Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Reading

I'm back in baladelba7th! While I was home, I had tons of ideas for good posts that have little to do with my usual complaining and didn't write any of them because I was busy with my post-Christmas reading gluttony.  For me, the days after Christmas are even more exciting than Christmas itself because I get to read all of my Christmas books in a reading feast of a book or two a day.  When I was younger, I felt guilty about reading them all right away, as new books were hard to come by (this was pre-Amazon, and I lived in an area one hour from the nearest bookstore, and that bookstore didn't open until I was in high school anyway).  Once I finished my Christmas reading, I would have no new books until my birthday (thankfully this is in July, so I had two new book occasions a year).  I did make weekly visits to the library, but as you might imagine in a place with no bookstore, the library was not large, and by high school I had read all of the books in the young adult section, most of the mysteries and fiction and had only romance and non-fiction left, which I don't much care for.  So, while I continued to check out books, I was mostly re-reading my favorites, rather than discovering new ones.  Despite this guilt, I always finished my Christmas books within three to four days of Christmas.

Now of course, there is Amazon, and I have a Kindle, which means even in baladelba7th I can get new books to read anytime I want one.  I also have actual incentives to finish my Christmas reading right after Christmas.  One, I don't want to take paper books on the plane to baladelba7th as they will be extra weight coming home.  Second, I don't have as much time to read during the semester as during the holiday.  If I don't finish my books during the holiday, I will read them instead of working during the semester, and this is not a good thing as I do not have the self-control to work for a bit and then read, I will read until I finish the book and just not do my work.  So, a glorious reading fest is a necessity!

That said, I will try to update with my posts about Adventures in Suburban Babyland, the settling question, and more soon!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Travel Highlights

Our flight ended up being delayed 3.5 hours.  This was actually a benefit, as we got to leave our apartment at  8:00 instead of 4:30 am, and it just shortened our layover.  The first leg of the trip was the easiest I've ever experienced, no wait either to check in or go through customs.  The second leg, well, we had a long boarding process and sat on the ground for 1.5 hours on the plane.  Luckily I had some good books.  And it certainly could have been worse.

Other travel highlights included:

The guy in front of me at the duty free store bought 276 Euros of French cheese.  I'm not sure if I'm appalled or envious.  Maybe both.  He then paid for it with a 500 Euro note, which I had never seen before.  Apparently the cashier hadn't either, as he had to call over his supervisor.  Comic confusion ensued when she saw my 7 Euro block of cheese on the counter and thought that I was paying for it with the 500 Euro note.  The cashier clarified the situation.  The supervisor verified that the legitimacy of the note, and the customer went on his way with a large bag of cheese.  

Passing through customs once we finally landed at home, the customs agent asked my husband and I "Oh, you live in baladelba7th--do you speak loghatelba7th?" Normally, this is a question I am happy to answer in the affirmative.  In an encounter with a customs agent, less so.  We reluctantly said yes, fully expecting to be hauled off for further searching and a criminal investigation.  "Oh, you speak loghatelba7th" the customs agent repeated, but this time in loghatelba7th.  "I'm studying it too, it's a wonderful language."

Ironically, although I am terrified at each home customs entry when asked about baladelba7th and loghatelba7th, the only other time I've really been pressed for details was similarly positive.  Four years ago, my bag was randomly searched, and the customs agent pulled out some loghatelba7th movies I'd taken to watch on the plane.

"Do you watch these?" he asked.
"Yes" I mumbled.
"Where do you live?"
"Baladelba7th"
"Where in baladelba7th?"
"Downtown"
"No, where exactly?
"Ah, ism el-7ayy" I mutter nervously.
"Ism el-7ayy! Wonderful! My grandfather lives there!"

Granted, I'm sure if I actually looked like I was from baladelba7th, or had a foreign accent in my native language, things would be much less pleasant.  Nevertheless, it makes me happy that the questions that scare me the most so often turn out to be rooted in curiosity rather than suspicion.  

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Flying Home

The first time I flew home for the holidays was the first year of my PhD program, as previously I'd always lived either two hours from my home or overseas, in which case I flew home, but on odd dates.  The year before I had acquired quite the airline mileage, and so I achieved some sort of special status that automatically upgraded me to first class, where I got free drinks.  This was quite exciting until I started listening to the conversations of the other passengers ordering free drinks:

"Make it a double.  I'm headed to the family."
"I think three's the charm.  That's just what I need to deal with Aunt Lucy."
"Jack Daniels? Are you preparing to see the family as well?"

Now, I know that plenty of people have unpleasant family experiences.  But all of my fellow passengers? I was in shock.  The thing is that I love visiting my family for the holidays.  We have tasty food, and interesting conversation (we are divided politically, but respectfully), and it's a wonderful break from my normal life.  As I sipped my free Jack and Ginger, I wondered am I the only person excited to see my family? The only one who's been waiting all week to get on this plane for what will be an all-too-short visit? My grad school is supposed to be in a "family-friendly" area, shouldn't liking your family be included in that?

Perhaps this was simply an aberrance (although it happened again the next year), but it made me appreciate my family that much more.  My husband and I are flying from baladelba7th early tomorrow morning to see them for Christmas (I was also clever enough to marry a non-Christian, which means that we always get to go to my family's house for Christmas).   I'm a bit worried about the weather for some of our connections, but am looking forward to my favorite traditions of family dinners, hanging cookies on the Christmas tree, sitting by the fire with a novel, and pie for breakfast.  Most of all, I'm excited to see my family, hear their opinions, argue with them, learn from them and revel in amazement that I'll be drinking eggnog because it's delicious, not because it's necessary to deal with my family.

Monday, December 20, 2010

ma3a salama ya Wordpress

You tempted me with your pretty dashboard and online reviews, then thwarted me with your confusing interface and lack of control over the appearance of my posts.  Every time I requested change, you told me that was only available using your software on my own website.  But I just want a free blog on which I can write about my fieldwork frustrations and snuggly cats without the font size changing every paragraph.

Google, 7abibi, I'm sorry I left and I hope you can forgive my betrayal.  I think you have, as after fleeing back to your domain, I set up a much prettier site in about two minutes.  Ba7ibak 2awi!

So without further ado friends, I apologize for my fickleness, and please update your links to: http://sheddingkhawatir.blogspot.com/

Back to Google?

