Cozy times ahead

Standaard

In de VS zijn ze helemaal gek op de herfst (fall, niet autumn). Pompoen, halloween, thanksgiving, de mooie kleuren van de bomen. Ik geloof dat ik een beetje ben aangestoken door het enthousiasme daar! Of misschien komt het doordat de herfst dit jaar zo zacht is, met veel zon. Ik geniet er in ieder geval volop van.

IMG_1367

Een vriendin van mijn nieuwe studie heeft een poëziealbum, dat ze nog steeds bijhoudt. Het heeft een tijdje  (een half jaar… sorry!) in de kast gelegen voor ik wist wat ik erin wou zetten, maar gisteravond kwam het er eindelijk van. Tijl had voor het eerst DND en zat met zijn groep in de huiskamer, ondertussen zat ik lekker te knutselen op de studeerkamer. Eerst leek het me niet handig om thuis te zijn terwijl er continu gepraat wordt in de huiskamer, maar eigenlijk was het juist heel fijn, want daardoor kon ik eens niet mijn gebruikelijke dingen doen (lezen, bijv.) en kwam ik uit bij knutselen. Ik besloot een soort mini-collage in het poëziealbum te maken, inclusief wat uitspraken die ik leuk/mooi vind. Het moet natuurlijk wel een beetje cliché blijven ;) nu ben ik helemaal geïnspireerd om meer te gaan knutselen, ik heb vandaag ook al een aantal leuke DIY’s uitgezocht. Mocht ik ze ook daadwerkelijk uitvoeren dan is er een kans dat ze hier nog voorbijkomen.

DSCF0118

Ik hou heel veel van dagen waar ik de deur niet uit hoef en lekker kan studeren. Dit was afgelopen zaterdag. Ik weet niet of jullie dat herkennen maar ik kan hier zo blij van worden: thee (uit mijn favo mok, van de vegan bakery in Bloomington), broodjes met brie uit de oven, pennen en markeerstiften erbij en studeren maar. Het allerliefst werk ik de hele dag aan hetzelfde vak, dan kom ik in zo’n fijne werkflow. En dat dan onderbreken met, bijvoorbeeld, zelf pepernoten bakken. Die je dan daarna bij de thee kan opeten.

IMG_1358

Tijl en ik hebben deze zomer allebei een postcrossing profiel aangemaakt. Nu sturen we dus kaarten naar mensen over de hele wereld, en vinden we in de brievenbus kaarten uit Turkije, de Filipijnen en Rusland. Het is altijd grappig om te proberen aan de kaart te zien voor wie hij is. Deze twee zijn trouwens niet voor ons maar van ons. Veel mensen vragen om kaarten met typische dingen van je land/stad/omgeving. We hebben niet echt van die ‘groetjes uit…’ kaarten, maar proberen toch altijd iets leuks te vinden in onze stapel.

IMG_1351

Nu ik terug ben uit de VS heb ik het wandelen weer opgepakt. Met Janneke en Suus spreek ik vaak ‘s ochtends af om een wandeling door de bossen in de omgeving te maken. Dat is zo’n heerlijk begin van de dag! Zelfs als het een beetje regent is het nog lekker, mits je op tijd thuis bent om nog even droge kleren aan te kunnen trekken voor je naar college moet. Ik heb altijd het idee dat ik me na zo’n wandeling de rest van de dag supergoed kan concentreren. Het bos is prachtig op dit moment, en stiekem is het helemaal nog niet zo koud.

IMG_1362 DSCF0006

 

Hoewel ik Bloomington nog steeds mis ben ik ook blij om weer gewoon thuis te zijn, in ons eigen fijne huisje. Een van onze buren zei al tegen Tijl toen ik nog weg was: ‘gelukkig hebben jullie katten samen, dan weet je zeker dat ze nog terugkomt, ze mist ze zo’. Ik hoop echt dat het er ooit nog van komt om voor een wat langere tijd in Amerika te gaan studeren/werken. Liefst in Bloomington of Californië, maar stiekem zou ik volgens mij op veel plaatsen gelukkig kunnen zijn. En het is een stuk makkelijker voor katten dan voor mensen om het land in te mogen. Dat heb ik dus echt al uitgezocht, ja.

