This week I’ve felt very disconnected from my Edinburgh home. The Scottish election on Thursday affected me more than I anticipated. It was the first time that I’ve not voted in an election that I was eligible to vote in – but I didn’t get a postal or proxy vote sorted out before I left and I felt incredibly guilty. Especially as friends in Edinburgh were campaigning hard on issues that I really care about in areas where 1 vote could potentially have made a difference.
And the experience of spending a day in a Lao cafe glued to the BBC website watching the results as they came in brought home the differences between the two cultures that I currently inhabit.
One of the big differences relates to getting things done. Generally I like to know what I’m doing, I like to know why I’m doing it and I like to follow through on my plans. My experience in Laos is that plans are much more flexible…arrangements often change at the last minute…and then suddenly in a flurry of activity (often seemingly out of no-where) things will happen.
I am not claiming that either way is better – as I noted in my previous post one of the luxuries that I currently have is that I am here to observe and discuss and learn and try to understand. But the first way is what I am used to and it is so deeply ingrained that sometimes I can’t help feeling that it is better and then I feel guilty! I’m not sure how (whether?) to just ‘let go’ of the way that I work, especially as, whether I like it or not, I can’t ignore the fact that at some point pretty soon I have to write a PhD.
My methodology requires me to bring together a group of young people as co-learners, investigators, researchers, reflectors. The drawn out process of sorting out my visa has bought me some time in working out how to do this because I cannot form the group until I get the visa sorted. But I know where the group will be based and I’m informally spending time with them, building relationships and getting to know how they work. I want the process to be genuinely collaborative and for the group to get something meaningful for them out of being involved. That something might well be new ways of working, but I’m mindful of the balance between respecting existing ways of working and introducing new ideas from my experience (my experience in very different contexts) that will help me get the data that I need.
I’m personally also playing with what the change of pace means for me. How do I hold on to the learning from Plum Village and adjust to the naturally slower pace of life in Laos without compromising the things that I need to achieve. This last week I feel like I’ve been running around like the proverbial blue-arsed fly and I don’t feel like I’ve achieved that much. Running around doesn’t work here. It doesn’t achieve anything except make me sweat. So how do I find a new way to get things done?
And as I’m writing, I wonder if I need to change the way I see these points of disconnection so that they become opportunities for reflection and learning rather than difficulties to be overcome. That feels positive – but exhausting!
I’m rambling, but that feels appropriate for a post on disconnect…