It has been noted by some of you that I have been a bit of a Dark Horse lately, dropping hints about things like Sudan and Australia and PhDs without giving any background or explanation. The only reason for this is because, after the histrionics and hysteria of last year's Summer of Woe and my repeated OH MY GOD WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH MY LIFE crises, I got rather tired of forever making official pronouncements about My New Plan, only to have the New Plan in pieces within a fortnight in the wake of another crisis.
However, I am pleased to say that I am a lot less mad these days than I was last summer, and things look more or less in train, and so here is the plan:
So I've been accepted into a programme to teach in Sudan for next year. The reason for this is partly to assuage my wanderlust and my desire to live in Africa, and partly so that I can get (more) experience volunteering with refugees and displaced people, which will hopefully be useful regarding career-type stuff.
I'm going through a project called SVP, which is endearingly waffy and random; I tend to be wary or volunteer projects that are over-bureaucratised because really, I don't need to be guided through pre-departure training or to have my volunteering off-set by Exciting Trips and Adventures or to be accommodated with other volunteers or any of that - and I know these things are important to other people, but they're just not my bag, baby; frankly, I'd be happiest going without having to go through an organisation (as I did with Azerbaijan), but whatever.
So anyway, I've been accepted by the UK side of the organisation, and now my details are (presumably) in Khartoum, awaiting placement. Most of the placements are in Khartoum and Omdurman, which is just to the north of Khartoum and basically runs into it, but they have a number of other placements outside Khartoum, and I've requested one of those; they say that they normally place women in Khartoum and house them together (hmm), but hopefully if I've specifically requested to be elsewhere they'll listen to me, and also take into account that I'm a little older than a new graduate and have a bit of teaching experience under my belt. The main reason I'd like to avoid Khartoum is that I don't really want to be anywhere there's an ex-pat community; this is something I experienced in Baku, which has quite a sizeable ex-pat community due to the oil industry: most of the locals assumed that I would prefer to associate with fellow ex-pats than with them, and often I did take the easy way out of hanging out in ex-pat bars, as they were the only places I could go as a lone woman and be free of harassment. But, you know, I'm not going all the way to Sudan to hang out with English people all the time. The placement I'm keenest on is one in Dilling, near the Nuba Mountains, teaching conversational English to English teachers, many of whom have never met a native speaker of English, so we'll see how that goes. Wherever I am, I hope to volunteer with refugees and displaced people; furthermore, I'll have a couple of months off in the summer and I intend to use that time to intern with one of the big refugee NGOs/international organisations, either in Sudan or in one of the neighbouring countries. All of this is completely uncertain, though, and I'm not taking any steps in this direction until I've heard back from Khartoum. If anyone has suggestions of organisations to approach regarding internships, though, they'd be gratefully received.
I've started a new LiveJournal, hypermobility, where I'm putting Sudan-related stuff. There's not much there as yet, but when I get to Sudan it's going to become my primary blog, and I'll give the url to real life family and friends as a way of keeping in touch (as my email access is likely to be limited). Go ahead and add hypermobility to your f'list if you're interested, but if you do comment there, please don't make reference to yiskah, as I'd still rather keep this journal from my real life family and friends.
Please feel free to ask any questions about the whole Sudan thing, though to forestall one commonly-asked question: no, Mark isn't coming with me. I'll miss him, of course, but we've been together nearly six years and spent a lot of time apart, and I have no doubts that our relationship is strong enough to deal with a year's separation.
And then the plan is to relocate to Sydney at the start of 2007. We've been talking about this for a while - not a permanent relocation, but just for a few years to see how we like it - and the start of 2007 seems to be good timing as it would coincide with the end of Mark's 2-year project, and also the start of the Australian academic year. Mark is very enthusiastic about this plan in theory, though he tends to become rather vague when the plan starts to look more concrete, so we need to have a Proper Talk about this sometime soon so that we don't get to December 2006 and suddenly he's all 'Australia? What?' at which point I would be forced to hack him to death. Happily our back garden is big enough to hide the body.
So, yeah. Lots of stuff to do and lots of decisions to make in this regard: permanent residency forms, housing, jobs, etc. The permanent residency application should really be started ASAP as it can take up to two years, but it is big and scary so I am putting it off. As far as the house goes, leading plan is that we would remortgage it to free up a deposit (our current repayments are scandalously low, and we could easily free up £10,000 or more while still being able to cover the repayments by renting the place out) for a flat in Sydney, but I have no idea which areas are still remotely affordable (not many - ideas, anyone?) and how mortgages work out there and all of that; as for renting the house here, serendipitously enough, it seems that Mark's brother will be moving to Nottingham towards the end of 2006 to do an LLM, so we'd be able to rent to him (some of you will remember that he also took over my room when I moved out of my last London house - clearly a recurring theme).
As for jobs, my plan is to finally go and apply for the PhD I've been talking about since I was an undergraduate, because although I keep talking myself out of it, the idea keeps coming back and back and back. So sometime over the next few months I have to email the postgrad director in the anthropology department at Sydney Uni and be all, hey, I have some degrees and some experience and some interesting ideas, please give me a PhD place and also some money, mmmkay? (Yes, I know that this is very premature, but given that I'll be in Sudan and therefore hard-to-contact for most of 2006, I'd like to get as much sorted this year as possible.) This idea scares the poo out of me, because although I have a general idea of what I'd like to look at (social identity in multi-ethnic refugee communities), I don't have a specific topic of study and I really don't want them to write me off as teh_clueless. Dear wise internets: advice, please? How detailed should one's PhD idea be when initially contacting a department? Should I be able to name-drop convincingly? All of this is made harder because I have been out of education for a while and anthopology is a rather difficult discipline to keep up with if you're not in academic circles. Gah.
So now you know all!
On a completely different note, Mark is away for most of this month and I am taking advantage of his absence by renting all the films that he doesn't want to see. So far I have seen Iris, Amores Perros (which they gave us by mistake; I think Mark would actually have liked that), La Mala Educacion and Monster's Ball, but because I am always clueless about films and forget the names of things that I want to see, I am running out of ideas. So...
what film(s) should I see?