my blog has fallen by the wayside over the past two months. I apologize for that and am here to let you know that I am alive and well, charging head-first into the final 3 weeks of my Watson year. My reticence has been, in part, due to how focused I’ve been on my project. Most of my energy has gone into ensuring I stay on top of my itinerary, following up with contacts, and catching all of my future busses. My silence has also been in part due to how quickly the last of my time is flying by. I want to stay “in the thick of it” and see my project through until the last possible moment. I figure I’ll have more than enough time to try and process it all once the year is over. Still, my interviews and activities have brought old ideas into stronger relief and equipped me with new tools to better articulate my thoughts. So, here’s me – writing dreadfully late as always – about the things I’m thinking about during this Watson year.
I’ve spent most of my time in Norway interviewing and volunteering with scientific researchers. After spending two weeks interviewing at the Norwegian University for the Life Sciences in southern Norway, I joined a few scientists to assist in sampling and more interviews at a small research station in Sunndalsøra (in the middle of the country).
From here I travelled even further north, into the Arctic circle, to visit Nord University in Bodø. Here, I conducted even more interviews and got to visit a smolt plant to assist in more scientific sampling.
After taking a short break to visit a friend in Sweden for the midsummer holiday, I returned to Norway where I am currently based in Bergen. While here, I’ll be visiting some salmon farms and a small lumpfish hatchery, speaking with fish feed manufacturers, and interviewing more scientists. Between these being the last 3 weeks of my project, and the fact that Norway collectively shuts down during the month of July, it feels as if I am no longer entering the final stretch of the Watson year but literally flying across the finish line as I write.
This about brings us up to the nuts and bolts of the past 1.5 months. But its hard for me to figure out what to write next. I can tell you what I’ve learned about salmon aquaculture in Norway (that despite mostly sustainable farming practices the industry is still perceived negatively by large swathes of the public, or that despite being one of the richest countries in the world, there are still challenges to be faced in aquaculture production). I can tell you what I’ve learned about myself (that despite new challenges, I can circumvent, redirect, overcome). I can tell you what I’ve been trying to articulate for most of this year (that aquaculture – as an abstract idea rather than embodied practice – is negatively perceived as another agribusiness monolith despite the immense variation in practice from farm to farm, region to region, and country to country). And I can tell you that my project and I have become so entangled with each other that it’s often hard to draw a line between what I’ve learned about aquaculture and what I’ve learned about myself. The only challenge is that I’m not yet at a place where I can connect all these pieces into a larger, more cohesive picture. I’ve leaving that until after the year is over, after the dust settles a bit. For now, I’ll just have to share the bits and pieces that continue popping up during my year.
I find myself simultaneously excited for and dreading the profound familiarity of coming home. I have dreamed about all the (authentic) Chinese food I’m going to eat, how easy it will be to hop on the local bus that I took every day in high school, and how nice it will be to have an actual summer (because even though its July in Norway, I still wear a sweater pretty regularly). But having a definitive flight home, coupled with the realization that I will come to a screeching halt, has given me reason to pause. What comes next, although perhaps less exhilarating than a year of travel, is just as mysterious and opaque to me as the Watson was when I first started out.