First of all I hope that you are all doing great!
The last couple of weeks for me have been pretty busy both in and outside of the lab. The main focus of these weeks have been changes and the obstacles brought along with them. But I am glad to say that trying to find the solutions to these obstacles certainly made an improvement on my problem-solving skills.
Regarding life in the lab we had a lot of movement of personnel. Sadly we had to say goodbye to some of our colleagues and the lab became pretty quiet for a few weeks but then we received a lot of newcomers in the beginning of February, who immediately filled up the lab with life and noise. One of these newcomers was our fellow ESR Jordi, who has been staying with our group for the last two months. It has been really interesting to hear all about his experiences in the past and about his current research, also to share the progress of my project with him and to brainstorm on ideas for future experiments and possible collaborations. I think I can speak for my entire group when I say that he will be deeply missed and we are all sincerely hoping to see him again in the near future! 🙂
As for my research project, I have been spending most of my days in the lab getting familiarized with the behaviour of different screen printed electrodes. I cannot say that we have already become friends, since I still have some problems with reproducibility, but I am on my way of figuring out their little caprices. I have to admit that getting lost in one little task of the project sometimes makes me forget about the final goal, so when I am starting to feel a little bit lost and overwhelmed I usually stop for a moment, take a few steps back and try to look at the bigger picture. I rethink why exactly am I doing a certain step and what part it will play in the final puzzle. This gives me strength to continue the experiments that are not always promising, and makes me believe that every failure can indeed be interpreted as another step on the way to a (hopefully) successful end.
When I got back from Hungary at the beginning of this year I arrived to an extremely mild winter here in Barcelona.
(Deceiving “winter” weather in January)
Even so that on a sunny weekend in January I decided to embark on a quest for snow. After a 2 hour train drive I arrived to the beautiful mountains of the Pyrenees and after a further hour of travelling with a funicular I reached a ski resort called Vall de Núria. Making my way up the mountain I was immediately mesmerized by the amazing landscape, the snow-covered mountain peaks, the icicles, and the frozen lakes. The whole scenario made me feel like I was a child lost in a winter wonderland.
(Vall de Núria)
Nevertheless a few days later it turned out that it was extremely naive of me to assume that the entire winter was going to be mild here. As it turned out, the beginning of February has not only brought Jordi to our lab but the Irish rain and the cold with him as well. 😛 Ever since I have moved here, I haven’t experienced this many days of continuous grey weather with rain and cold (we had minus degrees in some mornings, which was quite an unpleasant surprise). A few weeks ago it even snowed in Barcelona and since it has not happened in 8 years you can imagine the excitement of the people. Everyone was looking out the window taking pictures and making videos. I have to admit, it was indeed quite surreal to see the combination of palm trees and snowflakes. Luckily now I can say that after all those days of rain and wind and snow and cold we are starting to see more and more of the sun, from which we are trying to take as much profit as we can in our lunch breaks.
(Happy about the sun being back in Barcelona)
Besides the changes in the lab there were some other changes in my life during the last couple of weeks as well. After several weeks of endless searching I finally managed to find an apartment and moved out of the room I was previously renting. Obviously I was super excited until I faced the first obstacle, having to move all my stuff on the metro in the pouring rain. It could have been easily considered as a workout session since in some cases there were no elevators, but in four rounds I was able to transport everything. Then came the obstacles in the household like the leaking of the shower bar or the entering of rainwater into the flat due to bad water drainage. After I managed to solve these problems I began to realize that there is also a lot of paperwork that you have to do if you change your address, so I got faced with the wonderful world of Spanish bureaucracy yet again. Just to give you an example, waiting for more than three hours at the police station only to change the address on my residency card is considered completely normal here. (In fact, you should be happy if you achieve what you want and they don’t send you back for five more documents.) One of my yet unsolved problems is the lack of internet connection in the flat since the company told me that they cannot install it without me proving that I have paid water/electricity bills, but those only arrive every 2 months so I haven’t had one yet… Apart from all these (hopefully only primary) obstacles I am really enjoying having more space, especially having a kitchen all to myself where I get to experiment and try out the recipes that I have been wanting to for some time now.
(Some of my kitchen experiments)
Regarding free time activities, I just recently visited the Picasso Museum and I highly recommend it to everyone who comes to Barcelona. Seeing all the drawings and paintings made me rediscover my affection for art, even so that I have decided to sign up for an art course after Easter.
Speaking about courses, in May we will go to a workshop on lateral flow devices in Zaragoza with Raheel, so Javier if you have any suggestions on what to visit while we are there, we would really appreciate it! 🙂
Until next time,