Some personal headaches.

22 Sep

Most of this stuff is quite academic and preachy – my personal thoughts either stay personal or end up on my 100words or find their way on to (highly addictive and brings on the illusion of being sociable when all you are doing is virtually poking your ex and providing copy for media scares about identity theft)
I am not in the mood for more essay writing, and I’m not sure what I would write at the moment anyway. I am slowly compiling a huge list of Worries, getting myself all wound up about what the next few months will hold, and wondering whether I am doing the right thing at all. I am just starting my second year of this PhD – that alone is a terrifying thought. The last year has gone so quickly, and I honestly do not feel prepared at all for Year 2 – which is fieldwork, fieldwork and more fieldwork, collecting my own real data and not just reading other people’s ideas. I don’t feel confident enough in my project or happy enough with the work I’ve done so far to be ready for this.

Take for example, these focus groups. The teenagers were fun, there were a few useful points to be drawn out of it, but for the most part, they were pretty silly. So, I did another group with Sheffield students, hoping that they would come out to support me because they share my suffering and probably have to do similar research themselves – and would also take it seriously enough for something useful to come out of it. That is not what happened. For a start, I ended up with a group to two – one took it seriously but for various reasons, couldn’t answer a lot of my questions. The other took it seriously in his own inimitable way, shall we say, which wasn’t actually the most helpful:

Bel: Do you go to coffee shops with groups of friends then?

I go to coffee shops with my Dear Friend. She’s my Friend. She’s called S—–. We have coffee mornings. And we air our… well, you know, we just, have heart to heart chats, we are on a very deep spiritual and profound level. Meaningful conversation. You know, putting the world to rights. She’s a woman of the world, you see. And I’m a man of the world. We just kind of like, amongst the sea of kids, we just found each other. She knows the crack, she knows how the it goes down. So do I. So we tend to break bread. Usually Thursday or Wednesday mornings. It’ll probably happen… what day is it, is it Thursday tomorrow?

Bel: Yeah it is.

Oh, there’s one due then. It’s on the horizon.

Bel: So,when you’re not with S——…

She’s my Friend.

Bel: Riiight.

I’m sorry, continue, continue…

The transcription of this interview took over three hours, and covers 12 full pages. Of this, I’d say about 200 words are actually on topic and useful. I have another two to do over the next fortnight. I am NOT looking forward to them AT ALL. That aside, I really am worried about not being able to get the information I need from these groups. It was pointed out both directly and inferred from that interview, that your average coffee drinker does not think about it in the same way I do. Whereas that is a fairly obvious point, I feel like I am not doing a great job of explaining this project to others, and how can I get useful data when people don’t understand what I’m asking them?

And then, I’m off on my journeys, and this is frighteningly close now. I’ve got all my flights booked, someone at Jubilee House Community (the coffee exporters) in Nicaragua emailed me with a phone number, saying “ring when you get here”. Which is suitably ad-hoc. I leave on the 30th October, but not directly to Nicaragua. On route I am going to:
A Conference on the Moral, Economic, and Social Life of Coffee

This is at Miami University in Ohio. This is the first big academic conference I’ve been to, certainly the first international one. And there will no doubt be loads of people – academics and industry professionals – who no doubt have a far better grasp of what they are talking about than I do, and I will sit in the corner terrified my own ignorance will be exposed at any time.

After that, I am flying to Managua via Houston, and ending up in Nicaragua’s capital late in the evening and with no idea of where to go when I get there. The plan is to go to Granada for a few days, see Donna and the kids and get myself acclimatised before looking up the JHC. But after that, who knows? After spending two months in Nicaragua collecting as much information about coffee waste and quality as I can, by whatever means I can, I am traveling overland to Costa Rica, where I will have to do exactly the same thing only on a much bigger plantation, where I have even more tenuous contacts to chase up.
Saying it is all a little scary is an understatement.

And then there is my even more personal concerns – leaving Carl for so long, even leaving the nice comfy safety net of university and my friends there. I have done this sort of thing before, I spent six months living with a wonderful family in Peru when I was just eighteen. When I was 20, I went to Nicaragua – twice, on a whim. I don’t remember either of these trips causing me this much anxiety. I’m hoping that this self-preservation, and marriage preservation instinct that is kicking in, is a sign of maturity. I know now that I am not invincible, and that is more scary than anything – I am thinking up more and more things to worry about.

But at the same time, it is amazingly exciting. Although I’ve never had any fixed idea on what I want to do with myself specifically, I’ve always wanted a job that would allow me to travel. Now I’ve got one, and I do love it – I am so lucky to have this opportunity. As nervous as I am, I wouldn’t change this for the world. After all, who is really going to complain about having to spend two months living here?

(Granada – Nicaragua. Thank you to Donna for the gorgeous photos!)

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Posted by on September 22, 2008 in Uncategorized


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