The Leidener

A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

Part Eight: In Between M.Sc. and Ph.D.

The sun rise on the day I leave.

The sun rise on the day I leave.

To me, isolation from civilization can be an amazing experience. You turn off your electronic devices and settle in, and realize that you can breath easier now. There is no longer a reason to listen for the familiar ring of your cell phone, and at first this may be unsettling, but then you start to hear the other sounds that are going on around you. I spent three weeks with my father at our family’s cottage in northern Ontario, Canada, so for me these were the sounds of waves upon rocks, wind through leaves, and birds singing.

My star tracker finished. You can see the cascade of reducing gears, and the mount on the main axle.

My star tracker finished. You can see the cascade of reducing gears, and the mount on the main axle.

I dived into my art and music at first. I wrote some poems and practiced photography. I worked on my guitar, which I had neglected in the last year. I found inspiration in the things around me. This brought me to taking pictures of the night sky, something unseen in cities. At first I tried taking pictures of the stars naively and found this did not work since the stars moved. I thought on this over night, and the next day began drawing plans for a star-tracker.

A star-tracker moves your camera so that it follows the stars on the sky, enabling long exposures of those giant, distant, magnificent, nuclear fusion-powered orbs. With trepidation, for everything had to be exact for the final product to work, my dad and I started to do the wood-working. Firstly, we carved out the gears from Baltic Birch wood, then carefully rounded them to exact sizes with less than 0.5mm error in diameter. Everything, seemed to fall together, though at times it seemed an impossible goal, for things would take longer than I thought.
When it was done, a few days before leaving, I took the most glorious pictures I’ve ever taken.

My perspective of the Milky Way, taken with multiple exposures using the star tracker and stitched together. Click to zoom in.

My perspective of the Milky Way, taken with multiple exposures using the star tracker and stitched together. Click to zoom in.

My dad!

My dad!

My serenity wasn’t perfect. I did on occasion check my emails, as I prepared for my PhD studies. Also, I didn’t always get along with my dad. Imagine that! I remembered several times why I moved out in the first place. However, in the end I truely felt how much I miss him and the rest of my family. Lesson one, don’t forget your family.

My Mayan hammock seats 3 people.

My Mayan hammock seats 3 people.

I had ample time to reflect on my idea involved with the company I had visited prior whilst in Montreal. I fleshed out some ideas that are pretty exciting. Of course, whether they will work is another story. I did most of this while sitting in a hammock, which are very good for your back.

These are two of my cousins - sisters - who are so different from each other but both are awesome!

These are two of my cousins – sisters – who are so different from each other but both are awesome!

A few weekends my mom, who has to work normally, came to visit. My dad is retired you see, and gets to stay at the cottage whenever he likes. One weekend when she came up we went to a family reunion where I got to chill with my cousins and relatives who I hadn’t seen in at least 5 years. Their’s a lot of promise in the eyes of my young cousins, and I can’t wait to see where they head.

Eric, who is an exchange student my parents were hosting,  and I out for a kayak.

Eric, who is an exchange student my parents were hosting, and I out for a kayak.

While I whiled away my time I went on many kayak trips of our lake, caught big fishes, beat my dad at cards, listened to music, and occasionally some neighbours would visit. One neighbour, Brian, has throat cancer from years of smoking and it made me so sad to see how this seemingly fragile grey smoke destroys lives. Not just his, but also his family’s and friends’. He’s right in his golden years, with so much in life yet to experience, and now that’s all being taken away from him because he fell victim to addiction. I’m thinking of my friends now who smoke and future Josh already cries.

My grandma just loves her picture being taken haha!

My grandma just loves her picture being taken haha!

To end on a happy note, I have to say my grandma (known to many as Nanny), is a constant source of happiness to me. She’s truely where my mom get’s “it”. She’s out there living, travelling, being kind, smiling, trying to be hip with today’s culture (or at least humbly tolerate it) and you other olden goldies out there could take notes from her (but I know you wont because you’re probably stubborn like my grandpa).
She came with me to the airport, and she and my mom were the last family I saw before I continued my journey; to Portugal, a wedding, a hostel, and where I would meet up with Mark.

About Jalbert

I share my travels and experiences. Follow me as I do my Ph.D. in astronomy at Leiden University.

2 comments on “Part Eight: In Between M.Sc. and Ph.D.

  1. Nancy White
    August 23, 2015

    Love all your Bogs even if I am doing them backwards. These old senile people! Nanny wants to come to visit us for Christmas in Florida for a couple of weeks and I hope they will. Haven’t spent Christmas with my sister in a lot of years. Now to convince Ron.

  2. secondmta.noez.in
    September 17, 2015

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This entry was posted on August 6, 2015 by in Student Life and tagged , , , , , .
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