Time is flying here. Two weeks ago I left a somewhat chilly Warsaw (a period of warmer weather had melted the snow but this had quickly refrozen into very effective ice rinks around campus) and headed to Brussels. Four countries and two weeks later and it’s looking very much like the wintry weather is gone for good.
The campus is looking beautiful under blue skies, I’ve seen my first butterfly (a yellow one!) and I’ve even seen a few trees with what look suspiciously like birch catkins. We’ve each been given a little red and white bracelet by Gabriela and Alex in the Bulgarian ‘Baba Marta’ tradition. When we find the first blossoming tree, or see the first sparrow we should hang it to hang on a tree and make a wish: as Claude, Ronan and I were out running earlier we didn’t stop, but am quite sure it won’t be long before it disappears from my wrist.
The diversity of the campus has been really put on show lately with a run of ‘national days’. In spite of limited resources, it’s been incredible how much has been done. First came the Chinese national day (with a series of activities in the evening including calligraphy, which was really cool, and lots of tea), a French national day (delicious food, the Marseillaise by the choir and um, karaoke), a MENA day, Turkey/Armenia and also a Georgian/Azerbaijani day (with superb wine and incredible dancing from Raul and Ia). There’s many more to come too. Each one had been unique but has really shown how similar many countries are in their richness and sometimes traditions and food too. It’s definitely feeding an appetite for traveling again, despite my slight fatigue after the last 2 weeks.
Natolin itself has a culture too and we’ve been sharing it this weekend with some ‘visitors’ from Bruges who have come for a football match. For one of the few sports that doesn’t much thrill me, it’s definitely been a big topic both here and elsewhere, what with Lincoln City (yes Lincoln), making it into the quarter finals of the FA cup too. They must be going crazy at home ;).
The major reason I’ve not written for so long though has been that I’ve been somewhat of a jetsetter these past few weeks. First came Brussels for some Master’s Thesis interviews: they went really well; it’s nerve-wracking but it was really insightful and it’s much better to do them in person if you an – you end up asking questions you would never otherwise have thought of and there’s always the opportunity to meet more people when there. Francesca very kindly put me up and we had a great catch-up to (with a good dose of wine too).
Then came Oxford. It’s an amazing place and you never feel out of place. It was fantastic to see the Biologists again; even if I did get told to stop apologising for no longer being one… The students might change but the place never does and when you go back it’s always even better than the last time
Almost straight after Oxford I joined a great group to head to Vilnius. The 8 hour night bus trips there and back were perhaps not the greatest ideas, but the rest of the trip definitely more than made up for it. I won’t rave too much about Lithuanian cuisine (if you can believe: potato sausages to go with your potato pancakes and potato dumplings), but the beer was something else.
Unconverted by Belgium, all the more impressive that its Lithuanian beer that’s opened up a new world of beverages to me!Vilnius old town is beautiful, and Victor assured us it is even more so in summer (it’s apparently very green). Although the majority of our trip was probably more authentic than touristic, we did take a trip to the KGB museum, which was pretty fascinating (the miniature cameras were like something straight out of my old Usbourne Book of Everything), if a bit haunting in parts.
I’m now pretty exhausted, and despite some long sleeps this weekend there’s a still quite a bit to catch up. It’s definitely a time to knuckle down with work, but with Spring arriving they’ll be lots to look forward to: my legs are itching to run even more now the sun is out and we’ll see how the 10k goes with Ronan, Claude and whoever else joins on Saturday to see how much work there is to catch-up on after Winter.
There’s also the study trip and visits from friends on the horizon. Beyond that I’m sure there’s more, every day is truly a new one here and as unrelenting as it is, I wouldn’t change it for anything!