Wednesday, June 18, 2008

EMPAG awesomeness...

Prior to my trip to Barcelona this spring, I had previously visited this city in March 2000. It was strange and fun to come back to the city. There were a number of times where I would suddenly come upon a street and a memory from when I was 19 years old would come rushing back.

So having visited the city before, I didn't feel the need to be a hard core tourist. I felt that I could enjoy the conference, go visit some of my favourite sites and, most importantly, gorge on sangria and tapas. Glorious.

So the main reason that I went to Spain was to go to the European Meeting of Psychosocial Aspects of Genetics, which was apart of the European Society of Human Genetics Conference. It was a pretty decent conference and it was really interesting to see how the genetics services in other countries compare to those Canada/US. The main reason that I went to this conference was to present my poster for my Masters project.

Yes, I totally matched it on purpose. I planned my outfit weeks in advance. I am a planner.

There was also a congress party that was organized by the conference. It was fun - the food was great and the drinks were free-poured. It isn't easy getting up for 8:30 am talks after a night of half-cup malibus the night before.

"Hey" you say. "Who is that blond girl?" Well, that is Meghan and she is a GC out of Halifax. We arranged to be roommates via email before having met each other. Luckily, we got along quite well (which is thankful considering our twin beds were pushed together every night that we returned to our hotel room). We got along fabulously and had similar senses of humor, as illustrated in the pic below.

Yes, we are doing the shopping cart and yes, we are looking at our cans. Honestly, I do not believe that the photo was choreographed. I would like to think that she is (almost) as dorky as I am!

This photo doesn't quite capture the awesomeness that is a hundreds of geneticists (researchers, MDs), grad students, genetic counsellors and other famous people dancing to the best Spanish Cover band singing songs from the 80s. I have never quite seen people rock out like they did there. It was too awesome to describe. So I won't.

So that was the conference. Three cheers for learning! I will follow-up with another post detailing the fantastic-ness of Barcelona in general.

"Hani Hani, come and dance for me, underneath the moonlight. Hani Hani come and dance for me"- DMB

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Por favor, hable inglés..

It has been a long time since I didn't understand the language of the city/country I was visiting. I almost forgot what it was like to not understand anything that is going on around you (and it made me empathize with Jeff a bit :P ).

I went to Barcelona, Spain for five days. It was my second visit to the city and I quite liked it - the city is nice, the food is good and the people are very helpful (and understanding). Thank goodness for that. Within ten minutes of entering the country, I ran into trouble with the language.

I am on the train from Marseille to Barcelona. I, being the planner that I am, bought my train ticket in Canada before I left to ensure that I had a way to the conference. I got the ticket on sale, which was awesome. Go me, the bargain shopper.

When we cross the France-Spain border, someone comes around and checks our tickets. I whip mine out, expecting no problem; however, instead I hear:

"blah blah blah (in Spanish)".

"Perdón" I reply - having no idea what the man is saying to me.

"Ticket. You need euro-rail pass for ticket".

It is at this point that I start to panic. I do not have a euro-rail pass - this is the ticket that Travel Cuts sold me. They told me they had a sale on. I try to explain to the train man that I don't have a pass, this was all that was sold to me, please don't kick me off the train. At this point, some nice man starts acting as a translator and the end result is me paying 22 euros. Oh well, paying money was better than getting kicked off the train.

So, that was my first few minutes in Spain. My first morning in Spain, I also ran into trouble with the language. You see, in Europe, they don't have what I consider normal coffee. And I, being lactose intolerance, am not going to have a "café con leche". So I walk to a coffee shop at 9:30 am and look at the menu trying to find the closest thing to a regular coffee. I see café Colombian and café Brasilian. To me, these seemed like brewed coffees so I went for it. I order a café Brasil.

I watch the woman make me a coffee and then I start to panic. Oh. My. God. Did she just put liquor in the coffee? It is 9:30 am! What did I just order? Can I run away? She comes to me with the coffee and tries to charge me 4 euro for it and I knew the café Brasil was only 1,50 euros. I say "no. café Brasil". Apparently this second attempt at saying Brasil was better than the first because she understands me and makes me the coffee. Unfortunately, it is not a normal coffee but is the strongest cup of espresso I have ever had. I went with it.

So good times with the language, and Spanish being a language that I can somewhat get by in because it is so closely related to French. I am sure you can only imagine how well I did when I was in Japan a few years ago.

" But sometimes this thick confusion grows until I cannot bear it at all" - DMB

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