Thursday, October 01, 2009

All in a day's work!

It was on Tuesday but the preparation (or rather the lack of it) started a few days before raya.

I got to know from my PhD student, J that a prominent biologist would be spending a few days in Malaysia. I just knew that I must get him to help in one of the sites in our research area.

It is a cave about 30 m above the ground and we needed a 4 meter scaffolding to reach a specific high part of the cave.

J was sceptical due to the short notice. Being a supervisor I must always show that we must be positive and stay focused, followed by a little lecture that she would not finish her thesis if she kept being sceptical (macam bagus...hehe).

One phone call was made to another guy, S who would accompany the expert, L. I just asked him if he (the expert) would have a few hours free to be with us. I didn't know that it brought so much excitement not only to the two of them but a few others, judging from emails being forwarded the next day.

I was like "Ohhh shoot, I must really get this happen!"

Dearest hubby said he could help getting a contractor for that. I believed him but days and later raya passed without anything convincing from him. I started to get a little panicky on Thursday last week as I had not anything confirmed, then.

Alhamdulillah, a caver gave me two numbers of some people he knows. And I talked to one of them on Friday. Told him the scaffolding should be up only a few hours on Tuesday and dismantled right after we finish our work. ONLY on TUESDAY! I repeated that many times.

And I would see the contractor on Monday to show him the site. That guy sound so convincing and I was happy!

On Saturday I received another call from another guy, F who asked me if it was ok for me to come on Sunday. I said Sunday was not good and he somehow agreed with the earlier plan.

On Monday, I drove alone for about 2 1/2 hour one way to meet him at 3 pm and was surprised to see him with another man that he introduced as the 'contractor'. I was a little shocked as I thought F was the man who would do the scaffolding. F said he is also a caver.

During the discussion, the contractor admitted he would have some problem. He said he got to know about that at 12 pm that day. I thought I was going to pengsan already but I was ready to get down on my knees and burst a dam if I need to (yeah...I can be that melodramatic).

He asked me to just drive back to KL while he tried to arrange for something and he would give me a call.

In the meantime, a group of 5 people including L and J were already in the hotel nearby, eagerly waiting for the next day's exciting new discovery.

I received a call at 6 pm, he said he still could not promise anything concrete. I tried to be positive and prayed hard. At that moment it just occured to me to invite my profesional photographer friend, J along to be with us the next day and he agreed. The team was complete.

At home, I waited for some good news. Called F and he said it could not be done. I knew he felt guilty and I tried rubbing salt on the wound;)... I was evil!

Called S and explained that it might not be possible after all. Without the structure not much can be done. He assured me that L is a very easy-going man and I should not worry too much. I told him maybe it was not so much about worrying what L would say, rather my own frustration as I have been hoping to solve that 'mystery' in the cave for the past 11 years.

Got another call from F at 11pm, he sound cool and said he would arrange for something. I could still sense that he really felt it was partly his fault and he was trying to compensate that. He kept saying he didn't know how he got involved;) as he was only a caver who tried to get a contractor for the job.

I left KL with J at 9 am, F mentioned that all the frames for the scaffolding were there and he was rushing to get it done on time. I sighed a relief, finally it was confirmed!

We fetched the others from the hotel, we got lost and wasted a good 1 hour to get out of the city and locate the cave;). I was just too excited, I guess. We were greeted by some workers who built the structure at the foothill and one of them quickly get my huge and heavy drill box to carry, and at the cave entrance I was surprised to meet a prof emeritus from Canada (who got to know about that from F), his assistant, and a reporter from the Star (who follows L around). All together there was 15 people.

I was about to explode with excitement but I just let the others up first. F said the structure was built by amateurs so he hoped it was ok. It looked wobbly but no one was really concerned but we did make some jokes about it.

J snapped some pics when I was not looking.

Up there, I thought to myself "I won't be up here if I think I have 5 kids at home" That thing was really wobbly and no body seemed to be ready to catch me if I fall. I even forgot the helmet...tsk!
The able-bodied workers did the drilling and knocking for us to get samples. It was funny when only two of them up there and about 10 of us down, giving instructions.

I love this pic. To me it shows a student (yeah will forever call myself that) with a 'tok guru', even this was the very first time I met him. I highly respect senior or retired (but still active) professors (or anyone) who I know spend their lives doing things they love, and later share their knowledge generously with other people. And L is also a British lord. I even got excited with that.

I got back at 10 pm after sending everybody to hotel/LRT station/home and fetching the kids from the babysitter and Bea1 from a neighbour cum colleague's house. I was so exhausted but still excited that I could not sleep. My boobs were about to explode too. Imagine this: 13 hours without nursing and expressing for a fully-breastfeeding mom to a 3-month-old. I was just too lazy to bring the pump, and later worry about getting a comfortable place in the cave to express. Manage to get 8 oz from a boob while Atef nursed on the other. I could still squeeze at least 5 if he didn't make a fuss to have me besides him on the bed. 13 oz equals to 4 feedings. Wow...that's how much baby food boobs can keep at a time;).

I digress.

We did some discussion today and that got me more excited, and again now finding it hard to get to sleep.

So, that's what I do when I don't teach;). I'm not comfortable sharing the details of our work now but when data is enough and everything is completed and published, I will give the link to more reading here, I mean if anyone interested to know;).

It was quite satisfying to see the confidence in Y after the trip. She was worried so much about a lot of things, and even said at a stage, she didn't know where she was heading. A lot of people who did PhDs experienced that, including yours truly;). They don't call it Permenant Head Damage for nothing...hehe;).

I spent the whole morning today with a headache due to lack of sleep, got a class summore. Tomorrow, I will drill two Masters students to work harder, faster and smarter, more discussion with Y and a trip to the hospital with Atef for his vaccination jab. That sounds an easy day to me, but I must get some sleep now.

Thanks so much if you manage to read this far. Just a little bit more. Please help by participating in Adam's survey for his PhD research. I just did. I've been reading his blog for close to 4 years now. Just click here and find out.


Anonymous Adam said...

Wow! It's really nice to read about someone so passionate about their work. I really admire that.

Thanks for the buzz about my survey as well. Cheers

6:19 AM  
Blogger mumsgather said...

I also feel excited for you reading this and trying to imagine you pumping away in a cave (even tho you didn't). Alamak 13 hours without, surely must feel like stone! Hahaha.

7:49 AM  
Blogger Queen Of The House said...

You are so full of drive and guts!! Salute, salute, salute! I hope you'll get this discovery/research published and become famous :D

1:28 PM  
Blogger mama23beas said...

No problem Adam...been there, done that, so I will try to help anytime!

MG...I thought some nerves have been pressured that I got headache the next day. And yes, I do pump in caves other times, it's just this time too many men around in that rather small cave...tak selesa!

QOTH...famous, not at all la. Love doing and KPI mau capai juga;).

10:59 AM  

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