Koalas, kangaroos, and more

Koala eating eucalyptus.
Chancellor Blumenthal with Michael McCawley and Ashish Sahni at the Taj Mahal.

Koalas are indisputably cute, and the Taj Mahal was stunning.

Lions, tigers, and bears? How about koalas, kangas, and roos?

My wife and I took our two adult children to Australia before I split off to meet up with the UCSC delegation in India. It was a great trip, and I can now attest to the cuteness of koalas and kangaroos.

This was my first trip to India, and like every other visitor, I was struck by the sights, sounds, and smells of this nation teeming with people and energy. We had an agenda packed with meetings from Delhi and Punjab in the north to Bangalore in the south, and it was gratifying to see the high level of interest in our campus among educators, government officials, and prospective students. We made good progress on multiple initiatives that I'm confident will benefit the campus.

We did take a couple of breaks during the trip. Admissions Director Michael McCawley and I took time out for a bicycle rickshaw tour of Old Delhi. Michael and I are both pretty big guys, and I'm a little embarrassed to say that our driver actually had to dismount and push the bike the last few blocks. I guess "lose weight" should be on my list of resolutions for 2014!

In many ways, India struck me as a country of contrasts. The disparity between wealth and poverty was inescapable. It was particularly striking at the Taj Mahal, where we marveled at the beauty of the building -- and at the suffering of those who live close by.

Yet throughout the trip, I detected an extraordinary level of optimism everywhere we went; a spirit of entrepreneurship seemed to infuse every conversation and interaction. One impression has really stuck with me: Absolutely everyone has a cell phone, even people who appeared to be living in the most dire circumstances. The tendrils of technology have indeed reached into every nook and cranny of our world.

Comments or questions? Write to chancellor@ucsc.edu and put "Koalas" in the subject line.