A Thanksgiving Poem

The haze of the future chases the blur of the past
But the demands of the present will always happiness outlast
This intricate tapestry of life, a flawed love weaves
Forsaking gratitude, ushering in griefs

Today, an immersive pause, a reflective mind
Bows to those amongst us, always kind
Friends and family, strangers to be loved
This Thanksgiving, let’s be well-covered

Happy Thanksgiving, with warmth and cheer
Grateful for the cherished treasures so dear

– brij

Diwali 2023

Diwali is a perpetual renewal of faith in good over evil, light over dark, and love over hate. It’s an occasion to renew bonds of love and friendship. It’s an occasion to cleanse. It’s an occasion to seek prosperity. It’s a festival that’s festive in every sense.


Happy Diwali 2023!


Let all the blessings of Diwali enrich you!

– Brij

CA CCs on the move

What a busy week! Across the country and back.

On Saturday, headed out to Morgantown home of West Virginia University where my best friend from high school teaches in the Life Sciences department.

On Sunday headed with the team to Washington DC to elevate the visibility of the work being done at California Community colleges. The team included – Deputy Chancellor Daisy Gonzales and Vice Chancellor of Government Relations David O’Brien; from the Board of Governors, President Amy Costa & Pamela Haynes; from the Foundation for California Community Colleges, Executive Director of Workforce Development Tim Aldinger.

Then headed to San Diego for the DEI Conference and then back home Friday night.

Read more at https://sonyachristianblog.com/2023/09/23/ca-ccs-on-the-move/.

– sonya

Alaska Sept 15-22

The cast of characters: John Alexander, Ajay Anand, John Avalos, Bill Baker, Narinder Bajwa, Nikhil Bhambi, Brij Bhambi, Jacob Cohen, Rohan Khanna, Dinesh Khanna, and Manoj Mittal.

Site: Tikchick Narrows Lodge.

Manoj and Jacob were the first to reach Anchorage. The rest of us assembled in Seattle and flew together to Anchorage. The flights followed the schedule, and the luggage arrived with the travelers. After a quick trip to Costco to hunt for travel “essentials”, the group gathered at Kinkade restaurant for dinner. The menu was reasonable but sadly lacking in Sabel.

The next day, a minor glitch in the itinerary created a rush to the airport. We were saved by the bell because the charter had only us as the passengers. The flight took 90 min to reach Dillingham; the propeller made up in noise what it lacked in speed. A 40-minute van ride took us to the float(water) planes. The “bush planes” are single-engine Beavers engineered for short take-off and landing(STOL), an effective transport tool in remote areas. It’s fascinating to watch the bush pilots take off and land in rivers and ravines. The engine is loud and cruising speed of around 120 miles/hr. Our fascination for rides in the bush planes grew thin quickly as we discovered them to be noisy albeit utilitarian taxis that packed us like sardines but transported fairly reliably. The float planes being our primary mode of transportation at the lodge, demanded a quick tutorial. 

We enjoyed the ride to the lodge, feasting on the pristine Alaskan wilderness, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls. 

The landscape is decorated by the glistening lakes that have islands within, embroidered by the changing fall colors, and many islands within the lakes have little lakes within. The serpentine rivers merge and diverge, highlighted by hordes of trees standing sentinels to the gushing waters embracing the Fall colors.

It’s a mesmerizing spectacle that captures nature’s hues on nature’s clues.

The lodge is beautifully located on the banks of two lakes. The accommodations were comfortable, and the staff was extremely hospitable. We saw a pair of bears across the lake, and a bald eagle flew by on our first day.

Sept 17th was the first day of fishing and the group was divided into four locations: Togiak, Kulukak, Agula Pak, and Shadow Bay. We rotated these locations and fished in the lakes and rivers adjacent to the lodge.

Togiak and Kulukak(Clock) had an abundance of silver salmon. The easy fishing cultivated a false sense of competence, but we were humble in our pride. On Kash Creek, Togiak; guides cooked freshly caught salmon, giving us a memorable meal and an unforgettable experience.

Agula Pak was easily the most beautiful river. It has 20% of the entire population of the sockeye. At this time the sock eye is nearly moribund, having finished spawning. We fished Char and Rainbow Trout flanked by two bears on either side of the river banks, a surreal sight. It’s a fantastic experience to watch the bears in their native environs eating salmon, totally unconcerned by the humans fishing some 40 feet away. 

Back at the lodge, we were able to catch more Char and a rare Grayling.

We enjoyed sharing fish stories at breakfast and dinner throughout the entire stay. 

We had Sabel for our last dinner and headed back on 9/21 after making unbelievable memories.

Back in Anchorage, on the way to dinner, we got rear-ended by a couple of distracted young men and survived a minor whiplash. 

Trip back to Seattle afforded incredible views of snow-peaked mountains and glaciers glowing in the dawning Sun. 

From Seattle to Burbank, the plane traveled eerily close to Mt Renier and also had an enchanting look at Half Dome with Nevada and Upper Vernal Falls in full view.

