Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's been a while..

.. would be an understatement.. I have been caught up in the general business of settling down, finding my feet, gaining a foothold and such.. The last time I posted, I had been trying to choose the lab I would be rotating in. I have since completed two rotations and am doing a third. The rotation reports however, are yet to be completed.

The first rotation was a great experience.. The people in the lab are great and I got along with almost everyone. There are three grad students- one of them, a girl who is a year ahead of me in the grad program and who is now my BFF. Let's call her Smiles. The other two have been here for six and seven years each. Let's call them Pretty Boy (PB) and Pain. As you may have guessed, it's Pain I cannot get along with. He is an eccentric, egoistic, misogynist and to top it all off, is a huge gossip. Then there are three research associates. One of them is an adjunct and since he's stayed in Britain for a number of years, his name will be Brit. One is Canadian and will be called Can. He is another person in the group I haven't been able to build a rapport with. I guess it's because of his truly whacky sense of humor, which I don't always get. The third is a serious blessing and I consider him my mentor though I haven't told him so. Let's call him Mr.+ve since he is always so enthusiastic and optimistic. Then, we have a Chinese lab manager, Big guy. Nothing in the lab would get done if he wasn't there. Finally, the Boss man, a great guy, extremely caring and approachable, a genius and a visionary but unfortunately does not worry about the pace at which his projects are progressing.

The second rotation was a bit of a shock for me at first. People were not as talkative as the those in the first lab but then again, English was a second language for all of them and they were not very good at it. That was probably the reason why they didn't talk as much. However, this lab was one where I received the most guidance and appreciation for effort and/ or long hours invested, a very rare thing in this Ph.D. business. The female boss is extremely strict and has extremely high standards for work but like I said her level of involvement in the projects going on in her labs and her guidance were invaluable to me. There are two post docs, one Korean, the other Japanese, both very sparse with their words but extremely helpful and truly nice people. And finally, there is a senior graduate student. And that was it.. A small lab, cozy, nurturing atmosphere where things get done extremely efficiently. I am extremely satisfied with the amount of work I got done there in three months.

'If the lab was so fantastic, why would you leave it to do yet another rotation?', you ask. Aah.. The carrot that was dangled in front of this donkey looked so delicious.. But the story of the third lab and my rotation in it deserves a separate post me thinks..

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Decisions.. decisions..

Now that I have finally gotten into a graduate program, the next order of business is to find labs to rotate in.. Easier said then done.. First of all, my university allows only two rotations as opposed to three at other universities and I have already been assigned the lab in which I'll be doing my second rotation since the department is short of funds and this PI has offered to pay for my RAship in the summer.. There are two other labs that I'm interested in but although I am allowed a third rotation if I am unable to decide at the end of two, I don't think I will be supported with assistantships during the third one. All three labs deal with structural biology but one of them uses purely computational methods. The ideal thing to do would be to rotate in the lab which uses only computational techniques for one rota and choose one of the other two for the second.. But here lies the problem. The people that I have spoken to so far keep telling me not to be obligated to join the lab of the PI who's paying my stipend just because the PI is doing so and I feel like they are trying to give me a hint about something but how do I find out better what they are trying to tell me? The obvious answer is- ask the people working in that lab but the primitive department website does not provide the e-mail IDs of any of the students and it's really hard to actually find people and talk to them since everyone is usually busy in their labs. A mixer had been planned by the graduate student society here last week, which would have been a great way to get to know people but it was cancelled because of bad weather and hasn't been re- scheduled yet as far as I know..

In all, it seems like my department and university have gone out of their to make it hard for graduate students to communicate with each other.. A situation that could easily be remedied simply by giving students each other's e-mail IDs..

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Too much has happened..

..in the one week that I've been in the US. Yes, it's been that long and no, I can't believe it either.. The first couple of days were spent in running around, getting all the bureaucratic stuff done.. Registration, trips to the International student office, to HR etc.. Then, the bone chilling cold set in and I was paralyzed.. The blizzard that swept the whole of mid west brought the temperatures down in this town to the 40s.. But the sun did come out today and I've had a nice day.. Since so much has happened and it would be tough for me to get into details and document it all, let me just list some of the new experiences I've had and some new things I've learnt.. Because at the end of evreything, it's what you have learnt that counts..

1. On the 1st day, it took me half an hour to get to my building. I've now discovered short cuts and it takes me five minutes.
2. I've learnt the routes of the uni shuttle but I don't really need them 'cos of 1.
3. I've become acquainted with people who are willing to take me grocery shopping when I need to, which is very important since I don't have a car and have to rely on people who do.
4. I've learnt how to credit money to my student ID card and don't have to carry cash around and be afraid of being mugged anymore.
5. I've learnt to buy food at stores and to operate vending machines.
6. I've learnt how to do my laundry.

