seven quick takes…

…which are totally pointless but at least tangentially related to my work/research/productive things, so this can totally count as progress, right?

Basically, boring week = boring post.

1. I became a student member of the International Water Association to attend that conference in Patras, and now I get their magazine every two months, which is pretty cool. The current edition’s cover story is about “Hamburg’s lead on water and energy,” which gives me hope that maybe one day I could live or work at least part-time in Hamburg… because I’d be down with that.

2. Also, I’ve only read about three pages so far, but the frequency with which the “water-energy nexus” has already been discussed is very encouraging, since I’ll be focusing my master’s research on the interconnectedness of water and energy to some extent!

3. I really long for the day when I will actually feel motivated to work. It’s been rough goings here lately, but my report is coming along… even if the pace is glacial. (Geography puns!!!!!!!) My professor even liked my first chapter, and the revisions for that are coming along! However, my day-to-day motivation to actually get to the library, first of all, and then to remain focused when I get there… are… I don’t want to say non-existent…

4. Ok, that was headed in a bad way, so we’ll change gears. People who knew me in college will know that my favorite day of the whole semester was the day when the new course schedules would come out, so I could plan my projected classes for the next semester… color-coded and prioritized into plans A, B, and C, of course. I’ve started the process for my first semester of graduate school, and there wasn’t all that much to decide, but who knows what kind of obstacles I’ll run into when it comes time to register? As I have it drawn up now, I’ll be taking the intro class for my Energy Analysis and Policy certificate, Energy Economics, Benefit Cost Analysis, and Water Resources Institutions and Policies. I know that probably sounds super boring to everyone but me, but I’m pretty jazzed about it!

5. I’m giving a group presentation in my Physical Geography of North America class about water use, demand, and resources in North America/the US! It should be really interesting. We’re starting work this week.  Of course it will all be in German but if I was able to totally make a fool of myself in fluent German this week in class with little to no preparation, I think it will go over nicely with 2ish weeks of prep.

6. One slide in our lecture today was a big map of the transport (train) networks of the US, and all I could think of was playing Ticket to Ride with family and friends… standing on chairs for a full view of the map, crying in the corner due to a missed connection et al. (hehehe.) All the major junctions were the same, but notably Sault Ste. Marie was NOT included. We may never find out what made it important enough to include in the first place…

The only way to fully appreciate the entire map and thus create a bonafide railway empire

The only way to fully appreciate the entire map and thus create a bonafide railway empire (stealthily passing cards under the table while the parentals aren’t looking notwithstanding)

7. I should really be working on my revisions right now so I’ll bring this post to a premature HALT… if anyone could go ahead and send me some packaged or bottled motivation of some sort… that would be great.

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my love-hate relationship with Deutsche Bahn: a case study

Yesterday, I departed from the Vallendar train station at precisely 5:01 PM, as indicated on my ticket. I saw this as a very good omen for my trip, as the Deutsche Bahn is not always known for punctuality.

A few hours earlier, I had noticed a red flag on my ticket: according to my schedule, I would only have 6 minutes between trains in Mainz, which would be a close call even if all the trains ran on time. I was scheduled to arrive home at 12:05 AM anyway, and I didn’t have much time to mess around if I wanted to get home at a decent time. I offered it up in prayer in several different shrines at Schönstatt just to be sure 😉

(I guess I should mention where I was. I traveled to Köln for a DAAD function on Friday, and when it ended on Saturday, I headed about an hour south to Schönstatt outside of Vallendar/Koblenz. Posts about these trips are forthcoming; I have to get this off my chest first.)

But alas, when I arrived in Koblenz for my first transfer, I saw the dreaded delay notice. Our train to Mainz was “about 20 minutes late!” Well, there went my chances of making the high-speed, direct train to Dresden.

