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I went to the Netherlands for the second time to attend a Proteomics course at Wageningen University.  I thought I will just be stuck in a classroom trying to understand and absorb as much information I can get from the course.  And for this I prepared myself for the next 4 days in the university.

It sounds hardwork and boring right?  But my stay there was as fun as one can get! Who would have thought proteomics, a combination of the study of proteins and genome, could also be a blend of study and leisure?

The university is located in the small town of Wageningen which is composed of about 37,000 residents and about 8,000 of which are students.  Wageningen is called the city of life sciences thanks to Wageningen University and Research Center and other research institutes.  The town is the center for Agricultural, and Food and Nutrition studies in the Netherlands.

The old campus of Wageningen University is the perfect place for a quiet, serene, and relaxing atmosphere.  Yes, it was relaxing despite the tough course.  Believe me, please.

The campus has lovely ponds and two botanical gardens where photography junkies and nature lovers alike can delight and take pride on the sweetness of the countryside life. Also, the nearby river Nederrijn or Rhine river (which runs through Cologne too!) offers a cool atmosphere and a breathtaking view.

On my daily 20-minute walk to and from the Biochemistry building and Hotel de Wageningshe Berg, I reveled on the spring weather, the flowers, the greenery, the river side, the sunshine, the birds, the lovely houses, the bicycles, and the friendly smiling people.

I too had the luxury of time to give way for a good reading in the hotel balcony overlooking the river.  The novel “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Shaffer and Barrows is just as alluring and captivating as this small town.  It also has as extraordinary a name as Wageningen, don’t you think? And it is as phenomenal as how one pronounce Wageningen (Va-ke-ni-ngen) with the typical Dutch spit sound at the second syllable.

The proteomics team, the lunch and the fair weather.

Wageningen University old campus

In and around Wageningen…

…during my most coveted afternoon walks with my camera.

That is the Rhine river- the same river I am admiring in Cologne!

And if you´d ask me…

…Yes, I do love plants!

You´ll see from a previous post about me meeting the giants of the Netherlands. Thought who´ve been wondering which giants I am referring to exactly.

Well, giants! Tall gigantic people.

Where short Asians like me can be dwarfed even more when neighbored to them.

And where toilet mirrors are positioned so high on the wall that only the forehead of shorties can be seen on it like this:

See what I am telling now?

It is funny that I was jumping up and down just to get a glimpse of my face in the mirror. This is quite insulting, you know?

I stayed here in the Netherlands this time for seven days. And in these seven days, I tried as much as I could to live the Dutch way.

I probably must have drunk more milk in these seven days compared to a whole year combined. Dutch usually have milk for breakfast, as well as for lunch! So if you wanna grow taller, drink milk.

And I probably have eaten more bread and cheese in these seven days too. These are typical Dutch breakfast and cold lunch.

Started it a foggy day.

This is a view from my apartment window.  I was a bit delighted with the foggy, misty, fresh feel of the air this morning.

I went to the lab and, one by one, begun crossing out the to-do list of the day.

It was a struggle to get it through the day- packed with meetings, experiments and failures.  Experiments are yet again playing hard to get!  A slap on the face; a dagger right through my chest!  Science is more often than not frustrating.  Yes, I know.  Thank you very much for the constant reminder.

I walked home with a heavy heart. But found myself consoling me by taking pictures of…. hmmmm.. what else?  Plants. Of course.

Thanks to the therapeutic photoshoot with the plants, I was feeling a lot better.

Later in the evening, I, S and A headed to the city for an Iranian dinner with the rest of the lab.  Tonight we will say goodbye to F, one of my favorite postdoc in the lab.  It is sad.  I will definitely miss my mentor. But also happy for him with his new job!

One thing in science is people come and go so fast.  As a scientist you really have to move around. I think it is a curse (not necessarily bad) that comes with science.  Although, I still have to figure out if this is actually good or bad.  It is an essential and inevitable change that scientists have to live with, I guess.

This is a typical yogurt drink in Iran. It is a sour yoghurt with salt!  It actually tastes like a green sour mango dipped in salt, but in liquid form. Hehe.

F, who is half German and half Iranian, explained that since it is so hot in Iran, you need salt to replenish all those perspired salt from the body.  Hmmm… that make sense.  But then again, if you take in salt in a hot weather, better be sure to take in lots of water too! =P

So F, goodbye, but see you later! Okay?

I thought I will retire to my bed feeling a lot better despite today’s frustrations in the lab….

until I saw something (or someone) that just broke my heart. 😦

A vision, you came

A fancy, a wish

And I knew I lab thee from the very start

Affection that sprouted even before the first sight.

I chased thee

I run after thee

And I will continue to pursue thee

Just because I lab thee.

My fairytale

My love story

My dream come true

And I lab thee faithfully.

You give me a thrill,

Goosebumps all over my body

My mystery, my hocus pocus,

Like a ghost in the night

And still, I lab thee.

Sometimes you hurt me

And frustrate me

Wrong signals, you give me

Confusion, you clothe me

I lab thee anyway.

Sleepless nights,

Messed up body clock,

Caffeine-intoxicated,

These you cause me

But I lab thee anyway.

I will not give up, I will just shut up

I sing songs for thee, I dance for thee

I weep because of thee, But I will fight for thee

Just remember how much I lab thee.

