Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Kids

I went to Stanford in the late afternoon to meet with my new prof on the subject of my paper. This was the second week of classes and I was not prepared at all, as a matter of fact I had learned about the subject of my project just yesterday which was chosen for me because I had not responded on time and the subject was awful; thankfully though I could change it to a more appropriate one communicating with the TA yesterday. She suggested I worked with a team of two that were going to work on one of the subjects I was interested in and I was happy to. She introduced the team via e-mail: CA and RM. I e-mailed them today telling them about myself a little; CA responded and suggested he would call me at 6PM to discuss some crucial matters.
I picked up A after work and dropping him off at M’s office. How excited he was to go to daddy’s work place, waving bye bye happily! And I knew he would spend most of the time in the conference room, drawing on the white board with at least four different colors of markers.
So I arrived at Stanford. I like the fresh spirit at school. The young folks walking and biking and skate boarding as if are living in a palace over the clouds. The college years are the years of crazy ideas, crazy kids believing they know every thing, smitten kids, and I am talking from experience ...
I had to find the Terman Engineering Center building where Prof’s office was. Based on Google map I knew I was close, I parked my car by a courtyard and got off wandering around to find the building. There were a few young girls and boys skate boarding on the courtyard that was connected to a lower court by a couple of steps. There was a girl sitting on the most right side of the step in the direction I was approaching them, she was looking another way. I said “excuse me” and I continued as she turned my way “do you know where Terman building is?” Now she was looking in my eyes and I was deeply engaged with her bluish grayish green eyes; it took me a fraction of second to comprehend she had said she had no clue.
I walked by another lady and asked, she did not know either, and suddenly another kid approached happily “do you need help?” I asked about the building on Palama Mall. She explained she never paid attention to street names riding her bike and that she did not know of the building and asked if I had a map. This time I smiled at her, a kind of “of course not” smile! A young boy and girl came our way when the happy girl shouted “Dude! Do you know where Terman Eng is?”. He paused and turned his torso all the way and pointed a direction about my 1 O’clock “it is that way” somewhere over a few buildings in front of me. I pointed towards my 1 O’clock and exclaimed “so I should just walk that way?” as if I could fly over the buildings! I just nodded and smiled reminding myself that they were just kids, the way GC would say. I walked towards my 12 O’clock. Another “dude” was coming my way and I realized after I asked to be excused that he was listening to some thing with earphones in his ears. Very politely though he took them out and listened to my question. Then turned around and kindly walked with me a few feet until I could see the building and left me at that point. I thanked him, walked to the building, went upstairs to the 3rd floor, and spotted another “dude” while looking for room 344. “Are you here to talk to Jan?” he asked me with a smile on his face referring to the Prof as “Jan”! I confirmed I was. He showed me a corridor “that way” and left. I wanted to ask what the meeting was about, I had no clue. Yet he was already gone.
I arrived at 344. It was not 6 PM yet. Jan, the Prof, was sitting in his office with the door open, talking on the phone. I thought it must have been a meeting with another group being conducted as a tele meeting. I continued to the end of the corridor standing by a tall window watching outside when my cell phone rang. It was CA. He said he was coming to the building and claimed he was gray about the whole paper thing as well. While on the phone I spotted a “dude” walking towards the building also talking on his cell and thought it must be him.
I like the first encounters, a mysterious experiment and yet not risky at all. There is a lot you may learn the first time you meet a person. He was a shy yet talkative kind of person knowledgeable and passionate about his job offer in a consulting company for medical devices. He was a senior student in human biology finishing his last quarter. The course I am taking, Technology Assessment and Regulations of Medical Devices, is a graduate course at Management Science and Engineering department and the senior students are also entitled to attend the class. We talked about the course a little and how I liked the previous courses I had taken and that I was working on neurovascular devices and that he liked this subject. He said he knew RM, the other "dude" in the team, because he was in the Water Polo team and CA was in the swimming team. I was amazed and I told him I was a swimming champion at college too. He said his dad encouraged him to take the course being a maxillofacial surgeon and I exclaimed my parents were dentists. He said he was glad that their team had an experienced person, referring to me ;) After a few minutes of brief but informative chit chat RM appeared, we introduced ourselves but I have nothing much to say about him except that he was more of a silent kind of person, at lease at the first encounter.
It was 6:10 PM or so when Jan came to the door welcoming us inside. He said we were his last appointment that day.
Surprisingly, not knowing about the disease state of our subject I could still carry a conversation mainly about the regulatory requirement and market assessment strategy. I had talked long enough when Jan with his Austrian?./Dutch?/German? accent asked: “I have a very heavy accent myself but I can detect a little accent in you too, where are you from originally?” I smiled “yes, I do have an accent, and I am originally from Iran”. Talking about accent reminded me of Nathan, an Engineer in Trainee I worked with during my last weeks at Canspec who reminded me of Ethan Hawk, a taller and blonder version. The first time John introduced him and left he asked if I was from South America (I get that sort of comment every one out of three times I meet some one new) he thought I had that sort of accent. A couple weeks later we went for an out of town job, a project of mine that I was training Nathan to carry along, staying at a hotel for a couple nights in Barrie. As oppose to me he didn't want to spend the whole nights resting. This project was in a tough job environment: a cement company with a very large lot; we had to walk a lot all day in such dirty place. I used to cover my whole body going there, literally: overall and scarf and safety hat and ear plugs and goggles and mask and boots, yet coming back I had to take a shower immediately to take out cement even from my ears! But he did not stay put after works and after dinner the first night we stayed up talking for good part of the evening, he said he loved Spanish accent and he wanted to go to South America to meet a girl with accent! He also claimed being interested to learn Farsi and he wanted to hear me talking Farsi -which is very hard to do if there is no specifics to talk about. He was really insisting though, looking around the first word that came to my mind was “yakhchal”, not the best word for a beginner I know! Still he practiced a few times, he was not a bad student. We lost touch though and I am not sure if he did marry a girl with Spanish accent or even if he married at all, I left Canspec to AECL and I knew he was going to join the Vancouver branch a few months after.
The team, the project subject, and the prof all seem very exciting. Jan was amazingly attentive, which reminded me how a supervisor should really be. He responded our questions very kindly directing us to bring us to a brighter understanding of the requirements of the course project and paper, showed us a couple tricks and when we were running out of time he was concerned if he was keeping us!! He was a supervisor who was passionate about the performance of his students himself.

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