Conference Mayhem

A new first for me: I’m on a conference! Well, I was today. Now I’m back at the hotel, on my own, contemplating on whether to eat alone in the hotel like many other people, or be adventurous and take on the city centre, being the only weirdo eating alone.

Mind you: I’m in Colchester, Essex, and earlier today, England won a European Championship game against Wales. In other words: it might not be the perfect night to go eat out alone. I used to travel a lot on my own, but two things I never did was eat out alone, and go to the movies alone. And since I want to avoid accidentally ending up in the not so nice and drunk part of town, I might have to opt for hotel food anyways. The healthiest option: a pizza with extra rocket lettuce. Oh well. I guess I’ll just order a laaaaarge glass of wine to go with it! (Yesterday I found it funny you can choose the size of your glass. Now I couldn’t be happier about it.)

As you might guess from my mood writing this, the conference didn’t go so well. I really really tried to stay positive and made the best out of a far from perfect situation, but now I am allowed to crash. To start with, I didn’t get to give a full presentation, only a poster during lunch. I think you will agree: not ideal. Secondly, the presentations planned were not in my area of research at all. Either it was applied linguistics, with a lot of child language acquisition, or it was more formal accounts of different dialects of Arabic. Both very interesting subjects, but not nearly interesting enough to travel half a day and pay all the money to get there. Obviously, when it was poster time, my highly formal and theoretical and typological poster looked well out of place. Hardly anyone came by to ask me about it, and when they did they asked questions like “which language are you studying” (as many as possible, I’m doing typology, duh) and “so what exactly can you do with this” (hello, it’s formal linguistics, you can’t do anything with it but find it interesting, or on a more intellectual node: it helps us understand how languages work in our brain).

All the professors at the conference were nowhere to be found during my poster presentation, and rather than disappointed, I was offended. Someone in their review committee decided my abstract was worth to be presented on a poster. I came all the way from Belgium (I know, not that far, but you’d think so differently when you look at the price of the train tickets) to stand next to a f*ing poster that no one showed any interest at.

So for the next presentation of the invited speaker, I made sure I was noticed. I sat right in front of the bastard who didn’t think my poster was worth five minutes of his time, and asked a nasty question at the end (which I do think was relevant, I wasn’t just being critical for the sake of it). It worked. He asked me who I was after. I introduced myself and managed to get the topic on my research. After five minutes, I gave him my handout and went full-on presenting on him. You know what he said? “Very interesting, what a pity you didn’t get to present.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?!

Lessons learned:

It doesn’t matter if you’re young and inexperienced, asking questions will get you noticed and open doors.

Don’t try to open doors that don’t want to be opened: don’t present posters at conferences that don’t really deal with your research anyways.

I still don’t like the idea of eating alone.

I love the idea of a large glass of wine.





The Lake District

I’m back! Not that I’ve been gone. I’ve been the usual busy and stressed, but I decided I’ll try not to talk about that anymore here. This blog is for the fun stuff, the little travels and adventures that keep me sane.

Last you heard from me, I was getting ready to go on holiday! I didn’t bring any computerdevicethingies and there was hardly any internet, so there was no blog. But why don’t I try to recapulate for you now.

So me and the boyfriend went to the Lake District! The holiday season hadn’t really started yet, it was mid May when we got there and the holiday park (Parkfoot, at the northern part of Lake Ullswater) was quite quiet. We stayed in one of the lodges, holidaying in style. Since we don’t get to see each other very often, and either spent time at his parents house or in my tiny studio (I like to refer to it as a whole rather than my home), having a whole house to ourselves already made this holiday spectacular. I usually quite enjoy winging it, not planning too much in advance, camping,… But we only had one week and I wanted to detox. Not only-juices-and-no-carbs style, more like doing all the things I don’t get to do during work life, being just the two of us and being utterly relaxed.

So we spent our week chilling out. In the evening on our couch in front of the telly or with a book. Sitting on our balcony in the morning with a cup of coffee just… sitting really. Cooking delicious food with the few ingredients we could find in the few shops around. Eating massive breakfast basically every morning (hurray for English breakfast). And of course, we did a lot of hiking.

