All entries for June 2005

June 05, 2005

Dreams of Dali

Writing about web page

Had a dream last night that began with a scene from Dali / Buñuel's Un Chien Andalou, the famous razor-slicing-eyeball moon-cloud sequence, and ended with an infestation of ants traipsing across my bed and swarming all over me. Nice. Luckily I can't remember much about what happened in between those two images, but both were fairly vivid and I woke up feeling sick with my skin crawling.

I used to have a lot of Dali prints on my wall as an undergradute but I never dreamt about them. In my first year I had The Persistence of Memory hanging above my bed, and because I only mounted it on a flimsy piece of card suspended from the picture rail with a couple of pieces of string, it started to bulge out of the wall like a demonic fisheye and looked like it was descending down upon me.

This is the third night this week I've dreamt about ants, and I'm starting to wonder why.

June 04, 2005

Le Journal de Ma Yan

Writing about web page

Have just started reading 'Le Journal de Ma Yan: la vie quotidienne d'une écolière chinoise', a book my mum brought back from France. I'm trying to get my French reading skills back up to scratch, and starting with the writings of a 13 year old girl seemed like a good idea!

It's the journal of a young Chinese schoolgirl from a remote mountainous province in NW China called Ningxia. The journalist Pierre Haski, a correspondent for the newspaper 'Libération en Chine' was visiting her village, and just as he was leaving a woman handed him a letter written on the back of a seed packet, as well as some notebooks containing the writings of her daughter, Ma Yan. In the letter Ma Yan had written: 'Je n'irai plus à l'école cette année. Je viendrai labourer afin de payer les études de mon petit frère. A chaque fois que je pense aux rires et aux plaisirs du campus, c'est comme si je me retrouvais à l'école. J'ai tellement envie d'étudier, mais ma famille est si pauvre.' (No more school for me this year. I have to labour in order to pay for my little brother's schooling. When I think of the laughter and happy times at school, I can almost imagine myself there. How much I want to study! but my family is so poor.)

Haski was moved by this letter and returned to the village to help Ma Yan and to listen to her story. He published an article in Libération in September 2001 entitled 'Je veux étudier' (I want to study), which attracted the attention of many French people, who sent Ma Yan letters and money. Haski established a foundation called 'Enfants du Ningxia' to raise money to help the children in Ma Yan's village and province, which allowed her to return to school and become the first girl from her village to go to college.

The diaries were initially translated into French and became a bestseller in France, and have since been translated into German, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, Czech and English. As Haski writes on the foundation's website, 'La bouteille à la mer est arrivée à bon port!' (The message in a bottle arrived at the right port).

Anyway, it looks like an interesting read, and it will certainly get the French cogs whirring in my brain again…

June 03, 2005

Grey Panther induction session

Grey Panther Project

The Grey Panther project is a programme offered by the Office of Part-Time Education (OPTED) at Leeds University. The project was established in June 2004 to help males aged 45+ who have been unemployed for over 6 months to undertake a vocationally relevant HE course of study in order to enhance their employment prospects. The project attracted ESF funding worth over £135k and initially a maximum of 50 beneficiaries were expected to be recruited over the 18 month project life.

My role and the dissertation

Last summer I worked as a development clerk on the project, basically making contact with Job Centres and training providers in the local community to research the target group's training and development needs and to promote the project. Since January I returned to my old job on a part-time basis, on the grounds that I needed to earn some money for my MA and could base my dissertation around the project – something to do with masculinities, ageing and unemployment.

Summer school

This morning I met the eight participants who make up the third intake (cohort!) of 'Panthers'. We introduced ourselves and the project, and Trish and I took them to the student office for registration which meant I chatted to most of the blokes at some point.

This is a smaller group than the previous two intakes, because it is running as an intensive 4-day summer school as opposed to the usual 11-week programme. The group is quite diverse despite being small, at least in terms of qualifications and prior work experience.


I am hoping that some of the sessions next week (esp. the discussion about ageism in the workplace) will be useful for my dissertation. I will carry out some participant observation as part of a general ethnographic approach, as well as a focus group session, and hopefully some of the students will be willing for me to interview them individually in the near future. I will keep a daily research diary to note down any thoughts and ideas that come out of the teaching sessions next week.

I'm quite unsure about how to proceed with my own empirical research having never carried any out before (my arts background not helping here), but it appears to be almost the expected thing in the Sociology department. In actual fact, I've never even written a dissertation, so the very thought makes me feel quite anxious.

Things I need to do this weekend:

  • review masculinities articles / books
  • start to look at government legislation re: ageism in workplace, any available DWP data / reports, findings re: older men / unemployment coming out of the 2001 census
  • formulate research objectives
  • think about what I want to achieve next week

Stay calm!

June 02, 2005

This time last year (June)...

…I went on holiday to Kending for a girlie weekend. Emily (my flatmate) and I went running (well, walking quickly) with the 'Hash House Harriers' in the tropical national park and saw coral rock formations, lava bubble caves and pineapples growing on trees. I discovered mojitos, got very drunk at a Thai restaurant and decided to sleep outside, where I was bitten to shreds by all manner of tropical jungle beasties.

…I was planning a lesson about France with my class of 11-year olds, which mostly entailed eating pain au chocolat, croissants and cheese.

…Kiersten, Emily and I adopted a stray cat called Buddha (right) who was big, fat and rampacious. He hated all people (except for me) and spent most of his time biting and clawing anyone who came to visit our apartment. He also liked to drag my duvet around the apartment making mad passionate love to it. Occasionally he tried to hump me when I wasn't paying attention, and he also had a worrying fetish for licking my flip flops.

…I went hiking in Yangmingshan (national park close to Taipei) which proved to be rather more exciting than I had anticipated. At one point I was sliding down an almost vertical mudslide clinging to a small piece of elastic. I also saw some very weird hot springs that smelled like rotten eggs and looked like the surface of the moon, except rather more colourful.

…I drowned my mobile phone and digital camera in a pedalo.

…The family I tutored took me on a daytrip to some hot springs, and made me sing Like a Prayer on a crowded coach at 7 o'clock in the morning.

…My Taiwanese friend Lynn took me to a fabulous dumpling restaurant and I fell off the back of her scooter on the way home.

…I went to the dragon boat races.

…We were planning a camping trip to Green Island for my final weekend in Taiwan, which unfortunately never materialised because there was a huge typhoon and we couldn't leave our apartment.

…I was eating fresh mango for breakfast every day.

…I discovered that ten 6-year olds, two tubs of popcorn, two Haagen Daz icecream cakes and a box of raw eggs don't mix well together.

…I was very excited about coming back to England, and very much looking forward to graduation and seeing my friends.

…I'd been away from England for over 12 months and hence had forgotten why I'd wanted to leave in the first place.

This year…

…It keeps raining.

…I work in Leeds two days a week.

…I hate my MA.

…I'm miserable and ungrateful.

To be fair, we are only two days into the month of June and there's no typhoon in sight.


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