I wrote this at the airport on Friday evening but didn’t have an internet connection to post – I’m finally getting round to it now!
Last Day! I have very mixed feelings about this. I am looking forward to being home (being, not getting!) but at the same time I feel like I’m not done with Mexico City yet. I feel like it has more to show me, more to tell me, more for me to learn. There’s also something about the conference vibe and structure that I sort of don’t want to end. I have learned so much over the last few days that I think my brain will be processing for a while and it probably needs a rest but there is something nice about getting up, going for breakfast that you don’t have to think about, going to a session and hearing about interesting stuff and then going for a walk in the sun and looking at interesting things and then coming back to more interesting stuff, having a little break and then having something planned in the evening. It’s been fun.
So this morning I went on the fun run. Yeah, the fun run! I’ll blog about it on my running blog so suffice it to say, I was, as expected, the slowest but I did eventually catch up with and meet a fellow West Yorkshire lass and we had a good chat as we ran/walked the rest of the course.
After a shower and breakfast I got packed and checked out and then went to the first panel of my day which was my random pot luck session where I randomly open the programme at a page relating to the time slot and then place my finger on the page – I’ve gone to some utterly boring sessions as a result of this (I do this at most conferences I go to at least once) but this time I got lucky. I heard 5 good papers one of which I thought was excellent on Sanctuary Cities in Canada by Karl Gardner of York University, Toronto and another really interesting stats based analysis of the link between crime statistics and sanctuary policies (Spoiler: There ins’t one).
After the lunch break I was going to go to a panel on Law and Gender in an International Context but I got to the room and there was nobody there. I waited a bit but no speakers turned up so I went to the reception to check if it had been moved but they didn’t know and it wasn’t on the list of amendments to the programme so who knows what went on there!
After the cancelled session I had one more panel before I’d have to head to the airport. I had two panels marked in my programme. One on globalisation of legal education and one random one which looked like it included interesting papers about law/popular culture and masculinity, regulation of midwives, migration management systems and consideration of Trump as fascism lite. I opted for the random – partly to get another chance to hear Jeff Dudas speak. I like his ideas. They intuitively make sense to me although I know nothing about any of it. Anyway, it was a great panel and a great way to end the conference.
Then I got a taxi to the airport (where I am typing this although I won’t be able to post until I get home). The taxi driver was quite chatty and drive most of the way along back roads which was fascinating because I got to see more of Mexico City while the driver told me about how pleased he was that people were now coming to Mexico City and how there was so much to do and see in the city. He also told me about other places in Mexico – both to head for and to avoid (He’s clearly not a fan of Cancun – far too many tourists. As part of that conversation we started talking about safety and how the city has, like any other city, areas which are not so nice. He then informed me that Zona Rosa was not so nice because it’s full of lesbian bars (and presumably lesbians) and ‘those sorts of people’ and that was not so nice. Lovely, now that we have that out of the way, how do you say ‘you homophobic fuckwit’ in Spanish?
Anyway, I got to the airport, dropped my bag off, found a restaurant, had some food and settled down to do a bit of work. It’s been a great conference, a really good conference. I had my doubts before I set off. LSA is intense and it requires commitment and it requires networking and it can be overwhelming. I wasn’t entirely sure I was ready for that. But I did fine. I was perhaps a little less engaged than I have been at previous large conferences like this but not massively so. I also kept evening activities to a minimum to make sure I didn’t get too tired. I tried to look after myself and I accepted that sometimes my mind just wandered off and couldn’t stay focused on the session. I heard some fascinating work, I have a head full of ideas – most of them I’ll never follow up on but I don’t think that matters. It’s more about the inspiration and intellectual workout and stimulation that events like this provide. I’m exhausted and energised at the same time; tired and hyper at the same time, excited to be going home to process some of this and sad that it’s over at the same time.
I think this is me officially declaring my come-back!
I’m behind! It’s Day 4 now and I haven’t told you about day 3 yet! Well I really enjoyed Day 3. I gave my paper in the morning. It went ok I think. It was a slightly odd panel in terms of focus and fit but it was pretty well chaired and the discussant was good. Some of the general discussion was useful and the specific questions to me at the end and after the session were useful for clarifying some ideas. To help with that clarification process I went for a walk after my paper. I walked in the opposite direction to the day before and headed for the park. It was nice to get away from the hussle and bussle a bit although you’re never really away from it.
