One thing that can be said about the two of us as travelers: we know how to roll with the (metaphorical) punches. We all-too-recently returned from a weekend jaunt to Siena, in the heart of Tuscany. Read: the destination of choice among the Honeymoon Elite. We wanted to see the countryside and the world-famous vineyards, but struggled to find anything that wasn’t a cozy bed & breakfast retreat for two, or cost less than a hefty dowry. Fortunately, a girl at our youth hostel told us about a cheap tour, and we (along with most of the hostel) jumped on board, until penny-pinching backpackers outnumbered vow-renewing octogenarians. Barely.
The tour took us into the hills, to several medieval towns, and finally to a famous vineyard, where we were served a classy wine-tasting. We tried to say inventive and snobbish things about the wine’s bodice and overtones. We tried not to say these things in a British accent.
Anyways, this was supposed to be a five-hour tour, which would have left us ample time to train back to Modena before dark. Boy was THAT plan foiled. Italy once again demonstrated her blatant disregard for time or schedules, and we didn’t get back from the tour until all the buses to the Siena train station had stopped running. Our last hour in Siena was a two-kilometer slog in the cold and the rain along the side of the highway. To keep our spirits up, we started freestyling to The Sound of Music’s “My Favorite Things.” You know, the song that goes “raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens”? We went back and forth, rhyming and building off each other’s lines. A sample of our spontaneous genius:
Skipping our classes
And playing badminton
Picnics and play-doh
And songs we’ve re-written
Making up stupid games in Jeffery’s pool,
These are a few of the things that are cool…
When the bus bails,
When the rain falls,
When we’re feeeeeling sad,
We simply remember our favorite things,
And then we don’t feeeeel, soooo bad!
This went on for many stanzas. We later wrote down as many as we could remember. Full renditions upon request.
Then, in a miracle that was arguably more miraculous than the time a pencil bounced from the ceiling into Barney Stinson’s nose, we sprinted onto the last train from Siena to Florence. This was the last lucky thing we were to experience for a long time. Every subsequent connection (another bus, two more trains, and a taxi) that stood between us and our beds in Modena proceeded to behave in sheisty ways, the details of which I won’t expound upon here. All I have to say is, you were a joke, Mussolini. None of your trains run on time.
Fast-forward to five-thirty in the morning. Our train finally pulled into Modena… and the train door was jammed. Neither I nor a burly Italian man could force it open. We took off sprinting for the other end of our car. The train started to move. Kristin kicked the door open and leapt out onto the platform. I took the leap directly after her, ending up way farther down the platform – the train chose then to be in a hurry. Kristin ripped her jeans and sustained a slightly skinned knee, but I somehow stuck the landing and kind of rolled out of it. My one sleep-deprived thought before launching myself from the train was, “it’s just physics!” Um… yeah, nothing to say for myself there. We capped the weekend off with a two-hour power nap, and then downed cappuccinos and biked to the lab to start a PCR reaction at 9 this morning. The man whose office we share in the lab has been walking us through an experiment he’s doing to determine whether a certain bacteria, called Wolbachia, is present in a population of tardigrades he’s studying. Wolbachia are known to have some crazy effects on various invertebrates: a Wolbachia infection in some species causes femenization, male killing, or what’s called cytoplasmic incompatibility – basically various means to turn the entire population female. As certain tardigrades exist in entirely female populations and reproduce by parthenogenesis, it’d be interesting to find Wolbachia lurking among them.
And yes, as soon as the DNA was prepped and in the Thermocycle… we had a nap.