I’m flying to China tomorrow. How fun and interesting! you might say. No! I might reply. Why? Because this is an unpaid three-week work trip, that’s why.

I’ll be chained to a lab bench just about the whole time, and while there is money in the budget to wander a bit, it would have to come on a buy-first-claim-later basis, and my personal cash access right now is zip. (Not to mention that the accountant at my former lab is hilariously slow and will not be moved.) I don’t have any Mandarin outside greetings and thank you and it’s nice to meet you and stuff like that, unfortunately. And my colleagues’ English is admirable and wonderful and adequate for slow, measured, carefully confirmed work conversations, but nigh on useless for socializing. They are very nice, kind, accommodating people, and will do their best, but I will still be lonely, bored, and have an upset stomach after a couple of days because apparently my gut thinks the tastiest food ever is worth some hardcore squits.

But let me get back to the unpaid bit. Professor Thesis Supervisor To honkhonkhonk Back In PhD Days seems to think this is reasonable, and I am absolutely kicking myself for being a cowering fool enough not to call him on that. (To be fair, I did think I’d have a postdoc up and running by this point, and I don’t.) Meanwhile, I make a TINY amount of money right now (we’re talking nearly pointlessly tiny) freelancing as an on-call scientific editor and this trip means I can’t even do that, so next month will mean I have a paycheck of like, ten quid. LOL so great.

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What do I get out of this trip? A publication. Hallelujah, and I’m glad that I’ll get to finish off the sequencing work in question, but it’s going to leave me starving next month barring input from my long-suffering mother and herr honk. I’m rapidly realizing that I can’t afford to be generous, much as I would like to be.

What does Professor Supervisor get out of this? Slave labour. He’s absolutely phoned it in on this grant, skipped out on just about everything work-related on it, one time cos he had to go to court for a speeding ticket. Giant eye roll.

Now just to gild the lily a bit, herr honk came down with genuine man-flu yesterday and I’m suddenly feeling a sore throat and aching muscles, right before traveling for 20 hours. FLY, IMMUNE SYSTEM, BE YOUR BADASS SELF.

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Fellow academics, did I just get royally screwed, or is this standard? Hopefully I’ll be able to log into GT et al.; the Kinjaverse wasn’t blocked the last time I was over there, so I’ll lurk and star and comment as usual.