Let's walk to work.
You saw some pictures from inside the town yesterday, so today I have photos from just outside of town along the way to IBA (pronounced “ee-bah”, an acronym for Institut für Bioprozess- und Analysenmesstechnik, the Institute for Bioprocessing and Analytical Measurement).
The picture above is looking back.
The walk from my front door is about 4.2km (2.6 miles) and takes me about thirty to forty minutes.
Most of the day is spent meeting numerous people at IBA and becoming orientated to the structure of the day, which confuses me. Each day begins at precisely 8AM. At 9AM there is a half-hour or more break for breakfast. Then work continues until precisely noon, at which point we all have lunch. This can be ordered each day and arrives hot in a thermal box in little tinfoil packages; usually, there is a choice between a soup and something involved meat and potatoes. Lunch ends around one. At 2:30 there is an afternoon coffee break. At 3:30 people start going home. Postivies: I'll have a regular schedule for the first time in a long time. Negatives: I feel as though time is being wasted and don't get my blog updated the first week or make it home at any reasonable hour and then have to wake up at unreasonable hours (albeit, to the Lion King).
Sometime during the day, I get a key for the back gate which enables us all to experiment with a new route home.
The gate opens onto a bike path which stretches between Heilbad Heiligenstadt and the neighbouring town of Geisleden. Heading back towards Heilbad we follow a river that runs through the property and discover a small waterfall, the source of the babbling sound constantly filtering through the building's windows.
Speaking of which, all the windows in the area are big and none of them have screens. Coming up to the IBA in the morning you'll see numerous 3.5 by 4.5 foot holes in the building. Perhaps there are just no insects? Not so. Ping says there were mosquitoes earlier in the summer. Nonetheless, more and more of these windows open as the day goes on: the mornings are chill but the days get rather warm.
These fields each have at least one and often more hunting stands along the edges. Over tea one day, Thomas explains that there are thousands and thousands of wild boars which live in the woods and are hunted. There are also occasionally bears and much more rarely the European Bison. Who knew, right? Wiki says that as of 02000 there were about 3,000 such bison all descended from 12 individuals.
Ping and Madisen
When I was traveling from Frankfurt to Heilbad, I saw little villages with dozens of tiny houses and numerous German flags flying. They reminded me of squatting settlements and I wasn't sure what to think of them. Since one hardly ever sees German flags about, this was also confusing.
It's since been explained that these are garden houses and that one might go to spend a weekend at such a house or have little parties there. Each as a little, well-kept yard and an adorable bonsai house which, in my mind, makes the whole setup something like having a cabin by the lake in the woods save that it is much closer and more economical.
My supervisor has one and I am told his neighbour is selling one… for 5000€. I have a strong temptation to buy it and live in it whilst I am here, but the inherent difficulties of then reselling it in December are too daunting and I forego the idea.
On Thursday, Ping and I stir some polyethylene with a few other mystery chemicals (at least to me) and I paint them into little molds. Ping's tried this a couple of times with moderate success and thinks I might have some luck with it. As I finish the job up, she seems impressed by the result and we put the molds go in a vacuum champer to suck the air bubbles out and, afterwards, into a pressure chamber (3 bar) to squish the bubbles out. Then they go into the oven to set for the weekend.
After lunch, I drop by to visit Madisen and her spin-coating operation. She squishes some agarous onto a gold-plated rectangle of CD and sets it spinning in a special temperature-controlled vase and, several seconds later, pulls it out and points out an unacceptable series of wrinkles on the surface. Looking around, I see that she is surrounded by failed spin coats.
Uwe also shows up for the day and we talk briefly about bioimpedence sensors before I am sent off with a stack of papers and instructions to experiment on myself with a bag full of electrodes he hands off to me. From my meetings with Ping and Madisen I understand that the method is to practice is a bit with the inexpensive toys before moving into the heavy stuff. Later into the autumn, Uwe tells me, Lauren and I will test the sensors on a pig.
The pig will be the only one for the fall—There'll be another sometime in March and then another this coming September—so things have to go smoothly. I'll go into town, get scrubbed up, and be there in the operating theatre to get the electrodes implanted. I'm told that after I'm done performing my tests, the surgeons will take the pig apart in order to practice before working on people.
I haven't yet decided about how I feel being involved in an animal experimentation, but I'll report back in a couple of months.
Heilbad seems to have a number of cats which I see regularly. I hadn't known if they were street cats or owned by someone, but they recognise Ping (who pets them) and come out to visit. When I pet one, I find lumps on its skin and grease in its fur making me wonder if petting it was a good idea. I try to get a tick off and the cat takes a swipe at me which I narrowly dodge. Oh well.