Friday, January 18, 2013

Travel conversations

In the span of 4 days, I've managed to have multiple long conversations. I'm enjoying this.. I'm less concerned about visiting the museums and the sights of the city. It's probably because I planned my trip to begin with meeting friends.
I've passed through Marseille a couple of times, never managing to stay more than a couple of hours... or if I did stay, I had some pressing work to be done. I got touristy things done, thankfully not alone. I'd friends for company, friends who acted as guides. I saw the familiar sights and discussed nuclear energy with G (me trying to convince him why it is not a bad thing) and arranged marriages and related stuff with A (in this case me being uncomfortable with the idea as time progresses and him not so much).
In Paris, I was barely a tourist - I'd planned to see the louvre but laziness, cold weather and catching up with friends meant that went on a backburner. I did see the château de Versailles (damn is that thing huge) and the pantheon (stereotypical pic of Foucoult's pendulum taken). But I'll take away my conversations with O and Y, O explaining why he wants a death penalty and me disagreeing and him giving me enough food for thought, and Y and me complaining to each other about the sad lives of us PhD students.
The weather got worse in Paris, my face, fingers and toes froze and it started snowing the minute boarding was announced for my flight out. The flight waited the snow out, eventually being 2 hours late. I had a a bus to catch at midnight, from Santander to Bilbao which I missed. At the Santander airport I realised that the only way to the city was a taxi. I happened to hear a group of people talking on French and who looked my age. I asked them if I could share the taxi with them and that eventually ended up with them offering me a place to crash for the night. Not much conversations but they were 11, out to party for a weekend in Spain and they felt a 12th person in the apartment would not do much harm.. Thanks guys.... That saved me from freezing on the street.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Defense and later

It's done. I have a PhD now. Feels strange but not that different. Knowing that this will be the last time I'll ever be a student and that this is a degree that says you are the expert puts whole load of different pressure. The few days leading up to the day of the thesis defense were some the most nerve wracking in a long  time.

But on the day itself, I calmed down. I'd spent the previous day mucking around, reading articles, watching tv - generally destressing. And in the final mock presentation (late night, in pyjamas) I made fewer errors, and finished in time. So the defense went well. I was suited up. The jury showed up, we chatted amiably, I was given 40 minutes to present and I managed to have everything said in 39 minutes.

The questions lasted about an hour - my friends watching felt that I was given a hard time. But these were questions I'd expected, and I was strangely confident answering them. In fact, I remember actually smiling a couple of times when I was asked a few questions. I honestly felt I was given a gentle treatment.

So it's done. I have the degree now. And now I'm officially a शिक्षित बेकार. I'm looking for work now... the experience of research tired me out and I feel it's time to work in a company and let go any ideas of academic life. My visa gives me 6 months to look for a job. EU magic means I can travel through EU without much hassle, while post-holiday travel deals means I can do it cheaply.

The plan is to start off with a backpack to Paris and then Spain... and head to Brussels. That's about 15 days of the trip. After that I'll slow down and try to travel by train, bus or car-sharing and head north. I'll be traveling alone, but visiting friends, or bunking in hostels or with couchsurfers. It's something I've wanted to do (noted here), and my experience in Mexico tells me that I will get tired of it. But I want to see how long I can go (mentally and financially) and try to get a little bit of randomness back.

I'll probably blog it. Or probably not. I don't know what I'll "learn" or "discover". I do know that I will most likely end up in the growing population of people who hate Ryan Air. And I don't know if I'll be hit by culture shock multiple times.  Though now, I have English and French to help me communicate when I'm lost.

The laptop will stay home. I've rigged it up so I can ssh in from my phone or tablet. At least I can update my resume "on the go" (I'm also looking for a job, remember?)  and/or back up pictures to there. Let's see how it goes...