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Posts Tagged ‘Germany’

Being an Asian who grew up in Asia and has only been to Asia (confined to the Philippines and Taiwan, and has recently been to India), I am so inquisitive on anything (different) about the Western culture, its people, its weather, its vegetation, and all nice things this temperate region has to offer.

I had experienced my first snowy wet winter.  Oh goodness!  That was hard.  It was always gray, gloomy, cold to the bones, and depressing.  Okay, I’m exaggerating… I know it’s not Alaska or Canada or Norway. It’s just Cologne, Germany. But you can’t blame me. I flew from hot Philippines to white, snow-covered Germany.  It was heat shock, if you must say.

I too had experienced a pleasant spring that filled my soul with colors and glow.  Oh!  How I loved those spring flowers abloom, the warm kiss from the sun, and the birds’ singing that greets me a nice morning.  Most of these flowers I met the first time.  Here is an interesting species of flora and fauna and I enjoy every sight of them.

Summer is not less fun either. I am so loving the long days here. Winter depression is now long time gone, and the spirit is on high. I am even much more productive and effective at work, even in doing  (frustrating) experiments.

The days start early at about 4:30 and ends at about 22:30  Is that not awesome?  That even after a long day’s work, one can still enjoy the sunshine for a jog… a stroll in the park….. or…. apple and cherry picking. How wonderful.

BTW and FIY, this was my first time to meet Mr. Apple Tree, Ms. Cherry Tree, and their friends Ms. Pear, little Raspberry, Blueberry, Blackberry, Bilberry, lovely Olive, and beautiful Plum.   My eyes twinkled at the sight of them!

Thanks to the gardeners who painstakingly maintains the MPIZ gardens.  Great to know that my new friends are just around the campus and I guess I will be their constant visitor from now on 🙂

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It´s spring time and I am so loving it!  The weather, the fresh plants, the green trees, the flowers, the butterflies and the bees, the birds, the sunlight, and the longer daylight.  And it´s the best time for a walk.

And so our group went into what we call a spring walk.  Into the small village called Eifel.

It was nice to be out of the lab as a group.  We enjoyed nature together; and basked in the sun, smelled the fresh air, and adored the breathtaking view of the vineyards.

We saw new things, new plants. Talked about different flora and fauna. Picked and ate wild strawberries.  Saw slugs of different colors and sizes.  Discussed about the movie Into the Wild… as we hiked up and down the wine road and mountain tracks.  While I enjoyed taking photos and documenting our walk. 🙂

It was tiring. However, refreshing. And cathartic.  It was a lovely walk indeed!

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If you are to survive in this scientific community, you must learn how to do humor… And see humor in every situation and conversation possible.

This email sent to everyone in our institute just gave me a pleasing smile.  What a wit, isn’t it?

Hello there. If accidentally you ran over a couple of toads and smashed them in the floor on the latest days you may be missing your glasses. I found them! Please pick them up at B’s office. Do it for the toads.

-A.

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The IMPRS PhD program in the Max Planck Institute holds a retreat once a year, attended by all the students as well as the supervisors/teachers. And March 28-30, 2011 was my first retreat. It was held at Hotel Nassau Oranien in Hadamar.

I do not know what to expect. But I know that I need to give a 20-minute talk or presentation about my project.  Every student should. And we will do this for the next 3 days.  It does not sound a lot of fun, does it? Nevertheless, I was excited.  The week before the said retreat, I was already looking forward to it, even though I was not prepared for my talk until the very last night before my presentation.  I was scheduled to present on the last day, so I thought, I still have some time to prepare during the retreat itself.

I was excited.  To take pictures, what else? (!).  I just bought this new camera just in time for my retreat. And hell yeah!  I  made myself lots of pictures.  And beautiful photography it was!  (more photos can be seen here!)

Aside from my photography, I actually enjoyed the talks given by my classmates.  I admired them for the work they have done.  I admired me, for getting myself into such a beautiful PhD program.  And I praise and thank God for this wonderful opportunity He has given me.

