Tag Archives: fieldwork

Virtual Coffee Date

If we were having coffee, I would tell you how glorious May has been with its graduations (beginnings wrapped up as endings), breezes and flowers, and yes, even rain!  The other morning when I saw birds whizzing around with big, fat worms in their beaks I realized how happy they were about the rain and it made it decidedly more tolerable!

When I began this year teaching in my new position at the seminary, I had braced for the challenge, the uphill newness of it all, but I never could have imagined the pride that has come at getting to know these students and having a small impact on their lives and ministry.  This has been such a joy and yet, May has also brought necessary rest that I didn’t even know I needed.  All of a sudden, the world seems lighter, more affable, with more space in it for creativity, thought, opening, and even play.

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Doesn’t she look demure with her irises?  My photo.

Lucia is thriving, too.  She’s on a new formula that she’s tolerating so much better than in February or March.  We’re steadily increasing her intake and speed, hoping she will be able to get more nutrition.  We’re thankful for this respite, yet we know that nothing is forever or for certain.  What we’re eternally grateful for is her sunny disposition through it all–in an overnight minor procedure last week, her smiles and giggles were so lovely to behold!

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I can’t help but smile when I see this picture.  My photo.

May is kind of the gateway to summer, so there’s also the fun now of expecting things.  I put together my summer goals, which are quite simply fieldwork and revising my book on China, but I broke them down a bit on the whiteboard in my office.  I realize that this time of year is so rejuvenating for me because it’s all aglow with ambition and possibility!  Now if I can only realize these goals and maintain this steady pace of work and play throughout the summer.

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I need a lot more color in my life, don’t I?  My photo.

On Friday, my husband and I take an overnight trip to New York City to celebrate ten years of marriage.  We’re planning on dinner at the same French bistro I surprised him with last year.  In truth, we’re forever trying to recreate our idyllic five year anniversary trip to Paris, which I’m totally okay with.  I have the fondest memories from that trip and from ten years of marriage, with so many travels, our little girl, and a bright future ahead!

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Pretty nice, right?  Photo by Evan Schneider.

What are you up to these days?  I’ve finally updated my Current Loves and What I’m Reading if you want to check them out!

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Happy 2013 (a look back).

This past year was filled with so much wonder, discovery, challenge, and I hope, growth.

Exiting a mosque in Cairo's City of the Dead.  Photo by Ben Robinson.
Exiting a mosque in Cairo’s City of the Dead. Photo by Ben Robinson.

I can’t hardly believe that we began the past year in Egypt, on the anniversary of their revolution, traveling with good friends in Cairo and then in the UAE.  I wasn’t sure I’d ever return to the Middle East after such a whirlwind trip, but lately I can’t stop thinking about that trip, the people, the cities, the mystique of it all.

My friend, Emily, and I above Tahrir Square on the anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution this past January.  Photo by Ben Robinson.
My friend, Emily, and I above Tahrir Square on the anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution this past January. Photo by Ben Robinson.

My fieldwork really began to pick up in 2012 as I traveled frequently to a new foster care project for disabled children in a village several hours outside the capital city.  I wrote one of the most popular posts on the blog that month, describing some of the lessons I’d learned from doing fieldwork in China, and tried to give you a glimpse of what I really did everyday!

In March, Evan and I spent 72 hours in Hong Kong, where I presented some initial findings of my research to the Department of Anthropology at Chinese University of Hong Kong.  It was one of my favorite trips to one of my favorite cities!

The view from Lantau Island, Hong Kong.  Photo by Evan Schneider.
The view from Lantau Island, Hong Kong. Photo by Evan Schneider.

In May, our friends Zack and Kristina joined us in China and we did another tour of Hanoi and Halong Bay.  Soon, Evan was finishing up teaching, and I was wrapping up fieldwork.  My family joined us in June, and we all traveled to the breathtaking rice terraces outside of Guilin together.  Finally, at the end of July, we left China, and I’ve been looking back ever since.

This is our guide, Xiao Pan, looking out on the rice terraces outside her Yao village, Zhongliu, in the Guangxi mountains.  Photo by David Raffety.
This is our guide, Xiao Pan, looking out on the rice terraces outside her Yao village, Zhongliu, in the Guangxi mountains. Photo by David Raffety.

Back in the US, challenges took a different shape–moving, readjusting to our home culture, academic culture for me, a new job for Evan (yay!).  The last few months feel as though they’ve flown by even faster than our time traveling the world and living in China.  We love being back in Princeton, because our friends seem to enjoy coming back here, too, and we’ve had countless visits from dear friends these past few months.

And though I never thought I’d get there, but I’m starting to ache again to set flight for somewhere new and exotic.  Guess that’s just the anthropologist in me!

My friend, Abbie, and I walk on the canal path this fall in Princeton.  Photo by Evan Schneider.
My friend, Abbie, and I walk on the canal path this fall in Princeton. Photo by Evan Schneider.

2012 was also the five year anniversary for this blog.  Five years of anthropology and ministry, Spanish, Chinese, world travels, centering prayer, physical and spiritual journeying, and gratitude–gratitude for you, dear readers, and gratitude for God’s blessings upon this past year and the next.  Thanks for making this journey with me!

In Cairo, with my husband.  Photo by Ben Robinson.
In Cairo, with my husband. Photo by Ben Robinson.

Happy New Year!

What would you like to see more of on the blog in 2013?

 

 

Leaving the field

Is this how it feels to know you’re soon to be leaving a country you’ve learned to call home, soon to be leaving what was always to be a temporary moment of cultural immersion and learning, but also people who have become your friends, your kin, your world, all the same?

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I don’t think we anthropologists do a great job talking about the process of fieldwork with all its insecurities, guilt, anxiety, joy, pain, and meaning.  Sometimes we prefer to speak in theories and codes, leaving all that humanity–ironically the object of our study–in relative obscurity.

A temple in Kunming, China.

But I’ve discovered that I’m not very good at that.

And I’ve discovered that while I’ve enjoyed the feeling of being transported to somewhere else visiting friends and hosting family here in China, I’m feeling overwhelmed about the last month of research in China, about being sucked back into my life here, and wondering how and where the research ever ends.

You can leave, but you never stop feeling, you never stop caring.  

I’m a ball of mixed emotions these days, wondering whether the comfort I’ve felt at times that the sacrifice and devotion of these lowly foster mothers will be honored in another lifetime is merely an attempt to assuage my own guilt at leaving them and their children behind.

The faces of the gods at a temple in Kunming.

I’m feeling so racked with shame about the lovely invitations my family make to my friends here in China to come to the US, because I know they’ll never be able to afford the trip, let alone get the visa to do so.  Or I just worry about the myriad of children here who grow up without parents, for whom it may get worse before it gets better.

I know I’m not to worry.

I know it’s not in my power or my purpose to change things, and yet the very concept of fieldwork, becoming a confidant, a compatriot, a companion, just feels trite when one gets to the leaving part.  

And so I stumble on, forced to embrace the fact that life is unfair, imperfect, unjust, and I’m actually quite small in the grand scheme of things.

And then again, things wouldn’t hurt like this if I hadn’t been changed by the people around me, made to feel and understand things in a whole different light.  And that’s no small thing, I suppose.  And the journey wasn’t without its moments of doubt, fear, and pain, either.  When I think how far I’ve come, I can’t help but be thankful, but that doesn’t make leaving any less discombobulating.

All photos by Evan Schneider.