So Whitney pointed out something to me the other day: our past two blog posts have been rather depressing; a stolen bike and a lost cat.
If you would just happen to read those two posts, you would think we are not enjoying life in Groningen. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Life is good. So, with that in mind, I’ll keep this post a little more upbeat (see dog photo below…). I’ll just highlight quickly where we stand with the cat.
We still haven’t been able to find her. This is despite hanging flyers, putting notes in nearby mailboxes, posting her on every website and database we can find, and searching numerous times a day and night. We have even gone to the extreme of placing her pet carrier, favorite blanket, my shirt, food, and treats outside to see if we can “lure” her in. After leaving all of this out overnight, we were sure that a cat was making use of it. To check, I was able to borrow a webcam from work and we proceeded to hang said camera out the window and film overnight. Ultimately, this meant 3 days of 8+ hours of videos for Whitney to watch while I went to work. The result: Whitney can tell you in depth what all the cats of the neighborhood do during the night. However, still no Meatball. On the plus side, we just ran into our landlord, the owner of the flower shop, and he is going to try to get the mailman to slip flyers into every house along with the mail (and bribe him with free flowers). So who knows, there is still hope!
Now, on to more cheerful (or at least not so depressing) things! As I mentioned previously, we are really enjoying life here in Groningen. Almost daily, I think we both have moments where we have to kind of step back and take in the fact that we are really living in Europe. For the most part, things aren’t that different. Having been here for six weeks now, even those differences start to be commonplace. Hopping on the bike and riding to work, even in rain, is just a given now. If anything, it’s a relaxing end to the day. In fact, biking is so second nature now, Whitney and I rode 6km (a little under 4 miles) each way to attend a cookout with my fellow lab members. I can guarantee that would have never happened in the United States. We would have certainly jumped in a car and made the 5-10 minute drive. Honestly, it wasn’t bad at all. You just ride along, talking as you would in a car, getting a little exercise along the way. As I said in a previous post, why biking is not more common in the United States is quite baffling.
If you have been following along with the World Cup, you’ll know that The Netherlands team made it pretty far this year. In the previous World Cup (2010), they made it to the final but ultimately lost to Spain. In 2010, their best player was hurt right before the tournament started and was not 100% for any of the games. This year, he was ready to go so expectations were pretty high. This was one of the things that excited me most about the time that we moved. I think the World Cup is amazing as is, but to be in a country were football/futbol (soccer is American) is king was very exciting. To be in a country that could potentially win it all was even cooler. On days that The Netherlands played, the city went crazy. With each win, the celebrations only got bigger and louder. By the time they had made it to the semifinals, city center had turned into one giant party. There was a large screen set up with 4000-5000 people watching (they capped the number of people allowed in the fenced in area – we didn’t get there early enough to get it) and then each bar/pub put TVs and chairs outside. This meant that the streets were packed with people drinking and cheering along. It was quite a sight to see. On days the team won, people would stay out celebrating until 6-7am. We know this because we saw all of them coming home from the pubs as we were searching for the cat. Despite all of this, they fell short, losing in the semifinals to Argentina on penalty kicks. They played in the 3rd place game last night, beating Brazil. However, I don’t think anyone here watched. It was an all or nothing kind of year.
Outside of the Dutch team making it pretty far, the World Cup made work pretty fun for me. The research group that I work in is very international and multicultural. I do not exaggerate when I say that we have people from all over the world. Each day at lunch, the conversation always centered on that day’s games as individuals would be pitted against one another. A couple of fellow PhD students are from Germany and made sure to point out to me the fact that the United States and Germany were playing. Of course, it was hard to miss, as I made sure to wear my USA shirt each game day.
Speaking of my work, things are going great! I am still very happy with my decision to pursue a PhD and really enjoy being back in the field of evolution/behavioral biology. It seems my Tanzania trip is moving forward as planned. As I had mentioned previously, I am tagging along with some individuals from Switzerland. At this point, they are finalizing the paperwork and permits and will nail down a date as soon as that is finished. I’ll do another post later with more information about the research and the trip.
Now being that I have spent the majority of this post talking about myself, I feel I should take some time to mention my other half (she gets mad when I say roommate – I can’t figure out why?).
Aside from watching hours of cat videos and feeding the neighborhood cats treats (seriously, she has a string of cats following her is she walks around outside), Whitney has had a couple more job interviews, the last of which seemed to go really well. Unfortunately, July is a big holiday/vacation month here so it seems the people in charge of hiring are out until August. However, we are hopeful this one will work out. From the sounds of it, the interview went about as well as she could have hoped. Our fingers remain crossed! Outside of this possibility, the university provides some ‘partner support’, which will basically allow her to have access to internal job postings. To get access, Whitney will have to meet and interview with some HR reps that work with my group. Of course, the person in charge of this is on holiday until August. Seems the job hunt is on hold for the rest of the month.
So, with all of that, I think I’ll call this post finished. All in all, things are still going great here. We are getting settled more and more each day. I would even venture to guess that things are more or less normal now. We even ordered some pizza the other night and had it delivered. A word of warning though: it’s very true about Americans having everything bigger/larger. Our “medium” pizza turned out to be much less than we expected (aka a personal pizza). There are just some things that we will never adjust to…
Until next time,