It is a Thursday in Friedrichshafen; it might turn into Friday before I ship off my text. It won’t be long either until I leave myself, but rather than leaving electronically, like my text, to be reviewed by my colleagues and supervisors in Wolverhampton, I will take the plane, just to arrive in the same place.
This is how my blog began as I started writing it towards the end of last week. But as so often, things do not always go exactly as planned. Now it is a Sunday night, and I am about to wrap up my thoughts from last week, just in time to make the deadline, which I thought I was quite clear ahead of on Thursday.
Instead of writing the blog on Friday morning, I took care of my three-year-old son Múli, who had gotten ill, and the rest of the afternoon and evening I spent preparing for my departure for Wolverhampton. Yesterday, my son was still getting better, but today he was fine, so we decided to use the day for a family excursion, something which me and my partner Bryndís, eight-year-old Fródi and Múli have loved to do here in Germany. We often ride our bikes to neighboring towns, through the modest landscapes of a foggy day, and the often more breathtaking landscapes of a sunny day when the Bodensee glimmers and the Alps tower above.
These weekly excursions have been a very important respite from the more routine workdays where all of us deal in our own small parallel worlds with the pressures of adjusting to life in a new country. Fródi rides his bike to school every day, where he spends eight hours in an environment of not only one, but two foreign languages. Although his interest in computer games has prepared him surprisingly well for learning in English, German could be for all intents and purposes Ancient Greek. While Múli is challenged with only one foreign language, it is enough. And that’s not his only challenge. For instance, with the onset of 12 in-house Covid infections, his kindergarten moved to an emergency level last week, which means that the number of children attending dropped drastically. There were only two of them on Monday last week, and when the other child left around noon, my son suddenly found himself all alone for a couple of hours. Seeing such a day through, and showing up for the next day all smiles, is something I find immensely admirable. Not to mention Bryndis, who is amazingly and confidently balancing a career in academia, the domestic roles we share and her own personal life in a new country.
Why am I writing all of this? Stuff that is already becoming a bit too personal, although I hope you’ll bear with me. Well, it is because, what I wrote next on Thursday, after the part about completing it on Friday, slowly sifting through my thoughts (which went on to include some reflections on my key research questions, the role of ethnography and history in my research — all of which I decided to delete tonight) was this:
In practical terms, my relocation puts an end to an eventful year in Germany, where I’ve had the opportunity to conduct the first part of my research. I am very grateful for the many collegial conversations and experiences I have shared with so many this past year, some remotely, others in person. Some of the highlights were certainly visits to a number of independent art spaces, and the warmth I was greeted with by artists, curators and other practitioners in what one might be tempted to label as a field, or fields, of socially engaged art.
This is all true.
But what I was not thinking at the time, and what I am thinking today, what I found myself musing on as I was walking in the dark, after giving Múli a bath, preparing Fródi some dinner and watching with him bits from a Christmas movie we watched together last night, before saying goodbye to Bryndis who was already putting Múli to bed, after having prepared Fródi’s school bag and made some snacks for kindergarten — what I found myself recognizing, certainly not for the first time, but with a conviction that I wanted to share, in what might be the last blog of this year, was how grateful I am to my family for seeing things through with me for the first year of my PhD. It has been an eventful year for all of us, and I could not be doing what I do every day without them. Therefore, thank you Bryndis, Frodi and Muli. I love you.