Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Londoners vacationed in Brussels this weekend past and I should chronicle the happenings before the eyelids droop any further.
As an aside, it has been a Herculean task getting through today without dozing off on my desk and smacking my head on the same. And, of course, time crawls, to play its part in heightening the agony.
So, as previously mentioned, Brussels played host to the London friends this weekend and, in true bizarre fashion, it did rather well!
While the initial plan included tackling the sights and sounds of the city with full gusto, ticking off each major landmark as done and generally waking up early and setting off to make the most of each day - only some of the plan saw the light of day.
What happened instead was much, much better!
Beer, fries, waffles and chocolates - tick.
Grand Place, Mannakin Pis, Delirium, Atomium, tour bus - tick
Food, paani puri (!!) and more food - tick
late nights, laughing, conversation, good-natured ribbing, more laughing - tick
Another excellent weekend - tick!

I realise that most of my holiday posts seem to be rather brief, but this is how I come away from a holiday. Very few specifics and lots of feelings, thoughts and images.
For places come and places go but the memories (and the ticket stubs I collect!) live forever.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Blogger alternates between English and Dutch (Flemish) so right now I'm not 'Blog Maken', I'm Aanmelden.
It's t-shirt weather y'all! Finally stepped out without at jacket/jumper at 8 pm last night and it was beautiful! The streak continues today and I'm thinking it might be Abhinav, the chap landed up at my doorstep yesterday morning to surprise me and brought with him the good weather! Nicely done, *high five*!
I was walking past a colleague's office this morning. She's a post doc in the type of stuff that I did before landing this job. As I walked back to my office it hit me that that might have been me!
I could have landed some sort of post-doc passing light through things and reading papers that I didn't understand and basically dreading the rest of my life.
Instead I did something that I, in a million years, would have not thought myself capable of. I gave up the chance to do a pure Physics post-doc, gave up a relatively high paying job to move across the world and dive head first into uncertainty. And every time I get frustrated at work, I question my decision. I question my judgment.
But today, when I saw my colleague, I realised that I did not want to be her right now. Maybe in a few years when I feel the love for Physics the way I did as a lowly undergrad. But not now.
Right now, I like what I am doing. Most importantly because not many people get paid to do something that they wouldn't mind doing for no money at all!
So watch out kids of Europe, here we come to teach you Physics!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Keeping up the almost-two-posts-a-week trend, I think my first movie-watching in Brussels deserves a post of its own!
So it has been over a month since I landed in the land of chocolates and beer and whatnot and I had not been to the movies! Surprisingly, another friend was in a similar position and we decided to make an evening of it. So the three of us, Ashanka included, decided to go watch Alice in Wonderland in 3D.
Turns out movies in Brussels (Im not sure if I can speak for all of Belgium) are very cheap and the theaters are not half bad! 10 Euros (or thereabouts) for a ticket to a 3-D movie plus a pass for 2 bucks more for a free movie anything this month! Hell yeah!
The movie itself - loved it! And not just because it stars Johnny Depp (actually it has a brilliant cast!). I liked the movie because it has captured the essence of the story. AiW is not, for the most part, a feel good book. I have always seen a dark-side to it and for years I felt like I was the only one. I mean its 'wonderland' for Godsakes!

In other news the colleague has taken off since it is a sunny day and the weekend will be cloudy so he would rather work then. I, for my part, am determined to finish what I had planned for the day but somehow the motivation is waning. Amidst this, the general 'meh'ness that surrounds today and the fact that I made the stupid mistake of listening to 'Tum Mile', the mood is fast dipping.
Tum Mile is the song that I have avoided since I came to Brussels. This is the song that floods my mind with memories of Auckland and the summer past. The song that I played on repeat in the car while driving around with my folks and sister, to do wedding type things and soaking in the sun and enjoying the carefree-ness of being home, the warmth of family and friends just feeling Auckland and trying to file away every little bit to keep with me while I moved.
Needless to say, the song came on, and the eyes welled up.
I long for another Auckland summer.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sing it with me boys n girls

The pre-post that I am putting up post the trip: I am amazed at my blogging frequency! The last time I blogged with such fervor was second year of PhD when I was not really liking where I was and what I was doing.
So the thought of opening a travel blog crossed my mind but such thoughts must not be entertained. Mostly because implementation calls for taking and uploading of photos and the like - an arduous task and one that I am not at all likely to complete. The reason for such thoughts was the tomorrow I visit Amsterdam. Ashanka of 'Spiritus Mundi' fame is here and we are going to take in the sights and sounds of Amsterdam this weekend. While there are several things on the agenda we both hope that we can pack everything worth seeing into one weekend and Ashanka wins the Facebook Photo load-off!