In my previous blogging adventures, I have always used Blogger.  For this blog, I thought a change would be nice, and switched to Wordpress.  How much could it matter after all, I'm just typing words on a screen? Plus, there are all those Blogger to Wordpress posts that kind of remind me of the PC to Mac posts, and I've been a Mac girl all my life.  After spending an inordinate amount of time trying to make all the fonts in my last post the same size (and failing) and making the list single space (successfully, but annoying), I'm tempted to say that there are indeed differences, and I want to go home to Google.  Especially since the chai tea I was making burned while I was doing this, and now I'm boiling baking soda in the pot to remove the burned parts instead of drinking yummy chai.  Wordpress is indeed prettier, but Blogger is easier.  Thoughts?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Aching Calves

I did manage to practice my folk dance in the gym today, and realized that the toll of the last few weeks of research means that I am woefully out of shape.  This evening I went to the local dance studio for a hiphop class followed by a private lesson in a folk dance other than my own.  I really like this type of folk dance; it's kind of like mine, but requires less cardio and strength (at least at my level).  It's also much more compatible with my language interests, and the music is more interesting.  Yet, I just can't see it replacing my folk dance.  Adding maybe, but it could never be a full substitute.

However, the long and the short of the matter is that after a two week hiatus, I danced for three hours.  New and old folk dancing is jumping intensive (probably why I like it) but now my calves are complaining.  Tomorrow, no doubt, my achilles will take the lead, relegating my sore calves to a supporting role.

But, the tight stressball in my stomach that has been constantly with me this semester is quiet.  As is the tightness in my shoulders from hunching over a computer or my Ipod all day (new folk dance involves a lot of shoulder shaking).  I know that dance is the only cure for the stressball, but it's so hard to schedule in when my schedule is crazy and unpredictable.  There are only certain hours when the aerobics room at the gym is free.  If I sign up for a dance class at night, it's likely I will only be able to make a quarter of the classes per month due to meeting participants, and dance classes are not that cheap.  Dancing in my apartment, or the apartment I stay in in medinatelba7r, can be done occasionally, but doing lots of jumping on hard tile floors is a sure recipe for achilles disaster, as well as annoying the downstairs neighbors.

Yet, if I want to make it through the rest of my fieldwork without developing some sort of stressball condition, I am going to have to figure out a way to dance more.  The trick is, how?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

KhalaaaaaS!!!!!

Phase 3 is finally complete.  Well, minus one survey, but it's online and there's not much I can do about it but wait.  I finished the majority of the data collection Monday night and had one last interview yesterday.  Unfortunately, I was also quite sick until about yesterday with a nasty, nasty cold, and wanted to do nothing other than drink tea and snuggle with my warm kitties.  I still have a lingering cough, but no longer feel like sleeping all day.

I did manage to send off an email to my advisor, asking how should proceed now that Phase 3 is complete.  I desperately hope that the response will not be "more of Phase 3" as I'm not sure I can do it.  It's somewhat of a conundrum--I probably do have enough data to write my dissertation, but I don't want to waste time when I'm actually in baladelba7th, as who knows what the future holds and when I'll be able to return.  If I'm lucky enough to actually get an academic job when I graduate, it likely won't be for a while.  Thus, while spending my next five months focusing on writing would be good for actually completing my dissertation on time as well as my stress levels, I don't want to lost a chance to collect more data that I may not have again.  The flip side argument is that if I could actually get a chance to analyze the data, I could plan future collection better, instead of just getting more of the same.

In any case, my plan until I hear from my advisor is data processing and folk dancing.  The focus on the latter was marred today when I went to the gym and they said they couldn't open the aerobics room because there was maintenance.  Of course, in the 2 hours that I was in the gym angrily doing things other than folk dancing, no maintenance entered the room, and that is enough time for me to do my folk dancing routine twice through . . . hanshuf bokra!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More mindnumbingness

Since I am about halfway through my research project, the grant administrator at my university wants me to submit my receipts to her.  I have spent the last five hours compiling receipts, categorizing them, and taping them onto paper.  This is in spite of the fact that I've been keeping track of my research expenses in a spreadsheet all along.  Even better, most of these are manufactured receipts, because it is simply not possible to get a receipt for say a metro ticket or taxi ride in baladelba7th.  When I asked the grant administrator what I was supposed to do in these situations, she said that I should get a receipt book and have vendors sign it.  This is pure idiocy--no taxi driver or ticket seller in baladelba7th is going to sign a receipt book, even if I could find one here.  I explained to the grant administrator that there is a cultural difference at work--people will not sign receipts here because to them it signifies that they have accepted money (not necessarily for whatever service they provided) and this may be held against them at some point in the future (although it's not clear quite how). She stated again that I needed to have a signed receipt.  I pointed out that I had just explained why I could not get a signed receipt, and since a major goal of the funding organization was cross-cultural understanding, surely they had encountered things like this before? It's not as though I'm the first researcher to ever work in baladelba7th (although it is possible that I'm the first researcher from my school to work here on this particular grant).  So she finally wrote back that I should keep track of my expenses, write out the receipts without signatures, and it's possible that I would still be reimbursed.  So, I may have spent these five hours taping made-up receipts to paper for aught!

The lapcat however, is very happy, because he spent every second of the five hours in my lap, except when I kicked him out to make lunch and he followed me into the kitchen and discovered that I had neglected to properly cover the leftover popcorn, one of his favorite snacks.  He polished off a few kernels and then returned happily to my lap.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Celebrating with the sniffles

Phase 3 is complete in medinatelba7r, and shockingly, there were no last minute changes.  Alas, instead of celebrating, I have come down with a nasty cold, exacerbated by the cold and stormy weather in medinatelba7r.  While I am not the type to stay home in bed with the slightest sniffle, I also try not to do silly things like stand outside in the pouring freezing rain wearing only a light sweater when I can feel a cold coming on.  Alas, I also put fieldwork above my health, and thus I did just that several times over the last few days before getting on the cold late night train home.  I don't quite have the energy to describe how awful it was, but let's just say that it involved cold drafts, shrieking passengers, being too congested to sleep, and taking an hour longer than normal due to flooding.  Not surprisingly, I feel awful today, but must press on to complete Phase 3 in elmedina elkabeera.  Luckily, I could spend most of the day in bed with a snuggly cat, and strong cold medicine is rather more readily available in baladelba7th than at home.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Atamanna

I'm getting on the train to medinatelba7r later tonight. Theoreticaly, this will be my last trip there for Phase 3, although as usual that is subject to change.  I'm nervous and excited at the same time to be done with this phase.  On the one hand, I'd like my time to be a little more under my control, and to spend less time scheduling research activities. On the other hand, I'm going to have to spend a lot more time in transcription hell once it's over (although I did request a foot pedal as a holiday gift).

