America Through My Eyes- Sanjose
Telugu Original : Dr K.Geeta
English Translation: V.Vijaya Kumar
San Jose is the third-largest city in California and the tenth-largest city in America. If you look at the borders on a map, it looks like a dinosaur glued with pieces of paper. The city begins ten to twelve miles away from our home. It would be a mistake to imagine it as a city we would expect to see in our home country with stench and gathering crowds. Here, we cannot even tell where the city starts.
Earlier I took Varu one or two times to visit the Children’s Museum, Tech Museum but didn’t stay long in the city. Ever since Komal came here, he had a dream of doing aerospace engineering at San Jose State University (he later on fulfilled it, of course). I traveled through the city countless times for his college information and accompanied him multiple times. San Jose is a city often seen by Indians, with snake-like coiled freeways and huge skyscrapers in the centre, which are always crowded with traffic jams.
While San Francisco was bustling as a maritime trading city once, San Jose flourished in agricultural farming. It did not take long for this agri based urban land to become an industrial city; once food production-related chemicals, and the largest FDCs in the tool industry were established here. Gradually they started Massive Machinery production and undertook building Fire Trucks over time. The construction of Tanks used in World War II took place here. Although FDC is still renowned for its agricultural heavy machinery, it eventually became a food processing-related chemical company.
IBM was first launched here in 1945 when the computer industry began. From there, the city continued to grow as a hub for the unparalleled computer hardware and software industry. The average man’s minimum wage is higher than the rest throughout America. Consequently, the minimum cost of living is highway as well. It is no exaggeration to say that house rents in this city and its neighborhood are higher than anywhere else in America.
San Jose Downtown:
Whenever we travel to downtown San Jose, parking is a big problem, and traffic signals irritate us at every step. There will be no free parking anywhere in the neighborhood. Although the parking charges are inexpensive compared to San Francisco, sparing amounts on parking is rather disheartening. The whole of downtown is a good combination of old and new. On the one hand, the skyscrapers and beautiful buildings, on the other, the surrounding houses that are antique and unchanged. We come across people walking on the roads rushing to colleges and offices along with people with dirty clothes, rough hair, hunger, and rage. Homes in the downtown area, where the crime rate is high, are cheaper, with fewer amenities.
Children’s Discovery Museum:
Let’s start with the Children’s Discovery Museum that we first saw. The museum is a great place to spend a day with children under the age of 6 to 7 years old; it costs $6 a ticket. The name of the place is a museum, but all the exhibits here are very exciting and intended to awaken the spirit of science, defense circles, and the preservation of culture. The fire truck and ambulance seen at the entrance give the children the pleasure of driving them and also get a better understanding of them. The traffic awareness exhibit impresses the children. Playing with colorful balls in flying water, making big water bubbles, making toys, art places, making dolls with corn straw, face painting, marketplace, etc. In the secret of circles exhibit, the importance of circles in Maths, Science and Engineering is explained. The things which we do not allow at home to our children can be done freely here at this place. Seeing all these exhibits where children can ride and operate, makes me jealous thinking that we do not have a place like this. I became excited like a kid and had a lot of fun with Varu. It’s a great place to play with younger children who come with their older ones. Our Varu used to say that it was her favorite place so far until her third grade.
The Tech Museum is a great museum that I really like. We have to take membership here. Hence the ticket price is high. However, we liked it so much that we took the membership for a year. The Doom Theater here in particular is a great marvel. Although I have seen it ten times so far, it makes me want to go again. Watching a movie in the hemisphere over the head is a wonderful feeling. The human eye can’t see such a large screen at once, but it can be fun once we get used to it after a while. Before the commencement of the film, watching the scenes behind the production and listening to elegant music is a great experience. Only short films related to education are shown in this theater. We’d enjoy an outstanding visual and audio experience with the most advanced technology.
The museum is a great place to teach science to children from the fourth grade onwards. It takes a whole day to see all the physics, chemistry, biology, and engineering departments. The facial portrait given by Robo Hand is a great invention. Information on chipmaking in the computer department and knowledge of DNA in biology is of great interest. The Tech Museum has three floors. The above exhibits are kept upstairs. The ground floor section is allotted for young children. The section on astronomy here is very interesting. Every time a video show is played here, I watch it with Varu and every single time without missing a beat. Apart from the theater and restaurant on the mid floor, there are also themed exhibitions that change from time to time with a special ticket. The Tech Awards have been presented here every year since 2001 for innovations in science around the world. Anyone interested can apply.
