Next-to-last light of this year fades away and as I look back, I see all the decisions that have directed me on this track which takes me me away from my previous life. I’ve thought that I am going through a series of very fast movements, but in reality, I started this change over a year ago already. Don’t remember any more where I got the idea of finding a post doc position in Japan – I know that before I started working on it, I had no knowledge of Japanese neuroscience, let alone any contacts. In January I found RIKEN on the net, and from there on I’ve been pushing the wheels of my life (and those around me…) towards this present course. Without much thinking, back then.
Yesterday, watching the traffic in Helsinki downtown I got a very weird feeling, as if I was looking at my life as it could have been now – as from the sidewalk or another lane that, even though still very close to the other lane and still following approximately similar course, will very soon diverge, turn and merge into another highway – and the cars that were so close a moment ago will be seen in the rear mirror.
Oh, this identical tearing between the need to GO and the sorrow for leaving times behind has been with me as long as I can remember. Always dreaming of flying away somewhere, and the moment air lifts the great wings I want to turn back, grab the ground and even make time stop since I grieve even the passing of days. Now, I fight between making the departure as late as possible (to have as much time left with those that are dear to me) and as soon as possible (I get my last paycheck on 5th of January, and after that there won’t be anything to pay my apartment, food or warm wine with…).
Completly, utterly stupid. Nothing will be changed here while I’m away (I bet the Kamppi Hole will still be there…) – maybe some of you got married or divorced, found Jesus or politics, most definely there will be more of Doc’s around – three years is not anymore an eternity as it was 15 years ago, when I voted against our family moving to Italy for a similar period.
I am certain this is a good decision – no, it’s the only reasonable direction to take. In addition, no matter how much I now grieve – I’m one of those always-sad – I take this path with certainity – no, with desperate hope – that it will lead me to somewhere, into some time where I could finally settle in peace with myself. This need was accentuated by the time I spent with my younger sister, who visited us during the Christmas. She’s planning to get married, soon, with a man from the most southern parts of Poland, living in the mountains where the local talk is so different from what I know (the kind of language used in Warsaw in the 70’s) that I barely can follow… (and they have a chicken pen! Honestly!) Sister has been through a LOT in her life, and she most definetly deserves her happiness at last (and the wedding party, lasting 3 days, with the whole village taking part in eating and drinking…)
Oh, I remember, now. I started thinking about Japan after I had a dream – most likely closer to 1,5 years ago: in the dream, everything was completly well – and the cherry trees were blooming outside my window.
So, I’m leaving on a jet plane / don’t know if I’ll be back again. I will be missing you – am missing already … even though I know now that I won’t be alone there… (If all the folks who are eager to come and visit the Rising Sun Country are serious, there will be never lack of rye bread and salmiakki..:)
Hum. What a long post. I could have just said this: I love you. Happy New Year.
Return of the Dream
I was honestly speaking rather anxious about the movie – not that it’d be bad in any sense – but I was expecting to weep for the last hour or so, either for the sad things in the film or for the sorrow of knowing it is now Over, there won’t be any more of this.
But, instead, when the end titles started, I felt the same kind of contentment I remember after the first time I read the book: the story is finished, no sequels are needed. (And you can always go back to the details, in Unfinished Tales or Extended Edition Extras..) Held my breathe during the last battle on Mt. Doom. And the dream came back to me, one I’ve forgotten for ages – the dream, or longing, for a land as vast and open and beautiful and devoid of offices and cellular phones. A land where a trip to the nearest town would take one week – and crossing the wild lands by foot would not be called ‘recreation’ or ‘experience’.
I suppose the nearest I get to that feeling is, actually, while on a plane (not plain:) flying somewhere over 8 hours away – the feeling that the world actually is big and spacy – at least at 10 000 meters and up.
I’m probably the only person in the world who genuinely enjoys flights, and the longer – the better.
The Boss announced yesterday that 1) he has not time to finish this story before he leaves for South Africa and 2) the experiments I was striving to do on Friday, Monday, Tuesday AND Wednesday nights (the last one finally was success as I was granted the permission to use Tero’s set up, electrode and slices…) were not the ones he thought necessary, and promptly continued explaining what he expects me to do (another completly new kind of experimental configuration for pharmacological experiments, which are notorious in their lack of stability)…
I told already that I will quit working completly 30 days before I receive the working permit and leave. Hopefully he understands this does not mean I will postpone my escape according to the probable lack of success in the lab…
Needless to say, I am most devoid of any spirit for this. Trying to take it as a 9-to-5 job for getting some reimbursement for the loss of free time. (Even though I was promptly told that we are running very low on budget, with two grants ending at the same tiime… )
I was not going to miss the training again today, no. That’s why I woke and rose up early (despite the cold and darkness) and skipped breakfast and ate lunch (or ‘lunch’, meaning the hopefully not so harmful Unicafe calories) … at 6PM, after finding finally out WHY I’ve not been able to see any potassium signals, I lost a vigorous fight to my notorious working morale … and, here I am still at the set up, close to midnight, with one (1) tiny bit of data obtained together with the already-forgotten hidden ancient knowledge that states “thou shalt not eat the fruit of a pizzataxi”. The boss, on his way home, told (with no bad intentions) me he’ll call me around 4 AM to check up on me. Waiting eagerly to tell him about the non-perfect silanisation, chamber overflow, dechloridated wires, loose manipulators, uneven perfusion level and broken tubing, spreading depressions, dying slices and potassium electrodes that spit out the sensor the first moment they feel they are faced with a potassium ion.