My plan for this morning was to clean my apartment, which suffers from a perpetual dust problem.  However, the lapcat has taken up residence on my lap, and shows no signs of moving.  He's also far too cute to disturb for something I dislike as much as cleaning.   Guess I'll just have to spend some more time on the internet!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Chop and dye?

Now that the end is in sight and I'm not permanently stressed out about Phase 3 of my research, my mind is free to worry about other things, most recently my hair.  My hair is very long (to my waist) primarily because I am lazy and hate getting my hair cut, although I don't mind trimming it at home.  I usually wear it in a French braid or bun which keeps it out of the way.

However, every 3-4 years I get sick of it being so long and chop it all off.  I'm at this point now, particularly as the highly chlorinated water in baladelba7th makes the ends really dry no matter how much conditioner and oil I use.  I used to donate it to Locks of Love, but then I found out they were kind of a shady and disorganized organization.  If I'm not donating it anywhere of course, I could just chop off 6-8 inches rather than 11-13.  Perhaps moderation is the way to go.

Then there is the issue of dying it.  My life in baladelba7th would be infinitely easier if I had darker hair.  However, I have a number of concerns with dying my hair darker.  First and foremost is that my eyebrows and eyelashes are so light they are pretty much invisible.  This is okay with light hair, but I think would look freaky with dark hair.  So I would either have to dye them, which means scary chemicals next to my eyes, or wear makeup all the time, which I know will never happen, even if it is to prevent me from looking freaky.  I'd also have to actually reapply it throughout the day, and that is even less likely to happen.  The second problem with dying my hair is that I'm pretty sure having light roots will make me look like I'm going bald.  And if I can't handle going to the salon every two months or so, I'm definitely going to have a lot of roots showing. Then there is the whole issue of returning to my original hair color, which would require more dying and then the patience to have it grow out.

Yet if I'm going to do it, it's now or never, as there's no point in dying my hair at home, and I'll only be in baladelba7th for another six months.  Decisions, decisions.

 

Monday, December 6, 2010

2uT fiil 2aTr!

Believe it or not, I have two positive posts in a row! Today, all my appointments were met, and I got a number of other things accomplished.  This brings me much closer to done.  Then, on the train home, I sat next to a supercute cat! It was white and fluffy and soft, with huge sweet blue eyes and a very calm personality (it was also deaf, which probably made it calmer, given that baladelba7th tends to be noisy).  I have seen mice on the train before, running around the seats, but never a cat.  Even better, it was with a woman, which meant that I got to read my loghatelba7th book and talk to her and her cat without any sketchiness or requests for my phone number at the end of the journey.  I also gave my participants (and the woman with the cat) homemade 7alawiyat I made, which they quite appreciated.  With great difficulty, I have also refrained from ending every sentence in this post with an exclamation point.  Yay!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Surprisingly Satisfactory

I had to catch an early morning train to medinatelba7r today, which of course meant I didn't sleep much last night as I was stressed out about oversleeping and missing the train.  This is pretty normal when I catch an early train, but usually I can sleep on the train.  This time, however, my stomach stressball was so active that I couldn't sleep, all I could think about was how I'm so close to the end of Phase Three, but have so much left to accomplish in it, will I really be able to pull it all off? Then I went straight from the train station into interviews on not enough caffeine, and my digital recorder refused to work.

After these difficulties though, things went surprisingly well.  I had an extra recorder, my participants didn't cancel, and I have my schedule figured out for almost the entire rest of Phase 3 (Yes, it is 100% likely to change.  But still, it satisfies my planning anxiety to have something).

I also finished my conference powerpoint, and sent it off.  The talk I'm giving at this conference is based on the preliminary results of data I collected last year, and I shared some of it with some of my participants today.  They were really excited about it, and that made me feel really good, because I felt like someone really cared about my research (other than me) and that it does contribute to something other than my personal academic career and the knowledge of other academics.  If I can help change what I'm researching for the better, then the personal stress is worth it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The varying forms of mindlessness

I am in one of those fields that depending on who you talk to bemoans the inroads fluffy relativism has made on the scientific method, or condemns the evil (post-)positivists and their neo-colonial plots, or simply prides itself on mixed method approaches.  The upshot of which is that being mostly in the latter category, I find myself wrestling with both quantitative and qualitative analyses. Both of these have their mindless data prepping steps; for the quantitative data it's organizing the data such that it can be meaningfully read by SPSS, for the qualitative data it's transcribing interviews.  These are both mindless and boring activities, at least in their initial stages.  Yet for some reason, I can get really into the quantitative manipulations, focusing entirely on the spreadsheet and being very disgruntled when I have to do anything else.    Transcription, on the other hand, makes me want to jump up after ten minutes and do anything else, even washing dishes, or hanging laundry, or all sorts of other odious cleaning tasks I normally hate.  I don't understand the difference.  It's not as though transcription is harder (if anything it's easier), and it's not as if organizing numbers in a spreadsheet is fun.  So how can I completely lose myself in one sort of mindlessness and fail so utterly at concentrating on the other?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Conference Time

I'm presenting at a conference in medinatelba7r in just over a week.  When I signed up for this conference, it seemed like a great idea--my grad program likes us to present at 1-2 conferences a year, and I wouldn't have to travel much for this one.  But, this means I have to analyze some sort of data, and I just don't have time.  However, I also hate half-assed presentations that are clearly written at the last minute and waste the attendees' time.  So I have to find some time somewhere.  Then again, I'm also the very last presenter on the last day of the conference, and I suspect that the quality of many of the papers will not be particularly high.  Laziness beckons . . .

On an interesting linguistic note, although this conference is about loghtatelba7th, we were told that our presentations had to be in English, because not all attendees would speak loghatelba7th.  I was sort of sad, because I had thought this would be a good opportunity to give a presentation in loghatelba7th.  It also makes me angry and frustrated that you can give a presentation on loghatelba7th without speaking it, even though this happens all the time, and not just with loghatelba7th.

