Tuesday, May 24, 2005

hill country

my parents arrived thursday afternoon for a visit. the “visit” was initially supposed to be a graduation visit. there are probably thousands of parents flooding into austin this weekend for the graduation festivities.

unfortunately, i'm not graduating. we thought that i would graduate at the time when my parents bought their plane tickets and made their non-refundable hotel reservations. they very graciously decided to come to austin anyway. to give their daughter a boost of moral support.

their visit has been great actually. very therapeutic. being with my parents is like being home. wherever they are is where home is.

friday we journeyed out of austin to the nearby hill country. it is a breathtaking drive along the sloping roads. the land is impossibly green and open. cows and lambs graze happily under the sun. wineries beckon.

we spend the afternoon in fredericksburg, historically a town of german immigrants where we sampled german pastries and perused antique shops along their main street. i realize that it is not what the shops sell that draws me; it is the buildings themselves with their thick wooden floors and a hollowness to all the rooms, even though some are cluttered with things. i'm fascinated by their architectural flare, nearly 200 years after they were designed, built, and initially inhabited.

toward the end of a very warm texas afternoon, we decide to visit the vereins kirche, an octagon-shaped building that serves as a local museum. “vereins kirche” apparently means, “society’s church.” the structure was the first church in fredericksburg, built to serve the towns’ german catholics and lutherans. eventually, both of these groups built separate churches.

there is an 80-something-year old man with bright blue eyes collecting donations at the entrance of the museum. it is filled with black and white photographs and artifacts from the town’s 150 year history. it includes maps of germany and texas and details the migratory process.

the museum attendant seems impatient with my reading all of the placards and insists on narrating the town’s history to me himself. he tells us about his family and how they migrated from germany in the 1800s, how his wife’s family were also immigrants, but from a different town in germany. he tells us about his service in world war II and how, as a bilingual german-english speaker, they told him he would be responsible to translate for any german prisoners of war they captured. but then they sent him to the south pacific, he laughs!

i love his stories and i love how much he knows about the history and culture of his community. i loved meeting him because he reminded me that even though we are mexican and he is german and different immigrant generations, we’re really not so different.


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

this is what it's like

i'm back on track today.

i turned in my grades for class two days ago and tried to pick up where i had left off writing my dissertation. i'm reworking the conclusion to one of my ethnographic chapters.

i have to admit that i didn't make much progress yesterday. i re-read what i had written. did some line editing. checked my email about a million times (i really should disable to the wi-fi on my computer).

today was much better. i took the solitary route. went to my new favorite coffee shop, the dandelion cafe on east 11th street. i ordered un cafe solo and took a seat by the window. across the street, at the victory grill, people were setting up a reception area for a film that was being shot nearby. i don't know what it was all about; but it was difficult not to notice that there were several young women dressed as prostitutes for the shoot.

i wrote for four hours. produced four pages. not stellar, but respectable progress.

since the semester is now over, i imagined that i would dedicate myself fully to this dissertation. but, of course, something else has come up: my summer employment. i have none. i had put all of my hope in a teaching position in the anthropology department, but ultimately did not receive it. i found out yesterday. so now i have to worry about how i will pay my rent this summer.

this is the very economically unstable life of a graduate student.

i wish that i were a trustfund baby. *sigh*


Tuesday, May 17, 2005


friday afternoon marked a milestone for my family. my sister's boyfriend drove to bakersfield (unbeknownst to her) to ask my parents for their blessing to propose to my sister.

as my dad recounted the story to me, he said, "he asked for our blessing and then we had a little talk."

"what do you mean, 'a little talk'?" i asked.

"you know, i just told him that we love all of our children very much... we think that they deserve to be treated well... and i told him that s (my sister) is very high maintenance."

"you told him that?!"


"what did he say?"

"he said that he knew that, but he felt she had other redeeming qualities..."

i have to wonder what brutally honest fact my father would share with any man who would dare propose to me! i can just imagine. "you know, suitor-of-my-daughter, jennifer is a crazy marxist." and my beloved would say, "yes sir, i know. that's what i love about her." :)

anyway, my little sister (four years younger) is getting married. i know that this has been a long time coming; she is ecstatic. i'm happy for her. even if it does mean that i'm going to be a bridesmaid. again.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

pity party

I talked to my dissertation chair this afternoon. Yes, I waited two days to call her. It's as if I'm playing hard to get. Or, alternatively, a childish game of "you're-not-the-boss-of-me." She is, actually, the boss of me.

