An Application Day

Written: Thursday, June 18, 2009 8:15pm

Yesterday I went home late at night after finishing some experiments and talking to people. I caught the last train home, which means I did not make it home until after midnight. I proceeded to sleep.

I woke up at 8:30 this morning and got ready as quickly as I could to make it to the 9:05am train. I was there two minutes early, which was good, but I did not have time to go to the grocery store to get my rice ball (onigiri) before going to work. That was unfortunate. Good thing, however, is that I had lunch with three other young students in the lab, and we all had a nice lunch at the Hospital Cafeteria. ‘masaya’-san, ‘boot’-san, ‘macho’-san and I all talked for about an hour and just enjoyed lunch together. It was nice to have lunch with them since I enjoy socializing with the people in my lab. They are all very interesting people, and very nice, just quite busy. Oh, something nice was that ‘Crazy’-san brought me a bottle of “Afternoon Tea (Milk Tea)” that she thought was better than the one I normally get. Also, Deng-san, who is one of the part-timers, gave me a piece of chocolate. 🙂 I felt very loved.

In the afternoon I focused on finishing up my application for HBS’s 2+2 Program. The deadline is coming up soon (July 1st) and I have to finish working on the essays. Luckily the rest of the application is pretty much set, even the recommendation letters, but I’m still in the process of writing the essays, and there will definitely be a lot of re-writing and editing to do before I submit those. I hope to finish writing them by tomorrow, so I can edit them Saturday and then send them to a few people for feedback.

That being said, I’m quite tired now since all I’ve done this afternoon is work on essays. I’m planning to get dinner soon, and hopefully after that just go home. I’m sorry this day has not been too exciting, there is nothing new I can say to you. Oh wait, I haven’t mentioned this, in this building there are ALWAYS a LOT of people who come here to just check on inventory, check on lab machines, fix whatever is needed, replace filters, etc. These men all come dressed in suits and you can always see them in pairs, yes, only in pairs. They walk into rooms and replace something, they come talk to you if a machine you are using is making a weird noise, and most of the time, it seems, they just stand in every corner of the building. I think every time I go to the restroom during the day I see at least three or four pairs of them.

I think that’s quite interesting. I never used to see any of those in my lab. And my lab was also next to a building.

And my head hurts, I need to go eat now and rest at home. Have a nice day everyone!

Saving Money by Eating a Donut at Mister Donuts ~

Written: June 17 at 8:51pm

I’ve been usually writing my updates in the afternoons of the next day about the previous day, and that doesn’t quite make sense when it comes down to remembering details. I am, now, writing my entries about the same day before going home. As such, this entry will include both yesterday and today.

My day was very normal. I can’t remember many special things about it, other than everything is special in the same way it was the first day at work. Everyone keeps being nice, I talk a lot of Japanese with fun people, and I miss my friends and family from Boston & home. What was different about yesterday was that I went home early! 😀

I went home much earlier than usual. I went to get dinner by 7:30pm, and then just went home so I as home by 9:30pm. I stopped at Mister Donuts to have, well, a donut, and realized that having a donut there at night makes me save money. Here is the reason, a donut there costs about 105 yen (that’s what mine cost me last night) and it includes FREE WATER if you stay in to eat it. With a donut I am more satisfied about my dinner (so I am not tempted to buy an onigiri (a 105 yen rice ball) at lawson), and because I have free water I have no need to buy a drink either (~150 yen), so there you go, I saved 150 yen and sat at Mister Donut for a while. I decided that if I was thirsty when I got home (and if it was before 11pm) I would go to Mister Donuts and eat a donut instead of buying a drink at the vending machines or lawson.

I also noticed something else, Japanese men, as in grown-up men wearing suits which are probably in their 30’s, play PSP against each other at Mister Donuts. It was funny to sit there and just notice that someone next to me was too excited about their PSP game, and it was quite a shock when I actually looked and saw that it was two grown-up men playing PSP. I thought I had entered a different dimension in which it was normal to care more about winning a PSP battle than getting home or actually talking to your friend sitting next to you.

That being said, after eating my donut I ran home, and there I bathed, shaved, and went to bed. I slept over 10 hours! 😀 I didn’t wake up until 8:30am, and I had gone to bed by 10:30 I’m quite sure. It was so nice to just wake up and feel energetic. Well, actually, I was quite tired for some unknown reason and couldn’t just wake up, but after a bit of a fight with my comforter I got up and felt good.

Today I came to work and I have actually been working most of the day. Usually I have long periods of times in which I’m doing nothing, and usually after 5-6pm I do absolutely nothing but my own things or talk to people. But even now, as I write this at 9pm, I’m staining an SDS gel. It’s been a busy day. It seems that even though I didn’t plan on it, it was quite a good plan to sleep so long last night.

