Saturday, February 16, 2013

Looking for a Job

I quit the job at the restaurant when I found out I was expecting our first child, Jonathan, because the doctor said that I had a low placenta and I didn’t want to lose him. It had been a nice experience working at the restaurant. It provided me the opportunity to learn more about American life.
     I entered a different world when I became pregnant with our first child. I met my girlfriend Rebecca, a German exchange student who married an American. She had a son four months older than mine. Later on, I babysat her son Joshua; her son and my son Jonathan became good playmates. After Rebecca  went back to Germany, I took Jonathan along to another family babysat three more kids.
At the same time, I also helped Marjorie and Lucille cook their dinner three times per week. That helped. I had a little washer to wash our clothes and diapers, and let the sun dry them. I tried to do everything myself. We actually saved a little each month. One day, I was listening to the radio and they were talking about financial management and mutual funds. I requested some information and read the brochures and chose a few. According to my best judgment, I invested most of my savings into them. One year later, those investments showed quite a good return. So I asked Anthony to put his savings in. Those investments made it possible for us later on to buy our first home when Anthony started his first job. By the time Anthony was close to finishing his Ph.D., his professor and he discussed his future prospects. He started looking for a job. After his degree, his professor could provide a couple of month’s support as a postdoctoral associate. That made him very serious about his job search. He applied to whatever he could, including postdoctoral positions. It was very disappointing. No luck again and again.
     He applied to more than 60 jobs. He got mostly rejections, and three telephone interviews, including one from Kentucky wondering whether he could take the hardship and poor conditions. Then he was invited to Ohio for an interview. It took us more than ten hours to drive to Columbus. We camped at a friend’s apartment overnight. Anthony went for the interview the next morning. Jonathan was two years old, and fell from one of the picnic benches when we stopped for lunch and got a big bump on the back of his head, unfortunately. Anthony did not get the job anyway.
     We started to feel anxious. I asked him to bring me all of the job announcements to read also. There was a job that fit me if I was still young and single. It was in Tibet to help establish a national park at the base of Mt. Everest. We did request more information but didn’t apply because it involved a lot of travel. Another job, Anthony thought it wasn’t for either of us, was to edit an English-language series about plants of China. The position needed someone with experience in botany and editing, with an interest in Chinese plants. I read the job description and felt it was the closest match for us. I suggested that he applied for the job and include my resume along with his.
     Anthony had a telephone interview with the director of the personnel office. She asked all the possible questions and was satisfied with Anthony. Then she told Anthony to wait for the site supervisor David to call him from Boston to arrange an interview. The same day, David called and asked when Anthony could come for an interview. "Anytime," Anthony said. David told Anthony that he wished to talk to me also. So we drove for seven hours east to Boston. Like the Ohio interview, Jonathan came along; only this time, I would be "interviewed" too. So we decided to take turns so someone could watch Jonathan. We checked in at a motel nearby. We did not sleep much that night because of excitement and nerves. Somehow though, my gut feeling told me that this job was for Anthony. I went ahead to start checking on available apartments and houses before we left Syracuse for the interview.
     The next morning, we dressed up and drove to the Herbaria. The trip was so smooth that we did not even make any wrong turns, which was unusual for us. We parked our car and we were still a little early, so we decided to walk around. I pushed Jonathan in a stroller while walking with Anthony.  At 9 am, I kissed him "good luck." He went inside, and I looked around and saw two stone rhinos at the door to the biology building. I started to walk that way to show Jonathan. Not far away, I heard Anthony call "Ying." I was surprised to see him. "So soon, you are too early?" I said. "No, he wants us all to go up," Anthony answered. "With Jonathan, a little child?" "Yes," Anthony said. So we all went in. I felt a little embarrassed pushing Jonathan in the stroller by the front desk while the receptionist said, "hi." I felt someone telling me "what is this baby doing here at this prestigious university?” We went upstairs to the office. Jonathan was very good and sat in his stroller. He didn't even make any sound all through the interview.
     The interview went well. David said, "I don't see any reason why you are not qualified. When can you start?" Then he gave us a tour. I insisted on waiting in his office with Jonathan while he took Anthony around. But he said, "come along. No one will mind. We don't see children around that often here." So we met everyone. I pushed the stroller and Jonathan waved to everyone and people said, "gee, I would like to sit like you and let people push me around. That looks comfortable." "Sure, in a nursing home," another said. We all laughed.
     Before we left, David let us into the museum especially for Jonathan since he would be interested. We did not tell David that I had already made an appointment to look at houses so we had to leave right away. It took us awhile to find the way out and where our car was.
     The realtor took us in her car and showed us three houses in Somerville. The first house we saw was by the subway. It had a very small front yard with a backyard with weeds so high that it looked like the lawn had never been cut before. Inside was dark and damp, a single lady sat in the darkest corner of the house. She did not even bother to get up, just said, "feel free to look around" and the realtor seemed to know the house well. Between the dining room and kitchen wall, there was a big hole in the wall. The house needs a lot of work and she wanted 115K. My heart started to sink because I realized how much more expensive the houses were here in Boston. We looked at two more houses; they were better and more or less in move-in condition. They were so old, so small, with no backyards and no driveways, so expensive beyond our dreams. I was kind of disappointed. I took some apartment guides before we drove back to Syracuse.
     Dr. Wang in our college was so excited. She had worked on the same project under Dr. Hu Shiu Ying when she had just graduated from college in the 1950s, but the project failed due to lack of funds. Now, she was close to retirement. Hearing that we were going to continue this project was such good news. She told us to say “hi” to Dr. Hu when we got there.

Dr. Hu Shui Ying (胡秀英) (and Mr. Michael Canoso). Dr. Hu loved my dessert and I enjoyed the edible wild plants she picked. She often told us that she spent over an hour to gather a handful of tender shoots. She used to give me special spices and showed me how to cook wild plants. I went further and started collecting wild mushrooms. I had not touched any mushrooms since my Tibetan Hospital Stay over 10 years before.