Day 68 and 69: Sunburnt goodbyes


Work. Ran another PCR per usual 🙂 But it didn’t turn out quite right. :/

Bible study was awesome. I am continually blessed by that group of people and the worship and study that happens there each week.


Work. Ran another PCR per usual. Then things got interesting. The sample was not as pure as we would have liked, so Hartwig showed me how to go a gel extraction, which is where you extract the DNA from the gel (just in case it wasn’t clear ;)) Got to use a UV light. You have to wear a super nerdy looking mask and protective clothing because a) the UV rays can damage your eyes and b) you can get sunburned. I find it positively hilarious that all of us pale researchers can manage to get our sunburns indoors while working. So, you cut the bands that you want out of the gel, using the UV light to see the bands. Then you use a special kit and follow the directions. Using kits is actually really nice for a beginner like me because you don’t really have to know what you are doing- you just follow the instructions. This was especially good because Hartwig had a meeting and ended up leaving me to do it by myself! AH! But I did it, and hopefully I did it well. Impressed with his amount of trust in me and my skills, even if it was just reading a protocol.


I also had to say goodbye to Hartwig today because he is leaving for vacation tomorrow. It makes me really sad that he is leaving. He  has been so great to me and taught me so much. When I thanked him for everything and for giving me things to do, he said he was happy to and that he wished that he had given me more to do. 🙂 He also apologized for not speaking much German with me. He was such a kind and patient teacher, and a good one too! I learned so much from him. And I will miss him a lot. I have been given my assignment for next week, and so with that I am officially on my own! Kind of an awesome way to end the internship.

Tamara was a sweetheart and brought a lamp for me today since she heard the light in my room was broken. Of course, when I got home the light had been fixed!

Worked a while on my presentation for our WISP seminar next week.



Day 66 and 67: Gifts


Work. Ran another PCR, which turned out beautifully! Hooray!

Made an awesome salad for dinner with ice berg lettuce, herb feta cheese, bell peppers, tomatoes, black olives, and a dressing of balsamic vinaigrette, olive oil, salt and pepper, and dried basil. Perfect for the hot evening.

I have a picture on my phone, but for some reason can’t transfer it to my computer.


Today I had to give a presentation at our weekly lab meeting- a review of a paper. I was really nervous. My assignment to give a presentation on the retina (something not my field of expertise, even if my knowledge in the subject has grown tremendously this summer) to a group  of people who are experts on the retina was scary. I worked for hours last night prepping for it. I gave the presentation without a hitch. 🙂 Afterwards, Hartwig told me I did a good job and that I spoke like I had a great knowledge of the retina. Made my day 🙂

Hartwig is leaving for vacation on Friday, so today we sat down to plan out what I am to do while he is gone. The fact that he trusts me enough to let me do this is so awesome. After we finished, he said that for such a young student he was truly impressed by me, and amazed that I was able to work so efficiently without much supervision. Seriously, this guy is on a mission to make my day! Trying to come up with something I can leave here to say thank you for all he has done for me, for believing in me, for giving me this gift.

Trying to come up with gifts for my lab in general actually. The pound cake was sort of a goodbye present before Eli and Natalia left. They are all leaving over the next two weeks, so I need something I can leave behind and that will last. Eli loved my pound cake, so I am going to write her a note and give her the recipe. The others I am not so sure about. I know that I need to at least do something for Eli, Hartwig, and Thomas, as they have had the most impact on my time here. Any suggestions, dear readers?

This afternoon, Boris and Thomas asked me to translate a press release they had written about a newly published paper from German to English. I am really proud of myself because I was able to do it in an hour and it sounded good- not like a translation, but readable and fluid. Yay for German language skills! 🙂

Had tomato soup with bell peppers and some crumbled feta, with cheese toast for dinner. (Again, can’t get the pics off my phone.)

It has finally cooled off some! It rained this evening and now it is chilly. So excited. Hope this weather holds out until I leave. 🙂

Enjoy some beautiful music:


Day 64 and 65: Public Transit and Making Friends


I wasn’t feeling well today. Spent the day in bed. Skyped for a while with my mom.


Feeling much better. Went the next town over to Bebenhausen Monastery.