The conversation wasn't as painful as I thought it would be. Basically, she just wanted to know my plan. I've been hesitant to make one. I told her that I would have a complete draft to her by the end of May. That sounds reasonable, doesn't it? She thought so. Thank God.

I think that she senses I'm feeling a little fragile. She assures me that my chances of getting a job next year will be much higher once I finish my dissertation. She kept emphasizing that any revisions I would have to make for her will be "tiny" and that I am "basically done." I wonder how she knows that she should be gentle with me? I see her so infrequently that she doesn't get the full dose of cynicism I project to the outside world about my project/lifechances/etc. Hmph.

My dissertation chair feels sorry for me. How should I feel about that?


Monday, May 09, 2005

tough love?

I received the following email today from my dissertation chair:


I wanted to touch base with you concerning your dissertation.  I know you informed me that you plan to take longer than we discussed. However, I strongly encourage  you to give me your polished dissertation as soon as possible, so we can be done with that phase, and you can then send a copy to your committee.

You should not delay your defense any later than the first week in September.  Preferably finishing in the summer is better, unless you are concerned about employment ... next year. If you don't finish by September you will once again be at a disadvantage in the job search. Most places want a dissertation in hand.   If you finish in September you ... will have the entire semester to work on other things.  Last year you were almost done, but you let it go, and focused on teaching.  This year your focus should be finishing.

Call me.


I haven't called. *sigh* It's not that I don't want to finish. I really do want to move past this phase. But I am tired and frustrated and, quite frankly, don't have ganas. I am, however, starting to get CANAS!


Friday, May 06, 2005

cultural artifacts

I talked to the undergraduate advisor for the center the other day and she told me that J had been in her office, cracking her up. She told me that J told her that he was becoming a feminist! My class has apparently been transformative for him. :)

Actually, today was my last day teaching. For the past two days, my students have been presenting personal artifacts that represent some aspect of "la chicana" to them. Students have brought:

family picture, many of their mothers
religious objects, many emblems of La Virgen de Guadalupe
a Selena CD - "Dreaming of You"
a package of reversible oreos
a short documentary about identity politics
culturally-relevant books
a can of pinto beans
a pair of ballet folklorico shoes

The personal testimonies that have accompanied the artifacts have been very moving. Many of them shed tears talking about their families and personal journeys. I admit that it's been difficult to maintain my composure during their presentations. I realize what an amazing space this course provides for these young Mexican American women.

And for the men. J brought a book that had been assigned to the class as one of his artifacts, saying that it had really changed the way he thought about women, especially Mexican women from Texas (though the protagonist was actually from New Mexico). After sharing what the book meant to him, he suggested that the course should also have included more male perspective.

"It never hurts to include the men." Then he brought out his second artifact, a CD from which he played a song to the class - "El Rey." Some lyrics follow:

"Con dinero y sin dinero
Hago siempre lo que yo quiero
Y mi palabra es la ley
No tengo trono ni reina
Ni nadie quien me comprenda
Pero sigo siendo el rey."

I can't really translate it, but let's just say that he's not succumbing to his feminist side just yet. ;)


Monday, May 02, 2005

tangible results

I finished another draft of one of my ethnographic chapters a couple of days ago. The next task was to start rewriting the conclusion of another ethnographic chapter. Haven't done it yet. I turned on my computer, opened a new document and promptly closed my laptop. Terrified. I hate blank pages.

I decided to write on a notepad instead. In green ink. And I'm not even writing sentences, just sort of ideas that I feel should somehow be incorporated into the conclusion of this chapter.

Did that for a while yesterday and then decided to start to grade my students' bluebook exams. Even though I, like everyone I know, hate to grade, it was preferable to writing. There's something gratifying about plodding through a stack of bluebook exams. Seeing my progress as the stack diminishes.

I could spend hours "thinking" about my dissertation, but making no tangible progress. That's part of the frustration I suppose.

But just so that you think that my life is not just dissertating and bluebook grading, I should confess that my roommate and I went shoe shopping yesterday. And I bought a pair of extremely impractical shoes. Olga says every woman should have at least one pair. They were the tangible results of my shopping excursion. :)