On another interesting linguistic note, there are different conference fees for residents and non-residents of baladelba7th.  Since I have a residence visa, I registered as a resident.  I then got an email from the conference organizer saying "I am afraid resident of baladelba7th means loghatelba7th speaking and affiliated with a  university in baladelba7th." The implication of this being that I could not possibly speak loghatelba7th (based on my name I guess).  So I wrote a rather snide email back in loghatelba7th pointing out that I did in fact speak it and also that I am affiliated with a university here, as this is necessary for my research.  I ended up getting the resident fee, but I'm still annoyed at the organizer.

Perhaps for my presentation I'll give it in English, but leave the loghatelba7th quotes untranslated? Of course this means I need to analyze some data to find quotes to include, and when am I going to do that when I want to spend my precious free time reading blogs and snuggling with cats?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Little annoyances, but an end in sight

First, I must whine about a few minor, but highly annoying annoyances.

1) Water.  The plumbing in our apartment has chosen to simply quit this year, there is a new leak nearly every day, and the plumber has visited so often that the Scaredycat occasionally remains in the same room as him.  There are also local water problems due to construction, the upshot of which is that we have no hot water.  I am not expert on the physics of this, but the combined problems lead to low water pressure, and a certain amount of water pressure is required for flames to go on in the water heater.  To make matters worse, the weather has finally turned cool in baladelba7th, such that cold showers=icy unpleasantness.  Note also that I have waist length hair.

2) Internet.  The internet has also quit in our apartment, but works just enough that you think a page will load, and then it won't.  The internet was also crappy at my field site today, similar problems, and I had seven hours to kill between meetings.  Admittedly, I mostly use the internet for procrastination, but sporadic and short periods of use (ie quick email responses) are essential to my research.  Hence the annoyance.

3) My achilles tendon.  My folk dancing puts major stress on this tendon, and mine has been injured for going on two years.  It was really bad last summer, but through a combination of eccentric exercises and ice I've managed to make it better.  Better, but not healed.  It still hurts, although not badly enough to prevent me from dancing.  But enough to make me paranoid about snapping it, another common injury in my folk dance, that would be an absolute disaster in baladelba7th.

However, a major positive is that I am finally close enough to the end of a particular stage of my research (let's call it stage three) that I can actually envision it being completed (biznillah).  While there is still a good amount of researching to go before I complete it, I think it may actually work out.  Since I expect this is the worst stage (it drove me to start this blog) this will be a happy, happy day.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Just when I thought it couldn't get worse

The day started out promising, decent train ride, good field notes, and the promise of a tasty American Thanksgiving dinner at the end.  Then, as I got out of the cab to head to the dinner, I realized I didn't have my wallet.  It was nowhere in my bag.  It was in my bag on the the public transportation I was on.  Yes, I was pickpocketed on the public transportation system in medinat el-ba7r.  This sucks under any circumstances, but it is particularly crappy when:

  1. You are overseas and can't just get replacement cards mailed right away or go replace your ID cards

  2. You never carry around large amounts of money, but today you had just gone to the ATM and taken out $350

  3. Your wallet contains your train ticket home

  4. Your wallet contains your flash drive

  5. Your wallet contains other tickets and receipts you're supposed to submit for your grant

  6. Your wallet contains unused bus and metro tickets

  7. Your wallet contains your keys

  8. Your wallet contains your gym combination lock

  9. You can't enjoy the tasty dinner you've been looking forward to all week because you are upset about all of the above


So probably I carry too much stuff in my wallet.  Also, it could have been worse (ie stealing my Ipod with those precious field notes, bodily injury, etc.).  But what a way to ruin my week!

Update: In writing this I forgot to mention that the reason I was susceptible to pickpocketing was that I had my bag open because I was constantly pulling out my Ipod for the good field notes . . . oh the perils of research!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

One of those weeks

Despite two cups of cardamom-cinnamon-clove coffee topped off with gamoosa milk I was still feeling pretty groggy as I tried to squeeze in some data processing before leaving for fieldwork.  My cats were tearing around like little terrors, neglecting to take into account the fact that my apartment is not big enough for such activities.  It is big enough for a cat to reach full acceleration, but at this point the cat will be dangerously close to running into the wall. Legend has it that cats are smart creatures, who do not do stupid things like running headfirst into a wall.  My experience suggests otherwise.  It is also very difficult to do anything productive in the presence of wall-bouncing cats.  They settled down only as I was about to leave, and the lapcat went into lap mode just as I wanted to get up from my computer, pack my lunch and head out the door.  I poked him, prodded him, he sunk deeper into my lap and started to purr.  It occurred to me that life would be much more pleasant if I had chosen to do my fieldwork on snuggling with cats.

I realized I was late, and dumped lapcat unceremoniously into my chair.  My foggy brain tried to recall what exactly it was that I needed to take with me.  Ah yes, lunch.  I headed to the freezer to get some bread for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Instead, I pulled out the ice tray and had dumped three ice cubes into my standard drink glass before I realized what I was doing.

I think it is shaping up to be one of those weeks.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Grrr!

So today I made it all the way to medinat el-ba7r just to have everything fall through and turn around and come home again, after a fight with the station master to get me off the 10:00 train and onto another one.  I've switched tickets before for a fine, so I'm not sure what the problem was this time, but I had to insist and insist, and I was getting quite frustrated.  Which is another problem, because when I get frustrated, I cry, a highly embarrassing reaction that I am much too old for.  So I'm insisting to the station manager and his cronies that I have changed my ticket for a fine the day off before, and then I burst out crying, in the middle of the train station.  Which of course draws even more attention than before.  Bleh.  To make a long story short, I did get the ticket changed, without a fine (a positive benefit of the embarrassing crying reaction).  And thus I spent ten straight hours on transportation, between metro, train, and taxi with no research benefit whatsoever.  Even worse, I finished the short story collection I was reading with two hours to spare.  Luckily a stiff drink and leftover Indian food was waiting at home.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Guilty Reading

The week before last, I made three separate train trips to medinat el-ba7r, and it looks like I'll be doing the same again this week, including a trip on my favorite late night train. Depending on how many stops the particular train makes, it's a 2.5-3 hour ride, not bad, and the trains are nice.  But three trips in a week is tiresome, particularly as I often take the train early in the morning or late at night, and am tired.  Unfortunately, sleeping on the train is pretty uncomfortable, and always ends up making me feel worse than if I hadn't slept at all.  So mostly, I read fiction.

