Sunday, March 29, 2009

China III: On Assignment

I sincerely apologize for not having posted in so long. It's been a hectic month. It's about time that I finish my China posts, only 2 more to go! This post is about the reason why I was in China in the first place, and is of great personal interest to me, though some/many(?) readers might find it boring.

As I've already mentioned, I went with 11 other students as a part of a trip sponsored by the school of public health. Our principal goal was to observe and experience another health care system and immerse ourselves in another culture. I was a part of the measles vaccination group.

On the second day (Sunday) in China we met with officials at the National China CDC (Centers for Disease Control). The building was cold and pretty old, and the hallways were unheated. Interestingly, though there was a "No smoking" sign immediately upon entering the lobby, a couple employees were smoking under the sign! That kind of stunned us. We were then guided to a meeting room (actually heated!) where we were served hot tea. Constantly. It was really nice, actually, as the tea kept you constantly at the edge of wakefulness.

We learned a little about the history of the China CDC. Though it had existed for decades, it had received very little funding. Then SARS hit. Suddenly, the government put a lot of money into the public health infrastructure and the CDC was basically built over the span of 2 years. In these 2 years, China was able to do things that our US CDC has failed. China has also been preparing for the avian flu for quite some time now.

The pinnacle of their achievement was a real-time surveillance system of all diseases occurring within their borders. Doctors and hospitals would report any communicable diseases to the nearest level branch of the CDC, that then relayed the report to higher CDC levels until it reached the national-level CDC. Thus, as soon as a communicable disease was diagnosed, it would be reported to the National CDC within hours. By the next morning, there would be a report of the previous day's disease occurrence on the desk of the health minister. The ability to know where and when diseases occur is an amazing achievement, especially for a population as large as China's. Our CDC had contemplated creating such a system, but after the bio-terrorism funds were pulled from the CDC some time after 9-11, all progress in this technology has stopped. As such, we have rather poor disease-tracking ability here in the US compared to China.

Later that day we went to the Tianjin CDC about 2 hours' drive away. It was much newer and in better condition than the National CDC (though, they're going to be completing the new National CDC facilities in the next 1-3 months now).

We were shown around the Tianjin CDC, which was really nice on the inside as well. Too bad many of my pics of the inside were deleted. I did, however, manage to get this pic from the lobby of the Tianjin CDC:
Chinese New Year ftw! Year of the ox!! :P

Monday through Friday was spent learning about how the Tianjin CDC (TJCDC) measles campaign worked. In December 2008, the TJCDC undertook a massive measles vaccination campaign. There were billboards, songs, poems/rhymes, advertisements, and text messages notifying people to get free measles vaccinations. Note: In China, people get 4 measles shots, 2 that're bundled into the MMR shots like here in the US, and 2 stand-alone shots. The result? They were able to decrease the incidence of measles of 500+ cases in the first 7 weeks of 2008 to less than 20 cases in the first 7 weeks of 2009 in Tianjin. All in the timespan of a month! I doubt we could achieve this level of efficiency (or public reach) in the US.

It was intersting to note that most vaccines are free to the Chinese citizens. In fact, they were very surprised that the US didn't offer free vaccines to anyone (only at a reduced rate for low-income, and/or paid for by insurance or out-of-pocket for everyone else). They were a little taken aback when we told them that the HPV vaccine (for genital warts/cervical cancer in women) wasn't free. I believe it's not even covered by most insurances in the US.

On Tuesday, we designed questionnaires to ask parents of infants on whether or not their child received the measles vaccine. On Wednesday, we went to the local CDC in Dagang (大港) District. From there we went to a vaccine clinic. After doctors administer the vaccine, infants and children go to an observation room for 30 minutes to make sure there are no adverse reactions to the vaccine. (We don't do this here in the US - you get vaccinated and then sent along your way, if you have a reaction, go to the ER.)
Baby in the observation room.

Then we went to a nearby hospital. Interestingly, there was someone smoking near the "No smoking" sign in the lobby. Seriously, what's wrong with people?! Here we looked at hospital charts and records to see if infants were being vaccinated in the hospitals. There are 3 places to receive vaccinations: hospitals, clinics, and health/wellness centers.
Hospital charts.