IMG_1328

Mijn eigen keuken heb ik ook wel gemist, nu ik weer terug ben sta ik heel veel in de keuken. Ik kreeg via postcrossing een kaart van een Franse chefkok met daarop haar favoriete recept voor koekjes. Ze waren inderdaad heerlijk (extra lekker omdat het recept in het Frans was en ik maar een woord hoefde op te zoeken). Ik heb haar mijn favoriete brownierecept teruggestuurd, ik ben benieuwd wat ze ervan vindt.  De pizza op de foto maakte ik met allerlei restjes die we nog in huis hadden. We eten vrij vaak zelfgemaakte pizza, maar dit was de eerste keer dat ik de moeite had genomen om pizza from scratch te maken voor mezelf. Meestal eet ik in mijn eentje liever iets makkelijks en doe ik niet zoveel moeite.

 

 

Doe nooit iets omdat het goed staat op je CV

Standaard

Of: waarom ik dat niet (meer) doe.

Mijn ervaring met dingen doen omdat ze goed op mijn CV zouden staan is niet echt positief. Het is voor mij heel moeilijk om iets te doen waar ik niet echt in geloof, waar ik niet intrinsiek achter sta, alleen omdat het goed staat op mijn CV. Als ik doe zonder intrinsieke motivatie kost het me veel moeite en gaat het niet zo goed. Eigenlijk heeft niemand daar iets aan.

De reden dat ik besloot me voortaan niets mee aan te trekken van mijn CV is dat ik me op een gegeven moment realiseerde dat je niets hebt aan een CV vol met dingen waar je niet intrinsiek blij van wordt, waar je geen voldoening uit haalt. Want dat CV helpt je vooral bij het krijgen van een baan waar je niet intrinsiek blij van wordt en waar je niet echt voldoening uit haalt.

Ter illustratie: volgend kalenderjaar moet ik een masterstage doen, en de deadline voor het inleveren van een stagevoorstel is over ruim een maand. Veel mensen raden me aan om in mijn stage op zijn minst onderzoek met EEG of fMRI te doen (ik studeer cognitive neuroscience). Ik weet nog niet precies wat ik wil gaan onderzoeken, maar bij elk idee wat ik heb komt als methode behavioural of eye-tracking in me op. Ik zie op het moment veel meer in het doen van dat soort onderzoek. Als ik dat vertel krijg ik soms als waarschuwing dat het moeilijk kan zijn om een PhD plek te vinden, en dat het vaak voordelig werkt als je ervaring hebt met op zijn minst fMRI of EEG.

Soms raak ik daar een beetje onzeker van. Moet ik dan misschien toch een stage doen waarbij ik wel een van die twee technieken leer? Deze week besefte ik me dat ik dat niet moet doen. In ieder geval, niet omdat dat goed staat op mijn CV en me makkelijker aan een PhD plek kan helpen. Want, als ik weinig zie in fMRI/EEG onderzoek, waarom zou ik dan in godsnaam volgend jaar gaan solliciteren op een PhD positie voor een onderzoek dat heel veel fMRI/EEG gebruikt? Het onderzoek dat ik leuk vind, wat mij inspireert, is vaak behavioural, eye-tracking of computational modeling. Dan heb ik toch veel meer aan een stage waarin ik ervaring op doe met die methodes! Dat is waarschijnlijk veel relevanter voor het vinden van een PhD positie in de richting die ik wil.

En jammer dan dat het minder stoer staat op je CV, omdat het minder ingewikkeld is dan die andere technieken. Ik denk eigenlijk dat, als ik nu een fMRI/EEG stage zou gaan doen, dat niet per se een gaaf onderzoek zou zijn. Een beetje ongeïnspireerd en saai onderzoek waarschijnlijk, aangezien ik er zelf niet achter sta. Dan kan ik beter een onderzoek gaan doen waar ik intrinsiek voor gemotiveerd ben. Dan werk ik waarschijnlijk veel makkelijker (en krijg daardoor veel meer gedaan), waardoor het ook een veel beter onderzoek wordt.

Dit alles betekent natuurlijk niet dat ik nooit meer dingen doe die mooi staan op mijn CV. Ik ben notabene net 7 weken in de VS geweest met een beurs van het honoursprogramma om een extra onderzoek te doen. En ja, dat staat mooi op mijn CV, maar dat is absoluut niet de reden dat ik het gedaan heb. Ik had een onderzoek in gedachten dat in de VS makkelijker uit te voeren zou zijn dan hier. Het leek me leuk om naar het buitenland te gaan. Ik wilde überhaupt vast een keer een klein onderzoekje doen voor ik aan mijn grote masterstage ga beginnen.

