Thursday, April 29, 2010

The unmarked road...

I have been at my new job for a year and a month now, but I noticed I have written very little about work this past year. I wrote about how I came about this project, and how unexpectedly my extremely bumpy road went smooth. The craziness in my life seems to be always family-related, hence I have been writing more about those tidbits. I started thinking of how to write about work, but nothing occurred to me. And then I had to fill out a Gordon Conference application and I hit a question I could not answer. Am I working in academia, industry or government? My first reaction was "none of the above" - but that was not an option...

I work for a non-profit foundation; we are a group of ~15 research scientists under a head scientist who started this whole thing. We are independent from the University, even though most of us used to be associated with it. We have federal funding and we rent public office/lab space in town. We work on basic science, generating knowledge that will hopefully lead to future applications. Not your standard research setting...

At first it hit me that I might have left the academic pipeline by mistake, but there is no reason why this job would prevent me from rejoining a university in the future. The more I think about where I am and how I got here, the more I see myself on this unmarked road. I took a turn off the main road, which was full of bumps and traffic. This new road was not on my map, and, having turned off my GPS years ago, I am not sure where it leads. It has only minor bumps, and seems to go straight for miles.

However, there are no other cars on this road and no speed limit. I have to set my own pace and that has proven more difficult than I imagined at first. I find myself enjoying the scenery instead of putting the miles on the car. I stop and look around; I stop to smell the flowers. I do not feel like I am losing a race; I do not feel like I need to drive through the night. I am moving forward, but not at a highway pace. There is so much more than the road on this drive. And as I do not need to watch out for traffic and speeding cars with crazy drivers, I can look around more. I notice the sky, I notice the fields by which I drive. But most of all, I enjoy the drive itself.

I guess my lack of anxiety is due to the fact that this road keeps going and my gas tank is three quarters full. Maybe in a couple of years I will worry about whether there will be an exit for the highway at the end. Maybe I will start wondering if there is a gas station on this road... but for now I have no worries. As long as I keep moving I feel like I am getting somewhere - even if it is not where I had intended to go.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Traveling with toddlers

Last month we took a two week vacation to Italy. Dada had a conference there and we decided to make a family trip out of it. We left ten days before the conference, and my mother joined us for the second (and conference) week, which luckily coincided with her Spring Break.

It was not the first time we traveled with the boys. We had taken them sailing in the Chesapeake Bay for a week back in 2008, we had visited my extended family in Brazil in 2009, and last Christmas we went to England for ten days. Planes are not a challenge, unless we fail to convince the kids to go to sleep. However, this was the first time we did not stay at someone's house - this was the first hotel trip

Staying at hotels was not a problem, we found several that had triple and quadruple rooms that let you add a baby crib (sometimes free of charge). We took the trip slow, not expecting to see twenty cities in ten days. We spent our whole first week in Venice so we could actually enjoy it. The first couple of days were mellow, with only one tourist attraction before lunch and nap time. But by the end of the week we managed to see three small museums in a single day!

The kids enjoyed themselves immensely and if you ask my four year old he will tell you the armory in the Doge Palace in Venice was his favorite place. My two year old was completely in awe of the fresco ceilings at the Basilica of St. Marco. After that he would look up every time he entered a room, just to make sure he was not missing anything. By the time we got to the conference site they were ready to be kids and hit the play park all day long.

We did not run into many problems, at least none that we could not work around. We realized that lunch and dinner out was too taxing on the boys, so we had lunch at a restaurant then a picnic dinner in our hotel room more than half the time. We tried to incorporate nap time every day, even if some days it was a little later than normal. We tried to focus on what we got to see, not what we were missing.

Apparently traveling with toddlers is not a common thing to do. I lost count of the number of people that called us brave throughout the trip. I am glad we introduced our kids to traveling early, and that it has not been too difficult. Dada and I love traveling, and there are still so many places to go, so many things to see... And academic vacations are such a great excuse!