Apr. 24, 2006: a new stage of solo travelling … Mexico City “metro” Best Buy … trying to restore Rhodes Scholarship in HK …

An email written on Apr. 24, 2006:
2 days before my Mexican trip (which I described below), I finally got the official letter about my "continuing" appointment at BNL (~tenureship in a US university).
On another unrelated subject,  I’m waiting for another letter from USCIS about hopefully the last step in the US naturalization process … It’s already 1.5 months after interview.  By law, they have to finish dealing with it within 4 months.
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About a week ago (Apr. 13-16), I travelled to Mexico City by myself and it was a hasty arrangement due to some sudden impulse to get away for a few days.  Only in the JFK airport did I realize that I forgot to bring my camera.  I could have bought some small/cheap one-time-only camera.  But I have long wanted to avoid taking picture in a trip and I decided then that this was the first trial !   It turned out that I kind of felt that I’ve attained another level of "freedom".  I kind of have convinced myself that I don’t need to "show off" or to prove that I’ve been in some place any more … Solo travelling avoids having to care about what one’s partner travellers think and compromise with them; and one can act upon one’s random impulse any time anywhere.  Without a camera, one doesn’t need to take it out and put it back  … and worry about which picture to take or not to take at what place or what time …  This is probably the 2nd enlightenment in travelling since ~1991 in HanZhou that I realized I felt happier travelling alone — which was further reinforced in not travelling solo in a few more instances in the following years.   It may as well take me a few years to give up camera completely.
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Mexico City may be notorious for its crime and pollution.  But the local govt. has really done a good job in the last several years …. I’ve seen/smelled NO pollution and I felt very safe during my 3-4 days in Mexico City — of course I didn’t show off my millions of dollars in my wallet all the time.
As usual, I have only taken public transportation metro (subway) and bus.  The "metro" in Mexico City is a "best buy" at the international level !  It costs less than 20 US cents — the same price from A to B anywhere in the metro system. The metro system is at the same standard as those Manhattan lines in terms of how new/old and clean — certainly better than some terribly dirty/filthy Brooklyn lines.  The price is 10 times less than New York and I think even China may not be able to beat it.   The other things in Mexico City are somewhat cheaper than US but not like the metro system.  For example,  a meal costs about several dollars, sometimes close to US$10 … not as great as the "metro".
I’ve found and read the 2006 editions of "Let’s go" and "Fodors" in my local library.  Again, one can’t Fodors’ suggestion too serious as they’re targeting (I guess) old people and people not intending to save money.   They stated that it’s not a practical option to take metro from the Mexico City airport to one’s hotel for 2 main reasons:
(1) It’s in a "dodgy neighborhood" !    There is no transit between the metro station and the airport terminal.
=> But it’s NOT dodgy at all but it’s perfectly safe.  It’s just a ~2 minute walk.  I’ve needed to walk several minutes from gate 19 to gate 35 inside the airport
(2) Their 2nd reason is that the luggage is in principle not allowed in the metro system.
=> But the reality is that nobody checks !  I had only one small backpack and of course it’s not a problem.  But I saw people carrying multiple luggage using the metro system.  It may be a problem only if you can’t carry all your luggages and you travel in the busiest hours — but the metro line passing thru’ the airport is never the busiest — as I travelled like ~8 am in the morning on the 1st day.
I’ve sent my disagreement to Fodors 🙂  I’ve also reported a few other corrections/updates to "Let’s go". 
( Lonely Planet once awarded me a book. )

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The best museum there is the internationally acclaimed "National Museum of Anthropology". The 1st floor is better than the 2nd floor as the 1st floor has more real/ancient stuff than the many hand-made models on the 2nd floor.  It took me 2.5 hours to finish walking … I started by reading the details in the paragraphs, then only the title .. and at the end, I simply read nothing but just walked by 🙂

