April flew by and literally 30 days left :(

Right before I go into my sob story about leaving in 30 days, let’s take some time to go over the month of April.

An amazing, travel filled month with trips to Chicago and San Jose. Chicago was organised by my uncle who I have to thank for encouraging me to visit 🙂 It was by far the stereotype of the USA that I had been expecting and even seeking! Once known as the sky-scraper city, the airport (O’Hare International) itself had this vibe of efficiency and beauty. It welcomed travellers with this art gallery showing scenes in and around Chicago. It must have inspired Heathrow T5 to an unprecedented extent. So finally, that’s what a “proper” American airport is like is what I thought at that moment. You’ll know from my earlier rants that LAX is a complete mess that should be re-done or avoided at all costs. Luckily, this time, my flight was from Santa Barbara > Denver > Wichita > O’Hare…a few transfers that instantly made me feel like the guy in Up in the Air, although little romance and certainly no side-kicks giving me lip…which may have been good banter! Besides that, it was great to see my uncle, someone whom I hadn’t seen in almost 10 years. Funnily enough he showed me a picture of when he had visited 10 years ago, yes I was a “wee” boy…but more importanly my taste in shirts and colours hadn’t changed! I was wearing a red and white striped t-shirt 10 years ago and that’s almost the same thing I was wearing when I landed in Chicago! Definitely coincidence, but as a psychologist, scope for looking into longitudinal fashion sense 😉 Yes…I’ll stop being nerdy and get back to the topic of Chicago. Like I said, just the most wonderful city! I don’t really know how to describe it, but the vibe was the kind of vibe that I like. Busy atmosphere, people walking with intent and purpose as well as Starbucks making coffee efficient rather than some long drawn out script! Having done the tourist things like the Sears Tower, the boat trip around the city, Millennium Park, Chicago Bean and all the various buildings…I was truly amazed at how magnificent the whole place was! I mean the Chicago Bean is something I could stare at for hours just to see the different views of the city reflecting in this steel structure.I think the best way to describe Chicago is, it’s an architect’s paradise! The city is designed to challenge convention, push boundaries and just allure people with a sense of “anything’s possible”. Having actually read the US Declaration of Independence, it made me ponder on how much it was embedded into a city of this stature or perhaps a better way of putting it, how much it was “in your face”. I could go on about it, but as ever, abstract Nik  feels you’d get bored! Besides the tourist job description I had for that weekend, I was also given the pleasure of being called “kaka” = uncle in marathi (my native language), and yes I felt very old! My nieces were by far the most cutest little girls I had seen, admittedly  the elder one was cheeky and was having fun bossing me around and showing me her various toys and then watching Cinderella followed by the Princess and the Frog. I’m going to be ripped for saying this, but the Princess and The Frog was by far one Disney’s better creations since the Lion King! But all in all, that was Chicago – time with family and time in a majestic city. But with so much fun, the way back had to be a little complicated! The flight was delayed and I ended up in San Francisco for one night where this seemingly lovely woman saw that I was hungry and offered me tapas and guac…but then things became a little complicated…I would go on about it, but I don’t think this is the place 😉 Important thing is I ended up safe and sound in Santa Barbara the following morning and had the pleasure of being educated on bras from the Regional manager of Victoria’s Secret 😀

The next trip was with my cousin in San Jose. We did more touristy things in and around San Jose like the “Mystery Spot”, the 17 mile drive and Monterey Beach. I also got to see his soon-to-be fiance and we celebrated her birthday at this amazing thai place in San Jose! I would again go on about the 17 mile drive, but the scenery that you see is quite similar to that in SB. Although cleaner beaches and amazing parking spots accompanied by a magnificent sun-set. The Mystery Spot is one of those things that’s very touristy, but again has to be done. Our tour guide did have a tough crowd admittedly, but it’s always good to see something quite strange in nature…not sure if it’s inexplicable 😉 The rest of the weekend I spent with my dear aunt who was nice enough as always to treat me to an amazing “Chatt” = Indian Cuisine lunch. Hadn’t had this kind of food in ages and I was truly amazed by the fact that it was available in San Jose! But then again, with a huge Indian population, there’s always demand which inevitably is catered to 🙂 We also went and saw a jem of a movie, “The Joneses”…highly recommend it and I assure you, it’ll make you think! The weekend ended on a high and a low…the high was I got to see Stanford University. An incredible campus that truly inspires. I can’t even explain the architecture of the place…it reminded a bit of the architecture in Malaga, Spain. The fact that people just like you and me were studying in this amazing atmosphere, contributing to ground breaking research and actually engaging in the debates that are a result of the “human condition” was just surreal. I know some of you maybe thinking, it’s “just” a campus, and be that as it may, it still can’t help but be “the” campus that impresses. Just walking in the sunshine amongst the lush lawns was enough to make me think, I want to be here! The low side to the weekend was that a UCSB student was suppose to give me a lift back to UCSB from Stanford. She never showed up! Infuriated and angry due to a midterm that was on tuesday…I ended up taking an 8hr train on the monday from San Jose to SB. Annoyed and distraught, I still managed to appreciate the thing that was more like a luxury class cabin. This train had an observatory deck, a dining deck, a movie deck and even a games deck. The train actually started in Seattle and made it’s way down to Los Angeles. A journey that takes almost 3 days! Imagine for a minute, 3 days of your life just gone on train travel. A very kind german lady was actually doing this 3 day ride and was trying to convince me how relaxing it was for her to be in her cabin reading books, browsing the web and just generally chilling. Don’t think I bought into it, despite my love for trains…3 days is just too long! My ride took 8hrs itself! My point is ride-share is unreliable and I would recommend you all to have driving licenses when you visit California!