Before we left the hospital, we saw the "floating baby" room. Basically, parents would bring their young infants (a couple weeks to 2 months old) here and their babies would float in a tub of water at a specific temperature. The nurse would attach a flotation device to the baby's neck so the baby could move around in the water. After "playing" around in the water for a while, the nurse would give the infant a massage. The whole point of this was to get young infants moving to promote movement and general health. It makes some sense, and allowing babies to float in water allows for movement with no impact.

In the afternoon, we located an infant with measles. Measles is so rare now in the US that doctors being trained today are likely to misdiagnose it as something else. Crazy, huh? Since we only had 2 measles shots as opposed to 4 (2 should've sufficed for us anyway), the CDC people who accompanied us didn't want to take chances; so they had us wear face masks.
It's hard to see (the red rashes), but this smiling kid had measles.

After we had examined the child, we went into a nearby neighborhood with our questionnaire to sample parents with infants at random. Every child has a record of his/her vaccine record in a little red book that is usually kept by the parents (relatively few parents in the US have a record of their children's vaccine records). Thus all parents and doctors have a copy of which vaccines had been given, as well as the dates of when future vaccines are due. Doctors will then call to remind parents to bring in their child when a vaccine shot is due.
On assignment, looking for babies to interview.

The little red book of vaccines opened up.

On Thursday we did the same thing in Jixian (蓟县 - Ji County). Again, we went to a local clinic.

However, we didn't end up doing much more than that, because we had a LONG lunch where we also had white wine. Okay, seriously, that stuff will mess you up. It's not actually wine. It's more like, vodka with 32-50% alcohol content. I had like, 2 double-shots of that stuff and I had to stop (I could've handled more, but I ate WAY too much). We were NOT in good shape after lunch to interview people. And it was getting late. Friday was basically a debriefing.

If there's one thing that impressed me about China's health care system, it is the close relationship between the health fields. All the health fields - medicine, nursing, public health, etc - are united under a common banner. Members of the different health fields spend part of their time training together and getting used to working with each other. In the US, each field is separate and independent of each other. No wonder why doctors, nurses, and public health officials sometimes don't get along very well. There's certainly an air of efficiency in China. Sure, our hospitals are generally in much better condition; sure, our medical technologies blow China's out of the water; but at least they know how to work together to get a job done.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

China II: Through Foreign Eyes

The plane transfer from the Tokyo airport at Nerita to Beijing was the first instance during the China trip that our group probably felt a culture shift. The flight attendants spoke in English, Chinese, and Japanese. I was amused (and perhaps relieved?) when the flight attendants defaulted to Mandarin Chinese when speaking with me. Perhaps I wasn't so out of place after all. Then imagine stepping off the plane into the Beijing airport - the signs all in Chinese with English below, and the people overwhelmingly Chinese.

For most in our group of 14, I'm sure they immediately felt the reality of being in a foreign country where English was not the primary language. For me, less so. It's difficult to describe - I could still feel myself in a different country on a different continent, and yet it didn't feel totally unknown to me. In a way (terrible analogy coming up) it was like a ridiculously massive Chinatown. More than culture-shock, I was filled with a sense of adventure. I attempted to read every sign I could. I didn't do too badly, as I could usually get the gist of what many signs were about even if I could not read them outright. It's strange to be able to understand a word (character) but not know/remember how to pronounce it.

Still, there were notable departures from the US. A country steeped in thousands of years of history is about to accumulate a rich cultural tapestry that continues to evolve and progress. You could feel the ancient as it resonates to the current day. In comparison, the US almost feels raw, too young, and without a unifying thread. Of course I know this isn't really true, but everything's relative.

Some things of note - cultural differences - with accompanying pictures. These pictures are but imperfect glimpses of China through foreign eyes.

1. Everywhere you went, the ancient contrasts with the modern. Iconic old-style gates adorn many street corners as high-rises and skyscrapers tower in the background.
A typical Chinese gate in Beijing.

