Monday, January 18, 2010

Stuff of the World.

Here are some miscellaneous interesting pictures from my travels. I have thousands and thousands of beautiful, scenic ones, but there are so many that just the thought of sharing them on my blog is mildly depressing to me.

They were so beautiful. It's a wonder I even got such a decent shot of them.

This is spaghetti-eis. Looks like spaghetti, right? Well, it's ice cream. Yep, that's right, ICE CREAM. Vanilla with strawberry syrup.

We were taking a jaunt through the Black Forest of Germany and stumbled upon a ramp. In the middle of a field. I wish I knew to what purpose it sat there for, but I never figured it out. A ramp for an epic skateboarder? An illegal rocket launch pad?

The station I stood at every morning, waiting for the 8:15 train to the city

We were dining at a restaurant one evening, and when I went to use the lavatories, this is what I saw. Needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive about sitting down. But yes, I did actually utilize this particular toilet. It's terrible, but I just picture something like this being in a Nazi concentration camp....

So this past summer, I went to Germany. Not to travel or take a vacation, but to do scientific research (yes, I am a nerd- fight me if you have a problem with it). I was selected to go and my trip was paid for in full by Roche pharmaceuticals.

I had the time of my life. Granted, my research mentor Nadine was a female middle-eastern version of a Nazi, but I ultimately learned a lot, including the three phrases: "Ich spreche kein deutsch," "Ich weiss nicht," and "schisse!" the last one being the most popular. I've got to admit, though, re-learning the periodic table of elements in a different language is a bit challenging at first.

I actually picked up a fair amount of German. It's surprisingly similar to English, and it is now one of the languages I am determined to be able to speak fluently in five years.
When I wasn't in the lab on the weekends, I was doing all sorts of crazy stuff. I went to a German fair, biked 40 km through the steep mountains of the German countryside (in the rain, too, mind you!), and traveled EVERYWHERE.

I backpacked through Paris one weekend, I went to Basel, Switzerland another weekend, and I visited lots of cities and LOTS of castles on the other weekends (I managed to hit Heidelberg, Mannheim, Strasbourg, Neuschwanstein, and many more).
When I got out of the lab early most days, I would take the Karlsruhe train and ride by myself all over the city and even between cities. My favorite thing to do was stare out of the windows of the trains, watching people and soaking in the atmosphere of everything around me.

I saw so many new things. I thought so many new thoughts.

Never in my life had I ever felt so free. I was under no constraints. Hell, I was in Europe! We're talking land-of-the-liberals here, as opposed to those conservative American constraints I've been so well-accustomed to. My host parents didn't give a bloody flip where I was, as long as I didn't get lost and eventually found my way back home every night. I lived carefree, stress-free days. I wandered and explored to my heart's content.
My host sister's boyfriend would spend the night and sleep in her bed without much of a word from her parents, something I could never imagine happening in my family.

I had a lot of beer. Sterotypical, I know. It was good beer, though, and it was offered to me almost everywhere I went. On my first day of work, my lab decided to have a "barbecue" (those were REALLY popular in Germany... I must have been to six in my first week there), and my lab mentor just chucked me a beer like it was the completely normal thing to do to welcome a new intern scientist. A little alcohol will help those petri dishes progress more quickly, right?
I had wine at another lab party, more beer at the beach, and even more beer at the numerous parties I went to (Germans really like those as well).

Alcohol was the bonding point of the German people.
For us, it ended up being an intended cure to a bad week that led to thieving paper cups from an Aldi, asking for a corkscrew for a screw-lid bottle, late trains home, and new things learned about ourselves...

Another story for another time.

There is one thing I never want to see again that I saw at a German beach: naked, old men. This is yet another reason I will never get married. When I saw that Speedo come off, I was very, very glad I lived in America.

I have hundreds of stories that I could tell from the seven weeks I was across the Atlantic. I could talk about the fancy dining experiences I had, the slugs that covered the ground when it rained, the secret cafe on the second story, the ridiculous amounts of ice cream I consumed, what the Eiffel tower looked like at midnight through the rain, the racist souvenir vendors in Paris, eating doners/kebaps under plastic umbrellas in the pouring rain...... but there's too much to tell. Maybe I'll slowly tell it all someday through this blog.

In Europe, I had no worries. My life in America didn't matter for those seven weeks. There was a vast Atlantic Ocean separating me from my life of troubled relationships and tumultuous family life and academic woes. In Europe, I found a peace that I may not be able to find again for a very long time.

Nostalgia is hitting me hard. Oh, what I wouldn't do to just go back there for a couple days instead of sitting on this unkempt bed of mine, worrying and fretting about everything there is to worry and fret about. But I am grateful for those seven weeks. They were the best weeks of my life thus far.

Someday, I'll go back. I'll go by myself with a backpack on my back and a heart full of wanderlust, and I'll roam the corners of the earth until the sun and the ocean and the sky blend into a liquid radiance satisfying my thirsty veins.

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