Written by Priti Gururaja
(This is Part II of a two-part story. Read Part I here)
Prague to Cesky Krumlov: It was very cold. Avyakta had fallen asleep. We had alighted the bus, following our fellow passenger. Communication continued to be difficult. The local people were unable to understand us. No one could direct us to our destination.
Walking ahead, we came across a McDonald’s café, and decided to enter it hoping that someone there might be able to help us. Avyakta lay in my husband’s arms while I held on to the entire luggage. The path leading to the café was completely filled with snow, and my husband lost his footing and tossed Avyakta in the air. Both of them fell down. I cried for help but the passersby did not even look at us! Luckily, Avyakta was not injured. But the otherwise calm toddler began to cry and it took us some time to calm him down. We asked many people inside the café for directions, but no one had any idea about the bus or how to reach Cesky Krumlov. Feeling helpless, I even considered returning to India!
Fortunately for us, just then, a kind lady came up to me and offered to help. She not only gave us directions on how to reach the metro station but also handed me a 50 krone coin for the tickets. This was a big relief to us.
We finally reached the metro station Dejvicka but our difficulties did not end there. We were told that we had to take the metro to Andel, which was on a different metro line. At Andel, we were horrified to learn that we had to take another metro train to reach Florence station, and from there to take the bus to Cesky Krumlov. With whatever little energy we had left, we reached Florence station and carrying all the luggage and Avyakta made our way through the breezy winds to the desolate bus station. It was a quarter to 5 but it seemed like a dark ruthless night to us.
We reached Cesky after a 2 1/2 hour bus journey. The bus had stopped far away from our final destination – our hotel. A co-passenger helped us to book a taxi. On reaching the hotel, my husband realized that he had been pick pocketed! The taxi driver refused to take the fare by card and insisted on being paid cash! Luckily, there was an ATM nearby. My husband swiped my debit card and got the cash. After paying for the taxi, we entered our room, completely broken and tired. We ate whatever food we had, and Avyakta was fed some fresh milk and fruits that the hotel staff had provided us.
The next day, we woke up to a snowy morning. Avyakta was cheerful, happy to see the snow through the window and did not show any signs of tiredness. We decided we would not get bogged down by the bad experience and would stay positive for the next 18 days in Cesky. As I had a meeting with the workshop organizers in the evening, we decided to spend the morning exploring the world heritage town.
Cesky Krumlov is a small town with beautiful Renaissance buildings. Its 13th century castle on the banks of the Vltava River is the second biggest in the Czech Republic. The town has had its shares of ups and downs due to the changing fortunes of its rulers and World Wars. But what stands prominent is its architecture and creativity. All buildings, small and big, are creative and aesthetic! A lot has been written about the castle, you can find more information here.
We got a glimpse of the castle and later made our way through shops to buy some souvenirs. Our attention was caught by souvenirs made of glass – the famous Bohemian glass! It is said that Bohemian glass workers found out that potash when mixed with chalk resulted in clear colourless glass that was stable – this came to be known as Bohemian crystal and went on to become the top-selling glass from the Czech Republic. Being frog aficionados, we were delighted to lay our hands on frog figurines made of Bohemian crystal!
Although Cesky Krumlov is not a big town, it took us the whole day to look and shop in two streets! By the time we reached the hotel, it was time for the workshop inaugural dinner. Fortunately it was arranged in the same hotel where we were staying and I hurried to meet my organizers.
The next two weeks were a whirlwind. Each day, the workshop began at 9am and ended at 10pm with a 2 hour lunch and dinner breaks. The workshop had participants from all over the world. Some like me were new to the field of genomics while others had come with their own data sets and had prior knowledge about genomics. The first week of the workshop dealt with the basics of the genomics and computational biology. We were introduced to UNIX, structural genome variation, genome assembly and had practical sessions on these topics. The second week was more complex and exhausting as it was computer intensive.
During my study sessions, my husband would look after Avyakta. Most days, during the lunch breaks I would rush back to the room to bathe him. My husband would cook and I would feed my son. This routine continued for two weeks and it never felt difficult to manage things, of course not without the co-operation of my husband and son.
I learnt a lot of new things in the workshop. I am glad that I made it to the workshop, made new friends, and developed new contacts with the faculty. This has been a wonderful opportunity in spite of the initial adventures and mis-adventures, the risk paid off and most important of all, Avyakta returned back to India safe and sound!
About the Author:
Priti Gururaja did her Masters in Biotechnology and has always been interested in genetics. After a stint with a pharmaceutical company, she felt the need to go beyond the lab. Interactions with a field biologist led her to the wonderful world of the frogs of the Western Ghats. She got the opportunity to merge field and lab at ATREE, where she is now doing her PhD on the landscape genetics of two endemic frogs from the Western Ghats. Besides research, Priti likes to read fiction and autobiographies. Cooking, travelling, and numismatics are her other hobbies.