I learned a lot from my classmates’ presentations. I enjoyed the discussions and exchange of ideas after every talk.  I embraced the opportunity to interact with the professors and scientists. I delighted in smart talks with beautiful smart people of our very own scientific community. I savored the meals (specially the fish and sea food dishes) served at our hotel. I celebrated the visit to the lovely town of Hadamar. And I cherished the bonding times with my mates.

And so, until the next retreat!

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The path to becoming a scientist

Wow, I actually survived the first retreat!  Thank God.

Although I have not gotten over the hang of it, today is “back-to-work” day.  I have to admit I somehow missed the lab and my labmates. Seriously. That should not come as a surprise actually.

So as much as I want to share and write about my experiences during the retreat, I do not have much time to do so at the moment.  I need to be back to the lab remember?  Nevertheless,  I will show you some snapshots I took during the retreat.  I think pictures speak louder than words. So enjoy the photos as much as I did enjoy taking and admiring them!  May these photos lure you into our world.  So go on, come on in, and maybe, just maybe, you can join us in our travel into the PhD world!  It can be fun, you know? Believe me, please.

I will post some more retreat stuff this weekend. I promise.

The first Arabidopsis plant seen during the retreat. Thanks to Maarten 😀

Parasitic plants growing on tree branches; that looks like bird nests from afar. Interesting?

I've learned that hotels here in Germany, perhaps especially in religious regions, provide bibles in every room.

The view from our hotel room- the big mansion on the left is a private music boarding school for boys.

The conference hall on the second day of the retreat

"Time for coffee- Do stupid things faster with more energy" 😀

Caffeine is a regular part of the PhD life, at least for me.

A picturesque view of the small lovely town of Hadamar

Lovely Hadamar

Ah... the sound of dripping water!

A church on a hill

On the church wall

Stained church window in black and white

The city hall of Hadamar at 10 minutes before 18:00 in the evening

The PhDs on their walk looking around admiring the city

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The Karneval season has been started today. Where people dress up in every costume imaginable, drink like there’s no tomorrow, party until the wee hours, and do every possible things conceived.  This season, also known as the “fifth” season of the year, is a crazy season.  This is according to what I have heard (and read) so far.

 

I am experiencing this for the first time and I am glad Cologne and its people has not failed me (yet).  It has managed to cope with my expectations and I am anticipating more of this “craziness” for the next days to come.

 

The institute had catered a mini Karneval party today at 11:11. Interesting costumes coloured and flavoured the campus. The scientists dressed up! Hoooray! I was not quite sure how a Karneval party is gonna be like in a science community like ours until I saw the scientists proudly staging their creative costumes!  This is enlightening and I am proud of my very own scientific community here.  Germany has held up its name, well, at least for me!  (Fun and carefree is what I define Germany.)

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Slow down. Take precaution. Life is fragile.

__________ Weird. This is how I describe it. This is a blog entry on an encounter to one’s own self. A foreign self. An alien. And I did not know this about me. I am changing I think. Over time, I am metamorphosing. Somehow I am scared. Scared of what I’ll discover about myself.

I’ve been always not certain about me. I do not know me. I do stuff that I do not even think I would ever do. This happened a lot during my teenage years. It happens to many others I guess. But suddenly, it is all coming back to me. Just today, I realized it. And I am afraid. I do not want to go back to this phase. I know I can do things I will regret doing for the rest of my life.

Sunday. Today. I did not plan to go to the lab. But somehow I am looking for something. Something to do. To kill time. I have my Sunday routine, but not this time. I did not go to church. I don’t feel like going. I do not know why. I went to the lab instead. I was determined to do some experiment. And a lot of reading. I was determined. Yet, I did not do any of these.

I went facebooking instead. It was quite a while I did not open my facebook account. I thought it will be worthwhile to update myself on other’s business. Once in a while it is.

