LOG 1.13: Spring 'time', German and the 60´s

31st March, 2011

After some rain last night, the air smells like monsoon in India; so fresh and clean! I´ve opened the window to let it come in and along with it are the chirps and tweets of the birds. I have seen flowers. Spring is here. We changed to ´Summer time´ on Sunday the 25th of March where 2am became 3am so it was an odd day with only 23 hours. And the next day when I saw that it was 6:30pm and still so bright outside it felt strangely disorienting.

I don´t understand how this time change makes sense. Since the sun now rises earlier in the day than in Winter, shouldn´t we set our clocks back so that 6:30 is 7:30pm? That way, as the days get longer, we will have a more realistic sense of sunset than we do now? But then I guess the sun will rise at 5:30 instead. Anyway, it takes some getting used to.

Equinox evening celebrations went very well. All my lab groupmates came over to my flat and in our kitchen-living area, we set up the projector and the speakers and the kitchen team cooked us a mexican dinner. Each of us had to do something. One of our team mates who comes from Portugal gave us a presentation on Portuguese dances and musical styles. Within that small country there was so much diversity! Next the Belgian post-doc and the Englishman played the violin and the cello respectively. One piece together and one solo each. It was so exciting to have live instruments and the sound felt so real! They play at a professional level and so it took some persuasion before they agreed to play. A few of us tried playing the cello and had what would be equivalent to a first lesson. They remarked that my bow-string pressure was almost as though I had already had a few lessons but before I could feel very flattered at how musical I was I remembered that I had played on a violin several times before which must´ve in some way contributed to my ability. I made a note to myself to bring along that violin next time I go home. Next the post-doc from Switzerland gave a presentation of photos from Wilhelmshaven, the town where she lives. I had visited her there on Christmas day but I was the only one from the group who had even though I was the newest. She said that during summer, she would organise a boat ride on the bay for us all. An incentive to visit her small seaside town. Our head of lab next read us a bed time story in German but asked the three of us who speak least german to fill in the blanks of three words as he read. I had to say ´sta¨rn´ (star), the cellist said bear and the violinist said horse/pony. I understood very little of the story but every time I saw the picture of a star I said sta¨rn (pronounced almost like shtern). Finally the German PhD student who works with deaf people showed us how to say some basic things in German sign language.

Good food, music, activity and company…made for a very nice evening.

Last weekend I was invited to one of my groupmates´s houses. She lives with her boyfriend in a flat which has a guest room+study, and is quite family like (as opposed to student arrangements). They were both friendly and asked me to stay for dinner after we watched a movie about 4 babies in their 1st year. It was very cute but also reflected on the stark differences between a Mongolian, Namibian, Japanese and American upbringing and household. As she cooked, we also had a chat about science. She is close to finishing her PhD so I learnt a lot about what to watch out for and how to handle some inter-group cooperation. But I couldn´t help feeling a little disillusioned about getting ahead in science. It seems that networking, having the right friends, is important wherever you go, in any field. And it sometimes results in being the final factor beyond qualification and ability. Professors get authorship in more publications just because they form a collaboration with some people even though they actually haven´t done any of the work for that study. The scientific community isn´t deviod of human nature. I don´t know what made me expect it to be. It will be a challenge to be in it without falling in line with these kinds of shortcuts. Let´s see what the following years throw my way.

German classes begin next week and I am as expected, at the beginner´s level. I am excited about it because then my rate fo picking the language up will increase dramatically. I was quite surprised yesterday when trying to read one of the children’s books the same (as above) groupmate gave me, how I understood around 60-70% of the words and could easily make out the meanings. Maybe because there were pictures? When we are eating as a group (as we did yesterday), they sometimes say something to me in German. Whether this is to test how much I understand or because it is habit to speak in German I don´t know, but off late I understand what they are saying and often find myself automatically replying in German too! Yesterday after making pizza together we watched a German movie. It was very hollywood style but with german actors (no dubbing!!!) I also hear it on the radio every morning. And the once when I accidentally tuned into an Italian channel, I actually didn´t like the sound of it compared to dear German 🙂 Before I come home, I will know lots more!

A note on the 1960s decade. I am now watching ´I Dream of Jeannie´ the series that started in 1965. There is something about that decade. The entertainment: Beatles, Elvis, the movies and TV shows… it is quieter, less flashy, and far more decent than today´s entertainment. The songs are romantic and melodious with no double meanings. Simple and sweet. For eg. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Mj48x6-jZs Makes you wonder at how the world has changed over the years.

That´s a lot from me for now. Hope all of you are happy and healthy 🙂 I´d be happy to hear from you too!

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