Date: Friday, February 26, 1999 (3:26 p.m. EST)
Subject: Don't Delete Me! It's me again!
Good morning to you! (Afternoon as may be in your case). I didn't think I would hear from you so promptly, but thanks.
Gosh, what a highly wired (read: stressful) environment you work in! I've been thinking about it all morning: how different your daily routine is from mine! Here I am in my one-person lab (I work by myself) with my radio blaring (my wonderful companion) in a world of micro-organisms, and there you are in the bustling world of politics with the telephones calls, meetings, conferences, deadlines .
Politics has been a very difficult issue for me (I think especially as I've gotten older). It takes a special kind of person to be intensely interested and/or involved in it. I guess you can call me a "standby observer". Don't get me wrong, it's not because I am not interested, but because I am the kind of person from whom politics drains so much energy.(I get too emotional and obsessed about it once I get started.) I've decided that there are other things in life I can pour that energy onto to make a difference and leave the governing to others!
I am proud to see a fellow countryman (by the way, I beg to differ about Addis Ababians being "civilized"--no such concept in my vocabulary and....I was born and raised there) working on African issues to this extent. You surely have come a long way.
I am interested in your work, but at the same time I do not want to engage you into a question and answer session about politics. I would like to get to know you as a person not you as a politician (at least at first, but feel free to share your opinions. I hope you know what I mean). What is a typical day for you? By the way, which building do you work in?
Just as your sense of accomplishment comes from politics, mine comes from working in science. I guess I am one of those people who has always been scientifically inclined. My heart, ever since my undergraduate years, has been into cancer/HIV research.
My PI (Principal Investigator, in other words, boss) is interested in looking at a special group of cells found in our blood which fight and kill HIV infected cells. In a broader picture, there is much interest in this cell type because it is the #1 defense mechanism against the virus . Unfortunately, it seems like it can never mount an aggressive enough attack to resist the virus (we still don't know why). Sounds like war doesn't it? In a biological sense it is truly war.
So, some of the stuff we look into is to see how they are affected by pregnancy and if certain drug therapies help strengthen these cells. We also examine how this cell population is different in long-term survivors (kids who have been infected at birth but live beyond 8 years) versus rapid progressors (those who die within 2 years of life). This sort of puts what I do in layman's term (without getting into the nitty-gritty, complicated scientific terms--I don't want you to fall asleep here.)
Working with infected blood and virus requires a special kind of discipline and environment but is not threatening as long as one is very careful (and after a while, taking care becomes a habit).
Fridays are my s-l-o-w days (thank God), because the nurses do not schedule patients and I rarely get shipments from other places. That means I get to go home before the sun goes down!! A-N-D it's the WEEKEND!! (although I have to work tomorrow afternoon).
I am in the get-your-butt-up-and-get-physically-fit mood today, so I've packed my gym things (I haven't been going for about 2 weeks and I feel flabby already). Now it's matter of actually getting myself there (that will be the second feat).
The weather is absolutely gorgeous. There is a beautiful pear tree just outside my window. (I can see it through the piles of lab supplies boxes.) It has beautiful white blossoms (though no fruit), and today it looks even more beautiful.
Talk about outside, I think it's lunch time already and I am thinking of walking to north campus to eat. (the food there is much better than the hospital cafeteria) so I'll say adios here.
Have a fabulous weekend!!
Date: Friday, February 26, 1999. (6:43 p.m. EST)
Subject: My day in an email...
Since we are being watched by the master (our SELEDA editor) I better behave and respond before the weekend. My typical day? Here goes:
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is mandated by the U.S. Congress to provide information and analysis on a wide range of issues--foreign and domestic--to the Senate, House, Republicans, Democrats, and all the congressional committees. There are about 600 people in the service and six major divisions: Government, Law, Environment, Education, Foreign Affairs and International Trade. My Division is called the Foreign Affairs Defense and Trade Division. It has about 80 people, 30 plus are regional and issue specialists. CRS is part of the Library of Congress but somewhat independent with its own budget and director.
On average my day goes like this:
Morning: Read e-mails. Go through six or so newspapers. Check out the wires--all in an hour or so. Then the phones start to ring--on average about 25 calls a day from ambassadors to sources, and of course congressional clients. I spend about 30% of my time on the phone, 20% keeping current, about 10% on long term projects, about 10-15% in meetings and conferences--and the rest working on short term projects.
The service receives about half a million requests from Congress. We are also expected to inform and educate congress about upcoming issues. I recently wrote a paper on the humanitarian crisis in southern Sudan to alert Congress, another paper on the transition and elections in Nigeria etc....
I am helping the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a resolution on Sudan and perhaps a hearing on the same issue for next week. In between these "political" calls, I touch base at least twice with my family. A must call to my two daughters in the afternoon or I am dead meat. I usually avoid taking work home, unless I am under pressure to finish up a report or something. My weekends are spent doing kiddy stuff with my very--very--very active/demanding kids. You get the picture. Since they don't get to see me during weekdays, they violently protect their weekends.
I used to have time to read books not related to work --but no more. The only time I can indulge in such luxuries is during long flights to Africa. I love to play on computers--technology buff--exercise is a must, at least three times a week. I am a summer gardener as well--it helps with the daily stress at work.
And that, Rahel, is my life in an email. Have a great weekend--you too master editor.