Saturday, April 30, 2011

New GRFP guide and FAQ

I just completed my required annual GRF reporting and noticed several changes in the new program guide (link to pdf) compared to last year's (link to pdf). Since I think at least 1 other fellow reads my blog, I thought I'd mention these.

-They discontinued the Fellows Abroad program which allowed folks to study at a foreign institution.
-You can't have another kind of federal fellowship (e.g. EPA STAR) and a GRF, even if you wouldn't be paid by them both at the same time.
-Maternity leave explicitly qualifies as medical deferment, but the time allowable is dependent on your university's policies.
-Teaching is now explicitly NOT allowed while they are paying you a stipend (if you need to teach, you must defer a year or forfeit).
-Language is much stricter regarding deadlines for annual reporting. If you're late, your fellowship WILL be terminated. If you haven't done it yet, the deadline is May 1!

The new FAQ is here.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Getting back in the groove

I'm certainly doing a good job getting my body back in the right time zone! I got home on Tuesday afternoon, went out for a belated anniversary dinner with Jon, and stayed up until 10 pm. On Wednesday I woke up at 5:45 (not bad), did stuff around the house all day, then went to trivia night and was up until nearly midnight. I slept until about 7:30 on Thursday, went to campus, and then went to a bachelorette party and ended up crashing at my friend's house and going home this morning. Tonight our friend is having a going-away-for-the-summer party, and on Saturday we're going to a wedding. It's a celebratory week.

I'm really trying hard to establish new home routines for myself now. Part of the reason I was able to do such an insane amount of work in Nyota was that I had a routine that didn't vary much, my life was pretty simple, and someone was cooking for me. It's much more complicated here and there are many more distractions (husband! puppy! houseplants! youtube! cooking! housework! - I had none of these in Nyota). I'm trying to simplify my life by scheduling things so that I just know when I do them and don't waste time and energy deciding whether or not I should do them (I do this a lot). So far I'm mostly doing this with things at home, but I think I'll do it with some school things too. I'm not the kind of person for whom routines come easily (I think I've blogged about this before), so I have to make a conscious effort to create and stick to them.

I'm curious, my readers, if you have created routines for similar reasons. If so, what have they been?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mortality and traveling

Traveling nearly always makes me think about my mortality. I think this is fairly common. However, as I've come and gone from Ukenzagapia, I've become more and more accustomed to the routine and I have less and less fear creeping into my thoughts. When I left Ukenzagapia a year ago, I was mentally checking off all of the dangerous things I do. Last motorbike ride. Last bus ride. Last taxi ride. Last takeoff. As my plane neared the ground at Big City airport and tree leaves came into view, I breathed a sigh of relief thinking, "Ok, if anything happens to the plane now, I'm pretty sure I could survive". Last landing. I thought about writing this post a year ago, but I still felt too superstitious about writing my relief at avoiding death. But we're all mortal, and worrying about it certainly isn't going to make the time we have any more enjoyable, so it's time to get this confession out there.

End of season

My gosh. I think the past 3 months might have been the busiest 3 months of my life as I crammed in a crazy amount of field work. I feel like nearly every post I've written from the field this time has said this, but I've gotta say it again. I've gotten SO much better at everything related to doing research in Ukenzagapia. Everything! This was my best field season yet. I've set up a management system for Sam's project that I'm involved in, and I think things will keep running without me. My field assistants got a lot more computer practice, and will be emailing photos every month of the data sheets (for 4 different projects- 2 of which are wholly mine and 2 that aren't) before they can get paid.

My last two days in Nyota were run on very little sleep, some caffeine, and a lot of adrenaline. I had to prep tons of data sheets for while I'm gone and pack & inventory all of my supplies and equipment. My housemate Cam will be in Nyota until August, leaving shortly before I return in August. This works out perfectly for me and so I left nearly everything at the house in Nyota this time, and some clothes at my American friend's house in the city. As a result, I'm going home with 1 bag nearly empty and the only reason it isn't empty is because I'm bringing home stuff for Cam.

Unfortunately, my last night in the country was marred by robbery. I was walking back from the grocery store with Cam in the wealthy mostly expat neighborhood where my friend lives when a car suddenly pulled up very close and slowed down just enough to grab my bag through the window. Stupidly, I didn't let go because I didn't want the bastards to take my bag on principle, and so I got pulled to the ground when they sped away and dragged a short distance before the bag strap broke. I had my phone in my pocket and Cam carried the money in his, so the only thing they got was less than $30 worth of groceries. I hope they were sorely disappointed by their takings. The neighborhood is generally safe, but there are a few things I should have done differently. First of all, I should not have used a reusable grocery bag to carry my groceries. It was a cloth bag that obviously looked like a purse. Secondly, Cam probably should have carried the bag instead of me. He is much larger, though it might not have made a difference. Thirdly, I should not have been carrying the bag on my streetside shoulder. It made it so easy for them to grab. It happened so fast that I didn't even have time to shout and the only thing I thought was, "Don't take my bag you #@$%ers!" Neither Cam nor I got so much as a glimpse of the license plate. I got some nice road rash on my arm and my hip, which put a hole in my pants and my underwear. I was shaken up my it and I'm kind of sore, but all things considered it wasn't a huge deal. They didn't take much of value and I didn't get that hurt.

This departure from Ukenzagapia was more emotional than the others. I'm also probably more exhausted than I've ever been. I'm really becoming attached to Nyota, and now that the end is in sight with just one more trip, I'm thinking about what it means to wrap this up. I'm overflowing with gratitude for the people who have helped me tremendously, like my American friend and my taxi driver Violet. Furthermore, this is the longest that Jon and I have gone without seeing each other since 2004 and I'm so excited to see him again. Yesterday was our second anniversary and in those two years, we have spent 10 months apart. That's far too long. Thankfully, I have an incredibly patient and supportive husband.

I'm halfway home on my layover in Europe. I thought I'd be able to go to the first aid station and get some antibiotic ointment and new medical tape to bandage my wounds, but it turns out they won't help you until your fork over at least $40 for a consultation, so I just washed up in a handicapped restroom and will make do until I get home. Home. Home. HOME! I'm going home.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A blob of thoughts

-I'd really, really, really love to eat ice cream right now. I'm getting teary thinking about it.
-I just spent a long time counting a bunch of little things in the dark with a headlamp because (big surprise here) the power is out. My back is sore and I'm pooped.
-I still have to pay our state taxes (like, right now). I'm just roughly estimating, and then grossly overpaying, the amount we owe for taxes and will sort it out for real when I get home.
-I'm going home SOON! Only 1 week left in Nyota!
-Vacation was awesome. I hardly did any work for 4 days.
-How am I ever going to be a real grown up scientist?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


By my calculations, I worked 90 hours last week and nearly 80 hours the week before. I don't think I have ever needed or looked forward to a vacation as much in my entire life as I have for this one.

For the next few days, I'm on vacation. I've got my computer with me and I'm hoping to catch up on email, but mostly I'm hoping to relax and have a wonderful time. So far, so good. The place where I am for vacation is fantastic! I'm thrilled. My life is awesome.