High-rises in Tianjin.

2. There is an interesting atmosphere within China. People are constantly striving towards progress, to become a developed first-world nation and leave the third-world behind. Yet, traditions are strong and the culture is proud.
An assortment of Chinese instruments. And a cello in the back. :D

Okay, this is just epic. The 2 standing women have a platform candle-holder thing in their mouth that holds up 3 candles, and they're supposed to sing through their teeth without letting go of the candle-holder while playing a drum with one hand and a snap thing in the other. And then they do all this while being in sync with each other. I wasn't technically allowed to take a pic of this.

3. There is a kind of bluntness in China that I found quite amusing. There are things people aren't afraid to write or say to your face.
Yes, it said that in the hotel room. LOL!!

4. I'm convinced that babies and young kids are cuter in China than they are in the US. It might have something to do with what they wear. I also found it particularly interesting that babies don't wear diapers in China. Instead, there's a flap over their butt (if there's a flap there at all). I see babies with their bare butts. Not too sure why it's this way . . . and I didn't take a pic of that. But, cute babies!
I kind of "stalked" this kid for a minute to get a pic. Too bad she fell asleep on her dad.

He wanted to hold our tour guide's pink flower. :)

The child is wearing a ladybug coat!!

A cute kid in Ji County (蓟县 - Jixian) in Tianjin.

5. Perhaps the most culturally different thing is the dichotomy between how homes look on the outside compared to how they look on the inside. Outside many apartments look run-down with trash everywhere. If you were to view these places through the "lens of the US" you would think people of low SES (socio-economic status) lived in these dwellings. But the moment you walk into these homes, you'll be in for a shock. Inside these homes are immaculately clean, the furniture nice if not always new, and all in all better condition than my apartment back near campus. Does. Not. Compute.
Yes, it looks that trashy everywhere in some places.

Apartments in Dagang District (大港) in Tianjian.

6. The CDC people were very open when talking with us. We were surprised that they were willing to talk about so many topics. For example, they suggested that we visit Tibet because it's so beautiful there, and many people make Buddhist pilgrimages to Tibet. The national government may censor a lot of things, but most people don't seem to care unless it interferes with their daily life. It seems the Chinese are very apolitical and could care less about politics, again, as long as it doesn't interfere with their daily lives.

7. The Chinese have a different definition of ethnicity than we do here in the US. There are dozens of minority groups in China other than the Han Chinese, that consists of well over 90% of the populace. To a foreigner, everyone looks Chinese. But there are subtle differences in culture, clothing, traditions, and dialects.

8. The bikers in China are fearless. They will ride their bicycles right up next to cars and buses without any kind of body protection. Traffic in China defies the rules observed in the US. You go if you have the green and you see a chance. As my friend JW-M says (he's studying abroad in China for a year right now), "It's all about the intent. The moment you're nice and try to let people go, confusion and chaos arises. That's when accidents happen. As long as you move with intent, everything will work itself out."

9. KFC, yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken, is everywhere. So is McDonald's. Apparently, people in China treat KFC like we do with Starbucks. People will buy a chicken sandwich and sit in the KFC for hours while on their computers, reading a newspaper, or studying. Supposedly the food served in the Chinese KFC is better than the food served in KFC here. Same goes for Pizza Hut, which is actually a big deal there - it's sit-down with table service, and actually really nice. We didn't go while we were there, but the thought amused us.
Another gate somewhere in Ji County.

Weird ass statue. I don't understand this.

Yes, there is a KFC in some remote area in Ji County.

10. What else? There aren't many fat people in China. I think it's because people walk EVERYWHERE. Traffic sucks because there are tons of cars, taxis, trucks, and buses. But the safety signs on the highway are highly entertaining. Too bad we were moving too fast for me to take pics of them. And yes, air pollution is a huge issue in China. We definitely experienced some of it (though not at its worst). Interestingly, there were signs for green energy and green technology everywhere. There were many trees planted outside Beijing, like almost an entire forest full. I think this is presumably to help against the sandstorms that blow into Beijing in the summer and to prevent the desertification due to the encroachment of the deserts to the north and west. "Arbor day" in China actually means something.

