The Cornell-EMSE workshop on bioelectronics... =P

Trip Start Jun 01, 2013
Trip End Jun 25, 2013

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Flag of France  , Provence,
Saturday, June 15, 2013

So what to write

It's been such an amazingly crazy and fun week for me here in Porquerolles but I guess I’ll start from the start. Arrived in Marseille that Saturday afternoon (which seemed like such a long time ago) and got picked up by a Frenchman by the name of Marc.  Was nice talking though I’m afraid I think it made him miss the exit haha so we had fun detouring through the countryside trying to find our way back.  Anyways, after a short grocery trip we made it in the end to the school dorms where I was to call home for the next 2 weeks...sorta (you'll see)

The dorm room was nice, much nicer than I had expected, private bathroom and even had a stove and microwave! The toilet paper was nice but the lack of cooking utensils and cutlery was kind of a bummer.  Still don't know if I should invest in a set when I'm only staying for one more week...  Anyways, sat down to check my email properly for the first time and discovered my talk was scheduled for Monday...just a day and a half away!  XD.  So I promptly freaked out since that was the first time it really hit me (despite having told Roisin that it was fine weeks ago).  Guess there's nothing like seeing your name on the official timetable to make you realise that there's no escape. 

At least it gave me something to do that day and Sunday!  Spent it all pretty much just trying adjust my confirmation talk to something more presentable though at the end of it all I still don't think it was very professional =S.  It's an interesting and different way to present I guess.  

The only other interesting that happened was my lack of food haha.  I had been told by Marc that the supermarkets would be open on Sunday...and they were...until 1 that is!  Haha so imagine my surprise when I rocked up at 3 or so (after finished my draft presentation) and seeing the closed shops!  Eventually made it to the town centre where luckliy I found a patisserie that was still open and decided to buy a heap of pizzas XD.  So in the end, it all worked out and I didn't have to spend the night with only 1 croissant =P.

So the first day of the conference and I met up with the 3 American interns to get picked up by Pierre (another French guy) to give us a lift to the ferry.  He was a cool guy and the girls were friendly though since I didn't really know any of them that well, conversation was a little slow though we did have fun comparing the differences between American and Australian and French things =P.  Was good to hear that some Americans are would be more than happy to adopt the metric system XD.  I also enjoyed the scenic route that Pierre had taken us.  Very nice country side with all things Mediterranean and even limestone hills!  Though in Europe you rarely get the true feeling of wilderness.  

Eventually made it to the ferry and had lunch, slowly watching everyone else from the group join us car by car in lots of 5 or so haha.  Then we hopped on the ferry and so our adventure in Porquerolles began!  The ride was nice though I was feeling a little hot and apprehensive about the talk so I don't think I enjoyed the initial start as much.  Especially since the hotel people seemed to have forgotten about my reservation despite Roisin's email >.<.  Ah well, I got my (private!) room eventually so all was good.  

So yes, we all got our rooms and headed over to the conference room, small little theatre but more than enough for the 30 or so people.  Had no idea who anyone was so was good that Roisin got us to do a little introduction.  She also gave the first talk and though I didn't know it at the time, it was a really good introduction to all the biological talks that was to come in the following days.  Anyways, soon enough it was my turn...yes I was scheduled for the first day!  And I did it...pretty well I think haha.  I was nervous of course but once I started it the flow just kept going so I think it was a good presentation...despite my slightly unorthodox slides.  People even remarked on it afterwards which was nice and everyone was curious how I got my drawings up =P.

Anyways, in the end I was really glad that I did mine first cos that meant I could enjoy my holiday!  ...I mean...workshop =P.  Finished off the night off to the beach with Donald, an American PhD from Cornell and watched the sunset.  An amazing way to end an amazing day. And I thought to myself "I'm gonna like this place" =D

Started off nice an early at 8 and was introduced to a buffet breakfast, was nice I admit but I do miss a nice good cup of tea.  The talks began at 9 though unlike the conference talks it was much more relaxed with plenty of breaks both for coffee, lunch and even aperitifs!  I think the aperitifs was an ingenious idea since after a day of talks, people always had lots of questions and there were quite a few ideas and thoughts passed around.  I even had a couple myself and think I may have bumped into something though only time will tell how relevant/useful it will be.  

Finished the day with a hike to the castle to see the sunset, man were we lucky.  From Monday to Friday we had nothing but blue skies and sun with temperatures in the mid 20s.  It seemed too good to be true and as a Melbournian, I was very suspicious of this long run =P.  So finished of that day with another amazing sunset, this time from atop a castle with French wine...of course XD.  Went to the bar for some more drinks with the group before calling it quits, mmm what a day.

This was to be out party day though the talks proceeded from 9 as usual.  After lunch (normally a very French/islander fare with always a nice rose/red wine) was free time until dinner.  Some people wanted to boat but in the end, the majority (myself included) thought it'd be a much better time spent exploring the island by bike.  The mountain bike I got was alright though I must say I'm so not used to riding on dirt and gravel haha.  You really feel every little bump, and there were A LOT of bumps XD.  But I grew used to it in time and was really nice riding through the forests of trees, catching glimpses of the amazing coastline and what not.  So much pine and even gum trees!  Always a sucker for gum trees ^^.