So now my sob story, this post was actually supposed to go up 2 days ago as I had promised myself that I’d document the last 30 days of my stay here! Ridiculous promise that has already been broken but in an attempt to make up for it, I’ve included Day 30 and Day 29 below:

DAY 30

Well this day didn’t start very well as I woke up at 5am only to find that my Nuffield Grant application had been rejected. This lead to stress as well as panic which was countered by an exceptional score in my Psychopathology midterm exam! Having been peeved about my grant rejection, I decided to apply for another grant and the same morning I started the endless emailing to try and get the application form for the Sanford Grant completed! Updated the CV…a tedious and complex task and finally got it all mailed. Also showed the proposal to an amazing professor here to see if he had suggestions. Fair to say that he knows what he’s doing when it comes to grant applications. So now need to edit the proposal with some or actually all of his suggestions 🙂 Another good bit of news, was that a friend had agreed to continue our lease in the apartment which meant “cha-ching” money saving!!! But, besides these tid bits, the best was I caught up on skype with my dear friend Anna after 8 months of being away from Glasgow! Yes….we did meet in Christmas but due to concerns about my health and jet-lag I really made a complete hoo-haa of our catch up session, so I don’t think it counts although she may beg to differ 😉 So thankyou to Anna for staying up late to catch up! We’ll forget that we made contact 30 days before me coming back home 😀

DAY 29

Today’s start was much better as Friday = day off = wake up late = slob 😀 The morning was slow and unproductive [a bit like the UK election with hung parliament ;)] as it was spent trouble-shooting my mum’s new phone! Although I did do my washing…so maybe a wee bit productive 😉 This sounds ridiculous, but I had sweet potato fries with a chipotle flavour for lunch which were amazing! If you get a chance, definitely make them at home otherwise they come in a bag at the Isla Vista Co-Op 😛 Sorry, but the foody in me had to come out some time! I also went for the ISA (International Student’s Association) coffee hour and signed myself up for the last ISA event, The Boat Cruise (SOB!) 😥

After that me and a bunch of friends went and saw Iron Man 2! Can you believe it was released here a whole week after the UK release!? What a joke! It was very good, but not as good as the first one! The usual case with most sequels! I think what follows was the highlight…after the movie me and my friend Josh were in dire need of dinner and as ever thought about going to Woodstock’s pizza for the usual…but on a whim, Josh suggested “In N Out”. I think I’ve spoken about In N Out burgers before, but just to reiterate, the most amazing burgers/fries in California, if not the world! Now, you should note, it was around 9pm by the time we go out of the cinema went back to UCSB on the hope of getting dinner. But with the thought of In N Out we knew we had to try despite it being 6.8miles one way and our only means of transport being the bikes. You’ve probably figured out that we did actually do it in the end, but you should know that 6.8miles probably became 10 miles as we got lost on our way there! It was funny to see Josh who was clearly worried due to poor visibility and me trying to calm him down, but in fact being scared as hell myself! I can’t describe what was going through our heads as we embarked upon this “adventure”, but I will say that an Animal Double-Double, Animal fries and a Neopolitan shake have never tasted that good!!! The first sip of the shake, followed by the fries and then the bite of the amazing burger was immense! Later we noticed our order numbers, I had order number 1, clearly I was the faster biker 😉 and Josh got order 99 – bigger is better I guess 😉 But the importance of this trip is that we had some amazing banter during the bike ride, especially good food and then even more banter on the way back! Reminiscing about our times throughout the past 8 months, laughing at all the in-jokes and generally just admiring the randomness of Californian incidences such as this one made us both feel very blessed to be here! Also creating value for BANTER!!! I can’t stress the importance of banter, but this youtube video should explain 😀 All in all…a most memorable series of events…all thanks to Josh for suggesting the idea, putting up with getting lost and for having guts to come along…not many would have!


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