Sunday, March 09, 2008

I advise...

Sometimes a book takes over your mind. It makes you dream about places and people, totally different than the ones you know. This happened to me with The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, a book that all my dutch friends had read already and advised me to read. I waited a bit, I am generally suspicious of things everyone tells me I should read.
But for The Kite Runner the compliments are fully deserved. It is indeed a book that grips you from the first page. It’s so well written, that it makes me want to write again. It inspires me. At some points it makes you laugh, at others cry, and it definitely stays with you. When you finish it, it leaves a void, like a friend you won’t see for a long time, or maybe ever again.
It tells about the story of two childhood friends in Kabul, Afghanistan, pre-Soviet invasion. It tells about children growing up, how they yearn for their parents’ love, and how they fight for it. And then it tells us about the grown-ups these children become. It tells about a country that western culture knows from CNN stories only, and generally associates with the words “fundamentalism” and “terrorist”. I have to say now I associate Afghanistan with “kabob” and “children”. But the book does not leave out fundamentalism or terror. On the contrary, it fully exposes these for what they are: products of insanity, greed and corruption.
So this post is dedicated to The Kite Runner, the book, and to all the kite runners in Kabul. I will for sure go and see the movie, despite my fear of being totally disappointed by the contrast between what I imagined and what I will see.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A rough start

Whoever thought of this expression, a rough start, never experienced a start of anything in life after being born (which does not really count as a start, since no one remembers it). Every new start I had so far was rough, to the point where one other expression, “fresh new start”, seems a little bit more “freezing new start”.
It’s the moving in itself, the adaptation, the language, the people, the habits, everything… And then there’s the work. Which, as usual, is not easy. And it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. For now I struggle with plans. I actually long for those days when I’ll be the lab from 6 am till 10 in the evening, because I hate making plans. So far my making of plans has involved talking to people and realizing they are not able/willing to help me, talking to my supervisor and realize he doesn’t really want to help (he’d much rather make me feel like an ignorant twat), emailing my other supervisors and realizing they are too far to help. In the meanwhile I keep reading articles, and more ideas pile up in my head, which is nice, but they seem to be going nowhere, which is not nice. But let’s keep hope alive, and have patience, perhaps one day I’ll finish this PhD without feeling that I did a lame job.
This rough start sets me again to think on what it is to be a scientist and if I really want it. I look around me and I see that it’s dog-eat-dog out there. People tell me to keep cool, have patience, work hard, just do my best. But I don’t feel at all certain that I want to invest so much energy into this job, and for what… Maybe to fail in 4 years, if I don’t get a decent post-doc? Maybe in 7 if I don’t get a tenure track somewhere (WHERE??). And all those years without a home... I want my own furniture, goddamn it!!! Ah, the dramas of the middle class.
Well, time will tell. For now, I will… keep cool, have patience, do my best.
And to show that not all is lost, I leave you with a picture of my spotted housemate and the view from our balcony.