Thursday, 05.08.2014 - 10:40 pm.
Might as well write a little in here, to escape, or rather unleash my desperation to get back home. I'd been fighting it well so far but I'm tired of handling all the things that have gone wrong. Which is almost everything.
It started with my flight arriving at the airport at 4:30 am on monday, and not having anyone picking me up. After ten minutes of waiting, I went looking for a transfer...well, it's a small airport, so more than looking for I just turned around. Lucky me, the lady was just closing the counter, I was the last passenger.
On my way to the hotel, the taxi driver calls me and tells me he's entering the airport parking lot. Some 20 minutes later. Which may not be a lot but honestly, if you come to an unknown city and ask to be collected at the airport, the person in charge to do so has to be at the arrival gate holding a card with your name on it. Otherwise, if you wait by your suitcase for 15 minutes as everybody is leaving, you'll think they forgot about you, won't you?
I arrived at the hotel at almost 5:30 am and the guy at the lobby kind of tried to shame me for not taking the cab since it was already paid for. That I had totally forgotten but hey, whatever, give me my fucking key. I went to bed as some guests' phone alarms were going off and showers were being turned on. Fucking lovely.
I took the morning off to sleep a little and try to contact two program directors at the university. I'm here to collect surveys, you know, from Psychology and Agronomy students. I was able to arrange afternoon meetings with both gentlemen.
However, the Agronomy campus is outside the city, it's a 20-30 minute drive to a valley, in the middle of the fucking desert. I took a private cab and it was expensive but I had yet to find out how to get there by other means. I had a nice lunch there by myself and I was well received by the program director, but with bad news: most students had gone on a field trip. And there was going to be a possible demonstration/strike on thursday.
Still, he said, I would get some surveys the next day, tuesday. With that, I took some kind of collective cab back to the city. You stand on a side of the road and pray for one to drive by.
It may be unfair to say that I was in the middle of nowhere when in reality there was a little town. I was standing at the entrance of it and in front of the entrance of the campus. But yeah, still the middle of nowhere. It's the desert. It's not hot to the point of melting but there was no shade. And I forgot my sunglasses back home. Great.
I managed to get to the city campus. The Psych director is a guy not much older than me. A significant improvement over the last one for sure, whom I did not see once during my last trip there in october. He was very nice but still very reluctant. People in Agronomy are so open and helpful and efficient:
Agronomy: "Oh, you need part of a class to take the survey? Let's go to this professor's office to let him know, he'll be happy to help".
Psychology: "Yeah...well, yeah...you see, we can't take time off of a professor's class, but perhaps I could write a letter to request permission to someone". He didn't even ask professors.
Of course, the second attitude was bound to backfire. But so did the first one. They were so eager to help that they gave me students that did not fit the criteria.
Still, at that time I had no idea. The future seemed bright. I called a cab to get to the hotel after two seemingly succesful meetings. There were no cabs available. I had to try to catch a WiFi signal to go online on my phone and find another company.
On tuesday morning I went to the desert again. I rushed horribly in the morning. I skipped the hotel breakfast to take a cab to the city campus and catch the university bus (for employees, free of charge) at 8 am, which I almost miss due to heavy traffic. When I got to the desert campus, there were very few students but I took them in anyway. Halfway through the survey, I found out they were not the students I was looking for. I told everyone over and over, second and fourth year students, please! These were fifth year and when they pointed out the inconsistencies in the survey regarding their year of enrollment I told them to continue anyway, just to save face.
I went back to the hotel defeated. Well, I went back to the highway defeated and waited under the sun until a collective cab drove by. I went downtown and looked for an ATM and for a place to have brunch. Then I spent the afternoon holed up in the hotel working on other stuff, with a lousy internet connection, certain that the next day would be better.
It wasn't. On wednesday, I came down to the lobby at 7:25, hoping to avoid rushing this time. I heard the guy at the lobby (same who greeted me after the taxi/transfer fiasco) make the call. The breakfast table was almost set up and I drank a glass of milk while I waited. 10 minutes later the guy comes up, calls me by my name and tells me there were no cabs available. DUDE, WHAT THE HELL?! You couldn't tell me that 10 minutes ago?! Fuck you, FUCK YOU! He made some vague signs as to where I could take a collective cab a few blocks away to get to campus.
I'd seen the map of my surroundings several times but it's different walking among these tiny, awful streets. The whole city looks like a construction site and you can walk block after block and not find a single plant. I walked but I had no idea where to take anything to take me anywhere. A collective cab drove by and I waved my hand and it was going to the city campus. I got there and ran as fast as I could, to get on the bus that would take me to the desert campus. I made it again.
For nothing: not a single student showed up. The people in Agronomy have the best disposition to help but they sure have a poor hold of their own students. Well...also, like I said, most of the students were out on a field trip. And as I later found: IN PERU! FOR THE WHOLE WEEK! So my trip was doomed from the start.
Also, the Agronomy professors don't seem to fucking pay attention. As I also learned later, the students that were going to answer the survey on wednesday morning were from 3rd year. I'VE SAID 2nd AND 4th!!!!! Jesus Christ. So it's a good thing they didn't show up. I'd already collected 11 surveys that were invalid, I did not need any more embarrassment.
