“How do you start a conversation?” Steve asked as we settled down to lunch in the Ugly Hookah Cafe. I had been torn over which group to join – the friends I’d met the night before (who I had just dubbed “peaceniks“) or these men who had clustered around the military officer who had just presented at the Dialogue under Occupation conference. “It’s always random, isn’t it?” I asked. “I like that, the theory of random,” said Kalawai’a. Steve continued, “one just needs a pretext.”
These graduate students in political science from the University of Hawai’i seduced me. I did not resist. They let me sit at the head of the table! Kuhio supplied notebook paper for me to take blog notes, declaiming, “If I’m going to be quoted, I want to be sure to speak sentences that don’t make sense.” The conversation included a preview of Keanu’s presentation about the Hawaiian Kingdom (there’s nothing like rubbing shoulders with a celebrity‘s cousin), some discussion of the morning’s keynote by Tove as well as her question challenging the motivations of the military in taking on social agency roles that seek to mitigate some brutalities of occupation, and otherwise getting to know each other – primarily through humor. 🙂
While munching, scribbling, and laughing, I compared the vibe with that of my dinner companions the previous evening. I can hardly describe my excitement when it dawned upon me that Robert was the Phillipson whose work on language policy in Europe was part of my grant proposal for preliminary dissertation research on “Multilingual Democracy: Community Interpreting and Transnational Citizenship.” I could hardly contain my sense of good fortune when he expressed curiousity in my research and invited me to join the dinner party. I didn’t meant to embarass Tove with my comment about hanging out with famous people, “I’m no good with that talk,” she murmured, but come on! Her work has been embraced by linguistic rights activists within the Deaf community for years. Shelley whipped out the flyer for her new book, Dialogic approaches to TESOL: Where the Ginkgo Tree Grows, as I tried to place the familiarity of her name, then Ruth walked up to join us too. [Available for download, an article on “The European Union in Cyber-Space: Multilingual Democratic Participation in a virtual public sphere?”] I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. 🙂
Once Larry remembered where he’d parked the car (!) and after a tightly-packed (cozy) ride, we enjoyed an outstanding Mexican meal including my first glass of horchata. Conversation ranged from defending multilingualism, through international politics (pleasure at US election results and glee over Rumsfeld’s resignation, the end of Merkel’s honeymoon, Putin’s scariness, the recent murder of a journalist covering human rights violations), and some ins/outs of getting published. Shelley and Ruth shared notes about becoming radicalized via the student movements of the 60s, while Tove informed us that the food composing an average American dinner table has traveled 1500 miles. Laughter, comraderie, and passion characterized the conversation. (Where is that photo Robert described as “suitably compromising”?)
The last conference where I enjoyed myself this much was in Aalborg, Denmark over a year ago (August 2005): Discourse Nexus 3.0. It is not a surprise that critical discourse analysis is the common theme; those who practice it are undoubtedly ‘my kind of people.’
This morning I am feeling grateful for these folk and our shared experiences. You’ve taught me much and shown me hope: a happy combination.
Background music: Ben Lee, “Begin“