Date:     Friday, April 16, 1999 (2:14 p.m. EST)
To:        Haeran
From:    Abiy
Subject:  And the beat goes on

Good Morning Haeran,

I guess we are the two guinea pigs for round two of "Life Stories". I hope this works out as well as the fist one.

As I'm sure you've gathered from the bio our esteemed editor sent out, I'm out here on the right coast (sometimes referred to as the East Coast). I live, work and spend about 99% of my time in Rockville Maryland, a suburb of D.C. I work at the FDA in the Radiation Biology Branch doing basic research. Most people are not aware "The Food and Drug Administration" regulates more than food and drugs. FDA also regulates medical devices and any device that emits radiation. And this is where I come in. I'm involved in doing research in support of the agencies regulatory activities in this area.

Living in the DC area is fairly interesting. Not only is it the center of American politics but because of the many federal agencies headquartered here it's also becoming a hot spot for high-tech firms. The Rockville area has earned the name "Biotech Alley" because of the many firms that have sprung around the National Institute of Health campus.

DC is also a cultural melting pot, with many large ethnic populations settled in the area. Prominent among these is the Ethiopian population. One result of this is running into Ethiopians during the course of a day, which is not an unexpected occurrence. A side effect of this (and one I'm guilty of), is it's real easy to ignore the fact that you have a common bond with the person in front of you.

This, in a nutshell, is the environment I navigate each day. Hope to hear your side soon.


Date:        Tuesday, April 20, 1999 (9:38 p.m. EST)
To:           Abiy
From:       Harean
Subject:    The Right coast???

Selam Abiy :

Bemejemerya my apologies for the delayed response. Use my work email as I definitely check it more often ... I can't say I have ever done anything like "Life Diaries" before, but since our editor has managed to convince us to do this, here goes ...

Since you've told me about life on the East Coast, I guess I'll start by giving you a glimpse of life on the West Coast. I live in San Francisco, certainly the most beautiful city I have ever lived in (ok with the exception of Addis !!) I work about 35 miles south of where I live. With Silicon Valley traffic that translates to about an hour commute each way, sometimes more. On days when I just can't handle the nerve-racking traffic, I take the train which extends my commute, but preserves my sanity !! The commute really does eat up more of my free time than I'd like, so I try to make the most of it by using my time in my car to eat breakfast, listen to the news, learn Spanish (very important in California), or listen to music. No, I've never caused an accident, I always have at least one hand on the steering wheel.

I currently work as a supply chain consultant in the high-tech industry. I will spare you the details until you ask. You mentioned that you work with FDA regulations around radiation from medical devices. This sounds somewhat similar to a job I had in my past life in the auto industry. I used to work in electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) of  vehicle electronics. Basically making sure that radiation from an external source (e.g. transmission stations) or an electronic component (say, the ABS controller) does not interfere with another component like the Engine Control Module.

We did sometimes test with our own relatively high powered antennas. You must tell me about what potential effects this radiation may have had on .... say my brain ?!!!

As for life in general, as much as I love the Bay Area it would be foolish for me to argue that it is as culturally dynamic as DC, at least as far as African culture goes. I moved here more for the sunshine, the palm trees and the eucalyptus (which always reminds me of home). I don't usually randomly bump into Ethiopians in my day-to-day life. But I do go to church (not every Sunday, I won't lie) and know enough Ethiopians in the area to keep myself from totally losing touch. More on that later ....

Ok gotta run, it's time to face that traffic ..... Write back and let me know what's up !