Almost Kyoto Weekend!

Written: June 25, 2009 5:40pm

My week has been as exciting as it can be when you spend 12+ hours a day at work. I’ve done lots of research online during this time (on facebook, twitter, etc.) and have edited my essays for the HBS application maybe around 200 times. Actually, according to Open Office, this is how my essays are at this point:

Essay Number 1 (407 words), Edited 59 times, total editing time 4:18 hours
Essay Number 2 (400 words), Edited 126 times, total editing time 7:30 hours
Essay Number 3 (405 words), Edited 79 times, total editing time 6:42 hours
Essay Number 4 (669 words), Edited 93 times, total editing time 13:36 hours

I must point out that essays 1-3 should be 400 words long, and essay 4 should be 600 words long. This means that I have to cut down 81 words from here and there, which is why life is exciting during work hours. 🙂 I’m currently waiting on some feedback from friends, and after I get that I will work on re-editing my essays more and more. I’ll keep polishing them, I find a certain satisfaction in doing so. It allows me to reflect on my life, my goals, and why I have such goals. The experience of writing this essays has, by itself, been such a grace that it makes the whole application process worth it already.

That being said, I had ramen from a different store the other night, it wasn’t as good as my usual bowl at Juso Ramen. Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious, but compared to Juso Ramen… maybe I’m just in love and can’t seem to find any flaws, but I simply love that freaking bowl of ramen. I can’t wait to go get it tomorrow.

That being said, this weekend I’m going to Kyoto! I’m joining 30 other MIT interns in Japan in a 2-day trip to Kyoto that will allow us to explore the old-capital. If you didn’t know, Kyoto used to be the capital of Japan, and that is why there are so many temples and beautiful things to see there. Back in the day, when Buddhism was introduced to Japan and Shinto was already in place, they coexisted in harmony, but each built as many temples as possible to establish their presence. Talk about passive-aggressiveness.

Anyway, I want to see a geisha. Not any geisha, the one from “Memoirs of Geisha”. Or Sei Shonagon. The only problem is that… yeah, exactly, they are nowhere to be found unless I move into the spiritual realm somehow.

Since we’re going to Kyoto this weekend my friend Carmel, who just graduated from MIT, is going to stay over at my apartment the night before! She is arriving tomorrow at 8pm-ish so guess what I’m planning? Guess where I want to take her to eat dinner… That’s right, when she gets off that train in Juso she will get out of the station, cross the street, and have dinner with me at Juso Ramen. And no, I did not consult with her about this, but yes, that’s how things work. If not, she can have dinner from the conbini after I’m done with my bowl of ramen. Just kidding, I would take her somewhere else for dinner!

So that is pretty much what has been going on in my life. Lots of internet browsing, lots of reading on the train while commuting, and that’s about it. I’m reading “A New Earth“, which I keep calling “A Whole New World”, and it’s an excellent book. Everyone should read it and see if they can be enlightened. After all, Oprah recommends it.

A Weekend of Essay Writing, and Going Out!

Written: Monday, June 22, 7:11 pm

Friday my work day was quite normal, except that by 8pm I decided that I was going home. As such, I was on the train back by 8:40ish and by 9:00pm I was back at Juso! I then proceeded to go to the Ramen shop across from the trains station, 十三ラーメン, and ordered one of their nice ramen bowls. The FREAKING BIG bowl with a LOT of pork, noodles, and a lot of other things was 820 yen! I was so happy eating that bowl, you have no idea. To give you an idea, that was my dinner Saturday and Sunday as well. I know, there are other things to eat in Japan, but every night as I thought of that delicious bowl of noodles I just couldn’t stop myself. Talk about self-control…

Anyway, Saturday I woke up at around 11ish and had lunch at the sushi place down the street where the sushi just goes around. It’s called Kaiten-Sushi (回転すし) literally rotating sushi. It was quite good. After lunch I just went back to my room and wrote and re-wrote my essays for the HBS 2+2 application. At around 9pm I decided that I was tired of rewriting essays and watching TV and headed to dinner (ramen).

I must say, though, that Japanese TV is quite interesting. I don’t know if the ~15 channels I get are representative of what people like to watch in Japan, but I’ve seen a couple of funny things. There’s 2 channels that are just there to sell you things, and these two women were talking about this ‘massager’ that would be perfect for your neck, the back of your EAR (yes… my ears are quite tense) and as she used it she would exclaim how good it felt. I don’t know if they were trying to kid anyone, but that was no massager. At least not for the body parts they were saying.

Anyway, something else that was quite interesting was watching Terminator in Japanese. All I could think the whole time was like: “There’s NO WAY that girl knows Japanese. And Arnold Schwarzenegger, he also doesn’t know Japanese, come on.” I thought it was funnier than anything else.

After going to dinner Saturday, at around 11pm, I headed to the train station to go to Umeda Station, where I was meeting a friend to go out to a bar. At around midnight we headed to the bar. Something I have to say is, in Japan you either go to bars early, and miss out the fun, or go at around midnight and stay all night. The trains stop running at around midnight, so what a lot of people do is go at midnight and take the first morning train back. And yes, that’s what I did. The first train back was at 5am. :s

So we went to the bar, and this is something about Japanese bars, they are probably twice as big as my apartment, and that’s not too big. You walk in and immediately everyone knows you’re there, and you know who is there. No mystery, and no way to hide. Anyway, I had a few drinks and met a couple of people. I actually met two people from Perú! Who would have thought, I came all around the world to Japan and I find Spanish-speaking people. It was nice to just speak Spanish when even in America I don’t get to speak it all that often.

At around 4:30am a few people I met, my friend, and I headed out to get some food. It was a good ‘after partying’ meal. It went on until about 5:45am, when we decided to head to the train station. It was funny to see all the people that were migrating to the train station at that time. You could see these girls/women wearing their fabulous dresses and with their make-up messed up. It was great. Also, according to my friend JKim, in Tokyo when she went out she saw that at around 5am one of the employees in one of the food places was waking up a bunch of people who had fallen asleep there while eating. Awesome, right?

I finally got home at around 6:30am and then showered and got to bed by 7am. Woke up at 1pm, had something from the ‘conbini’ and then edited my essays a bit more. After that I had dinner (ramen once again, they were good, believe me) and then at around 6pm I couldn’t wait any longer and fell asleep… I woke up at 11pm and then just went made a few calls (through Skype, of course) and got some midnight snack from the conbini. That conbini is so convenient, oh yeah, I wish we had those in all corners in Boston. They are pretty awesome. America should replace Dunkin Donuts by Mister Donuts, and 711 by Family Mart and Lawson.

Anyway, I finally went back to sleep at round 2am and woke up at 7:40am cause I had to be in lab by 9:15am. I got to lab by 9am, which was nice. In lab today I confirmed that no, I don’t understand scientific papers presented in Japanese, and yes, I am now the official mopper here. When it was time to clean the lab I basically just went and picked up the mop and started mopping, cause that’s what I do best.

I then did some cell passage, sent in my essays for criticism, and then went to lunch. Lunch was good, and cheap. I then prepared some samples for an SDS Page Gel, ran the gel and did silver staining on it. Now there is another beautiful gel on my post-doc’s lab notebook as proof of the hard work I do in lab. It’s actually the first time I do something useful in three weeks, I think.

Now I’m hungry, it’s 8:15pm, and I’m wondering if I should just go home and get dinner close to home. This might result in my dinner being ramen again, haha… we’ll see. 😀

Okay, that’s my weekend report. There are probably a couple of things missing from my weekend reflections, but that’s alright. Next weekend is the Kyoto trip! That should be awesome.


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…