Monday, June 28, 2010

Congratulations and coughs

Ok, the alliteration in the title kind of sucks, but I couldn't think of a significantly better title.

The biggest news since I posted last is that we had our Fulbright mid-year report event. We got to meet all the US bound Kiwis and present about our research. This was mostly a lot of fun but also kind of an anxiety inducing kick in the pants. I realized I'm half done with my Fulbright and I feel like I've accomplished very little. I did not anticipate it would take me almost 2 months just to figure out what I was staring at under the microscope. This was amplified by the fact that I am now filling out veterinary school/ PhD apps and realized that I do not have any publications to my name. I guess I'll just have to get used to the constant nagging of publications. I am working on that toepad stuff with Luke; I'm excited to get some of my research out there.

It also made me want to get out and see more of the country. Julie and I tentatively have plans to go to the South Island. I also need to see more of the North Island. I did get out to Cape Palliser again, though, and saw lots of seals a couple weeks ago. It was gorgeous.

But as I said, the Fulbright event was mostly a ton of fun. The Kiwis headed to America are brilliant, hilarious and really kind. And exceedingly patient. They had to sit through 15 minute presentations by each of the Americans. I was told I managed to make my presentation quite funny; plus, everyone loves tuatara. It might also have helped that I "enhanced" all of my photos in MS paint (scarves on tuatara, angry faces on blood cell parasites, etc.) Last Wednesday there was a big ceremony at Parliament where all the Fulbrighters were presented with certificates by the NZ Minister of Science and Technology, pins by the US Ambassador to NZ (see pic of me and Ambassador Huebner -- with Mike, another US Fulbright peeking through) and a lei by the head of the Fulbright NZ board. The Fulbright woman gave me a lei that matched my outfit. I was pretty psyched. The graduate students (Americans and Kiwis) then went out to dinner and out for dancing and drinks. I'm sure some of you have seen my facebook pictures documenting the event. I'm just sad that the Kiwis aren't going to be around much longer to hang out with us. If anyone's still in the Cambridge area, I can introduce you to two awesome kids who'll be at Harvard next year.

On a completely different note, it's amazing I finished my presentation in 15 minutes since I had to stop to cough several times. I've had this cough for about 2.5 weeks now. I finally went to the doctor today (who turned out to be the husband of one of the Fulbright senior scholar people!). He told me I had a virus and the cough'll go away in 1-2 weeks but he also gave me an inhaler to help me stop coughing. My fate as the athletically inept, dweeby, weakling nerd is sealed.

Being sick sucks but it has had its funny moments. Two weeks ago I was woken up by a stomach ache and the sound of my chattering teeth. At 4am I finally decided to call my parents. (The benefits of being 5 hours "behind" the west coast.) My dad assured me that I was probably running a fever but before I took some tylenol I should take my temperature. 96 degrees F. Thank you, Wellington. I bought an electric blanket the next day.

- I now have a spiffy certificate to hang on my wall, along with pins and a lei.
- I am an expert with microsoft paint. If you think you'd look better in a picture with a drawn on scarf or possibly a third eye, I'm your gal.
- The Kiwis headed to the US are the best. Now if they would only stay in their country instead of fleeing to mine...
- I'm starting to understand the meaning of "publish or perish."
- Being sick sucks. Especially when it forces you to realize the persona you thought you ditched after 5th grade PE.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Aren't you bored of my life yet? If not, read on...

I don’t know that I knew the definition of the word “sleet” before. I know it now. I walked home in it. I’ll stop bitching about the weather eventually but know that I’m jealous of all of you who are currently enjoying summer! It’s been raining with the exception of one sunny day since May 22. (Yes, this is actually something that makes it into the newspaper. There is a formal definition of “decent spell of sunshine.” Who knew?) Also, as Julie pointed out, you can’t tell if it’s an earthquake or just the wind shaking our house. Yes, I’m cold again. It was 5 degrees all day. I’m actually coming down with a cold too. My first in New Zealand. I spent all of yesterday sitting in my flat (Monday off for the Queen’s birthday!) and didn’t make it out of my pajamas. (Well, technically I was only half in my pajamas since I did put on jeans before I got distracted.) I felt like a complete bum.

It was nice for one day, though, and we took full advantage of this to go visit Martinborough, the wine region that you might remember from my first couple weeks here. Julie braved the Rimutakas (many kilometers of winding road that’s cut into the side of a mountain) to get us there. She was driving at about half the speed limit and at one point we pulled over to let the other cars pass. There were 20 of them. We got a lot of appreciative honks for finally getting out of their way. Ah well, safety first, right? The Kiwis apparently have problems with traffic accidents and have very freaky ad campaigns to get people to be more careful. It’s worked on me. Speaking of driving, New Zealand has the best road signs, my favorite of which is simply “!”. Usually there’s another, smaller sign explaining what one should be cautious about, but often that sign is missing, so you’ll be driving down the road and hit an exclamation point. I’ve taken to making up my own (usually inaccurate) explanatory signs in my head, something like “flying sheep” or “giant moa crossing.”

In other news, just because we’re miles away from, well, anywhere, doesn’t mean New Zealand doesn’t get the latest movies. With all this rain, there hasn’t been a lot to do other than sit inside, so I’ve been watching a lot of movies. I went to see Iron Man II with some friends. I don’t even recall if there was a plot – I would watch Robert Downey Jr. eat a sandwich. I also went with some women from the school of biological sciences to see Sex and the City II. It was a lot of fun hanging out with the ladies outside of lab. As for the movie itself, I’m a little scared by Liza Minelli. And impressed. But mostly scared.

In the world of science, things are moving along. Luke, the graduate student I worked with at Harvard, put together a newsletter of papers about anoles which included a submission from me. We’re going to try to modify it into a real paper. I’ve finished my initial blood counts after having had to recount them. I’m not really sure there’s a pattern, but no pattern is still results right? Also, my lab is moving buildings tomorrow so I spent a bit of today helping pack chemicals. I realized, after looking at all the warning labels on the jars, that, in trying to find ways to cure cancer, we’re all going to get cancer. Guess we better work fast.

Other than that, I have actually started filling out my vet school apps. In a classic move to which facebook groups are dedicated, I stopped after filling in the name and address part and started cleaning my room. I haven’t seen this much of my floor in weeks and I put up enough pictures to make a dent in the otherwise unbroken stretch of fluorescent green.

- It’s cold! (…still.)
- Julie drives like an old lady. But in a good way.
- Kiwis have fun road signs, but they’re funnier in my head.
- Sequels are all the rage right now. Robert Downey Jr. is incredibly charming. Liza Minelli is just, um, yeah.
- My life is full of lizards, leukocytes and lead acetate.
- Classic procrastination techniques work in the Southern hemisphere as well as the Northern.