I’m writing this from Edinburgh.
As you may know, I had to come back to the UK. I won’t dwell on the details because it isn’t an altogether happy story, suffice to say that it is a tale of one lost (not by me) passport and ridiculous amounts of money unnecessarily spent, but no-one died or is seriously ill or (miraculously) ended up in prison.
This all feels like a cruel trick being played on me by some cruel-trick-player-in-the-sky. April, May and June were to be my last big push, my focus-on-the-fieldwork months but they have now been largely whipped away from me. There was little over a week between finding out I had to leave Laos (two days after my last blog post) and arriving in the UK. A week that was full of passports and lassaiz-passers and immigration officials and embassies and emergency travel documents and visas and incompetence and stress and tears. It felt like I had been violently ripped from one home and catapulted back to another home. A much colder home. And one, bizarrely, where I am hungry all the time.
Flying freaks me out at the best of times. I’m not scared of it, I just find it entirely unfathomable that when I get in the plane I’m in Bangkok and when I get out I’m in London. It should take more time to get half way around the world. And time refuses to play ball so frequently. It’s like I’ve been sucked into this giant time-warp that isn’t quite sure when to spit me out. At different points over the last few weeks my mind has variously tricked me into thinking that it is 1987, 2006, 2007 and July 2012. I wandered around Bangkok and Edinburgh literally unsure of where or when I am.
I’m only back for a few weeks. It is enough time to see lots of people and feel vaguely guilty that I’m not really getting much work done, but not guilty enough to actually act on it in any real way except plodding along with transcribing interviews. In additional to seeing family and old friends, I have particularly enjoyed catching up with my academic peers who all have their own stories of PhD triumphs and disasters and everything in between. When asked how my PhD is going I have repeatedly said that I feel like I have an enormous mound of data in front of me, but I have no idea how it will magically transform into a thesis. Contrary to my own sneaking suspicions, not one person (including either of my supervisors) has looked at me with disgust and suggested that I’ve been in Laos quite long enough and I should have a clear idea of what I’m going to write. This is a relief.
When I get back I’ve got to quickly and belatedly get through the final push of interviews and group sessions and translations. So I’m going to attempt to adhere to this particularly Scots take on a popular theme that caught my eye today. And then I can get on with the hard work of magical transformation.