A time capsule of memories keeps us chained to nearly spiritual experiences. 

So long friends, till next time!

– brij

CA CC’s – helpers in difficult times

There are times when the pain and tragedies we see and remember become almost overwhelming. I remember Mr. Rodgers’ reassuring advice for children when terrible things happen – “look for the helpers.”

Often Community Colleges become the helpers…often during emergencies… places of love and strength and support as we navigate difficult times.

Read more at https://sonyachristianblog.com/2023/09/16/ca-ccs-helpers-in-difficult-times/

– sonya

Jasper Aug/Sept 2023

We decided to stay overnight at the airport Marriott on Wednesday eve for the Thu morning flight to Edmonton. The flight/rentals and logistics, thankfully, remained mundane, and we arrived at the Fairmont in Jasper National Park at about 8 p.m. The smoke from the BC fires hung ominously in the air, but the accommodations on Lake Beauvert were suitably inviting.

On the morning of September 1, we took a stroll around the banks of Lake Beauvert, a leisurely couple-mile stroll made exciting by our first encounter with an Elk family. We headed out for a busy itinerary that included visiting Edith Covell, Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, and a quick look at the Honeymoon Lake. Due to a minor navigational error by our wingman, the travels took longer than necessary but were enjoyable nonetheless. Our sore bodies welcomed the late afternoon reprieve of much-awaited cocktails. The food at the lodge didn’t offer much to talk about, but there were other reasons for the food to be forgettable.

Sat, Sept 2nd, after the ceremonial walk around the Lake, we headed out for the Maligne Canyon hike. It was an incredible, picturesque hike in the pristine environs before the BC smoke could percolate back in. An intricate subterranean cavernous system drains the Medicine Lake into the Maligne Canyon from 10 miles away. It’s a beauty to behold, natural engineering, elegant and flawless.

We walked around Lake Annette in the evening and ran into a large elk family.

Humans and elks share a similar bond—a long line of cars gathered around the OMG moment. The patriarch elk, with a coronation of formidable antlers, provided a protective cover and tactfully tried to coax the younglings to safety from the prying eyes. The baby elks for the want of wisdom or the tug of playfulness stayed behind. It was adoring to see the patriarch wait and then walk back the younglings to safety.

On September 3rd, we headed out on the Valley of the Lakes hike. We were there very early and alone on the trail. Near the end of our path, a majestic bear resplendent in solid black fur appeared from nowhere and casually walked across the track and blended in the woods on the other side. It was an unexpected and memorable experience. Still, safety compelled us to change our plans, and we decided to turn back with surging excitement from this sudden and mesmerizing encounter.

In the afternoon, we headed out to Maligne Lake and the coveted Spirit Island cruise. It was a mostly cloudy afternoon with elusive breaks in the clouds. The incredible experience included towering cliffs, many glaciers, endless waterfalls, epic scenery, occasional drizzle, and an obligatory dip in the glacier lake.

Monday, September 4th, we headed back home, but not before a buffet of mouthwatering scenic spectacles. The Icefield Parkway is a fantastic drive. We were duly blown away by the mighty Colombian Icefield and many glaciers. Back on the parkway, we had an incredible surprise waiting for us. We were stunned to see a mama grizzly with two cubs feasting on berries only a few feet from the highway. A crowd had gathered, and Mama Bear kept a weary eye on the cubs but mainly remained unconcerned by the attention the family was getting. The elk family affections seemed no different than the grizzlies. The anti-social media has not breached the family bonds across the species yet.

Our next stop at Lake Peyto introduced us to the spectacular emerald waters surrounded by towering cliffs displaying nature’s treasures in an unabashed exuberance.

The glaciers, waterfalls, and serpentine glacier run-offs continued to embellish the parkway. We stopped to take a few photos of Lake Bow, another spectacle.

We arrived in Lake Luise around noon time. Lake Luise is inundated by tourists now. It had none of the pristine solitude I remembered from my first visit in 2012. The BC smoke, crowds, parking, etc., seemed to dim the glitter in this jewel.

At about 3 p.m., we got in the car and headed to Calgary. We had a bite at the airport and boarded.

Wheels up!

Till the next time

– Brij

CA Community Colleges – Serious work with a light touch

Recently, I saw Oppenheimer … an excellent movie… I believe one of Christopher Nolan’s very best. I have a low tolerance for long movies. This one is 3 hours… and I was immersed in each and every moment.

Christopher Nolan is a highly acclaimed filmmaker known for his unique storytelling style, intricate narratives, and visually stunning films. The phrase “non-linear storytelling” is ofter used by film critics to describe his work. Nolan’s films often delve into complex philosophical themes and human psychology. Existential questions, the nature of reality, time, and identity are recurring motifs in his work.

*****

I spent time in Sacramento, with an apprenticeship meeting co-hosted by the Labor Agency and the Chancellor’s Office. Together we are hoping to convert our California Community College apprenticeship experiences into Apprenticeship Pathways. And thank you Secretary Stewart Knox for your partnership. Stay tuned for more to come.