I lost track of time and suddenly realised that if I wanted to get back to hear Chris Ashford’s paper I’d have to get a move on. At the start of my trip I’d complained about people walking too slowly – I now understand why they do. Having to walk fast was actually not very nice and I was a bit of a hot and sweaty mess by the time I got back to the hotel. I enjoyed the panel Chris was part of – some interesting thoughts there on law/ science/ regulation nexus . I’m looking forward to hearing more from Chris on Queer Legal Praxis which I think is a really interesting idea.
After Chris’ session I had a bit of time out – I’d actually planned to just catch up on some other things for the rest of the afternoon and then head to the reception in the evening. I was restless though and couldn’t really settle to anything so I went to another panel – this one on women academics. I enjoyed hearing about Olive Stone and the work Rosemary Auchmuty has done on her life. As she was talking, I was struck by a point that Rosemary actually made later on, I find Olive interesting partly because she’s not famous, because she wasn’t the first women because she was ‘just’ Olive. She was extraordinary in the same way we all are – by just getting on with her life. Hearing the biography of a woman who was one of the first women legal academics but not the first and exploring her contribution really highlighted the importance of feminist biographies and studying and capturing the every day because it is the every day where change is embedded and becomes the new normal.
Anyway, after that I dumped my stuff in my room and then it was time to get the bus to the reception – traffic from inside a vehicle actually feels less chaotic than it looks when you’re on foot but, I could have walked there – the venue was back in the park where I’d walked earlier. It was useful to be on the bus though because it meant I got chatting to people on the way. The venue was stunning and had great views across the city. We were treated to a concert of classical Mexican music for a quartet (piano, flute, violin and cello) and then there was a wine and canapes reception. It was a little annoying because the programme had said there’d be food and many people hadn’t eaten presuming there’d be a meal. I’ve hardly eaten anything since I’ve been here really. I’ve just not been hungry. I’ve had lots of fruit pots from street vendors but the idea of tucking into your typical Mexican street food in the heat just hasn’t appealed. I was quite happy with a few canapes and a glass of wine but there were grumbles.
At the reception I spoke to a couple of people who I’d previously only ‘met’ on twitter and a couple of people who I’d never met before. It was a nice evening and rounded of a very good academic day indeed. At 10pm the buses picked us up and so I was tucked up in bed fast asleep by 11pm.
Some of you may have been expecting frantic tweeting from the conference but quite honestly, These huge conferences are too intense to keep up the live tweeting, there are lots of papers in each session and I can’t keep up. Also (and the real reason I’m not even trying) is that I have a new very cool notebook and I adore new notebooks. There’s something about the promise of those empty pages and I love starting a new notebook with something like a conference because that means that at least the start will be exciting, inspiring and full of ideas. I’ve gone old school. I have actually been writing stuff down!
Anyway, I am at the annual Law and Society Association conference which this year happens to be in Mexico City. Here’s how I got here. Feel free to stop reading now – it’ll be me rambling on- mainly because I think me getting and then being here has the potential to hit – or completely wallop – a huge number of my anxiety triggers. Writing helps me be more aware of that and how I am doing managing anxiety, exhaustion and stress levels. In other words, this post is for me not you. You’re welcome to come figure it out with me though
I had a very long Monday yesterday, leaving the house about 5.30 to get to Manchester airport. So possible trigger number 1: Tiredness. Tiredness is funny – I still get unreasonably tired in certain situations, I find being around people exhausting (oops) but also being tired, even if not anxiety related, means I deal less well with potential triggers and am more likely to become anxious. Anyway, I thought I’d left ages so I could have breakfast there and have a nice relaxed trip but instead I spent over 90 minutes in the security queue and had to jog to the gate. Never mind, I thought I’d have enough time at Frankfurt airport to just chill out a little bit and sit with coffee. Nope, that airport is hideous and I think specially designed to fuck with people who already don’t have a sense of direction. I don’t know if I got lost or went wrong or whether it was just an idiotic and long way but I got to the gate as they announced boarding would be in ten minutes – I got to pee at least. Several triggers there: Things not going as planned, having to do something different to how I had imagined it, running late, not being in control. I was a little antsy but ok.
The flight was fine – no chance of getting any work done really, although I did read a little. Mostly I watched films though. I started, maybe foolishly with I, Daniel Blake. Hm, I’m not quite sure what to think but I’ll untangle that another time – it is however hard hitting and I cried a fair bit (it’s a film, of course I did, I cry at anything if you stick it on the telly box) – so that sorted the possible awkwardness about having to speak to the person next to me. We spent 12 hours ignoring that we were basically sat on each others knee. Trigger: Feeling forced to engage with people – didn’t apply. I then watched the new Beauty and the Beast (Don’t judge) and Emma Watson is brilliant. I vaguely thought about going back to something serious then but instead watched Sing which was quite fun but twice as long as it needs to be. I dozed off for a bit.
