Sunday, August 20, 2017

The gathering

"Kirstin!" I heard someone call from behind me. Turning around, I saw my friend, Thorben, standing with wide-open arms and a smile of disbelief. "When did you get in?"

I walked up and gave him a hug. "About an hour ago," I said in German. 

Thorben switched into German as well. "How are you? It's been so long. I'm happy to see you. There are some members of the group here inside. Would you like to say hi?"

He lead me inside a waterfront restaurant with big windows, where a group of Germans had just finished dinner. Some of them I had met before, some I had not. All of them were from the Deep-Sea Ecology and Technology Group at the Alfred Wegener Institute, where I worked in 2011 - 2012. I settled into a chair and settled into the German conversation. Thorben asked me about my latest projects, about finishing my PhD, about Woods Hole, about life. He actually finished his own PhD about 6 months before I finished mine, so we sympathized with each others' adjustments to life after grad school. It felt good to catch up with him.

My favorite view in Tromsø: the fjord and the famous Arctic Cathedral
Friends, I am in Tromsø, Norway, and in about 36 hours, I will board the German research icebreaker Polarstern. I am beyond excited to be back in Norway, to be back among my German colleagues, and to take part in an incredible expedition. 

This is now my third time in Tromsø, and it feels more familiar every time I'm here. I took a walk along the waterfront this evening and even felt confident enough to turn inland and climb uphill. My mental map of this city is ever-improving. Sure, I'm still prone to lose my way among the narrow streets and cookie-cutter wooden houses, but the steep topography and dominant fjord provide very good landmarks for orientation. Tonight, Tromsø joined the list of places where I feel at home. 

Tomorrow, more of my colleagues will gather in this beautiful northern city, and Tuesday morning, we set sail. I look forward to a great expedition!

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