather in all, frogs back to well now :)

Tip: Green implies there's an associated photo in the collages somewhere :)


Subha said...

I like the "frogs in the well" comparison! LOL

Saranya Kishore said...

Hi RS,
Awesome post!! :--)
I do understand the 'frog in the well' term.
But I think it is nice to live in a small city and feel comfortable, and only _visit_ the big cities.. no?
Because living in big cities is a pain most times, as you probably already know. :--)

Waiting for the Canada post. PLiss dont make me wait for long. ;--)

Zeppelin said...

so back to blue grass country after whiffin some maples eh ? ;)

i wish i had more time to go around Toronto last time.. :)

Gayatri said...

I'm glad the frogs like the world outside the well... :p

dinesh said...

The pacific really is beautiful !! Nothing like we've seen in the east I thought.

Like saranya puts it, ever since I moved from lexington (and when I was there actually), I felt living in a smaller city is always nicer. This may be individual experience based, but even the people seem nicer in smaller places. So, yeah, you have a nice well. Feel happy about it ! :)

Sriram C S said...

Very nice photos!

Twisted DNA said...

Is the Pike market where they allegedly throw fish across? I have been there but don't remember.

Seattle is an interesting place but I don't think I will ever be able to live there. How about you? The soggy weather is bound to put a damper on the sprits. Actually, there is no other plnace in the US than bay area I would ever live.

RS said...

subha - :)

saranya - all condensed to this post :)

arun - lets plan a new trip!

gg - :)

dinesh - I am :)

sriram - thanks :)

dna - possible...i did see a lot of fish markets in there...well yes, it's gloomy weather there most of the time...but if I live there, I guess I'll begin to love that too :)

Parth said...

Oy you were in sadda Seattle! Seems like you had a good time. Glad to know!

RS said...

Parth - yup! It was different and fun! :)

© Ramya Sethuraman, All Rights Reserved.