Whoohoo! It’s bank holiday weekend here (Monday 5th June is Constitution Day in Denmark)! I’m spending it to catch up with work and to update you on how my spring has been!
First piece of good news – I passed my DU3 Module 2 in Danish at IA Sprog, which is equivalent to A2 level of the Common European Framework for Reference for Languages. After our oral test the class went out to celebrate with beers in a local German pub! It’s taken 7 months to get here and I have to give the most credit to my colleagues, who have been helping me practise my conversational Danish during lunch or by the coffee machine! A big thank you to them for letting us talk about our hobbies and weekend plans. Maybe one day, we can talk about more meaningful topics like world peace or the environment!
Sunny Spring in May
Most of May has been beautifully bright and warm, even hot on some days! We kick started the month with a delicious dinner hosted by the cool Canadian from my Danish class. We were introduced to a delicacy called maple butter! OMG! It was so indulgent and tasty!
It struck me that spring was turning into summer when we lost track of time due to the late sunset! At work, the cherry blossom trees on the hospital grounds came in bloom and they were accompanied by a large variety of colourful and interesting tulips and fragrant hyacinth. There was even enough sun after work for a spot of quick sunbathing as I positioned myself diagonally on our small but perfectly formed balcony! These long sunny days are the best thing about living in Copenhagen!
I also got to meet up with my super fit friend who ran the Copenhagen Marathon and scored another personal best! We celebrated with a sunny lunch in one of my favourite Copenhagen spots – on the Christianhavns Bådudlehning and Café.
Flying everywhere in May
I was away all four weekends in May. It was mentally and physically exhausting but I got to see close friends and family and celebrated all aspects of life – pregnancies (not mine!), birth of twins and a 50th birthday.
We went to Llandudno, a seaside resort town in North Wales. We took the Great Orme Tramway up the Great Orme for a lovely fish and chips lunch. We walked along the pier and played 2p games or ‘coin pushers’, a classic British arcade game. You first have to exchange a pound or two for a plastic tub full of two pennies, then you proceed to insert them into a coin pusher game, and it either gets added to the pile of coins inside the machine or it helps push some the pile over the edge so you end up with more coins! It’s not about winning ‘cos who wants a pocket full of 2ps?! ‘Winning’ just prolongs the time you can spend on the game. Afterwards, you walk around for the rest of the day with your fingers smelling of dirty copper. What’s not to love?
I went to a small village south of Cologne to meet up with my friends and to cuddle their one-month old twins all weekend. We were treated homemade pancakes, delicious dinners and even a Chinese takeaway! We wandered around the picturesque historical town of Bad Münstereifel and their outlet shops, including the popular Lindt chocolate outlet shop! (I’m eating one of the Lindors while writing this now.) While I was at Düsseldorf airport I popped into the supermarket and stocked up on my favourite German foods too: Maultaschen, Spätzle, and Curry Wurst flavoured crisps.
I also popped back to Manchester and from there comes my food recommendation for this month is Sugo Pasta Kitchen in Altrincham. They serve authentic southern Italian cuisine including homemade pasta that’s so delicious and wholesome.They are very popular so do book beforehand! We were lucky to get a table outside under the canopy and wrapped in a blanket. I went for the Sugo Scoglio – half shell pasta with a generous portion of king prawns, mussels and squid, cooked in a juicy cherry tomato sauce spiked with garlic and ginger. It’s definitely worth a try and a second visit! Altrincham too far south for you? I hear they are opening a second restaurant in Ancoats next year!
Work work work work work when I could
Not gonna lie; Work was not going too well. I panicked and got sad at the beginning of the month when I was putting my conference poster together with what little data I had. And I panicked further about all my evening and weekend obligations because they made my work schedule too rigid. I was figuratively kicking myself for overbooking and regrettably I had to cancel a couple of evening engagements. In the end, a repeat experiment with the Clinical Biochemistry department’s luminometer worked. (A luminometer is a machine that measures light; in my case it’s the light given off by a clock reporter expressed in my cells.) I put these latest results into my flash presentation for the conference. This calmed down some of my panic feelings. I was also reminded by my lovely colleagues that I could go to them and tell them when things don’t work and they will help with the troubleshooting or just listen and help destress. Aren’t they just amazing!
FEBS Advanced Lecture Course and more travel chaos
When the fourth weekend of May approached, I was packed and ready for the FEBS Advanced Lecture Course meeting on the beautiful island of Spetses in Greece. I don’t know why but it all started to go wrong:
- I get to the bag drop desk after having checked in online to find that I am no longer on those flights. Somehow they had been changed between online check in the day before and that morning. The ground staff cheerfully informed me that my transit time would now be shorter though – yay!
- Flight is delayed! I get to Amsterdam with 30 minutes to power walk to my new gate. I get there all sweaty but I’ve made my flight. And they serve a snack on board. It’s all good again.
- We arrive in Athens somewhat on time. I wait for my luggage. Everyone I recognised as being on the same flight leaves. I’m still there waiting for my suitcase, which contains my laptop, my conference poster, all my clothes and all my toiletries. It then dawns on me that the luggage rotating on display now are those from a flight from Berlin. Dread.
- I queue up in the airport’s luggage handling desk. I’m tired. I’m sweaty. I start thinking what a logistical nightmare it’s going to be to reunite my luggage with me on Spetses and I want to cry.
- After a further 20 minutes with the airport staff, I set off on an almost 2-hour direct bus journey to Piraeus where I hope there will be shops open for me to purchase a change of clothes and some essentials. The bus is super vibratey and the padding of the seat has worn off so my ass hurts by the time I get to the port town. Luckily, H&M was open for another hour by the time I got to Piraeus. I bought myself 2 days’ worth of clothes and a toothbrush, toothpaste and a deodorant!
After checking into the hotel room that smelt of feet, a quick shower and a fresh change of clothes. I felt better and was happy that I was meeting a past colleague/friend (and now new collaborator) who is also interested in how the circadian clock regulates extracellular matrix dynamics. From then on, I tried hard to stay positive while I rationed my changes of clothes. Two days after my arrival in Greece I got my suitcase and all my belongings with the help from the lovely staff at Spetses Hotel! Whoop!
I started to enjoy the meeting and all the many talks from fellow young scientists. I got inspired with a new angle to finish off one of the papers I still have in preparation with my old lab. I brainstormed with my friend about how we should take my study forward and we decided to collaborate! I presented my data so far in a 5-minute flash presentation after lots of practising. I think it’s not as easy as you’d think, to succinctly introduce your research and new data in 5 minutes! I also got to catch up and hang out with a past mentor/collaborator from Manchester and his PhD student – conferencing is way more fun with friends!
We also met a lot of cats on the island. One afternoon, there was a kitty that looked exactly like a miniature version of my boyfriend’s cat! It was super cute and was practising its fighting and light biting skills. It made me miss our cat who is still in Manchester but due to come to Copenhagen soon!
After the conference, I had further travelling inconveniences. I had to leave the meeting early (6am) on the first ferry back because the one I was originally booked on would not give me enough time to get to the airport and the one before was fully booked. I get to the airport at 10am, check in, check my bag in and wait for my flight which was due to depart at 7:30pm. I get to Munich for my connecting flight at about 9pm and all operations at Munich airport is disable by a lightning storm! FML. Out flight is delayed by an hour and half. I finally get back to my apartment and in bed at 2am. So for the month of June, I ain’t no flying anywhere! (But I might have to. For science… I’ll let you know in next month’s update if I do!)