It's Christmas!

Dec 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to my Christian friends! It's Christmas today but it is not a public holiday here in Japan. So, here I am still working my butt out.

Oh...we somehow celebrated the Christmas eve yesterday by eating 'Strawberry cake'...which again is a Japanese thing. We are not Christians...we are Muslims by the way...we had no intention to celebrate Christmas but my son told me that everyone in his nursery would be eating Christmas cake on Christmas he would want the same too. Ahh...this is the Japanese strategy in making business! Mind you, most of the Japanese do not believe in any religion but they celebrate Christmas just for the sake of celebration. For them, Christmas has no religion element. It's for them to enjoy the atmosphere, gifts and most important of all, eat that Christmas cake. the way, the Christmas cake in Japan is not rich fruitcake, like what we see in any other country...they are simply sponge cake, frosted with whipped cream often decorated with strawberries hence it is called strawberry cake in Japan. Kids just love them!

My son received a Christmas present. He was happily unwrapping his present and played with his toy until later he asked me..'Mama, Santa bought this present from Yamada denki Toy shop. Look, I recognize the wrapping paper mama!' He announced proudly. Hahaha...I was speechless! Should I have said that Santa made the present himself? How do I explain the wrapping paper? So...the lesson is, wrap your own Christmas present and make sure there is no label or whatsoever. You won't know how observant they can be. That is if you want them to believe in Santa for another 3 to 4 years to come!

What a hectic day!

Dec 23, 2009

So boss is back. Ohh no! During the weekly progress report on Monday, he bombarded my colleague and criticized the girl to tears and said ' Up till now, I can tell you your research is junk and it is way below the lab's standard'. Tsk tsk... how did he manage to get those words out from his mouth! So, since he had been away for almost 2 weeks, he wanted to have a meeting with everyone. my meeting was at 10.30am today. I knew he would want to see some pioneer experiments I am currently doing and would 'expect' to see some improvement there. So, we talked and discussed for more than 1 hour, plus a few trips back to my desk looking for data that he suddenly requested for. To be honest, I am beginning to like talking science with him because he is sharp, brilliant and darn smart! He patted me on my shoulder and ended the meeting peacefully ( I think he probably meant, you did a decent harder! haha)

I was supposed to feel quite relieved after the meeting. But no, the reality struck me. Why? Because, my good friend, Lei will be gone tomorrow. My neighbor friend will be gone. No more friend to talk to. Sob sob... The desk would be vacant until someone new comes. No one to share the joy and tears everyday. No one to support me emotionally. I am left alone. From so many foreigners friends, now it is down to only me and another Mongolian friend. In 2006, it was Liu who first left, in 2007 was Li, then this year was Dil and Lei. All did well and graduated with flying colors. I am so proud of them.

When Lei leaves, I will be the most senior one. Sigh...that's a big big pressure. I will have to start acting like one. Oh no...I am so not ready. I don't think I am compatible. Not yet.

At 16.30, I was called for another meeting. This time to accompany Lei, as Prof would want her to hand down her project to me officially. She has done an excellent job all this while and now, it is I who will have to complete the bits and pieces. I hope I will not disappoint them.

Looking back, Lei and I had been arranged to sit in the same room for the past 3 years. When Li left, I sat side by side with her for more than 2 years. Just average, we spent about 12 hours together everyday. Even our bench was just 2 meters away. We talked about almost everything. About our family, about our past, our childhood, our thoughts and opinions. I don't think I have ever talked so much in my life. Not even with my siblings. So, the bond is there. She is like my little sister ...though she might prefer me to address her as senior (師姐) haha....

For the past few weeks, she had been telling me that she felt confused. She had been looking forward to reunite with her loving husband and family but now she actually felt sad having to leave this lab. She would definitely miss Prof, all the friends and colleagues. Ahh... I am beginning to understand that feeling and maybe I will feel the same way too when I leave.

One thing for sure...Lei's big worry is gone. She graduated with dignity and she would make her mentor proud (Liu, who unfortunately passed away 2 years ago). Though she will have to start a new life, looking for a new job...she should be very happy now that she can start living a normal married life and 'probably' start preparing for a baby soon. 加油 and all the best, Lei!

While the cat's away...

Dec 17, 2009

Boss had been away this week. Our lecturer N-san had earlier planned for a small celebration party for Lei today. Specifically today because we knew of boss's schedule earlier. Thanks to our sporting secretary. For your info, Lei is our lab mate and my closest friend who has just graduated not long ago. She will be leaving for China next week. Sob sob...