The good part, however, was that I found the professor who helped me last time I was there. She was the one who made things happen at the snap of her fingers, she's been so helpful. Last time she also showed me around town, and had her then partner (she broke up with him) take me to most city landmarks while she was at work.
So I stayed in her office and worked a little on whatever. She took me around campus to see some of the works of her students and see something about a water pump(?). She treated me to breakfast after none of the students showed up and later treated me to lunch with another colleague of hers. Then the director of the program showed up, sorry that I was so unlucky with the surveys, and invited us both to his lab and we had coffee. I had fun, but of course I didn't travel hundreds of miles to have coffee with a couple of seasoned, high-spirited agronomists.
The good professor was kind enough to drive me all the way to the city campus, because I was late to take surveys in Psychology that afternoon. I'd finally found a spot. The director took me to meet with the professor who would allow me to use 10 sad minutes of his class to at least identify the students I needed (it's a longitudinal study).
While we were waiting for him, I was introduced to another Psych professor. She taught 2nd year but we'd kind of put that class aside because we only had one participant and it wasn't worth it going after only one. She said that if I needed subjects she'd gladly help, because she knew how hard it was to get people to answer surveys.
I could've jumped at the chance, right then. Nevermind I only had one kid from 2nd year in the list, it's a longitudinal study but nowhere in the study proposal it says we're studying the same subjects, just the same variables over time. It's not a panel study. I could've jumped at the chance, but do you know at what time I REGISTERED what she said? at 10 pm. Nealy six hours after she uttered those sympathetic words. I have very bad luck but also, I'm very stupid.
So I went with the professor and we agreed I'd wait for an hour and a half into his class, when more students would show up. So I finally get in, start with my speech and it turns out there aren't many students. And then I could've just passed the survey to anyone but I sheeplishly asked who else was interested in taking it other than the ones in the list. It's a class of 80, there must have been 40 to 50, and I only got 14 surveys filled.
To be fair, the professor ended up lending me the rest of his class for those students to answer the survey.
When I was done, I called a cab to pick me up at campus, got stuck in traffic and went into the hotel defeated again. My parents called me, that cheered me up. Andrew and I have been talking everyday, two or three times a day, also. It's what helps me through this horrible trip.
This morning I had to be at the desert campus at 8:30 am again. I had the promise of a bunch of 4th year students. Once again, there were no cabs available to drive me to the city campus. And again, I skipped breakfast and ran to the street, trying to find a collective cab. I found one and got there a little earlier than the day before. But I took the students bus instead of the employees bus, which was very uncomfortable. Also, this one gets to the desert campus 10 or 15 minutes later, right on time for class. And I didn't know to what classroom I was supposed to go.
I went to look for the professor. The secretary told me he was teaching in the building (the only one in campus), second floor. He shows up as I'm asking and says he'll take me. He gets to the building and asks around for his students. Apparently, there was none. And I'm thinking, this can't be happening. Oh, but it was.
I told him maybe they were on the second floor (as the secretary told me), but he said no, there was another professor with his students up there. I wanted to insist but I was afraid that might come off as rude. He took me to his office, asked me about the project, took a look at the survey and told me the questions that should have been asked in it (the fuck, man, shut up!) and shook my hand and sent me on my way. He did get me a cap from the Agronomy department.
I felt cheated.
After a lot of wandering, and wondering what to do, I went out to the highway, walked a few minutes and got to a little shop on the side of the road. I figured I would at least buy some famous olives harvested in the valley for my family. It's a road better traveled by car so it took me a while to get there. And when I got there, some dude told me that the shop was closed that day due to maintenance. Fuck my life.
I waited on the side of the road for a collective cab and went to the city campus, to thank the Psych director for his help. I did not think it was that well deserved but PR is important. I had to wait for him for 30 minutes until he came out from a meeting. I thanked him for his help and told him maybe an Agronomy student would talk to him to do what I've been doing. Per my boss' request, which I appreciate, I'm trying to recruit someone, a local student who will have more time and perhaps much more luck and skills than me to do this job.
Then I went to have lunch at the cafeteria. I stood in line for 10 minutes only to find out they were only serving students with scholarship. I walked out of the cafeteria defeated and embarrassed. I found a tiny cafeteria a little farther, and it was a veggie cafeteria! But when I asked for the menu, they said they started serving at 1 pm, and it was 12:30 pm. Denied, again.
I finally ate and took a collective cab back to the hotel. I hoped for the best and for once in this disgraceful week, it worked: I got off one block away from the hotel. And I've been here all afternoon. I came out for coffee and the coffee machine wasn't working. And then I came out for dinner. I've had dinner every night here, which is just bread and whatever but I don't want to go out and walk six blocks and up, let alone at night. At least they play good music in the lobby.
So that's been my week! I was hoping to stay in the hotel and maybe walk a little downtown tomorrow, my last day. But no, once again I go to the desert campus, to talk to this student who will help us out with the surveys. But I will have breakfast tomorrow at the hotel, and avoid private taxis and use public transportation only because now I know how it works.
I leave on saturday morning, but I get home until past 8 pm. That seems like an eternity from here, as much as I've tried to be like Seinfeld and said that in the end, considering work time and substracting meal and sleep times, I'd only be here two days tops. Fuck that.