It has been almost three weeks since we came back from our Thailand vacation and life has been crazy ever since. The first challenge of course was trying to adjust to the cold weather after the amazingly warm and beautiful Thailand – no small feat. Well, if that were not enough, we were greeted by mouse droppings all over the house and spend two whole days (after sleeping at the airport the night before) cleaning EVERYTHING. A note to all who live on the first floor and may get such a surprise – close your doors before you go so the mouse can only invade the main living area.
That first day Peiman actually saw the mouse in the kitchen and barricaded the kitchen door and the sewer hole through which it came but it managed to escape anyway. The next day a “mouse guy” came and looked everywhere and put out “traps” (extremely sticky cardboard with bread on it that only managed to trap my slipper two times). Well, there has been no sign of it since, though our overhead storage space we don’t use has two new holes in it. All that remains is Milad’s nightly plea of “Don’t let the rat get me!”
On a positive note, the thing that saved us before and after our trip has been our new washing machine that we are “testing” for a Chinese company that wants to sell it abroad. Well, let me tell you, we are the perfect washing machine testing family! Before we left, we had to wash all the summer clothes we were bringing on our trip because even though we had washed them all before putting them away in the fall, they still got a bit of a funny moldy smell to them. Then when we came back, we again washed all our clothes plus all the bed sheets (which we had washed before the trip but which were visited by the rat while we were gone). And, though we seldom use the dryer (yes, it actually has a dryer!), it is really great to dry bed sheets in the machine because it is hard to find enough hanging space for them in the winter.
Two days after being back in Nanjing, I received my rejection letter from U Penn. Well I have to say, I was hardly surprised by this. The whole process of applying to U Penn was one difficulty after another. They were very picky about how to send them transcripts, then they weren’t receiving them. Finally, at the last minute, I managed to get UBC to email them a copy which they accepted in the interim. All this is a very long and complicated story that I won’t bore you with but let’s just say that every step of the application process was fraught with difficulty. During that whole time, I kept thinking that this is just not meant to be and that it won’t happen because all the doors kept closing – unlike with UBC where the whole process was so smooth and easy. But I decided to test my theory and so I kept on doing all I could to make sure my application went through.
Then, a week before our trip, I received an email that I had been shortlisted by U Penn – one of about 10% of their PhD applicants. I was very happy but then realized how insane it would be for me to fly (all expenses paid by them) to U Penn for ONE DAY of meetings and conversations. And this was to happen smack in the middle of our Thailand trip – five days lost for a one day interview. Not to mention the crazy jetlag. Well though I was a bit disappointed it didn’t take long to decide to tell them I would like to skype with them instead, which they had said was not a problem. After that I heard nothing for a while and then just as we were about to go to the one place where we did not have internet, I got an email that they wanted to do a skype interview. I told them I wasn’t sure if I could skype at the time or not but got a Thai phone so I could receive free calls in case there was no internet.
It them turned out that they had internet but I had to use it in the middle of the outdoor restaurant which could be noisy. In the end, I did have my skype interview and there was no problem with the technical part but the interview was the strangest one I had ever had. Honestly, it felt like the person interviewing me had not even looked at my application! She was asking me about my research but had no comment about it. When I asked her point blank later on how she saw her work and mine matching, she paused and asked me to describe my research idea all over again. Then after a little more discussion about their program she said she had to go. That was it. That is when I knew I was not going to be accepted to U Penn. Honestly, I think she called out of obligation but that they had already selected those they were going to accept during the weekend interview.
It was at that time that I finally realized I was completely wrong for their program. Their age demographic is 21-30, no doubt most or all childless, with many coming in straight from a BA. Well that is not me at all. Not to mention that none of the professors are working in China or even Asia and though we see eye to eye on methodology I guess that is just not enough. So the rejection letter was no surprise and I was just grateful that I had enough sense to not ruin my Thailand vacation chasing after the wrong dream.
A week after coming back to Nanjing was my first day at work. The night before I did not sleep well and felt myself getting sick. That morning, like every morning, I checked my email to see if there was word from UBC. I was now super excited to be going there and felt strongly that I would be accepted but there was always that small fear of rejection. That morning, as I was about to check my email, I felt like I would actually be receiving something and there it was – an acceptance email along with a generous scholarship for my study. I was ecstatic! I went to work all happy and spent the whole day teaching in the freezing cold and feeling worse and worse. By the time I was taking the bus home, I had the chills and I knew something was very wrong because the bus was being heated (the only heated part of my whole day). Well, I went home, crawled into bed and stayed there for 6 days with a constant fever of about 39 degrees. I don’t remember the last time I got the flu like that. By the sixth day I was getting a bit worried so I called a foreign doctor that was a friend of a friend and he told me I should be fine as long as the fever went down by day eight or nine. Then, just as it had started, the fever went down. Now I still have a cough that is worse at night when my chest hurts when I cough but I feel I am on my way to a full recovery.
Knowing that we are actually leaving Nanjing in four months has put everything in perspective – not just for us, but for our friends as well. We have several groups of them who are studying Baha’i materials with us and participating in the community building process, and we want to help them as much as we can before we leave. So with the thought of accelerating their study and activities, we have been talking to them about where we would like them to be and how we can best help prepare them for their service. Well, their response has been amazing. Of course they (like we) are sad that we are leaving but the pace of all our activities has doubled or tripled. Not only that but friends who had stopped studying with us are restarting their study. It seems our departure is just the push they needed to get back on track. So now, we are very excited about all the work we will be able to accomplish before we go and have confidence that the work will continue after we are gone. I have to say, there are some truly amazing human beings in Nanjing that I have so much admiration and respect for, people who want to make a difference in their community and who have a vision of how they can help their friends and colleagues lead a more fulfilling life. We will miss them so much but they will always live on in our hearts (and we will definitely be visiting them when we move back to China even if we are not in Nanjing).
So that brings my three weeks of craziness story to an end (though I am sure it is not the end at all but just the beginning :))!!!