Reading fiction has been my hands-down favorite activity since I was about five years old, so in some ways, having an extra twelve or so hours to read a week is fantastic.  In fact, writing this down, I'm thinking wow, how can I continue this trend in my future life? However, I always feel somewhat guilty that I am not doing academic work, or at least reading in loghatelba7th.  I would actually quite like to read in loghatelba7th on the train, particularly as I am reading a good book right now.  Unfortunately this latter activity invariably ends up with my (male) seat mate wanting to talk to me the whole train ride and asking for my phone number as we arrive at the station, which makes me less thrilled.  So, loghatelba7th books are not an option.  I could work on my computer, but it's just so much easier to read a book.

Realistically, I know I shouldn't feel that bad for reading fiction, as this isn't even my dissertation writing year (that's next year).  But when my entire academic life is centered around one project, and this project is my first real project in the area I'm most interested in, it's hard to not feel guilty when I know I'm not putting in all of the hours that I could.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

On Friendships

On the train to medinat el-ba7r today, a young girl stole the seat next to me while its occupant was up, and attempted to strike up a conversation with me.  I replied halfheartedly, partially because I was into the book I was reading and wanted to continue reading, and partially because I didn't really feel like answering the same tired questions of where I'm from, and what I do, and who I live with, and why I'm on the train.  After a bit, my seat mate came back to claim his seat, and I was left alone with my thoughts, which centered on why I didn't pursue this conversation.  After all, she was speaking to me in loghatelba7th, which I appreciate, and I feel sure that in previous baladelba7th experiences I would have been delighted for the opportunity.  Granted, she was in high school, and I am rather older than that, but still.

This led me to thinking about friendships, cultural differences, East-West, own kinds, hometowns.

Friday, November 19, 2010

More dance, less stress

Vacation ends tomorrow, and fieldwork starts again, although only tomorrow is scheduled.  I am trying to remain calm, and not be annoyed and frustrated.  For once (it's rare, I know) I am actually succeeding, mostly because I ended up attending a folk dance workshop today (not my folk dance, but another type of folk dance in which I've been taking lessons here in baladelba7th, although it's actually from bilaad to the East).  I thought I was going to be helping my instructor sell CDs, but in fact I was the assistant instructor as well.  It was long and exhausting, but quite the thing for taming the stressball.  It also opened my eyes to a whole world that I never knew existed in baladelba7th--there were participants from all over the world in this workshop series, which apparently occurs multiple times a year, and for the most part focuses on dancing which is, well, sexier than the type I prefer to do.  There were also lots of wild costumes the likes of which I've never seen before and I never realized there was such an industry for that here either.

In any case, the point of this post is to remind myself that I simply must keep dancing, because it's not just a fun hobby, it's crucial to my mental health.  I tend to think, no I don't really have time, I should be concentrating on my research, not on my dancing, the hours I spend dancing should be spent reading articles/processing data instead.  But really, I'm in a much better mood to do the latter when I've done the former, and I'm also much more likely to concentrate on it instead of  unproductively stressing out.

So my goal for the next month, which will be especially stressful in terms of fieldwork? More folk dance!

 

 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Discovery!

It just now occurred to me that academic journals would have RSS feeds--and of course they do! GoogleReader, I can now use you for work, and not just play.  Now, onto the tricker business of feeds for saved searches in online databases . . .

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Worrying

Right now I'm waiting to hear from someone about doing something.  If I don't hear from this person, I will take it personally, even thought I probably shouldn't, as there are larger forces than me at work here.  It will also be a slight relief, as part of me doesn't want to do this thing, but it would be hard to say no.  This relief would, however, be outweighed by feelings of personal hurt.  This is vague, but it's about all I can say on this blog.

The larger point being that when I'm in situations like this, waiting to hear from someone about something important to me (including, for example, participant scheduling, which I do talk about), I get so obsessed with waiting to hear from a particular person or persons that I can't concentrate on anything else.  I refresh my email constantly, make sure my phone is on its loudest setting and next to me, and worry, waiting for the contact.

This is absolutely counterproductive, and just causes me to stress out more when, say, the email still hasn't appeared after the third refresh in two minutes, or it's say, 7am and I'm not getting phone calls.  I know this, and yet I can't do anything else.  Ikhs!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Caramel Brownies

I grew up in what at the time was a fairly rural area (now it is apparently what's called an "exurb").  As a result, there was not much to do on weekends.  I think the cool kids drank and hung out in the grocery store parking lot, but not being cool, my friends and I baked lots of sweet treats and then read books or watched a movie.  I thought this was fairly normal, until I went to my elite preppy undergrad and discovered that my ability to make baked goods from scratch made me rather eccentric (in addition to many other things, but that's another post). While I quickly learned not to respond to the question of what do you like to do on weekends with "reading and baking cookies," I continued to actually enjoy baking, and my friends enjoyed the results.

During my Masters program, I met a friend who enjoyed baking as much as I do (and could even quilt while I was knitting, bonus!).  She gave me an awesome recipe for chocolaty, fudgy brownies with a layer of creamy caramel in the middle.  This has become one of my most-requested baked goods, to the point that whenever I have friends visiting me in baladelba7th, I request that they bring me ingredients that are hard to find here (specifically unsweetened baking chocolate.  There is cooking chocolate here, but it is foul beyond all imagination.  Think condensed oil laced with the faintest bit of chocolate flavoring).  I made these last week for some of my participants, and am currently making them for a holiday party.  The kitchen smells delightful.  A particular bonus of these brownies is that between the caramel and gooey chocolate, they are a bit messy, which means lots of snacking on the breaking off/sticking on the knife parts as you cut them up. Yummy.

Now, I realize that having described all this yumminess, I should post the recipe.  I'm sure my friend originally got it from some cookbook, but I don't know which one, so my apologies, cookbook writer.

Caramel Brownies

  • 6 squares unsweetened baking chocolate

  • 1 1/8 cups butter or margarine

  • 3 cups granulated sugar

  • 6 eggs

  • 1.5 cups flour

  • 1 (14 ounce) package caramels, unwrapped (the unwrapping part is painful.  Highly useful to employ a husband and/or friends eagerly awaiting the final project)

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

  • 2 cups pecans or walnut halves, divided (I am a no nuts in my brownies type of baker.  But if you like nuts in brownies, this is probably tasty.)

