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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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For Science in Frascati [20140409|21:52]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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As you may have noticed, I spent most of last week in Italy. I’d never been to Italy previously. Even though it was a work trip, it was still hugely enjoyable.

ESRIN is the European Space Agency centre for Earth observation. It has quite an impressive entrance and some very swish office buildings, but not a lot in the way of otherwise space-y accoutrements. Because let’s face it, what we all want when we visit space agency centres are awesome spacecraft models and big dishes. ESRIN has none of the former and only one of the latter.

What it lacks in visible space gizmos and decent WiFi ESRIN makes up for with a fantastic canteen and rather good coffee. The canteen brought to mind the episode of “Spaced” in which Brian takes Twist to view an exhibition of white paintings. The first puzzle you have to solve is which of the white cubicles along the entrance hall might hold the (white) trays and (white) napkins. Next, you must work out which of the white stands artfully arranged in the white interior is concealing the drinks refrigerator, which the salad bar and which the pasta. When you’ve sorted this out, you walk to the white register to pay the white-clad cashier. It’s as much participatory performance art as it is lunch.

ESRIN’s one big dish.

View over Rome from ESRIN. No one I talked to knew what the shark-fin building is for.

View of the ESRIN entrance from our meeting room balcony.

The cute little rocket at the entrance. Another thing I like about this photo is that it shows the (European) diversity of our team. From left to right we have representatives from Spain, Bosnia, Poland and France.

Frascati by day
Frascati is on a hill. A very steep hill. The hotel we were staying in was very nice, but it was also at the bottom of the hill. To get to the centre of the old town once the day’s business was done, we had to climb the hill. This was perhaps for the best, as the evening meals tended to be long and involved.

Looking out to Rome from the hill.

Lantern in arch lights the way to the residential area.

She guards the column above the fountain at the central bus stop. The work seems to have taken its toll.

As have the labours of this cat and its stone steps.

The fountain leading down from one of the stately villas appears to have been off for some time now.

Big blingy handbags are an Italian shop window feature.

The Virgin looks down patiently on passersby.

Frascati by night
One of the best things about participating in this particular well-established space mission is that everyone gets on really well. When it comes time for the evening meal, almost the entire quorum gathers to eat together. And we’re not talking about a quick bite in a pizzeria. No. We’re talking about a three hour, minimum-three-course session with wine, followed by gelato (since we were in Italy) and drinks at a bar. I’m grateful to have worked on this mission for so long. Our team delivers our data on time and have done for years. I can sincerely say that I put the effort in not just from professional pride, but out of love.

The fetish pig from the photo meme post resides in this restaurant.

Pre-gluttony menu perusal.

The gluttony begins. The chap holding the wine glass and the extremely full carafe is our glorious leader, a Finn who can drink us all under the table. Actually, given the Finns that I know, the descriptor may be redundant.

Last indulgence: tiramisu?

After a short walk through town...

...we decide no, not when there’s gelato to be found on the way back to the hotel.

One more ceiling shot on my way up to bed after a last digestif.

I’m looking forward to seeing all these faces again in Madrid in June, when we have our Operations Review.

This entry was originally posted at http://nanila.dreamwidth.org/920046.html. The titration count is at comment count unavailable.0 pKa.

[User Picture]From: bryangb
2014-04-09 22:16 (UTC)
I once managed to outdrink some Finns in a hotel bar in Italy. I was *extremely* unwell the following day.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2014-04-10 07:38 (UTC)
Oof! Poor you! I've never tried to outdrink a Finn. I tried to keep up with them once and that was bad enough.
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[User Picture]From: cosmiccircus
2014-04-10 01:21 (UTC)
Did you buy any cool souvenirs?!

Do you usually know people when you visit these types of things, or does everyone just sort of meet, become friends, and then all go out for dinner?

And mmmmm tiramasu and Italian gelato! That makes the climb up the hill worth while!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2014-04-10 07:43 (UTC)
I don't buy souvenirs much any more, especially when I have so little time to play tourist.

Having said that, I did get some really cheesy fridge magnets with the Pope on them while in Rome, because my other half shares his name.

Most of the older people who work on the engineering/ops/data archiving side of this mission have done so since before it was launched. They've known one another for ages, have gotten along well and have passed on the camaraderie to the younger ones. The younger ones (who are now getting on a bit) have also known one another for years. It's been a long and most agreeable process, and I will miss it terribly when the mission finally ends.
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[User Picture]From: mysterysquid
2014-04-10 11:05 (UTC)
Awesome. :)

Looks like a great time. :D Even if it's not a very space-y building. :P
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2014-04-12 20:14 (UTC)
It was fantastic. We spent 10-12 hours a day talking about space things, so I think that makes up for the non-space-y buildings. ;)
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