Thursday, August 5, 2010

Greifswald, Part I

To completely confuse the three people who read this blog (four? Maybe?), I'm going to start my German work trip series! These stories and the "Madrid y Morocco" series will switch off every so often until I'm all caught up. Geht das? Das geht.

Why the heck am I in Germany?! For my very first international "business trip"! I'm meeting with a collaborator at the Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik (IPP) in Greifswald so we can make much progress in our research. This is key to my Ph.D. thesis, so here's hoping it goes well! :)

August 3rd

I left my apartment on Tuesday, August 3rd, around 1:30pm. On the five minute walk up to a hotel at which the airporter was stopping, the wheels on my suitcase bent so that I was literally dragging my 30+ lb bag across the parking lot. It was seriously heavy and made a horrific screeching noise. But the shuttle was coming in ten minutes, so I prayed quickly that Newark would have luggage for sale before security (this was obviously my checked bag), grit my teeth, and arrived dripping with sweat in the NJ heat. I waited. I waited some more. When it was ten minutes late, I called them. "Oh, he's coming!" Mr. Dispatcher told me. He called me back, "Where are you? The driver is at the Marriott!" I replied, "Um, not THIS Marriott!" "Oops, he's on his way." I waited some more. Finally, half an hour late, Mr. Dispatcher called back, and informed me that he was incredibly sorry, but the driver had to skip me. The next shuttle would pick me up an hour after the first should have. Sigh. This was sad, BUT, it meant that I could drag that broken suitcase back down to my apartment and dump everything into my other--GINORMOUS--suitcase. These wheels held up, but now, I am stuck pulling and carrying something half my height around the world. At least I can bring home more souvenirs?

The next shuttle did pick me up, and I was relaxing on the other side of airport security, drinking a caramel machiatto, with an hour to spare. Beautiful.

The flight to Berlin was uneventful and peaceful. I learned what I always suspected: never choose the chicken. Always go with pasta. I watched Ironman 2 and Cake Boss, read a bit of Anna Karenina, and slept for about an hour out of the 7.5 hour flight. It was a lot like this article.

August 4th

Upon arrival, I discovered that the person sitting in front of me was a postdoc from PPL! HA! We had no idea that we were on the same flight, nor heading to the same little town in the north, albeit for completely different reasons. Jerry and Stephanie (who was also on the flight) are attending a summer school on plasma physics at the University of Greifswald. We sleepily collected our bags, foggily found das Geldautomat for euros, and groggily took a bus to the Berlin Hauptbahnhof (main train station). It is BEAUTIFUL. I love, love, love this building. Here's a picture I took of it two years ago, on my first trip to Deutschland:
Berlin Hauptbahnhof

We had about two hours to sit, drink Kaffee, and try to recuperate. Nothing would work for Jerry except a full night's sleep, but Steph and I felt more human after sweet, sweet espresso.

The three-hour train ride north to Greifswald was rather pleasant! We napped, I read, and I took pictures out the window. (I don't feel like uploading pictures right now, but someday, I'll post them.)

P (my collaborator) met me at the station, and was surprised to find that I was followed by two other PPLers. They were surprised to realize that their conference never sent the address for the hostel in which they were staying. None of us were surprised that the tiny station didn't offer wireless. So, all four of us and our bags piled into a bus headed for the IPP and got our first look at the town. It is not bad... We didn't go into the city center, which is reportedly the "cute part". Much of our bus path was through Soviet-East-Germany-era buildings.

At IPP, P googled the jugendherberge (hostel) for them, ordered a taxi, and sent them on their way! He then showed me my office (that of someone who's on holiday), introduced me to Karla (a graduate student who is originally from Chile) and a couple other physicists. One enthusiastically began a long physics discussion, in which the only participation I offered was not falling asleep. P understood, and H probably did, too. :)

First impression of IPP: looks a HECKUVA lot like the UW Physics buildings. It's fairly new, open, full of windows, and detailed in light wood and gray metal. It smells good. It's also kind of like PPL (but let's be honest, way nicer): there's a small toroidal device in the lobby. (I haven't ascertained what it is yet. It looks axisymmetric.) There's also a lovely bust of Max Planck (although as I was recently discussing with someone--perhaps Mom?--I'm not truly fond of busts). Amusingly, there are paintings lining the lobby of jazz musicians. New Orleans in Greifswald! Warum nicht?

P walked me over to my apartment, in the IPP guesthouse. It's a ten-ish minute walk, which is super. It's also twice as big as my apartment at home. It even has two floors! I'll post pictures. Later. It even has a TV, CD player, two telephones, and free internet. I am all set.

After he left me, I had to choose between showering for the first time in 36 hours, sleeping for only the fourth hour in the last 36 hours, or venturing out to buy food. Food won.

There's a slightly-smaller-than-Kitsap-Mall shopping center just a few minutes' walk from here. Again, great location for a short-term visitor! I found an adaptor for my Mac at an electronics store (thank yooou English-speaking-salesman). At the large grocery store, I found much-needed fresh fruit, breakfast food, bread and cheese for dinner, and MAGNUMS. If you must be reminded, go read any post I've ever written about Madrid or Morocco, and you will 75% sure find mention of these delicious ice cream bars. I associate them with Morocco, so eating them in Germany is funny. But delicious.

After eating, I rather quickly fell sound asleep for almost ten hours.

August 5th

This morning, I made it to the Institute by 9:30. Not bad for jetlag? Today's work was a lot of getting back up to speed, meeting with P to discuss what's going on, drinking coffee, realizing that we were confused about a crucial point, drinking more coffee, emailing advisor D in the States for advice, and calling it a day.

AND, natürlich, lunch! Karla grabbed me on her way to the cantina. Everyone has been telling me that the cafeteria food is gross. It's on par with PPL's cafeteria, but with less take that as you will. I may be buying lunch fixings next shopping trip, let's put it that way. Julia, an engineer for W7-X, joined us! They invited me out for drinks with their friends tomorrow night. Karla invited me to join her and a friend on a day-trip to Berlin this Saturday (to sight-see and see Inception in 3D and "its original language!!")! I can't wait--it's six hours roundtrip, but I adore Berlin.

As I was passing the shopping mall on my walk home, I remembered that I had nothing for dinner. I picked up fast food Schnitzel und Bratkartoffeln (pork and potatoes), and decided that I should really invest in dinner fixings, too. Someday.

I've spent the evening watching German soap operas and game shows, and catching up online with all those people who got up six or nine hours later than I did. ;) Turns out, "Das Quiz" is the German version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. You can only win 300,000 euros, however.

And I've almost stayed awake until 10pm. I mean, 22:00. Time for bed! :D

CONGRATS if you've made it to the end of this ginormous post. And thank you!

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