Just back from England--Sheffield to be exact--from an international women and gender history conference. As most people who know me are aware, I do not enjoy traveling. But this conference experience--my first visit to England--was great.
Okay, admittedly (and in retrospect I should have expected this of us) Nicola and I couldn't find each other in Paddington station when I arrived in London. I had to travel to Sheffield on my own. But, once we were there we had a grand time.
I had good coffee, good food, good wine...and, most important: great company. I got to see Jo before and after our panel; it's crazy to think that I haven't seen her in about three years. I had lunch with Minnie, my lifelong mentor and one of the keynote speakers (so inspiring) at the conference. Nicola even let me tag along with some of her friends for definitively English experiences: cream tea, a walk in the Yorkshire countryside, and time in a traditional pub and beer garden.
The panel itself was fabulous. Only a few in attendance, but we were all engaged in such energizing intellectual exchange, and now we have plans to expand our comparisons of domestic servitude world wide, perhaps aiming to publish the pieces together. I love the collaborative energy of a conference like this. So little ego, so much genuine interest in sharing ideas and moving them forward.
I even really liked Sheffield itself. I wasn't expecting much, as I'd been told not to. Sheffield was once a big industrial city, but its glory days are past. Yet, I found the midlands beautiful, and I loved how close to the countryside it is. Moreover, it's a friendly city with a livable downtown. It's not posh, but then again that was one of its draws for me I suppose (given my blue-collar origins).
Oh, and though the skies were sometimes gray, it didn't rain! And it was wonderfully cool in Sheffield.
I had been rather dreading this trip--the travel, feeling uncertain about my paper, and (especially) feeling too rushed doing all this right before the start of the semester. But, miracle of miracles, this time energized me and reminded me about aspects of my work that I love. That, plus I got to hang out with really great people the whole time.
What great surprises have you experienced lately?