Tijdens dat project waren er twee weken dat ik elke dag voor 9 uur op het lab was, en gemiddeld rond half 8 ‘s avonds naar huis ging. Het weekend tussen die twee weken in werkte ik ook door. Met veel plezier zelfs. No way dat ik zo toegewijd was geweest als ik daar gezeten had ‘voor mijn CV’. Dat ik toen zo hard werkte was omdat het onderzoek supergoed liep, omdat het ontzettend leuk was om te doen. En doordat ik me zo inzette ging het nog beter. Toen ik er na twee weken moe van was ben ik weer wat normalere uren gaan werken, en dat was natuurlijk ook prima, toen was het drukke stuk (piloten!) ook voorbij.

Dat wil ik later in een baan ook. Ik wil iets doen waar ik intrinsiek voor gemotiveerd ben. Daar heeft iedereen meer aan. Ik ben zelf gelukkiger en het werk dat ik aflever is (veel) beter. En volgens mij vind ik die baan het makkelijkst met een CV dat reflecteert wat ik leuk vind om te doen, in plaats van een CV dat reflecteert wat ik (of eigenlijk: men) een mooi CV vind.

Oh, en zal ik je iets verklappen? Ik besefte me ongeveer een jaar geleden dat ik nooit meer iets wilde doen omdat het mooi staat op mijn CV. Ik probeer daar sindsdien naar te leven en dat lukt aardig. Wat denk je dat er inmiddels met mijn CV gebeurd is? Het is veel mooier geworden! Ik heb zoveel energie sinds ik van studie gewisseld ben, alles gaat makkelijker en daardoor krijg ik veel meer gedaan.

Misschien heb ik makkelijk praten. Ik heb een mooi CV, mede dankzij de tijd dat ik wel dingen deed omdat ze goed stonden op mijn CV. Ik zit in een vakgebied waar nog onderzoeksgeld te krijgen is. Ik kan me goed voorstellen dat er situaties zijn waarin het handig kan zijn om mijn advies uit de titel niet op te volgen, en ik heb niets tegen hard werken omdat je inkomen nodig hebt.  Maar het maakt voor mij zoveel verschil hoe ik me nu voel (nu ik een studie doe die ik superinteressant vind) vergeleken met hoe ik me eerst voelde (toen ik een studie deed die me niet meer heel erg boeide), dat ik in ieder geval ga proberen me aan mijn eigen advies te houden. Ik hoop dat het blijft lukken :)

California – picture diary

Standaard

I don’t seem to get around to writing an actual blog post these last weeks, even though I have several ideas / beginnings lined up. To keep you all updated a bit, here’s a photo diary of the labor day weekend I spent in California.

540096_650799414932153_2145799231_n DSCF0039

Day 1, Yosemite national park. The smoke from the huge rim fire had blown into Yosemite valley exactly the day I was visiting. I guess I’ll just have to come back another time, which I definitely don’t mind! Even without smoke one day is just too short for such an awesome place. With the smoke as it was we got nauseous from walking only half a mile.

DSCF0060 DSCF0050

Mariposa County Fair. Fairs are these typical American things. There’s food, there’s stuff we would call a ‘kermis’, there’s a beer garden, there’s live music, there’s local competitions (best cookies, best local cucumbers, best meat goose, etc). I love the name of this town: butterfly is my favorite across-languages word, it sounds nice in almost all tongues. This is a small redneck town (his words, not mine) in the mountains around Yosemite, it’s where my couchsurfing host grew up. It actually used to be the state capital during the gold rush. Anyway, it was fun being at this fair, the nice thing about couchsurfing is that you spend a lot of time with locals so you get to see things most tourists don’t.

1234623_712771222071302_977490031_n DSCF0088

From left to right: Ben, my couchsurfing host; me; David, Ben’s friend. These are taken at a vista point on the mountains between Yosemite and central valley. The view was amazing, even with some smoke from the rim fire we could see incredibly far. We spent the sunset here taking goofy pictures. Amongst other things, we discovered that the way Europeans (or at least Duchies) imitate both an elephant and a duck differ significantly from the way Americans do.

DSCF0113 DSCF0096

Some pictures taken in Merced at the house I stayed in. The left one is a really old mini-door in the wall for the milkman to put the milk in. On the inside the people of the house could say what they would like to have. On the right is a picture of Tiny,  a pit bull, eating some stroopwafel (which I’d brought from the Netherlands as a souvenir for my hosts). I always thought pit bulls were really scary dogs, but I also thought they looked different, so I’m probably just confused with another type of dogs. Anyway, I really liked the house I was staying in, it was my first night on a real mattress in the states (at ‘home’ in Bloomington I have an air bed).

