I spent my final week in Puerto Rico finishing up my project and preparing a presentation for the Arecibo staff and students. While the dish has not yet been cleaned, I was able to start a design project that will be passed down through future generations of undergraduate researchers to eventually develop a full-scale, functioning robot.
I arrived back in the states in June, not sure how long it would take to get over my jet lag and readjust to the American lifestyle. As good as it felt to be home, I couldn’t help feeling a little “homesick” for what had been my home for the past six months. I’ll never forget the friends and experiences I gained during my time there.
The four of us stumbled out onto pavement at the Sundarijal bus station after nearly eight hours of walking, knees and feet just on the verge of giving out. That was how 13 days of trekking came to a close, and yet Dawa, Henrik, Adèle and I were all grinning as we high-fived and enjoyed a celebratory coke in a grungy food stall.
The same week that I arrived at Arecibo, the observatory staff began noticing another visitor, a small, black, shaggy dog, clearly struggling to survive in the streets. I have always been a dog lover and couldn’t bear to watch the animal suffer while I had more food in front of me than I could eat. So I began leaving food and water for the dog.
There is nothing that makes you feel quite so German as renting a car, driving the Autobahn, admiring castles in the distance and ending the day at a traditional Bavarian restaurant.
It’s a good thing that back wheels come in pairs. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t be giving this update. Somewhere on the winding highway between Mugling and Kathmandu, the outer left rear wheel dislodged itself and spun off into the darkness towards the Trisuli River far below.
I must begin this update with some words of caution: Beware an 8-year-old Nepali kid named Rahul running around the Internet. If I hadn’t already unleashed him, I have surely done so now, because I helped create a Facebook account for him.
The Sacher Torte is a specialty dessert that Austria claims. It is a type of chocolate cake that it rich, and creamy, and delicious. While I have ordered it in a few restaurants here in the states as well, none can compare to one shared in one of Vienna’s beautiful coffee houses.
After four weeks, I can appreciate why no one has ever been able to design a rover to clean the world’s largest telescope reflector without damaging the sensitive panel material, using harmful chemicals or weighing more than 100 pounds.
This past weekend I was able to cross off a major bucket list item—piloting a plane! A local scientist took me out with a flight instructor and I was able to copilot a Cessna 172 around the island. The views of Arecibo from the sky are absolutely incredible.
Another bus ride from hell marked the beginning of my second and last stay in Sisautiya. I was traveling with Prashant, Rashmi, Gayatri and Baibhav because Deepavali was approaching, and, for the same reason, everyone and their brother were also dispersing to their home villages from Kathmandu for the holiday. What resulted was a jam-packed bus, with people variably standing, sitting and lying in the aisle.
Over the months I’ve been here, I’ve seen some amazing sights, met some incredible people, and have tasted some delicious food! Just a few days ago the school put on a Festival of Nations and it combined all three.
I spent my first day here moving in and exploring the campus. Arecibo is situated on very coarse terrain rampant with sinkholes, hills and valleys. To return to the cabin from the offices I have a stair climb roughly equivalent to climbing Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
I should have known that we would meet in Boudhanath. As the epicenter of the displaced Tibetan community in Nepal and generally all things Buddhist, there really is no more appropriate place for any true Sherpa.
As my time in Austria nears its end, my wonderful friends here are trying to make some of my last moments my best. While eating dinner the other night, I was told to meet them at a cross street at 10:30 the next morning for an adventure I would never forget.
When I first announced that I would be going to the Arecibo Observatory this summer, I was told by many people that I should watch the James Bond movie “GoldenEye.” I had never seen the movie. After all, it came out in 1995 when I was just learning to walk.
Earlier in the semester when things weren’t quite as crazy, I asked a few fellow students what Austrian books they would recommend for me to read. To my surprise, not many books were suggested, but one in particular was mentioned a few times: “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka.
So, a Canadian, a German and an American walk into a medieval Nepali city. No joke, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
The pace of the last week picked up considerably from previous weeks. Last Wednesday I wrapped up my first stay in Sisautiya with the promise that I would return, and I devised a way to avoid the 14-hour bus ride back to Kathmandu.
This morning starkly contrasted with last night’s comfort. The weather was pleasant; you could sit without sweating and I got one of the best rests since being here. I woke up at 5:30 to similarly pleasant weather, but I felt sick.
I am discovering some things that work and others that don’t. I would really rather let the students learn with hands-on experience, but with a poor computer-to-student ratio and unreliable electricity, that is difficult. I have been trying to come up with ways to create exercises for the students to do semi-independently by following instructions I have written, but that failed quite miserably today even when only trying to have them create a new folder on the desktop.
I was lucky enough to spend Easter Break on a trek through Nepal. It all started with a Groupon I received in my email for a 12-day tour, which included a five-day trek.
It all started with a 36-hour travel period from Austin to Kathmandu, which included a three-hour excursion to see the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque during my layover in Istanbul. Besides commenting that the monuments were breathtaking and the weather excellent, all I’ll say here is that I will have to return some day.
Early last year, my dad introduced me to Prabhat Jha, a Nepali, who, along with his brother and other family members, had founded a nonprofit called Eejot. Meaning “light” in the local Maithili language, Eejot focuses on education, particularly computer literacy, of students from and around the Jhas’ rural home village of Sisautiya. I had already been considering a deferral of my enrollment into Mines’ materials science graduate program, and an autumn in Nepal made for a perfect hiatus.
After living in Austria for a few months now, I have put together a list of commonly used phrases that I have heard on a day-to-day basis. My knowledge of the language is still pretty basic, so while the phrases are not complicated, they are the only ones I can pick out when walking down the streets or browsing the stores.
I have spent some time now looking at the Austrian flag and wondering what exactly it stood for. Every flag has a special meaning, and the more I saw the Austrian flag embedded with the coat of arms, the more curious I became. I finally took the initiative and asked some locals what the symbols meant, filling in any blanks with a little research of my own.
My latest endeavor to involve myself in Austrian culture was cooking a full Austrian meal. Thus far, I have very much enjoyed the local cuisine at the restaurants here in Leoben, so I though I would try out some of the recipes myself.
I had a chance meeting with a young Austrian from Salzburg, who happened to be sitting in the same train car I was in for about five hours. Now, if you ever want to learn about someone, sitting in the same 6×6-foot box for six hours is the way to do it—especially if that someone is a young, enthusiastic law student attending university in Salzburg.
Sorry it’s been so long since my last post, but it has been quite busy the last few weeks! I want first to tell you about my classes here, since I am well into the semester now.
I arrived in Leoben Monday last and have spent the week settling into my new home for the next five months. I can already tell I will love it here.