Category Archives: Personal

Little eco-gestures

It has been super long time since I’ve written a post in my blog. It has been a crazy summer for me: hen-do party in Madrid (yes, scientists also party hard J), University friend’s wedding in Puerto Real (where I was first made!), preparation for cruise (not only normal packing preparation but also getting catamaran and buoy ready for the first ever real deployment), visitors at home for a week, cruise in the Baltic Sea for four weeks, holidays in Ibiza for ten days, SOLAS conference in Kiel for a week (where I co-chaired my first discussion session). I can write a post for each of this points (I will definitely do for the Baltic Sea cruise) but today I want to tell you about something different.

Summer holidays in Ibiza

Summer holidays in Ibiza

Patri hen do in Madrid :)

Patri hen do in Madrid 🙂

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Beautiful wedding in Puerto Real

Poster presentation in SOLAS conference in Kiel

Poster presentation in SOLAS conference in Kiel

Mud walk :)

Mud walk 🙂

By now all the readers of this post know I work with CO2 in the ocean. During more than 11 years I have been actively working on this, I am often asked the question/comment along these lines; “you study CO2 but you cruise the Polar oceans” or “a lot of CO2 problem but you go to a conference in Hawaii”. Although cruises are still necessary to understand the complexity of our ocean, the oceanography community is investing a lot more effort in the “environmental friendly” platform like Argo buoys, fixed platforms with automatic sensors, gliders… Also it is also necessary to meet with your fellows in conference for networking, plan future research… However, more and more video-calls and conferences are used to discuss plans and papers.

But today’s post is about the personal little actions one can do to contribute less to the carbon budget. Of course you don’t need to be a carbon expert to do that but for me it makes more sense to be as consistent as possible with my life. I have a car and a bike and I try to cycle four days per week to work (believe me it is not always easy in North-Germany for a Mediterranean island girl). The fifth day I use the car because I go from work directly to a German course with my husband. We don’t use plastic bags for shopping and we avoid buying products with lots of packing (my friends, bananas have the most clever natural way of packing themselves, they don’t need an extra packing!). I do not use disposal tampons or slips but silicone cup and clothes washable slips (also these super white products are not really healthy). I always used alum deodorant, clothes tables napkins..

I don’t buy a lot of clothes, with travelling I learn we really don’t need that much to live comfortably. I admit I’m a fan of the charity shop (my angry aunties say I wear death’s clothes), where you give a second chance to a lot of things that otherwise would be waste. I had strange conversation with the cell phone customer service department who tried to reward me with a new cellphone because I’ve been such a loyal and good costumer: “No, I don’t want a new phone, mine is working fine” and the lady repeated again and again with surprise “but madam, it is free, you don’t even need to pay the delivery service”.

Sure I miss a lot of other little gesture one might do to reduce the impact of CO2 footprint. What are yours?

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NORTH MIGRATION

I did this map for a talk, to present myself and where I have worked for more than 6 months.

Cities where I live for work for more than 6 months

Cities where I live for work for more than 6 months

First thing I realize is that I’m migrating north every time I move. I don’t particularly choose that (I’m not a fan of cold weather and it narrows the window of time when my dad (a non-cold weather person at old) can visit me) but it just happens.

This week I was sadly packing the summer clothes I used for my holidays in Mexico during Easter and I realized how few summer clothes I have! Partly thanks to UPS who lost two parcels full of clothes during the last move but (here the connection with the map and the north-migration, don’t think I’m losing my mind) partly because I’m leaving every time more and more north. I then remember with nostalgia my long summer in Ibiza working in the sailing school, when my bikini drawer was fuller than my whole summer clothes drawer now, hahahaha…

My sad summer clothes drawer

My sad summer clothes drawer

Anyway, I look forward to using summer clothes again at the end of May in Madrid, where I have a “hen do”!!

And hoping to do at some point a U-turn on this map and start migrating south. It was been a haaaard and loooong winter. I’m glad my partner and I have decided not to move without the other anymore.

EIVISSA = IBIZA

Four days before heading Home for Christmas I think it is good opportunity to tell you where I come from. I always like to observe people’s faces when I answer their question, ‘where do you come from?’ Most of them are surprised. After saying, “I come from Ibiza”. I am normally asked – “Do real people live there?’ “Do you have schools there?” I always laugh and answer, ‘yes, normal people live there who don’t spend their lives dancing and doing drugs. Yes, we have schools and even University!!’ I give my “elevator speech” about my island. The local tourism board should give me some recognition for saying, “Ibiza is more than discos, sex and drugs. It’s UNESCO site for cultural and biodiversity, it has an important necropolis… ”