Image

Which, by the way, is apparently in the most inconvenient corner of Germany. See it way over there in the east? Apparently no trains dare to enter that little elbow jutting out into the Czech Republic. Needless to say, traveling to Köln (Cologne, on the map) from Dresden was an amazing feat compared to how far some of the other scholarship holders had to travel. Frankfurt? Göttingen? Münster??? (Which is so close it’s not even shown on the map?) A lot of people came from Berlin, but being the capital/most important city and all, there are all kinds of high-speed trains to and from there.

Anyway, with the news of the imminent delay, I started to get upset. But I observed that many other passengers would also be missing connections, and decided it wasn’t necessarily the end of the world.

On the (late) train to Mainz, I asked the DB employee checking my ticket for my options once I got to the station. She let me know about a regional train from Mainz to Frankfurt, where I could get a train “in the direction of Dresden.” I copied down the times and platform numbers she told me.

The first train was right on time, but when I got to the correct platform in Frankfurt, I noticed 2 things immediately:

1. The train was an Inter-City train, rather than the faster Inter-City Express for which I had paid extra

and

2. It only went as far as Leipzig–the closest major train station to Dresden, but still more steps than I had anticipated.

That train ride seemed like it took forever, for several reasons. Firstly, it was going across about 3/4 of Germany. Secondly, I started to realize the gravity of my situation along the way. This particular train, leaving at the exact time it did, was not actually going all the way to Leipzig, but rather to Halle, which is not only a little further from Dresden, but is also in Sachsen-Anhalt rather than Sachsen, where I can travel for free with my student ID. I started to make conversation with the woman next to me about trying to find a train to Dresden, and she enlisted the help of both the DB employee in our car and the smart-phone wielding guy in the seats next to us to discover that, although I would be able to make it to Leipzig by transferring a few stations early (at 12:36 am, mind you. At this point I should have been in bed.), I would probably not be able to find a train to Dresden tonight.

Well, that was fantastic. At this point, I couldn’t let it bother me too much, because no one could say with certainty that there wouldn’t be a train to Dresden, so I focused on selecting calm music on my iPod and finishing the 1st Harry Potter book, which I had undertaken to read in German. (Mission accomplished!)

I did make the transfer from Naumburg to Leipzig, which was, to my relief, a direct ICE train scheduled to get us there by 1. However, the concern with which the train employees greeted me was concerning. They beckoned me to come talk to them privately (I was sitting in a quiet car) and told me that there would definitely not be any trains to Dresden until probably 5 AM, and I should probably just find somewhere to sleep in the train station until then.

Well, that was definitely not what I wanted to hear, but at this point, what could I do? I did my best to appear disappointed and dejected, just so they would know, and I went back to my seat to begin angrily composing this blog post. I had just resigned myself to my fate when….

I was again beckoned up to the employee car! There were 2 other people on the train headed to Dresden, and the DB had decided to give us a reimbursement to split a cab! Oh, happy day!

The 2 other people were a married couple from Stuttgart, who were taking a vacation to Dresden (first-time visitors!) and whose trains had been delayed by weather in the south. (This doesn’t explain the reason for my train’s delay, as it had originated in Hamburg, so I guess that’s still a mystery.) Together, we hopped in a cab in Leipzig, grateful that we didn’t have to sleep in the train station, as impressive as it is, and waited. I did have to help the taxi driver navigate once we got to Dresden, as she was obviously from Leipzig, which was difficult in the dark and coming from an unknown direction. But in the end, we did it! And I got home at about 2:30. About 2 hours late.

I don’t really know what to make of this experience other than to resolve to a) fly the next time I literally have to cross a country, and b) always take morning trains, before they have the chance to get delayed. My trains on the way to Köln ran perfectly on schedule, so luckily I was able to make it to the conference on time. Had this nonsense happened on the way there, I would have missed half of my orientation! So I guess that’s good.

Aside from this whole saga, I really did have a wonderful weekend. I’ll continue writing about it and share some pictures later in the week. 🙂