My friend Debbie was visiting from Boston on Sunday and we met up to go to the newly renovated and expanded San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and being nostalgic, I immediately remembered back in grad school (1995??), standing in line for tickets when the “new” Mario Botta designed SFMOMA building opened up on 3rd street. That opening was also this huge deal at the time and it’s pretty amazing to see this next phase incarnation and also think about how much the city and the world has changed since then. That part of San Francisco –South of Market—was just starting to build up back then and was considered edgy and cool. Now it’s still this hip, happening neighborhood but has since been usurped by other cooler, trendier neighborhoods. It doesn’t really feel that long ago, but 1995 was about the time that Netscape launched and this thing called “the internet” became a part of our lives. Google didn’t come around until 1998. One of the exhibits was about typography and they had an old typewriter on display. I overheard a Dad telling his teenage kid that he wrote his college papers on one of those and you could see the look of confusion/shock on the kid’s face! I too left for college with a typewriter though bought one of the early Mac models (also on display in the same exhibit!) with my hard earned work study funds in my sophomore year. I wonder where we’ll be in twenty years, when my (not yet a part of my life but hopefully soon) kid is in college. I suspect (or at least hope) that there will still be museums and people will still want to explore art up close and personal and not be resigned to experiencing art via the digital versions.Yesterday, in the museum it seemed that probably more than half of the visitors were snapping photos with their smartphones, and too many people seemed more interested in taking selfies than the art. Ah, well—I’m sounding too much like an old curmudgeon now! The good news is that the museum was packed so art still holds a powerful draw! I love exploring museums but hadn’t been to the SFMOMA in quite a while. (Leave it to the motivation of having an out-of-town visitor to inspire one to go do one of the oh-so many cool things there are to do in San Francisco!) Aside from the newly expanded space, they have expanded the collections and it really feels like a different museum. I was also really impressed with the design and the way they’ve brought more of the city views into the building. I’ve included some pictures of my favorite views and pieces.
I was in Connecticut last weekend to celebrate my nephew Otto’s first birthday. It’s hard to believe that he is one already. I remember that weekend last year, waiting for his arrival, the anticipation and excitement and then pure love upon seeing him for the first time. How has a year passed already? Now he’s starting to walk and has his first teeth and is turning into a little toddler. We had a birthday party for him and he had his first taste of cake and played with his new toys. He loved his first baseball bat even if the bat was almost as big as he is—and Mom and Dad are thrilled for their little slugger. Sports fans that they are they’ve already been debating whether he will hit right or left. The cake was shaped like a baseball and Otto wore a baseball onesie. The messaging is not subtle! The slide I gave him was also a big hit, especially when paired with the kiddie pool. It’s equally amazing to see how Philip and Evan have grown into such great parents–they make it look so natural and joyful, if not always entirely easy. I’m lucky to be a part of this too as the doting Aunt, but birthdays and anniversaries like this remind me also of the passage of time, as I “wait” for my own baby. Deep down, even in all the happiness, that’s still a shadow that adds an edge of wistfulness to celebrating milestones like this. Of course, I wish for my own little one. I also like the idea of my brother and I having kids about the same age, cousins to grow up with, so keep hoping that I’ll get good news soon.
I am just getting back from a three week trip to Germany for work. I was there for two almost-back-to-back conferences near Munich and some visits to labs in between. I must admit that when I planned this trip back in February it seemed like such an efficient plan to hit two conferences in one trip—months later, while packing and organizing for three weeks away, the phrase “what was I thinking” crept to mind. In any case, it turned out to be a good trip, both work-wise and personally. The meetings were both great—interesting science in beautiful locations. The first meeting was in a small village in the mountains in Tirol, Austria. The village had a “Sound of Music” vibe—rolling hills of lush green, cows grazing, mountains in the background, locals dressed in Dirndls and Lederhosen. I kept expecting the Family Von Trapp to come bursting out of the background singing “The hill are alive, with the sound of music…” The second meeting location was equally lovely—-in Seeon in a renovated old historical Benedictine monastery on a lake in the Bavarian mountains. As an outing during the meeting, we went on a hike to another lake, winding up at a hill-side farm where we drank fresh milk from the local cows. It doesn’t get much more Alpine-cute.
I was actually born in just outside of Munich, in Wolfratshausen a small suburb, and lived there for the first five years of my life. I don’t really remember much of anything from those years, but still the trip felt very nostalgic. My Mom and Dad met in Munich, married there and had their three children there. The trip made me think of them too, as young parents. On my last day, I had some time and so took the local S-bahn to Wolfratshausen to check it out. It was fun to see some of the location backgrounds that I’ve seen in my baby photos. This is a picture of my Mom with me as a baby, and in the background is the church spire in this photo.
On one of my free weekends I took the train to Dresden, which is the town where my Dad grew up. I had last been to Dresden in 1989, when I was a student and it was still a part of the former East Germany. It’s a beautiful city, which was totally destroyed during WWII and then largely languished during the East German regime. Many parts have now been restored again. When you’re in Germany you really can’t help but think about it’s history, especially of the awful history of WWII. My parents grew up in the war and its aftermath, when so much of the country was destroyed and then later was divided. Both lost their homes during the war and their families, and like so many, they fled as refugees to new lives in other parts of the country. My parents rarely spoke of those times and what they experienced and it’s only really as an adult, now, even after they are gone, that I’m starting to grapple with just what that must have been like. I image what it must have been like to come of age in times of such instability, in the midst of war and chaos and such devastating loss and destruction. Of course, with the refugee crisis so evident in Europe (you could really feel it in Munich especially), you realize that war and displacement are still a personal reality for millions of people around the world. Today, it’s Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa and in places like el Salvador and Venezuela failing economies and internal forces like violence, gangs and unstable politics have as devastating consequences as bullets and bombs.
I feel truly blessed to have grown up and be living at a time and in a part of the world where we have been relatively untouched by war. When my parents left Germany for the US, it was because of a job transfer for my Dad, not because they were refugees. But still, I think often of how they made that decision to uproot themselves and their children (we were three, all below the age of five) from all they knew—their family and friends, their home—for the ambition of a new life, a better life for their family. I think of other parents making that decision today. For some, those decisions are made under good circumstances, looking for adventure or opportunities somewhere else in the world—how lucky to be able to have that choice. But, sadly, for so many confronted with terrible circumstances in their homeland, it’s not a first choice but maybe the only choice they can see for giving their children and themselves a chance at a better life. For all these parents, I am awed by their bravery and selflessness in putting the future of their children first.
I’ve been traveling in Germany for the last three weeks for work—a combo trip including two conferences and some talks in Munich–and I’ve been radio-silent in terms of posting for the last few weeks as a result. It’s been a busy but great trip. In between work events, I’ve also had time to get out and about. I was actually born in Munich and the trip felt like a bit of a nostalgic homecoming in some respects. I’ll post more on that later. But, in the meantime wanted to get in a “stork sighting.” Lots of stork sighting on this trip which I’m taking as a good sign! This little guy is now my official mascot and good luck charm. Here he is looking out my hotel window in Seeon where the conference was.