Jul 24, 2008


Remember when you study literature a long-long time ago (3 years and counting), a story always develop from the exposition, complication, climax, and a final resolution. A resolution does not always have to end with a full stop, and cheeky writers nowadays always like to trick readers into buying the sequel by adding 'all was well for the following 2 months until...' at the very last sentence of the novel. Sometimes it could also end in a bang, as in '...when he woke up he was in the hospital. The end.'
After such a long-winded exposition, what I wanted to express is that my exchange is coming to an end tomorrow. This week was not a good one for me, because I started out Monday with a slight nose-block. My throat was rather sore. But Emilie (remember the lady who raised her hand in defence of her seat?) made such tempting chocolate gâteux two days a row I gobbled down many. By Wednesday morning my lips were cracking.
Apart from my travel-wearied body, the lab research had also came to a standstill. My DNA sequences were messed up last week, and I had to re-sequence a lot of samples. Obligingly I completed everything by Friday and sent it to another lab for sequencing. Thanks to the infamous French bureaucracy, my sequences were only given to me today. I waited Monday and Tuesday away reading Anwar Ibrahim and the interesting news clips on Malaysiakini.
Nevertheless, I am glad things took for a turn today. My sequences flocked in at 9.30am. Though not cutting-edge and certainly having nothing to convince the Chief Judge that this is a DNA sequence able to convict a sodomite to jail (some areas were 'jagged' while some sequences ended abruptly), they were remarkably better than my last attempt (so you can imagine how bad it was before). I quickly assembled them together and align them to see their similarities conferring antibiotic resistance.
Of course, my supervisor Bernard was very busy today doing suspectability tests (test of sensitivity of antibiotics on bacterial species). So I was again left guessing in the wild where the significant sequences start and stop.
Come 4pm, my chief boss, Prof. Mégraud summoned me to his office to discuss about my paper. Prof. Mégraud was the pilot behind my project and he was very supportive and positive since the very beginning. Entering his room, he asked me some casual questions before we proceeded to the paper.
I was rather apologetic because I will leave very soon and my jagged DNA sequences would mean not having enough time and evidence to complete the study. In fact he was disappointed I couldn't stay longer because the entire lab is going on a boat trip come Tuesday, and it sounded really fun. He admitted he was rather skeptical about suggesting the project because 1 month is really short for a study.
Once again I told him being given a project is really an honor (some won't even bother you are present or went hunting in the school canteen), and I did learn a lot during the process. He said I was a good student who have no problem in adapting and picked things up really quickly.
I blushed, and told him the DNA sequences were not really handsome to look at. He responded by saying 'this is your first try. I'm sure if you have more time you'd be able to perfect the skill.' 

A brief conversation with chief boss ended my gloom these two days. Once again he reminded me that most of the time the results are not as important, and not as educational as the process of obtaining results. Seeing myself with zero lab abilities four weeks ago, and this morning I was operating a DNA assembly program - using artificial intelligence to determine the sequence to life - while zooming through sequence precipitation protocols to complete my final set of DNAs - this is already something I learned.

La Marseillaise by Placido Domingo 

Besides lab skills and multi-tasking abilities, my nights skimming through French history (in my Lonely Planet) and speaking to my housemate allowed me to see France from a brand new perspective. Most people presume the French are arrogant because they shun at you at the first English word. However, it is important to note that French was the language for diplomacy and international relations up till WWII. French colonies are not less than the English during their prime (Indochina being a fraction of it), and needless to say the pioneers they produced in arts, fashion, design and architecture.
The French, however, have a disturbed and restless history. Since the French Revolution, France has been in constant social turmoil over citizen benefits, workers, politics, technology and foreign immigrants. Their national anthem (above) while being extremely arousing, is full of violence, much like French history. La Marseillaise is written after a French defeat, which depicts its uplifting yet melancholic mood. France had been, in history, occupied by England and Germany. While the verse 'French patriotism' is not entirely true - statistics showed that barely 5 percent of French participate in the Résistance - they went through both the best and worst of times. One day Paris was the focus of all and the day after it was occupied by Nazis - something similar to this extent.
French history has a greater lesson behind, however, and that is life has its ups and downs. We may never successfully meet targets all the time, and things don't usually go well (especially when you're in a hurry). However, at the end of the day, we must constantly remind ourselves the process is much more important than a glowing result. The extra detours we made are no in vain at the end of the day - something has to be there for you to pick up along the way.
I hope you enjoy the uplifting anthem and appreciate the roaring spirit behind it.