Postcards from the rim

Living vicariously through correspondence from PacRim/Asia Study travelers

On August 29, students in the university’s 2005–06 Pacific Rim/Asia Study-Travel program set out for a nine-month adventure that is the antithesis of the if-it’s-Tuesday-this-must-be-Belgium style of touring. Their mission: find out as much as they could about the political and cultural history of the Kansai region in Japan, architecture in Malaysia and India, biological diversity in Mongolia, and culture in Cambodia and China. Soon after the group left, faculty and staff on campus began receiving postcards. A few scribbles from Malacca. A note tossed off from Kyoto. Often the recipients at the college had never met their correspondent. “Part of the students’ work was to research a topic and present their findings to the others in the group. We wanted people at home to share in our discoveries, too,” said Pac-Rim Director Elisabeth Benard. Here are a few of them. More pictures and information can be viewed at

We just completed an 11-day road trip from Ulan Bataar to the Lake Khovsgol region.The lake has 2 percent of the world’s fresh water.Two nights we stayed in a ger (yurt) camp by the lake. One day we drove our caravan of six vans through the valley pictured on the postcard. Of the 11 days, only one was on asphalt, the rest on dust roads. We crossed more than 30 streams and one river in the valley.

This is perhaps the most famous Japanese rock garden in the world, at Ryoanji, the temple of the peaceful dragon in Kyoto. There are 15 rocks, but they are arranged in such a way that you can never see more than 14 at once, no matter the angle. It is said that only when you attain spiritual enlightenment, can you see the invisible stone. The gravel formation is raked daily by a monk who has a large wooden rake. The space is small but it does transport you and shift your consciousness.

In Malaysia now for a holiday reunion with parents, and Ron and Mary Thomas brought presents! Today we ventured into the heart of Kuala Lumpur for our visit to the Petronas Towers, currently the second tallest buildings in the world. You take a super-speed elevator to the 48th floor in about 48 seconds. After our ears stopped popping, we walked out to the observation bridge and could see the entire city spread out before us. It was truly an amazing day.

We are in the great Hindu empire of Vijayanagar (City of Victory). Our sixth month on the road. Everyone seems to be fine. Crunch time for the required  independent research project is beginning—some realizing that they haven’t done as much research as they should have. This photo is of the royal elephant barn in Hampi, an example of Indo-Islamic style of architecture. The building consists of 11 large rooms with high ceilings. A parade ground is in front.

Greetings from Beijing! PacRim has reached our final country! Last week we saw Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, which was incredible. Next Saturday we’ll visit the Great Wall. This is a picture of the Ming tombs. The food here is wonderful. See you soon!