Tuesday, May 26, 2009

First Day

Yesterday was my first day at my internship. Incredibly nervous, I took the metro to Politechnika and followed the stream of college-aged youth towards the campus. A stranger to the layout (I'd never actually really explored this part of Warsaw) I tried to find my way to the correct building in this urban campus.

The campus reminded me of Karlsruhe, where all the buildings were closed clumped together without quads of any sort. Those of us that hail from land grant universities are used to large distances between buildings and epic journeys to get from class to class.

Inside the building, the corridors were cramped and almost claustrophobic. It didn't help that they were hot and jam-packed full of students loudly chatting with each other. It felt almost like high school again.

I found the professor's office, knocked on the door and hoped he would be in. He answered the door and invited me inside. He was rather tall, older than his official picture on the website, and reminded me of my photography teacher from high school (I'm looking at you, Galen.)

We talked for a short bit, and then he called in the fellow under whom I would working, called K. K took me to the huge lab, which housed many different-sized wind tunnels and an under-construction water tunnel. One of the wind tunnels, made entirely out of wood, suffered a small design flaw (its exit opened up at too steep an angle), and K said I might have to redesign it.

After showing me the lab floor he brought me up to where my 'office' would be. I was given an unused desk in a room with another guy (of whose job here I'm not entirely certain.) There was a bunch of paper crap and a derelict computer which they cleared away. K brought me up a pretty new computer with Linux and this other guy asked me about his printer, which apparently suffered from too little memory. K was displeased about the amount of dust on my desk, so he rang in a call to somewhere and shortly two cleaning ladies carrying pails came in to make sure that the desk was dust-free. At first I lacked a mouse, and the first mouse that K gave me was simply a plastic shell (I have since gotten a newer, better mouse.)

I have a phone on my desk, which I never use. It once rang so I picked it up to hear a conversation in progress (think of Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation.) I was told it's a communal line and that all the phones in the lab are linked as such.

K took me to the mensa to get some lunch. (For those of you who do not know what a mensa is, it's like a dining common (similar to a cafeteria.)) A frumpy-looking woman served up the food (lunch ladies are the same everywhere.) It was surprisingly expensive; fourteen zloty for mashed potatoes, kotlety drobione (mid-way between a meatball and a hamburger), a cranberry compote with a health serving of cranberries at the bottom of the cup, and a small salad (not the freshest.) It was actually a good-sized serving of food, and it wasn't bad. A nearby kebab, however, sells at about 5zl.

Back in the lab, K and I set about trying to figure out how to use this laser they have. The laser is about ten-years old, but they've just recently got it. After about three hours, we finally got it to function (not fully. One of the beams (it's a two-beamed laser) still isn't firing at all and we don't know why. We even cracked the case open to look at the motherfucker; we two guys aimlessly poking around to make sure all the electrical connections are secured didn't fix anything.) It's pretty cool, and they have these glasses that shield you from the laser; when you put them on, the laser point disappears.

Day one down, day two in progress.

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