R&R: Arlington Part 1

I feel a bit sheepish about the last couple entries. It's hard to write as interestingly about experiences that aren't particularly novel to me. Or perhaps family events are just less harder to write about in an engaging way. I'm not sure the next few will be much better, but here's hoping. There will at least be lots of cute pictures of nephews (and other relations)!

Most of our time in Arlington was a whirlwind of visiting friends and family with a few errands thrown in. The main task of getting Grace's phone unlocked proved to be quite the headache. We were finally able to get it done with about two days of R&R left. Still, now she has a personal phone she can use in Dhaka and on all our travels the world over. I do find it interesting how much the ease and cost of getting a pre-paid SIM card as a tourist varies. Of the places we've visited recently, the rough ordering would be:

  1. Singapore. Hilariously easy, can be done at pretty much any corner store. Cheap. SIM cards come pre-loaded with numbers of a dozen local embassies, hospitals, police stations, etc.
  2. Dominican Republic. Pretty easy. Did it at the airport branch of a telecommunications company. Quite cheap.
  3. United States. Pretty easy, but fairly expensive. T-Mobile had by far the best prices but turned out to have really poor coverage. Next time I'm back in the US short term I'll opt for AT&T most likely, as they always seemed solid while I had them.
  4. Turkey. Bizarrely difficult. Even more expensive than the US. Number has to go through an activation process that takes several hours.

Anyway. Phone nonsense. I do find a smartphone to be an invaluable tool while being a tourist (directions and maps, on-the-fly translations, ratings of nearby food, etc.), though.

It turns out that we had way less time in Arlington than we would have liked. So many of our friends have ended up (or stayed, depending) in the DC area that calendar was pretty full, leaving less time spent with family. Luckily, though, Bruce and Joyce (Grace's siblings) were able to come up for a chunk of Memorial Day weekend.

I might actually digress here to talk about some work stuff I did while in Arlington. The timing worked out really well in that I was able to present at a conference session organized by my supervisor from my time at NIH/NIAID. It was a three speaker session and I was in the middle. Cutting down a roughly hour-long talk to twenty minutes is really difficult. I was also very nervous as I had neither spoken to such a large crowed before nor spoken back-to-back with much more experienced and accomplished presenters. Despite all that, I think my talk went fairly well (could have been better, could have been much worse) and the session as a whole went very well - there was a lot of audience engagement in the discussion portion. It was also pretty validating after all the employment hurdles in Dhaka.

Two days later I visited the FDA for an all-day visit/interview. I guess they do a faculty-style interview. All I know is it was a fairly long day: an hour meeting with the division (CDRH) directors, giving an hour talk, an hour in a group meeting, lunch, and then a series of 30 minute meetings with the team leads. At the end of the day I was "officially invited to apply" or maybe "invited to apply officially." I think this basically means an offer, though it's not quite so formal. The government is bizarre and the FDA is basically unable to hire people directly and must instead hire through a fellowship program initially and then transfer people into permanent positions. The same was true at the NIH. Unfortunately, this means lots of hassle preparing materials I thought I had outgrown my need for (such as official, sealed transcripts). I'm also unsure how I'll proceed if I get a more formal offer. Depends on how things end up going in Dhaka, I guess. It's very nice to know that I have options, though, or at least can anticipate having options soon.

I think I'll end here and just write this entry off as the completely uninteresting apology, cell phone discussion, and work information post. I'll put all the cute pictures in the next one.