For quite a long time everything seemed so unreal and so far away but tomorrow it is three weeks that I’ve arrived in Seattle for my international Pulse assignment with PATH.
The 1st of August, was the big day. I headed to the airport at 5:45 in the morning, checked in the luggage, boarded the plane to Amsterdam, and – nothing more. Our luggage was charged onto the plane with half an hour delay, we landed in Amsterdam with 45 minutes delay, and I missed my connecting flight to Seattle. Good start I thought, but quickly rebooked a flight that was about to take off three hours later. Then I sat down and watched out of the window and started to meditate on the last 6 months, from the beginning of my application for the Pulse program until today sitting here in Amsterdam on my way to Seattle. While sipping my free coffee I observed the plane getting loaded and started to feel ready to embrace this increadible adventure. Seattle, here I come!
After about 10 hours of an uneventful flight we landed at Tacoma airport. My landlord was so nice to pick me up and during the two-hour ride on train and bus we made acquaintance and I learned already many things about my new home, the city and its people. This very first evening, 1st of August, I was then invited to the annual Night Out Block Party, an event where diverse neighbors can connect and get to know each other while chilling and enjoying the food that everyone had prepared. It was a great occasion for me to meet very likable people living in the same street where will be my home for the next 6 months.
I live in a beautiful little house in a quiet residential area in the Ballard neighborhood, north-west of Seattle. The little house was designed to be a museum and my landlord, being an artist, used to exhibit there his paintings. This is how my house and my sleeping room look like:
The next day, 2nd of August, was my first day at PATH. PATH is an international non-profit organization and a leader in global health innovation. PATH’s mission is to improve the health of people around the world by advancing technologies, strengthening systems, and encouraging healthy behaviors. For the next six months I will be working within the Device and Tools group and together with the Maternal, Newborn & Child Health & Nutrition department on the milk banking project. As most people probably never have heard of human milk banking (at any rate, before I was matched to the human milk bank project at PATH, I had no idea that human milk banks exist) I add a link to an instructing and touching YouTube movie about the need that all infants have access to live-saving human milk and the role of human milk banks therein: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFw8lcdy1zo&t
In the meantime I have discovered a lot about human milk banking, the pasteurization process in particular and the enormous value of mother milk for little babies. And although people at PATH work quite hard they do not forget the fun. So, last Thursday after work we went to a nice place called Two Bells, sat in an astonishing backyard and tasted several pitchers of Kolsch beer (German style of beer made in Washington). Indeed, we had lots of fun and it was a great occasion to know each other outside of the workplace.
The first weekend here in Seattle I went to buy a used bicycle in a non-profit bicycle store that gets old bikes donated, repairs and sells them. What I definitely love in Seattle is to get around on bicycle. One can see that the city does a lot of efforts and there is a great infrastructure for bicycles, with commuter bike lanes painted on the streets or with separate lanes and extra trails all over the city. The Google map below depicts my bicycle way from my home in the north through a small bicycle-friendly street in Ballard, then alongside the channel and over the Fremont Bridge to the Lake Union and finally to PATH in the center of Seattle.
A striking event during this initial period in Seattle was the strange brownish haze that lingered over the city for more than one week. The haze actually was smoke pouring from forest fires in Canada to the north-west of Washington. The satellite picture from Monday 7th of August identifies more than 100 wildfires in British Columbia (red dots) and shows the huge cloud of smoke stretching down to Seattle. The smoke continued obscuring Seattle until middle of my second week before it was gradually swept away by the upcoming wind. So it was not before the second weekend that I discovered that there are huge mountains in the west across Puget Sound (the inlet of the Pacific Ocean). The mountains belong to the Olympic National Park and invite for hiking excursions in the coming weekends. But that is going to be another story.