getting it done

The trick to getting your dissertation done is writing or reading or doing some dissertation-related work EVERY DAY. Or almost every day — let’s say 6 days out of the week. Ideally in the morning, for at least two hours (if writing) or four hours (if reading or other stuff). Appropriate “other stuff” includes working on fellowship applications, writing abstracts for conference panels, organizing symposia in your field, meeting with professors or colleagues, etc. How people manage to finish their dissertations without working on it steadily every day is beyond me. I’ve never been the kind of person to wait to the last minute to complete a large assignment (small one, sure), and I refuse to pull all-nighters. That’s just me though.

This morning, I didn’t feel like working. I was inspired to work — actually, my encroaching deadline is what really inspired me — but nothing came out of my head & through my fingertips. There was some sort of malfunction and the only way to repair it was: just. start. writing. Taking the monthly challenges on 750words definitely helps. But so does just sitting in front of a blank screen and writing whatever comes to your mind. Even if it’s just, “I’m tired and I can’t seem to work.” Eventually you’ll exhaust yourself of writing that and something even somewhat interesting might come out. Kind of like unclogging a sink that’s full of gunk. My mind was stopped up and I had to just start writing something to start the water flowing again.

Listening to upbeat music also really helps, as well as relocating to a coffee shop. There you’re stuck in a room with other equally hard-working people, all striving to do something productive (even if it’s just completing a Sudoko). I don’t know where I’d be without my noise-canceling headphones & Nina Simone Pandora station.

Ok – back to free-writing and free-wheeling my way toward an article…

september

It’s been way too long since I’ve written on my website, but I’m happy to report that I’ve been doing a ton of writing in both 750words and in scrivener for my dissertation. So much writing, in fact, that I was able to show my advisor a shortened version of a chapter that I’ve been working on, and she liked it! That’s big news for me, since I haven’t really shown anyone my work since my summer research trips. Processing all of that information into a palpable format that is argument-driven has been quite a task and it’s really been an intellectually invigorating experience. That said, there is still a ton of work to do on the chapter — mostly integrating the relevant literature and framing the discussion on decolonial aesthetics — but I’m happy with the progress that I’ve made so far.

One thing that I definitely want to work on is the formal aspects of my writing and I’m going to read the book Stylish Academic Writing by Helen Sword to see if there are any helpful tips. Although it’s a bit premature to say that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, now at least I know I’m in the right tunnel and entering at the right speed to graduate in a timely fashion. Will keep you updated on the progress of the dissertation and the other tons of projects that I’m working on!

needle in a haystack

I’ve spent 2 1/2 days in the Bodleian Library Special Collections room trying to find any information related to the acquisition of the Codex Selden by John Selden and its path from Jaltepec to Oxford.  I’ve had a few leads, but mostly, just a lot of straw in the form of old letters and documents.  Doing archival research is like looking for that needle, but sometimes you don’t even know if there is a needle, or even what it will look like.  In fact, it can be a really frustrating experience, so hit or miss, and the first few days or so are just spent trying to figure out how to identify and locate the documents you want to see.  In the digital age, at least some of this information is going online (shout out to Bodleian’s digitized books!) but even then, finding aids and online databases don’t always have everything you’re looking for.  So you book your dates, pay your week registration fee, call up some documents and just pray that something will be useful.  Sometimes you get lucky.  Maybe this time, not so much.

The most important thing in surviving two consecutive months of research trips is to stay physically active.  I spend the majority of my day either sitting or sleeping, so that 30 minute jog in the morning, or the 2 hours I spent at the gym in Barcelona, made all the difference.  I’m also a fan of the 2-hour lunch breaks and a strong believer in delicious European coffee.  So, alas, as I return to this 17th century account of all the books in John Selden’s collection, I am trying to stay motivated for the last 1 1/2 days of this immense – exhausting – fulfilling – exciting research-heavy summer.

research in the BnF

It’s my last full day in Paris and it started with Bon Iver on the radio.  This made me a bit homesick.  Plus it’s a Saturday, which means that my body & brain instinctively move slower.  But as it’s my final day for research and I still have three reels of microfiche to review, I’m determined to get as much done as possible.  Tomorrow I head off to Barcelona for the Decolonizing Knowledge and Power Summer School — the second part of this three part research trip.