The perfect one day trip (actually less than 1 day) is a trip to Teotihuacan where one could see the ~2000 years old ancient site with a couple pyramids comparable in size to those in Egypt !!   It’s a big contrast to Mexico City and it’s good way to change scenery in the middle of the trip.
This trip was a bit like travelling in Napoli a couple years’ ago.  I was thinking that it might be dangerous … but it’s nothing like that.  I kind of wanted to say to people: come to rob me !
Somehow, compared to (say) Buenos Aires in Argentina (another Spanish speaking country), the people in Mexico City don’t speak much English.  This has given me a good opportunity to make use of my Beginners’ level of Spanish — even though my type of travelling doesn’t really require me to speak much. 
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Before writing this email,  I was trying to write "what the Rhodes Scholarship had done for me and how I had benefited from coming to Oxford in this way" … Not entirely easy to write to the British (trying too hard to be elegant )… I’ve somehow embarked on writing this email.
You probably don’t know, the one Rhodes Scholarship for HK has very recently been terminated because the UK Charity Act said that HK is now no longer any part in British Commonwealth … But this is kind of not a good reason as US, European countries and some African countries are also not in British Commonwealth — actually some have NEVER been in the British Empire and they still have Rhodes Scholars from there.   Actually, to certain extent, the reality is that the British university fees/expenses have increased quite dramatically (as the Warden reported in his last annual letter ) and the Trustees may see this as a way to save a little money.
But the reason why I’ve been trying to write the above letter is actually initiated by the Warden (a gentleman from New Zealand, also a former Rhodes Scholar, former Oxford Vice-Chancellor etc.).   He’s trying to find another source of money to continue the Rhodes Scholarship, I believe.   Not sure whether this will succeed but I’m more than willing to do my small part.   The warden wants to have these letters to present to the Trustees.   I don’t think you’d care as much as I do … but I do feel very bad that if HK Rhodes Scholarship disappears just like that.
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Another similar problem for HK outside HK a couple years after 1997 handover was that HK was included  in the list of DOE sensitive countries (as part of China).  Just like many other things, each US agency makes up their own list !!  This doesn’t give me too much trouble but makes it slightly troublesome for my non-US citizen friends to visit BNL.
Since I’m still not a US citizen, I can’t really invite people from sensitive countries (including HK!) to visit BNL.  A couple months ago, I tested water 🙂   I asked my supervisor to invite a friend (actually my Brooklyn friend’s fiancee) from HK … the paperworks to get DOE approval is just laughable.  And actually, after a month, the DOE (actually done by FBI I guess) index check still didn’t come thru’.   To get her to visit before she left for HK, our secretary helped me to by-pass that index check by getting a couple signatures (like our Dept. Chair) based on the reason of "casual visit" … and it was approved immediately by our local office.   But actually, when my friends came to BNL, the guard (on that day — the standard is very non-uniform) didn’t check at all after I told him that it’s only a couple hours.
A former HKU friend, one year behind me, came to visit me for 3/4 days ~the weekend before I left for Mexico City.  I "tested water" again by asking him to carry the BNO passport as I’m sure that the guard would treat him as a British "subject" rather than someone from HK.  The day when he visited BNL, the guard this time was extremely "responsible".  Though he did treat him as British, he called upon 3 other persons (his supervisors) from the main office to deal with this "foreign national" !   I didn’t do the paperworks as I did for my other friend’s fiancee and this friend’s name was not in one database (though I already put him in the gate’s database), they had to do a search (another FBI search !).  At the end,  we have needed to wait for 40 minutes at the gate — the longest ever before he was "approved" to come in to visit BNL.   I’ll find another way (improvement) next time for my friends from HK.   It’s not entirely the guard’s problem … They could have refused him from coming in but they tried very hard 🙂
I showed my friend around in Long Island but I think he’s more interested in the night club in Manhattan. Though I think it’s a waste of time, we almost went to the China Club near Time Square.  But when he saw the outside of China Club — with door tightly closed and not able to see what’s inside. He was scared.  I immediately took upon the opportunity to get him away.  Though he later regretted a little, I steadfastly didn’t allow him to turn back — a waste of my time and money.

About kinyip

An experimental particle physicist ...
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