Took numerous stops of course.  The beach was especially fun, it was our first stop and probably our longest.  The Europeans all thought the water was too cold but I thought it was wonderful haha.  You really could tell who lived next to the sea and who lived next to an ocean =P, the Americans and I were all amazed how nice the water was and spent heaps of time in it while the guys from France and Italy went back to the shore to sunbath after a small dip.  Michele, one of the Italians even lent me his snorkel and I snorkeled for the first time!  Was so much fun despite me swallowing seawater more often that I liked.  I saw all this little schools of fish as well as much bigger ones just floating through the little tuffs of seaweed.  An amazing experience...I really should take some time and go to the barrier reef sometime.

The next stop was a bit more uphill and some of the guys had some trouble though we got some really nice views over the island.  In the end it led to a cliff with some awesome views into the sea.  If you didn't think the waters were crystal clear you'd think so now!  Proceeded then by some crazy guy's idea haha to head up to the hill.  Sure, how bad could it be?  Well, as the path closed around us I think we all had a sense of forbodding.  First it got narrow, then the scratches from the bushes started, then it started uphill and I think as soon as the first roots showed itself everyone got off their bikes.  The next 15 minutes were intense haha and a fair few had a mind to go back (myself included) but since the end was in sight we continued on.  The roots and rocks really were something and lugging the bike up was hard work.  But despite the lack of a beach at the top or even a decent view, I think we all ended up bonding over the experience XD. 

We all headed down for an exhilarating downhill ride full of potholes and hairpins but it was kinda fun after the long hike up and was nice.  The group kinda split up after that with some guys getting lost (the Cornelllians =P) and some too tired to go to the second beach.  Anyways, we arrived at the plage d'argent and had a swim...the water was colder but was still a nice beach.  Interesting seaweed that had washed up.  Chatted with some of the guys for a while and was a nice was to finish. 

Had the gala dinner then, was quite fancy I must admit with some very nice food with a traditional french salad and lamb and they even brought in some good wines =).  Then was the discotheque!  Haha weird to call it that but it was fun, the DJ was horrible, playing French songs unknown to 70% of us.  I mean, we're in France so that's understandable but know your crowd right?  Especially since I know the guys from Gardanne went up to talk to him several times.  Anyways, I still managed to bust out some dance moves =P...maybe too much haha.  Finished the night chilling on the beach and watching phosphorescent algae!  Strange but true!  Not as exciting as you may think but if you agitate the water, every now and then you'll be able to a quick burst of light.  Very cool!

Man I've been writing so much and I'm only still just on Thursday!  Well let's see.  Ooooh I had to wake up early to retrieve my glasses from the beach!  Man I freaked out cos I couldn't find them anywhere in my room and then it hit me, it was on the beach from yesterday!!!...Well I hoped it was.  So had to hike up there early in the morning despite staying out till 2 and tried to look for it.  Thank goodness it didn't take me long to find it laying there in the sand.  Almost thought I had another Munich on my hands XD.  Anyways, despite that Thurday was fairly calm, think everyone was tired and I definitely had to fight to say awake.  More talks, then lunch...then the usual beach outing. hehe I am so tanned right now, I think we went every day pretty much XD.  It made me sad when someone mentioned that it was to be our last day on the beach so I made the most of it and took lots of photos.  Maybe should've taken even more!  But then I couldn't enjoy the waters.

That night everyone headed out to the beach one last time to check out the algae again.  Less algae in the water but I think everyone had a good time chilling and talking on the beach.  I know I did. ^^

Our last day! Noooo but it was alright I guess, everything must come to an end at one point or another.  Was weird not being able to go to the beach despite again, an almost perfect 30 degree day.  Finished the talks, had lunch and espresso (was really getting used to this relaxed 2 hour French lunch with wine and coffee!) And then we were back on the same ferry that we were on just barely 5 days ago...seemed like a lifetime away.  

The girls had to catch a train to Brussels that weekend so Pierre had to leave quickly.  Didn't really get a chance to say goodbye to everyone properly but I guess I would see most of them on Monday.  The guys from Cornel I was a bit more disappointed but who knows, maybe I'll bump into them again one day.  Had a nice drive back, this time through the highway and we managed to make it with plenty of time to spare.

Headed back to Aix with Pierre where most of the other guys lived for a drink and I got to try out a specialty of the region...Pastis!  Another aniseed type drink, I can kinda see its appeal with the short sips though going through the whole drink (and still enjoying it) was a struggle haha.  Ah wells, at least I could say I did it right?  I thought after that Pierre would drop me off but we just went back to his place for some more wine and a taste of French food that he had helped me get whilst grocery shopping.  Some awesome bread (baguette of course), camembert, baton de berger and rose.   Delicious!  And good conversation!  I dunno if Pierre is just a really friendly guy (which he is) or someone had told him to look after me (I don't think so) but it was really cool just hanging out.  Especially since I had expected him to just drop me off...after such an intense hard working week ;).

Anyways, turned out that the others were making plans for pizza and I tagged along.  Met up with Marco, Miranda, Agostino and Marc for some really nice thin based pizzas...mmmm.   Anytime I could escape cooking haha.  The chilly oil was a bit too much but I had a nice meal and company was good.  Pierre finally dropped me off and I was back, much more tanned and much more tired but man what an awesome workshop!
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