  • 1 (12 ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a foil-lined 13 x 9-inch baking pan.   Microwave chocolate squares and butter on high 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir sugar into chocolate until well blended. Mix in eggs. Stir in flour. Spread 1/2 of batter in prepared pan. Bake 25 minutes, or until batter is firm to the touch.   Meanwhile, microwave caramels and cream on high 3 minutes or until caramels begin to melt. Whisk until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of nuts. Gently spread caramel mixture over brownie batter in pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Pour remaining unbaked brownie batter evenly over caramel mixture; sprinkle with remaining nuts. (Some caramel mixture may peek through.) Bake additional 30 minutes.  Enjoy!

Note: I make the brownie batter in two batches, as if you make it all at once, by the time you have to spread it on again, it's congealed, and difficult to spread.

Caramel Brownies!

I grew up in what at the time was a fairly rural area (now it is apparently what's called an "exurb").  As a result, there was not much to do on weekends.  I think the cool kids drank and hung out in the grocery store parking lot, but not being cool, my friends and I baked lots of sweet treats and then read books or watched a movie.  I thought this was fairly normal, until I went to my elite preppy undergrad and discovered that my ability to make baked goods from scratch made me rather eccentric (in addition to many other things, but that's another post).

While I quickly learned not to respond to the introductory question of what do you like to do on weekends with "reading and baking cookies," I continued to actually enjoy baking, and my friends enjoyed the results.

In grad school, I met a friend who enjoyed baking as much as I do (and could even quilt while I was knitting, bonus!).  She gave me an awesome recipe for chocolaty, fudgy brownies with a layer of creamy caramel in the middle.  This has become one of my most-requested baked goods, to the point that whenever I have friends visiting me in baladelba7th, I request that they bring me ingredients that are hard to find here (specifically unsweetened baking chocolate.  There is cooking chocolate here, but it is foul beyond all imagination.  Think condensed oil laced with the faintest bit of chocolate flavoring).  I made these last week for some of my participants, and am currently making them for a holiday party.  The kitchen smells delightful.  A particular bonus of these brownies is that between the caramel and gooey chocolate, they are a bit messy, which means lots of snacking on the crumbs as you cut them up.  Yummy.

Now, I realize that having described all this yumminess, I should post the recipe.  I'm sure my friend originally got it from some cookbook, but I don't know which one, so my apologies, cookbook writer.

Caramel Brownies

6 squares Baker's Unsweetened Baking Chocolate

1 1/8 cups butter or margarine

3 cups granulated sugar

6 eggs

1.5 cups flour

1 (14 ounce) package caramels, unwrapped (the unwrapping part is painful.  Highly useful to employ a husband and/or friends eagerly awaiting the final project)

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 cups pecans or walnut halves, divided (I am a no nuts in my brownies type of baker.  But if you like nuts in brownies, this is probably tasty.

1 (12 ounce) package Baker's Real Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a foil-lined 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

 

Microwave chocolate squares and butter in microwave-safe bowl on HIGH 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir sugar into chocolate until well blended. Mix in eggs. Stir in flour. Spread 1/2 of batter in prepared pan. Bake 25 minutes, or until batter is firm to the touch.

 

Meanwhile, microwave caramels and cream in microwave-safe bowl on HIGH 3 minutes or until caramels begin to melt. Whisk until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of nuts. Gently spread caramel mixture over brownie batter in pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips, if desired. Pour remaining unbaked brownie batter evenly over caramel mixture; sprinkle with remaining nuts. (Some caramel mixture may peek through.) Bake additional 30 minutes.

 

Cool in pan. Run knife around edge of pan to loosen brownies from sides. Lift from pan using foil as handles.

 

Cut into 24 fudgy brownies.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Akheeran!

There is a museum I visited in baladelba7th in 2001, the very first time I came here.  I have been back to baladelba7th nearly every year since then, for visiting/study/research purposes, but this museum has been closed.  It's promised to open for the last few years, but never did. In September, the rumors were that it would open any day.  About two weeks ago, it finally did.  Today, I actually made it to the museum--it felt like quite the accomplishment!

The renovations are definitely an improvement over my fading memories of dark, dusty rooms and a worker following me around to turn on the lights in each room as I entered. As is the case with most museums in baladelba7th, the contents remain magnificent.

However, what I noticed the most, particularly in light of my last post, was the signage. There are large signs giving a general overview, which are trilingual (English, loghatelba7th and a once widespread European language of waning international use). Then there are the signs for the individual items, which are in English and loghatelba7th. Some items have an additional paragraph of explanation, which is only in loghatelba7th.

As is also generally the case in baladelba7th, museum labels are of little use in understanding the wonder you're looking at, so I at first turned to these explanations for assistance.  While I thought it was odd that they were only in loghatelba7th, I was also pleased, as why shouldn't it be?  After reading a few, I wasn't so sure.  They were not explanations that were useful to me (or to any non-specialist), but mostly lists of references to names and places I didn't know, but I suspect a specialist or someone more generally knowledgeable about the contents of this museum and their history would. These people would necessarily know loghatelba7th (or they really, really, should), so maybe these explanations are just giving more context for them, and not translated because they are not useful for laypeople.  I didn't read all of them, so I don't know for sure.

But, my overly analytic mind suggests there are other things may be at work here.  The contents of this museum share a particular association with loghatelba7th.  I've noticed a disturbing trend to associate loghatelba7th, and in particular this form of it, with this association, and particularly with strong forms of it.  This in itself is fine.  What bothers me is what I see as the increasing exclusivity of this association, as if this part of loghatelba7th is only for this part of society, and indexes it, while English increasingly indexes the "opposing" part.  Usually, there are good/bad judgements that also come into play here.  Language use is a highly relevant identity indexer, but one that is not critically examined by the majority of users, particularly in terms of the implications of this indexing beyond I am a member of such and such a group, which is the cool one.  It is not the only indexer of this split by any means, but it is an important one.