In true nomad style, the weekend was spent in Amsterdam with Ashanka. And even though I have the worst headache from not sleeping enough and the worst backache from lugging my bag around it was well worth it.
Booking were done very late in the day and the hotel held up, even though the location was not the best. The weather held off and it only drizzled instead of pouring. And, trooper that she is, Ashanka held up with full gusto in spite of a bout of illness. All in all a great time was had by us. Two girls, unleashed in the city!
The museums, canals, cafes and restaurants were well explored and we came back with several bags of goodies and a lifetime of memories.
In Brussels it is back to regular life and work with more weekends to look forward to.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Now that this, hitherto dormant, space has been revived I thought I should give the old gal some polishing. Much in the style of re-painting houses the blog now has a new look and so far I like!
So as many of you that read this blog, and several others that don't there is impending something arriving in the form of the wedding in June that is happening contrary to all expectations.
Yes, mine.
So I have been told that I must introduce the unfortunate 'soon to be spouse and bearer of all brunt' on this blog. I must admit that I have tried before and I cannot come up with a smart name for him (a smarta*se name yes, but not a smart one). It is most difficult to find a name that combines what he means to me as well as appeals to my sarcastic senses. Of course several options were considered and vetoed. These included 'UO' for Unfortunate Other, that is 2 blank spaces and so on but - just as I have not 'hidden' my name on this blog, yes it is Amrita, I see no point in hiding his. His name is Abhinav.
So everyone wave hello and now that the niceties have been taken care of, and rather well one might say! we can move on. Google says that 'Abhinav' means 'Young, new, innovative'. Is he? He is as young as his age permits, he is new to this blog and he is innovative in finding ways to annoy me!
He is also one of the most brilliant scientists I know, patient to a fault and honest beyond all measure.
How I landed him - well as the age old saying goes 'good things happen to good people' (or, I prefer it in Punjabi, 'neki kar puttar neki pa').
How he landed me - that story remains to be told.
So we are taking the plunge and hoping that the bungee cord holds up against the tensions of life. Wish us luck and see you at the wedding!

Monday, March 08, 2010

It is 4.20 on a sunny Sunday afternoon and I'm sitting by the window, with the wind howling outside, sipping tea and biting into a flaky chocolate croissant. Yes, the resolutions to eat only salads and no carbs after six have flown out the window - new resolution being to work out twice as much tomorrow.
I was thinking up a list of 'Weekend absolutely do-not's' while making dinner last night and here is the list
1. Work!
2. Eat cereal for breakfast; this, to me, is the ultimate weekend mood killer. Weekends are meant either to eat sumptuous breakfasts dripping in fat stuff and sweet stuff or to starve till lunch and which is dripping with... you get the drift.
3. Work!
4. Work out; I salute anyone who works up the motivation to hit the gym, go for a run, cycle or generally put on them training shoes and manage to break a sweat due to exercise that does not involve dashing for a moving tram that gets you to a shop/cafe/bistro/club.
5. Work!
6. Go to the office (to pick up work!): This does not include going to the office to print/download/have lunch/coffee or any 'social' or 'socially associated' reason
7. Clean: Now this is not a weekend do-not for me but, turns out, that it is for the spouse to be! He has specifically 'requested' that cleaning type activities be relegated to work type days and when in Europe one will do like the homeless (for the want of a better simile) and take off on a trip every weekend! Although how much traveling is done remains to be seen.
8. Make the bed: The sign of a lazy weekend (hence, one well spent!) is an unmade bed and the crawling of self into said bed at regular intervals with laptop in hand and a cup of hot beverage (specially on winter weekends).