So, basically, I have learnt how to survive, how to be independent and for the first time in my life, to exist without having someone take care of me all the time. It is a heady and scary feeling all at the same time. I know I will make mistakes and fall but I also know I shall pick myself up and dust myself off.. because I have to and because there will be no one to pick me up. I do wish I wasn't all alone and my beloved was here with me but I'll have to wait another three months before I know if he'll be joining me. In all, it's going to be one hell of an adventure and no matter what happens, I'll always have the satisfaction of being a pioneer.. The first in my family to do a PhD and the first to study abroad.. Well, here's to good beginnings and better continuations..

Image from here.

Monday, January 31, 2011


Although I have been in the US for only two days, so much has happened that it feels like ages and my half dazed, jet lagged state in the evenings is no help either. I cannot be grateful enough for the fact that my bro stays in a city that's only about a 3 and a half hours drive away from my University. What would I have done all by myself in a foreign land where so many things are unknown to me if here were not here? The idea scares me.. but the Arien in me whispers.. I would have been OK.. it would've been tough but not impossible.. Those who have no one looking out for them have God looking out for them..

There must be so many international students who arrive in the US without having anyone in the country.. Feeling much more lost and confused than I'm feeling.. I would like to help them.. Maybe the next semester, when I have settled in and have begun to grow roots, I can help them begin to grow theirs..

Image from here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Short post.. Big news..

I finally have my visa.. My tickets are booked and I fly to USA today :)

Image from here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011



Gone are the days when fashions used to change by the decade. Fashions are now changing on an yearly or sometimes daily basis. Take for example the return of the high- waisted, flared jeans, the fashion symbols of the 70's. 'Experts' claim that this cut of jeans make you look taller and thinner. Personally, I feel the flare makes you look comical and the thing about the high waist giving you more height? That only works if you tuck your top in. But these jeans are mostly prescribed for curvy women in order to balance out their wider hips and most curvy women, more likely than not have some tummy bulge. Surely, these curve beauties would hate to accentuate their tummies with a tucked in top. So now, curvy women like me would have to choose between looking dated by continuing to wear skinny jeans (which were the ruling trend until high- waisted, flared jeans entered the scene) or looking ridiculous by embracing the new fashion.

Skinny jeans have been around for only about a year or so and for people who love to buy half a dozen of whatever is in fashion, money spent on buying skinny jeans, appropriate tops and accessories, would just be money down the drain not to mention the amount they will have to spend on buying the flared jeans, tops for them and their accessories. Fashion is no doubt an integral part of our lives and the industry feeds many mouths but in these tough economic times, is it really fair to make people change their entire wardrobe? Unless, it is a way to energize the economy? Hmm.. Food for thought..

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Fresh disappointment..

(Yeah, I didn't think it was possible to have some more either..) My graduate academic advisor has now told me that it is not possible to postpone the beginning of the class I was supposed to take this spring and that I can either choose to attend this semester without taking any classes or join the next semester, which begins in six months.. Makes me wonder how much more I can take..

Image from here.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Haul: Jan 14th 2011

I'd bought a few simple tees/ blouses for everyday lab wear (although now I'm not sure if I'm gonna get to wear them in a lab anytime soon). Working in a Biochemistry lab is messy and sweaty work. While working with flames and chemicals, it is a good idea to wear simple, cotton clothes that are safe as well as comfortable. 

The first one.. In Pink because I've been in love with pink ever since I watched Legally Blonde. Just a simple tee with some detailing at the neck, making it asymmetrical. Rs. 199

This tee, which looks bright blue is actually a bluish green color but my cellphone cam has decided it likes this color better. ;) This one has a square neck and some pleat detailing below the neck. Rs. 249

This one is salmon, not orange as it appears (that cellphone cam again..) with a simple, square neck. Rs. 159

And finally, my favorite among the lot.. This one in royal purple with lovely, crochet detailing at the neck (not very clear in the pic) and tapered at the bottom. Rs. 269

House full.

Do you know any of those annoying people who just hate to miss the beginning of a movie, by even 5 minutes and won't watch it if they do? Well, I am one of those.. But, something similar to missing the beginning of a good movie is happening in my life right now and there is nothing I can do but watch helplessly. This is day 24 following my visa interview and still, no visa in sight.. Meanwhile, I have missed my orientation week, which ends tomorrow and the possibility of making it to the beginning of my classes starting on the 18th of January looks pretty bleak. The Prof. who teaches the course I'll be taking this spring has graciously agreed to postpone the beginning of classes by one week if necessary, but not more. So essentially, if I do not make it there by the 24th of January, I will be shown a 'House full' sign and told to come back for the next show i.e the next semester.