The trip there was quite the adventure. It is a 10 minute bus ride from where I live, yet it was disastrous.

I went on the website, which said to take Bus 828 in the direction of the Stuttgart Airport. It said I could catch this bus at a stop near my house, Neue Aula. So I went to that stop. And then proceeded to watch the bus whiz past. :/(I would later find out that there are three, count ’em, three bus stops called Neue Aula and I was at the wrong one! So confusing.)

I had to go to the Hauptbahnhof and wait 45 minutes for the next bus! :/ Then when the bus finally came, it didn’t say on the front which bus it was. So every person that got on asked where the bus was going. Our driver was quickly irritated. He asked why everyone kept asking him that. We told him that the bus had no sign on it. He didn’t believe us. He actually shoved his way off the bus to look for himself! When it was my turn I asked if he went to Bebenhausen. He said no. I asked if he knew how I could get there. He said no and told me to get off! So rude. I went over to the DB help desk and asked them. They told me to get on the bus I was just on! So I went back. The bus driver asked me why I was back. I told him what the DB people had said. He said they are wrong. He doesn’t go to Bebenhausen. After a few more rounds, he said that he didn’t go directly there, but that we would have to walk some. OK, fine.

So we go two stops and he tells those of us going to Bebenhausen to get off. I am a bit confused because we are still in Tuebingen, but I get off. We look at the street sign and it says Bebenhausen is 5 km up the road with no sidewalk! Thanks, Mr. Bus driver. Thanks a lot. Luckily there were several of us in this predicament, and we shared a taxi there. Enjoyed getting to talk with these strangers 🙂

It was beautiful.

I toured the hunting palace (really more like a cabin) of the royal family:


DSC_0053 The walls were painted with towns of Wurttemberg- this is Tuebingen.

DSC_0054 Queen Charlotte was a concert pianist! DSC_0058 Queen Charlotte also had this as her closet! The hanging stuff went in the walls and there were drawers around the perimeter.

DSC_0055 These beautiful heaters were in every room.

DSC_0059 My favorite thing in the place. It is hilarious.

During the tour it poured rain. Thank goodness I was indoors! Look at this amazing view after the rain 🙂

DSC_0102 DSC_0105

I toured the cloister:

DSC_0088 DSC_0066 DSC_0072The garden

DSC_0078 The dormitory

DSC_0083 church

DSC_0063 It had beautiful vaulted ceilings throughout.

DSC_0071 The only room where speaking freely was allowed.

I toured the palace kitchen, which was so cool. It had an entire room devoted to silver polishing!! (For those of you who don’t know, polishing silver is one of my favorite things. I know, kind of odd.) Also, the lady let me see it for free 🙂

DSC_0128 The silver polishing room 🙂

DSC_0132 Gargantuan mortar and pestle

DSC_0130 This cardboard pig scared me! (also, notice the rat?)

DSC_0133 It was huge!

I found a lily pond, a beautiful house, an herb garden….

DSC_0135 DSC_0122 DSC_0112 I want to live here!

I then was met with the predicament of how to get back. I went into the information office to ask. They had no idea. A woman overheard and said she could give me a ride. So, I hitch-hiked back to Tuebingen! (A first for me.) She was great and dropped me off at a bus stop where I could catch the bus home.

So many nice people today 🙂

Skyped with my mom again.

Also, please excuse any typos. The light bulb in my room burned out….it is really dark in here. 😛 Hopefully I can get a replacement soon!


Day 63: Another great day :)

Another day of work with enough to fill my day. I ran another PCR this morning. After running the gel we determined that I finally did it right! Third time’s the charm 🙂

Then I spent the afternoon practicing cryosectioning. I loved it. The machine is in a super quiet lab and I just sat and did this hypnotic and meditative activity for a couple of hours.

I had to say goodbye to Eli, our lab technician, today. She is going on vacation and won’t be back before I leave. It was really sad. Eli has been my mom away from home here. She really looks after me and cares about me. I am going to miss her.

After work, I met Louisa and Ida at the Freibad (basically a park surrounding a swimming pool. very cool!). I wasn’t able to get a really good picture of the entire Freibad. But it is gorgeous. It is a little bit outside of the city underneath some mountains. Perfection. Louisa and Ida are in my bible study. We hung out, read, swam, and talked for a few hours.