I do not have enough pictures to do justice to all the "differences" and interesting things we saw in China. There's so much that I haven't even begun to touch on. This is only a sample of China through foreign eyes. Though my eyes may not be as foreign as many of you readers looking at these pics.

I'll finish this post with a couple of pics: Wang Leehom on a water bottle. XD Stay tuned for the next post of Aek in China!! :P

Really quick, I caught up on a "new" blog: southern inebriation. Go over and say hi if you haven't already!! :D

Monday, March 16, 2009

China I: A Stranger in Ancestral Lands

This is the first in the long overdue installment on China.

First a quick synopsis of why I was in China. Over Spring Break, I went with 11 other students and 3 faculty from my school to visit the China CDC and the Tianjin CDC. We were to immerse ourselves in the culture and learn a different perspective on health care. We were divided into two teams: a measles vaccination group (that I was in) and a maternal-infant health group.
"How would people view someone like me - obviously Chinese on the outside but perhaps less so on the inside?"

A quote from a journal entry we had to keep while in China. Both my roommate for the trip and I are Chinese-Americans, more specifically ABCs (American-born Chinese) who've never stepped foot on to mainland China. We were "in the same boat," we were constantly curious about how the real Chinese would view the two of us. What would it be like to be a stranger in one's "ancestral lands?"

I was filled with nervous anticipation long before I endured the 14 hours on a plane before landing on another continent. What would it be like to walk in the land that my ancestors had lived and died in? Would I feel some connection? Would this trip mean something more to me than an academic inquiry into a foreign health care system?

Riding in a bus, passing the wintry brown countryside, we headed towards the mountains surrounding Beijing to visit the Great Wall - a monumental testament to human will that can be seen from space. There is a saying, 不到长城非好汉 (bu4 dao4 chang2 cheng2 fei1 hao3 han4). It means, "Until you reach the Great Wall, you're not a proper person." The Great Wall represents a major hurdle in life, and until you've scaled it, you cannot move on and grow as a person.

It was wonderful walking along the Great Wall, even when it was barely above freezing outside. The weather was surprisingly clear and sunny. There was a sense of adventure, of awe at this testament against time. It was incredible how long it stretched and snaked its way along the mountains into the horizon. Breathtaking.

We only had 2 hours at the Great Wall, not enough time to walk along its ramparts very far. On our way down, we were accosted by many vendors. I decided to bargain for a silk scroll. It was pricey, but I bargained it down to 1/4 of its original price. Later I learned that even at this price I was ripped off. -_-

After lunch, we then headed to the Forbidden City, also know as the Imperial Palace. But first, a gratuitous picture of lunch. Yes, it was like that for almost every meal while we were there. Again, as my friend said: "The food is so good, it shouldn't be this good."

Then we were off to the Forbidden City. We entered through the back into the Imperial Gardens first and exiting the front into Tiananmen Square.

Some of the trees there were hundreds to thousands of years old. There were two "lover trees" in the gardens. One pair of trees grew naturally and appeared to branch in two, and another pair were engineered to give the opposite appearance - to grow into each other.
A pair of trees that naturally grew to be joined in the lower trunk.

A pair of trees engineered to grow into each other.

Upon passing from the gardens into the Forbidden City proper, we encountered doors with the "double happiness" character (喜喜, xi3). Our tour guide (who was walking at Hong Kong speed, I swear) told us that if we rubbed our hands on the characters in a heart-shape, said some words to ourselves, and then put our hands in our pockets, we would find love within 2-3 months. Well, according to that I have until my birthday for love to fall into my lap, haha.

The Imperial Palace was full of symbolisms. From the roofs to the animal guardian statues. From the colors to the layout. There was meaning in ever aspect of creation.
Roof guardian animals grant protection. The more animals, the more protection.

A guardian lioness holds a cub in her left paw.

My favorite picture.