Another funny moment: it is really easy to travel from any little airport from the UK to Ibiza during summer. Even if you go home for a funeral then, you are surrounding but crazy young people trying to get as drunk as they can before landing and the cabin assistance shouting on the microphone saying that “if they can’t do the safety induction audible they can’t take off”. And you sit there, trying to follow your normal flying custom (mine is reading for 5 minutes and sleeping the rest :)). Different people sitting in the same row tried to talk to me after the wondering, “what this girl is doing reading and going to Ibiza” . . . “I’m going back home”. First they ask for a free place to stay over and then, ashamed they asked “But have you ever done “Ibiza” live? I mean, party and discos” hahahaha…

I love travelling around the world, but my friends, nothing is comparable to the peace I find at my dad´s place; and nothing is tastier that his fantastic fish soup; and nothing is more beautiful that seeing the cathedral and the wall from the jetty. I know I’m not really objective (not scientifically correct) in this aspect but… I count now the hours to go 🙂

I’ve been too long in the UK

I’ve been too long in the UK. I don’t know what to do after being to the loo when I don’t see the symbol “now wash your hands”. I panic in entering the lab without lab coat, even to fill a bottle of water and my PI was amused to see me keeping all the packaging of the chemical we received. It is sure he has never deal with BAS people, hahaha. There’s no fire-alarm testing on Monday morning and I haven’t had any health and safety induction, Risk Assessment Induction, chemical storage induction… However, life carries on without problems 🙂 It also annoys me that there’s no kettle and tea facilities in the hotels and I say twice as much “sorry” as anyone else (when saying in German, it is not as easy, hahaha).
Anyway, my new life in Germany is starting to flow more easily. We found an apartment: it was love at first sight, the first one we visited… the apartment choose me and not the other way around. One of the main reason to choose it was because it had some green walls. However, the landlord asks the actual tenant to repaint white before we move in on next Sunday, hahahaha. This one is much bigger than in Southampton so all visitors are welcome 😦
I continue to have problems with shipping company: I sent 7 parcels and only received 5. The two missing parcels (full of winter jackets, sport clothes and trousers) are in “Search and catch” operation around Europe. They probably won’t find them, in which case, they will give me some money back that might allow me to buy a sleeve of one of the jackets I’m missing :(. So here is a good tip: when moving, don’t put all your trousers in the same bags (or as Zoraida’s mum says, all the eggs in the same egg-carrier)
This move reminds me of one of the really good things about being an oceanographer: you work and live in really nice place. We are staying in a guesthouse of the Seckenberg Institute which has amazing sea views. Another good thing about moving to a new city: leave without a map to explore the city and everything is new, every corner needs to be discovered and doesn’t matter if it’s not the most important one (like when you are on holiday) because you have 3 years to discover all of them.

PAPERWORK NIGHTMARES

I have been away from the blog for a while because these last weeks have been crazy. As I told you in the last post, I had an interview for a new postdoctoral position and was offered the post. So after several pros and cons lists, a lot of talking with my family and colleagues and a phrase written on a wall on my way to work saying: “taking risks is better than taking none”

Taking risks are better than taking none

Taking risks are better than taking none

I decided to take the job. LET’S GO TO GERMANY!

Anyone who has any small relationship with the Spanish government knows that it is a nightmare of paperwork even doing the most simple formality. So you can imagine if we move towards a more complex administration: I have an international marriage so believe me it is difficult/expensive/annoying to sort that out!!

So, when I arrived in the UK I was amazed how simple things can be (they don’t even ask for my PhD certificate to sign my contract as a postdoc!) and sometimes faces stared strangely at me when I ask “that’s all?” or I ask for a “certificate of attendance”. Because we quickly adapted to the “good life” and it’s more than a year since my partner received his European passport (so we forgot about any kind of formalities), I was shocked when faced with German bureaucracy… all the difficulties of the Spanish way plus the handicap of sworn German translations (by the way, this service does not even exist in the UK!!). What is this European PhD certificate (with the nice blue stars) worth all the trouble?!?!

Of course they need the originals to complete all the paperwork, so I wear my heart on my sleeve and put in one envelope the most valuable papers I have kept in “important papers folder”: PhD certificate, Master certificate, Marriage certificate, past employment contracts… You will never guest where the addressee of this envelop finds it… In the store window of a Taylor shop underneath a bench of clothes!!! Track and sign service are not as trustful as I thought and this gave me sleep problems for three days.

Anyway, now it is all sorted out: I’m looking forward to meeting the friendly lady from Human Resources who helped me through the process and the translator who went on the hunt for my documents. We have booked the ferry, and short-term accommodation in Wilhelmshaven, we informed our landlady in Southampton, and registered with a German course (all these years going to the official language school in Spain wondering “why in hell I’m doing this, I know English, why should I learn German?” I finally have the answer), we end our contract with phones and internet, I sign my resignation letter (first time ever, it feels rare!!)… how exciting, tiring, expensive… it can be to move from one country to another!

