Time for a little honesty. I think I did this London thing in order to have something to brag about. In the end, however, I lost the will to tell everyone about it and ended up telling nobody about it except now.
It’s close to a year since I got a taste of what Europe has to offer, and I must say, it did not come off sweet. Of course, London is amazing and breathtaking. The images of power evoked by pretty much every inch of this massive metropolis spoke of a deep history of privilege that I felt uncomfortable with coming from a former colony. To think that this country was not even my own colonizer–I guess I can just imagine how it would feel if I got to step into Spain or the United States!
I guess it begs the question, why did I come here in the first place? Well, to begin with, I passed a paper to the Royal Anthropological Institute. They were hosting one of their conferences and an existing paper of mine was a right fit for the theme. Next thing, because going to Europe was an expensive undertaking, I submitted a request for a travel grant from the government. Fortunately, I was given the support I needed in order to go there. More importantly, a co-author of my paper got an even better deal with her travel grant–and that covered the hotel expenses and provided a bit of pocket money. The only actual money I spent on this was for the visa application and the attendant costs of getting the grant and other processes done. Beyond that, it was just funded by the two grants.
Getting my paper accepted for presentation was already a sweet victory. Getting the grant and going to Europe virtually for free was crazy. However, in the course of getting that paper presented, I felt a bit deflated. There, I saw that the caliber of what we had to offer was quite minimal when compared with what was being presented left and right. The sheer sophistication and composition of their academic flexing of the muscles was intimidating. And being from a Third World country was not an excuse.
A colleague of mine, Lito, presented a very thorough paper that was impressive. In fact, his paper was eventually accepted for publication in a volume with other papers of equal caliber. These facts hurt my ego as I type it, but it was definitely well-deserved. I saw his presentation and my own paper cannot compare. I don’t know if this dejection ultimately caused my lethargy and disillusionment from my own studies–not that this is a valid excuse!
Anyway, it was a full week of being in London. We watched Les Miserables in the Globe Theater. We went to the Stonehenge. I visited Brighton beach and saw the University of Sussex where I have a pending application to become a PhD candidate–which I still have not worked on.
All in all, coming to London was an experience. It was not all positive, and I still feel somewhat haunted by my failures and the things I lack, but it was still something worth treasuring. Also, below is perhaps my favorite photo from the trip.