Friday, February 26, 2010

semaine de relâche

I've been thoroughly enjoying the past week -- perhaps little too much. I'm at home in Trois-Rivières, and supposed to be working for reading week. I have been working and reading, but not nearly enough writing as I was supposed to. Or perhaps I just thought I would accomplish more. Ah, the standard lament of a student in reading week.

I have a list of things to do about as long as my arm, and I think I've been able to cross of maybe one item. Closer to half an item. So here it is, Friday, and I still have all of those other things to finish. And seeing as it's Friday, I really don't want to do them. I won't even go into what I'm working on, because one of the major problems I'm having is that I'm very much forcing myself to be interested in them. Not so surprisingly, the things that I didn't enjoy as an undergraduate I find I still am not enjoying as a doctoral student. Funny how that works.

At any rate, it's been very nice to be at home, to sleep in my own bed and to be distracted during the day by my own cats. And not to feel like I'm intruding on someone else's turf. Even if I think Francis has gotten used to having the apartment to himself...

The rest of the semester I'm sure will fly by, and promises to have lots of exciting things coming up. I'm going to a development conference in April (in Mt. Tremblant, on the lab's dime), and have an offer to go ant collecting in Arizona in May (all expenses paid!). There's still the possibility that I'll be doing an embryology course on the west coast (not covered by the lab), which would bring me back to the west before heading back down to Panama. At some point I suppose I might actually have to do some work on my own research, assuming I ever find the time.

Friday, February 5, 2010

¡Hola! Hello! Âllo!

We're not in Bocas* anymore.

We are in fact back in the cold bosom of winter. Being tickled by the icy fingers of Jack Frost. Having out pant legs soaked by the salty puddles of slush in Montréal. Winter, happily, is not as bad I had remembered it being. I was actually starting to miss changing seasons while I was in Panama. Give me a few weeks, I'm sure I'll be sick of it soon. February has a way of doing that to you.

Since last I updated, a long, long time ago in a country far, far away, things have been busy. I know, it's shocking. I had a really great couple of weeks at home in TR, a very good Christmas and super-fun New  Year's, and then an amazing week in Seattle where I presented the work that I had been doing in Panama. I met loads of people, made some good contacts, and hopefully didn't sound like a dolt while I presented my poster.

The conference was going on while classes were already in session, so I caught the red-eye back to Montreal, had a shower at the new apartment, went to my class on "Gene Activity in Development", had a Spanish placement test and then caught the bus to TR for a weekend of packing before moving more or less to Montreal. I say more or less, because I'm still heading back on alternate weekends.

I've been pretty much consumed by catching up with the first week of classes that I missed, and getting used to life in the big city. Classes are going alright - I'm facing a steep learning curve in the above mentioned biology course, and double-time Spanish acquisition in the intensive Spanish course I succeeded in getting into. So just getting into the rhythm of not one but two mega intense courses has been rough. And I know, two classes doesn't sound like much, but I am supposed have time to do a thorough literature review and design at least some preliminary projects. Oh, and those boring things like eat and sleep as well. And maybe even get out once in a while.

I am really enjoying the lab, even if I have no idea what people are talking about half the time. And not just because they are ant people and I'm a snail person. I feel light years behind in a lot of ways because I come from such an old-school embryological background (morphology, histology, organismal) whereas the lab is full on molecular (they are also organismal though, so I'm happy: they want to know what the molecules are doing at a the whole animal level and beyond, which is more complicated, but that's the way life works). But I'll catch up.

My Spanish is also improving. I can now talk about yesterday, which may not be as zen as only being able to talk in the present (tense, that is), but is much more useful in real life situations. And yes, it is ironic. I study Spanish at McGill - an English-speaking university in a French-speaking city. Though I must say, I  probably hear more Spanish than French on the streets some days.

I'm working on connecting with people I know here, and trying to get involved in something that doesn't involve reading or sitting and thinking. I'd better hurry up about it though, because sooner than I think, I'll be off again...

*Bocas del Toro - a supposedly beautiful part of Panama I have never actually visited, but there's a marine station there so it's on my list of places to work next time I head down.