I've been here for just over two weeks now, but it feels like it's been a month. I've been putting in some long hours at the lab finishing up my training, and I started a pilot study for my first experiment on Monday. I got this afternoon off to write up my lab reports and protocols, so right now I'm just relaxing in my room and taking care of some chores.
I had my twentieth birthday here on Tuesday--I feel kind of old now. As far as birthdays go, even though I was away from my family and my friends, it was a pretty good one. Our German teacher seized the chance to teach us about birthdays, age, and numbers, which was fun and a little embarrassing. The other students in my class were really sweet, too, and made me a card and took me out to dinner--we went to an Italian restaurant called Roses, and it was a lot of fun. My lab also somehow found out about it and planned me a surprise party (which they actually planned right in front of me because I couldn't understand anything they were saying) complete with gluten-free cake and ice cream and fruit. They tried to make me sing in German--it didn't exactly work, because I couldn't figure out what the words were. And then they proceeded to make fun of me, because I'm evidently picking up a Cologne accent when I speak German--I can't say the "ch" at the end of "ich" properly yet. Oh, well--at least I'm speaking German, right? (I can say full sentences now!) I'll keep working on it; I just got umlauts down, so consonants are next. Also, a mouse bit me--I feel like that might become a theme this summer.
The World Cup has become an integral part of life over here--whenever there's a match, it's on almost anywhere I go. It's on at the hospital where I work when I leave to go to lunch, and people in the waiting rooms are all crowded around the tv and joking around and complaining about the referee. It's on in every single cafe and restaurant in the entire city. It's going to be on in my lab tomorrow afternoon for the Germany-Serbia game (my P.I. gave everyone the afternoon off and requisitioned one of the offices to set up a screen and a projector). And we're watching it for German culture class tomorrow. I love this country.
One thing that's been a really nice change from America is how polite everyone is over here. On my way back from the grocery store one night, I was passed by two boys on a bike who said, very loudly and clearly "Entschuldige!" (excuse me) and then when I moved to the side, I got a smile and a "Dankeschoen!"(thank you very much). From ten-year-olds. It was awesome. And here, very few people do that thing where you duck your head and avoid eye contact with everyone you see on the street--they say "Morgen!" or "Tag!" It's nice.
So, next on the agenda: public viewing with Volker, my German culture teacher, and an art museum tomorrow, and then Amsterdam this weekend. Eeek.
One last thing: my lab came to the consensus on Tuesday that I am a chick (like a baby chicken) and not dirty socks. Not really sure how I feel about that.