No one can even begin to appreciate all the effort that has gone into gaining acceptance into this University I want to attend. One and a half years of sweat, struggle, blood, tears, sleepless nights, anxiety, endless research, money spent, studying, praying, wondering, agonizing, begging for recommendation letters, making drafts of SOPs, humiliation endured, hopes, disappointments.. All suffered for what? To spend another 24 days walking on pins and needles in the hopes of seeing that single stamp that could change my life.. A stamp that if delayed some more will again change my life, but for the worse..

What makes the waiting worse is that I don't even know why I am being made to wait. 'Administrative processing' is the name given to all that that has to be done (and God only knows what that is) before a visa can be issued to me. But whatever that process maybe, does it really require 24 days to be completed in today's digital age? 

While the visa gods take their sweet time to decide whether or not to grant me a visa, my dreams, not all that ambitious to begin with, are dying a slow yet painful death..

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I smell betrayal..

I was recently betrayed by someone who I thought was my friend. In fact, we were best friends for about four years before we drifted apart. In spite of not being as close as we once were, I had trusted her and let her know some confidential information which she passed on to the very people I did not want it passed on to. When I realized what she had done, I was shocked that she could do this to me. Shock slowly gave way to sadness, that she hadn't respected the sanctity of our friendship, that she hadn't valued it as much as I did and that I wouldn't be able to consider her a friend anymore. Then, I grew bitter and stayed bitter for two days.. I plotted revenge in my head.. I wanted to get back at her and get back good.. I wanted to hurt her as much as she had hurt me but I was helpless.. I could never put all those revengeful plans into action because my every action is governed by one simple belief- 'God is watching.' God is watching and he will show her the error of her ways when He thinks the time is right and if I try to get back at her, He will not forgive me either.. So, I couldn't do anything to make myself feel better and I was still very much bitter.. Bitter thoughts ran around in circles in my head.. 'How could she do this? How could she do this to me? Oh, how I wish I could do this to her or that?'.. over and over again, until I realized.. I was hurting no one but myself by thinking these thoughts.. They were ruining my peace and my sleep.. So today, I decided to forget if not forgive.. I shall sleep in peace tonight..

To make up for this depressing post, let me leave you with this old joke from the Reader's Digest..
At the head of a long buffet table at a college mess, was a plate with pieces of cake on it and a sign beside it which read, 'Take only one. God is watching.' At the other end was a bowl of apples beside which a student had placed a sign that read, 'Take as many as you want. God is watching the cakes.'

Image from here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Haul: Jan 4th 2011

Jayalakshmi Silks, Udyavar has done it again.. While when I go to any other shop in Udupi, I take a long time to pick out my clothes because I'm wondering which among the clothes they show me is the least ugly one, at Jayalakshmi I take longer because I'm wondering why I can't buy more clothes than my self imposed budget will allow.. Today was one such day and I bought four lovely tops.. I would've bought more but wasn't sure about the kind of clothes students at my new university wear.. So, I see more shopping in the US in my future.. Yay!! but now to show you the stuff I bought today..

This little number is in Royal Purple, a color that I don't often buy.. I don't know why.. I must in the future because it looks good on me.. This is not something that I can wear everyday but I looked so chic when I put it on that I had to buy it.. And, I adore that little, white rose on the chest :) Rs.315

This one didn't look all that special on the hanger.. in fact, it looked a little gaudy.. But when I tried it on, I looked so sleek and professional that.. yeah, I bought it :) Rs.490

This one is again something that I can't wear everyday I think but I loved the whole Chinese look of this kurthi.. The high collar, the button knots, the wide sleeves and the pattern on the collar and cuffs.. Rs.595

And finally, my favorite.. This top is just so elegant and comfortable when on.. And the beautiful, muted pattern on the bodice and lining the edge appealed to me a lot.. Rs. 590

Jayalakshmi has hiked its prices a little bit.. A year ago, these tops would have cost around 200 bucks or 300 at the most but as long as they continue to stock unique pieces like these, my business goes to them..

Sunday, January 2, 2011

If only..

I had not gone to an agency for assistance with obtaining a visa..
They hadn't misguided me..
I had known that I wouldn't need to produce proof of financial support during the interview, since my course is fully funded by the university..
I had known about Section 221g..
I had had an earlier date available for my interview..
I had had someone to guide me through all of this..