The other day I went to America. It was really nice!
Why? For one, I went to this workshop on tensor networks, which is ostensibly going to be my PhD topic. It was great to be back at Perimeter, with its unlimited free coffee in beautiful new buildings with couches and blackboards everywhere. It was also great to be surrounded by physicists again for a little while. I know I complain a lot about physicists talking only about physics, but doing a bit of shop talk can be good if you haven't done it in a few months.
It was even greater to have a bit of my independence back.
Not being able to walk outside by night, or really go anywhere by myself makes me feel claustrophobic at times in South Africa. I once described myself as "the cat that walked by itself", from Rudyard Kipling's short story of the same name. The last few weeks at AIMS I was a little less than happy, and thought I was homesick. Very unlike Kipling's cat.
But I realize now that I'm just sick and tired of having to coordinate every movement, every day trip and nightly walk on the beach with some safety-buddy.
In Canada, one night when I couldn't fall asleep, I left the house to go for a moonlit walk around the block. All by myself. That was amazing.
And then, aside from minor western amenities like tempeh and unsweetened soymilk in every supermarket, I enjoyed hanging out with old friends from MIT and PI. Another thing I learned is that while I need my space, some people can't be forgotten so easily. So if you have to go from South Africa to Waterloo and New York City to see them again, it's worth every minute spent on the plane.
The tempeh might actually be worth it, too. And the Ethiopian food in Kitchener (bit of a detour, that one).