Women and Science

One other thing which keeps Oceanographers busy, is meetings. These meetings are not always related to my field of study or projects. This week I want to tell you about one subject I have been involved in for 10 months now “Women in Science”. I choose this theme this week because I was in the Embassy of Spain in a ‘roundtable Women in Science’ organized by the Society of Spanish Researchers in the United Kingdom (http://www.sruk.org.uk/).
It began in this way; during August last year, I received an email from the Professional Development Unit saying that the head of Ocean and Earth Science had nominated me to take part on the programme “Women into Leadership and Management” which the university runs for women in Level 4 (postdoctoral, fellows, junior lectures…). I still have a hard time believing that the head of the school knows who I am or knows which level I am. However, personal assistants do a marvellous job, hahaha.
So, I said to myself “Why not? Let’s see what this is all about”. I communicated my decision to my partner and my dad and the first reaction I had, from both of them, was more or less “Oh no!! You don’t need more teaching about being bossy!!”
So, the programme turned out to be really interesting. We had a two day residential workshop where small groups were formed (I was part of the red team!!) and we explored leadership and team -worker styles (like summer camp activities but under the rain, to prove our resilience!!). We then had regular red team mentoring meetings with a nice female Professor, where we talked about career paths, networking, elevator speech… We networked with other women at the same level from other areas. We had a lot of courses and workshops, like “Face the fear” or “Influence and Persuasion”. We recently had our Belbin test results (http://www.belbin.com/) where it turns out I am seen by my closer colleague and by myself as a team-worker, implementer and specialist but not as a really creative person.
During this process I was amazed to realize that even today, there is still a great difference between the small number of women compared to men in positions of leadership. An unconscious bias exists and works against the women in academia. Women need to be at least 2.5 times better to get the same job. Motherhood is deemed to be a problem, but works the other way for fatherhood and is an extra-point to father’s CV. We have to learn to say “NO” to tasks we don’t want to do. We need to self-promoted themselves more. And, after all, being bossy is not at all a bad thing!!
I want to end by saying that the ‘roundtable’ at the Embassy was really productive with great speakers and interesting questions,only comparable in quality with the Spanish ham which was served in the reception that followed.

CRUISES AND HORSES DRUGS

As I said in the last post, one of the things oceanographers do is going to sea on research cruises. In the maps you can see the ports I have been, either to start, finish or just calling in. In total, there are 16 cities (some of them in different cruises, some of them last several days and some of them only a few hours). Overall, I have been 227 days at sea (that means, almost 8 month of my life!).

Every cruise is different, although they have things in common:

–          They always start after two or three days of complete chaos in the harbour; unpacking and setting up the equipment in the labs on board. If you are fortunate with the equipment and the weather, this chaos will decrease and you will have a pleasant cruise (unfortunately, this does not happen too often, and you normally deal with unimaginable problems of all types).

–          You disconnect from real life: forget about money, about cell phone, about checking email, Facebook, twitter… every two minutes. At the beginning it is hard but then, believe it or not, it’s RELAXING!!

–          You are in a limited space for 24/7, with a completely different routine from normal life. Thus, special relationships are created between people on board. They are not friends (normally) but they become friends with whom you share more than with normal land friends; they are not family but they became part of your family during these days (and in some occasion, for the rest of your life because many oceanography couples begin their relationship during cruises, including mine!)

–          I always get seasick at least once during the cruise. It has improved over the years but I think it will never go away. On my first cruise, I was so bad the crew gave me an anti-seasickness suppository and I used it without thinking anything against it (I think they were military horse drugs because it worked quickly and miraculously. I still have the little box at my dad’s as a souvenir). On the other hand, the last one, in the middle of the Southern Ocean, my day of seasickness was a mixture of hangover and bad mood.

 

On the other hand, each cruise is different, a complete “Big brother season”:

–          There are one week cruises and there are looooooooooong cruises.

–          There are open ocean cruises and there are coastal cruises. In open ocean, you are lucky if you are able to see land in the middle of the cruise. This much-deserved stop comes as you step on land and feel “land-sick”. You see different faces to the ones you’ve been seeing for weeks. Along the coast, (like coastal fisheries) you normally go to harbour every night, although you’ve been working non-stop the whole day.

–          There are dry cruises and there are cruises with different bars on board. When you disembark from a dry cruise, you feel completely detoxed but the first instinct you have is to look for a beer!

–          Normally in cruises you work in shift: some are 4 hours on- 8 hours off (so you can have a “baby” shift from 8 to 12 (am and pm) or you can have the “dog” shift from 4 to 8 (am and pm); some are 12 hours on- 12 hours out. So, at the end of a cruise, a part of you has to adapt to normal life again, taking care about purse and calls, sometimes you feel a kind of rare jetlag.

Cities I visited during cruises

Cities I visited during cruises