Did you know that I am half German? My German ancestors originated from the Düsseldorf, Münster, and Hamburg regions and apparently my surname comes from here. Or so I thought. Since I’ve arrived in Germany I keep asking people, “isn’t my name so German?” People look perplexed and refute this notion of mine, then follow-up about my first name, which is apparently commonly found on name tags in big department stores.
I wanted to come to Germany not only to work as a videographer and science communicator at the MARUM institute at the University of Bremen, but also to get a sense of how inherently German I really am.
Day One: I thought not, no way am I German. I felt like such a foreigner, speaking and understanding nothing of the language, no one really looks like me, or rather I don’t look like them, and I couldn’t believe how disoriented I felt. I have traveled so much in my life, and lived abroad in several B-cities (strange no?) — Beijing, Budapest, Brussels — but for the first time I felt like a real foreigner.
Day Two: I’m still disoriented and completely tired. I get lost riding a borrowed bike through the main park on my way to work and arrive 20 minutes late, sweaty and panting. I’ve met my boss, Albert Gerdes, at MARUM, and seemed to have hit it off with him but I’m just not sure. My judgement is fogged by two sleepless nights and relentless anxiety, or was it nervousness?
Days Three & Four: I get settled in my office. Albert and I discuss my summer video project for MARUM and we seem to see eye to eye. He gives me quite a bit of freedom all while showing me the ropes of the institute. I’ve gotten to know the girl whose flat I’m living in, Antonia, and she’s taken me out with a few friends to the local beer garden. I’m feeling better about being here. I’m feeling more German.
The days continue to get better. I’ve gotten to know the park and my instincts take me on a better route to work each time. I get to know my colleagues at MARUM and bump into Marta Torres, a biogeochemist from OSU and a familiar face. She invites me to a talk she’s giving at a neighboring institute in this completely serene setting:
I learned about hydrocarbon cold seeps, subduction zones, and gas hydrates. I get to hang out with leading geo-chemists and other fellows of the HWK – cognitive scientists, engineers, and musicians. I learn that these people, mostly scientists, are compassionate, hard-working, goofy, and seem to relish the life that their work has afforded them — weeks out at sea, collaborations with institutions abroad, and the endless challenge to understanding the natural world.
Back in Bremen I meet with the director of MARUM, Michael Schulz, and he seems delighted about my film project. We discuss how to attract scientists from across the globe to Bremen. He seems to appreciate my input and perspective, and we launch an initiative to increasing MARUM’s visibility abroad. My video will be the small green light at the end of the dock that draws top scientists to the port of MARUM.
MARUM Institute and the grand foyer:
My wonderful office mates, Jana and Nils:
Albert is completely wonderful. This past weekend he took my on a spontaneous bike tour along the channels of “Blockland”, just north of the city. Unfortunately, I do not have a visual documentation of this. Just imagine me on a rusty old commuter bike carrying a heavy red backpack (I was made to believe this would be a city tour) and him on his gorgeous 80’s road bike, dressed for a 38km ride, cruising around the once wetlands, now converted cow pastures, of northern Bremen. We stopped for coffee and ice cream along a tributary of the Wese river, watching the tide go down. Yes, the tides produce a 4-meter ebb and flood twice over the course of the day. Something about dredging in the mid-1800s.
In the past two days, Albert and I have worked hard to write a press release in english on the latest MARUM study, to be published in Nature Geoscience, a highly competitive science journal. Can’t say much more on that right now but here he is battling with the lengthy email exchange over it:
And here we are, two science communicators wading in a see of scientists, posing on a gorgeous clear day:
Thank you for reading and I look forward to writing more next week. Take care!