Happy Hollow Park & Zoo:
Happy Hollow Park & Zoo is a relaxing getaway for children up to the age of ten starting from toddlers. We thought we could simply get around in a half day. But we went in the morning and kept wandering until the evening. Instead of just walking for miles and seeing a single animal somewhere, here it is a great experience for us to see lots of animals even if it is a small zoo. There are different sections for each turn on a hill, even though the entire park is in limited amplitude. In the morning Varu ran towards the rides. Siri and I squatted on the lawn and started playing. We spent the afternoon in the zoo park and in the evening walked towards the other side of the park through the bridge. Even though we were very tired, on that pleasant sunny evening, we were tempted to walk across that beautiful bridge to that other hill by the end of the day. Bingo! We regained our spirits and got ready.
The invisible exquisite music of the rustling water heard beneath the green forest vines all along. Going up the side hill comes another car parking. We sat down for a while there, and later came back. The park is worth seeing again and again with small children.
Winchester Mystery House:
Winchester Mystery House is a great building that remains a big mystery with a total of 160 small rooms except for one or two exceptionally allowed for the ballroom. This is one of the sites we’ve always wanted to see but postponed for a long time for the only reason that the entrance ticket is $33! The ticket seemed too much even after our visit. Probably it would cost a lot for them to keep that building still intact. That’s why the price of the ticket is very expensive.
In 1884, Sarah Winchester, a millionaire, sailed from the east coast of the United States to the west coast bearing the tragic pain of her husband and daughter’s death. She bought about 150 acres here and started the construction of the building upon demolishing the existing old farm building. From then, till her death in 1922, for about 38 years, the building was remodelled not less than 600 times. The reason for it remains a mystery. She is only 4 feet 10 ”tall. That’s why all the thresholds are so short. We find in this building a range from the most expensive 1500 dollar window to up to $2 a window. The timber and materials used for construction were imported.
If we are not careful, we will lose our route in this building. There, funnily we find cupboards instead of entrances, narrow hallways from one room to another, and crystal beaming glass windows at every turn. The distinct variety of window sills, which resembled a spider web, the whole building that revolved the 13 number, made the locals think of her as a witch. As long as the construction work was going on, the neighborhood labor would have plenty of work with a good salary of $3 a day. It is strange to note that no photo of her is available except one sitting in a horse buggy. She utilized her millions of dollars and also the monthly revenue from her company’s share to renovate the building forever. One of the stories about her strange attitude floated is that she did all this because the ghosts told her that she would die as quickly as her family if she didn’t renovate the building as long as she is alive.
We will understand what not to do after watching this building. Nobody knows what happened to those marvels she collected during her lifetime after she passed away. The building, which was built vaguely and with no purpose, was taken over by the government in 1964 and preserved as one of the national monuments. Of the total 160 acres, only four and a half acres remain.
I felt apathetic while moving around groping on the wooden walls and wandered from room to room for an hour. It seemed strange to me why that woman built 40 guest rooms and never-used ballrooms in that house where not a single guest would ever come. I also felt that the rich who did not know what to do with the money would do something insane like this. How nice it would be if at least 50% of her property was spent for the happiness of others! By the time she died in that building, there was still plenty of work left unfinished. It indicates that the heirs of her property were not interested in the building as she had.
The rooms are very small and cozy in the so-called old-fashioned buildings, perhaps with the reason not letting out the warmth in that great chilly environment. Although they were very small compared to the big royal palaces in our country, it seemed that the main reason for small rooms was keeping them warm.
Her days might have been gone simply wandering among those multiple rooms to sleep in each room one day from one to another. Though there are many stories behind it, it seems as if she has replaced the loneliness in her mind with her uninterruptible renovating of the building.
Heritage Rose Garden:
Heritage Rose Garden is a beautiful flower garden in the city. It is no exaggeration to say that volunteers have grown and nurtured nearly four thousand rose plants here. Roses have grown here since 1995, and the process is still going on. Boards warn us not to pick flowers. In our country flowers disappear even if there is fencing. Flowers bloom and wither on plants. The garden is filled with fragrance and rich with the smiles of thousands of blooming flowers. Rose plants look like trees rather than plants. And there are 3000 varieties of roses here from the largest rose to the smallest one. We were surprised to see an Indian flag in a small place called “Sister Plaza ” adjacent to it. It is a place that marks Pune as one of the ‘Seven Sister City’ programs connected with San Jose Worldwide. There is also a small statue of Chatrapati Shivaji.
