Monthly Roundup: February 2018

February 2018: Regents Canal, London

I’m typing this listening to Katy Perry’s Hot n Cold, which seems very appropriate: from record highs (in California) to snowstorms (in the UK), February was full of contrasts. I started the month soaking up the sun in San Francisco and ended it watching snow cover the pretty streets of London. In between, I had the chance to visit Dublin and Amsterdam, help organise a conference, proceed with my PhD work, and, most importantly, spend quality time with my family <3.

While I’ve been presenting at seminars and conferences more or less regularly since I started my postgraduate studies, February marked my first time organising an international conference.  Together with the rest of the organising committee, we welcomed dozens of PhD students and early career researchers from across the world to present their work in London. I’m particularly proud that we were able to reimburse participants for their travel expenses – I wish more conferences did this!

Picture credit: Marta Kotwas

I also made some progress with my PhD survey design. I’m creating the survey in three languages – Russian, Finnish and English – so rather surprisingly the most difficult part has been making sure that the translations match as well as possible, not just in terms of using the right word (which in itself is easy) but actually capturing the gist of the questions in all languages. This means checking, re-checking, and testing the questions out on volunteers – baby steps, but I’m hoping to get the survey out by April. Fingers crossed!

As much fun as my work and traveling are, by far my favourite part of the month was the week I spent in London with my family. From dinners and street art walks to nights in playing board games, everything is fun when you’re in perfect company <3.

Travel: Where I went this February

As you know, I started the month in San Francisco, enjoying the sunshine and the record-breaking temperatures. In addition to going on long walks and bike rides and just sitting in a park with my notes and books (the perks of being a PhD student..), I also exposed myself to American culture by dedicating one Sunday to watching Superbowl and eating (vegetarian!) hot dogs. It was surprisingly good fun, and I loved that the underdogs won!

On our way back to London, we stopped in Dublin for a few hours. It was my first time in Ireland (another point for the country challenge, yay!), so we started with the basics: Trinity College, Temple Bar and a walk around the centre, followed by a lovely lunch and tea in a cute little restaurant. I have to come back in the summer – there’s so much more to explore in Dublin and beyond.

Sun in San Francisco, February 2018
Sun and summer vibes in San Francisco, February 2018

Books I read this month

Just one, and I technically finished it on the first of March.. but it counts, right? In any case, the book was The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena, and I think it was quite good for its niche, right until the end when things kind of got out of hand.

I also started reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, but didn’t finish it: despite the catchy title, a lot of the content seemed to be just the same old, same old. I might give it another try, just because it’s so popular (is that a good reason? not sure).

Museums I visited

I told you about our family tradition of always visiting the British Museum whenever my brother is in London in last month’s roundup post, and we headed there again for a short visit during the halftime holidays. It really is a place you never grow tired of!

I also visited two museums in San Francisco. The Contemporary Jewish Museum‘s exhibitions were not particularly to my liking, but the building itself is awe-inspiring. The California Academy of Sciences lured us in to their weekly late opening night, this time dedicated to celebrating the Chinese New Year and our furry friends with the Year of the Dog Nightlife, with the promise of puppies.

In the end, we only got to meet a handful of dogs, but were not too disappointed. The museum itself is quite interesting with a rainforest dome and an earthquake simulator. What’s even better, however, is that one of the shows of the evening included meeting dogs’ distant relative, the fennec fox. I had never seen these small creatures live before, and they turned out to be really cute, if also quite naughty.

Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco

Any shows or movies?

Yes! We went to see Again at the Trafalgar Studios. We found the show itself quite inventive and funny, and the small studio made for an intimate, interesting experience, particularly as we were sat on the front row… But here comes the but. Instead of single seats, the seating was in form of a row of benches, one bench meant for two people. When we arrived, our bench was partially taken by another person, whose bench was in turn partially occupied by another person, and so on. We asked people to move over a bit, but they wouldn’t budge, saying they had no room to go. This led to me only having a tiny part of the bench to sit on, OK for a short play like this one but not cool for anything over an hour. It might be a good idea for the theatre to monitor the seats somehow.

Best restaurants

Can I say the Impossible burger two months in a row? I’m just going to do it, because it’s a) really delicious and b) totally cruelty-free. In case you didn’t read my last post, the Impossible burgers are 100% plant-based burgers that taste and feel exactly like real meat. They’re produced by Impossible Foods, an incredible company dedicated to creating vegetarian, cruelty-free “meat” and “dairy” products. Read more about them here.

Other interesting things

Amsterdam in the snow, winter 2018

Estonia celebrated 100 years of statehood this February. I didn’t really celebrate the occasion as I was on the road, but I did write a post on why you should visit Estonia in 2018.

As mentioned above, a spell of atypically cold weather meant that both my cities of residence got covered in snow by the last day of  February (which is when I snapped the pic above) . I’ve lived in London for over 6 years, but I’ve never seen it this snowy before – it was gorgeous! In Amsterdam, the snow played a supporting part as everybody kept their eyes on the ice in the hopes of getting to skate on the canals for the first time in six years (more about this here).

Favourite blog posts

As much as I like the posts linked above, my favourite for the month was the story of our winter getaway to the gorgeous Madrid. Read it here!

Thank you, February! And thank you for reading – please leave a comment below 🙂 What was your February like? Did you read any good books and visit interesting exhibitions this month?


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