DSCF0168DSCF0185

Day 2, Big Sur national park. We took a road trip down the atlantic coast. Highway 1 goes right by the shore, making for a lovely view. It reminded me of the Cinque Terre region in Italy, but way, way bigger and without the cute colourful towns. We had dinner on chairs in a creek, with our feet in the water. The region was so diverse, half a mile away from the coast you were surrounded by mountains and forests, which had a very different feel to them.

DSCF0239DSCF0284

This time we spent the sunset at a vista point overlooking the ocean. Wow. To my big surprise we saw whales. The picture on the left was the best I took, but they were actually jumping out and playing. It was so amazing to watch. Crazy Beautiful is the best way to describe the feeling of  that place. The mountains, the vast ocean, the sunset. California was almost overwhelming in terms of beautiful places.

1229841_712717868743304_158096335_n IMG_1158

We spent the next two nights at friends of Ben’s. Their guest room was amazing, on the wall it reads ‘be your own kind of beautiful’. The nights spent there were by far the most comfortable I’ve had here, even though I slept way too little during my time in California (there was just too much to do and see). In their study they had a map that covered an entire wall. This is actually something Tijl and me want to have in our home but haven’t figured out how to realize yet. I can now confirm that it is indeed as awesome as I thought it would be. In addition to loving nice sayings (as evident all around the house) the hosts also loved learning new languages. Their dogs are actually trained in Russian and Arabic, how amazing is that!

DSCF0318 DSCF0314

Day 3, San Francisco. We started our day with at a tea lounge in a park in the middle of the city. I remember from my time in New York how awesome small parks surrounded by skyscrapers are. I had some of the most interesting (and expensive!) tea ever, and really enjoyed starting the day in a big city in such a relaxed spot. We got really lucky with the weather, San Francisco can be cold due to the wind but we actually both got sunburnt.

DSCF0338 DSCF0358

Of course we also went to all the touristy places. We walked all the way from pier 1 to pier 39, and ran into a nice behavioural science playground next to a museum. I love it when they quote my cat. San Francisco was lovely, I think I never even realized before visiting that it is an important sea port. The golden gate bridge is called that because it was the entrance to the golden coast of California. Both in riches and in looks: the hills between central valley and the coast really did look golden.

DSCF0421 DSCF0455

We took a boat trip that went underneath the golden gate bridge and around Alcatraz (which I kept referring to as Guantanamo bay by accident…). In the left picture you see both a sailing ship and a mammoth container ship approaching the bridge. The bridge is way higher than I thought it would be, but still mammoth ships can only cross it during low tide. I want to visit San Francisco again and then actually visit the old prison on Alcatraz.

DSCF0486 DSCF0494

After the boat trip we walked around the city for a bit (those hills!). We ended up eating at a vegan place in Chinatown (not the one pictured, I just loved the colourful wall paintings), they are famous for their fake meats. I usually don’t eat a lot of fake meat but these were tasty indeed (although it didn’t actually taste like spare ribs, in my opinion). We were both so tired that we couldn’t eat more than a few bites, so after dinner we decided to call it a day and head back. I didn’t mind spending only 7 hours there. That was already 7 more hours then I expected to be in San Francisco any time soon and I know I’ll go back anyway.

To conclude, my labor day weekend was amazing. I fell in love with California. Where Bloomington is special because of it’s hippieness (being in the midwest), California seems to be a whole state full of hippies. And there’s so much I didn’t see yet! The weekend was both awesome and exhausting, so I am happy to be back in Bloomington and live normal life again. I am very happy I worked during the may holiday, since it is that money that made this trip affordable to me. I’m actually enjoying traveling so much that I’m thinking about living a bit more frugal to make traveling more of a priority money-wise, but we’ll see if I can actually keep true to that resolution when I’m back home.

Arts and crafts

Standaard

Blog written last Friday evening – I only put it up now because the pictures needed to be put in. 

Well, dear readers, are you getting bored with all of the excited happy writing yet? Well, I might have some good news for you. Today I had an introduction at the international office and somewhere in the information booklet they gave us is a paragraph about culture shock. It apparently comes in three stages:

1. The honeymoon stage – the newcomer is excited and fascinated by her new surroundings, enjoys the change and finds the difference with her own culture interesting.

