Friday, December 12, 2014

Nijmegen 2

The 16th A-T Workshop will be held in Beijing next fall. I went to my first ATW, the 5th in the series, in 1993 as a graduate student. 22 years later they're still having them, they're still announcing progress, and they're still looking for a cure. Family-run funding organisations have come and gone. Parents and patients are continually hopeful and disappointed.. One said I gave you millions - where's my cure? Forever elusive.
A couple of treatment options are tentatively on the table, though neither is a cure. Both carry risks. Neither can be tested in a randomized study. People don't agree about going forward with either one. Nor do they agree it is better to be careful.
As often happens, people start leaving before the last session. Trains and planes to catch now or wait a whole day. I'm waiting a whole day, mostly on purpose. This way I have the afternoon to see the town. Not to mention I hate meetings where the last speaker talks to an empty room.
I also hate travelling to a place for a meeting, going straight to the hotel, getting to know the venue really well, and then flying straight out again. Last night's little excursion notwithstanding.

Nijmegen? Oh, I've been there. Really nifty hotel out in the Berg en Dal region.

After a quick lunch I get my camera and check out the 90 minute trail around the park and agricultural area near the hotel. There are several viewpoints marked, but you can't see much from them. The hills aren't very steep and the trees still have most of their leaves. Makes for a nice view of the trees, but they get in the way of any view over the plain.
Now for a bus into town. The oldest part is off-limits to cars, making several blocks of pedestrian-district filled with shops and restaurants and today a long series of outdoor stalls along the main road means the central road is elbow to elbow with people. Throngs. Most of the architecture has been updated, and as I mentioned the large majority of shops are international chains. I'd like to pick up some unique souvenir, something that to me will say Here, without being a chunk of airport schlock made in China. I come across a place selling teas and coffess, with a gorgeous but limited and extremely expensive selection of hand-made pottery. Beautiful stuff but it will be difficult to get home intact. Perhaps I'll stop back for a trinket if I don't see anything else.

Ah, here's Hema. Load up on munchies for home and dutch cookies to share at work. By the time I come out of Hema it's getting dark and the open-air stalls are beginning to pack up. Hey, guys, it's not even 5. Ever thought of outdoor lights?
It starts to rain so I duck into one of the brasseries on the main street for a glass of wine and a cup of spicy tomato soup. Lots of people stop in for an afternoon beer or even dinner.
When I go out again the rain has stopped, the stands are in the last stages of packing, and the streets are deserted. The larger stores are still open, but nobody much is in there but the employees tidying up.
Saturday evening (not even - it's just late afternoon still, according to most of us) and Nijmegen is dead. Maybe they've all gone home for a rest and a shower before coming out for a wild night. Maybe.
I just don't really see that, though.
Several blocks later I catch a bus back to the hotel.

After a scalding hot shower I spend a quiet evening with a book.
At the desk they told we there were trains to Schiphol at 8:42 and at 9:12 that should get me there in time for my flight. To catch the train there are busses at 8:19 and 8:49.
Earlier is better, you know, just in case.
As usual I'm quick to get ready in the morning. I hang around the lobby interminably, then go out into the drizzle to the bus stop. The two blocks don't take nearly as long as they should, so I have plenty of time to hang out at the bus shelter in the dark, pacing against the cold. The rain is weak but makes a lot of nouse in the trees. Leaves come down as drops hit them just right. A day or two of this and they might be naked. The sky lightens gradually, and by the time the bus arrives it might be daytime. Hard to tell. Certainly it is by the time we pull up at the train station.
I have just four minutes to buy a ticket, find my train and get on it. For natives this might be child's play, but my dutch is rudementary. Good thing I have enough margin to take the later train.
Aha. Train to Amsterdam at 8:42, just like the desk clerk said; there's only one leaving at that time, and I find it & hop on just before it starts rolling.
Looking at the display of stops, though, this train does not seem to stop at Schiphol. Um. I suppose trains back to Schiphol from Amsterdam Central must be frequent and quick. Though I know that is a 20 minute trip - good thing I got the early train.
I ask the conductor, and he's all irritated I didn't stamp my ticket in the machine at the station. Tells me I need to change trains at Utrecht. And stamp my ticket there. Be sure to stamp.
OK, ok.
Off the train at Utrecht, there's the Schiphol one marked for quay 7. This is 5. To the right, quays 1-4. To the left, 8-12. Seven, please. Neither right not left leaves the middle, and the train at the opposite quay, not quay 6 but indeed 7 (what do they have against 6? there are other even-numbered quays), is just leaving... Ah, there is another train farther down quay 7, and it is the right one. Leaving immediately.
Ooh. Good thing I decided not to try and get a coffee.
I haven't completely figured out Dutch trains yet. Very helpfully, a screen on the train from Nijmegen told us what the stops where and when we would make them. Close to a stop they display what connections are leaving soon. I was relieved to see my destination, and doubly so on seeing a time 40 minutes later. If I'm going to spend 40 minutes in Utrecht waiting for my connection, thank goodness I took the early train. On the later one I'd miss my plane, or be so stressed about it I might as well. That's why I thought I had plenty of time to get a coffee. But when I saw the train, and the imminent departure time I was lucky to hop aboard in time. Was 40 minutes for the next one? Or did 10:30 refer to our arrival time at the airport (and we do arrive at 10:30) Bit of a difference.

Everything was fine. Nobody looked at my unstamped ticket. The airline was not on strike. There are multiple Starbucks at the airport, on both sides of the security check.

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