Hurryhurryhurry all the time and all the time telling friends ‘sorry, don’t have the time’ – with my heart bleeding called off even tomorrow’s meeting with my favourite teen ninja girl we’ve been planning for some time (talking about very grave matters over huge cups of ice cream) since, very luckily, I’ll have the set up at my disposal tomorrow and just might get something related to the quinine project done. This also means I will spend most of the evening in the lab – and I will AGAIN miss Asko’s sword training lesson… Even though I like to pose and show off with the shoto, I really can’t use the blade as I should…
But, yesterday was a great day – shooting session with Lasu was fun, and I finally was convinced that price does matter – apparently, the camera he’s using included a monkey-filter, since honestly, in very few of the over 100 photos taken I’ve managed to ruin the outcome by doing the stupid face I usually always do when the photographer presses the shutter… The party later in the evening was also pure good time – I don’t remember when was the last time I stayed at a party for 6 hours, most likely around year 1998… Could have spent the whole night there even, but by midnight the flu started reminding me about it’s presence. But even that did not mar the splendor as I got a pleasant and easy ride home with Jari. Good friends, some red wine, cats and drunken ballet. What else can one ask for 🙂
From Japan Times Online, in a list of gift ideas for the gaijin (foreigner) who has everything:
“Preprepared immigration forms. Every gaijin can use a packet of these, sold according to three-year, five-year or 10-year plans, and for lifers. All the application forms you’ll need for your sponsorship, visa, renewal, permanent residence, etc., are now available in one packet. Each packet includes an extra supply of apology forms, such as the one promising you will never again overstay your visa by a couple of hours.”
Already I am somewhat bedazzled by all the documents needed for my working visa, and hey I am an invited worker, one that Japan thinks she needs! It seems that some evil student has been overstaying his/her visa, and since this somehow resulted in a murder (!!), the Japan government is now making the visa application procedure even more difficult than earlier:
“Beginning in the academic year that starts in April, the ministry will require foreign students to submit documents on their parents’ income and bank account statements for the past three years.”
Right. Anyone planning to study in Japan? Better start saving the documents already.
Japan Times Online just made a facelift – changed the web page appearance, that is. Also, it added the slogan “All the news without fear and favor” on top of each page, and included a new range of poor English writing.
Still, their bilingual and kanji-related columns are great: read for instance the text by Kaori Shoji on how to use words in Japanese that apparently fill the same linguistic spot as the finnish ‘kipeen’ or ‘törkeen’ (as in ‘kipeen hyvä’, ‘törkeen tyylikäs’) as well as a dicussion on jibun hosokinshiyogo (self-imposed bleeping of phrases unsuitable for public broadcasting).
I really don’t know how I was thinking I would be taking the rest of this year ‘lightly’. Despite being tired and sick (even though, spending most of yesterday finishing reading Robin Hobb’s ‘Fool’s fate’ took away the worst edge of the looming flu), here I sit at the lab, on someone else’s experimenting equipment, very much trying to accomplish anything. The Boss has been very strich about not letting me leave before the last article is published – I’ve got now 8 days (weekends included) before the Boss leaves and if I’m not finished by that time I’ll have to continue in January. Darn. I’ve almost gone back to hyperventilating because of stress.
In theory, not much is needed. I need 2 repetitions of a rather simple experiment and one experiment of another kind – with the only requirement of getting decent-looking traces for the figure in publication. Problem #1: my personal set up (the collection of instruments and devices for running experiments) has been looted bare since I last looked. Problem #2: the experiments require the use of ‘potassium selective electodes’, which again are very simple in principle but in practise … well, I made 59 attempts today for making a working one, and did not succeed. There are too many critical steps in the procedure, and I had forgotten most of the tricks already. Also, after working with juvenile mice for 2 months in the summer and not touching rats for ages, I was shocked by how big and thick-headed animal a 2-month old rat is.
Honestly, I don’t have any real hopes of succeeding in this, but I’ll just try to do my best. And hope that it will be enough for the boss – if the article is never published as he claims, if I leave it unfinished – well, it’ll be a pity, but not the end of the world.
But I’ve been so poor at saying ‘no’ lately to anything or anybody, I suppose I will be sitting in lab till I have to run for the plane. Without keeping the promise to myself, to rest thoroughly before starting the new stressing job.