Anyway, we were all looking forward to this party. My surgeon friend had made sure that the conference room in surgical department would be vacant today. Why surgery department? Why can't we do it at our conference room? Curious to know why? It is because we have managed to get the latest information from our secretary that our big boss would be back from Boston tonight at 8pm. There is a possibility that he pops in our lab. We would be slashed if he knew about this. That's why.

I had volunteered to cook nasi beriani, acar and chicken rendang for this occasion. However, my colleagues came to me yesterday and said in excitement,' I am so looking forward to try your curry!' Huh? Curry? I didn't know who changed the menu and spread the news about curry order not to disappoint them, I will be cooking curry instead.

We had a small round table discussion about this party after the journal club yesterday. Everything was nicely planned. However the organizer, N-san looked somehow different. Ohh...maybe because he was wearing mask. Hmm...? Wait, he never wears mask unless he is doing experiment. This is fishy. So I asked him and he said he had fever and sore throat. It's nothing he said. My nutrition friend and I looked at each other. Clearly we were thinking of the same thing. We quickly urged him to go to hospital stat to get diagnosis.

Not long after, he e-mailed us...' It's Influenza type A...I have high grade fever and feels chilly. I will go back home and sleep. As for tomorrow, do enjoy on my behalf as I should be quarantined at home'. the organizer who was so enthusiastic about this party will not be joining us tonight. Perhaps what's worse is that, we were in close contact with him yesterday. So, do check and see whether within the next 10 days, I will be writing about me getting Influenza. hehehe.

So..,while the cat's away, the mouse will play. In our case, it is very true...with the exception to the sick mouse. Poor thing. Get well soon!

Thank you

Dec 16, 2009

I was doing FACS (flowcytometry) at the FACS room in the ground floor. In that room, there was only me and my Mongolian colleague who is currently in her first year. She was using FACS Callibur while I was using FACS ARIA (all these are names of FACS machines).

I was looking at the outcome of the current experiment when out of the sudden, she spoke to me. She said 'Adi, thank you!' Huh? In my mind, I was trying to recall what I have done in the past 24 hours that I deserved the word thank you. Since I couldn't think of one good reason so I asked her, 'For what do I deserve that?'. She said, 'In this lab you are the only person I can speak easily to.' Ahh...I thought, maybe due to her limited Japanese and maybe because we could communicate in English that she was feeling that way. So I told her that it would change once she improves her Japanese language. She said, 'No, it is the personality that makes me feel comfortable talking to you than talking to any other people in this lab'.

There was a mixture of happy and sad feeling after hearing those words coming out from her. I felt good because she liked me and appreciated me but at the same time it also revealed how lonely she was. I never thought a small conversation in the corridor or a chat during lunch time meant so much to her.

That 'thank you' was definitely one of the best thank yous I have ever received. Believe me, we may have said thank you so many times that we didn't really mean it. But a sincere thank you like that can touch people's heart. At least, it made my day.

I am a scientist

Dec 13, 2009

Don't get me wrong. I am not yet a scientist... but I do sincerely hope to be a scientist one day. One fine day. However, I feel the word 'scientist' is wrongly used many times especially in my country, Malaysia.

To me, a scientist is a person having expert knowledge of one or more sciences, especially in natural or physical science. The society grades a person whether he or she is eligible to be called a scientist by looking at his PhD title. I have come across a few occasions where these people admitted they were scientists. The inquisitive me usually would follow that statement with a question 'so, where did you do your PhD study?'. They usually ended up embarrassed because they didn't have PhD. I had no intention to embarrass them, because to my understanding that was the requirement to be called a scientist. Later, I felt bad about this and discussed with my husband, who happened to be someone with PhD, a postgraduate experience and vast knowledge in Biology. He agreed that a scientist should at least have PhD or MD degree. Not someone who graduated in science field during their undergrad studies. I was relieved... and I was right.

When I was in the elementary school, my impression of a scientist was a person who is as good as, or not better than Newton or Edison. At this age, I have agreed to lower the level to 'as long as the person has obtained a PhD, he is an eligible scientist'. I do not intend to lower the criteria further because to me, a scientist has always been a sacred symbol that should not be violated. And it would be an insult to those people who had tried very very hard to obtain their PhD and work in their dream job as a SCIENTIST.

H1N1 vaccination

Dec 12, 2009

My son had an H1N1 vaccination today. He joined the group vaccination organized by the Tokushima city office where only 1000 kids were picked from the 3000 kids who applied. He was considered to be one of the lucky ones.

Just imagine, 1000 shots given in 2 days. Meaning 500 kids per day. We were expecting havoc...with kids running away to avoid shots and some crying after being jabbed. My head was simulating what would happen based on what I always saw in Malaysian hospitals while I was working as a clinician.