Arrival in Mexico brought another queue – an hour or so this time but then I was through immigration and customs. I don’t like immigration control. I don’t like that feeling of some official being in complete control of your destiny. They decide if you continue or have to turn back. I realised I find this worse when I know I can’t adequately communicate with the official. I got frustrated at myself for not keeping up with learning Spanish, for always getting so far and then dropping it. It’s not a difficult language, it just takes a bit of self discipline and I still understand much more than I thought I would but I can say almost nothing. I had an hour in the queue to get properly irritated with myself.
I was nervous about getting a taxi, I’m not normally edgy about travel. I think as a woman travelling on your own you always need to be aware of what’s going on around you and of course in same places that applies more than others. I read the safety stuff, I knew where to get an authorised taxi and all of that but so many people were so adamant about how dangerous Mexico City is and how I must be careful (how do you do that exactly? Be careful, I mean) that I’d got a bit spooked. I came out of customs, saw the authorised taxi counters, told the woman where I wanted to go, paid, found my taxi and off we went. It was fine. The thinking about it was far worse than just getting it done.
It wasn’t as busy as I expected and the journey took about 25 minutes. For the first part we were driving through slightly run down areas directly towards the sunset which was turning the sky a spectacular colour (and made the pollution haze quite visible). Then we turned though and the sky was less spectacular and the buildings started changing to more high rise and posh and then we were at the hotel. Alma at check in was lovely and found me a room with a big bed rather than 2 small ones which apparently was booked (University travel booked it form me and I just said to go for the cheapest) and it is also higher up so I get a bit more of a view. Well sort of
The hotel’s too posh so there was no way of avoiding the bell service – I hate not just being able to take my own bag and find my room but I was escorted by a lovely bloke who was at pains to stress that I shouldn’t just work at the conference but make sure I went out to see the beautiful city too. He didn’t get a tip because frankly I was too knackered to work it out and I only had big bills anyway I think. I’ve been feeling a bit bad about that ever since.
I managed to hang on until about 9.30 by unpacking my stuff and hanging my clothes up, checking Facebook etc and trying to check the online programme and I then collapsed into bed and slept through til 4am. I’m quite pleased with that.
I watched a selection of news channels for a bit and then went and found the gym. So altitude, jetlag and warmth are an interesting combination. I ran 2km on the treadmill – I was actually aiming for a very steady 5k but I was a puddle by 500 metres and panting like a dog on heat (sorry, not an image you needed). I gave running up as a bad job, did a quickish 5km on a bike and then hit the shower. Things not going to plan. I wanted to run 5km!
Then I had to go for breakfast. I was hoping to be early enough to not see anyone that would require a calculation of whether I know them well enough or not to do the whole ‘Hi, not I’m not being rude but no, you can’t talk to me pre coffee and I am certainly not going to sit with you’ thing. You see there are very few people I can tolerate at breakfast unless it’s pre-arranged. Breakfast is where I get myself and my brain (like we’re two separate things – weird) ready for what lies ahead. If I know I am meeting someone that’s fine, somehow that works but if it’s not planned, no no no! There’s only one person here who I’d be totally ok with (Hi Chris) in that situation. No offence to everyone else intended at all. It was fine, I was seated at a little table in a corner and understood enough Spanish to get coffee and be directed to the buffet. Win.
Next, I registered for the conference. It was still quiet so that was easy too. I had a quick flick through the programme and then decided that actually I wanted a little look outside given I hadn’t seen anything at all of Mexico City yet really.
I stepped outside for 15 minutes and then found a quiet spot to decide on the session. The programme is overwhelming. It’s nearly 200 pages! Quiet spaces are hard to find now the conference is in full swing. Going outside doesn’t help – it’s Mexico City! It worries me a little how this will play out over the next few days. My room may become my little sanctuary.
So why am I telling you this? Well this is the first major conference event I have been to since being ill. I did of course go to the Association of Law Teacher’s conference – but that was much much smaller and I was surrounded by friends. This event is a different ball game, it’s far away from home, it’s in a country where I don’t speak the language, I know very few people, it’s long and intense… This is a test as to how well I’m really doing. So I am telling you about the travel and all of that to give you the context for the next few days. Travel went well. Anxiety triggers were definitely there and I was anxious when time became an issue for both flights and I was anxious about the taxi and all of that but a manageable anxious. The same is true of this morning and going for breakfast and registration. It was all fine, I’m fine and I am excited to be here.