Friday, June 12, 2009

Summer Studies: Madison at a Glance

After 20 hours in an Amtrak train and 3 hours on a bus, I arrived in Madison, Wisconsin, Wednesday the 10th. With no commitments until Sunday the 14th, every moment has been non-stop adventuring to better know this city I've never been to before. With every new discovery, I realize how amazing the place is.

Within the first mile I walked from campus to home I came across a man commuting on a unicycle and people in the James Madison Park doing Pilobus-style partner-yoga-balancing moves and people walking a tightrope between two trees. Over the next few days I spent an evening with a group of people who spin poi and hula hoops (who taught me some cool tricks), met a guy who used to spin poi and breathe fire at (strip) club, and met a father-son pair who walk on stilts of assorted styles for a living and collects vintage/art bicycles. Also, the father does the German Wheel and the son went to Circus camp (so he juggles, stilt walks, etc. etc.). I know I am in the right place.

Madison looks like a barbell of land (a.k.a. an isthmus) in between two lakes. It's the capital of Wisconsin, and you can get almost anywhere you need to go and beyond via Madison's network of bike lanes and bike paths. There is an incredible bike culture here, racers, recreational riders, hip riders, family riders, commuters, etc. etc. My apartment is across the street from a park that overlooks Lake Mendota, and it's especially stunning at sunset. There are many parks, many rail-trails, and it's very bike/walk friendly. The downtown State St. is reserved for pedestrians, bikes and buses, and there are impressive sight lines to the State Capitol Building.

Bike Paths in Madison: All the green lines are Bike-only, or at least Bike-priority, lanes

Thanks to the U.S. Department of Education and UNC-CH, I'll be studing Cambodian this summer (FLAS Grant). It's the equivalent of one year of study in eight weeks, so it promises to be very intense. The Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute (SEASSI) is one of the only places in the US that teaches Cambodian, and they also teach Hmong, Thai, Vietnamese, Lao, Burmese, Indonesian, Filipino, and Javanese. It's important for my heritage, and it will be important in the future work I do.

No comments: