Tuesday, March 4, 2014

My New 'Space' - Part II

The charm and beauty of Strasbourg got me slowly, which is weird because I spent the last one month before coming here in the dirt and pollution of Kolkata. And here was this place, serene and calm, and surrounded by water everywhere. The city has two parts, from the architecture point of view - the old part, with colorful Columbage styled building and the dull new part reminiscent of French socialism. I prefer to show the old part, which I find to be visually more pleasing.


Ill, a tributary of river Rhine, flows through the city of Strasbourg. Actually, Strasbourg is located on the islands made by this river, and its canals. It used to be a port historically, and they still maintain the old gate system for boats to move from one water level to another. 

Our reception ceremony was a big hit, with astronaut Kevin Ford being the chief guest. The good food added to the other delights of the evening, like meeting important people from the space industry in the most casual way ever! I posted this photograph with him on Facebook out of excitement, and a feeling of accomplishment, only to be amused by the reactions I got from my friends and family. Apparently, they felt 'proud' ....Alas, all I could feel at this was amusement. Nevertheless, it was a big day for me as technically, he was the first 'astronaut' I had met. I had met another person before who flew to space, our own Mr. Rakesh Sharma, but he was a 'cosmonaut'. 


As I said before, the food that evening was great, and unfortunately I happen to have only one picture of the buffet since I was too busy filling my mouth with delicious European food (and wine of course)


During the first week itself at college, we were handed out first assignment, which was to make a model rocket and fly it successfully with the egg of a bird (thankfully, it was not a hen). We were split into groups, and mine ended up making the most badass looking rocket. But sadly, it wasn't suitable for the task we were asked to execute, although there was no denying that it was pretty and had the class nerds give you those glances of envy. 

The next few weeks went very quickly, as we were usually having classes and workshops till evening, and then had to do some assignment almost every day of the week. Team-working was never an easy task, but it became more difficult with so much cultural differences at stake. I even lost my temper once, but later realized how foolish it was, and how the misinterpretation of tone could lead to manipulation of thoughts. The only things I would like to remember from the first month after classes started were the dinner invitation by an Alsatian family (my friend's landlord), who made the favorite local dish called Tarte Flambees (a type of thin crust pizza), and my evening parties with the new group at every bar/club of the town, and of course, our favorite hangout place- 25 Cathedral!

Partying was never simpler than this - Get a few beers/wine, board the tram to the city, and ring the door-bell to ever welcoming hosts of the place 25 Cathedral, a simple yet effective 3-step process to have the best time of your day....Though what was not that simple was the academics. It consisted of subjects from engineering (both aerospace and avionics), sciences (mainly astrophysics), medicine, policy & economics, law, management and humanities! True to its 3Is principle, ISU curriculum isn't the cup of tea for everyone. Only a person with many shades and interests can survive here. I never knew before coming here that art inspired by space is up there on the International Space Station. I had heard there are space laws, but did not know that our satellites went up to space with a registration number given by an organization called International Telecommunication Union (ITU). So yes, the breadth of my knowledge definitely increased, and I reveled in this structure of education.

As much as I learnt about space, I learnt equally about gastronomy, thanks to my friend Robert from Croatia. I keep telling him that he should take up cooking as a profession because that's the only thing he enjoys doing (apart from his new found hobby of spinning hapless people on a chair for a 'classified' space medicine experiment). I also learnt during the first month itself about how cooking and having food together can be a better social activity than drinking. Indian cuisine was surprisingly popular, and I was amused to see the willingness with which people ate our spicy food at school. Thanks to our above-average cooking skills, me and my friend Pulkit became quite popular! Presently, our vegetarian friend Robert has more stock of spices than us, and probably cooks better daal and chana masala than we do. 

I had a faint glitter of hope that even if we do not get our dream jobs after completion of masters vis-a-vis the famed demon of recession, we could still open a good Indian restaurant (this was something that Strasbourg lacked unfortunately). This kind of optimism was a fresh change, which was brought about by the rate at which I discovered new found abilities. But more on that later, keep reading! ;)  

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