Whatever I do, the lilies start to look slightly overtime already. There are a few buds that I am hoping to open, still – but nevertheless, I already took another measure – selected a few of the branches and now dry them between all my physiology books. In any case, I am quite certain that the procedure of changing the water (with sugar, salt and aspirine) for the flowers as well as cutting keeping the stems in almost-boiling water for a few minutes each day did make a difference. Me and my green thumb – even my ‘mountain palm tree’ (Chamaedorea elegans) is blooming. Maybe one day I’ll have a house and a garden (which I won’t have time to tend…)
Another weed feeling very healthy is the thornbush in my throat. Had to leave work very early as I was feeling too weak to polish the electrodes for tomorrow (the electrodes are made of very thin capillary glass and weight next to nothing). By nine PM, I’ve drank one liter of hot glögi and berry-soups and eaten too many Bafucins – don’t know if it helps, but I just have too much to do before Christmas that I can not afford being sick at all…. I suppose my self-defence against diseases collapsed the moment I realised my boss is not going to let me easily get away as I was planning to – this means I might have to work in January after all, even though I had promised myself a MONTH off…
Somebody seems to have planted some thronbushes in my throat. This combines well with the bruises from yesterday’s 3-hour training session – I now have made it clear to myself that I can handle rather well hits to the torso, legs and even head,, but I just can’t take any damage done to my hands. The pain – the mental one, at least – was erased when my favourite 14-year-old ninja girl brought me a box of truffles she had herself made at school:)
Running out of time, once again. Japan is already asking for all kinds of documents, including copies of the PhD certificate (which I will receive on December 19th) and 3 letters of recommendation and medical reports and whatnot, for immigration and work permits and stuff like that. In addition, I should do a series of experiments for the bloody quinine-paper (fortunately Sergei reminded me that the really difficult ones are already made, actually they were made into figures in the beginning but were discarded from the manuscript since they looked wrong… ) and I had thought I’d make the necessary preparations on Monday and Tuesday of this week (which I spent on making just another powerpoint-file for a press conference… again the result was so astonishing that I was told that it would be nice if I’d draw them in Japan for the folks back here…). Today there are some visitors that I am supposed to entertain for some time, and in the evening I have to meet one schoolfriend who’ll be defending his thesis in Cambridge next week….
Better go and make some Mate before I start worrying about Christmas presents.
On my way to training yesterday by the underground I accidentally glimpsed over a book my neighbourgh was reading – some kind of a self-hel-psychology-book. It said:
“Kiltin ihmisen tunne-elämä ei yleensä ole sen toimivampaa kuin hänen tahtonsakaan”. On the same page, it told me that ‘nice&good’ people don’t have properly developed strength of will and their emotions are not really emotions but just some weird reflections of their surroundings.
Left me thinking for some time.
Thinking is what I’ve been doing lately – whenever I have the time from preparing powerpoint files for my boss and worrying about getting the projects done by Dec 20th. Thinking of things like who am I, and what am I doing. I look at my hands and sometimes they seem like hands of someone else. Why am I doing whatever I am doing… The elation of the defence (Eximia! They are saying I would have otherwise got magna but the defence was so brilliant they decided to raise the grade … I guess all the bluffing was worth it, as they said I had a self-confident smile on my face for two hours, like I would know everything and even if did not, I would not care…) has slightly faded, and the more I think of the ‘speech’ my boss gave me at the dinner (as a thank you for the speech I gave, where I completly threw away all thoughts of ‘payback’), the more certain I become that he really did not say anything good about me (except that I do good powerpoints). And, I must say – that hurts.
I met with my most dear girl friend from school on Sunday – If comparing cool professions, she has probably one of the top-10 works in this country – we discussed her recent appointment in Germany, 1300 km/h, with the local Migs. She flies a Hornet:) And, retires by age 45. Not bad, I’d say…
But, if the world sees too complicated, here’s something to concentrate on: my mother has addicted to Pönttökamera – a webcam from the home of a bird, a great tit (talitiainen!) called Elviira. She wakes up at 8.15 or so, cleans up her house, and leaves. After surviving the day out she returns around 15, puffs up her feathers and immediately falls asleep – and sleeps for 17 hours straight without moving.
Exactly what we should do as well.
It’s been a week. Most of the roses have withered, but the lilies linger.
Mood swings from despair to enthusiastic anticipation of the future – Yes, I am going to Japan soon, leaving cold wet winter behind, and the exchange of emails between RIKEN and me has been raising expectations on both sides.
But, head-ache and a calendar that filled up to the brim in a flash keep me from dwelling in any feelings had a few days concentrating on the Robin Hobb’s latest fantasy book, but now I am in almost similar hurry as I was last month if I am to finish my projects (and have some kinda social life at the same time) before my boss, not only newly wed and riding the success of the new Institute for Neuroscience but also one of the latest additions to those who have received the First Class White Rose Knighthood’s medal of honor, leaves these sorry shores for the joys and warmth of Cape Town.