“The Sweetness of Academic Life”

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Oastler Lake Provincial Park…camping with baby

Well, Ontario summer unofficially comes to a close after this weekend. Those of us who are learners, including those of us who refuse to join adulthood, are back to school on Tuesday. How did that happen? I left South Africa when I did for a couple of reasons, but one of the big ones was that I wanted to be home to enjoy all that Ontario summer has to offer. My advisor is NOT going to be impressed when she realizes how little work has gotten done over the last 6 weeks, but I have loved every inch of my summer.

Highlights include swimming and paddling with the adorable nephies in Georgian Bay:IMG_20160710_160410919[1]A visit with A&B and my other adorable little nephie at the Ottawa River, the place that is the heart of my family in Canada:IMG_4673

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There was also a family reunion at the Ottawa River a few weeks later. Only the descendants of my grandparents were present and there were over 100 people there. Apparently, I’m shirking my inherited family duty to breed like rabbits:

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Family talent show. We  have more fun than normal people.

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Cousins  xox

Incidentally, the blond crazy cousin above teamed up with the Ginger crazy cousin and talked me into going tubing, like we used to when we were 15. It was terrifying and I ached for days. I am officially too old to tube.

I also got to go camping with my lovely friend Meg…and her new baby. Babies don’t like camping. We tried. Next year he stays at home 😉

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Despite all this summer fun, and all the twigs and sand that are now in my car, I did manage to get a tiny bit of work done. I have had the privilege of getting involved with the Critical Tourism Studies group, a loosely affiliated group of scholars that are interested in issues of gender, poverty, social justice, and race (among other things), and decided to initiate their own conference when they became frustrated that “we” weren’t being represented or respected at mainstream tourism conferences, which are often focused on marketing and economic perspectives. This summer my university hosted the first ever CTS conference in North America! In cottage country! My presentation at the conference was about what I learned through keeping this blog as part of my research process.

I know I was struggling to come up with what that might be leading up to the conference, but I managed to cobble a presentation together. I was literally in the middle of delivering the presentation when I realized the point, the “so what?” of what I was talking about. Here are the things I’ve decided I gained through the process of blogging my research:

  • reduced feelings of isolation as I worked through living and working cross-culturally;
  • a place to trouble by own subjectivities;
  • a space to share my perspectives with my friends and research participants;
  • sharing the stories and photographs that the research participants would like to share (an ongoing process, once I get back into that work);
  • an accessible record of the thoughts, questions, uncertainties, and joys that I experienced throughout my research; and,
  • a space to practice my writing.

So yay! I learned things! So much so that I think I am going to write a journal article about the process. I have found this to be an awesome reflexive tool in my research process and I think that there are some learnings there that I would like to share with others (and I need more publications for my CV!).

The other very cool thing about the CTS conference is that it is a very supportive and loving academic community, which is pretty rare in a field that often specializes in petty and patriarchal. For instance, this was the scene at the keynote presentation, delivered by the brilliant and inspiring Ana Maria Munar from the Copenhagen Business School:

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CTSNA 2016 – my academic Hillside

As academics, I feel like we are so often focused on what is wrong in society; social and gender and economic and racial inequities, lack of access to resources, barriers to participation, etc. Because it’s important. And it’s important to talk about and try to disrupt. But Ana spoke to us about the joys and privileges of being an academic; the joys of inspiring students, freely exchanging our most deeply held values with colleagues, embarking on new projects, and that sense of having found your intellectual home. She shared a poem with us which brought me to tears, and which she has given me permission to share here. This is why academia has meaning, and this is why I always come away from CTS inspired and invigorated. Thank you Ana xox:

The Sweetness of Academic Life – by Ana Maria Munar

The moment when my whole class bursts out in laughter, the warmth of the coffee mug in my hands during class breaks, a student speaking passionately about one of her experiences, checking on my colleague Adriana to see if she is at the office and discovering that her light is on, spending too much time talking with a colleague and pushing the duties of today to tomorrow, opening the email and recognizing the name of a beloved colleague, discovering a book one can’t wait to get the hands on, forgetting space and time in a writing flow, feeling anxious that what I wrote yesterday and was proud of seems now worthless and does not make sense just to realize that it is not so important …no matter what, it is not the end of the world and everything will turn out ok …; sensing the energy of the intense buzz of engaged talking at a workshop, the unexpected praise of a stranger, the smile of a colleague on the street, after class …walking back to the office with the feeling of the work done, an email from a student saying that he misses my lectures; including something provocative or funny among the slides, walking happily to the printer to get the pages of my latest manuscript, reading a speech out loud only for myself, reading a beloved passage of a book out loud for others during dinner..during breakfast…on the train…opening my book for the first time, conquering the feeling of vertigo when expressing a complex idea, the joy of listening to an inspiring speaker, the hug of a colleague after the job done and before a difficult presentation…the warmth of the voice of Kellee coming through on a group Skype meeting, reading without purpose, buying books I know I don’t have the time to read, but buying them anyway…for the future…for optimism… granting extensions, receiving extensions, writing papers and having meetings in an old café, comforting a colleague in a moment of distress, sending good news ‘congratulations, your abstract/chapter/article has been accepted!’, praising the good work of others, saying thank you!, presenting a courageous idea to test if it can fly, sharing secrets, dancing at conferences, planning with colleagues crazy outfits for themed Christmas parties, listening to full volume music when editing, discovering during a presentation how brilliant, or daring, or creative a colleague is … like seeing this person for the first time …transformed; reading an article and discovering that the work of a beloved colleague is quoted there, listening to the confidences and doubts of a younger academic and feeling the trust in the room, sharing the joy and pride of the family and friends of the student that just finished the examination of her master thesis, looking at how beautiful everybody seems at the graduation ceremony, reading with love and expectation the publications of loved ones, drinking together, … feeling nostalgic and remembering sweet memories at the office on a cold and dark winter afternoon, laughing non stop imagining professor Brian Wheeller giving a presentation while dressed in my red bikini and with a gin and tonic ..after sending him detailed instructions as how to do that, smelling the aromatic oil made by Kate and thinking of what a kind and original idea that was, being courageous on a polemic issue and pressing send on that difficult email, the feeling of freedom when receiving the news that a boring meeting has been cancelled, making with others crazy happy plans that can never happen, fixing dates of conferences years in advance and feeling that now I have a date with fabulous colleagues, finally managing to say no, happily saying yes! , discovering a new word, entering my new office for the first time …closing the door and feeling the ownership of that little space, putting my legs up the window, thinking how to go about preparing a lecture but instead daydreaming looking at the sweet photo of my daughter, throwing out old papers and old exams, receiving an intimidating message from the academic patriarchy and smiling ironically at their sense of power, discovering how smart a student is, blushing because my PhD supervisor said he was so proud of me during a panel debate, being included in the personal conversations among my undergraduates during a train ride, days and days trying to find one of my favorite philosophy books and discovering that my son Anton is the one that has ‘stolen’ it to read it, the sweet comfort of talking to a good colleague after a conflict …Sensing the energy and drive of walking fast through an airport playing my role as ‘international’ researcher, understanding something for the first time, explaining a difficult concept in class and experiencing an aha! moment in the eyes of the students, trying something new like joining dancing classes because a colleague recommended it, having a change of heart/mind and accepting it, meeting an old student at a bar and listening with expectation to what he is now doing, making a favor, receiving a favor, phew …the relief of the last exam or project graded – done! Finished!, surprising myself being able to design a website and liking it, managing emails with determination – with short sentences, getting to the point, feeling talkative and writing loooong emails… mixing personal stories and anecdotes and book quotes and photos and many emoticons and hugs and kisses, rejoicing over the personality and variety of the greetings of amazing colleagues – ‘blue skies’, ‘take care Ana’, ‘lot’s of love’ …. Sending emails to Tomas or Kellee like in a chat, many…with only a few sentences… or a smile, writing and feeling that whatever I write will be welcome on the other side, receiving the link to a funny Youtube video on a long tedious day, noticing the comfort of being financially safe and knowing that I can provide for my family, getting emails of support by strangers after a heated debate on TRINET, making sketches on a field trip diary, savoring the sense of independence of travelling abroad, reading on the airplane, packing a dress for the gala dinner and then another…just in case, staying up until too late with colleagues knowing I will feel sleepy tomorrow but not giving a dam anyway, writing late at night when everybody at home is a sleep, discussing an issue and defending a position for too long until it becomes non-sensical.. and then laughing at myself.

 

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