Hamburg: volunteering at DH2012 and other adventures

So I got home from my most recent trip on Saturday evening. And it was quite the trip, in more ways than I previously expected:

All was fine of course until I left Edmonton (slightly delayed) and discovered that my in flight entertainment system had a defective headphone jack, resulting in my not being able to listen to any of the in flight entertainment (on a more positive note, this resulted in a free snack [I was hungry] and a discount code for 5% off a flight booked in the next year). I ran across the Toronto airport (okay maybe I just walked really quickly) making it just in time for my flight to Dusseldorf. In Dusseldorf I made it through customs and waited by my gate while charging electronics, and flew without issues to Hamburg. This would have been fine, but my luggage did not arrive with me (note that it was 9amish when I landed in Hamburg, and that I would not receive luggage until the late evening of the next day, which was not HORRIBLE, but it was rather inconvenient).

After that, I took the S-bahn to Landugsbruken station (excuse the poor spelling) and walked to my hotel (Google maps directions were silly — they wanted me to go in a circle for NO reason), noticing a nice (MASSIVELY huge concrete) statue of Bismark along the way. I dropped some of my carry on and walked down to the water (stopping at the train station for some baked goods… I ate SO MUCH wonderful baked goods at train stations (and at the conference) this trip!) watching the buskers and noticing the ships. I then walked to the University of Hamburg (discovering that Google maps directions were not as efficient as walking through Planten un Blomen, the botanical garden that features all sorts of awesomeness including great plants, paths made of all sorts of paving stones, playground equipment that is sized for ADULTS (and kids but that's less awesome), lots of water features, art, and much much more!) and attended a LONG session explaining logistics for volunteering at the conference (plus I got my bursary! Today at home I deposited it in the bank: the exchange rate sucked for that, but it still meant that all in all I spent around $800 on my whole trip including flight, accomodations, food, the conference etc. which is MUCH less than I would have without the bursary — plus I had so much fun!). After that I went walking with the North American contingent (Jose from Mexico, and Alex from the USA) of International Student Assistant volunteers, and we made it back to the water and ate some yummy fish after a few fun detours into interesting areas. I then checked back into my hotel, finding my room ready and struggling with the very bizarre RFIDesque key system for my room door (I would later master this on the first try by the end of the next day, but I felt really dumb not being able to figure it out until then!).

The next day, the conference started (for me) with facilitating at a workshop on developing a curriculum for DH (in Europe). It was very interesting, though jet lag hit me pretty hard by mid afternoon, resulting in a nap during my coffee break. Regardless I had a good time, used my English proficiency to great ends by proofreading a blog post and otherwise translating for the German student assistant I was working with, and tweeting. In the evening I met a fellow Edmontonian, Joel, who was there for the conference and we had pizza nearby before walking through the park and playing on the playground equipment (among other things). He found the jail's presence in the middle of the park pretty noteworthy (yes it is a jail — a result of not having city planning really involved).

Day two of the conference consisted of my volunteering at registration for pretty much most of the day. It was fun to meet people from everywhere and hear so many accents! The reception in the evening was pretty awesome as well — generally this conference had a lot of snacks and drinks throughout it all.

Day three began with technical issues, but we work hard at ironing those out such that the second panel of the day gets properly recorded (complicated recording software!) and the rest of the day goes rather well, in my estimation. I have a great time and rather enjoy the reception at the end of the day, including a talk by a person from Google Europe who sponsored the reception. He seemed really interested in DH which was nice! The food and drink was also appreciated! And afterward I went on a very educational tour of campus learning about the former center of Jewish life in Hamburg. It was really eye-opening to learn how recently the victims of the holocaust were finally properly recognized and remembered with monuments and whatnot. The other history of the university (including philanthropy etc.) was also really fascinating and I was glad to go on this tour before a nice long walk back to my hotel.

The fourth day is a day I spent mostly at the information counter but ended with some pretty remarkable happenings! I went to the Senate reception at City Hall (beautiful building!!) before the banquet at the Rickmer Rickmers (a historic museum ship in the water by Landungsbruken). The banquet was especially delicious (I rather liked the fish stew type appetizer for example). Beverages were free until midnight — so people had quite a bit to drink and it was a buffet so people ate quite a bit before the band began to play and we danced the night away to some surfer rock from the '60s and '70s. It was great fun though some people had strange ideas of what was good to do on the dance floor (like climbing the ropes and acting like monkeys). I didn't leave the party until around 1am when I walked back to my hotel.

Friday (the 5th day of the conference) I tried my hardest to sleep in before heading out to do some shopping and sightseeing (and purchase a few souvenirs). Following that, I headed back to the conference and went for a walk with a couple of the other student assistant volunteers (Rosa and Biljana) before making it for the closing (where I handed out stressball dice and had to close several windows that were banging in the wind and causing people to complain). The closing was pretty awesome… and was followed by a trip to our Beatles themed tour (complete with music!) of the red light district (by the Reeperbahn and included a lot of history of the area as well as us stopping at a bar for drinks and cheese afterward. Following that I, along with Syd and others went for pizza (SO DELICIOUS!! St. Pauli Pizza I believe was the name of the place, and I ate pineapple artichoke pizza and drank a lemonade pop that was made by a Hamburg company)… which was interesting as the nightlife was getting pretty crazy in the area including a fight across the street (the restaurant staff mentioned that it was pretty commonplace to have such tensions erupt into violence between the Serbian population and the Turkish one, which made me feel a bit sad about that… though it was quite frightening and crazy to see the men run after each other yelling and fists flying and also wielding a chair…!). We walked the whole of the Reeperbahn on the way back to my hotel.

The trip home was not uneventful. I took the s-bahn to the airport, checked in and found that my flight was delayed so I had some great Movenpick ice cream (it was only 1.50 Euros!!!) while I waited for my delayed flight. In Munich, I found free internet computers and later found out how to get some free wifi for a bit before catching my flight to Heathrow. At Heathrow I took the shuttle between Terminal 1 and 3, and unfortunately the driver SLAMMED on the breaks really suddenly resulting in my sliding across the seats and slamming my head into another passenger. This caused some mild whiplash according to London Ambulance (the EMT that saw me at the airport) as well as a period of time where I had to report what had happened to the airport (as I really don't want this a) happening again to another person or b) that the bus driver doesn't acknowledge this again, because it would have been nice if he had at least asked if we were all okay!). I made it to the gate just in time for my flight and after standing in line for a while I was less than a meter from the plane door when an airport official asked me if I was traveling alone before taking my boarding pass saying the flight was overbooked. After a wait he returned with a new boarding pass, putting me in Executive First Class! This was awesome as the food was great (I had lamb with au jus and potatoes and veggies and and and!!), the seats are infinitely adjustable (so comfy!), there were socks, earplugs, eye masks, and even a toothbrush complimentary (plus awesome pillow and blanket etc.), and the seat does massage my back with a push of a button! While the flight was turbulent, I think that the awesome seat really helped prevent my neck pain from being any worse.

When I finally landed in Edmonton, I was happy to be back though our luggage took a long long time (apparently someone had hit the emergency stop button accidentally on the luggage return system). My luggage did arrive this time, but it was VERY damaged (the pocket was ripped to shreds a zipper completely gone and so on)… so I had to put in a claim and later I'll have to return the bag to the airport for repair or if they cannot repair it (which I would be surprised if they would be able to do) some compensation.

That said, I'm happy to be home, to be enjoying board games again and slowly catching up on Edmonton life.