Friday, August 20, 2010

Maiden trip to the U.S.!

Hallo ALL!! Greetings from New Haven once again (for those of you who didn't catch the first one on Facebook)!!

And if you haven't noticed already, whether it's on Facebook or my blog title, yup, I am currently at Yale in the US, pursuing my phD at Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS). And if you are interested, my major is Computational Biology and Bioinformatics (CBB) under the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Department (BBS) and am in a relatively new program Integrated Graduate Program in Physical and Engineering Biology (IGPPEB). Quite a mouthful, isn't it? Pardon me for the excessive use of acronyms and jargons (LOLX!). If you can't catch entirely, and they (do) appear in my entries hereafter, just know that they are just affiliations that I might be associated with for the next 5 years or so... Just a brief introduction, and since I have not started school yet, there isn't much of what I am doing that is pertaining to my graduate studies per se, so those would come later, in due time.

What I was excited about as well, was my maiden trip to the US. Yes, my first EVER setting-foot on American grounds! But well, there's always a first time for anything, isn't it? Took China Eastern Airlines (because that's the cheapest one-way ticket I could find on cheapoair) at Changi Airport T3, transited at Shanghai Pu Dong International Airport after 5 hours from Singapore (same time zone), then the last leg of 13 hours flight from Shanghai to John F. Kennedy International Airport at New York City! Yeah, the ever infamous Big Apple, which I unfortunately could only catch a glimpse of, be sure I will be back to soak it all in LOLX!
I wanna thank CS, J and Owl for insisting to send me off despite you guys needing to work the next day, R, my best buddy, and K, despite R having to go endure post-operation trauma (hope you are feeling much better) for sending me off!! I am really happy to see you guys there before I fly off. Thank god though, I manage to "shake off" those of you who had wanted to come, haha. No hard feelings, just thought that it was really an unearthly timing to make a trip to the eastern tip of Singapore on a midweek night. But I do appreciate the thought nonetheless =) And all those that called and messaged =) To all the weddings and housewarmings I would miss, just know that I would be giving you guys my wellwishes all the way from US!! hehe. To my family, XL and her family (who came in the end despite having dinnered only the day before), I have only gratitude and more gratitude. Gonna miss you all. I will take care of myself and call as often as I can =)

China Eastern Airlines flight experience was pretty much so-so, for me. Without any individual flight entertainment systems (except the sound system), it has got most of the other things above average - meals, services, minimal delays. I got bumped up to Business class from Singapore to Shanghai - no significant difference though from the economy class. So if you are into cheap tickets but do not mind the absence of in-flight entertainment systems, then this is fine. But the 13+5+waiting+5 (transit)+4(shuttle to new haven)=29-hour travelling was horrendous!! I mean, seriously, I should start thinking about teleportation as my new form of transport, or else just KILL me LOLX. On the hindsight, it wasn't that much of a thing after I touched down, but I think I wouldn't want to do that again in the very near future...

Pu Dong Airport was a little disappointing, despite all the Expo 2010 hype. I found it messy, despite knowing the language and all. They had put up counters solely for the purpose of the Expo and ended up confusing most of the travellers, because they were mostly closed already. Very sparse shopping district, with the shops having very minimal international outlook. The flight from Pu Dong saw a very different demographics of passengers - a lot of American-born Chinese kids (ABC) returning to US from vacation in China, with their very Chinese parents and some in-betweens (like myself), and some US citizens. So the whole plane was filled with a hodgepodge of English and Mandarin accents, kids with American accent but zilch Mandarin, parents with Chinese English accents but local Mandarin accents, visiting Chinese zero/minimal English but full of local dialects (Shanghainese, Cantonese etc.), total Americans - just pure acoustic disaster... The entire flight was filled with babies crying, little ABCs screaming to English pop songs, kids jumping around, mums scolding the kids, mums scolding each other, dads laughing and standing up and blocking everybody's view of the TV (I had to get some to sit down)... As if sleeping on a badly-positioned economy class seat wasn't bad enough... And you could see the somewhat belligerence (albeit stifled) of the Chinese at the Airport and on-flight. And note to self, bring a converter on the carry-on luggage... BTW, though, the plane has a power socket for charging!!

Arriving at JFK did not evoke the mirth that I was expecting (of myself), but more of a sigh of relief (haha). It made me miss the comfort, convenience and efficiency of Changi Airport (well it has been consistently the best airport in the world ya know) even more. Surprisingly, I encountered little extraordinary hiccups; the queue was just plain long and slow, with people crowding at a few counters (and blatantly jumping queue, though I think this experience has something to do with the demographics of the flight than anything else) and with many other counters not opened until much later.

I was happy I managed to make two new acquaintances even through this flight: J and A. J's from IMCB haha, if yy is reading this, he's from your lab!! He's going to Columbia University to pursue phD in neuroscience. All the best, I will try to find you on Facebook. And A's a Turkish and a second-year student from Bioengineering from Yale. He was so helpful and taking the extra miles with explanations and trying to give me recommendations for admin matters (since he is also an international student) and even gave me his email and phone number!! Grateful eternally, and will probably catch you for lunch soon =) And I am glad the taxi driver was nice too, knowing this is my first time to US and Yale for that matter; he stayed and made sure I was safe before driving off. And boy, am I overjoyed when I saw C haha!! And so, the story starts now...

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