After we finished with the Imperial Palace, we exited into Tiananmen Square. To have learned about Tiananmen Square from a US perspective and then to see it as it currently is, was quite an experience. It wasn't what I expected it to be, though I really had no tangible expectations to begin with. Oh, by the way, there were people in military uniforms everywhere. It was a bit daunting. I think they were performing some of the police duties.

This was all day one. Yes, Great Wall, Forbidden City, and Tiananmen Square in one day. We also went to the Pearl Market in Beijing for an hour or so. Everything was bargain-able there. EVERYTHING. In the last 5 minutes I found a vendor who was selling underwear. You could bargain underwear!! I would've bargained and bought underwear, just to say that I did, but alas I ran out of time. I'm not a particularly good bargainer. :-/
In that first day in Beijing, China, I knew what this trip meant to me. It was a means to escape the current humdrum of my life, to explore and feel alive again. Grad school immediately following undergrad with hardly a breath between summers had worn down my mind, body, and soul. I needed to escape, if only for a little while. In China, I immersed myself in an aspect within me that had always existed but suffered from disuse. I sought to connect myself to the world around me, to bridge where I was from and where I am.

Were these people "my" people? Was this land "my" land? I don't know. I've never really felt that anywhere, in the US or in China. But I felt connected. I felt like I was standing on a bridge between two worlds, alternatingly looking East and West. As to how the Chinese thought of me and my roommate? Well, that's for another post. But suffice to say here, the non-Chinese people with us were sometimes referred to as our "American friends."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pre-China Post

My sincerest apologies for not posting much this week and not having a the first China post up. But, tomorrow! I finally got all my pics uploaded onto Facebook. I'm going to call this my "Pre-China Post." In the meantime, I'd like to note two important things that happened to me this week.

1. I went into lab on Monday, and my researcher tells me, "So, our poster got accepted for the conference." I was like, "Cool . . . what poster?" Apparently, he submitted some poster way back in January to a super-important conference on cancer, and I'm second author! I was supposed to have been emailed and notified, but I figure I might've misread the email and accidentally deleted/archived it. So he printed me out an abstract. We're submitting the paper for publication in the summer, and if accepted, I'll have a citation! Seriously, this citation just fell into my lap. That never happens. Now I have to do the experiments to verify the data and prove myself worthy of my citation.

2. I had my 2 Friday discussion sections. It went well, as usual. I actually ran out of handouts for half of my students in my last section. The professor didn't give me enough, though she thought she gave me way more than I needed. Ha! I have like, 2-3 times more students show up to my sections than other GSIs. I was also amused that 3 students came to me this week in discussion or via email asking to be added to the course website I created for my discussion sections (they weren't originally enrolled in my sections). How cool is that?! My friend AG-F describes me teaching discussion sections as my "weekly pick-me-uppers." It so is, I love teaching!! It makes me happy that, on average, I seem to teach the material better than others and so am more "favored" by the students. At least, that's what the high attendance rate seems to translate for me. I could be completely wrong (but I really hope not).

Okay, now some teaser pics of China.
The Great Wall

The Forbidden City (The Imperial Palace)

To quote my friend: "This food is sooo good, it shouldn't be this good."

near Tiananmen Square

China posts forthcoming soon!!! In the meantime, let AJ's new pic blog, A Bi Boy's Pic Blog, entertain you. XD

Oh, and I changed the layout of my blog. Like it? :P

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Resolution: the Intercession

As I mentioned in my last post, I was put back onto my two research projects. All thanks to the intercession by EV-M on my half. :D

EV-M has repeatedly expressed how it's impossible for him to work on the RNA extraction project all by himself, and I've essentially worked on the Western blot project so long that really, only I know what's going on. As such, EV-M has repeatedly appealed to SG-M, the PI (aka, head lab boss), to allow me back on the projects - particularly the RNA extraction one. Anyway, long story short, I'm back!

Now I get to spend 5-6 hours a week extracting RNA from 10-14 samples (3 slides/sample). Oh what fun - at least I have something to do so I'm not wasting my time and theirs. With respect to the Western blot project, the "wet" transfer box doesn't work. Our dry transfer box also doesn't seem to work. EV-M has examined both apparatuses with me and reached the same conclusions as I had. Not surprisingly. So we're going to borrow a transfer box from the lab next to us.

