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Archive for the ‘Studies’ Category

I’m not sure whether Geneva’s calvinist seriousness and reverence for the demands of business are starting to get on my nerves or if it’s only about these amazing adhesive tapes with lots of different patterns I found in a hip little shop in Berne, but lately I have been listening to female punk bands from the 80s and 90s, learning everything there is to know about zine culture, and feeling like the teenager I never truly was. I’m probably recovering from the shock of finally being registered as a PhD student – having to study as a doctoral student whenever I can and teach French to diplomats the rest of the time is too much pressure. When the day is over, I re-imagine myself as some sort of creative activist whose life is all about counterculture. Tinged as they are with schizophrenia, these slightly traumatic transitions from one state to the other (meet Anne: scholar and anarchist) are seldom convincing.

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After being unemployed for four months, during which I worked quietly for myself at my own rythm, the recent change of pace came as a bit of a shock. Suddenly my PhD proposal deadline arrived, I started having job interviews, and after the Berlitz school of languages selected me for their initial training I only had a few days to find a new place to live. This means that after six weeks here in Prêles, I’m leaving again and will (temporarily?) take a room in a posh village named Coppet, by the lake near Geneva. Even though it all seems sorted now – I am a PhD student at the university of Geneva, I teach French at Berlitz, I live in Coppet during the week – I have yet to become comfortable with my new situation before I can feel settled. After all, in one year, I have lived in Canterbury, Yverdon, Bienne, Prêles, and Coppet. No wonder it’s a little distabilizing.

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I have been reading about feminism a lot in the last month or so. While I had been exposed to many of the ideas before, I had never been this eager to integrate them into my life in a coherent manner. The end of the year is an ideal time to examine my motives and preferences as I usually try to find a resolution I can focus on for a year (or at least a few months), so be ready for more on the subject. For those of you who were preoccupied, I am probably not going to use my new markers on toilet doors just yet, but I’ve been considering ways of doing something myself when I used to find it sufficient to discuss ideas with close friends and relatives. Just so you know, if you see me wearing a “bitch” T-shirt, please don’t worry, it’s all part of the process.

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Page44I had no idea I would suddenly be very busy, going from one thing to the next without much time for reflection; and I’m generally know to be the reflexive, rather than active type. Ignoring this tendency, last Friday I went to Germany, came back to Switzerland on Sunday, left for Paris on Tuesday, and arrived in England on Wednesday. That very same day, I learned a) that the School of English at Kent had recommended me to the Admissions office for a PhD, b) that the University of Geneva had rejected my application for an assistant position, and c) that the Admissions office had made an offer. Meanwhile, I’ve received a lower mark than usual for my unfortunate attempt at creative writing, which means that my 1st has become a 2.1 (non-English people: please don’t ask me what this means) and I’m trying to revise for the exam I have on Tuesday while worrying about getting a scholarship.

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Page43This week-end I was in Lüneburg, a charming town between Hamburg and Hannover where a symposium in Native American / First Nations studies took place. The funny thing about Germans is that for unclear reasons they love American Indians. They have popular novels with a character named Winitou and powwows across the country. Well, if I must be honest, the Swiss are not that different, what with Derib’s Yakari and, as it turns out, a few annual powwows too. But this was not the aim of my trip to this small-scale, sympathetic conference. I met several Americans, Canadians, lots of Germans and a couple of Austrians with whom I had a good time. I interviewed Drew Hayden Taylor, an Ojibway playwright who mostly writes comedies (including “The Berlin Blues”), and on Sunday visited an exhibition on Native Americans in Hamburg which also raised interesting questions, though of a nature that the guide wasn’t quite expecting.

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Books for spring

page40At last, I can read books I’ve chosen myself! I know I should be revising for my exam but I’ve decided to pretend I mistook Eugenide’s Middlesex for George Elliot’s Middlemarch and my honour will be safe (sort of). I ordered some of these on Amazon and they’ve been sitting on my shelf for a while. Others were bought in a nice bookshop in Bath called Topping & Company, and the rest comes from the Salon du livre in Geneva. At the moment, all I want to do is read: on the couch, on the train, on the balcony, by the lakeside, at my desk, in a café, or in bed, just read, and life will take care of itself.

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page371These last weeks I’ve been writing a lot: every day, most of the day, day after day. I was in my room writing as other students played football outside or chatted for hours, spreading blankets on the grass. I was in my room writing as they started packing one after the other, and left noisily. It started on Wednesday last week, and increased each day before Easter; I could hear suitcases rolling on the Parkwood paths, more and more frequently as time went by and my word count went up. Now the place looks almost deserted when I walk around the houses, observing the plastic bags which float in the wind from high tree branches, like flags for consumerism. And still I go back to my room, and write.

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