2. Culture shock – the newcomer confronts more and more differences to her home environment and will have a culture shock. Characterized by stress, frustration, misunderstandings and negative feelings about the new cultural environment

3. Adjustment – The newcomer eventually understands how things work and how people interact. This enables her to better accept and appreciate the differences and function more effectively in the new environment.

So can you guess what stage I’m in? I wonder what the time-scales associated with these stages are. Most international visitors stay for a lot longer than seven weeks, and I guess that seven weeks is not enough to go through them. I feel more like a visitor than an actual resident, and of course still have my home in the Netherlands. But, who knows, my excitement might die down a bit. I’ll keep you updated on my mental state!

Now that we’ve had that, let me tell you something more about my honeymoon! Bloomington feels like a treasure chest of awesomeness. It feels like at any random moment I can suddenly find myself in an insanely cool situation. So what happened tonight? Two girls at my lab, including my roommate, work at the local clay studio. I was curious about it after seeing lots of pretty mugs, cups, bowls, etc. around the house. My roommate’s shift is friday night, so after dinner I headed out to the clay studio.

They even had an arcade pacman machine that says rainbow bakery!

The arcade gaming machine at rainbow bakery.

The clay studio itself turned out to be rather quiet, because there was a new bakery opening next door, and they were handing out samples. We decided to go check it out, but I had eaten right before going there and was just looking at the food without trying anything. Then halfway down the shop I spotted something savory and yummy-looking, but it said ‘blabla bacon blabla’, so I sighed ‘ohh, too bad, I don’t eat bacon’ and a girl that works there replies ‘It’s vegan. All of it is.’ Wow. A vegan bakery. Of course I went back to the front and got a plate and tried almost everything after hearing that. I’ve never been at a vegan bakery before! This one was so nice, it’s called rainbow bakery. But that’s not all.

Vegan mini-pastries

Vegan mini-pastries

On the other side of the clay studio there was also something going on, it turned out to be an art studio where artists can rent some space. It also has a big central part, and tonight they were having a gallery opening. There was live music (a double bas and a guitar with lovely vocals, the band is called Charlie Jesseph) and paintings (or actually: mixed media) by a local artist named Sara Pliske. I love the soft, sweet colours that she uses. The paintings had… texture. I think that might be what mixed media means. If I could afford these paintings I would put one up above my bed and feel like a princess every morning. Yep, a princess.

Painting by Sara Pliske

Painting by Sara Pliske

And that was only half of my evening. I also met a lovely young family who invited me over to come have dinner at their home while I’m here. They had such a nice, bubbly vibe, I really enjoyed talking to them and the friend they had with them. In the Netherlands I don’t have any friends that are marrying / having kids, but here I seem to be in an environment with lots of young families. That’s probably both because people have kids a bit younger here and because the people I hang around with are a bit older (ranges from 23 – 33). At the welcome Elise dinner last wednesday there were two postdocs that had brought their wife + kid along, and at the get together at our neighbours there was also a graduate student with his wife and their son. And of course, even though I myself will be testing adults at the Goldstone lab, I am at a cognitive development lab here, which basically means that we have kids coming in every day.

My awesome roommate Lisa claying with Victor

My awesome roommate Lisa claying with Victor

I have noticed this shift lately in how I feel towards children. When I was younger, I did not see myself having kids – ever. These last few years that has changed, and I am now quite sure that I do want to have children. I guess that happens growing up. So ever since (roughly) being 20 years old  I was at a point where, theoretically, I wanted to have a family ‘when I grow up’, but in practice I still did not feel comfortable around children. This last year has really changed that, and I am now at a point where I genuinely like kids and think they are cute. Tonight was another milestone, because I was actually around a kid (little Victor) and not uncomfortable at all! Haha, the crazy effects Bloomington have on me.

Picture of some of Kim's posters at the organic store

Picture of some of Kim’s posters at the organic store

Yet another part of my evening consisted of meeting the artist that did the posters I saw at Bloomingfoods the other day. She showed me her studio and how she makes the posters, and I will dedicate a  blogpost to that this weekend. Isn’t that a wonderful coincidence? Isn’t the whole evening amazing? I bike downtown to a clay studio, find a vegan bakery that has an opening party, run into the studio of a local artist whose art I was already curious about, make some new friends that invite me over for dinner and get to see a lovely art gallery by yet another local artist, while listening to live music by (you get it…). Also, I didn’t even clay yet, so I’ll go back to the studio sometime next week to try out claying (and get some yummy vegan baked goods next door!).