We then went back to Louisa’s flat and cooked a delicious dinner! 🙂 More talking. Lots of German today.


Yet another good day 🙂

(Also, I figured out how to move my pictures around. Be excited!)


Day 62: The best day.

Today was such a good day.

Today was the first day of work where I had enough to do. I was kept busy until time to leave.

Today was also the first day that I was given something to do completely on my own. 😀

I worked on a couple of PCR projects for Hartwig in the morning. In the afternoon I worked on cryosectioning with Anahit.

I am so grateful to Hartwig for believing in me and for giving me the change to prove myself. Now that he has shown he trusts me and my skills, others in the lab are starting to as well. I really felt like part of the team for the first time today; a good feeling.

Also, we figured out what went so terribly wrong yesterday. No one ever mentioned to me that a pipette has 3 levels: completely up, middle, completely down. If you take in solution from the middle level versus from the completely down level, the amounts of solution drawn up differ. Now that I know this- it will not happen again.

Hartwig has been so patient while I learn how to do this.

After work I went to a doctor’s appointment, where without question the doctor agreed to give me IV fluids because she was so knowledgeable about POTS. Made me cry with happiness and relief.

556688_10200533755203154_778184739_n Prescription in hand!! 😀

I then went into the Innenstadt to meet a friend from bible study for dinner. I was early, so I sat on the Platz and sipped a Holunderschorle (elderberry nectar with sparkling water). Very yummy and refreshing until a wasp fell in! :/

I also spent some time watching the birds at the fountain. Very interesting- sort of like people watching….but…birds. One bird climb on another and just chilled out out its shoulders for a while. Not sure what was going on there. But my favorite was this little guy. The other birds were struggling to figure out how to get a nice, cool drink of water. He had it all figured out!

971570_10200533755403159_667701307_n (not sure if you can tell, but he has his head under the stream of water! So funny!)

Gabi and I then went to get some dinner. We both ended up ordering burgers (I know, in Germany, right?). But they were so delicious! Burgers with a German twist. 🙂 We had tons of fun talking and laughing. The owner asked us to sign their guest book- so we obliged. We had lots of fun writing/drawing this as well.

1003023_10200533755643165_588559736_n 1017172_10200533756203179_1067385944_n

Gabi was trying to draw our hair but made it look like we have beards! 😛

We then walked and talked along the Neckar river for a while.

I then caught the bus home.

All in all a really good, satisfying day. 🙂


Day 61: Fun facts about Germany

So here are some fun facts about Germany thanks to some awesome blogs and youtube. I thought it would be nice to give you all a fun way to learn a little about where I have been living.

So first things first- Germans are notorious for misunderstanding things said in English. It happens all the time and often results in hilarious outcomes. This is definitely one of my favorites:

(thanks, youtube!)

Then there are these lists:

69 Fun Facts about Germany. I marked some of my favorites:

  1. Germans are the second largest beer consumers in the world, after the Irish (of course).
  2. Beer is officially considered a food in Bavaria.
  3. Michael Ballack does not like beer.
  4. Germany is Europe’s largest economy.
  5. The most popular German surname (Nachname) is Müller.
  6. Chancellor Angela Merkel has a Barbie doll made after her.
  7. Historically, Germany was known as the Holy Roman Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Weimar Republic.
  8. 31% of the country has been kept with forests and woodlands, with Hesse having the most.
  9. There are over 300 kinds of bread in Germany.
  10. There are also bread museums. (seriously, the bread here is that good!)
  11. There are 35 dialects of the German language. (and everyone has trouble understanding each other…)
  12. The Wittelsbachs ruled Bavaria for 738 years.
  13. Munich is further north than any major US city (excluding Alaska).
  14. German is the official language of 5 countries: Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein. It is also spoken in Northern Italy and the French provinces of Alsace and Lorraine.
  15. Germany is the first country to adopt Daylight Saving Time (DST) in 1916.
  16. 2% of Germans do not own cell phones.
  17. Gummy bears were invented by a German.
  18. The balcony of the hotel Michael Jackson dangled his son over is in Berlin.
  19. While it is called Oktoberfest, it actually starts in Steptember.
  20. The first Oktoberfest was a wedding celebration for Prince Ludwig of Bavaria.
  21. 65% of the Autobahn (highway) has no speed limit.
  22. The Cologne Cathedral took 632 years to build. (Bill Bryson in Neither Here Nor There (p. 88) wrote: “It is absolutely immense, over 500 feet long and more than 200 feet wide…It can hold 40,000 people. You can understand why it took 700 years to build – and that was with German workers. In Britain they would still be digging the foundations.”)
  23. The first printed book was in German.
  24. German is the third most commonly taught language worldwide.
  25. When JFK visited Berlin, he infamously said “Ich bin ein Berliner,” which also translates to “I am a jelly donut.”
  26. Hugo Boss designed the official uniforms for the Nazi Party and Hitler Youth.
  27. To ask for a beer in a pub, you would use your thumb to indicate “one” rather than your index finger (watch Inglorious Basterds for improper examples of ordering beer)
  28. Til Schweiger, sometimes known as the “German Brad Pitt,” is born one day after Pitt.
  29. The longest word published in the German language is Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft (79 letters). Try saying that five times fast. 
  30. Famous Bavarians include Pope Benedict XVI, Richard Wagner, Richard Straus, Thomas Mann, Levi Strauss, and Rudolf Diesel.
  31. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989.
  32. The world’s tallest cathedral is in Ulm. (Guess who is going there in a week??)
  33. Berlin has the largest train station in Europe.
  34. Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany.
  35. German is spoken by more than 100 million people worldwide.
  36. There are over 150 castles in Germany. (so cool.)
  37. The Christmas tree (Tannenbaum) tradition came from Germany.
  38. Freiburg is the warmest German city.
  39. There are over 60 beer gardens in Munich.
  40. Germany has over 400 zoos, the most in the world.
  41. There are over 1,000 kinds of sausages in Germany.
  42. Germany borders 9 countries (Austria, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, Luxemburg, Holland, Czech Republic, and Poland).
  43. Berlin is nine times bigger than Paris. 
  44. Most taxis in Germany are Mercedes.
  45. In the 4th grade, German kids are placed into Hauptschule, Realschule or Gymnasium, which pretty much determines if you will go to university or straight to the work force (Gymnasium is the highest level).
  46. Albert Einstein, the most recognized scientist in the world, was German and born in Ulm.
  47. Einstein married his cousin.
  48. There is a rumour that Einstein failed his first University Entrance Exam (he didn’t).
  49. Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz created the first motor-driven vehicles
  50. Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, originally used for printing the Bible.
  51. Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen discovered the X-rays in 1895.
  52. The cuckoo clock is invented in Germany in the 17th century.
  53. Other notable German inventions include: the telephone, diesel engine, aspirin, fluorescent lamp, and the pregnancy test.
  54. There are 102 German Nobel laureates as of 2009.
  55. Adidas was founded by the Bavarian, Adolf “Adi”Dassler.
  56. His other brother, Rudolf Dassler founded Puma.
  57. Famous German composers include Beethoven, Schumann, Bach, Wagner, Strauss, and Handel.
  58. Famous philosophers include Nietzsche, Marx, Kant and Hegel.
  59. The Deutscher Fußball-Bund was found in 1900 in Leipzig.
  60. The Bayern Munich is the most successful team in the Bundesliga having won four times (1974, 1975, 1976, 2001)
  61. Nicknames for Bayern Munich include Der FCB, Die Bayern, Die Roten and FC Hollywood.
  62. 10% of Bayern’s shares are owned by Adidas.
  63. Franz Beckenbauer is nicknamed “Der Kaiser”
  64. The DFB won 3 times in 1954, 1974, 1990, and their wins are represented by the three stars on their logo.
  65. Rudi Voller told Michael Ballack to take his number 13.
  66. Ballack’s favourite cologne is “Romance” for men by Calvin Klein (Guys – take note).
  67. Mesut Ozil (of Turkish descent) recites verses of the Koran before kick-offs.
  68. Lukas Podolski paid a 5000 euro fine and admitted to being an “idiot” after slapping Ballack’s face during a qualifying win against Wales when Ballack shouted at him over a misplaced pass. (only in Germany would part of the punishment be admitting to idiocy) 
  69. There’s more soccer fan clubs in Germany than anywhere else in the world.