In honor my time spent at the BnF (Bibliothèque nationale de France), I thought I’d share a few things that I learned about the library for my own reference and for anyone who’s thinking of heading there:

1) Fill out an online application to get pre-approved (Formulaire de pré-accréditation).  It takes a day or two to get approved (though online it says 10 days…)

2) Go to the EAST wing of the library at Mitterand to get your ID card.  Make sure to bring money, since a 3 day pass will cost you about 8 Euros or so.

3) Check your oversize Longchamp bag, but make sure to remove your MacBook Air, moleskine notebook, water, apple, and pen before heading in.  If you’re working in the manuscript section of the Richelieu, leave the latter three items in your bag and take a pencil.  Take some money (coins and small bills) if you’re even thinking of possibly photocopying or printing something b/c you’ll need to buy a card for that from a machine that doesn’t give change.

4) Note that because you’re using a MacBook Air, you won’t be able to plug into their internet system since they don’t have wifi (!).  Then bemoan the fact that your virtual connection to the outside world will rely solely upon computer kiosks with those really funny French keyboards.

5) At Mitterand, scan your pass and head down the two extremely long escalators and straight to the librarian’s desk.  Hopefully a friendly English-speaking Brazilian PhD student will be patient enough to walk you though the process of reserving a seat in one of the reading rooms online as well as explain how to reserve books online.  Definitely use this online catalogue.  You’ll also be able to create an online account with your library card which will allow you to reserve space, books, etc. in your next visits.  If you’re looking for manuscripts, it’s a totally different website to view their collections (of course).

6) Eventually you’ll realize that what you actually need is at the Richelieu branch, which has more limited hours, so you’ll hop on the Metro 14 and take the 15 minute ride over there.

7) You’ll have to make really good friends with each of the rotating librarians (they change every 2 hours or so, it seems) because you’ll need to request extremely valuable manuscripts and lots of microfiche.  The nice thing about the manuscript dept. is that you can make requests on the spot for most of their collections, though I think you can also use this online formulaire.

And you’re off!  Until your lunch break, which if you’re at Richelieu will definitely consist of some yummy Japanese food from the dozens of delicious looking Japanese restaurants nearby.

traveling

The month-long, 3-city European research trip has begun — albeit slowly and plagued by flight delays and one very expensive taxi ride.  I had a fantastic 12-hour layover in London thanks to my old roommate Jen, who has lived there for a while and gave me a personalized walking tour of a city about to be completely overrun with a million visitors.  The streets of London are already so crazy and packed that I’m very afraid for those citizens who are staying in the city.  At least, according to advertisements plastered around town, they can work from home.  Welcome to the grad student lifestyle, 9-5ers.

2 of my favorite things (other than Jen) in London: this Siamese taxidermy cat and a total butchering of the spelling of Oaxaca on the Mexican food stand.

After traveling for 48 hours from SD – London – Paris, I arrived at CDG too late to catch the last metro into town and resorted to the aforementioned overpriced, but extremely delightful, taxi ride.   Probably the best 60 Euros I’ve ever been forced to spend.  When I checked in at my hostel (a steal, by the way, $20 per night & that includes breakfast and homemade Korean dinner), they had informed me that I couldn’t take a shower.  That wasn’t about to happen.  I pretty much forced / pleaded my way into hot water and that was also well worth it.

Today I headed off to the Bibliothèque nationale de France, which is amazing.  There are two locations — one for manuscripts and the other for books — both of which I managed to visit.  The research was a bit slow, but I’m hoping that things will pick up tomorrow.

