Friday, May 29, 2009

Waiting to get the DEVIL out my life so that I can truly enjoy Australia

Hey guys, sorry I have not posted
Nothing exciting is occurring at the moment or has occurred for the last couple of weeks. I have been going to lab by day and MCAT studying by night. So as soon as I can get this “devil” out of my life I will be able to enjoy Australia a little more. The lab is great. The people are very nice but I have not met Simon… the “big dog” or the HHMI investigator as of yet. He is apparently really big here. He’s on TV all the time. Like I said everything is going well and I am making big plans as soon as the test is over.

Children Under Five Should be Drugged to Fly

My journey began at 6:25 am to catch an 11:45 flight.  Already tired and grumpy, I got to spend 1.5 hours sitting on the tarmac in Atlanta because Newark had fog.  Thank goodness for a planned 5 hour layover.  An inconvenience was turned into annoyance by the 4 year old behind who thought my chair made a good soccer ball.  Once his mother noticed that I was getting pissed, she tried to control him but to no avail.  I even offered her Benadryl, but whatever.....  

Now that my rant is over, on to Barcelona.

What I have seen of the city is very nice.  The university area is well maintained with good shopping.  There is a five story department store 3 blocks away with all of the fancy European brands and other shops along the street.  Although it is not in the heart of the city, the university is right on the main street of Barcelona, called Diagonal, which runs... you guessed it... diagonally through the city.  This is nice in that it is convenient for getting around, but crossing the street can be quite epic as red lights are only suggestions.  Maybe Georgia should send all its dismantled red light cameras here.  The university is also a block from Camp Nou, the Barcelona soccer stadium. While I was trying to fall asleep last night I heard loud noises and looked out my window to see fireworks celebrating the team's arrival back from Rome. While it was really cool, it was also 11 pm and I had been up for 35 hours.

The lab itself is very modern.  The building is less than 10 years old and has everything I could ever need.  There is no bench space so all work must be done in the hood, which is safer, but moderately inconvenient.  The solvents are kegged and tapped and the chemical disposal is bordering on obsessive-compulsive.  In other words... this lab is the EPA's dream come true. The instrumentation is also state of the art.  The building has an aluminum room that houses an 800 MHz NMR (for comparison, Emory's biggest is 600 and the current record is 1000). The NMR machines have auto-samplers so that all the user has to do is walk downstairs, put their tube in and select a scan.  The results are then emailed.  I start work next Tuesday, as Monday is a holiday and no one is coming in.  When they told me that I was confused at first since chemistry grad students at Emory work most Saturdays, holidays, and even some Sundays.  I don't even think they work Saturdays here.

This weekend will be spent looking for an apartment and touring the city.  I might go on a dive as well.  Look for another post some time early next week.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"International" After All

It turns out some parts of Canada aren't as bad as they seem. I love this lab! It is huge & everyone is from a different country. After just a few weeks of training, I now know how to say "slow down," "hurry up," and "no, not that!" in 3 different languages. Canada is also much more environment-friendly compared to most parts of Atlanta. I was even charged extra at the grocery store for using plastic bags at checkout and not bringing my own, reusable ones!
To be "educated" also bears a different meaning up here. Some people treat me differently upon learning that I attend college and engage in scientific research. Their tone goes from welcoming to harsh and unaccepting. That's all for now, I better go check on my gel now.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Familiar faces in distance places

After 2 days of aimless wounding around Sydney, I was comforted by familiar sight: my friend from school, Ye Wang. I am thankful that even on the other side of the world, I can find a familiar face and much less a new home. I cannot complain about my new accommodation with his house located within a 5 min walk from the world famous Bondi Beach. With a walk up the cost line, I can easily see why Bondi is world famous (just check out my flickr photos).

Even the people I meet seem to be like old friends. On the first day of work, everyone in my lab extended an arm of gratitude and friendship as the newbie in the lab. My first week of work comprised of mostly lab training: Safety training, flow spectrometry training, animal handling training, potty training, lab techniques, ect., ect. Now that all of this is done, I am happy to be starting on my actual project with testing the effects of pertussis toxin on T-cells. Also on a side note, my boss, Patrick Bertolino (he is the one in the pic with me), invited me to the 2009 Premier’s Awards for Outstanding Cancer banquet where I got to hear and personally meet Sir. Gustav Nossal. Nossal is one of the most celebrated and important immunology researchers in the world, and it was very cool getting a chance to meet him.