Charlie Jesseph at the farmer's market next morning (in a different line-up)

Charlie Jesseph at the farmer’s market next morning (in a different line-up)

Anyway, as is probably clear by now: I am definitely still in the honeymoon stage. I love it here. I catch myself thinking about when I could come back. I now no longer think that seven weeks is long enough to be here, I’m wishing it was longer. I have already been here for one week, out of seven… time flies! In the back of my head I do know that part of what I’m feeling is the new-ness of it all, and that I will probably come to miss more about home than just having my cats around. But for now, I’m in a happy bubble and enjoying the crap out of it!

Falling in love

Standaard

So, something has been happening that I did not expect: I’m falling in love with Bloomington. As I wrote yesterday, I could actually see myself living here for a longer period of time. I don’t know if this feeling will last, we’ll see about that, but for the moment I’m happy and feel very lucky to have accidentally picked such a nice place for my stay abroad. Because no, it was not intentionally. People here ask me why I’m specifically here, in Bloomington, and the only answer I can give is that it just sort of fell into my lap (here’s that story).

hippie wall decoration along the bike lane

hippie wall decoration along the bike lane

Let me tell you a bit more about why I like it here so much. Yesterday after work I decided to check out the farmer’s market. I’d read about this concept on American blogs before and was curious. They have the market twice a week, a small one on tuesday and a big one on saturday. The market was really cute and small, and because I was there near closing time not very busy. I found some awesome locally grown tomatoes, I love their colourfulness. I’m really excited about visiting the (much bigger) saturday market, I’ll get up early for it even though it’s a saturday.

those colourful things at the front are tomatoes!

those colourful things at the front are tomatoes!

I don’t usually write shoplogs, but right now I want to show the nice things I got at the farmer’s market and Bloomfoods (the organic store I mentioned yesterday). A small flask of extra virgin olive oil, ideal for a short stay and the bottle is so cute! They have a wall at Bloomfoods with huge containers of nuts, grains, seeds, herbs, etc. I got some thyme and some oregano, and am trying to figure out if I can bring some catnip home as a souvenir for Sophia and Plato (I know that on the way in customs wouldn’t have allowed it, don’t know about Dutch customs rules). I also needed shampoo (had only brought a small travel flask that I could take into the plane) and found an awesome local brand that sells all kinds of soaps (my shampoo was made here in Bloomington!). Since Janneke started making her own soaps I rediscovered actual old-fashioned non-liquid soap, and I’m really curious how it feels to wash my hair with it.

IMG_1063

Yesterday was a lovely summer evening and on my way home I was thinking how nice it would be to eat outside. Getting home I noticed that our neighbours had friends over and were sitting outside, it looked ‘gezellig’. Within 15 minutes, when I had just started cooking my food, one of them dropped by to invite me + my roommate (who wasn’t home yet) over. I gladly accepted their invitation and took my big bowl of salad over to their patio. More and more people arrived (including my roommate, who was happy to see that I had already joined in). Musical instruments and snacks were brought out, there was a fire and (jumbo sized!) marshmallows. I had a great evening and met lots of new people (some also happened to be in cogsci).

Marshmallows over the fire

Marshmallows over the fire

I just cannot get over how nice everyone I met so far has been. People here really are more open, helpful and friendly (to strangers) than I’m used to. One of our neighbours regularly visits College Mall, a big shopping center with some stores that I’m curious about, and he offered to give me a ride sometime since it’s not a good neighbourhood to go to by bike from where we live. The other one said I could just come and get basil from the plant he has standing outside. I’m also invited to the next get together, which is on tuesday again but this time at a pub downtown.

Another pretty painting on a building

Another pretty painting on a building, though it’s hard to tell from this picture

It’s now wednesday evening (I’ve been typing this blog throughout the day) and I just got home from the welcome Elise dinner at my supervisor’s place. It was nice, there were grad students and postdocs from both the Smith and the Goldstone labs, with their families. Imagine two toddlers and a whole bunch of cognitive developmentalists. My first question after meeting a German postdoc’s Chinese wife and their kid was `so you’re raising him German/Chinese bilingual?’, which I later realized is not the first thing most people would ask. I love being around cognitive scientists the whole day, it’s nice that everyone else is just as passionate about their work as I am.

Hi there beautiful!

Hi there beautiful!

Speaking about work, there’s not really much to share yet. I’m basically learning python at the moment, since that’s what we decided to program the experiment in. I like programming and I love learning new things, so I’m really having fun. I went from ‘Hello world’ to programs that can read a text file and print a list of the words in there and how often they occur. It’s funny, because last week I learned the same thing in R, where it was much easier (but you have less control/insight). I’m done with the introduction so tomorrow I’ll start working on specifically programming experiments in python.