There are a few other things I’ve noticed in Japan that I don’t think I’ve mentioned. First, I think that my face and my presence reminds Japanese kids of their homework, particularly their English homework. I’ve been able to experience how some Japanese kids that sit next to me or across from me, soon after looking at me with a face that reads something like: “Where is this gaijin (foreigner) from?!”, they reach for their bags and take out their English homework. I think it’s their own way of saying “I’m making an effort to understand your people.” Maybe they just want me to do their homework for them, but I never talk to them.

Another thing, as I was walking home yesterday I past by this old lady and she just stopped, right there, on the sidewalk where there was nowhere to go, and she just kind of looked up the rest of the path, as if wondering if it was worth it to keep walking, and then after a long pause she kept walking. I wondered for a second what was the motivation behind that little ‘break’ right in the middle of nowhere, it was kind of odd. Maybe she just stopped to re-calculate the number of gaijin she had seen in her life, I’m probably one of the first 10.

Anyway, lastly, something that I’ve found awesome is just walking down the street and hearing on the random radios by the stores music I like such as Lady Gaga (yeah!), Beyoncé, Jason Mraz, and even some Mariachis! I think it’s great. Also, my supervisor finds it extremely weird, as in incomprehensible, that I talk to my mother almost every day. Over lunch he kept saying things like “Every day?! What is there to talk about?” I think it must be really difficult for him to understand this cause as he says most people here in Japan talk to their parents only a few times a year (once every couple of months) once they leave their parents’ house. Now if I do that, that would be unforgivable to my mother.

So that is my update for yesterday and today, it’s not 9:20pm so I’m going to see how’s the gel doing and see if I can head home soon.

Thank you very much for reading. 🙂

Monday was normal, until I saw cops!

Written: Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I woke up and got to work a bit late (at 9:20am, the seminar started at 9:15am). It was okay, though, no big problem. After the seminar (in which three papers were presented) was our Monday lab cleanup. You can tell that people liked how I mopped last week cause when I showed up they were like “Can you mop?!” and I was like… sure!

So I went and mopped again, and randomly people would come and say “It’s very clean, very pretty.” I mopped with all the energy I had, and again thought about all the years of training I’ve had mopping. Master mopper you can call me, at least that’s how they think about me here I’m guessing.

Anyway, after mopping, etc, I went to check my cells and discovered that there was a huge contaminant in them. After crying for many many seconds, I looked at it under the microscope and then, since there was nothing that I could do to save the cells, I bleached it all and threw it away. There went my cells, I though. Now, do you remember how last week there were some cells that I thought I had killed? It so happens that I looked at them under the microscope and it seems like a few cells remained alive and after a week of incubating there were many more cells in the plate! I was so excited.

After my cell frustration and re-enlightenment I went on with my life and used the internet for a while. I was finally able to check facebook, post pictures, update this blog, etc. Then I made a few solutions for my experiment and put some cells in some media to incubate overnight. That was the summary of my day, pretty much.

At night I talked to “Señor Potto Sensei” (nicknamed by me, of course) and we went to dinner together. By going to dinner together I mean, we walked downstairs to the convenience store together and bough microwaveable dinner sets and ate it together in the seminar room. We had a total of 20 minutes to do this before Señor Potto Sensei had to go back to check on his experiment. So we had dinner and talked, and then I went, talked to Crazy-san and Masaya-san for a while, and headed back home. I took the train at 9:48pm, which is the earliest I’ve headed home in over a week! 🙂

I thought, mm… now I’ll go home and sleep, but I think there is a masochist part of me that always finds a way for me to stay up until late. So instead of just going to bed, when I got to the Juso Station I walked to the free internet spot I found and called my mom. After talking to her for almost an hour, then I called my grandmas (both of them) and talked to my granddad and an uncle. It was after midnight when I finished talking to all these people. I then headed home. Entering my apartment I saw two cops, and I was like, OH! I was so surprised I almost ran to see what was happening. Turns out, there was a Japanese girl and a white kid involved. The number of foreigners in Osaka probably accounts for less than .001% of the population, and somehow, when there are cops interfering on something, there is one involved. Oh well… represent!

So I went into my apartment and I could hear the cops talking, communicating through their radio device thing, and I could hear the Japanese girl talking and talking and talking. It was like she could not shut up. Then, after a while, the cops left and the girl and the white boy started arguing about something. I don’t know what it was, but I know they were talking in Japanese and the white guy had a peculiar accent, which was funny. What was not funny, however, was that I could not sleep and it was after 2am. I ended up shutting down the window and sliding door to my room and turning on the A/C. Then I slept like a baby.

That was the end of my day. Interesting, huh? Lovely…

Benefits of a Japanese-Sized Apartment, Okonomiyaki, and Japanese Tea Ceremony!

Written: June 15, 12:27pm

I haven’t written an update on my life since last Friday morning! What a shame. I should definitely keep making it a point to reflect on my experience on a daily basis. That being said, here is my weekend update.

Friday I pretty much stayed at work until late at night, and then headed back home. I had dinner at home, dinner I bought at the convenience store, and then went to sleep. It was a very low key, nice day. If there were any exciting events this day, I can’t remember now, one important reason to write every day.

