Home again home again!

After a long 14 hour journey am back home for a short break. It has been a homecoming for me- seeing the airplane of the country’s airline all lined up at Boston was the first sign that home is near. The bus ride to Boston supposedly two hours long, took until 5 pm. The Bolt Bus came half an hour late. The start of the bus was further delayed when a passenger had an argument with the bus driver about the lateness of the bus and took a picture of his ID to report him. In his turn the driver walked inside the bus terminal and got two Amtrack policemen to get the man out the bus. The driver determined not to drive the bus with that passenger on board. Net Result- bus even later than ever.

My flight was at 11 pm so reaching Boston at 5 pm was ok. I had no idea how to reach Logan International Airport but the various boards showed me I must take a Silverline to the airport, which I did after duly purchasing a $2.90 ticket.

A smooth busride, no passengers rude or jittery- everyone was in a holiday mood and an errant suitcase down the aisle arose no comment other than” oh, he is in a big hurry to go places”.

The check in and verifications were over in a matter of minutes, the machine bleeped over me with my hands help up and then it was time for a manual body patting- which test also I passed Seemed like a day for tests- the morning I had completed a 3 hour Biostatistics test which was on a grade of 10 on a test severity scale.

I went to the lounge where I relaxed with food and hot chocolate- my latest favorite drink. Checked in through the Gold Member line and managed the 14 hour journey home without event- no passport or boarding pass lost, no spectacles or purses or bags lost. Seemed like all my wits were about me.

At the airport as usual, my husband and I missed seeing each other- so there was a hour’s delay at airport till I found my husband and we rode home together-HOME- to a tempestuous welcome from Sunshine.

Weekend chores and a message

I moved places on the 30th of July- into a dorm. It is quite a nice room with a wonderful view of the city – I can even see the hills around and the golden spire of some distant church.

Friday evening seems to be the time everyone enjoys the most here- there are people on the streets until late. The police sirens rage loud and clear through the night. It feels safe to know the city is in good hands.

Finally figured out how to use the bank card to pay the washing machine and dryer charges- turned out to be quite simple. The card has a magnetic line and that needed to point to the left on the machine- who knew? So I got my laundry done.

Saturday – was a difficult day for me- as everything shuts down here on Saturday. I spent the morning doing my homework( yes, homework at 50) and part of the morning submitting my homework( the department can be opened at all hours, provided we have the appropriate security cards). Later, I realised I hadn’t eaten and there wasn’t an ounce of food at home- to eat animal crackers from Walgreen’s didn’t seem very appetizing. I wanted hot, and spicy food- preferably rice. And there wasn’t any place nearby I could find it. Finally went to a place where they sold ” artisan” food- and ate a breakfast sandwich for lunch. I think artisan means made from scratch. I went to the old library in the old campus and managed to get enough books to last the weekend for light reading. I have been reading ever since – so nothing much got done the rest of the weekend. The library is open only till 10 pm on weekends so that was another dampener. I called my husband a million times and there was no answer since 12 noon. Very worried by midnight ( dawn where he is)- finally he picks up the phone at 6 am his time and answers very sleepily- seems he had had a refreshing and deep sleep and didn’t see my calls. It was a worrying time. My husband doesn’t keep well and is always afraid that he will be taken sick in the middle of the night. When he didn’t answer the calls, I thought perhaps he was indeed in hospital. Distance doesn’t make it any easy when a loved one is in trouble.

Sunday morning- decided to go to the store and get some food. There was no point trying to save money when one is hungry. So spent around 75$ on food, hoping it will last for about two weeks, till I travel home.

The process of moving homes was rather difficult. It is amazing how much of stuff we collect even in a month- needed or unnecessary.

Really the text of today’s church message( yes, I attended a Methodist service today) was from Luke 12:16-21, where the man thinks he needs to build bigger and bigger buildings to store his surplus stuff, not knowing that that day was his last day on earth- a timely reminder for people like me who are habituated to buying stuff I don’t really need when someone around me might need it more.

A “joiner”

One of the subjects I study is Epidemiology. The professor is a man with a lot of research experience in public health particularly in Columbia.

All course material is uploaded on the site the week before. Students are expected to read up and come before class. There is one section with the slides and the others are all research papers related to the topic under discussion that day. IF we can critique those papers, then the lesson is successful.