DSCF0009 DSCF0010 DSCF0007 DSCF0016

So anyway, I like it here. The thing I miss most about the Netherlands (whoever you are that’s reading this, don’t be offended now) is my cats. The funny thing is, I’ve been skyping and google-chatting and emailing with friends + family, and it feels like I’m talking to them more now that I am away. Here, throughout the day, there’s also a lot of people around me. But I haven’t seen a single cat yet (apart from some vague images of Plato and Sophia via skype), whereas at home I have cats around me 24/7. A girl at the lab volunteers at the animal shelter, which happens to be right around the corner from where I live, so I’ll come with her next week to pet the kitties there. Also, Tijl tells me that Plato and Sophia have been extremely cuddly towards him since I’ve been gone, so I guess in their own cat way they also noticed that there is one less person around at the moment.

My bag was taken before I had a chance to pack for my trip here

My bag was taken before I had a chance to pack for my trip here

BTW, here’s a contest to make this blog a bit interactive: who can guess how many pictures of my cats are on my computer? Tell me in the reactions and I’ll send whoever is closest a postcard from here! Contest open till september 23rd as I’ll be leaving the week after (feel free to email your guess / post it in the comments)!

First day(s) at work

Standaard

Yesterday was my first day at the lab, and so far it’s been great. The people are all friendly and I have a nice desk tucked away in a corner somewhere. This is the first time that I actually have my own desk `at work’, and I love it! I can just… leave my stuff there when I go home at night. I had never realized how incredibly convenient that is. It still looks a bit boring at the moment, but I’m putting more things there and it’s starting to really feel like `my spot’. Also, the lab (the whole town, for that matter) is really safe, I can just leave my valuables on my desk and no one will look at them twice.

IMG_1051

My desk. Notice the brain on the mug!

The lab has a nice mini-kitchen with a microwave, a fridge, a water boiler and a common tea stash. I guess labs all over the world are the same in that. By the way, in the USA a lab is what we in the Netherlands would probably call a research group. So I’m at the Smith lab, which in the Netherlands would probably have been called the Cognitive Development Group. My own research project is not actually with children, so I’ll be running my experiment at the Goldstone lab (one floor above us). I was a bit confused myself with the `lab’ thing because well…. there are no people walking around in white laboratory coats with fancy biochemical devices. This specific lab actually looks more like a playground, to make the kids feel really at home here (that helps with them behaving naturally). I’ll make some pictures and post them here at some point.

Anyway, yesterday I didn’t actually do much work for the research project yet. I spent part of the morning walking around campus to get checked in at the office of international services, get an IU ID card, email address, etc. Everything was arranged so fast and easy, it was amazing. Turns out was lucky: all of the students will arrive sometime in the following two weeks, so I was there just before the rush hour, which meant that they were fully prepared but not busy yet. I never had to wait anywhere, it was mainly walking around the (pretty) campus to fill out some forms at some places.

The bike (assembled this time) at the bike project

My bike (assembled this time) at the bike project

After work (feels weird calling it that… but that’s what it’s like) I went to the bike project once more, this time to get a basket and to fasten some of the screws that I hadn’t been able to fix properly with the outside-attached-to-wires equipment. Now I can properly do my groceries by bike, which everyone there thought was very Dutch of me. All the people there were very nice, I met (amongst others) a local who had served in Germany as a military who asked if I was German and an IU student with Polish roots who asked if I was Polish. Turns out you can actually study Polish at this university. I checked the university website out (I had honestly never done that before, I only ever visited the psychology page) and it turns out you can study Dutch here as well. Wow! I wonder how popular that is.

IMG_1056 IMG_1057

I also went to the local organic store (they call it a co-op), which is right around the corner of the bike project. I immediately felt at home there, all kinds of hippie foods and hippie customers. They also have a cafe on the inside, which is decorated with lovely posters. The food was a bit expensive though, so I didn’t get much. I did find weird blue/purple-ish corn-sesame chips that I just had to buy. Another thing I got was a foldable cotton bag to keep in my school bag for if I want to do groceries on my way home from work. It’s amazing how many plastic bags I accumulated at my first midnight-visit to the supermarket. They have people at the check out stations to pack your shoppings for you, and they double-bag everything.

