Archive for December, 2011

For some reason, over the holidays I finally got some inspiration to work on the dissertation. I’m not sure quite what it was — downtime from Deutsch lernen, or just generally finally caught up on sleep, seeing the husband, running, clean air, eating properly (thanks to L, mostly, and some good veggie options locally)  — but after a bit over a month of feeling completely meh I suddenly started to feel inspired last week. I even went to the cafe (without wifi!) a few days in a row and hammered out good organization / reading sessions. All balanced out, of course, with getting some nice runs in Tiergarten and Grunewald. L and I have also attended a few sessions of the “muscle power” class at our local gym. (I really like how we use adjustable free weights in this class because it’s just like being out in the weight areas with everyone else, only I get proper instruction and a routine that flows, and it’s way less intimidating. We move from big muscle groups to small ones, lift to the beat of good music, and we always end with abs. I highly recommend this type of class to anyone who avoids weights and machines because of boredom–time passes quickly in this class!)

As for the dissertation… well, I think I might blog every now and then with a few ideas I have about it: both about my trees in the forest and about the organization of the forest itself. Initially, I think the three big tech tools I’ll be relying on for this bit are: Zotero, DevonThink, and Scrivener. However, I also recently found myself organizing in the Finder window a lot (folders and sub-folders, etc) and typing up thoughts in Stickies, Notes, and Word again. I’m considering some manila folders for the archival documents as well (even though I have scanned the majority and filed them properly via Finder). I’m just not sure which method will eventually stick… when I wrote the MA paper I pretty much just did it all in Word, with the help of Zotero for citations. Oh, I had an outline, but the paper became an unwieldy behemoth by the time I had everything I wanted to say written down… it wasn’t pretty and it was 75 pages in the first go. My excuse at that time was that I was under a lot of stress from seminar readings and TA nonsense, but since I currently have neither of those (especially no huge, impending deadlines for a few months…. I hope) I’m sort of hoping to do a better job this time with outlining things. My goal is to stay in Berlin, attend a few conferences or workshops, meet with people locally, and work work work on outlines. Of course, this all presumes I know what I want to say and how I should say it…

Yeah, I’m still working on that so-called 2-minute response to “Tell me about your dissertation.”


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9 months later and…

No, I didn’t have a kid. BUT I got a bunch of research done! And I moved back from Beijing! And….! Yeah. It’s a long story which would take entirely too long to summarize here and would likely bore the average reader to death. Basically, I spent a lot of time at some archives in Beijing and Shanghai, all the while running and doing circuit training with the Heyrobics people. I also helped build and support an amazing social running group with a Swedish running fanatic, and became an assistant coach/pacer for the Beijing Swedish Running Camp in Fall 2011. I learned a couple of interesting things along the way and although I do not regret leaving the pollution or Beijing, I do miss the running group. It turns out that at least half of us are vegetarians or vegans and most of us are generally socially conscious — yeah yeah big surprise, I know… but trust me, if you’ve lived in Beijing you’d see how unusual it is to be a vegetarian (especially vegan) AND a hardcore runner.

Since I arrived back in Berlin I’ve mostly been enjoying eating much healthier food and running outside most days. I miss the Heyrobics classes for the people, but I really do enjoy running outside, and if I must choose one of the two I have to say that running in the forest and clean air wins any day. In the meantime, I’m trying to get a running group started in Berlin, but it’s been difficult given the time of year — December means very short, cold days that are also often rainy and/or windy. You might think that this makes me excited to get back to the pool  or to the gym (ha ha!), but I think I’m going to save this for the start of the new year. For the first time since 2003, I did not one multi-sport event all year, and I’m not proud of that. In 2012 I vow to do at least one Olympic-distance triathlon, and possibly two… I would like to eventually do an Ironman, and since most people say it should happen before kids, that probably means 2013 is my year. Even if I’m in great shape, Ironman will take at least a half year of solid preparation.

L and I already have the Berlin marathon on the schedule for September and most likely the Hamburg marathon as well (April). I’m looking forward to improving my running in the next few months, and a goal I have is to break 43-44 minutes  / 10K.  I don’t know if it will be possible, but I’d like to give it a try. Last week we did a running relay in town, 30 minutes, switching every 250m or so… it was the kind of race that reminded me of track workouts: run all out for 45-50 seconds, then take a 45 second rest, then do it again… x 17. We actually did pretty well, running about 8.6K/total in 30 minutes, although I have to say I was ready to puke 13 minutes into it, and I had a bit of a scare afterwards when I couldn’t take a deep breath right away and used the inhaler after hysterically trying to cough myself out of it for a minute or two. I guess my shitty lung capacity is finally catching up with me (I got a bad case of bronchitis that developed into pleurisy in high school and I’ve had problems off and on since).

The best part about the races in Berlin is the number of people who show up–all with teams. I think L and I need to join a local team. L struck up a conversation with some people from the “Ron Hill” team after the race and they seemed pretty friendly and about the same level/pace as us. (Side note: my German is coming along, as I’ve been spending every morning in language classes… even though I can’t respond, I do understand quite a bit more than before.) Actually, I also find one of the most difficult things about Berlin actually is this team thing… I’m not sure how to find them! When we go to the races we literally see at least 8-10+ teams represented (even at the smaller ones). On Sunday we did the Plänterwald Lauf and, again, nearly every person registered came with a team… it’s inspiring, for sure, but I wish I knew where to find the most suitable one for me, both in terms of proximity to home and in terms of ability/level.

On a somewhat related note, I had no problem find a softball team to join. Softball used to be my big sport growing up (well, that and tennis) and I played on travel teams, in high school, and even a bit in college. As a graduate student, when living in California, I also played for the slow pitch team some friends of mine started. Last year when I first got to Berlin I found a team via toytown and contacted the coach, who put my name on the e-mail list. When I got back last month I again contacted the coach who informed me of an upcoming practice the following Sunday (the last practices before winter break). All I can say is: wow. They’re a fast pitch team and very international, and at least some of the members I met seem much better and more competitive than what I’ve seen in years. I’m super excited because, unlike running or swimming or something, I played softball through my development years (began at age 4 playing T-ball) and thus can still pick up a ball and play well (even after taking many years off from the sport). I truly believe that this sport requires a mental and technical ability that, much like a language, one can only easily master through 1) years of practice at an early age and 2) having some natural ability already.  I was personally complimented on my ability by the coach and the Cuban player (a big deal if you know anything about baseball in Cuba) and asked to become a member of the team for the spring season. In the meantime, we’ll be socializing in the winter by going bowling and drinking beer, both things that will remind me more of the California softball crew 🙂 who I miss all the time. 😦

In other news… I do wish I could post more about the intersection of the things above with my academic life, but alas I haven’t spent much time on that since getting back. Aside from my parents’ visit last week (which was totally fantastic, they loved Berlin!), I’ve been trying to run several times per week while cramming as much language learning as possible into the day, including setting up some regular language exchanges with a friend from Hangzhou who lives here permanently, and a PhD student I met from Anhui who researches vocational schools in Europe and China at TU-Berlin. I am, however, working on an outline for my dissertation and I have planned an upcoming short article about “friendly” sports matches between China and other countries in the Mao period, using the August brawl between the Chinese Bayi team and the Georgetown Hoyas as a jump-off point. I might even post some thoughts on here simply as a way for me to think about some things, such as cultural diplomacy through sport and its successes and failures. Stay tuned…


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