Saturday, August 13, 2016

Berlin reloaded

Going again to Berlin from Vienna. Like the "old good time". It's for attending an international conference that I tried to avoid until the last minute. Why? Because the chosen logo closely recalls a nighmare I had as a child, with a meteorite hitting Berlin. Because the expenses are not covered by any grant, so except for the registration fee, reimbursed from Brussels, the costs for journey and accommodation are on me. Because I don't like much this conference, where I shall have to smile to colleagues who in the past have sent nasty personal comments, to envy competitors, to old professors who 'did this stuff already forty years ago' or 'this is bullshit, you understand nothing of the subject', and where public relations and politics are often more important than science. There is also good science, but mixed with hypocrisy. I'm not very good at that. I'm too honest, not to say what I think. Luckily this is going to happen in Berlin, a city I love (in a different way from Vienna, as always said) and I'm looking forward to meeting the local organising group, the international-Belgian team I've just left, some of the old colleagues from Padova, former and new colleagues met in Austria (almost none of them is Austrian, though) and a few outstanding scientists, whom I feel honoured to talk with.

The metro to the conference venue
The arrival has been adventurous as always, with my flight being delayed, initially one hour for late arrival of the aircraft and then one further hour due to a storm over the airport. Luckily the guy at the ho(s)tel waited for me. The guest house where I stayed, a very cheap one in Wedding with (gender separated) shared bathroom, is rather old, simple and essential, overall quite clean. The only thing I didn’t like was the noisy and dirty neighbourhood. OK, it’s Wedding, but the double windows (not double glazing) could not stop the noise from the night clubs or the road. However, even going for food in a turkish place after 10 pm, despite being the only woman around, was pretty safe. It's Germany.

The reason for my arrival on Friday night is a 2-days workshop organised over the weekend. The conference venue is the Henry-Ford-Bau, a beautiful building in a nice area, but that requires 45-50' journey to be reached from where I stayed. The workshop has been overall interesting parts, with insightful comments and feedbacks, even though some 'political' scary moments occurred. The food and the drinks for the coffee breaks and the poster session were delicious and overall the people I talked with very pleasant. 

After the Sunday morning session, I even managed to attend a kind of organ concert, as told here. In the afternoon, I was joined by most of the Belgian team, which I already miss a lot, and we moved to another hotel in the heart of Friedrichshain. We went together to the icebreaker party in the Museum für Naturkunde, enjoying the exhibition, meeting old friends from Padova, Camerino, Vienna, Berlin, Freiburg, Sweden, USA, etc., tasting surprisingly good cucumber ice cream, and generally mixing talks about science with gossips and rumours.

The week
I won’t tell here the good and the bad science I’ve heard. Nor I’ll tell about new ideas and projects, turns of mind, political games and fairness, heavy criticisms and insightful suggestions. It was the usual old MetSoc, a conference that I don’t like much but that I cannot avoid to attend. Not only it is important for my current research, but it is also fundamental to build that network that might help to get the next job position. Every year it is held in a different city, two years ago it was in Casablanca (never more to Morocco!), next year it will be in Santa Fe, then in Moscow (really?), Sopporo, etc. Who knows how many other MetSoc I will attend! As long as I stay in the field and I have money for the registration and the journey…

The guy who invented the microscope
On Wednesday, I didn’t join for the award ceremony, as well as for the city tour. I decided to go to shopping instead, together with a couple of old mates known during the university years. In the evening, we had the banquet. The location was amazing (Wasserwerk), the food was delicious, but the disco music towards the end was too loud. I was literally shocked by seeing old professors making a fool of themselves. Luckily not those I like the most. A Belgian colleague was tired as well and shortly before midnight we headed to our hotel.

Back to science, I must admit that twice I felt acknowledged: when what I presented at the MetSoc in 2012 and wasn’t believed has been mentioned and cited and when at the break after my talk (not my best work ever, I know) I received positive feedbacks, great suggestions to improve, and expression of  interest, even though it looked ignored just after the presentation. I shouldn’t give up.

Goodbye Berlin
Again. I cannot remember how many times I had to say 'goodbye' to friends and colleagues, and most of all to this city. It’s difficult to describe Berlin. Even though I saw it a bit more dirty and international than previously, I still cannot avoid to be deeply in love with it. The journey back to Vienna has been perfect. Super connections with three different public transportations to the airport, light rain at the departure, arrival largely in advance, and fast drive to my place with a taxi. A bit of luxury that makes me feeling professional. The very next step is to achieve all the good plans I had during the conference. Let's begin posting this report.

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