Whitaker conference in Budapest + side trip to Prague

Hi all. I have updates on the Whitaker conference in Budapest, my weekend trip to Prague, a concern and some thoughts, and inspiration for the next step of my blog.

First things first: the Whitaker conference. Char and I arrived the weekend before the conference, which started last Monday. Emil met us in Budapest. On Saturday we went to the market that Ang and I saw when we were in Budapest. Sunday, Char, Emil, and I climbed Gellert Hill and explored the castle area. Monday, we checked into the hotel and subsequently went to Szechenyi public baths. The heat and sulfur made the baths slightly nauseating. I liked the Whitaker conference. I was hesitant at first. Side note: These past two years, I have kind of been operating on the principle that if I don’t have > 1 year to spend time with someone, then it’s not worth the effort to build a relationship. (E.g. at Duke, I didn’t really try to get to know the new Brownstone members.) Recently, something clicked and I realize that this is a terrible way to live life. Going into the Whitaker conference, I knew we would only see the other Whitakers for 5 days. But I really tried to break out of my comfort zone (Char and Emily) and connect with other people. I liked it a lot. I also liked listening to the Steering Committee members. It’s inspiring to talk with talented scientists who are engaged in our career paths. I also liked swimming every morning at the hotel pool.

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The conference finished on Friday and I moved out of the nice hotel into my hostel. Some Whitakers and I went to St. Stephen’s Basilica, Parliament, and Margaret Island. In the evening, I met up with Emily and Nick for dinner. Had to do boring e-mail stuff in the evening.

I took the 7 hour train ride to Prague on Saturday. In the evening, I walked around the Old Town Square. Today, I went to the castle and saw the Old Royal Palace, the Basilica, Golden Lane, and St. Vitus’s Cathedral. Then I climbed up the hill south of the castle. In the afternoon, I ate lunch at a delicious vegetarian restaurant, walked around the Jewish quarter, saw Frank Gehry’s Dancing House building, and attended a classical concert at the Rudolfinum. I have a morning flight back to Switzerland tomorrow.

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As I was leaving Switzerland last Saturday, I found comfort in the SBB trains. It seems so simple–knowing how to navigate the train system–but it gave me the same feeling and comfort of “home.” Budapest is a beautiful city, but something didn’t feel quite right. I don’t know what it is. I like Prague more than Budapest even though there are hordes of tourists. It strikes me how similar Budapest and Prague are in terms of layout. They both have a river that splits the two cities with a castle on the west bank and a giant hill south of the castle.

This year has been really good for me in terms of getting me out of the constant school stress mode. It lends me perspective on how I want to live my life, and I want to maintain my internal peace even after I move on in life. My concern is that, even before I have left, the stress has crept back in. So far, I have been trying as hard as possible to suppress the self-induced stress. Maybe a better technique is to not suppress it. To let it come and then let it go. As a part of this attempt, I’m writing it out now, even though by doing so, I feel vulnerable and scared. What I’m worried about are the deadlines, not being good enough, not being qualified enough, not being able to craft the best personal statement/essays, and being judged or deemed insufficient. I’m working through these fears now though.

I was inspired by a particular individual at the Whitaker conference. I’m working out the next phase of my blog. I’m not ready to reveal it yet, but it has to do with living with intention. Stay tuned.

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