School’s been in for exactly a month now. I don’t want to jinx things, but it hasn’t been nearly as stressful as I’d imagined it would be. My apartment is finally set up entirely and starting to feel like home. I’ve got bookcases that I built (well, I sanded and stained them myself) all packed with my books, I’ve got furniture that I actually picked out myself and paid for, and I’ve even got art on the walls. Admittedly, some of it keeps falling down because apparently command strips don’t like to stick to painted concrete it when it rains, but I’m getting that figured out as it goes. Catie is settling into daycare and making friends. She’s loving exploring the town with me; we hopped on the bus with a map on Monday and explored the area near campus together. I’m finding lots of fun nooks and crannies on campus to camp out for an hour or two when I’m tired of being in the windowless lab. My favorite places so far include 1) the southern edge of Old Main Hill, 2) the courtyard in the Biology building, and 3) the benches overlooking the Quad from the north. This campus is just so beautiful that it’s actually hard to narrow it down to just three places. If my laptop functioned properly I’d spend all day outside on some patch of lawn. It’s starting to get pretty cold at night now though; we’ve even seen some snow on the peaks on either side of the valley. Apparently winter is fast approaching already. It’s a pretty far cry from Florida, where I hear weather is still somewhere in the high nineties. I’m thrilled to be in flannel in fall for once.
Apart from feeling utterly confused and information-inundated in Neuro most of the time, I feel pretty comfortable with everything that’s been going on so far. I’ve been grading quizzes and papers (so many papers…) for the classes I’m TAing, and gradually easing into lab activities. My primary activity in the lab so far has been writing a proposal for the Graduate Research Fellowship Program or GRFP. I wrote a half-baked proposal last year but I obviously wasn’t successful. This year I’m reworking it into what I hope is a truly competitive entry. Even if I don’t get the GRFP grant, my PI thinks it’d be a good experiment to go forward with, one that might lead to bigger projects and even be a stepping stone towards my second year project and dissertation. The basic premise is that the kids in Utah’s dual language immersion classrooms will have better math scores and more advanced numerical cognition skills than those in “standard” classrooms. There’s piles of reasons why I think that but I’m not going to spill just yet until I’ve had a chance to submit my proposal in late October. I’m confident in this one.
After sixteen days in Logan, I finally have enough of my belongings together to be able to spend a night in my apartment on campus. Getting all of my things in one place has been far from a smooth process. My own road trip was meticulously planned and conducted with my car packed to the gills; Catie rode in the back seat with mountains of toys and activities piled on either side of her and boxes squashed into the trunk with finesse only an ex-FedEx package handler like myself could have managed. A great deal of my things were left for my ex-husband slash stuff-mover to pack into his vehicle and bring when he was ready. Originally, the plan involved my long leisurely road trip and his own slightly swifter one to meet in Logan semi-simultaneously so that I wouldn’t have to go too long without my library or kitchen equipment, and Catie wouldn’t have to go too long with only one parent to keep her busy. Alas… the best laid plans of mice and men go oft’ askew. The secondary road trip was delayed by a few weeks to secure more funding, then its start was somewhat less than auspicious as all four tires needed replacing barely outside Biloxi. Three days in, Terry experienced his most serious delay- a traumatic transmission failure leaving him stranded between Colorado Springs and Denver. Luckily it was on the cusp of a long weekend; I was able to leave Logan for an impromptu road trip across the entire length of Wyoming to Denver, CO. My effects needed fetching!
The Callahan family, whom Catie and I have been staying with since our arrival in Cache Valley, have been amazingly generous with their home, their time, and their pantry; I honestly couldn’t thank them enough for letting us invade their space for so long. This feeling is only multiplied now that I’ve monopolized an entire weekend on a spontaneous tri-state rescue mission. Mr. Callahan generously offered to drive Catie and I there in his pickup truck so that I wouldn’t be required to fly to Denver then rent a box truck to drive back. I surely would have been blown off the road if I’d attempted to enact the box truck plan.
“Back east”, I had a joke that since I’d never met anyone from Wyoming or even known anyone that knew any Wyomingites, the state as a whole must be a front. Maybe that’s where people who were put into witness protection go to hide out, I would suggest. Now, having spent over 18 hours driving back and forth across the southern portion of the state, I’m pretty sure I was right all along. No one could possibly live in Wyoming on purpose. I-80 was almost comically windy. Without even any trees to break up the visual monotony, there’s absolutely nothing to see except a stern-looking statue of Abraham Lincoln and the occasional change in elevation. Visiting Wyoming makes much more sense, especially since they’ve got this really snazzy sticker-based tourism campaign at all of the visitor centers (and I hear that the northern 2/3rds of the state has some bona fide beautiful scenery).
The very little of Colorado I saw in the light of day was much the same, with the exception of the beautiful Rockies looming over what I now consider to be the wrong horizon- in Logan, the Rockies are to the east! We had a hell of a time finding a hotel in the Denver metro area due to two large as of yet unknown-to-me sporting events and the Labor Day holiday, so we rescued Terry and let him hang out with Catie for the first time in weeks while we hunted a hotel north of town. In the morning, my belongings were liberated from the disabled van and then meticulously packed and tied down into the truck bed. Leaving Terry behind to attempt a transmission resurrection, our intrepid trio once more disembarked across the vast windy nothingness that masquerades as southern Wyoming. It rained quite a bit on the way back into Utah but, somewhat miraculously, none of the boxes in the truck bed got more than a little moist… until we got them into the apartment. As we walked in with arms full of boxes, the carpet made some uncomfortably distinct squishing sounds beneath our feet. Over the weekend, a water valve had begun to leak in the apartment above mine so now my living room carpet and master closet were absolutely drenched. Everything is fixed and hunkydory now with the exception of some marginally mildewed clothes from the closet, but it definitely wasn’t the victorious return I was anticipating last night. Hopefully things will start going my way now that all of my assets are on the left of the Continental Divide.