Thursday, June 11, 2015

"Lass uns gehen!"

I was woken up by a very loud buzzing in my ear, like a refrigerator, but louder -- and frantic German. I wasn't really about to get out of bed, until one of my suitemates shook me by the shoulders, shouting something in German (I have no idea what, I don't speak it). That was more effective than the buzzing. I immediately got up and followed my suitemates, who were rushing - no, sprinting - out of the suite with their stuff. Completely flabbergasted, hazy thoughts raced through my head: Are we being attacked? Is it a bomb that's making this buzzing sound? Everything was hurried as we dashed through the hallway  from what I thought was a potential source of explosion.

"Er... should I get my stuff?" I gasped uneasily as I jumped outside of our aprtment door, barefoot, in just pajamas.

"No!" came the frantic reply.

Shoot. I thought about my laptop, my camera, my guitar, and phone, left in my room close to that odd ominous source of buzzing. How would I continue my research with my computer destroyed? Oh, well, better save myself , right?

We took the stairs from the ninth floor -- or ran down the stairs, more like it. I ran barefoot, still uncomprehending what is going on and actually completely panicked. I did not expect to be in this situation...

Finally, when we got outside, people were patiently standing around the building, waiting. I ask my suitemates, "What is this? Why are we outside?"

"Oh, it's a fire alarm!" one of them says.

I breathe a sigh of relief, realizing that our suite wasn't in a direct danger of exploding, and laugh. Welcome to Tang Hall.

About half an hour later, we were finally let back into the dorm. Turns out someone was smoking in the elevator hallway, right near the smoke detectors, setting off the first fire alarm in the past 6 months (which I found pretty impressive). This is probably the first time I actually appreciated the NH fire alarm, because it actually talks and doesn't sound like something about to explode.

 So yep, not your typical morning. Some context: this is the first summer I am spending in Boston (and in this country in general, too - wow, that's pretty crazy). I am doing a UROP and living in Tang Hall, the best graduate dorm on campus (according to myself and the gorgeous Boston skyline that is visible from both my room window and our lounge). Don't listen to the jeering grad students on this matter, they're all wrong. :)

We just so happened to spot a full rainbow over Boston, finally!

This is already the second week of summer, and I've tried more new things than I thought was possible in this small period. So far I've tried:
  • Swing dancing - MIT holds free lessons and swing dances every Wednesday during the summer - check it out, it's really fun!
  • Salsa dancing - there is Salsa in the Park in the South End until August, and it is lots of fun to dance outside. Even for beginners like me :-) 
  • Sailing - I just completed Class 1 this week and will do the actual sailing on water next week. I also went sailing with a friend who kept leaning the boat on one side on purpose. It was  pretty extreme experience for me, but pretty entertaining for my friend. -_-
  • Bouldering - I went to try bouldering for the second time at Central Rock, it was great, even if I could only do problems up to level V1 (the "problems" or the climbing paths range from V0, beginner, to something like V6, very advanced, at this place). Definitely recommend! 
  • Slacklining - How. Do. You. Get. On. The. Stupid. Rope. I don't get it. It takes like half an hour just to learn to balance on it on one foot for five seconds. Also, it is definitely not as "slack" as it sounds, and pretty painful when it hits you! My goal is perhaps to do something like this one day:
I've also attended music nights and tea parties pretty much three days in a row on the weekend. One tea party with a group of visiting students from Germany, Austria, Netherlands, and Israel; we drank tea, played cards and other games. Another one was with a group of Russian expats, consisted of the guitar and singing outdoors until pretty much midnight (no idea how all the neighbors were okay with this!) and drinking... homemade kefir. Yep, homemade kefir. Summer research student life is pretty sweet. :-)

My past two summers were spent in the land of wine and cheese; the first few weeks were filled with crazy adventures and getting used to the neighbourhood, meeting a great deal of new people and learning software and material for my internship from scratch.

This time around, it's slightly different; I am already familiar with the material, I have been working on the project little by little, so work goes at a good pace. Even without the cultural novelty, I am getting a much better sense of the thug lyfe PhD life than I did in France, where most of the interns I met were doing a 6 month or 1 year internship as part of their Masters thesis, for instance. It is a good way to see what I may be getting into if I do stay in this country for graduate studies -- and so far, I am liking what I see. There is something about the spending 4 years on a really worthwhile project that really appeals to me. Even if its through complaining, blood, sweat and tears, equipment not working or continuous debugging, I love the idea of working toward an idea, a possibility of true advancement.

Anyway, I love the lifestyle, too -- really, the majority of the work you do just takes place while you are in lab. When you leave lab, it's basically total freedom. No psets, no exams, to study for, just you and this awesome New England summer! :)

When my family visited, we explored Boston a little bit... 

By swimming with the ducks...

Taking a stroll through the harbour

And eating yummy sushi!

 The Maparium was pretty cool, but they didn't allow to take pictures, so these are the ones you get. :)  A week later, I also witnessed my first Cambridge street festival at Mass Ave and Sidney Street. It was pretty cute!

Next stops? Some nice hiking in the white mountains, NH, with MIT's Outing Club! Join me if you're here for the summer! And don't forget to blog, too! :)


  1. Glad you're having fun! Keep up the swing dancing for me ;) Also, the maparium - if you mean the map room in the Public Library? - is one of my favorite little places in Boston. I had a lot of fun watching Boston literally grow itself out of the ocean from one map to another, and the old hand-drawn maps are lovely.

    1. Nope, the Maparium in the Mary Baker Eddy library next to the Christian Science Center: The best part of the place are actually the acoustics, since it's a nearly perfect glass sphere!

      But if there is one in BPL, I must check that out, too! :D