We started with a hike around Aira Force, a popular waterfall at Ullswater. We picked up some maps from the visitor centre, and I have to admit it was tricky! I’m used to walks that are either signposted very clearly, or there is really just one way you can go. But here, there were a thousand little pathways, some of them probably only used by sheep but how am I supposed to know. We only just left as we realised we should go the other way first. And then two minutes in, we decided right looked prettier then left, so we took a little detour. Well, not really a tour, more like there and back. We walked up the side of a hill, slightly climbing, to get a magnificent view of the lake. Then it got too windy and I thought we were gonna fly off, so we returned to the real track. It was a stunning walk and we didn’t take any wrong turns after that. The first part up to the waterfall was quite crowded and touristy. But our map guided us higher up and we made a nice tour around and over the river above the waterfall, to end with some sheepy fields. Day one: successful.

The next day we decided to walk closer to our holiday park (as Aira Force is located closer to Glenridding, a 30-minute drive from Parkfoot). So we walked from the holiday park through a field (the directions read: enter the field and look for a gate in the opposite fence) and a little pathway towards Pooley Bridge, and from there we had a nice walk. Not a lot of climbing, as this part of the lake is quite flat, but there was hardly anyone there and it was lovely relaxing.

Of course holidaying in the north of England in May, is bound to get you some rain. So when the clouds weren’t on our side, we went on a little daytrip to Penrith. Technically, Penrith isn’t in the Lake District anymore. But the drive there did give us some good views. The town itself was really cool, one of those sceneries to see on old English biscuit tin boxes. So I bought a biscuit tin box. Duh. The rain didn’t bother us too much, we did some good sight seeing. On the way back we drove to a stone circle. The circle was larger than I thought it would be, the stones smaller. And in the middle: the road. Weird. Again, there was no one there so we had the field all to ourselves. Hopping between the cowpats we tried to take some pics of the stones against the ominous clouds. And when I say ominous, I’m not talking about gloomy. I’m talking about pitch black scary looking stuff. To only turn around and see beautiful blue skies. Yes, the English talk a lot about the weather because quite simply, the weather is fascinating!

After that we had two more hikes planned. The first one involved a boat ride. We took the boat from Pooley Bridge to the east side of the lake. From there, there are no more cars or roads, just a path on the hillside next to the lake. The sun came out now and again, but when it didn’t the lake looked pitch black dark. Stunning. After about 11km we got to Glenridding, where we took the boat back to Pooley Bridge and walked back to our cosy lodge. What a day!

And our last hike was the cherry on top. I don’t remember the name of the hike, or the place we hiked to. We left from Glenridding again. This time, we were going up a mountain, away from the lake. As soon as we left the lake side, we started going uphill and it seemed like we would never go back down again. The path got smaller, rockier, steeper, and sheeper. The lake behind us got smaller and the view in front of us more rugged and desolate. Just hills mountains rocks, little bit of grass and sheep here and there, and some snow on top. The tops further ahead looked all hazy and it seemed like this unforgiving landscape just kept going forever. Mission accomplished: I felt all alone on top of the world.

Sadly, we didn’t make it to the top of our mountain. Again, it was very windy. And with no shelter at all next to the track, it didn’t seem like a safe plan to continue. So when we got to the pass where we had to turn left to start climbing up, we turned right to circle back around to our starting point. The description on our map said: look for a bridge in the valley floor and make your way towards it. We saw the bridge, but not the path. We stomped around a little bit trying to find the path, but my boyfriend was right in the end: “make your way” really does mean “MAKE – YOUR – WAY”. So we did. This side of the pass wasn’t rocky anymore. It was more swampy really. Grass and heather, and one big puddle. So we slushed down the hill, about half way down not even trying to walk on the “dry” bits anymore. We made it to the bridge with slightly damp toes, and a rumbling tummy. From there, rocks again, some slippery slopes, and some comfy mountain-made seats on the hillside. Sandwich time! And sun!

The walk back was so different in scenery. We were at the back of the mountain so the lake was gone. But all around us there were hills and tops. And sheep. So many different sceneries in just one hike! Wow.

I could tell you a lot more about what else we were up to, like the amazing drive to Ullswater from Windermere, over this beautiful mountain pass with lakes and mountains on all sides! Our run-ins with scary sheep. The most delicious lemon cheese cake you have ever tried. But I’ll leave it at this.

Tomorrow I go on holiday again. Not really sightseeing this time, just relaxing. A friend of mine needed a holiday buddy, so I am happy to comply. We’re visiting her aunt who lives close to Marseille. I wonder if we’ll do lots of sightseeing. She’s not much of a hiker so my boots are staying at home. And if I have to be honest, I’d be happy reading my book by the pool for one whole week. As much as I like discovering, I also like relaxing. I’m not really used to one-week travels, how do you combine the wonderful relaxed holiday feeling with getting everything out of your destination? Well, I guess I can tell you in one week 🙂