Friday, May 15, 2009

What country am I in again???

My first few days in Sydney were a very interesting adventure to say the least. When I arrived at hostel, apparently my booking was located in the very middle of what one might call the red light district of Sydney. I am excited to say that my first impression of Sydney was comprised of a myriad of adult entertainment shops, tattoo parlors, weird looking people, bars, and a lot of really nice strangers who liked offering me candy :). To make matters even more interesting, when I stepped into my hotel, I was ritually mobbed by an unofficial (and partially drunk) welcoming crew who were eager to take the prime chance opportunity to “mess with the new guy.” Did I also mention that my hotel was almost entirely composed of people from Great Britain? I was a little confused by this point of which country I had just arrived in, Amsterdam, Scotland, or Australia? After settling into my hostel, I decided to get busy with one of my favorite past times: getting lost in foreign places. Downtown Sydney for the most part is walker friendly placed, and after a 15 min stroll, I came across Hyde Park (Hyde Park Sydney…not Hyde Park London). This is a very nice section of Sydney, and I was relieved to find that other parts of the city were a little more “normal” (although I have yet to feel out of my niche). The city is also giving me plenty of opportunities to pursue my hobby in photography. I’ll be updating my flickr account regularly, and you can see all of my pictures from my trip here:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

10,000 miles and upside down...

After about 10,000 miles, 21.5 hours on an airplane, and +6 mounts of previous planning, I had finally arrived in Sydney, Australia. It is raining when my flight arrives at the airport, but I am happy to be here. It feels slightly strange also (maybe because of the jetlag or because everything is upside down on the bottom side of the world…lol). Never the less, I can tell from just a few hours here that I am going to love Australia, and I am excited to start my new adventure.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Blank Canvas- Week 1

Any traveler can enjoy a destination that looks like it’s part of a vivid canvas painting, mounted on the wall of some overpriced museum, squared off so that you can only see it from four feet away. It takes an unusually talented, open-minded being to appreciate the blank canvas that I was handed when I first landed in Edmonton, Canada. It is up to me to find paintbrushes, pallets, and artistry skills—the whole 9 yards. This canvas is not just for me to stair blankly at and perhaps snap a photo for a scrapbook waiting to collect dust. I’m no observer here, but the artist. This research job, this new, blank life, is mine to make paint and make beautiful.
5/8/09: People love to blame America for stereotyping everyone in the world. Well, news to the world—Americans get stereotyped, too!!! It’s big, it’s real, and it’s unavoidable. The first night I flew into Canada, my host family already had, waiting for me, a bowl of ready-made Easy Mac® with sugar-fruit juice and Keebler Elf® cookies on the table. Their fridge was freshly lined with processed drinks, sodas, and the most unappealing white sandwich bread ever artificially hydrogenated. After peering past this superfluous food layer (I mean that in more ways than one), I discovered Cantonese-style wontons, whole grain bread, vitamin juice, herbs and pretty much any vegetable, fruit or legume the fiber-god could think of that late at night. It looked like a Megan’s dream fridge. I felt like I was being terribly rude by refusing to eat the “Americanized” meal they crafted and just eating what they normally eat instead. I felt embarrassed that they had to GO OUT OF THEIR WAY to buy all that fatty, disgusting food JUST FOR ME.
5/10/09: Running has never before been such an empowering skill. Running is how I find the beauty that Canada has to offer. Only those who are really in shape, or terribly lost, can see these sites. Without running, Canada would be a boring, destitute place.

I'm Here

Hello guys, I am finally here and can finally use my electronics. It has definitely been a mission. I won’t be coming back to Australia for a very long time… unless there is a teleporting machine invented. (lol) What a long trip. It is very different here but in a good way. The only thing that is a little ridiculous here is the price of food. I paid like 9 dollars for Burger King in the airport but it was perfectly ok because I was ecstatic when I say that Burger King logo. Anyways I will be keeping you guys posted.