Because I have lots of unscheduled time, I think about such matters obsessively.  And try to free myself of them by writing about them on this blog because really, they are not that relevant to my research or my life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fieldwork Fail

This week was truly dreadful for fieldwork. I should have had six appointments. I completed one. Three were postponed, two never even got scheduled. It's now vacation time, and these five will have to be compressed into the post-vacation week. It will be a nightmare to schedule with participants on vacation, which likely means more postponing. All of this is super stressful for me, and means I will likely be unable to enjoy the vacation despite my efforts to just hope for the best. Why did I ever sign up for this? Why did anyone tell me it was a good idea? Why wasn't I warned how stressful it would be? Or is it all my fault for trying to do something different?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Phone Phobia

I have an irrational fear of making phone calls.  Basically, this means that if I need to call anyone other than my mother or my husband it will take me one to fifteen minutes to psych myself up to make the call, and I will do my best to weasel out of it by making someone else (usually my husband) do the calling or by doing it online.  Part of this can no doubt be explained by my fear of rejection, but this does little to explain why I am also afraid of calling restaurants, businesses, and any number of other places that would be happy to take my call as I will be giving them money.

Sometimes, I must admit, this is a great inconvenience.  I have been worried all week because one of my participants, who is normally very responsive via email, has not responded to me even after a reminder email.  I know that it is a busy time for this participant, but since I also have an overactive imagination, I am stressing out over one of the following scenarios:

a) Participant has decided they hate me, and hate my research, and is maliciously ignoring me

b) Participant is lying deathly ill/injured in a deserted ditch

Since even my insecure self realizes that Participant is far too nice a person to be capable of a, I am increasing worried about the occurrence of b, even though there are no deserted ditches (or deserted anything) in elmedina elkabeera, and if Participant was ill, they would likely be in a nice hospital.  Rationally, the fact that I know Participant is busy is a much better explanation.

I confess these various possibilities to my husband when he comes home, and he says "why don't you call them?"  I think, eek, no way, no phone calls for me.  But I do muster up the courage to send a text (much less scarier than calling, but still scarier than email).  Participant replies immediately, apologizes for being so busy and not paying attention to their email, and promises to call or email me tomorrow to figure things out.

So I've been exercising the stress ball in my stomach all week for a problem that was solved in a two-minute text exchange.  Because I'm scared of the phone.  Now, off to google cures for phone phobia!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cats on the copier

In the end, the train wasn't that bad.  Mostly because I ended up sitting next to a wedding party, and therefore several women.  My fieldwork in medinatelba7r went well, even with some bonuses.

Today, I did a minimal amount of data processing (but some, yay!) and practiced my folk dancing.  Now my legs hurt.  Another problem with fieldwork in two cities is that I can usually only practice folk dancing when I'm in elmedina elkabeera.  Thus, I often end up practicing a lot one week, and none the next, which is not so good for conditioning.  Not that I'm actually training for anything, but as I am getting a bit old to be constantly doing this type of dance, I don't want to injure myself or exacerbate the injuries I already have.  One injury in particular, if exacerbated, could end my fieldwork and send me home, so I want to avoid this at all costs.

On a lighter note, my cats figured out how to work the copier, and have been copying blank pages all afternoon.  One copies, and the other one attacks the sheet of paper as it comes out.  I wish I could take advantage of this skill when I actually have to copy and/or destroy something, but alas, I think this will not be the case.

 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Kawaabeeees

I've written earlier about the stress of my last-minute schedule.  Belief it or not, things have gotten worse, as my one week in medinatelba7r, one week in elmedina elkabeera has fallen by the wayside due to a rescheduling flurry.  This results in me spending lots of time on the train, which has its difficulties.  I missed an interview today in elmedina elkabeera because after I finally figured out my schedule yesterday for medinatelba7r all the train tickets back to elmedina elkabeera were sold out.  And then I had to buy tickets for a day trip tomorrow to medinatelba7r, because I have something the day after in elmadina elkabeera (although now it might be canceled).  But my appointments are late, so I needed the lastest train back.  But that's at 10:00 pm, and no respectable woman in baladelba7th would take that train alone.  So the ticket seller wouldn't sell it to me until I insisted that I knew there was a 10:00 train, and the 7:00 one was not acceptable.  And then I got a look.  And I will get many more of them on that train tomorrow, as I know from taking it once before (I try hard to avoid it).  I'm really quite dreading it.  Perhaps if my appointment for the next day doesn't work out, I will just buy another ticket for the morning train.  Luckily I have friends to stay with in medina el-ba7r if necessary.  Hanshuf.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Yom Taweel

Every description of fieldwork I've ever read has noted that it's exhausting. For me, it is particularly tiring as it often involves interacting with lots of people, and since I am naturally shy and introverted, this requires a lot of energy.   While drinking my pre-fieldwork cappuccino today, and feeling myself get nervous, I thought Self, why on earth did you pick a research method that you knew would be so difficult for you? It's not like there weren't other options . . .

As the caffeine kicked in, it occurred to me that many of the academics I've met who engage in my sort of work are also shy, introverted and somewhat socially awkward (although not all of them, by any means, so don't take this the wrong way).

Which led me to think--do we study people and society because we're not sure how to navigate them ourselves, and this is why they are interesting to research? Do we hope subconsciously that our research understanding will aid our personal understanding? More importantly, does it?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Release

Because I miss my folk dancing very much in baladelba7th, this year I joined a gym, primarily because they have a swanky aerobics room complete with mirrors and wooden floors and I thought it would be a nice place to dance.  When signing up for the gym membership, I asked if I could use the aerobics room to practice dance in if there were no classes going on.  I was told, sure no problem as long as you don't use the stereo system.  No problem, I have an Ipod.

Unfortunately, this has not turned out to be as easy as I originally thought, as there are classes that are not on the schedule, and the membership person made a special exception for me apparently, without telling anyone else, so for the first two months I had to argue with people every time I wanted to use the room.  Now, it's mostly not a problem since one of the managers is on my side, but still, sometimes I have to argue, which sort of takes the fun out of dancing and sometimes makes me less than enthusiastic about going to the gym (I don't ever really do much else there, other than dance).

Nevertheless, when I do go, I realize how much I love this dance, and why I'm still doing it, even though there are no competitions in baladelba7th, and most people who do compete quit at a much younger age than I am (like 18-20).  While a folk dance, it is quite technical, and a better work out than anything else I've ever done.  Executing the steps requires a great deal of strength and stamina, and yet you have to make it look effortless (or that is the goal anyways, I'm not quite there yet).

