The Importance of Settling In
I have found that for me, becoming settled in to a new apartment is a very important ritual that helps me feel at peace and ready to conquer my research.
When I first arrived to Jordan, I stayed with a good friend for about 3 days before I could move into my apartment, and that also had some great advantages. I got the chance to meet other friends, both Jordanians and expats -- and also to learn how to get around the city, an introducting into the layout of the city. Then when I moved into my apartment, I had an idea of how to move around, and where I should go to buy the things I need.
Here in Tunisia, I was very luck to find such a lovely apartment near the old medina, and very close to the research center I am affiliated with, which will be very convenient, because it means I can walk quite a bit. However -- I just moved right in -- I still have to go get groceries and learn how to get around the city, with no guide or mediator. It is an interesting contrast to my arrival in Jordan.
This picture shows the view from my bedroom -- I love it! My ability to focus on my research and learning how to live in a new country is definitely improved when I have an amazing view from my bedroom, out onto a blue-white city. I think that I will be very happy here in Tunis.
However, I realize that part of the struggle in doing comparative research is really just the need to travel to such different places. Packing up and moving is difficulty -- I think I have spent the past 3 days just packing up one life, moving to another life, and then (trying to) get settled in there (i.e., here).
But this comparative aspect gives us a chance to learn new countries and contexts -- and as much as I value that type of research (my PhD is after all, in comparative education), it also means that we don't have the chance to specialize in one country, and we sacrifice some of the depth of knowledge that for example, anthropologists have. Nonetheless, I wouldn't trade this experience of travelling and learning about a new place for anything!