Queridos of the Brighton Gang,
It is Monday morning, and I am chilling in bed. I did a meditation, drank a smoothie, and allowed myself to just focus on the feeling of the blue sheets on my back. I need a break.
My room has (finally) acquired the geometry of cuddles. I bought a string of blue and green light bulbs that goes along the wall, from the mattress to the window, passing over a funky coloured drawer that I bought for 5 dollars. I have a bamboo mat in front of the door opening into a tiny balcony that I hope to fill in with plants. So far in the room there is one plant that Kirsten picked and that we still have not managed to name. She is glamorous, with one pink flower protected by luscious green leaves.
She sits on top of the 5 dollar drawer like a queen.
I bought 6 small mirrors at the 30cent-store, and I will use them as my to do list boards. Next to my bed, I created a corner with a brown lamp, over a vintage shoe holder, and painted squared papers that someone I love made for me after we separated from each other few years ago.
Right now I am supposed to be in ‘field-work’ for my PhD, but the term ‘field’ work does not seem to really capture what I am doing. There is no field to put my feet on: for the last month I have been navigating Colombia. I got consumed by finding an apartment to live, by the over the top ‘papeleo’ (paper-work), by adjusting to the pace of the city…
This ‘ocean’ work thing is real though: in the mindset of researching, everything becomes discovery. I have had incredible interviews, but the off the record conversations and moments are the most inspiring.
For example, I am in an ongoing and very interesting exchange with the ISEE, the ‘Institute of Experiential Education’. This weekend, I was invited to attend a three days course on experiential learning. The perfect inspiration, I thought, as I am designing a research process that will accompany 8 to 10 youth organizations through the eight month experience of researching their culture.
During the course we did brilliantly weird exercises and watched our group of 28 people get in and out surrealist situations.
On day one, the facilitator passed around a small twig and asked us to observe it carefully. We spent 10 minutes passing the twig – looking at it with intention. Then he asked us to close our eyes, and he placed the twig over a white sheet on the floor among hundreds of other twigs that all looked the same. The instructions were: ‘find the twig. When you find it, go ring the bell on the other side of the room, and write on a little paper where you think the twig is. If you find it, you can watch the others.’ I spent an hour looking for the twig. I did not find it. I felt freakishly frustrated when others started ringing the bell.
Towards the end, I decided I just wanted to ring the bell. I rang the bell and wrote on a paper: ‘I did not find the twig, but I decided I still wanted to ring this bell. I am looking for intuition’.
We had a magical debriefing about searching, finding, the purpose of our voyages, and the difference between the ’technical’ of finding the twig and the experience of doing it. It turned out the twig was tucked behind the ear of the facilitator, who was chilling on the white canvas. Bah.
The Sunday session of the course was the most interesting team dynamic simulation I have ever witnessed. Again, the instructions were so absurd: we had to do a synchronized dance with the whole group. One step to the right, then touch the tip of the left foot over the right foot and say ‘click’. One step to the left, then touch the tip of the right foot over the left foot and say ‘click’; two steps to the right, then touch the tip of the left foot over the right foot, ‘click’… and continue until you arrive to six steps to the right, click, six steps to the left, click.
It took us 3 hours!
All sorts of things happened: everybody proposing things at the same time, chaos, frustration – oh and the details! As soon as we’d start, the facilitator would ring the bell if we were not ‘synchronized’ – so the bell kept ringing incessantly.
The best part was that the course was attended by two differently-able people. Pedro is deaf and Jason is blind and deaf (throughout the three days, he had someone signing to him by holding his hands!). Our challenge, therefore, was to make sure they were included in the ‘click’ dance.
It was FREAKING EPIC. We played with different strategies, and Jason and Pedro were accompanied by the group so that by the end they were more on beat with the ‘click’ than the rest of us! We probably tried a million times. At some point the facilitator said the bell would not ring except for at the very end of our performance to announce whether we were in synch or not. People could admit if they messed or not – and they did! We were so zoomed in we didn’t realize the bell wasn’t ringing anymore.
At some point I proposed to the group: how about this, we do it one more time and then we all go crazy. We did it one more time, and then someone put on loud music and we danced 3 songs, one after the other, all perfectly synchronized – magically synchronized. There was so much energy in the group: I felt we were floating cells that found a way to get together and create new life.
At night I made dinner for some friends. I boiled chickpeas for an hour and made a ton of hummus. I prepared a sandwich with a mushroom/spinach/dried tomatoes/sunflower seeds steer fried, roasted eggplants and hummus. We had red wine and talked for hours about Colombia.
The ‘field work’ experience feels a lot like the finding of the lost twig. I am sure the learning will be in the search, and maybe I should stop wondering: will I find the twig? In the meanwhile, I am ringing lots of bells.