10 Things I Find Weird About Germany. These were written by a woman from South Africa living in Germany. I think this list is awesome for two reasons. 1) It gives a good picture of what it is like to live here and 2) it shows the culture shock I have been through. I marked my favorites again.

1. Fresh air coming in through a window or door is toxic

Many of us might welcome a breeze in a hot, non-airconditioned office, but no, here in Germany, a draught can lead to unhealth. You will hear “es zieht” (literally “it pulls”), which means all windows must be buttoned down and that dangerously fresh air must be kept where it belongs – outside. Fresh air is also lethal when combined with wetness! If, for instance, you are at the pool on a very hot day, it is essential to be completely dry – dry clothes, dry hair, dry body parts – before leaving for home. If you aren’t, you never know one of those terribly dangerous breezes might combine with your own wetness to track you down and if not actually kill you then knock you into your sick bed for days.

But really, people here hate a/c. Beth, our program coordinator, told us that when a group of students from Germany came to the States they were constantly complaining about getting sick from the a/c.

2. “Thanks” means “no”

Confusing, no? Let me tell you how! If you are at the bakery, and the person behind the counter asks you if you would like your bread sliced, make sure you say “Bitte” (please) or “Ja”. If you go the (perhaps overly) polite Anglo-American route of saying “thanks”, your bread will be handed to you, nicely wrapped, but whole.

3. Bare feet bad, shoes good

It may be 35 degrees and a heatwave outside but being barefoot leaves you open to a multitude of unnamed dangers. We moved back to Germany in the hot, hot summer of 2003 and one evening took our two little girls for a walk in their respective prams. It was about 37 in the shade and their feet were at no point going to touch the ground, but our friends looked upon us in shock, saying “What? No shoes?”. Also, in the winter, if you are home, it is essential to always have clad feet, despite a heated house. If you don’t, you welcoming in pneumonia, at best.

4. People of all ages suffer from bad circulation

“Kreislauf” or the failure thereof may not actually kill you, but it may force you to call in sick and spend a few days lurking on the sofa, watching DVDs. It is not something only old people get, but is a lovely umbrella term that covers all sorts of problems: need for a mental health day, a hangover, avoiding that work deadline. What in England would be called pulling a sickie, is here a medically acceptable self-diagnosis.

5. If you want to pull a sickie, have used Kreislauf once too often, turn to that great source of sick notes: your doctor

I discovered that, when my job was boring me to tears (often) I could go to my GP, mention tiredness, headache, perhaps mutter “Stress” and my GP would give me a sick note for three days. Fabulous! I injured my left wrist falling off my bike once (I am right-handed) and got two weeks off work. I spent that time on the sofa watching Wimbledon, nursing my debilitating sprain.

6. People say exactly what they think

This I have come to find refreshing, but it has taken a LOT of getting used to. No need for that Anglo-American overly polite white-lie telling that oils the social wheel, no, you will be asked if you are pregnant when you’re still not showing, you will be told that your children are not warmly dressed enough, the weeds in your garden will be mentioned, in the street you will be asked why one of your children screamed all night. Daisy’s first summer here was a difficult one for her: it was hot, she was nearly two, she wouldn’t sleep and she screamed a lot. One of my neighbours gave me a child-raising book (as if I didn’t have enough of them), saying it would help me work out what I could do to help Daisy (as if I wasn’t already trying).

Remember my teacher at the language school telling me my answer was unacceptable?? It takes some getting used to and some tough skin, but I really like this aspect of German culture.

7. Tats and tans are the summer accessory of choice (winter too)

I have mentioned these before, but still can’t come to terms with them. All I want to say is that the best way to accessorize your orange tan is with butt antlers: it’s apparently the only way to go.

8. The hot lunch rules

I’ve gone native on this one. It suits me to cook a hot meal for my kids at lunch, so that in the evening, when I’m devoid of energy, I can slap a yogurt or a bowl of cereal down in front of them. However, the weirdness comes in that the whole society is predicated on the home-cooked lunch (work canteens provide the same for the poor deprived souls who can’t get home for their meal), and in our town, most shops close down for the two-hour period in which lunch must be cooked, served and eaten. It’s one of those unwritten rules on which Germany is based, without which the fabric of society would be rent.

