We’re in exams right now, and in about two weeks, I’ll hopefully be able to enjoy the vacation. Right now, I am not enjoying my time because I am completely swamped with the three courses that I lecture or am a TA. The problem is that my supervisor (who was very lax in the beginning) has turned on the heat. I thought he was part of the South African academic culture, but because he is not only top in his field (computational mechanics) in Cape Town, in South Africa, or South Africa, but he’s one of the top guys in the world. So he still brings and has that US Research-1 University publish-or-perish mentality. That’s fine; he can bring that. The problem comes when he doesn’t realize that I have more work on me than I can do. Again, that’s ok with me; I simply won’t do everything or I won’t get to some things. The problem is that he doesn’t understand or get it.
So it’s made me wonder if I’m slow or something. Students seem to be able to do 3 courses (the masters students). Then I realize that when lecturing the course it is more work than taking the course as a student. I think this is true; I could be wrong. My supervisor came in the other day and when I explained that I would be able to push on the artery project once exams were over, he made a comment about 6 months being a long time for a project. The comment was unfair because he has not been waiting on me since January. We (Tiri and I) have actually been waiting on him most of the time. I have only been swamped the past 8 weeks or 2 months. And you can even go back before January and December; I have been waiting on him since I arrived in September. He is allowed to be busy with things. We lost 3 Deputy Vice Chancellors (similar to a US university VP for some area) and he agreed to be a temporary/acting Deputy Vice Chancellor, so he will be gone more than half the time in some other office somewhere else in campus. This starts in July. So he sent an e-mail asking when people were going out of town and giving his dates. Well, I didn’t know I could take a vacation so I responded that I didn’t know and I would think about it and let him know if I could plan something in time.
He then wrote back that in thinking about planning I need to consider 4 different items—the project he keeps pushing me on, the senior students who I advise for undergraduate theses, the writing/solution-making/grading/processes of final exams, and something else. It was (I’m guessing) obvious to me that he was saying I shouldn’t go away or at least for very long. Someone mentioned to me that he was just saying that I might have too much work to leave, but I think people don’t understand the dynamics here. The exam stuff should be done within two weeks and the undergraduate theses and artery project are ongoing throughout the rest of the year. So it was strange that I must consider it in going out of town. I spoke with another post-doc about it and he agreed with me.
Anyway, I could be wrong, but I’ve decided not to go out of town. And I feel completely pressured to do it, but I made a decision.
The hardest part about the week was not that he was disappointed to me and doesn’t seem to understand that I’m not just slacking off and not working, was the fact that due to all the work and pressure he gives me, I didn’t turn in my HIV/AIDS grant in time. I truly apologize to the 1 or 2 people who were praying for me for that. I didn’t mean to disappoint (mostly myself); I have just been so swamped that I messed up. I also thought the deadline was Saturday and not Friday. And Radesh was sitting in the place I needed to connect in order for me to use the computer at home, so I waited and fell asleep waiting. So in the morning I went to submit but the website was malfunctioning. This was a huge sadness for me because this is the reason I’m here, why I do what I do, why I’m doing the social counseling with HIV/AIDS. This was my own personal research work and it wasn’t just drug research or vaccine research; It was curative research. So it is so important.
Strangely enough as this is going to press, the Bill Gates people, after rebuking me, took the proposal but I don’t know how seriously they will take it as the people couldn’t understand that I had actually tried to submit it early Saturday morning but Friday night in the States.