Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Five: Malawi or Bust

1. I leave for Malawi in 5 days. I actually leave Madison in four days. I have a mid-morning flight, so I'm staying at an airport hotel in Milwaukee on Tuesday night. I've spent the past two weeks running errands, spending way too much money, and generally working myself into a panic.

2. I don't want to leave. I went to visit a kennel for Rowen yesterday, and I bawled almost the whole way home in the car. The kennel wasn't bad. It was clean and roomy and has playpens for the dogs to go out three times a day, which is more playtime than she gets with me. And she'll only be there for a couple of weeks; most of the time she's staying with a friend's husband. But still . . . she'll be in a dog run all by herself. She won't have anyone to cuddle with at night. No one to give her belly rubs and snuggles first thing in the morning. I feel like I'm abandoning her.

3. One of my many pre-Malawi appointments was getting a wisdom tooth removed. All of my wisdom teeth are out and have been out for a while, and I've got plenty of room for them. But one of them has had several cavities over the past few years. So the dentist recommended I get it removed. I've been surprised by how pain-free I've been. The first 24-hours, I was still sleeping off the anesthesia, and I started taking the extra-strength ibuprofen as soon as I could. And so far, no pain. And I got to eat ice cream guilt-free all week!

4. Most of my friends in Madison are already gone or are crazy-busy getting ready to leave, so I've become addicted to Scrabulous on Facebook. I resisted signing up for Facebook for a long time, but someone suggested that it would be a good source of volunteer narratives and photos for my research. But, of course, I've been using it to goof off instead of getting any work done.

5. I always overpack for any trip. I can max out the checked luggage limit for a long weekend. But I decided that I was going to pack light this time: only what I can fit into an oversize backpack (about 4500-in. capacity). But I'm looking at the pile of things to be packed and I'm looking at the backpack and I think I've got some editing to do. My pile of "10" books is more like a baker's dozen and I probably have enough toiletries to outlast a nuclear disaster. So far, I'm being reasonable about clothes---two pairs of pants, two skirts,* and a half dozen shirts---but I've been mentally adding items: a sweater, a sweatshirt. Maybe I should take a fleece? It is the cold season, after all. And maybe a blouse or two? Just in case, you know. I have a feeling that I'll have a complete meltdown on Tuesday morning when I realize that it ain't all gonna fit.

FYI: While I'm in Malawi, I'll be posting my fieldnotes and other researchy thoughts on my Malawi wiki. Feel free to peruse, comment, and add your own thoughts and experiences on international volunteering.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

On the Pile: Summer Reading

I finally finished all three papers. The last one got done just in the nick of time. To celebrate, I've been hitting the bookstore to stock up for the summer. Except, I'll be gone all summer. Oops. I leave in 9 days to spend 10 weeks in Malawi.

In the meantime, though, here's what I'm reading:

Now reading: Plenty by Alisa Smith and J. B. Mackinnon. A couple of crazy Canadanians (is there any other kind?) decide to eat only foods that originate within a 100-mile radius of their home. The book is highly readable and informative, although I'm starting to find that, like most things, the more I read on any topic, the more redundant each reading becomes. And I think I like Alisa's chapters more than J. B.'s; she seems to be a little more honest about how hard this 100-mile diet is.

I'm definitely not ready to jump on the 100-mile diet bandwagon; eating locally is a great goal, but it is also time consuming and expensive. But, in a crazy coincidence, just a few days after I bought this book, the UW Web site posted a story about some students who created a 100-mile diet map for Madison. Maybe when I get back from Malawi and I'm feeling nostalgic for the local markets there, I'll check out some of the places on the map.

On Deck: Detective Story by Imre Kertesz and Before I Die by Jenny Downham. I started both of these about two months ago, but school stuff got in the way.

Added to the Pile: In some sort of fit of optimism that I would have time to read this summer, I recently picked up All the Sad Young Literary Men by Keith Gessen and Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon. I have to admit that I picked up the Chabon soley for the cover and the acknowledgments page.

For Malawi: I've started setting aside a few books to take with me for the summer. I've resolved to be realistic and take only 10 books---one for each week. I'm also trying to be practical by packing only paperbacks. Here's what I've got in the Malawi Pile so far:

1. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
2. Animal Farm by George Orwell
3. Encountering Development by Auturo Escobar
4. Orientalism by Edward Said
5. Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen

I've got five slots left. Any suggestions?

Friday, May 02, 2008

Friday Five

I'm in serious denial that I have to finish three papers and give an oral presentation in Swahili by the end of next week. So why not procrastinate a little more by putting up a Friday Five . . .

1. So I'm going to Malawi this summer. I was able to work out my funding. And got the airfare down a little bit---to $2200. Still scary expensive, but I think I've pieced together enough grant money to make it work. I leave on May 28 for 10 weeks. Yikes!

I've decided not to make any huge decisions about whether anthropology is the right field for me until after this summer. Although some conversations with other anthropology students have reassured me that I am in the right field. But we'll see how the summer goes. If I'm absolutely miserable for the 10 weeks, then I need to reconsider. But maybe I'll have a great time and come back totally charged up for my project. I'm trying to keep an open mind.

2. While in Malawi, I think I need to pay a visit to Madonna's foundation. I'm very curious. I just watched the trailer for her "documentary" on Malawi, which screened at the Tribeca Film Festival this week. YouTube also had video of a Q&A session that she did after the screening. And my computer is lucky that I'm too tired to muster more than mild sarcasm at the moment. Because, of course, Madonna hit my pet peeve: international adoptions. Apparently the reason that adopting children from third world countries is so difficult is because the countries have too much bureaucracy. Not, you know, because we're talking about adopting a CHILD and perhaps we shouldn't just pass 'em out like candy.

3. Switching subjects: What do y'all think about the Miley Cyrus photo? My first reaction to the photo was, "Wow. What a beautiful photo!" I thought that it was nicely composed and elegant and expressive. Artistic. It reminded me of early 19th-century portraits. So I don't quite get all the fuss over it.

4. Did I mention that I have three papers due by the end of next week?! The papers are all on really interesting subjects, but I just can't seem to translate my interest into actual effort.

5. How is it that my alma mater can always track me down? I've had at least eight addresses---two of which weren't even in the United States---since graduation. And I've never once sent an address update to the university. But yet, I keep getting alumni donation requests and the alumni magazine. How do they keep finding me? Not that I'm hiding. But still.