Thursday, February 24, 2011

We're really going

For those who have been following the Gordon/Lerdau Sabbatical travel plans it looks like we are really going to China from May through August. We’ll be in southern Yunnan province near Laos and Vietnam. I’ll be doing archival work for my next book, the minor mode, the rubber plant and the early modern masque and brushing up on my ancient Chinese. (Not really) This has been a long time in the making and makes doing research at the Vatican look like a quick trip to the CVS. It came about in part because I have DRAGED my family to Italy three times since we had children. This meant suffering through prosecco, afternoons in churches, gelato, walks through ancient ruins etc… The poor deprived children were simply forced to meet their mother for lunch in St Peter’s Square and the beleaguered husband had to find collaborators in Rome that fed him a few bottles of wine before talks. And my poor Mom had to hang out in piazza's with her grand kids. So in the spirit of a modern take turns couple I said “it’s your turn I’ll go wherever you want.” And for the record Manuel spent the bulk of his early career doing extremely cool and very remote filed work and that came to a halt when we had kids. Not because I said he had to but because he didn’t want to be away from us. That’s one of the reasons that despite the fact that at times he is as incompetent as any other man and represents he is in fact in the upper two percentile. We discussed South America, where he has done the bulk of his field-work before. This led to visions of the kids and I learning Spanish and sitting on beaches while he measured leaves. Somehow we morphed to rural China and no I will not be learning Chinese. For one thing many of the people where we are going speak Dai. And for another I’ve spent the bulk of my adult life working on Italian, Latin, and French and I’m languaged out…

But all joking aside and despite the agonized looks I have often given when discussing this scheme, we are all looking forward to a hell of an adventure. As I see it there are lots of weird and inconvenient things about being an academic, especially in this economy. (low salaries, most people seem to think I have a hobby not a job, the coincidence of the tenure and biological clock that leads to things like having to finish a book with six month old preemies etc….) But there are some pretty great things. And one of the best is that we get family adventures. I’ve never been anywhere in Asia. My knowledge of China is limited mostly to the newspaper, 17th century singing Courtesans about which I know quite a lot, and some novels. And I’ve never seen a rubber plant. We will yank the kids out of school a month early. (seems fine to me) If all goes well we’ll have some sort of organized activity for the kids so I can get some writing done. A famous musicologist once told me that four hours a day with the butt in the chair is enough to get the job done. So if I can get a few hours that will be great. But if I don’t we’ll consider it a really cool post tenure adventure for the family. And I’ve spent enough time in far away places and enough time watching Manuel deal with the Chinese government that I’m sure there will be parts of this that suck and are infuriating. But they should suck in good ways.


  1. Can your folks go? Great adventure! Keep us posted.

  2. I don't know Bonnie, if you and Manuel keep getting Christian Educator Ads for your work at Westhaven the Chinese government might not allow you in...