Why Dr.K. is super excited at the moment

1. I am going to New York tomorrow. The first time I’ll visit the States. Ever. And I’ll have to travel there alone, although I will meet some friends there later on. Being born in a small city, having lived mostly in places without any metro at all where you could walk from one side of town to the other in half a day, I am both very excited and a little nervous. Since I won’t be giving a talk at the conference I am going to, I decided I’ll leave my laptop at home and keep answering mails to the basics on my phone and really focus on the couple of days off and then on the meeting itself. That means I won’t be posting anything on here for a while I think!

2. I managed to catch our lab manager completely off-guard this morning – in a good way. Today was his birthday and he didn’t really mention it. He has told me however how crappy his previous two postdoc labs were and I could imagine how crappy his birthdays have been there. Luckily, I learned that it is tradition here not to bring cake for your birthday, but to get some from your colleagues.. So I forced my colleagues to contribute towards a present, made an apple pie and smuggled in some ice cream. Set it all up in the common room and herded my colleagues (and boss!) all there and asked one of them to go get him without revealing the surprise – instead he told him to drop everything because the boss needed him really urgently… We lit the candles on the cake in meantime. You should have seen the surprise. This is the closest I’ve seen any of the British in our lab to actually showing emotion. I am still enjoying it, half a day later. These are exactly the small things that make life so much more pleasurable ๐Ÿ™‚

3. My body decided to have the monthlies a couple of days early – which means I won’t have the hassle on the 8 hour flight as I thought I would. Some times, you just have to get lucky I guess!

So yeah, I am happy and ready for action. Off to pack my bags now – let’s see how many pairs of shoes I can stuff in there ๐Ÿ˜‰


Where the British are different

When setting out for the UK, I honestly didn’t expect it would be much different from home. Rainy, dull weather; terrible food; a language I understand; basically, more of the same.

A few weeks ago, my only female colleague (who will leave soon :() had her PhD viva. The lab moved from some ~150ย miles further up last autumn, which means that the event took place there. Because for me, and for some of the other foreigners in our lab, a viva is something special, I organised a trip there. Even though we’ve known her for only a few weeks really, I felt some moral obligation to go there. The British lads all argued that she’s good, will be fine, doesn’t need us. I was quite surprised, as some of us would even travel all the way back to our home countries to support a friend at their viva! This was quite the commitment, as we had to leave at 5 o’clock to be there on time. Just image how hard that was for the Spanish guy who usually starts his day around 11…

As predicted, she gave a brilliant talk and the viva itself went fine. Couple of minor corrections. We had some beers afterwards and had to leave ridiculously early, as the last train from there to here left already at half past 7! Anyway, she was really happy we showed up and we had a nice day there. All well, you’d say, apart from her being disappointed that although we found the way there, her best “friend” from the lab hadn’t.

But when she came back to the lab after correcting the thesis and some holidays, nothing more followed. I thought the least she could do, if she really appreciated us being there, is drag us all to the pub and have a drink together – one that would last a little longer than 7 pm. Anticipating this occasion, I had even organised a present, a glass block with her favourite crystal structure engraved in it in 3D. But nothing came. Until one of the British lads mentioned to me that she was really disappointed that we hadn’t organised something. Excuse me?! We traveled 6 hours for her viva and missus is expecting US to organise HER party?

And then he explained to me that that’s how things are done here. Your birthday, others bring cake. Your viva, others invite you for a party. My counter question, how do you know when she has time for a party?, was waved away. This is how we do things. They were absolutely shocked by the idea of bringing your own cake for your birthday. Yeah, thank you so much for communicating this so clearly. Our mutual disappointment could’ve been avoided if our British lads would’ve spoken up about it. Minor issue; still gets me thinking about other things that’ll inevitably come my way that are done differently here than back home… Maybe there are more differences than I thought there could possibly be!

Leaving for Christmas…

I lived apart from my friends and family the past years and have moved a couple of times. Interestingly, mostly the good experiences have stuck in my memory. But now that I’m going through similar struggles as back then, some of the difficulties are brought back to mind.

I hate leaving. I can’t stand it. I’ve been here for only a month now, but Oxford is absolutely breathtaking, my colleagues are superb. Maybe I’m just too positive a person and happy anywhere, I don’t know. Point is, I find it extremely hard to leave. I am quite glad to be going home for Christmas, to see my friends and family. But I keep thinking of the experiments I’d like to do, the musea I’d like to visit, the neighbours I’d like to chat with and so on. Worst; in two weeks I’ll be leaving again. I’ll feel like the time spent at home wasn’t nearly enough and feel all sad saying goodbye again. Once I am somewhere, it’s mostly fine, but this going back and forth and constant feeling of missing out on things, not sharing in important moments, it makes me sad.

On the other hand; if I hadn’t come here, I wouldn’t have met all these people and seen all these sights. I don’t think I’ll ever regret coming here, it’s good to be here. I just wonder how many pieces of my heart I can leave in different places before it becomes too much. There’s my hometown, the place where I did my BSc, another for my MSc, a fourth for my PhD and now Oxford. I still have friends in all of them and am really happy I’ve lived in those places. But boy, I hate leaving. Sometimes, I’m jealous of the people who grow up in their hometowns, surrounded by their friends and family. However, deep within, I know that wouldn’t make me happy. I’d grow restless. So I guess I’ll just have to get better at temporary goodbyes, learn to accept they are temporary indeed and not forever.

And with that, I’d like to leave you all for Christmas. Don’t think I’ll have much time for the digital worlds in between many meetings and goodbyes ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope you all have a very merry Christmas!