Hang-en cave

Hang-en cave
(credit: National Geographic)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Week One: Done

This is a really long post. Be warned.
Today is a lovely lazy Saturday, a perfect end to my first full week in Bonn. Here's a recap:
Sunday: I went to church in a beautiful cathedral, read a little bit, and cleaned. Not very exciting.

Monday: I had my first German language class, where we learned die Alphabet and how to say what our names were and where we were from. Then I went shopping and had another generally lazy day until the official ceremony to open the program. The ceremony wasn't quite what I expected--we had an overview of the program and all of the labs that came to support their students introduced themselves, and then the head of the program gave a talk that had absolutely nothing to do with our program; it was basically a history of the new research building we were in, and a giant advertisement to get all of us to come back and do graduate or post-doc work in said new building. I'm considering it.

Tuesday: I had my second German class. We did conjugations of regular and irregular verbs, and basic pleasant small talk--how to say how we were feeling and why, and the differences between addressing someone formally versus informally. We also went over pronunciation and German names. After class, I headed over to my lab, which is in the University of Bonn hospital--so cool--and poured agar plates and learned how to properly hold mice for injection. It's a lot harder than it looks; it took me forever to actually get the mouse into my hand securely.

Wednesday: I went into the lab early in the morning and learned to culture the bacteria that I'll be working with for the rest of the summer and then plate it onto the agar plates to grow.I had to leave the lab earlier than normal for the Unilauf in Koln (Cologne)--I ran the 5k race (the 10k was probably a bit too much for me to handle) with a bunch of other students from Bonn, and it was a blast, even though I hadn't run in a looong time. (Part of the Unilauf is actually a competition between the universities in Bonn and Cologne to see which has the most international students running--so obviously I had to run :)) Plus, I got a sweet t-shirt out of it. One thing that was a bit of a culture shock, though, was the free beer after the race. Not exactly my beverage of choice after running, but hey, whatever works.

Thursday: I had my first full day in the lab. The morning started out with more bacterial culturing and paper-reading, and the afternoon was everything mouse-related: handling, injection, dissection, and organ preparation. So Thursday was a little rough--there was a lot of information to absorb, and working with the mice was more intense than I expected. During one of my breaks, the lab technician, Steffi, showed me some different types of macrophage cells under the microscope, and that was so incredibly cool to see.

Friday: In the lab, I had a workshop on the FACS machine that counts the number and types of cells in a given sample, and that was about it for Friday's work. I had German culture class again--it's incredible how much I don't know about German history and geography, so I definitely learned a lot yesterday.
We generally have some sort of activity after class on Friday: yesterday was a tour of Bonn focusing on the early life of Beethoven. It wasn't exactly a stellar tour (it was a lot of "Here's where Beethoven had his nth teacher or a job or where he learned to play--it used to be a church, but it burned down and now it's H&M.") but it was interesting to see his birth-house, and his school (which is where I go to church!) and to get to see more of the city. And we saw a lot of random pubs that we ducked into to check the score of the South Africa-Mexico match. After dinner, we were all taken to the symphony, which was beautiful--they had an amazing piano soloist and a rather entertaining conductor. Once the symphony finished, I walked home with one of the girls that lives in my dorm. We ended up getting fantastically lost, since the concert hall was in a different part of Bonn that where we'd been before--we literally walked in a circle for a while(we passed the same oriental rug shop twice), went through some semi-shady alleys, and attempted to follow a bus to the main train station (we were too late to actually get on the bus, and we didn't feel like waiting for the next one to come). Eventually we made it back, and the excursion was labeled our first night-time adventure in Bonn.
Also, THE WORLD CUP STARTED ON FRIDAY. It's so crazy over here--every single store, restaurant, and cafe has a flatscreen that they hauled out for people to watch the matches, and there are German flags EVERYWHERE. I'm so excited--USA plays England today, and Germany plays Australia tomorrow.

Today: So far, I've eaten breakfast. Terribly exciting. But later, I'll definitely be heading out somewhere to watch the USA-England game, and I have my Deutschland bandanna all set to go for tomorrow.

It feels like it's going too fast and at the same time too slow. I miss you all, but I never want it to end. I'm so conflicted.


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