Thursday, December 15, 2011

Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Zaanse Schans. Oh my!

This is the post before I leave for California, the last post of 2011, the post about the Netherlands. Are you excited? Because I sure am :)

On the 8th, Caitlin and I flew out of London Gatwick and arrived in Amsterdam at 6. The hotel, to our great surprise, was a pretty lengthy walk from the train station (Amsterdam Centraal, to those who've been there). However, we eventually got checked into the hotel and I popped back out to meet up with Jeff, Dawn, and Megan (all friends from Santa Cruz). We wandered around some of the popular sites of Amsterdam; the three leading the way, as they had all been there for longer than me. One of the delightful places we visited was Febo. A store that only consists of vending machines with fried food in them. Which is hilarious, given Amsterdam's notoriously loose laws. Which takes me a bit off track... The main things that really stuck out about Amsterdam: The amazingly beautiful architecture, the canals, and the rows and rows and rows of munchy-food-themed restaurants. Anyway! Sadly, I don't have any blog-worthy pictures of the night. If any of the other three post pictures that are of decent quality (it was night, afterall) then I will post some in a later blog.
The 9th started with a four hour walking tour of Amsterdam. I believe the tour group was run by New Europe Tours. I highly recommend. The tour guide was knowledgeable, it was fun, and it was free!

And then we feasted on Dutch pancakes

You need only to look at the pictures to see how delicious they were. Oh, I should also mention that at this point in the trip, I was FREEZING. It was SOOOO cold. I was wearing more layers than I ever have before.
That night, we took the train to Utrecht to visit Jeff. He showed us around the town and we went to multiple bars. It was in this moment that I realized- I'm not a giant after all, I was just living in the wrong countries. 7 foot tall men? Hello Holland!
The next day was a full Utrecht day. The beginning of the day started off with a bang- fresh, hot stroopwafel. If you don't know what stroopwafel is, you need to go to an international grocery store IMMEDIATELY and buy some. Then, enjoy the hours of bliss that follow. Honestly, if everyone in the world could eat stroopwafel, there would be peace on Earth.

The highlight was climbing to the top of the highest church in the Netherlands. The view was breath taking

I forgot to mention something that the Netherlands is heavily linked to- bicycling. And holly cow, were there bicycles EVERYWHERE. And yes, I almost got ran over by one about 5 times. Another point worth noting- they do not give tap water. Maybe, if you are lucky, they will give you tap water if you buy a drink as well. Ridiculous.
The next morning we were off to Zaanse Schans, a traditional Dutch village. We saw windmills, a cheese factory, and a clog factory. It was adorable!

Later in the day, we returned to Amsterdam and went to the Van Gogh Museum. Honestly, I didn't think the Van Gogh collection they had was all that impressive. I didn't get to see Starry Night :(. Although, they did have some AMAZING Monet paintings.
The next morning we flew home.
And then life went on, outside of the Netherlands.
My verdict:
Would I go back? YES, I didn't get to do an Amsterdam canal tour or see the tulips in bloom. And I could always go for some more fresh stroopwafel.
What would I do differently? Bring a water bottle with a built-in filter. And eat more fresh stroopwafel.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Days are Speeding By

Thanksgiving was a huge success, which I'm actually quite surprised about. The food turned out SO good and the turkey actually worked! Our lovely floormates, who live in a 7 bedroom flat and thus get a real oven, let us bake at their place. So our Thanksgiving had turkey. Hallelujah! And the mix of people worked out perfectly.
Such a good night full of good food and good people :)

Research is FINALLY gaining some speed. And it actually might be snowballing a bit out of control... I;ll let you know if I suffocate. But really, things are moving along nicely. I'm still getting training with the electron microscope, since at least two of my first experiments will heavily involved the TEM. My last training session, I looked at neuroblastoma cells. Have you guys looked at mitochondria and Golgi super close up? Because its AWESOME. I might be able to put up some of my TEM pictures once they aren't just being taken for practice. I will continue along with telling about my research in a moment, but I thought I'd break up this thread of thought with my adventures last weekend with....
DAWN AND MEGAN! Two good friends from UCSC, who I lived with me junior year.
They arrived in Brighton on Saturday, where we strolled around the Royal Pavillion and The Lanes before stopping at Seven Stars (a pub) for a bit. Caitlin and Chad joined us.

