Friday, August 29, 2008

It may seem like I forgot that I have this blog. I didn’t. July was just very hectic. My excuses for not posting thus far in August are ending an experiment and attending a gay wedding, but those are admittedly bad excuses. July started out with a trip to Switzerland. I visited a colleague in Zürich and gave a talk about complex life cycle evolution (to a huge audience of about 20 people). The opponent at my PhD defense works in Zürich, and after my defense he offered his lab facilities to me if I can secure some funding. I would have nothing against moving to Zürich, but we’ll see if I manage to find funds in the coming year or so. Zürich is consistently rated as one of the best cities in the world to live in, and my impressions give no reason to doubt this…nice landscapes, beautiful architecture, reliable transportation, nice Swiss social benefits etc. The strange thing was that I barely heard any German there. Apparently, 21% of the entire Swiss population is foreigners, and in a big city like Zürich that number is probably higher. That definitely gives the city a cool, cosmopolitan feeling.

After Switzerland, it was back to work for a week, before the next trip. Ines and I went to Turkey for a week long tour. We did a package bus trip, because we did not have time to plan a trip ourselves (and we were a bit lazy too). We flew to Istanbul and then took a bus to most every tourist site in west Turkey, mostly ruins from Antiquity, but also some beautiful hot springs and a beach or two. After a week of riding the bus, we flew from Antalaya back to Hamburg. The highlight of the trip was probably Istanbul. It is a huge city with a rather convoluted history due to its geography; it is a gateway between Europe and Asia and thus a boundary between the Christian and Islamic worlds. The history of the city was not the only thing that impressed us. We were also struck by the vibrance of the city. There just seemed to be a lot going on. Unfortunately, we only had one day there, which was not enough to really experience the city. Consequently, shortly after the trip began, Ines and I decided that this was our first and last package tour. We just missed the freedom to set our own agenda. Every part of the trip (food, hotels, destinations) was well planned, making the whole thing rather stress free. Even a case of food poisoning (involving me) could not disrupt the group’s itinerary. At the end of the trip, Ines and I both had positive impressions, and would someday like to return to Turkey.

After Turkey, Ines and I returned to Ploen together. I, naturally, went back the lab. While I was working, Ines was terribly bored in Ploen, so she invited some friends of hers to visit. To be specific she invited a couple and their 3 year old daughter (Ines’ godchild). Now, let me just say that my apartment is meant for one person. When Ines stays with me, we manage, but on a more long term basis, we would need a bigger place. Given that we crammed 5 people into my little flat, the whole visit was a bit stressful. As an aside, I would just like to emphasize how happy I am to have no children.

The day our visitors left, Ines’ parents arrived. The next day the four of us (me, Ines, and her parents) flew to Dublin. This was probably the most proper “adult” holiday I ever had, and was accordingly one of the most expensive. We stayed in a nice hotel (instead of a hostel), rented a car (instead of trying to get around via cheaper alternatives), and ate out twice a day (instead of going to the supermarket). That said, Ireland was pretty cool. We spent the first day in Dublin. My personal highlight was a trip to the Guinness brewery and of course drinking a few pints of the world famous stout. I have to say, the Guinness did taste better in Ireland, though some subconscious bias may shaped my impressions. The next day we drove into the Wicklow mountains south of Dublin to visit some ruins from medieval Ireland. Everything was how you would imagine it…stone ruins, green meadows, bogs, rain, and of course sheep. On the third day, we drove all the way across the island to the east coast to see the Cliffs of Moher. I was surprised how small the island is; it only takes about four hours to drive all the way across. The cliffs themselves were impressive, but teeming with tourists. Actually, Ines and I both thought that the whole island was like a big tourist attraction, but this may have been because we basically just did the stuff in the tourist book. The most negative thing I can say about Ireland is how similar it is to America. The greasy food, big cars, citizens that talk without hesitation…all very American. Of course, that is not inherently negative, but when I travel abroad, I want to experience something novel and exotic. When I want American culture, I’ll visit Nebraska.

So, that was the summer holidays. Now it is back to work until Xmas. Hopefully, I manage to collect some interesting data about parasite life history strategies.