Again, I underestimated the Japanese. They never seized to amaze me. The registration started at 9.30am but we decided to get there early to avoid congestion and parking problem. Surprisingly, the parking lot was quite vacant. Maybe because we arrived
there 15 minutes earlier, we thought. As we entered the room, we were greeted by two Japanese ladies, asking us for the vaccination form, questionnaire and consent form which were delivered to us a few days ago. They checked to confirm whether we had enough documents with us. Then, we were directed to the registration desk and were given a thermometer to check for temperature (temperature checking was conducted in another room). After confirming that there was no fever, we were told to sit outside until we were called for internal check-up. We did not have to wait long. The doctor checked him and read through the questionnaire (among the questions asked were allergic to food/vaccines/medical illnesses). Then, we were told to stand in line for vaccination (in another room). The whole vaccination procedure took less than 20 minutes. However we were advised to stay for at least 30 minutes to observe for any reaction. So, the total procedure took us less than one hour. We were very impressed.

They had only 4 doctors there but the flow of the whole procedure was so good that there was not a moment we had to wait and wondered when we would be called next. I observed and gained something today. Perhaps another thing worth mentioning is, since it took us less than 1 hour, which was within the 'free parking range', we happily gained at least 100 yen for not having to park... (^_^)

It's war time again

Dec 10, 2009

The past 2 weeks had been hectic. I had my progress report on the 30th of November where I was crushed and bombarded with questions and telling me 'which part of your research is new?' Ouch!

Fine. To top that, on the same morning, my prof sent me an e-mail saying that the paper which I submitted (to a journal of 10+ impact factor) was rejected. That was another bomb. After my progress report which was like for ages... he called and asked me what I want to do with this paper and how we should improvise the manuscript. I told him to give me some time to digest the reviewers point and I would e-mail him as soon as possible. How soon? He asked. I just laughed and said maybe tomorrow. Why tomorrow, well...because I would have to practice my oral presentation (for a conference) like 2 hours later at 3pm...which during that 2 hours, was my lunch time and practice time.

So, I practiced in front of him at 3, and as expected, he asked for another revision at 6pm. So there I was practicing for another 2 hours and refined the points where he thought I should.
For your information, we were going to have our yearly Bounenkai (忘年会) at 7.30pm the same day (Bounenkai is a Japanese way to celebrate this year and to welcome the new year). I must make sure I could finish before 7pm as that was the time we asked for taxi. Some pressure there.

The practice at 6pm surprisingly went well. What a surprise! The party was a success too and we enjoyed it immensely. Maybe my choice of a seat was good (clearly I was not sitting with him), hahaha...

Then it was the conference. It went quite well. He actually came to me and said I did well in both the presentation and question time. It was at that point I realized, this huge man in front of me was indeed a great scientist and an excellent educationist. How can I ever hate him? The remaining days of the conference were stress free and enjoyable.

This month, my prof will be busy and will be outstation for most of the time. He will come back for just a day for some errand and go outstation again. To think that he is not around does not mean there is no pressure. There is less pressure especially when we do not have to listen to his 'anything new?' question. He would e-mail when he wants something. Ahh...good technologies don't always bring good news. He e-mailed me 2 days ago, telling me 'Hi, I expect receiving your comments to individual points that the reviewers made.'.His exact words. Yup...I have not sent him the comments. Not that I did not try, it was just impossible to digest all the reviewers points when we had a conference to attend. If he knew I actually printed out the comments and tried to digest that during the conference, sigh. To cut the story short, I have sent him my comments on what the reviewers commented and sent him some constructive thoughts with experimental designs... the day before yesterday. He replied yesterday and agreed to my experimental designs and asked me to do them as soon as possible so that we could submit it at the soonest. think that during the writing of that paper was a war. It has just struck me that the war had merely started and would be on for a long long time.

The start of my blog

Dec 9, 2009

I have always envied people with blogs...and I have always wondered when would be the right time for me to start my own blog so I can share my thoughts with other people. Believe it or not, that moment came today. Not on a holiday when I have ample time writing, creating or editing over and over again. It is today, a weekday when I have plenty of stuff to do, plenty of deadlines and plenty to think about. Funnily, things like that do happen in my life quite frequently. Maybe because I am not that type of a person that has everything planned and organized. Everything I do depend on my intuition and emotion. I hope the zeal and the enthusiasm wouldn't fizzle out too quickly. Great! I have something to tell my husband tonight and I think he is going to have a shock of his lifetime!