And I'm sure none of that means anything to 99% of you out there reading this. However, I think I know why EV-M has been pushing so hard to have me back on to the RNA extraction project. His wife is due to give birth to their first baby in 4 days (well, 2 now). So he'll be in and out of commission at the lab for the next 2 months. Now, it really IS impossible for him to work on those projects and I'm the only one who can do it (because everyone else is busy, and I'm the only one who knows how to do Western blots).
On a completely different note, I got back my first exam for biostatistics (it sounds just as boring and hard as you think). Everyone had been stressing and fearing the worst. The exam is out of 60 points, the mean is 47, and the lowest score is like 33. There is apparently huge variation in the distribution of the overall exam scores as well as the scores within each question. To me, this screams a poorly written exam.

Anyway, I went into that exam praying (like you have no idea) that I'd just be able to finish and pass the exam. I did finish the exam, but I had NO IDEA if I was right on anything but the first problem - there were only 4 problems.

Well, I got back my exam. I was freaking out. Then I saw my score. 54/60. HOLY CRAP!! I actually kind of shouted exactly that out loud in the basement, I'm sure people could hear me halfway on the other side. Everyone I had talked to, people who actually KNEW the material, got near the mean score. But somehow I did better?! I hope I can only pull this off for the next 2 exams. The next one's in 2 weeks. T.T

Okay, next few posts about China (with pics), I swear!!!

P.S. I still love GSI-ing. Teaching is so satisfying, especially when more students come to your sections than to other GSIs, hahaha. I must be doing something right, right?

So, for those who follow Landyn's Stuck In The Middle blog, he's having a crazy time there. Go over and if you have any useful advice, freely give it because he needs some right about now.

Thanks a bunch.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


The "Intercession" worked, though not necessarily by the design I intended. Aka, I'm back on my research projects. Details to come in the next post.

I want to dedicate this post to some new (and old) blogs and bloggers.

Anyone who follows Razz's blog at Doin' me head in knows he's been having a rough time of late. He seems like an incredible guy and a great bloggers. He needs some positive vibes right now, so head over and say hi and give him a hug.

Landyn at Stuck In The Middle has been having some lows and highs in his life, but right now he's at an all-time high. Head over and help him keep his head up! ^_^

Mirrorboy has started up a new blog, Mirroboy's Words of Win. Should be a good time, I know I'll be reading it.

One of my favorite blogs, Happy to be in my skin, formerly The Real Ugly Duckling, by Shane, has disappeared. :( This makes me sad. Though I've found someone I know who started another blog, Every Little Thing Counts.

I want to redo the look of my blog, perhaps either change the colors or change the template to something else. I don't know yet. Maybe I'll have a little poll about it. What do you guys think? Are you all happy with my current blog look? It feels efficient though a bit cluttered to me. Let me know in a comment.

I swear I will post about China (soon). I will definitely have more than one post on China. But first things first. :P

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Falling Glass

This is not a China post.

First a bit of good news: my dad was able to recover 90-95% of my pictures off my SD card!! He downloaded some program that lets him rip data off SD cards or something. This was the second highlight of my day. ^_^
Now, on to more serious matters. Ever knock over a glass at the edge of a table/counter, and you're just watching it fall to the ground in slow motion until it hits and shatters? That's how my research work is like right now. Let me elaborate. First, for this post, let my researcher = EV-M and my PI = SG-M.

At the end of last semester/beginning of this semester, my research was like a glass at the very edge of the table about to fall. My Western blot project had stopped working, and I was just beginning the RNA extraction project but I wasn't going fast enough for SG-M's satisfaction. In January I temporarily shelved my Western blot project to focus on the RNA extraction, which was the more important of the two. That is, until I royally fucked up (read here). That was the bit that knocked the glass off the table.