I hoped to have some conversations with good old friends. And this I did. The usual chitchat with some friends. It gave me some entertainment. And it felt good. Did not notice the passing of the time. When I looked through the window it was starting to get dark. This prompted me to go down to the lab to, at least, clean and organize my space. Took just a few minutes to do this. I decided to better go home than to waste time on more non sense internet surfing. I had a lot of mess to clean in the apartment too, and maybe I can cook something. Or bake a cake I thought. I prepared to leave. While leaving, I spotted a cigarette box which was laying on my desk for quite a while. It wasn’t mine. I found it just there. I took a stick and came looking for a lighter in the laminar hood. I lit the cigarette, puffed a little, unlocked my bike and went biking while finishing off my stick.

I wonder. Why am I doing this?! I got over this thing years back. Why would I want to smoke this time? I asked questions in my mind. Lots of questions. I answered them. I tried to answer them. But I can not find appropriately satisfying answers. I know I am rationalizing. Trying to defend my smoking. I shivered.

I knew right then I am indeed “changing”. My usual defense mechanism upon encounter of an emotional baggage. I will not deny it. I am not happy. Well, I say I am happy. I got all smiles on my face all the time. However, loneliness is a constant visitor. A daily visitor I should say. And when this happens, I develop a habit. Weird things I start doing. Stuff I hate, I do. I despise vices. I never like being addicted to something like a stupid computer game. I always believed being addicted is to be a prisoner. And I despise it. I do not want to be a prisoner. But somehow, somewhere, at some point, I lost. I always lose. In the battle with my own self.

When I broke up an engagement last year, I went through a bad depression. Similar emotional baggage. I could not sleep. This resulted to bad performance at work (..at some point, but I managed to keep my track after a few weeks, thank God). Bad performance made me hate myself and this resulted to stress. I could not eat. And I lost a lot of weight. I tried to find things to help with my depression. Finally, I sorted to alcohol. I began a habit of drinking alcohol every night. Not that I get drunk or something. It just helps me sleep. I could not sleep, no matter what I do and how I do it, without alcohol. I do not drink (and get drunk). Not that I condemn it. I have nothing against drinking. I do drink occasionally, but I seldom do it in public. I drink alone, for the sake of enjoying a drink. However, getting drunk is a different thing. Well, I did. During college. But I managed to get it out of my system. But this particular situation brought me back to alcohol days. I would even wear the title “alcoholic” if you would ask me. I reached the point that I became dependent on alcohol for sleeping. Days, weeks, and months passed. I became better. I regained “freedom” and I started to love myself again. I have forgiven me. I am happy and whole again. This I thought.

Today, I smoked my first stick after years of not having it.

………………..

I moved to Europe last month. I know I have a mission to finish here. A project to get done, and a learning to do. To learn to live life. Got experiences to take… to refine my character and test my attitude. But it is hard. It is hard. Of course, I know it will get better. I am just starting. I am adjusting. Just starting to lit the fire. The flame has not been put up. Not yet. I am not in a hurry either.

The lonely star girl

For the past weeks, big changes have happened. It was overwhelming. Time passed by too quickly and I guess I was not prepared just yet. Weird habits have developed in me. I am not aware when did it start. Every night here in the foreign land, I look up at the sky and stare at the stars. I stare and stare until I fall asleep. I never knew you can actually stare at something so distant that it looks so tiny… On cloudy nights and no stars are visible, I feel deep sadness. Somehow I associate it with looking back home, trying to remember how home feels like, how it looks it. What my family and friends back home look like. Obviously, it is homesickness. Loneliness. I never felt so so far away before. Time zone made it even more difficult. More than anything else I need someone to talk to. I tried to be online whenever I can. But usually when I am online, nobody’s there on the internet. It tears my heart apart every single moment. I cry. I thank God that I am not embarrassed of crying. Almost every night, I cry myself to sleep. It helps me. A lot. It is healthy.

I know in the days to come, I will sort to drinking beer and smoking again. I have started drinking beer for the past few weeks now. And the last time I went grocery shopping, I found myself checking on cigarette and beer prices. I sighed.

It is a battle. This is a battle with one’s own self.

 

 

(Note that photos here are not mine. I got them from the internet. )

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