Read more at https://sonyachristianblog.com/2023/08/05/ca-community-colleges-serious-work-with-a-light-touch/.

– sonya

Baker’s Dozen

The recent Delta flight in July 2023, stuck on asphalt for several hours in Las Vegas, causing multiple medical emergencies and hospitalizations, is the tip of the iceberg and lucidly illustrates the decline in service in air travel. Airports have become jurisdictions on their own where liberty goes to be humbled in the guise of purported safety(Benjamin Franklin had forewarned: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”)
According to one study, TSA costs over 690 million dollars per possible life saved, if that.
TSA sure has become a necessary hurdle for all of us to navigate our path to second-class citizenship inside the airport and witness the Airways employees in an arrogant overdrive. An occasional pleasant experience has now become an exception.
I will narrate our experiences inside the US borders and in Europe.

In April 2022, dozen friends across the US decided to hang out in Montana for a weekend. Dr. Bill Baker is our fishing guru and led the team.
Here is a brief summation.
It is a logistical dilemma to have a Baker’s Dozen assembled in a tolerable ranch on the pristine banks of the undulating Missouri River pregnant with the spawning Brown and Rainbow trouts.
An edible dinner in LA, buoyed by drinkable wine, ushered us into an early morning flight.

The fortune predicated ominous beginnings.
Our adventures started early.
Comfortably seated in our on-time plane, we counted our blessings too early.
An “unnamed” flight crew pressed a button that “mandated” oxygen masks on a plane that was in the process of boarding.
Supplemental oxygen on the LA grounds? Pollution is getting intense!
Comedy of errors and airlines crew in their designated territorial hood of airport carefully created to stifle civil liberties swung shamelessly into full display.
After a multitude of conflicting announcements, we were asked to deplane.
The maintenance crew “miraculously” fixed the problem as hanging oxygen masks were renested in their designated safe preserve.
This much ado, however, cost us an hour, which was to be the safe harbor transit time to connect to the next plane.
Hope springs eternal, especially if rekindled by the flight crew as our plane landed within the mathematical possibility of making the connection.
Reassuringly, the crew apprised us of the welcoming serendipity of the proximate location of the next gate. The moment the plane landed, we took off with the intensity of bats from hell, hell-bent on not missing the connection.
Alas, “the proximate” gate was 1.3 miles away and shredded the aging lungs.

A few of the physicians of Kern in their 7th and 8th decade ran to catch the connecting flight and made it on time. Boarding, however, was declined because the person at the gate had yielded commonsense and service to intoxicating power trips.

The huffed requests to the rehearsed indifference of the airline staff trained in sadism is a sight.

The arrogance, the throwback on the rule book to lacerate the wounded a little more, we have degenerated!
Air travel/airports monumentalize it.
We are losing our liberty.
Airports will be an excellent place to reclaim some of the dignity back.
Abject subjugation in the name of performative security is a theater we can do without.

An hour of necessary layover extended into 8 hours as we had to catch an alternative flight from an airport two hours away. We ended 8 hours solely to the stubborn whim of an attendant who discovered the power of rules and disregarded the decency of practicality or humanity.
Where does the arbitrariness of performative rules stop and decency of commonsense prevail?
Camaraderie anyone?

We concentrated our efforts on renavigating the destination using alternative flights.
The parody of errors continued to multiply. Our luggage was “reassuredly” redirected to the new destination. Except luggage was nowhere to be found on the carousel. The airline was predictably clueless.

Luckily we had an astute law officer in our party who would join us in Helena, our original destination.
His trained eyes located a familiar piece of luggage on the conveyor belt and astutely looked for and retrieved all our luggage, sparing us from the consequences of the continued incompetence of Delta employees.
We could have been on the same plane, with the luggage, minus the hassle!

Regrettably and predictably, we had no recourse but to suffer the offshoots of compromised travel rules.
Hello Delta!
Canceled rentals and rearranged travels took us to our destination late at night with lighter wallets.
The image of those disinterested and unfriendly Delta employees with the glee of callousness in their eyes still dagger the decency we used to have.
The threat of being placed on the no-travel list compels me to hold my silence.
Russia?
China?
Delta?
Liberty is overrated, right?
The weather threatened to be an intriguing challenge over the three-day spread. Between the rain, snowflakes, hailstorms, wind, clouds, and Sunshine, we covered the entire spectrum.
The tangled lines of amateur anglers failed to dampen the enthusiasm of an occasional catch. The plenty in the Missouri River seemed to more than overcompensate the substantial beginners’ deficiencies.
The pros amongst us were relentless in their successes.
Late evening fish stories primarily practiced the time-honored Fishing Commandment: Thou shall lie.
No fish was too small, no lie, too big. The camaraderie made its commandments, and the bond endures.


Adios amigos, till next time.
Travel, camaraderie, and decency need to reconnect.
Adios arrogance till forever!

– Brij