Sunday, July 25, 2010

The trip that was!

The internet on the boat has became unworkable with only four open lines and it's often not available even when a line is open. So the daily posting for this blog became unworkable. The followings were some of the unpolished feelings I jotted down from time to time -- some recordings of the trip and the conference. All in all it was a good conference, I am glad that I was being invited to attend and accepted the invitation even my physical condition is not quite in good shape. As an older person limping around through out the conference, I made peace with my inevitable condition. Now that I am home and have been relaxing for a few days, I am glad that I have this experience. At the end, the conference organizer sent a questionnaire inviting us to evaluate the conference and asking if we'll be back. My answer was not sure -- most others answered positively. Nevertheless I made all kinds of conference travels, this Volga River Cruise will be certainly be one of the most memorable ones!

Woke up in the morning before 5 am and felt pretty much refreshed. Since it’s a bright morning out there, the sun has already been up for a while, so I got up, washed up, and took an early morning walk around the deck. It’s so tranquil and peaceful, the boat, the river, along with a few early morning fishing boats near the river banks here and there, and all are so peaceful and quiet. One can unmistakably feel these are all God’s creation, what a wonderful handiwork He made, and He is out there looking over us.
I chatted with Efim Pelinovsky briefly last night at the party. I thanked him for inviting me to this symposium and I can hardly believe that I am really cruising in the Volga River right now, which holds so much of my fascination since childhood. As I suspected, he was interested in seeing me bring some message of real life freaque waves to the theoreticians. I am not certain that I could, because I did talked to a theoretical physicist who talked about theoretical modeling as I indicated to him we need real measurement to find out what is needed to modeling. Somehow there was no meeting of mind as he politely thanked me for the discussion and left. That’s probably the kind of realms I have expected from this conference, no surprise here!
Well, today is just the start!
Yesterday I tried to be restful except went onshore briefly to find a bank and changed for some local money, bought some postcards and a travel book in English about this area we are passing through. I enjoyed the early morning walk around the deck very much, so I’ll try to make it a daily exercise. Somehow when I come into the internet connection room early morning, I can’t get connected. O well, I’ll come back later. It seems that no one can fix the not operating internet connection this morning. That’s what’s happening!
There will be an excursion this morning I think I’ll be joining them to do the touristy thing. The boat has already arrived in Yaroslavl. So stay toned!
Well, I took the excursion to Yaroslavl, an old town that is preparing to celebrate millennium later this year. We visited a couple of monasteries. I can see plenty of catholic connections there. Somehow I did not derive too much spiritual feelings. I guess I am more of a tourist than a pilgrim. Besides, it’s a typical hot summer day and my walking was still far from healthy as expected. Nevertheless I generally enjoyed the excursion. Love to take pictures. Tomorrow there will be another one.
Now that we are drawing closer toward St. Petersburg, this morning we’ll be arriving at the town called Goritsy, we are no longer in Volga River anymore. We are now in a large lake called Rybinsk Sea after gone through a major lock this morning. Actually yesterday we also went through a similar set-up called Gorkiy Sea. If not noticing the widening of the viewing field, one can hardly notice the difference. All are nicely smooth and quiet – no waves except those generated by the ship’s track!
Today’s excursion is a visit before lunch to the town of Kirillov on Lake Silverskoye, only a short bus ride away. We are allowed to take pictures of outside but not inside where they have collections of historical stuffs. The monastery was known to have assembled a number of cathedral and churches. I did not really see any actual churches around somehow. As all the things are basically in the renovation mode, we are just witnessing tourist attraction in preparation. I guess the monastery properties were nationalized during the “Soviet” times, only now they are returned to the church people and they are rushed to make them available for tourist business. So far all of our excursions have been monastery visits. Another day, another monastery visit! My main complain would be that amidst the tourist attractions, spiritual aspect of the visits that could be a nice by-product of a visit but it has been completely missing. Oh well!
I first got up at 2 am local time to try to make use of the internet. I was able to read Tina’s message and her travelogue. I composed a reply but the internet was out again. I then slept for a couple more hours when the internet is nicely working again to finally send the message out to Tina. They are just about at the finishing days of their cruise while we have still about 3 days to go yet.
This morning our boat is going down stairs toward lower levels. It has already gone through a few locks. It is going down on another one as I am typing right now. There is nothing special, just new experience for me.
Being alone, even though everything is reasonably comfortable, I am getting a little bit impatience. Tomorrow afternoon can’t come soon enough for me to present my paper. At least today should be leisurely since there is no excursion today. My hip recovery is still ongoing. Yesterday I went on to the excursion without carrying my cane. Somehow I don’t feel that sufficient progress has been made yet. A couple of people have been jogging around the deck this morning. I wish I could do that again someday.
Today is my regular calendar birthday that I never celebrate. A date only my mother had noticed and told me. It should be my birthday. But since my parents always celebrated my birthday on the 18th day of the lunar sixth month, this has become only the birthday I now notice to myself in passing.
This afternoon in the session of “mini-symposium on rogue waves in nature” after the afternoon coffee break, I presented my paper following the opening talk of Efim Pelinovsky. It was held in the top deck bar room, a very comfortable room. The room was quite full when I was making my presentation. I think I did reasonably well. Later in the dinner party, Efim personably thanked me for the presentation. He is a busy guy who organized the session, presented two papers in the session, and tomorrow will be also give a plenary lecture. Anyway, I was happy that it was over and done with. I messaged to Tina that “My mission is accomplished!”
The dinner party later in the early evening was not much fun, too crowded with boat full of people in a rather smaller room. Not enough vegetables or fruits to choose from. I just managed to eat whatever I can grab through the crowds.
Well, one more day!
We arrived at Valaam this morning, the last stop before St. Petersburg tomorrow. We took a long excursion to the monastery 6km away on a different part of the island from where we port. We actually took a boat ride to get there. With my walking difficulty, I managed to make the excursion. At one time there was a lot of stairs to climb up. I almost decided not to do it. But I did, otherwise there will be no excursion for me. So the story is that I did not let my slow recovery get me down. Every hurdle I get over, I told myself so far so good! That’s the characteristics of this trip: every so far so good one at a time!
The conference is over. We arrived at St. Petersburg early morning. After breakfast, a bus took us to the airport. On the bus ride we went through part of the city so we did have seen some sights of the city. That’s good enough for me. I am ready to go home! Spend some time waited for the flight at St. Petersburg Airport and a 3 and ½ hour SAS flight took me to Zurich and had a comfortable night at the airport hotel, Radisson Blu. Now I am back at the airport lounge waiting for the flight for Chicago. (On hindsight, maybe I should choose to go through Frankfurt again that way will get me home sooner. There’s a Chinese saying roughly translated as “A home-bound heart is like an arrow!” That pretty much sums up my current feeling right now!
Eight hours and 44 minutes flight took me from Zurich to Chicago. Things have been relatively fine as good as one can be expected under the circumstances. My initial reaction to ORD was that’s a mad house with crowded people everywhere, at the immigration control and security entrance, thousands of people waited to rush through. But somehow just following the movement it all get through in due time. Now I am waiting for the flight to Detroit. The last part of the long trip is no short cut. I just called and talked to Teresa, a few hours yet to go through and I’ll be finally home sweet home! Deo gratias!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