This is another thing that takes quite a bit of getting used to. It hasn’t been as much of an issue for me here because I cook my own meals, however when I stayed with a host family it was quite different. The first day of school, I went home for lunch. My host mother had cooked a huge meal. I wasn’t very hungry and so I didn’t eat much. It turned out to be a mistake because dinner consisted of bread, cheese, and cold cuts. Once I got used to it though, I like having a big meal in the middle of the day. You have more energy and fuel throughout the day, you aren’t super full before bed, and you don’t have to worry about cooking a big meal for dinner. I have found that I do this about half of my time here.

9. Rules are rules

Speaking of rules, there are lots here. It’s evidence of how “eingedeutscht” I have become that I no longer find any of these really strange: no washing cars or mowing lawns on Sundays; no playing at playgrounds between the hours of 1300 and 1500; no shopping on Sundays; no disturbing the neighbours after 2100; no barking dogs (dogs here are strangely silent) especially after 2100 or between 1300 and 1500 or before 0900. Friends of ours arrived here with three unruly barking South African dogs. They were soon getting letters, from the relevant town officials, asking them to keep their dogs silent during the quiet hours, and preferably always. They wrote back to say they had informed the dogs. Now they live in the country and their dogs bark when and how they please.

I think the rules are great. One of the other rules is punctuality. The trains are on time, the buses are on time, the people are on time. When a train is late, even by a few minutes, people get annoyed. These rules that she refers to mean that everything is always rather quiet and peaceful. Which is nice. I live in a student housing complex and it is still relatively quiet most of the time. Though it takes some getting used to, coming from America where being loud is the norm!

10. Work and play are separated

Another weirdness I’ve grown used to. Back in SA, you had to be best friends with someone and preferably had got drunk together the night before, before you could ask them to do something for you at work. Here the opposite is true: you barely even need to know their names, and you certainly don’t care about the health of their children or their elderly parents. When visitors are in town for work, it is always the ex-pats who make the effort to take them out and show them around; the Germans tend to melt into the shadows at 6pm. Work is work, play is play, and the twain should never meet.


Day 61: Science!


Tina came to work. She talked with Thomas and I about my internship experience. He gave her a glowing report of me- said I am intelligent, proactive, get along well with my collegues…. 🙂 And when she asked if he would be willing to take another WISP student, he said, “Sure, but it will be hard to top Dana.” 😀 Made my day.

Tina wanted to have a tour of the lab. At about the same time, the gel for our gel electrophoresis was ready, so she observed while Hartwig and I loaded the gel and ran it. Cool.

Ate lunch.

Came back and served everyone my pound cake. It was a hit! It tasted really good. It didn’t turn out the right consistency (it was SUPER dense and not the normal fluffy) but it still tasted good. 🙂 They decimated the cake. More yay!


Then Hartwig gave me my first assignment to do on my own. It is basically what we have been doing the past few days-prepping and running a PCR. He said he didn’t think I would have any problems. (Yay for the vote of confidence!) But then….something went wrong. I ran out of the Master Mix which I had made. And when you run out, you can’t make more. :/ Not good. Still not sure what happened. I was very slow and deliberate and I wrote down everything I did. According to my notes, I did everything right and I followed the protocol. Wondering if I am using the pipettes incorrectly? Or if the pipttes are incorrectly calibrated? Ran the PCR with what we had- but the results will mean very little if they are negative. We won’t know if they are truly negative, or negative because something was wrong in the Master Mix. Really disappointed that I didn’t do it right. I really wanted to be able to do this well.

So today was a day of good science and bad science. Which I guess is a normal day of science. I am pumped because I am being given more responsibilty and more to do. I am disappointed in myself for not doing it well. I am excited because I am learning so much. I am frustrated because every second of every day here I realize how little I know.

Spent some time reading up on pipette usage and how to read pipttes. If the mess up was in any way my fault, it is not going to happen again!

Bible study:

Such a blessing.

Also, I learned that Eric Whitacre is in Germany and giving a concert on Saturday. The catch: it is a 9 hour train ride away. I seriously considered going, but have decided not to. I am a little sad, but it means that the next time I have the opportunity to see Whitacre I am taking it!