When I finish practicing, I'm exhausted.  By the time I'm walking home, I'm invigorated.  My breaths are deeper.  The stress ball is gone.  I'm isolated from my dance community, but at least I still have the release of dancing.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

ta3zeeb

Today I have no research appointments, and so I have been trying to process my data.  This can involve a number of different activities: transcribing audio or video, coding transcriptions or field notes or other documents, entering quantitative data into SPSS, etc.  This is the step between data collection and analysis.  And it is torture.  I hate it.  It's boring.  It's tedious.  So I procrastinate.

Then I collect more data, and I have even more to process.  I open my computer, look at the sheer number of unprocessed files facing me, and go play with my cats or look at the latest folk dance competition results.

I love data collection (well except for the scheduling bit) and I like the analysis, the ideas, and even the final writing.  Those are exciting, and interesting, and engage my brain.  But I always get stuck in this middle processing bit.

How can I make this interesting? Or at least less torturous?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Field Notes Processed

Following my new system, I caught up on all my field notes from this year.  Yay! Even better, one of my appointments was moved earlier in the day, so I had most of the afternoon free.

And yet, the stress ball continues to thrive in my stomach, despite my attempt to satisfy it with a Snickers bar, and then with amaretto hot chocolate.  Things are going well, there are no catastrophes.  So why am I so worried?

My guess is that it's because I have a lot personally invested in this project, in addition to it being my dissertation (and thus my job ticket).  It focuses on a issue that is the entire reason I went to grad school, and one that I would like to spend my life improving.  Thus, I care deeply on many levels about making it the best it can be, and am constantly focusing on what could be better, rather than what I'm doing.

So, to be more positive, I need to realize that because I am deeply invested in this area, I will be working in it in the future.  I will do many more projects in this area, so if my dissertation needs improvement, it's okay.  I am learning a lot, not only about my topic, but also about how to do research in it, and I can apply all of this to future projects.  In fact, even if I don't get a job when I graduate, there are still ways to work in this area outside/ish of academia.

I know all of this, so why is it so hard to convince myself of it?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Processing Fieldnotes

The 3asal is that I got in a lot of interviews today, the baSal is that an observation was canceled for the second day in a row, and it's 8pm and I don't know my schedule for tomorrow.

So, I decided to would take advantage of my unscheduled time by figuring out how to best process my field notes.  This probably shouldn't be that complicated, but I'm a systems type of person.  Also, I want a good system set up now, so I can process as I go, rather than returning from baladelba7th with hundreds of text files and scribblings that are completely incomprehensible a year from now.  I have a huge backlog of data from last year, and the thought of processing it all into analyzable form (transcribing, writing up coherent notes, etc.) is enough to make me start googling things like "how to become a professional cat trainer."

This year, I'm determined to do better.    I've decided to process this year's data first and then deal with the backlog of last year, and so far, I'm not too behind.  The field notes think had me confused for a while, but this is the system I have worked out for now.

1) Take fieldnotes (I primarily do this using Simplenote on my Ipod Touch, once I figured out how to turn off the autocorrect that was turning my loghatelba7th scribbles into gibberish).

2) Download notes to computer via syncing with Notational Velocity.

3) Export scribblings to "Raw Notes" Folder.

4) Copy scribblings to new text file, and write up coherent notes for the day.

5) Save this file with the date as name in "Written Up Notes" Folder.

6) Export this file to MAXQDA (my chosen qualitative data analysis software) and code.

7) Delete original notes in Simplenote.

I'm not sure how relevant steps 2,3, and 7 are.  Two is preferred over copying and pasting from simplenote online because notational velocity keeps the date and time.  Also, I don't always have internet.  Three is because I want a copy of my raw data on my computer just in case, although I'll probably never look at it again.  Three and seven together let me use my notes in notational velocity as a queue, rather than having to worry about which ones I've processed and which ones I haven't.  None of them take very long, so I don't feel like I'm wasting my time.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fieldwork Woes

I was in the field for 9 months last year setting up my research, took a summer break to teach, and am now back in baladelba7th for another 9 month stint.  My fieldwork consists primarily of interviewing and observing participants, which I quite enjoy.  However, what brings me down every time is the scheduling.  I am a person who loves schedules (so long as they are of my making) and have lived all my life by a weekly schedule, which has certain reoccurring events (academic classes, dance classes) around which I plan the rest of my life.

As anyone who has engaged in fieldwork might imagine, this has had to go completely out the window.  My fieldwork alternates between two cities on a weekly basis (I did at least get that scheduled in).  I contact participants 4-5 days before I will be in their city to schedule my activities.  I usually hear back from them 1-2 days before I arrive, often after reminders, and I'm almost always still scheduling my activities when I enter the week. Then, inevitably, they have another commitment they forgot about, or for which the time was changed, or whatever, and we have to reschedule.  So we do.

Needless to say, this makes it very hard to commit to any reoccurring activities, as I feel as though I have to prioritize my research and be completely flexible to make my fieldwork succeed.  Working with a last minute schedule is also completely new to me and rather anxiety-inducing.  Sometimes, I gear up for a ten-hour day and am done in three.  Other times, it's the reverse.  Until the research activity is completed, I'm worried I won't be able to fit it in.  Once it is completed, I'm already worrying about the next one.   Add in that this is my dissertation research, and said dissertation is what I will take on the job market next year, and the job market is pretty much guaranteed to eat me alive no matter what I produce, and it's no wonder that my stomach is a constant bundle of tension.

So recently, in the hopes of making it through the next 8 months of fieldwork, I've been trying to see the benefits of this last minute schedule.  While I still look forward to the end of my fieldwork, to return, at last, to my weekly life, I think there is one bright angle to the last minute schedule--last minute free time.  With my weekly life, I tend to schedule it fullfullfull--after all, there's only so much time.  With the last minute schedule, I can't.  As a result, I have lots of unexpected free time, because for example I've left a whole day open for a two hour activity.  Of course, this free time has to be spend mostly with myself as making last minute plans with others is about the last thing I want to do after all of my scheduling antics with my participants.  So, I generally carry a novel, or if I'm feeling especially virtuous journal articles, around with me, and can happily report that I have read more during my fieldwork than at any other point in my grad school career except possibly Winter Break.  Even better, most of the novels are in loghatelba7th so I can feel pretty virtuous about that too, as after all language skills are essential to research right?

Ahlan wa sahlan

Sometimes I just have too many thoughts to keep them in my head.  They will take up residence here, where I hope they will free my mind and make new friends.