Received with open arms on our first Monday

It became clear to me Monday morning that the Murdoch Research Institute, my host organisation, is quite used to having visiting academics. All the practicalities of pass, office spot, and login had already been organised so I could glide right into work-mode. The Centre for Community Child Health in Melbourne feels like my second professional home. Never mind the fact that the original building was brought down and it is now housed in the wonderful new Children’s Hospital. I met people I have known for ten years, exchanged some updates on kids and professional news and then dove right into the project documentation I was handed by the wonderful project coordinator. These are the people all projects need and experienced researchers treasure: they own the project and know the nuts and bolts of getting it right, but not for their own dataset’s or PhD’s sake, but for their professional fulfilment. They are loyal to the project in a beautiful way and will kindly, but ever so persistently, push everyone – from printers to practitioners and participating families, to comply with the project plan. In the code of honour of researchers you respect them and back them up at all times. And you do NOT knick other people’s star project coordinators.

As soon as I entered the house Johanna came flying down the stairs: Mommy, I already have seven friends! Forget what I said about her being a slow warmer – that was obviously sheer projection. Joel added excitedly that he already had twelve and Fanny announced she was going shopping with some of her friends in the weekend… For all Sweden’s talk about an open society  – this is what openness is. Of course, we arrived with a visa – hard to get for most people who would need it – but I am not talking about politics. I could, because I detest detention camps, but so do most people I know here. No, I am talking about the attitudes of people once you’re here. Robert says the classes were obviously prepared for the newcomers with several kids volunteering for both Joel and Johanna to become their bench-mates. I am so relieved and so thankful. It is fantastic to have a child say: “Mom, I can’t wait to go to school”! I guess the beauty, who is “sweet like a sugar cube and smart as an owl”, that upset my six-year-old son’s heart, is just a bonus.

I have decided to spend three days a week at the Centre working on the project and two days working from home. The reason for the latter is to have time for things that don’t get done when routine work at home washes time away: to read the literature and write articles. I have a whole list of ideas, but I haven’t got a clue how I am going to go about it. It’s not that I don’t know how to write an article. But the pressure of REALLY doing something grand and important is huge. I need to justify this sabbatical period for myself, my funders, my co-workers… Sounds like a good way to block all inspiration, doesn’t it? Maybe I’ll just take the advice of my own fantastic project leader’s mother: If you have a lot to do you better start doing it. 

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