Then, early the next morning, we hopped on a train to London. Megan had never been, so we got to do all of the touristy stuff, which I love! We went to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park (second week in a row for me haha) because of its FANTASTIC display of Christmas cheer. We also saw Buckingham Palace, Green Park, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the London Eye, Soho, Picadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge (and we crossed it), Regent Street, and the Covent Garden market. I think I named everything haha. Its amazing how much you can see in one day when you know your way around the city. And I'm getting a pretty decent handle on zone 1 of London. And of course, the cuisine we had paralleled their time in England. Chips (french fries) as a snack, fish and chips for Dawn and Megan (Sunday roast for me), and Indian food in the City of London. And of course, we went to another pub at the end of the day. Then on Monday, I took the day off from lab and we attacked Brighton again, this time the pier and the North Laine area. We stopped off at a pub, the White Rabbit, which is now probably my favorite in Brighton. There, we had a vegetable pie with veg sides and it was DELICIOUS. Again, just another show of the great British food you can get over here. Then on Tuesday, I said good bye to Dawn and Megan after a traditional English breakfast as they continued on their journeys around Europe. Their next stop was Dublin. Needless to say, I'm totally jealous.
BUT, I get to go to the Netherlands in 5 days, so I can't complain too much.
And now I bring us back to research. I will continue with my TEM training by learning how to make my own grids (which is the sample I will be looking at). After that, I can delve into my first experiment! I'm far more excited about it than I care to share haha. I also (finally) get training on how to handle amyloid peptides! So once I have that training as well, a whole door of opportunities for experiments opens up. I have molecular training coming up after Christmas break, but that can wait until I have my first few experiments under  my belt. The first three I need to do include behavioral and TEM use. They aren't molecular biology heavy. But the next steps will be. I'm still kicking around the idea of using electrophysiology as a means of research. However, its not really my area of interest. BUT it doesn't hurt to have even more specialized training to put on my resume. I think I might wait and see how my experiments are going and then I'll decide if electrophys is the right choice for me. Right now, I'm leaning towards learning it. I'm ALSO brushing up on my statistics and will soon be learning how to use statistical programs on the computer. I've currently got at least 7 experiments that I will definitely be doing being mapped out. This week was great for my research; I all of a sudden knew what I wanted to do and could create experimental designs.
So much to do, only four years to do it in. And the days are speeding by. NO. TIME.
Besides that, I've kept up with the gym classes. I tried three new classes this week (HIT, Dynamic Bodywork, and Metabolic MixUp) and continued with Yin Yoga. HIT was a nice mix of cardio and weight lifting, I'll definitely be going again. Dynamic Bodywork CLAIMED to be a mix between yoga, pilates, and dance. However, it really just wasn't my cuppa tea. I won't be returning to that. Metabolic Mix Up was AMAZING. Again, more cardio and weights mix, but this was a little more focused on getting cardio while weight lifting. Whereas HIT was a cardio session and then a weights session. And Yin, well, I love Yin Yoga. I already raved about it in my last post.
Now for a little less exciting news- I have the nastiest sounding cough. Seriously, it even grosses me out. But the weird thing is, I don't even feel sick. Sure, my nose is a little snuffly. But really, this cough is just gross. Its deep in my chest and super husky sounding. Dear family- Any idea on what I could/should do to make this cough go away? Please and thank you :)
Lastly, but definitely not least in my mind, the university gave a talk about moving off campus for next year. And now, I'm already thinking about rent comparisons, good places to live, living with others or on my own, public transport options, finding a furnished flat, NEEDING a washer and dryer, etc. My friends in lab have been really helpful as far as utilities prices and good places to live. A friend with a car has offered to help me house shop and move in. AND I have housemate options. Of all the bad situations that can come with housing, I think I'm in a pretty good spot right now as far as finding accommodation for next year. I'll probably begin looking around online during Christmas break.

Next time I update you will be after the Netherlands. I may even be back in California.
Until then :)