The Fall Semester

The week after I returned from a very hot country, the temperatures dropped here in the South Eastern part of the US(?).

For a person acclimatized to extremely hot weather, it felt like freezing. My dorm room felt unusually cold, the window frames clattered and the door rattled- combined with my extreme reverse jet lag situation. I have always thought jet lag came to people when they travelled East wards. My body has proved that a reverse jet lag is a reality.

We go through a period of shopping for classes- we can attend different classes and see if we want to pursue those classes further. It is an interesting concept and something I wholeheartedly embraced until I found out that this shopping is not an enjoyable experience. Hopping from college to college in search of classes and trying to get into classes before time especially after having travelled across campus on a rattly old shuttle, it took all my sleep lagged eyes to keep them open even to find the classrooms. On the plus side, in spite of all this hope on hope off , I didn’t lose anything- given my past history, that is a big plus.

There are fewer butterflies now, though there is an odd small white butterfly fluttering around on a rare occasion. The noise from outside the dorm( from the streets) is astounding. How do Americans live with so much noise? The dorm borders a highway and there are noises of motorcycles skidding and driving very fast with police cars in hot pursuit, all accounting for a virtual medley of sounds that are not pleasing to the year. On the plus side, today I am going to take time to smell the roses – that is am going to listen to a soprano, who is enrolled in a course here and seems to be someone to watch out for.

Making a lot of steps per day is another achievement for me- a great change from a sedentary lifestyle from my past desk job. A borrowed laptop from the library is what is helping me with my computer needs- my own laptop has decided to take a break.

I am part of a group that is doing a project on Environmental Justice here- a new concept and project for me. The amount of papers the teachers give us to read before a class is amazing- there is literally no actual teaching and more of self study. So I took a class yesterday on note taking- and as this was in the Divinity School it was an added bonus. Getting to see so many students, much more than in the summer is surprising- I am not sure why I didn’t expect this to happen.

It is easier to call family back home using WhatsApp now that I am here. Food continues to be a problem- it is a change from being a cook to a situation similar to a hunter gatherer. 🙂

The lost rings

About a week into my vacation, I was in my married home at Kottayam. We had a family function and a couple of family events to attend. As the situation at home is precarious and it seems prudent to remove all valuables from our home in case of an unplanned evacuation, I brought a as much of my jewellery home that I could wear on my self. Included in this were three rings bought at different stages of my life in the past 15 years.

Added to my gold wedding band, I was wearing four rings on one ring finger.:)

On Sunday we had the family function after which there were some events that took a lot of our time. The time found me fingering the rings because they had gradually gotten tight over my finger, till I needed to remove at least two of them to give the finger breathing space.

I put them into the outside pocket of my handbag- with the hope of putting the rings on after the swelling of my fingers had reduced. Jet lag took over and I went into the land of Nod. I remember distinctly putting my hands into the handbag pocket and feeling the sharp edges of the rings. Reassured I went back to sleep leaving them there.

The next morning we drove to Kochi. Amidst the pouring rain, I ran my fingers down the pocket of the handbag. To my horror, both the rings were missing- absent- gone.

A 25th wedding anniversary ring is no small deal for people like me. It cost us a pretty penny plus it was a remembrance of hard times and how we came through them.

The other ring was my engagement ring. 27 years back when we set off on this journey, this was the ring that was put on my finger.

Both ” gone with the wind” so to say. I could not say a word to my husband knowing what would ensue- I had to find it on my own. I searched the car and my apartment at Kochi where I had been two days back( unlikely to be there, since I had removed the rings off my finger in Kottayam.

We returned to Kottayam and I kept searching for the lost rings- in the bedrooms, under mattresses, bed sheets, asking people who went in and out of our bedrooms- no one knew anything about it. Added to this were additional issues at home- I reached a stage of ” do not care less” though I wished the rings would come back.

Three days later I was again on the same car, travelling to another place. As a last resort I slipped my fingers through the seat of the car- it was an SUV with bucket seats. Wonder of wonders, I found my engagement ring. Unable to believe my luck, that no one else had found it or taken it, I decided to search the car thoroughly for the solitaire ring. When we could stop the car, the driver helped me remove the bucket seat and lo and behold, the solitaire sat there- alone in all her glory, unaware of the pain she had given her owner.

Both rings back and without a soul knowing about it, I sent a silent prayer to God thanking him for his great mercy.

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.