25 June 2009

From East to West

At 30,000 feet, heading west over the US. I'm really, really tired. Haven't written in a while because things have been crazy. It seems the price of taking time off to have fantastic trips is the catch-up work that needs to be done after. So let me tell you briefly about what I've been up to for the past two months and where I'm heading right now.

I returned stateside on May 5th in the late evening, after 10.5 months away. Linda stayed behind in London to do a pastry internship at the Ritz. She just got back this past monday - we were apart over 7 weeks. It was really difficult, I missed her lots. But it was such a great experience for her professionally :-) And I had my fill of stuff to do, so having her away in some ways made it easier (I didn't have much else to do except work) but also harder (she couldn't be there when I hit the rough patches). My first week back was basically consumed by recovering from my illness in Morocco and taking care of 10 months of errands, doctors appointments, paperwork, and various other chores. Then I left for Tucson, AZ where I attended my brother's graduation. Was great to be there, but not super-relaxing as I spent half the time working and the other half doing family stuff. Then I came back and had 3 weeks to get my dissertation proposal done - a 30 page document outlining what I've got to do to complete my PhD and a talk in front of a faculty committee, defending that proposal. But even bigger than the paper requirements was the work that I needed to do to figure out what I've been doing and ought to be doing with the intellectual contribution that composes my PhD. I came up with something good enough, still wrestling with it, but I guess that's just the game.

So those 3 weeks were stressful and filled with work and angst. Missing Linda made it harder and knowing that I also had a major publication deadline looming two weeks after that distracted my attention as well. Thankfully friends and family were really supportive (my folks kept me housed and fed and my friends met up, bought me dinner, and occasionally put me up/lent me their apartments (particular thanks to Eli & Adi, Perry & Stephanie, Yair & Aviva, and Lawrence, who were really generous when it counted ;).

I passed the dissertation proposal, went out to dinner, slept. The next morning it was back to work, if anything even more intense. The past two weeks leading up to this one were basically 14+ hour days, every day except Shabbos. The second week I came ill and ran a fever much of the week. But I made it. And Friday evening as the sun set, I went downstairs, had dinner with my folks, took a bath, and collapsed. Thought I'd spend Sunday recuperating, but it wasn't to be.

You see, this past year has been a whirlwind. I worked on Wall St. at Credit Suisse for two months before things blew up. I travelled with Linda to the Indian subcontinent - spending two weeks traveling in Nepal before settling down in Bangalore to do an internship with Microsoft Research India. Spent three months there having just the most fascinating time - and doing some good work, sadly it came out a bit half-baked, but perhaps it will eventually lead to a publication. Left India ill after coming down with a cold my last week there (was really healthy otherwise). The illness followed me across three continents and back to America, but I think I may have finally kicked it. Spent most of a month in Israel celebrating the holidays with friends. Then went to France where I worked at Thomson's Paris Networking Research Lab for 5 months. Again, fascinating and growing and I got some really fantastic work done (although it only completely came together in the past two weeks). Then took a month, went to the south of France, Israel for the Passover holiday, Austria to visit family, Morocco for kicks (first time in Africa - we were told it would be rough and people would be aggressive - they were puppies compared to the Indian beggars and merchants) , and then for a brief stay with friends in London.

If you've been reading you probably know most of this. But what I haven't written about is that while I was in the south of France, my advisor emailed me and said - "here's an internship position in Microsoft Research Redmond, apply for it". So I did and I got the internship and I'm heading to Seattle in what appears to be act two of my big adventure - my fourth internship in just over a year! But first I'm taking a little time which brings me back to where I trailed off two paragraphs above.

I thought I might relax on Sunday and sleep. But we had to sublet our apartment (for obvious financial reasons) for our time in Seattle. So I ended up needing to drive into Manhattan and spend most of the day taking care of apartment stuff. Monday I picked Linda up from the airport and spent the day doing stuff with her. Tuesday I drove us to Staten Island and Manhattan to see family and friends and take care of apartment stuff. Wednesday was filled with making arrangements for the trip, returning deposits, taking deposits, packing up more stuff to take home and meeting friends for dinner. At 3AM this morning we made it back to West Hempstead, slept for a couple of hours and dragged ourselves out of bed. The rest of the day was a mad rush of sorting, cleaning, and packing - oh and running simulations for a tech report associated with the publication we submitted. We finished right as our cab pulled up at 5:30PM (okay he ended up waiting 13 minutes for us ;-) to take us to our flight. We will get into Seattle where our wonderful friend Rebecca will be picking us up and taking us in for the weekend - I'm eagerly looking forward to chilling out. We should land around midnight. I'm as tired as I've ever been. I'm also incredibly excited about the next two weeks.

So the last part of the story is that my mom had over a year ago finally booked the family cruise that she's been dead set on booking for the past several years. My parents, my brother, his wonderful fiancé Mia, my mother-in-lay Judit, Linda, and I are all going on a one-week cruise to Alaska! It will be my first cruise and probably the complete opposite of the rest of the travel I've done this past year (and probably pretty much the rest of my life as well). I'm really looking forward to a trip that's more relaxing than challenging - and to spending time with the ones I love and care about most in this world ;-) We leave this Sunday and return the next., Linda and I are going to take a week before I start at Microsoft. Monday July 6th, we will drive up the coast to Olympic National park and see the temperate rainforest. In the evening we will take the ferry to Vancouver Island and stay with our friend Eva at her family's vacation home in Victoria. Another 6 days of relaxing (I'll probably need to do a bit of work, but mostly I think I'll take down time - I'm definitely on the edge of burning out and I expect my internship this summer to be quite challenging) and then we start the adventure of living and working in Seattle. Insanity. I'm going to be turning off my email when we board the ship (it costs like a dollar a minute and I think I need to unplug for a week - everyone most important to me is going to be on the ship anyway). So I don't know when I'll write next, but I'm sure when I do, I'll have something interesting to say (although it's an open question if what I'll end up saying will be interesting ;-)

Thanks for reading.

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