Consequently where there is a do-not list, one must specify what to do.
Eat, sleep in, read, write, blog, drink, walk around and take in the surroundings, enjoy the leisure and make sure that you take time out to smell the roses.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

So I'm in Brussels but what the heck am I doing here. I mean let's be honest, Brussels is hardly your dream city and no it was not a dare.
As all of you that have read my blog know by now, my PhD years, were not fun - to put it mildly. What you may not know, is that I became part of (co-founded!) a very interesting group during my PhD that resulted in some very lucrative and interesting extra-curricular activities. Interesting, because I discovered that it was something I loved doing and was marginally good at and lucrative because now that is my job and pays for the proverbial (and sometimes literal) bacon that I bring home.
Now before the imagination goes wild - this is not a guessing game. I left applied science - yes, but not that far behind. Let's say I walked out of the lab - to the corridors. Science communication. This does not mean that I preach the benefits of studying science to impressionable young minds (saint style) - or maybe it does. But I try to show them that science is cool. And every once in a while tell them that it matters who your boss is! But that is the case for all jobs and they will learn it anyway (Life lesson 1 it is!) and its always useful to show them that being at a university is just as bad as being in the corporate world.
What makes it work for me - well flexible hours, more annual leave, travel paid for - you know the usual.
So far it has been good, the days are packed with things to do and, for the first time, I have work people to have lunch with rather than sitting morosely at my computer with a dejected looking sandwich, or worse still, McDonalds!
If only the weather would echo my sentiments and throw some sunshine our way then I can off with a merry song - but for now it is less of 'Season's in the Sun' and more 'Raindrops keep fallin' on my head'.

Au revoir

Monday, March 01, 2010

Taking up a tag from Vatsa for International Women's Day, albeit very late!
What does it mean to be a woman in the 21st century. Apart from the obvious 'rights' and 'perks' which have been discussed to death, the very fact that women can discuss being women in the 21st century is a testament to how mindsets have changed.
Vatsa wrote a lovely post on the people behind a successful woman and I think that she has hit on a a very significant aspect of success.
I think that as 'modern' women we have it harder. Period. We have the additional responsibilities without the privileges. After all, is it not a privilege to come home to a hot meal, a clean house and a warm bed. Is it not a privilege to enjoy time with your children, without the responsibility of their upbringing, is it nor a privilege to be the 'bread winner' and not worry whether the bread has been bought or not. Is it not a privilege to be applauded for long hours at work and not questioned for ignoring your family and being 'career oriented'. Is it not a privilege to be able to walk the streets wearing whatever you like and not have to listen to jeers and cat-calls. These are privileges - not rights.
As a modern woman, I believe in only one thing - striving for equality. Not female chauvinism. I had once written a post about how my parents brought me up as a human being, not as a male or female. And that is what I believe in. But that is not to say that I am not proud to be female. Sure there are times when I am frustrated at the undeserved privileges that men enjoy but there are other times when I can see the changes that are coming about. I see it at home, at work, all around me, everyday.
I do not think that successful women are a testament to modernisation of society or changing mindsets. Success testament to the women themselves. Their struggle against several odds and the support of their families.
From personal experience I can say that the family is but the single most important entity in governing a person's mindset. For much as traits, opinions, likes and dislikes can be acquired, even the fact that one is open to such acquisition comes from one's family.
So in saying all this what is it that I'm trying to say - plain and simple it is this. In several parts of the world people (men and women alike) believe that emancipation of women means that they work, drink, smoke and have the 'right' to do what men do. But these same people do not acknowledge that emancipation comes not from what they can do but that they can choose to do. These are the same people that would raise eyebrows at a mother who worked all day and didn't have the energy to cook. At a woman who told a man she loved that she wanted to meet some career goals before marriage, or one that didnt' have the aptitude for decorating her home so it was always a pleasant mess. Because yes, society has 'given' women the 'right' to do things - to do more things. But not the option to forego their 'duties' in the process.
This is not to say that things are not changing. Just as men are patted on the back for helping out with the chores in spite of work, women are applauded for being successful at work as well as doing the chores. Both things being equally important for a good life.
So to me being a woman in the 21st century means being able to express myself, in thought, in deed and action. It means being able to share a part of myself with people and putting myself up for praise and criticism alike. It means having choices and the strength of make decisions and choose whether or not to stand by them. It means being able to walk, talk, think and fight. It also means being exposed to a lot of BS - and taking it like a man!