Saturday I slept-in and woke up at around 10am, I did laundry and cleaned up the apartment. One of the benefits of Japanese-sized (i.e. small) apartments is that you can vacuum them completely in less than 20 minutes. It was great. After doing laundry and cleaning up the apartment I decided that I wouldn’t spend the entire day at home, so I ventured out to Umeda Station (Osaka) and then walked around the streets there. It was great to just walk around and see the nightlife starting out and developing. It’s quite a lively area at night there. I was tempted to just stay there all night and take a train home in the morning (as many people do) but I had quite an interesting day coming up and I needed to get a good night’s sleep.

For dinner Saturday I had the magnificent experience of having an Okonomiyaki! I must say, that was one tasty meal. Okonomiyaki is known to be a specialty of Osaka, so I wanted to try it for a while now. While exploring the Umeda Station area I walked across this place that was called something that started with “O”, I took out my iPhone and typed “Okonomiyaki” in the Japanese keyboard to see how I would write it using Chinese characters too (in Kanji) and what came out was “お好み焼き” which was how the store name started! I walked in, excited, and asked for a ‘deluxe’ okonomiyaki. When I had that one Okonomiyaki I thought I was tasting something made in heaven. So delicious! You can see a picture of my halfway done Okonomiyaki on my facebook pictures posted here:

That was the highlight of my Saturday. Sunday I woke up at ~9:00am and took the 10:00am train in the Kobe direction. I was fortunate enough to experience a Japanese Tea Ceremony, which was quite interesting. A very unique ceremony, and it was quite crowded. There were two ceremonies performed before I could actually take part of one because they have a limit of 25 people per ceremony, and there were many more people there. Women were walking around in their kimonos which were beautiful, and I (and the other men in the room) were wearing suits. Women that did not own a kimono were wearing very pretty dresses.

After the tea ceremony I went to Kobe and visited a few mansions (European style) and saw a lot of great things. I would go into detail explaining what I saw, but as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and I have over 100 pictures uploaded to facebook for your enjoyment. I wouldn’t want to write 1000 words for each picture, imagine that.

Just to reiterate, the link to the pictures is here:

Please take a look!

If not through science, contribute in some other way

Thursday, June 11, 2009 – 7:09pm

Today I also came in to lab at around 10:30am, a bit later than I wanted, so I’m aiming to go home early and be in tomorrow by 9am. In lab I did a few things and then sent the associate professor an e-mail with the notes I took yesterday at the conference about how to publish to nature. I wrote the e-mail in Japanese and then re-wrote it in *English* to make sure I didn’t mess up.

A bit later the professor checked his e-mail and called me up and he said it was great and thanked me a lot. I felt good! It’s kind of like, if I don’t do much in lab in terms of experiments, I try to help out in other ways. The professor sent my notes to the entire lab and told them to review the notes and to save them. Then he encouraged everyone to publish to Nature. It was nice. He also told everyone to thank me… :$

The professor was also impressed by my Kanji name (Japanese name written with Chinese characters) and he told me “That’s great! You should have cards with your name in Japanese!” It would have looked very Japanese but my last name can’t really be written with Chinese characters in Japanese, there’s not a good sound for Fe in Kanji.

A bit later someone threw a paper on my desk and when I look it had my name printed on it using Kanji and Katakana. It said “フェルナンデス御丸” which is my name, printed in different colors 4 times! I was like, what? When I looked back it was the professor! Haha, I just started laughing and then everyone in the lab looked at it and they were asking me questions like “that’s your name? OH SUGOIIIII (awesome).” Apparently Masato-kun chose a really good Kanji name for me!

Here is a picture of the paper:

When Prof. Murakami found out I had a Kanji name he thought it was awesome and printed this out.
When Prof. Murakami found out I had a Kanji name he thought it was awesome and printed this out.

Anyway, after that I just went out to lunch and had Tonkatsu (,_Hokkaido.jpg) for ~$4.50. So good. Then I came back to lab and just prepared a few solutions, ran an SDS gel with my post-doc after purifying a protein, and that’s about it. I want to go home soon, or go to dinner with labmates, one of those two, so we’ll see how that goes.

Update: (9pm)
I went to dinner with one of my lab friends, the youngest one in the lab (‘masaya-san’), and we had a chicken dinner set. It was delicious. I keep being impressed by the food here in Japan! We had a nice dinner conversation and after that came back to the lab. Now I’m planning to go home soon since I don’t want to be trapped again the game of staying in too long and not having time to sleep! Tonight I’m going home and sleeping~ I also need to take care of a few things… such as laundry… but that can wait until Saturday. I don’t think I’ll be coming in to lab on Saturday since I was told it was okay for me to stay home, but I just feel bad knowing that everyone else comes in, and has to get work done, while I’ll be sleeping at home and discovering new things on my own. After all, they are so nice and friendly.