To illustrate the point of something following something “intuitively”, the professor talked about the head mistress of his children’s elementary school, Mrs. Schuller( or at least that is what I heard). One day Mrs. Schuller decided to start a bookclub at her school- a very nice initiative indeed and something quite innovative- for – well, here’s the catch- the parents. According to the professor, Mrs. Schuller thought the parents reading skills or lack thereof was reflected in there reading abilities of the children. Since many parents helped( guided) children with their homework, it made sense to invite parents to participate in a bookclub.

Of course, the professor joined. And this is how he put it- ” of course, I joined- I join everything- I am a “joiner”. The class burst out laughing.

After joining the bookclub, the dad( professor) went home to tell his children of his latest “joiner” activity( seems like there were plenty of them over the years’) and his daughter was so embarrassed by the latest act of shame of her father- she said, ” Dad, DO NOT GO”. The professor countered with- but I already joined baby and there is no way out now. Mrs. Schuller will be watching out for me.”

The first bookclub day dawned and the professor turned up on time all read up and prepared for the bookclub. Along with him were five other parents- all mothers. Imagine the group- one dad and five mums with Mrs. Schuller. By this time, the class was bursting out with laughter.

The point of all this was that to him it seemed that Mrs. Schuller calling a bookclub for parents was as intuitive as the steps of logistic regression, which is one of the methods used in epidemiology.

Saturday weekend at the university

Today I woke up late- around 6:30 am- didn’t even remember when I had fallen asleep last night. Must have been tired out and stress free.

Did my weekly shopping today. Have run out of clothes to wear as I have not been able to wash my clothes for some time now. I don’t know how to operate the graduate housing washing machine with a credit card. And there is no one around to ask. My neighbours seem all on summer vacation just like my house owner.

So I am waiting to move to the new place to use a washing machine. Given conditions of the graduate housing rules, I need to move out of the current space by the first of August after which I will get my semi- permanent place to stay. There, I hope I will be able to figure out the washing machines.

I bought some salt and a pair of bulbs today- one of the bulbs of the table lamp in this house blew out. But I forgot to unload it from my bad and was in a rush to get into the weekend shuttle that I decided to leave the salt and the bulbs outside the apartment in the sort of shade of some bushes. I came back a few hours later to find the salt in place but the bulbs gone. In its place is a huge carton of paper towels.

In the beginning I was upset but then came to see the funny side of this- someone thought I was donating bulbs because I left it outside and went away with them- well, their need must have been bigger than mine.

This week is fraught with tests and assignments. The tutor has told us that the test though open book, will be marked ” not so leniently”.

Every one of the students is working hard to pass. I am not sure of where I stand but I am trying.

Storms and flash floods

The weather changed suddenly. It was hot yesterday and by evening we had rains- continuous rains and a flash flood warning was issued. Coming from a desert country, a new experience for me.

I had no umbrella so every trip outside brought me in contact with the rain water. There is no more exhilarating experience than the feel of fresh water drops on your face while outside. I love the rain. We people of the tropics love our rain. But of course, if the temperatures drop with rain, that is another story.

Another hot day tomorrow.

A series of events – part 2

It was a frantic two days’. My husband ran to the airlines office and tried to get us a booking for July 3. In the meanwhile, I contacted the university to finalize stuff . And also contacted my house owner who was supposed to rent his apartment to me for July and ask him if it was still available. He said yes, he hadn’t rented it out to anyone else!! Seems like he was waiting for me.:)

A small hitch- he had already left town on his vacation and the keys were with his friend. I needed to trace the friend down. Managed to get through to the friend- the friend was leaving town on a two month vacation on July 4, so if I needed to get the keys I would have to be in town on the 4th of July and the 4th of July is a very important day in the US. Per our revised schedule, we would reach Boston on July 3 but there was no way we could reach our destination the same day- a 14 day trans-Atlantic flight would not allow our tired bodies to do that. And so we had to coordinate with the friend to leave the keys someplace else, so we could pick them up from there on July 5 early in the morning.

This gave us a day in Boston to enjoy ourselves there on July 4th. As we have done before, we rented a room at Boston’s Copley square which is one of the scenic localities of Downtown Boston to our eyes’. We know a few places there and could manage there even if shops were closed for the July 4th holiday. The Boston green and the park nearby gave us plenty of time to relax and catch up on lost sleep. The day was hot- hotter than we ever remembered America and a lot of people were out on the green and in the parks. Squirrels were a plenty. We watched a man feed squirrels in the park – particularly a white squirrel, who was very tame.

