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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)!