Sunday, January 07, 2007

V2.A.P2 = From Seminyak to Nusa Dua

By the time I left my little enclave in Seminyak I have already achieved some of the things I wanted to do in this trip (more the internal one, but it always relates to the physical as well):

I did have long walks on the beach and a lot of writing on my life in Amsterdam –the kind of writing that requires some mental and physical distance.

I managed to resume horseriding, on Seminyak beach early in the morning before the beach was crowded.

I started to read Max Havelaar, or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company (@amazon), by far the best book I read about colonialism and one of the best novels I read.

The next leg of my trip was to Nusa Dua, a peninsula in the south of Bali located 40 kilometres from the capital city of Denpasar. The conference site was there so I had to take a taxi to the other side of the little tail of Bali. The Conference being the IDGEC Synthesis Conference, my reason for going to Bali in the first place.

IDGEC is a long-term international research project developed during the 1990s under the auspices of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP). IHDP is an international, interdisciplinary, non-governmental science programme dedicated to promoting, catalyzing and coordinating research on the human dimensions of global environmental change. IHDP takes a social science perspective on global change and it works at the interface between science and practice.

The conference was held in Grand Hyatt Bali Hotel but most PhD students stayed in a nearby hotel called Inna Putri Bali which was relatively less extravagant. The reason was that this hotel was cheaper and less luxurious and PhD students like making a point out of that. I am no different. I find it curious to fly from one continent to the other to discuss climate change, or to stay in a luxurious hotel to figure the ways in which science and practice of environmental issues can be brought together (pics from the hotel make my point). Yet, that’s the way it is and reading Science in Action (@amazon) by Bruno Latour and the Postmodern Condition (@amazon) by Jean-Francois Lyotard helped keep my dignity. Of course, the conference itself as well. It is always a great feeling to be below the average level of brightness around (yet, I wont go further into that as it would be professional gossiping ;) –and possibly bore you to death).

The results of doing those readings (but not emerging from their content), to my surprise were the following:

1. a few nice chats, and insights to previous works of my colleagues,

2. a lot of remarks and criticisms from colleagues who obviously found it useless to try to read these authors on the beach

3. a reminder that I shouldn’t travel with that many books (from my bag pack)

The results of doing those readings (this time related to their content) were the following:

1. figuring that I will not in the near-future read any further Lyotard, although I think the book was marvellous, simply because the relevance of the subject matter is not sufficient to motivate my curiosity and overcome the language barrier.

2. that I have to spend some more time reading Latour, I think he was the greatest discovery of my trip. I enjoyed looking at the institutions that I am involved in and how they shape and form myself and my work as well as that of people I share mental spaces with.

3. that I shouldn’t surrender: one can, and I believe I could, share parts of some thoughts, inspirations, questions, and difficulties with some friends around and sometimes even despite themselves. This does save one from being excluded (hence, demented and angry), at least in my case. It was, therefore, a tremendously rewarding experience.

4. and a bunch of little ideas that I will have to work on in the next few months.

Another great thing about the Conference was the start of my field work, which got me terribly excited. And lastly, I enjoyed getting some feedback about our multi-authored paper.

All in all it was a good conference even without mentioning the immense variety of tastes we have been exposed to. It was great to have fruit platter on the coffee breaks, and sunshine and a blue-green sea in the midst of flower gardens throughout the conference.

I should also cite a wonderful dinner with Sander before the conference started (a conversation on the issue of guilt in religion, some indescribably good food, a wonderful moonrise over the ocean, some bottles of Bintang –the star/beer of Indonesia, the main source of alcohol we had throughout the week-, huge crabs on the shore as we walked back, a night long chanting in the temple nearby, a small visit there and taking pictures of all these...), a walk with Fari on the possibilities of me understanding more of Lyotard and rest of life/work, meeting some people who I know and appreciate the work of in person, great Balinese dances we had a chance to watch, a late night chat with Harro (that helped me figure what I look like to unfamiliar eyes), nightswimming with the department and the luxury of seeing everyone less stressed and busy than usual, with the possible exception of Sander who seemed a little worried about his capabilities of networking. I know I can network and I don’t choose to. I think we should be able to relate at the level of ideas (and at times as individuals that enjoy talking, thinking, working on similar issues, or even just sharing the same physical environment). There is no need to ultra-professionalise the environment that we obviously find worth being in. I am afraid this also relates to my incapabilities of looking sharp in two seconds and impress people in a claculated manner. So I don’t play the game. And there are many people who don’t. I liked figuring that out in this conference. I understand his worry and I truly think he should be in conferences alone so as to test his capabilities and yet he will rejoice (he has a posting on this matter).

That was more or less all about my trip to Nusa Dua... Next, I went back to Kuta/Legian/Seminyak for a few days of solitude. How could I know that I would find an island in my head only a few weeks later where I would feel most wonderfully alone, and yet still with friends.

ps. last two pics are harro's click...


Harro van Asselt said...

Networking is certainly overrated. Connecting to other people on a personal level can't be overrated enough, though!

smack said...

If you read the book Max Havelaar you should see the Musical. I dont think its playing anymore, so thats too bad, but it was nice too see. maybe they have it on tape.