I haven't been doing much in the lab during February because the RNA extraction was shelved (from me) and my Western blots still weren't working (the transfer box refused to work). As a result, I've felt like my presence in the lab was just a waste of my time, EV-M's time, and SG-M's time. So I haven't been working much. I haven't be performing up to my standards, (or anyone's standards) it's been a long since I've produced results, and I talked to EV-M about all this today.

EV-M revealed to me that SG-M is not happy with my performance in the lab. Gee, me neither, no surprise there. But SG-M basically banned me from the RNA extraction project without directly telling me. EV-M told me that both he and SG-M felt I needed to take more initiative and get things done. That was seriously a slap in the face because I'm almost always the one to initiate things in any group project. I'm the one who tries to coordinate and make sure things get done. To say that I don't take the initiative in the lab was a blow to my ego.

But now I don't know what to do. Without the RNA extraction project, I don't have much to do in the lab. The Western blot is MY project, as in I designed almost every aspect of it from the moment I started. It's not my fault that the equipment failed. But now I'm supposed to somehow find a way around this?! Apparently people in the lab "notice" that I'm just not doing a good job. That almost makes me feel everyone's talking behind my back without letting me know what I'm doing wrong. The lab is "too polite" as EV-M puts it.

So I'm watching this glass fall towards the ground. As far as I know it hasn't hit the ground yet, so I may still be able to catch it and put it back on the table. But I don't know if I'll be able to make it in time and I'm not sure it's entirely worth it. According to EV-M, SG-M isn't someone I want to piss off. He's well known in both the medical and public health world, and so if he says anything bad about me, it'll doubly hurt my reputation. I had a pretty good reputation coming into this lab, and I'll be damned if I leave with a crappy reputation. He's already displeased with me, and I don't know how to properly fix this.

This and the jet-lag sucked away all the relaxation and happiness I rediscovered during Spring Break. I feel so beaten and broken this semester. I'm not the only one, my friend AG-F feels exactly the same (though for somewhat different reasons). Why does second semester suck so much?! T.T

What should I do?!?!?!
I want to leave on a high note because I feel somewhat depressed by the possibility of (effectively) losing my research job and crawling away with a bruised ego and a severely damaged reputation.

So the first highlight of my day was in GSI prep session. I found out that most of the GSIs only have 5-7 students go to their sections, maybe 10-12 at most. In contrast, I generally have at least 10-12 come to my sections, and up to 20-25 students in my Friday sections. I must be doing/teaching something right if people keep coming! That makes me feel like I'm actually able to accomplish something.

Right now, GSI-ing is what keeps my head up. I love teaching and love leaving discussion sections feeling like I've helped someone understand the genetics material. Also, it doesn't hurt to know that I'm more favored by many students than the other GSIs, because I keep getting complimented on how I teach. ;-)

Monday, March 2, 2009

I'm Back (Unfortunately)!

I'm back (unfortunately) from my week-long trip to China! It was great!! I'll post about it in extreme detail later (it'll certainly span several posts), as it's quite late right now and I should be in bed, and I'm slightly jet-lagged I think. There were SO many things left to do and explore, no one wanted to leave when we did. I'll just say a few things as primers to keep you all interested.

- When I got back to my apartment here in the US, my roommate said to me (after a brief chat), "Now I'm convinced this state makes people depressed. You seem so much happier and smiley after your trip. It must've been great."

- I admit to a slight (and fleeting) crush on my roommate during the trip. For the purposes of the upcoming "China posts" I'll refer to him as DY-M. He's a great guy in almost every imaginable way.

- I met up with someone I haven't seen in almost a year. Don't let your minds wander too far. ;-)

- There was So Much Food. And to quote one of my friends who went on this trip, "The food's so good - too good, food shouldn't be this good." I'd be surprised if I didn't gain at least 5 lbs on this trip, because I sure feel like I did. I have to hit up the gym harder than before now. :-/

- I'm not very good at bargaining. :-/

- This was technically a "business trip." But it felt more like a very very very much needed vacation.

- White wine is NOT white wine in China. Just a warning.

- I had taken 200-300 pictures with my digital camera. That is, until something happened to my SD card. T.T Now I'll have to wait for others to post their pics online so I may pilfer some of them to show you all.