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New job, new city, new hobbies

Posted: 2019-11-28 23:57:00, Categories: General, Work, Germany, 1082 words (permalink)

Leibniz Supercomputing Centre
Leibniz Supercomputing Centre
Since April I've been working three days a week at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) in Garching near Munich. It's great to have colleagues around and a physical office again instead of doing freelance work at home over the Internet. I also enjoy having convenient access to city life again.

My main home is still together with Sandra in Halblech near Füssen at the border of the Alps. It's a region blessed with a lot of natural beauty, but having spent most of my life in Helsinki I was missing having a larger city at least nearby. That was my main reason of searching for a new employment in Munich instead of Füssen or surroundings. Now I have a place to stay in both.

A sunny day by the Isar river.
A sunny day by the Isar river.
LRZ is in many ways similar to CSC, my long-time employer in Finland. It provides network, scientific computing and data services for all Munich universities as well as for other research organizations in Bavaria. The current flagship supercomputer is the most powerful in whole Europe, which makes LRZ one of the top three centers in Germany and plays a role in attracting talented people. Like at CSC, the goal is to provide stable and reliable services which researchers can depend on, but experimenting with new technologies is encouraged and the time perspective of development projects reaches further than just a few months ahead.

I'm part of the web team which provides web hosting services for the universities. My main responsibility is the administration and development of the LRZ GitLab service, a distributed version control system for source code and other files. I can put my Linux system administration skills in real use again, as well as learn new concepts of modern software development. Compared to the long term preservation planning I was involved with for almost ten years, it's more hand-on technical work which suits me well.

A small festival in the nearby Studentenstadt (student city).
A small festival in the nearby Studentenstadt (student city).
My contract is 20 hours a week which I normally divide between three days from Wednesday until Friday. That leaves half of the week for other activities and spending time together with Sandra. I left my job as a guide at the Neuschwanstein castle after two eight month seasons but continue to offer guided tours and walks in the town of Füssen and surroundings. I started that three years ago and Sandra also recently joined the team so we are now both official guides in the area. That's refreshingly different than sitting in front of the computer, keeps my language skills alive and has been a great opportunity to learn more about the region. Occasionally I also bring travel groups to Neuschwanstein and meet my ex-colleagues there.

Travelling from Halblech to Munich by public transport takes about two and a half hours one way — far too long for commuting daily back and forth but perfectly acceptable to do once a week. Immediately after getting confirmation of my new employment I started searching for a place to stay. Knowing that Munich is the most expensive city in Germany, I prepared myself for a lengthy search with a backup option of booking Airbnb or guesthouse rooms during the first weeks.

The bed and desk in my room in Munich.
The bed and desk in my room in Munich.
At times one needs luck in life, and in my search I certainly had some. Only after a couple of weeks I got offered a spaceous and very reasonably priced room in the Freimann district, right in the middle between the city center and Garching where LRZ is located. We are seven people sharing a house which might sound like many, but as four of us are in Munich only part-time it has never been too tight in the large kitchen and two bathrooms we share. We have a large sunny terrace for enjoying a drink or grilling together on summer evenings, less than 15 minutes by foot to the English garden and the Isar river, plus a direct subway line both to Munich city center and to Garching. My room is equipped with a double bed so Sandra is also welcome to come and stay overnight whenever she wants, but she mostly prefers to avoid the city.

The terrace of our shared house.
The terrace of our shared house.
As readers knowing me might guess, I usually move around by bicycle. Munich is not perfect for cycling, but especially along the Isar is a good route without any traffic lights. I have about 11 km to work and the city center is about 10 km in the opposite direction. During warm summer days I usually packed a towel and jumped into the river for a short swim on the way back from work. And when I want to enjoy some live music in the evening, I can get to the popular venues mostly within half an hour either by bike or by subway depending on which I feel like using.

Sandra and Lizzy, our new elderly cat lady.
Sandra and Lizzy, our new elderly cat lady.
In a way my life is now divided in two. At home I have Sandra, a cat again (more about that another time in a separate article), the friends we've made during the last few years, my tourist guide activities plus of course the nature with mountains, lakes and abundant hiking trails. Munich offers me the new IT work with opportunities to develop myself professionally, nice colleagues and the activities of a major city. It's a good combination in many ways, sort of the best of both worlds.

I also have a couple of new hobbies which are at the same time fun and healthy. Contact improvisation is a kind of playful dancing without choreography, which I started doing about two years ago. Lately I've become enthusiastic about Acroyoga, a combination of yoga and acrobatics with a bit of Thai massage thrown in the mix. I gave it a try in August, was hooked and found a beginner-friendly group which gathers regularly every Wednesday evening. The exercises are challenging but not competitive so people with different skill levels can be in the same class and support each other. Acroyoga isn't going to replace my classic hatha yoga practise but complements it with new interesting elements.

If you can read German (or just want to see a few photos), this article describes the typical content of an acroyoga evening and also my thoughts about it quite well. Both contact improvisation and acroyoga are practised together with a partner or in small groups and rely on mutual trust between the participants. Partners are chosen new every time and especially in contact improvisation even changed several times during the evening. That makes every session different and creates a beautiful community spirit in the group.

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Copyright Arto Teräs <ajt@iki.fi>, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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