Thursday, June 28, 2012

A New Yorker in Germany

This week I am A New Yorker in Germany. After many years of driving through Germany on the way to visit and vacation in other European countries, I decided it was time to explore Germany. As luck would have it, the International Society for Advancement of Cytometry (ISAC) CYTO 2012 conference ( took place in Leipzig, Germany this past week, and my husband and I were in attendance, along with some of our Norwegian colleagues. What is always nice for me about these particular international conferences is that I end up meeting American colleagues from the different places where I have previously worked—Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the University of California at San Francisco. This time around was no exception—it was a pleasure to catch up with earlier colleagues like Zbigniew, Bill, and Claudia. The ISAC conferences are special for me, because it was at one of them, in Cambridge, England, that I met my husband for the first time, and for the second time when the annual conference was held in Breckenridge, Colorado. After that, we became a couple and have since attended many other such conferences together. The society has evolved through the years to meet the changing needs of its members, but remains at its core a flow cytometry society, although it now embraces image cytometry and mass spectroscopy as it moves into the future.  

As a pre-teen and teenager, I had a pen pal in New Zealand, by the name of Lillian. We wrote to each other from the time we were twelve years old until we were about sixteen, at which point the letters stopped. But I had learned a lot about New Zealand and her about the USA during that time. When I last heard from her, she had decided to take a job working on the New Zealand railroad. I still treasure the small gifts I received from her—volcanic sand and a hei-tiki necklace ( I was reminded of her this past week because I had the pleasure of talking to a new conference attendee from New Zealand by the name of Kylie—it was a pleasure to meet her. Meeting her reminded me of what these conferences are really all about—encountering new people and forming new networks and connections. But it was our conversation about New Zealand films and also about how the New Zealand government has worked hard to integrate the Māori people, that I remember most. I want to find some of the films she mentioned, and to read a bit more about New Zealand society generally.

It is true what the Dalai Lama says— ‘Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before’. Because you never know who you’re going to meet, or what kind of experiences you’ll walk away with. This by itself—the excitement of unwrapping the unknown—is worth the time it takes to travel to new places. It doesn’t matter if the purpose of the trip is business or vacation. It is about staying open to the world around us. I’ll be writing more about Germany in coming posts. I’m happy we finally decided to spend some time here. From what I’ve seen so far, it is a fascinating country of contrasts.   

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