August 9, 2009

Travel, Conferences, and San Francisco

Writing has become, for me, a habit. This means, on the one hand, that it is a hard to stop writing. On the other, it means that once I stop, it does not seem as easy to pick it up. It has been several days since I have written, and it is hard to just jump into it. However, experience tells me it will happen if I just do it, so here I am, typing away.

Since I last posted, I have been lots of places. I had a three day trip to Montego Bay where I met deportees, other contacts, and found a place to stay next summer – a condo overlooking the beach! I also spent some time on some of Montego Bay's absolutely beautiful beaches. Unfortunately, I returned to Kingston with an awful sore throat and painful ear. Even worse, I had only two days to wrap things up in Kingston, pack, and prepare to get my family to Miami and myself to San Francisco.

Miraculously, and with an abundance of help from my husband, we were able to get our apartment cleaned, our bags packed, and ourselves on the plane to Miami. We made it to the airport on time, and, after relieving our bags of the excess pounds, had no trouble checking in. We even had time to sit down and have breakfast before boarding. Even more amazing, as we were eating breakfast, an older woman approached us and complimented my girls on their good behavior! That was a first!! Usually, we get disparaging looks from folks who don't like to hear or see children. But, this lovely woman from St Louis was kind enough to come over to us and tell us how much she admired how well the children were behaving. Perhaps she didn't notice them playing tag when we were waiting in line to check in. Nevertheless, that set a nice tone for the day.

My husband, Nando, and my three daughters will spend three days in Miami before heading to Guatemala, while I go to a conference in San Francisco. Once in Miami, Nando's brother picked us up and took us to the Ocean Surf Hotel, where Nando is staying with the girls. Before leaving them, I got to spend some last few moments on Miami Beach. At 8pm, I caught my flight to San Francisco for a conference, the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting. After a five and a half hour flight, I made it to a hotel close to the airport, where, with the help of some antihistamines, I had a good night's rest. I woke up early to take the train into town for a preliminary conference in Berkeley.

At first, the conference was a bit of a culture shock. After hanging out with my family and doing research in Kingston, it was a bit of an adjustment to be in a room full of sociologists, where I was supposed to be networking and talking in academic-ese. I was very glad to see a friend of mine, Jessica, as I knew I could be myself with her. Nevertheless, I was surprised at how quickly I was able to get back into the groove. This was made substantially easier by the fact that everyone was quite friendly.

The preliminary conference was called “Making Connections,” and was organized by the International Migration Section of the ASA. These specialized conferences tend to be friendlier and easier to navigate than big, disciplinary ones. In addition, the international migration scholars were very friendly. People who sat next to me extended their hands in greeting and smiled. This level of friendliness is not always the norm in a roomful of PhDs, so I was pleasantly surprised.

At the end of the day, however, I was exhausted. I came to my hotel room in downtown San Francisco with my room mate, Wendy, and tried not to fall asleep, as it was only 8pm. Wendy and I chatted about the ups and downs of our jobs, and I was able to stay awake until 9:30pm. I managed to stay asleep most of the night until 6am, when I really couldn't sleep anymore.

I got up and got ready to conference again. (For us academics, yes, “to conference” is a verb.) I went to two sessions on transnationalism, which is a subfield my work on deportations is engaging with. I also ran into tons of people I haven't seen since last year's conference, or since I left Kansas in May.

I am debating with myself how much I want to take advantage of my time here and enjoy San Francisco. Despite two nights of rest, I am still exhausted from all of the travel. But, the weather has been gorgeous here, and it would be a shame to waste all of this sunshine we have been seeing.

Hopefully, I will be able to get a good night's rest tonight. I am a bit nervous, as Nando is flying to Guatemala first thing tomorrow morning with the girls! I am hoping he has no problem getting out of the country or getting into Guatemala! Really, there should be no problem, but the potential for things not going right worries me. I asked Nando to call me as soon as he gets into the waiting area to get on the plane tomorrow, and again once he gets to Guatemala. Hopefully, by this time tomorrow, I will have nothing to worry about.

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