Michigan (08/27/03)

Last updated 9/27/03                                                                                                                              Russian translation here                  


Uhm, I'm at a loss for words to describe our Detroit experience, so I'm leaving it to Puneet.

I guess I'm still on track for updating all of our blogs roughly a month after the actual experience, so here goes....  Before I get into the nitty-gritty of our actual sight-seeing and all, I wanted to thank the Relan family for their hospitality during our stay. A special thanks to Manisha for the detailed map of the city that she drew out for us and for giving us her room during our visit.

We saw a lot in Detroit which confirmed its "Motor City" nickname -- a variety of car facilities were scattered throughout the region (Ford and GM had a variety of manufacturing and testing facilties); one of the largest skyscrapers in the city is the GM building, and another building of marked prominence in the Hartz Plaza is the Ford-UAW (United Auto Workers -- though their site says they are much more -- is one of the largest labor unions in the country); we saw a prototype vehicle being driven on the streets -- it had canvas covers on the front and back and was painted a wierd black and white polka-dot so it was difficult to figure out the exact shape of the car; and finally the Henry Ford Museum which glorified everything automobile (though it had much, much more) and was a testament to the importance of this city in the industrial development of this country.

That said, Detroit is also one of the most ghetto cities I have ever seen, and I can't honestly say that I'd want to live in the city... seems that most people who have money have moved to the suburbs surrounding the city (a departure from what I'm used to in San Francisco, and what I've seen in Boston, NY, and several other cities in which the homes/condos in the cities are actually quite pricey and nice), and that most people living in the downtown area are probably not doing it by choice. We took a tour around Detroit using a nice monorail system (think People Mover at Disneyland; a very useful transport system which allows visitors to get a good feel for the city -- more cities should have something like this). Unfortuantely, what we saw on the monorail wasn't as cool as the monorail itself. There are quite a few large apartment high-rises in the downtown area but they look downright scary -- graffiti all over them (I'm talking about people's names being spelled out, a letter on each window, on say the 5th-6th floors of these buildings, get the idea?), and most of them looking like tennements that you see in the movies. I wonder if any of them would pass fire-safety standards... It was a bit bizzarre because they had some beautiful churches and a few brand-spanking new apartment buildings, which were in the midst of these other scary buildings. Most of the time Daria could only gawk and clutch my hand in fear (which says something since we'd been through the downtowny parts of many cities in the country by now, and we live in Berkeley, hardly the most posh place in the world).... lets just say that I would be loathe to drive through some parts of downtown detroit at night -- ever seen Bonfire of the Vanities? The scene where Tom Hanks drives through the Bronx at night? Same idea here...

The ghetto rant aside, the Henry Ford Museum was a pretty cool place -- "America's Greatest History Attraction", and I would've liked to have spent more time there. A happy coincidence was that the presence of a James Bond exhibition which has toured the world and made the Henry Ford museum it's only stop in the US (I may be wrong on this). We got to see all sorts of props from the movies, and got the chance to become agents and answer all sorts of difficult (in my opinion) questions about the Bond movies... a really fun time if you're into Bond stuff. My dad would've really enjoyed this one. They even had the Aston Martin and Jaguar from Die Another Day.... pretty neat stuff.  Anyhow, that's all I have to say about Detroit, now onto updating other blogs.

Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI, is a lovely college town hosting a University of Michigan campus. I was amused to notice the similarities between this school and UC Berkeley. For one, both campuses seem to monopolize the honor of being "the school" of the state; the welcome banners at UMich simply read "Welcome to Michigan", just like Berkeley welcomes its students to "Cal" (short for California). The school flag of UMich, visible in a picture below, proudly announces "M" -- not even "U M"! I suppose educational institutions are allowed the liberty of self-identifying with the state, while a church organization would be severely reprimanded for this sort of association. What's even funnier, the official colors of UMich and UC Berkeley (well, all of the UC system) are the same: blue and gold. I was trying to point out the difference in the exact shade of blue but I'm afraid I was deluding myself, they are identical. Hence all apparel and gifts at UMich bookstore, as well as students' sweatshirts, campus banners, and university shuttles at Ann Arbor look very much like those in Berkeley. The difference between the two campuses must be much more striking in winter when Ann Arbor sits knee deep in snow while Berkeley gets, at worst, rainy... Snowfall in April was the main reason why Puneet chose not to go to Michigan for grad school, and since I'm not a big fan of the winter season myself, I'm quite happy with Berkeley as our permanent residence.


Somehow we got no pictures of Detroit except for the Henry Ford Museum (incl. James Bond exhibition).

                            At the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit


On the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan