Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Impressions and the Unknown

Anticipating Impressions
Years ago Sarah introduced me to a book by Le Corbusier entitled When the Cathedrals are White. We were getting ready for a trip to France and we planned to visit Notre Dame de Haut in a place called Ronchamp. Le Corbusier wrote in this book about the pleasures of anticipating a journey. I don’t know if I am feeling the pleasures that Le Corbusier anticipated. But I am certainly now feeling anticipation.
There is a lot of preparation entailed in leaving home for a period of time. I’d not realize how much. And there is no small amount of mental preparation. I am now asked if I am excited to be doing this. It’s not so much a feeling of excitement as it is a matter of trying to circumscribe the unknown in order to make this adventure slightly more predictable. I do have an apartment waiting for me—Gogebashvilli 43, #5. A picture of one of the rooms is added to photos. It took many emails to solve this piece of the unknown. And, of course, much remains to be discovered about this place.
Then there is the issue introduced by a colleague in sociology. Lory Dance says that when she does cross cultural research she is very much aware of the need to worry about “impression management.” This concept interests me. In some ways one can control the probable impressions that others will reach about one’s self. But, in other ways, this is very much out of control. I am told that being a Fulbrighter means a considerable elevation in esteem. But, I am also an American, a Nebraskan, a Vermonter, a husband and father, etc. So, I will have all these sub identities that I can’t shed which will in some ways influence how I am and thus how I am perceived. Why is this impression management important?
Well, if worrying about the unknown is inescapable, how one will be perceived in a different culture has to be part of that. But more importantly, I will be teaching at a university in Tblissi. I know little about Ilia Chavchavadze University. I am told I’ll probably be working with graduate students on research methods in education. I will also be gathering data in schools in Georgia on the extent of educational reforms, particularly as these apply to school administrators.
This later was one of my main reasons for applying for this Fulbright in the first place. On the surface of things, Georgia was one of those former Soviet bloc nations that degenerated into extensive corruption after the Soviet collapse. One bought one’s grades, one bought one’s spot in the university, one bought one’s job. The Ministry of Education has purportedly sought to eliminate such practices. One of my interests is whether or not this has been done. If it has, how and to what effect.? This could lead to important suggestions to other countries in this part of the world that struggle to increase merit and equity in their national education systems.
I’m told that posts in blogspots should be short. More in another post.


  1. Thanks for the invitation to read your Fulbright blog. I look forward to following the chronicle of your experiences. Your research project should be particularly interesting.

    I expect the blog to be very helpful in your "after" the Fulbright writing as well....thick and rich and so forth.

    Great initiative, thanks, marilyn

  2. Thanks for the invite Miles. I used to teach French and spent quite a bit of time in Europe. I wish someone had taught me about "impression management" before I travelled.