I had the opportunity to visit the SOL group in the Laboratory of Phytopathology in Wageningen University and Research Center last April 5th.  My colleagues went there for some technical inquiry on Cladosporium infection of tomato plants.  Meanwhile, I was there for my amusement- equipped and ready to document it with my camera.   I entertained myself with some snapshots of common laboratory stuff.  Turned out the lab is a good place to photograph!  I will definitely do this sometime soon in my laboratory. 😀

This next photo was mistakenly recognized as lab stools in a thumbnail view by my labmate.

I think this shot of the eppendorf tube rack makes a good powerpoint presentation background.  Yes, I know. This is the nerd in me talking. Bear with it, please.

Can you guess what this funny looking chef doing in the lab?

I, together with my labmates went to The Netherlands last Monday and Tuesday to attend the Dutch Plant Science Meeting in Lunteren. It was my first trip outside Germany which adds up to my excitement. We started on a car from Max Planck at 07:00 and arrived at the De Werelt Hall at about 09:00.

It was a full 2-day conference- some talks are very nice and interesting. Most are very informative. We listened and learned from the “stories” of other scientists- their projects, their methodologies and their strategies in coming up with their scientific produce.  And this makes me wonder about my project and how I would author my very own story. This, for the next 3 years or so, is the goal to achieve.

It was also intriguing how scientists behave and act. It mostly is about “how to do science” really. And how to survive in this scientific world.  To make a name, to be recognized, to be accepted by the community, and as noble as it is, to make a contribution to the never-ending world of discoveries, innovations, and inventions.

This got me thinking, am I really for this?

Do I have a room for breakthroughs and scientific bonanza?  I am not good enough- this is what I’ve always believe.  And will never be, I guess. The future in this world is still fuzzy. I still can not  see through it.  But somehow… somehow God put me here and I enjoy being here.  So perhaps, this is really is the place to be.

So rather contemplate on things, I reveled on it. I took pleasure on being here. I took pride on being privileged to be here. And I  delighted on being favored by the most high God that He poured overflowing blessings on me.

My take homes from this trip are:

1.  My boss is great!  It was my first time to see him present, and oh boy!  he rocked the center stage.  That was a speaker up there. Plus, the very interesting technology he pioneered in plant science.

2. I was inspired big time by all the presentor’s stories and is now dreaming of being a presentor too, one day.

3. Learned that Dutch gets cold lunch of cheese and bread.  While the dinner is protein-rich and warm.

4. Got a taste of my first Dutch beer, generously sponsored by the boss.

5. I saw the giants! 😛  They are really tall. Almost had a stiff neck after talking for almost half hour with two Dutch guys.  They say it’s in the milk. Apparently, I had had too little milk to drink when I was little.  No. I take that back. I am still little.  Hmmm…. when I was younger.  Now that’s more appropriate. *sigh*

5. I fell in love at the first sight of The Netherlands. The scenery at least in Lunteren is captivating.  That is my kind of place- vast greenery, country houses, wide yards, the gardens, the barns, the horses, and oh! the smell :P.  The misty feel of the place early morning upon our arrival added up to the mystic mood and fairytale touch.

6. Not to forget the scientific take homes, of course. Well, it’s just surprising to be hearing a lot about comparative genetics, evolution, and next generation sequencing! Hmmm… perhaps the next generation sequencing is not surprising after all.

7. Papers and awards makes one scientifically more attractive. But I must add, scientifically more attractive, may even mean physically more appealing.  Well, at least for me!

On our way to The Netherlands, thanks Mr. Navigator!

De Werelt, Lunteren, where the meeting was held

That's my boss doing his presentation.

The poster hall

Time for the infamous Dutch lunch

Dutch "cold" lunch of bread, cheese, and salad

We also did a bonus side trip to Wageningen University.  We toured the Laboratory of Phytopathology, greenhouses, the SOL lab, and took lots of pictures!


The plant chemetics laboratory had an international dinner party on a Thursday night in one of the member’s home.  It is a potluck party where everyone brings his or her own national dish to the table and everybody gets a taste of different cultural cuisine. This is particularly special as our team is very international- no two people are from the same country! We are composed of a Dutch, German/Iranian, Colombian, Indian, Pakistan, Chinese, Japanese and a Filipino!

And for me, this is just one of the best part of being in a multicultural world.  Science, fortunately, offers this unique setting where people of different backgrounds come together to do science, for the sake of science. The Max Planck Society especially recruits the best from around the world. (And exceptionally encourage women scientists!).  Now that’s a great bonus to be here!

I used to organizing similar “international” dinner back in Taiwan too.  I love meeting people of different nationalities and learning the differences, as well as similarities across different cultural grounds. I specially love sampling different cuisines, tickling my taste buds with different flavors, and learning different ways of preparing food.

Aside from the fantastic food served on the table, we also had a good long funny conversations and smart talks over dinner.  We ate, and laughed, and drunk, and talked, and ate, and giggled, and photographed, and teased each other, and ate, and drunk, and ate for over 5 hours!

The dinner was a blast!  It was a dinner to remember, indeed!

Typical German apple pie

Dutch (cheese) finger food

German meat patty

Colombian coconut rice

Chinese shrimp dish cooked in wine

Indian butter masala

Colombian guayabana drink

Japanese cookies

Bread. I think this is common to many cultures...

Since I was consumed by the fabulous dishes (or I consumed these fabulous foods? :P), I forgot to take photos of the others, including my pineapple chicken 😀

So, till next  gluttonous dinner!