A biking trail similar to the Shore Line Trail on the (River Trail) Mountain View, which runs along a small canal for about two and a half miles in the center of the city is a great solace to enjoy. We expected a river but we saw the smallest canal there and laughed as it had nothing to do with the name. The grass around was thick and the children ran for a long time in the grass and when one or two water ducks appeared in the water they shouted with joy. The trails here give the illusion of being somewhere along the river while staying in the city. Conserving such a part, especially a catchment area of reservoirs, is how good it is for health and the environment.
Mount Hamilton & Lick Observatory:
Mount Hamilton is 4,196 feet high, Silicon Valley is visible from there. It’s away from San Joseanother ten miles adjoining the suburbs. When I got out of the house on one winter day, wearing a snow cap, Mount Hamilton began to shed her beautiful smiles. We started there at once. However, the guards of the roads turned us home, as the mountain peak was blocked with heavy snowfall. We waited until the Spring. There will be no snow this time. We attempted to greet that summit for once. We cross a small hill past the San Jose Evergreen area. The road is evergreen all around, as its name implies with lush greenery. As you climb the mountain, we will see beautiful great buildings. As the journey continued through the small road uphill, we were filled with joy. There will be no petrol or food anywhere beyond that hill. The winding ghat road starts after the next mountain. I have never seen a road with all such twists and turns. The guide said that there are about 400 turns. Once these winding roads were meant for horse travel.
We should cross a mountain range before approaching Mount Hamilton. Some parts of the city will not be visible in the middle. But the Observatory above is visible from everywhere. We feel at every turn, that we reached our destiny, but we encounter a turn again! Traveling along the small road makes it worth going there to see the beautiful scenery below. The Observatory above is the site of the second-largest telescope in the world. The other 120 inches C.DONALD SHANE Reflecting Telescope situated here works on the latest laser technology. It is no exaggeration to say that the photographs obtained through this are of the same perfection as those taken with the Space Telescope. The Automated Planet Finder telescope is still under fabrication. It finds traces of planets hidden in the cosmos by itself. There are also two or three other small telescopes here.
When it comes to the story of the founder of the Lick Observatory, James Lick’s life began as a carpenter who first made and sold pianos. Before he stepped into this nation, he wandered many countries till he attained his 50 years, until he came to California during the Gold Rush. He started with a chocolate company and later flourished in variant enterprises, bought gardens, ran estates, a large flour Mill, did mining business, and then eventually started a Real Estate Business and started buying all the places he found around. Apart from the hundreds of acres of farmlands around the present-day cities like Lake Tahoe, Los Angeles, and San Jose, he had bought the entire island of Catalina. One can imagine what properties he owned and how massive they are.
In the last phase of his life, he thought of erecting the largest statue in downtown San Francisco, and the idea of pyramid-like structures in Egypt came to his mind. However, the then President of the California Academy of Sciences initiated the construction of an Observatory with the largest telescope on Earth in his name. He started pouring out a major portion of his earnings on this project. The launching of the Lick Observatory took its inception immediately. However, he died shortly after work started on the Observatory, when the construction was completed in 1885, they built a tomb for him in the cellar of the Observatory.
By 1888, the largest telescope on Earth was born. We could see a telescope with a very large dome fully utilized by machine power built in the days where there was no electricity, no electronics, no computers. In the 1980s, the city of San Jose introduced low-pressure light bulbs, such as sodium lamps, like street lights. This prevents light scattering during research on Mount Hamilton at night. In honor of that, ‘Asteroid 6216’ was renamed “San Jose”.
This flea market is a distinct place like a fair, like an average pilgrim, like a crowded bazaar, like an old city exhibition at our place. It’s probably a rare sight to see something like this in America. We do not see America here, but Latin America. Inexpensive products, grocery stores, and loud Spanish songs are common here. They sell everything here from small pins to carpets. We should go there to get a closer look at the life of the common people around here. I liked it a lot. We feel that we are real human beings. The people who roam here are similar to the ordinary people of our country. They do not know how to save money, it seems that they only know how to spend what they earn, enjoying every penny when we observe their lifestyle and dressing. That’s why we can’t find any artificiality in their manner.
There is still much to see in San Jose, three or four days are not sufficient to see it all. As the city is about ten miles away from our home, our town is like an urban area to this city. So my heart is racing with joy to invite you by saying ‘Welcome to Our City!’
Photos & Telugu Original:
A post graduate in English literature and language and in Economics. A few of my translations were published. I translated the poems of Dr. Andesri , Denchanala, Ayila Saida Chary and Urmila from Telugu to English. I write articles and reviews to magazines and news papers. To the field of poetry I am rather a new face.