It takes a village to launch a Fulbright. I wanted to start this blog by thanking my village.
This is our second family Fulbright. Our year in Morocco began with a bit of a bang because of an email glitch that meant I didn’t learn that the award had been finalized until two weeks before we were due to leave the country. (We had decided to go with or without a Fulbright, with James connecting to Al Akhawayn University.) That meant that the last two weeks were consumed with last minute, high stress equipment purchases, medical clearance, and more logistics. This time, we promised ourselves, we would be organized and prepare well in advance.
News of the award arrived in early April, making us think we could keep that promise, but we failed to realize a key difference between research Fulbrights and teaching-and-research Fulbrights: in the former, you work to accomplish the plan you laid out in your proposal; in the latter, your placement may differ radically from what you thought you were signing up for. Instead of working on digital storytelling and a faculty pedagogy workshop across multiple campuses, I was being asked to help launch the first Bhutanese master’s program in English literature in the far east of the country. And there were certain logical inconsistencies in the award—such as the fact that the grant was specified as ten months, running from the beginning of August 2017 to the end of May 2018, but the spring term didn’t end until mid-June. I suggested quite strongly that the grant dates be revised, but this small change turned out to be far more complicated than I had anticipated (a taste of things to come, perhaps). So we found ourselves attending the pre-departure orientation in mid-June without being totally committed to going.
Would Jeremy be able to cope with the local school? How would he make friends? Could James make connections? Would Zoë be ok in such a remote location? Did I have the energy to pour into this new program after having burned myself out on Environmental Studies for three years? Somehow, we decided to go ahead without ever quite arriving at answers to these questions.
As a result, we found ourselves again having to rush toward a deadline—this time the deadline of an August 1st start date for the MA program, plus 7-10 days of traveling. Here are some of the people who helped us make that impossible deadline:
Marcia Brown, assistant to the provost, who wrote a letter confirming my employment and requesting an expedited passport for Jeremy, and who helped find me some additional research funding;
Tom Stephenson, provost, who came to campus from a day of working away, specifically to attest to the accuracy of my translation of my Yale PhD diploma so that it could be notarized and sent to Bhutan in support of a visa application;
David Harrison, linguist and associate provost, who tried to coach me on pronunciation and grammatical structures of Tshangla, language of the gods, as spoken in eastern Bhutan;
Ben Berger of the Lang Center for Social and Civic Responsibility who expedited procedures to get me some additional funding rapidly so that I could acquire additional digital storytelling equipment at speed;
Ashley Turner, who helped me brainstorm digital possibilities for teaching and connecting Swarthmore and Sherubtse/Yonphula and who loaned me an iPad pro so that I could practice teaching with it;
Andrew Ruether, who helped Ashley point me toward Moodle Cloud as a free version of a teaching platform (in the end, Sherubtse/Yonphula uses Moodle, so I was able to migrate my materials to their more standard platform);
Elizabeth Gonzales, who scanned over 50 books for the Yonphula program, both library books and books I had purchased for the program; and
Peggy Seiden, who not only underwrote Elizabeth’s labor, but also looked at other digital tools (such as e-granary) that might help the Yonphula program;
Pam Harris and Nat Anderson, who helped get my books back to my office;
Peter Schmidt and Connie Baxter, who cleared up some of the chaos of my departure;
My neighbor, Gretchen Makai, who helped me get a gyn exam at short notice so that I could get medical clearance;
Olivia Ortiz, who came to clear the garden the day before we left (and Zoë, who scanned endless books and chapters and helped prepare iPads for departure);
Hedgerow theatre and friends like the Costa-Bakers who kept Jeremy engaged and happy while the rest of us scurried around;
Kirsten and Jonathan Myers, who are fostering our dog Shula while we’re away;
Kim Schmucki, an ever-supportive friend, who helped with some of the last-minute craziness of leaving the country;
the Armon-Campobasso family and Sara and Elliot Hiebert-Burch, who stood ready (as ever) to help, despite being spread out across the continent, and who have helped welcome our tenants to the neighborhood;
Jigme and his parents, who talked with us about Bhutan, lending support and encouragement;
and the many people I am unintentionally omitting from this account. There are too many to thank—but we are nonetheless grateful for your support and assistance.