I’m baaaaack

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My alarm went off at 6:45 this morning and with that if there was any impression left for me that Granada was vacationlandia it vanished in an instant. The walk from my piso in the centro to the CIMCYC (Centro de Investigación dr Mente, Cerebro y Comportamiento aka Center for Research on Mind, Brain and Behavior) on the Campus de la Cartuja of the Universidad de Granada takes about 45 minutes if you’re moving quickly. A bus would only take perhaps 25, but knowing that A) I’m not good at motivating myself to exercise for real and B) if last year’s stint in Grana’ was any indication my schedule would be busy and erratic I made the commitment to myself that I won’t take the bus except perhaps in case of deluvio, and use that to combat the butt-flattening pressure of dissertation research and writing. It should be noted that more than half of this walk is uphill-a pretty steep incline-and I carry a backpack with a computer and some books which add a few pounds to my back. And this Granada. It’s like 89 degrees and really sunny. I arrive to the lab quite sweaty.

But there is good to be had in this day despite what may seem like an unpleasant start. I passed through the lovely Plaza Bib-Rambla and past the Catedral in the glowing morning sun. I saw 4-year-olds brimming with excitement as they’re dragged along by their proud mamas to the first day of colegio. My first participant showed up on time and my experiments all worked without issue. The 2nd one, too! I had a lovely lunch on the terraza with my colleagues and successfully wrote a script in R to analyze my data which saved me TONS of future time and headache. On my walk home I spoke with the sweetest old man pharmacist to get advice on a mask for my face (travel sucks for my poor skin) and remembered that this morning I downloaded the latest episode of “Breaking Bad”.

Granada feels like home again with all the stress and sleep deprivation that can entail, but it is vibrant and full of life and has me feeling like maybe this dissertation thing isn’t so overwhelming after all.

Il sud come sud del mondo…o del Mediterraneo per lo meno

I’m in Marseille, France, in the southern region of Provence this week for AMLaP2013, where I’m presenting a poster on my dissertation pilot data. The conference is great and intellectually stimulating, but on the 10th anniversary of my first solo trip to this region, something else left a bigger impression.

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The Mediterranean region will always feel like home to me. Probably in a way that Argentina never will even though I lived there 6 months and loved it. And in a different way than even State College does after being there for 4 years. There’s something about the first place you go on your own. And about being 17 when you do it. You’re so fully aware and almost grown up and yet still so moldable, impressionable, not yet set in your ways. Every time I come back to the south of any Mediterranean country I feel the same way – the rocks, the dirt, the trees, the air, the smells. Stepping off the plane I already feel the rush of nostalgia.

The pungent reek of dog and human urine is happily wafted away by the cheerful odor of sharp espresso and buttery pastries in the span of a single block. Grandmothers across the Mediterranean seem to wear the same compression knee-highs under the same Dr. Scholl’s-esque slippers while they hose down their sidewalks and balconies, making the the air briefly heavy as the sun evaporates the water away. The seedy character on the corner cat-calling in an unfamiliar tongue as you walk by is probably best left un-understood.

I know these sights and smells and sounds. I know them like I know the cornfields and cows and lawnmowers I pass on the road to my father’s house where I grew up. They feel quaint and like home. Strangely comforting. Maybe a little backwards or unpleasant at times, but in the most wonderful way.

People have been telling me that Marseille is the mafia capital of France. They tell me the neighborhood where I’m staying is a bit sketchy. I don’t know about any of that. I’ve looked around me and taken a deep breath and I know all I need to know. I have a feeling I’m going to like it here.