By Tanja

At the time of writing I am sitting at LAX (in this student’s opinion THE shittiest airport I’ve seen so far) with approximately 7 more hours to wait for my connecting flight to Sydney. I am traveling back from the AGU conference, and I am content after I have stuffed myself full of 13$ pizza, sitting on a piece of floor that I call “mine” now. I have also promised Thomas a blog on impressions upon return and since I have what seems like forever time in front of me, I’ll serve them up fresh.

Oakland Bay Bridge and a fat seagull in the foreground

The AGU conference is big. Really BIG. I will not waste a lot of synonymous words to describe how big, because none of them are sufficient enough to properly describe it. Those among you who have already been to AGU know what I’m talking about, those of you who have not…. I will put it like this: Imagine you went to a 5-day festival that spreads out over 35 stages, with headliners and your favourite bands distributed over all those stages throughout all days. Stages are sometimes more than half a kilometer away and as you are trying to catch that really good band you so wanted to hear live, there are regularly 25 000 people in your way trying to catch their favourite band.

It is something like that. Queuing for beer on the first day included.

Except it’s not a festival. It’s basically a large business meeting. It is a chance for you to present your work in form of a talk or a poster and chat to other people in your field or potentially outside your field. It is an excellent opportunity to meet people whose names you’ve only seen on papers you’ve read and to exchange some ideas and thoughts with them. For me personally it was a revelation that there are, in fact, more than 5.6 people in the world working on the inner core. It was good to see what they are working on. It was good to feel my brain kicking in action and asking these people questions, so for the first time in …. ever …. I felt like I knew what I was doing and could somehow judge what other people are doing. I can assure you this feeling will not last for long, so you can keeping breathing. As you were.

Typical Alcatraz cell.
Not very much different from some dorms I’ve been staying at.

As jolly as it sounds there are some negative sides to such a large conference: it is exhausting. Especially if it’s your first time to San Francisco and you are determined to see EVERYTHING.

Sightseeing! Talks! Posters! All of the things!

It is nigh on impossible. I am not sure what I would feel like if I hadn’t been sightseeing at all, but I am under the impression that even so that conference is just too big and too long, no matter how good it is for your career.

Alcatraz island

So in between running around to see all the touristy places I managed to attend some interesting talks and see some equally interesting posters. I got to talk to other students facing the same problems with their data like myself. I listened to a short talk about conducting seismic measurements at NASCAR races! I loved that one. There was an exhibition at Moscone centre as well – NASA had their stall, so I got to put Occulus Rift onto my eyes and got a good look at Mars from Curiosity’s perspective as I was spinning around.

Shot from top of Coit tower. You can see the curvy Lombard street (second from the left) on this one

I have also seen some San Francisco 🙂 Been to the wharves and said hello to sea lions on Pier 39. Admired Oakland Bay Bridge. Went up and down some steep streets. Went up Lombard Street and the little curvy bit on top – apparently it is the curviest street in the world. Went up Coit Tower to look at the city from up on high. Went to Golden Gate Bridge and walked on it! But most of all I’ve been to Alcatraz and took a tour around the island and the prison. It is definitely by far the most amazing thing I’ve done in this city. If you ever visit San Francisco (or you revisit it and you haven’t done this) – I highly recommend it. The island itself is beautiful, it offers some spectacular views of Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, city skyline and a scary insight into prison’s past. I had an audio tour narrated by ex officers and prisoners which makes it all the better.

Behold! The Golden Gate bridge.

So yeah… overall impressions? I had a good time, albeit exhausting. In a week’s time I think I’ve done good in terms of both sightseeing and conference attendance. The tempo was crazy but it was worth it. The city is pretty and good to visit – has a soul to it definitely.

Flights back? Three words:

Delayed or cancelled.

Anything to declare?

Just a sore throat and a clogged nose.

Over and out.