One month for a research stay is not a long period. Therefore, before starting this secondment at Waterschap de Dommel, we decided that I was not going to build a new model from scratch or start new simulations. Instead, I was going to take advantage of this stay to receive feedback of my work by giving seminars and organizing meetings with relevant researchers and policy advisors. Waterschap de Dommel is a River Basin Authority in the Netherlands and I am developing a Decision Support System for River Basin Authorities to help them select measures to reduce pharmaceuticals in their rivers. Therefore, the secondment was actually well planned and made a lot of sense for my individual research project.
It was close to midnight when I stumbled into my hotel room in downtown Palermo. The day had been packed with scientific lectures followed by dinner and drinks with colleagues and newfound friends and I was happy to finally find a quiet moment to open my computer and re-read the email I had just scrolled through on my phone during a coffee break during the day. Deciphering the text on my broken iPhone screen had shot sparkles of excitement through me even stronger than the ones induced by the concentrated Italian coffee I balanced in my other hand, but I put the phone away as I wanted to read the email through in peace in order to fully enjoy the significance of the following lines:
Every day we meet people and talk to them. And more then often we don’t only have a simple chat. We try to explain, justify, challenge or teach what is important to us. At this point, a bunch of ideas becomes an argument and a public speech which explains your position. This skill is so important for our society. Yet more than often it is lacking even in seemingly trained professionals. So I say, it’s time to get rid of eye-watering slides and weak speeches and start to present well.
Last week I attended the Frontiers International Conference on Wastewater Treatment in Palermo, Italy. The organizers had put a lot of effort to invite well renowned persons as key note speakers and although it was a bit weird to me that they had choosen 100% white men the speakers without doubt gave very good presentation on the state of the art in their respective area of research. The layout of the conference with no parallell sessions made it easy to interact and I got to discuss my research – and other topics of interest – with experienced researchers in my field.
“Vucciria” is a typical popular area in the city of Palermo, in Sicily, south of Italy. In this area, every morning the people from Palermo and surroundings set up the food market of the city. This market reveals the inner nature of the people, the urban people as well as the ones coming from the country side, the fisherman and all type of characters you can find in a working-class area. This market indeed gave the inspiration to some Italian artists which wanted to represent a scene of the real life. “Vucciria” in fact is the name and the main topic of one of the most famous paint of the Italian Realism. The “Vucciria” paint made by Renato Guttuso shows the stands of the local food-market with the people both buying stuff and selling their products. Is a very famous paint of that artistic trend called Socialistic Realism. Anyway, walking on those narrow streets in the morning while the market is set up, is an experience anyone should live. But, on the other hand, it has to be said that those narrow streets, during the night, change their aspect. This neighborhood transforms itself into a place where to have a beer (or more than one), listen to music, dance, talk with and meet local people, and of course, to eat! (YES, in Sicily, you have to eat a lot! There you can find the best food in the world…According to my opinion….).