The next day saw us on a two hour bus ride to the University which was to be our final destination. We reached at 9:45 am, our first appointment was with the housing manager of the apartment to get the keys. A quick trip to the apartment to put our luggage down and then a rush to the office of International Affairs to declare ourselves “in” the country. And then before we knew it- it was done- it was a Friday and the 4th of July weekend to boot. Everyone was in the holiday mood.

My first classes were for the Monday- July 8th.

So here I was at the Ivy League college which had been my dream for so many years- even decades. It just proves a point- if someone wants something very bad, the whole universe gets together to give it to that person- I think Paulo Coelho mentioned this in the Alchemist.

Thank you all my blogging friends and family who travelled with me on this journey, who cried with me through my disappointments and who rejoiced with me when I made baby steps- I could not have done without you.

A series of events- part 1

I scrambled around trying to make things happen before I left to my university for the graduate program. Resignation given for end of June- clearances done, so my end of service could be processed, goodbyes said- arranging a cook during my absence from home, health insurance details completed. What I could not commit on or do much about was the payment of the summer term fee. It was a huge amount and until I was sure I was going, I didn’t want to be paying.

Came June 30, I was still scrambling. June 30 this year was a Sunday. Did an office run to hand over some additional papers and said a final goodbye to Cyn- my friend and supervisor for five years. Thank you, Cyn!!

When you have been married for as long as I have ( 27 years come September), it becomes difficult to part from your partner for even a day. The same happened with me. As the time for parting came near, my husband and I could not bear to thing of our time apart. Till that time, we had been thinking and managing things objectively; all of a sudden an emotional component cropped up. How would we say goodbye to one another ?

For me it was a shift to another country- a country across at least two oceans and far away from kith and kin.

All things taken into account, I decided to not go – and let the university know I wasn’t coming.

In a strange set of coincidences, my email to the university went on June 27, which was a Thursday. The director of the program and the director of Finances, both of whom I had let know of my decision were both on leave until after the 4th of July weekend. I got their “out of office” responses. In my mind, I was breaking within and wondering why it happened to me again and again- this was the third time I had been disappointed. In 2012 it was an admission to the same graduate degree program in Johns Hopkins University which I had to give up. In 2018, a visa issue kept me from going.

And now in 2019, history was all set to repeat itself. I realised as people have before me , that life is not so simple especially when one has a family to consider- sometimes our decisions cannot add up like two and two make four- sometimes two and two add up to five or six.

Flight tickets booked two months in advance for June 28 were cancelled.

Came June 30 and I was reconciled to having no job and no college- a life of retirement. Ironic that just 10 days back I had turned 50 and to retire at 50 did not feel all that good. There did not seem any direction my life was going.

July 1 was a monday- my batch mates would all be attending orientation today. I was not there. Perhaps God willed it otherwise. I was repeatedly led to the chapters in Genesis and in Job about stalwarts, heroes – having given up their most precious possessions because of demands from the God they worshipped. When I was upset, I read those chapters again and again and I told God- you gave it to me Lord and you are asking it of me- I give my admission to you. I will not direct your decisions anymore- I will listen to your will for me”. This prayer gave me immense peace and kept my sanity those days.

On July 1, ET in the US and evening in my part of the world, my husband and I were discussing events. My husband asked me to apply once more to the same graduate degree program this time to an online format so it would be more doable.

I started applying to various universities. By a strange set of coincidences, all of the colleges had a deadline for July 1 – I had to scramble again. I applied to Johns Hopkins University again and even managed to submit. Each time I applied to a US university I needed to get my documents credentialed. Credentialing does not come cheap. I paid again to get credentialed. I needed all my old universities to send my documents to the credentialing agency-where I come from this is not easy. That was done too. There were talks of war and of unease in our world too. All together our lives seemed to be in a state of confusion- what was the right thing to do?

My husband had taken leave for that week- to come with me to the US as per our original plan and he did not cancel his leave- we decided to enjoy a vacation- at home.

On July 2, my husband told me, to write to my university and ask them if I could join late- after the 4th of July weekend. I was taken aback- I didn’t expect him to say this. I wrote to the director of admissions and the finance director – again and asked them if I could be allowed to join late.

The director of admissions was still on leave( you might remember that last year when my visa was rejected and I had asked for extra time to sort my visa issues and join late, the director of admissions was not willing to give me more than a day to sort my visa issues- that was not going to happen and so my course had been deferred to this year.

But the Director of Finance was back in office!! And she said yes!

She said, let me check with the International students office and see if they have not cancelled your visa. And they hadn’t -yet. Wow!!

And she said, come and see me on July 5 ( Friday).

( Part 2 to follow)