August 18, 2009

Writing with a Full House

Today is not going exactly as I had hoped in terms of writing, yet has been quite productive in other ways. I started out on the right foot with writing. I promised myself I would devote at least thirty minutes each morning to writing a proposal for a writing fellowship, due in mid-September. This morning, I spent 38 minutes on that project and made some real headway.

The next step, in my mind, was to make the online revisions to a chapter of a book on immigration policy that I am finishing up. However, a series of other issues took over before I could get to that.

First, I got a call from my research assistant. Last night I met with Oliver, an Australian who has lived in Guatemala for a few years. He agreed to work as my research assistant. He will help me set up interviews, accompany me to the interviews, write up fieldnotes after the interviews, and do other various tasks for me. Having a local expert will be a great help, as it will take me a while to learn to navigate Guatemala City. In addition, if I have an interview at 7pm in a poor neighborhood on the other side of town, a male companion is not a bad idea.

I was glad to hear from Oliver this morning, even though it took me away from my writing. He called to tell me that he has set up an appointment for Thursday for us to meet a friend of his who is very well connected in terms of migration issues. However, talking to him reminded me that I also need to get some documents ready for my interviews, and that I needed to contact Professor Miguel Ugalde to set up an appointment. When I called Miguel, he told me that he has arranged for us to go to the military airport where the deportees arrive on Friday. This is fantastic. I am anxious to witness this process, and potentially get contact information for deportees.

Once my phone calls were over, it was 9:30am, and time for Cecilia to come over. Cecilia is a private tutor, and we planned to talk with her about her home schooling the kids for us, or at least helping out with developing a curriculum and getting the kids on track. Despite my misgivings about home schooling, it may be our only option. Most schools in Guatemala are nearly done for the year – they finish in mid-October – and do not want to take new kids at this point. There are schools on a US calendar, but they have outrageous school fees - $6,000 just to enroll one child! We chatted with Cecilia a bit. She said she would suggest some schools to us, and that, if we decided to go with the home schooling, she’d be happy to help us out. Cecilia seems quite qualified. However, there are two things that give me pause. First, she charges US$15 per hour. That is a lot for Guatemala – la señora found it scandalous. Secondly, when I told her about the principal saying the girls were restless (inquietas), she recommended I look into the Monarch School, which specializes in kids who have ADD and other similar disorders. I take offense to even the implication that my kids might have ADD! So, we are not sure about working with Cecilia. For now, we have decided to ask around and continue to weigh our options.

Of course, this indecision means that the kids were running around the house all morning, and not really letting me get much work done. I was able to translate a document for my interviews – the Project Information Sheet. I sent that to my research assistant, Oliver, to look over. I also asked him to translate the Interview Guide. I was tempted to do it myself, but I convinced myself of the importance of delegating what I can.

With the kids in the house, it was difficult to make much progress on any other writing tasks. I spent most of the rest of the morning calling different schools, looking for teachers online, and searching for other activities for the kids. I set up an appointment for the kids to visit a gymnastics center this week. At least if they will be home schooled, they will have the opportunity to meet other kids in the gymnastics classes.

It looks like tomorrow will be a productive day. Miguel agreed to meet with Oliver and me to go over a list of contacts for people who work on migration issues at 9:30 in the morning. That will get the day off to a good start, and will get me out of the house. In addition, we may visit another academic institute in the area in the morning, as I heard they have issued a report on deportees in Guatemala.

After lunch, I gave into the fact that the kids weren’t going to let me work anymore, so long as they were in the house. I asked Nando to take them out. He agreed, and I got them ready. Finally, at 2:00pm, they left me in peace, and I set about writing this blog entry to get my mind back on track about what I have to do.

As soon as I sat down to write, la señora knocked on the door, inviting me over for coffee. I politely declined, telling her I really needed to get some work done, now that the kids were out of the house. She seemed to understand. I felt a bit bad about declining her invitation, but I have a list of things I need to do before the kids come back.

First step is to put the final touches on Chapter Five of my forthcoming book on immigration policy – Immigration Nation? Why Immigrants Come to the US and How US Immigration Policies Tear Families Apart – under contract with Paradigm Publishers, and due on August 31!

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