Hello. It’s been a while. I’m still alive, but evidently haven’t had the chance to update this blog for a while. So I’ve been doing more travelling lately.
On Friday the 13th, I could not resist the temptation to fly to HEL on Flight 666. In fact, I was planning to go in June last year, but moved my plans because I had a visitor then. Helsinki is a very nice city. It is far enough north that when I visited, some of the water was still covered in ice.
I spent most of my time in Suomenlinna, which is an old fortress just outside Helsinki. It witnessed the handover of Finland to Russia by an extremely cunning plan. Even though the Russian navy was far inferior in number and firepower, they utilised psychological tactics that made the Swedes believed otherwise. This triggered Carl Olof Cronstedt to surrender, much to his men’s dismay.
Another favourite place of mine is the Kamppi chapel. It’s a chapel right in the middle of the City. Once you step in, you are met with total silence. It’s in contrast to the hustle and bustle of the City outside, and it is amazing to find a place of pure solitude right in the middle of the busiest street in Helsinki!
Straight after the Helsinki trip, I went to Bonn for a symposium. One of the methods I use is COSMO-RS, which is a solvation model coupled with thermodynamics. I presented a poster there, which I think was received well. Overall, the conference was alright.
After the conference, a colleague and I explored Bonn a bit. It’s a fairly small town, and it still amazes me that it used to be the capital of West Germany. My favourite place in Bonn is the Arithmeum. It’s a museum that is dedicated to mathematics. How cool is that? There were a lot of computing machines that you can play around with. It covers the history of mathematics and computing from the early ages (abacus and the like) to the silicon era. I could have spent days there.
So now I am just about ready to go to my next destination: Japan. I am leaving in just over 12 hours, so I guess I should get ready for it.
It seems that Germany is the country I visit the most since I arrived in Denmark. Last week I went to Leverkusen for a workshop on one of the software that we use. We seem to have built up a good working relationship with them. One of the modellers in our group in particular has collaborated closely with them to the point that there will be a new module for that software based on that collaboration. The workshop itself was just as you would expect. There were surprisingly a lot of people from industry, so it was a good opportunity to form connections.
My flight to Germany (Düsseldorf) was actually ridiculously early in the morning. So I had to get up very early and didn’t get much sleep at all. In fact, it was so early that I actually had to wait at a Metro station for the first train to the airport. At Düsseldorf, I actually missed the train I wanted to catch (by a few seconds!) but managed to take another train and catch the original train connection. After the workshop, it was raining heavily, so one of the workshop organisers gave me a lift to the station. The station was under renovation, though. So I had problems getting my ticket (the machine rejected my card!) and also had to go around the long way to reach the platform, causing me to miss my train to Cologne.
Fortunately the rest of the trip was very relaxing. It was my first trip to Cologne, which is also my proper September destination this year. When I roamed the City the following day, it turned out that the new Cardinal of Cologne was having his installation ceremony then, so there was much happening in town. I managed to escape all of that, though. Instead, I visited a friend of mine who now works in Cologne. Of course, no trip to Cologne is complete without a visit to the Chocolate Museum. But to me, the highlight of the trip was probably the EL-DE Haus, which used to be the headquarters of the Gestapo, and now serves as a reminder of the atrocities of war.
Last month was a very busy month for me. I went to two countries: Italy (for holiday) and Germany (for work). For the latter one, I gave a presentation to our research and industry partners. The problem was, I only knew about the trip a month before I was supposed to go and give said presentation. At that time, I hadn’t even started working on that topic! So cue frantic simulating, analysing, and handwaving. Not necessarily in that order.
Anyway, after I returned, my quest in learning Danishcontinued on. In fact, we just had our test for Danish Module 3! This time we had only reading and writing tests to do. The reading test involved scanning for relevant information on the text to answer given questions; inserting sentences into paragraphs of text so that they make sense; inserting missing words so that a given text makes sense; and reading a few passages and answering questions related to them. The writing test involved writing two e-mails: one job application, and an e-mail to a friend who asked us about our new abode.
I have to say that the test was not as bad as I thought. Our teacher said that everyone passed the reading test. So it was down to the result of the writing test. But really, unless we really stuffed it up, I’m sure everyone did ok. We will know for sure on Thursday. The main problem we had was that time passed very quickly, especially for the writing part!
So what now? Most of us seem to be continuing on to Module 4. I and another student in the class were actually thinking of taking a break. We had been doing Danish two days a week for 9 months now, and we wanted to take a break for a while. But then, our teacher said that she was also going to have a break for 6 weeks in (the northern) summer. So that convinced the two of us to continue on with Module 4. But who knows if we would continue on to Module 5 after that.
Anyway, I do feel that we are starting to understand more of the language. One thing I did notice was that my vocabulary isn’t so big at the moment. And I still have problems with listening to what people are saying. I don’t know if it’s because of me or if it’s because Danes just speak so quickly. At times, I and several others would listen to what our teacher was saying, and we had problems keeping up. But then she would say it again either slower or in a different way (e.g. pronouncing words that would have been swallowed by Danes speaking “normally”) and then we would suddenly get it. It’s weird.
Edit: I started writing the title in English, then decided to switch to Danish. But I neglected to correct what I had written. Oops! Det var min egen skyld.
Well, the question is: where have I not been? Actually, don’t answer that. There are many places that I haven’t been to. But this is the point of this post. I had a crazy idea for a New Year’s resolution: to visit one new place each month this year. Of course, I am taking advantage of the fact that I live in Europe now. So it is rather easy to jump on a plane and visit a new destination for a weekend trip. A nice change from living in Melbourne where the closest overseas destination is 3.5 hours away. (That’s New Zealand, by the way.)
So far, I have more-or-less kept up the resolution:
In January, I visited London for a holiday. It was a very fun trip. I really liked it. I think London is my favourite (urban) holiday destination so far.
In February, technically I didn’t go anywhere. However in March I went to two places back to back. First, I went to Qatar for work. We had a big meeting with our industry partners there. Since the trip was in very early March, I consider this to be my February trip.
Straight after Qatar, I went to Iceland with two friends. This one was a lot of fun. Iceland was simply exquisite. I wouldn’t mind going back again in summer. The highlight of this trip was we picking up a Liechtensteinian hitchhiker who was walking in heavy snow for about 40 km on his way to a glacier.
In April, I will go to two places. First, I will go to Rome for some holiday where I will meet up with my brother. Later in the month, I will go to Göttingen for work. I am tempted to claim the latter as my May trip, but we’ll see.
Anyway, I have also realised that my website is getting a bit low on space for the photos. So I’ve reluctantly decided to upload the photos from now to Facebook. Maybe I will also port my other albums there. So, stay tuned!