 

chic & light european trip

I’m usually pretty good about packing light for trips (proof: backpacking or a month through Peru with 4 shirts & 2 pairs of pants), but when it came to spending a month in Oaxaca, I went a little overboard.  And I’ll literally be paying for that at the airport in luggage fees on Friday.  I’m not about to make the same mistakes with the 3 inter-Europe flights on discount airlines (London-Paris; Paris-Barcelona; Barcelona-London), so I spent last night looking at blogs for inspiration.  So far, I love:

I’ll let you know how it goes!

 

 

murals

 

There’s kind of this mandatory Diego-Frida obsession that I think everyone goes through at some point or another when hanging out in D.F.  Despite the fact that there are a ton of talented artists to come out of Mexico, they are the quintessential pair that epitomizes the idea of “Mexico” for most foreigners.  Though always hesitant to buy into that kind of popular hype, I’ve got to admit that there is something really compelling about their work and their story.

I’ve already seen the murals in the Palacio Nacional, so I thought I’d head off to the Secretaría de Educación Publica to check out the murals there.  Though less relevant to my research topic, they were still quite powerful — especially the Wall Street Banquet, a personal favorite.  Today’s Diego-Friday in D.F. excursion is to the Museo Frida Kahlo in her old house on Londres 247 in Coyoacán.

anahuacalli

I made a last-minute trip to Mexico City to meet up with Demián Flores before I head back to San Diego on Friday and I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical at first.  I had only spent a week in D.F. and that was over 3 years ago.  I love my Oaxacan life, friends, and food, and I didn’t want to leave all that behind for the big city.  Despite my initial hesitations, I’ve had a really amazing time here and my time with Demián was fantastic.

After flying in and dropping off some things at the Hotel Marlowe (good budget option close to Bellas Artes), I headed off to visit the museum that Diego Rivera designed to house his Pre-Columbian artifacts — the Anahuacalli.  After a metro, train ride, and 10-minute walk, I arrived at this imposing monumental structure (a modern temple of sorts).  Not only is the building impressive, but the collection is quite amazing and every detail from the mosaic ceilings to the contemporary art installation really resonated with the research that I’ve been doing.  The small craft fair was a bonus, as was actually understanding 90% of the Spanish-language tour, proving that I’ve finally gotten to a good level with the language.

long days

I’ve had a few really long days.

9Am-noon: language classes

noon-2Pm: workout with personal trainer

2PM-3:30PM: lunch & relax for a second

4PM-7PM: work on archive at La Curtiduría

7PM-9PM: check emails & dissertation stuff at La Jícara

This is definitely not a vacation, but a seriously exhausting research trip, compounded by the fact that I’m doing field work this weekend in the Mixteca. I love everything that I’m doing, but I definitely need a cerveza at the end of the day (and some Mad Hombres streaming from Netflix).  I saw this random poster in the street and it’s kind of a humorous relief from all of the political mania happening in Oaxaca.

museo casa de la ciudad

I’ve been meaning to visit museo case de la ciudad for a while and I was walking to the collectivos for my trip to San Agustín de Etla to visit CaSa, I had the chance to stop by.  I’m trying to come up with a list of great libraries and places to study in Oaxaca, and this is definitely one of them.  Although they don’t have a great selection of art history books like IAGO, they have a great courtyard with free wifi and a really friendly staff.  They also have great hours (until 8PM including Sundays), so it’s definitely going to be on the list.

They also have this really awesome map of the city that lights up when you enter the room.  It’s not too hard to orient yourself based on the major landmarks, but when I went to try and find the house that I’m living it, I couldn’t find it.  They also have great old maps of the city, and I wish I had more time here to do more research on the history of the city itself.   They apparently have really great archives that date back to the colonial period and I’d love to check them out, but I have to stay focused on my dissertation project (humph).  Anyway — check this place out the next time you’re in town.