First port visit

We made our first port of call today on the afternoon of the conference, a visit to a charming little town called Gorodets that has nearly a thousand year history. The town was found in 1152. Prince Aleksandr Nevsky died here. There was a statue of the prince. The above is a picture of me standing in front one of their Master Craftsmen’s house with the prince’s statue on the up right corner. I did not go into the house behind me when everyone else did, too much walking.

In the evening there was the conference opening party on the upper deck plenty of all kinds of foods with lots of Vodka’s around, I settled for my usual orange juice.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A long day

Well, a long day indeed, I finally came aboard the conference boat – George Zukov, named after the WWII famous general. The flight from Frankfurt to Nizhny was nice and smooth and by virtue of my special order of low salt diet I was even served a nice piece of fresh fish for dinner!

There were 40 people from that flight supposedly to come to this conference. The organizer had prepared a big bus to take us all to the boat. The Russian immigration officer took time to check out each and everyone before let everyone in. I waited outside his booth for at least 10 minutes before got my pass. The bus ride was kind of long and slowly went across the city to come to the boat harbor. It was close to mid-night and naturally dark outside so we did not see much. It’s a relatively small boat with only three floors of cabins. No comparison to ocean cruise ships here. But all in all a reasonably comfortable arrangement.

I guess I must be tired, I fall soundly sleep before waking up in the morning.

So far so good!

Here I am relaxing at the Sky-club-lounge in terminal 2 of the Frankfurt airport. After a delayed 7 hour Lufthansa flight from Detroit. I am still having plenty of time for my next flight to Nizhny Novgorod this afternoon. I like the non-rushed flight schedule, especially now my walking is always at the super-slow-motion mode. Anyway, the trip is so far so good. The only drawback is that I am travel by myself. I enjoyed our trip to Orlando to visit Tina, Mike, CJ, and Anna so much because Teresa was with me. Now that I am going to a conference basically, I am on my own. Come to Europe does not really feel like foreign anymore. But going to Russia, at least in anticipation, I am very much having the feeling of going to a foreign land. But this is an opportunity I welcome; I have been really looking forward to this trip. It is interesting that Tina, Mike and the girls are on a cruise in Alaska right now. We are traveling at the opposite side of Siberia. Tina has been writing a travelogue, I am committing my thoughts on this personal blog. As I have told Tina that old Chinese saying of traveling 10-thousand miles would equivalent to reading 10-thousand books. Traveling is always educational to everyone even old guy like me!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Getting ready for FNP 2010

I am getting ready to go to Russia tomorrow to attend the FNP, Frontier of Nonlinear Physics, 2010 Conference onboard a Volga River boat cruise. It will be an adventure. I will be presenting an invited talk in the mini-symposia “Rogue Waves in Nature” next Sunday. Until then I should just relax and enjoy the adventure. I pray God to keep me safe and sound for the weeklong cruise.