I especially loved this one

I especially loved this poster

By the time I got home I was completely exhausted and overwhelmed. So many new faces, new impressions, new places. Today was better, probably because I had a good night’s rest and (slightly) less new impressions to process. Right now I need to go to sleep, but there’s so much more I want to tell! A farmer’s market, American food, our awesome neighbours and  the weird feeling that I could actually see myself happily living here.

first impressions

Standaard

I survived my first day here! Well, actually, I did a lot more than just making it through the day. I got myself a bike, an american phone number and had a first look around Bloomington. Let’s get back to where I left off. It turned out that our plane needed maintenance, and they weren’t sure where the mechanic and the necessary parts were.  In the end they just fixed another plane for us, so by the time the mechanic got there we were happily boarding the other plane. This was a good thing, since else we probably would have arrived in Indianapolis after the last shuttle bus to Bloomington had already left.

Some of the other sherwood hills houses (mine looks exactly like it)

Some of the other sherwood hills houses (mine looks exactly like it)

Once I got to Bloomington (about 23.30 local time, so 5.30 Nijmegen time) my roommate picked me up. I had entered in some kind of `I can stay awake forever mode’ and since the grocery store was still open and my roommate would be away the next morning we decided to do some midnight grocery shopping. Actually, it turns out that our nearby supermarket is open 24/7, which is really convenient. Or maybe really inconvenient, since you can keep putting of going to the store forever.

The patio of our house (+ my bedroom window) as seen from the main street

The patio of our house (+ my bedroom window) as seen from the main street

After some midnight pasta I went to sleep and, to my surprise, woke up well-rested at 8.20 local time. So no jet-lag for me this way, I guess it’ll come after the flight home. I spent the morning unpacking and finding my way around the house (which, to be honest, mainly boiled down to getting my laptop on the wifi). In the afternoon I walked downtown. There happened to be a phone shop quite near my house so within 15 minutes after leaving the house I was all set with an american phone number in my regular phone, I was really happy that it was all so easy.

IMG_1040

The first US flag that I encountered on my walk downtown…

IMG_1041

… and the second. Both within 3 minutes from starting out.

It was nice to have a look around the town where I’ll be living these two months. The town looks really friendly and rather different from Dutch towns. Luckily, this is a really bike-friendly city. They made a special bike track that takes me from my home to the city centre and campus area, it’s where the old railroad used to be and it looks like a park. After a whole day of walking I was really happy to buy a bike at the end of the afternoon. I got it from craigslist, the american version of `marktplaats’, and it turned out to still be in the box. Which meant that it still needed to be assembled.

my bike

my bike at this point in the story

Across the street from where I bought the bike is the Bloomington Community Bike Project (I’ll explain some more about this later), they were closed but outside they also had some tools as a facility for bikers using the b-line (the special bike trail I mentioned). Unfortunately, halfway through assembling it I managed to slide the seat post (the cylinder that the seat rests on) into the frame, where it got stuck. At that point I thought I’d basically ruined my new bike so that it could never have a seat. I asked a passing cyclist for some help and he happened to have some tools in his backpack. People that ride a bike here usually have mountainbikes or racing bikes, so they often know something about bikes. This guy really knew what he was doing. He got the thing out within a minute and we finished setting up the bike together. Or, you know, he did while I watched. I really was grateful to be able to ride the bike home.

the bike trail (though it looks more like a park to me)

the bike trail (though it looks more like a park to me)

Another plan I have is to go to the Community Bike Project next weekend and volunteer. If you volunteer for 3 hours (during which you’ll learn a lot about bikes and how they work) you can then start assembling your own bike from scratch using used parts that they have available there. I’d love to learn more about bikes, and be able to put a mountain bike together and take care of it. The bike I have now is a cruiser with pedal-breaks and no gears, and this earn-your-bike programme seems like a nice way to get myself a bike for trips around the countryside while getting to know some people (and keeping me busy the first weekend).

sign says 2.40 83 degrees

sign says 83 degrees, fahrenheit is really funny if your not used to it yet

The weather has been great so far, it’s really hot and sunny, although the locals say that it’s a mild summer this year. I’ll probably get back more bronzed than I’ve ever been in October before, since September weather here is like non-cloudy August weather at home. Anyway, I’m all set up for my first day at university tomorrow. My bags are unpacked and I have a list with some stuff that I need to arrange for my stay here. I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone from the lab and seeing the labs that I’ll be working at.  Next wednesday there will be a welcome Elise dinner at my supervisor’s place, so that’s really nice.

My room (one of the things I need to get is obviously a smaller towel)

My room (one of the things I need to get is obviously a smaller towel)