Wednesday, October 28, 2015

And I'm off! Round 1

After a busy few days of UK teaching, conferencing, and networking, I'm heading off to New York for some exciting meetings with diplomats, practitioners, and lawyers to discuss the protection of the environment in armed conflict at the UN.

Happily, my return flight happens to go through O'Hare with an overnight layover...which just happens to coincide with my good friend Hannah's birthday. She'll come grab me from the airport for a late night birthday celebration and a few hours' sleep at her brother's before I zip back to Britain...for a whopping 32 hours before leaving for Morocco fieldwork!

Exciting times ahead. I am going to be far too familiar with various suitcases and airports...but one can hardly complain. ;)

Monday, October 26, 2015


I've just finished a rather massively intense weekend conference, the Eighth International Workshop on Hydro-Hegemony. Following in the traditional of Mark Zeitoun, my UEA mentor, and Naho Mirumachi, my PhD supervisor, I talked a few other young researchers interested in water, law, and power into co-organising a teaching and theory workshop on the topics. 80 people from around the world (truly around the world - Canada, Australia, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia were all represented) gathered at King's for a participatory two days debating the structure and tools of international law. 
I certainly had a dandy time, and I think most of the others did as well!
I would say I'm now hiding and doing nothing for three days, but it's not true - I'm headed into campus now to teach a huge class of 120 undergrads about Israeli agricultural water policy. 
Buckle your seatbelts, folks!

In any case, cheers to my lovely co-conveners:

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Bye bye, Hamza!!

Adieu to a dear friend and his mum, who visited London for two weeks and I've just dropped at the airport back to Jordan. 
And now, home to frantically clean and catch up on some paperwork - because another mate is coming tomorrow! Just for a night, though. Miel de Botton, a songwriter and generous patron of the Jerusalem Youth Chorus, is singing at the Jazz Club Soho tomorrow evening. A group of gals and I are heading to see her and have a fun night out - because sometimes you need one of those on a random Monday!
The rest of the week starts a massive teaching streak...I'm into Norwich to give a lecture on the hydro social spiral on Thursday. The weekend is then the Eighth International Workshop on Hydro-Hegemony, followed by joint lecturing in my supervisor's classes on Monday and Tuesday. 

Ready, set, go!!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Intrepid Explorers Talk today!

Written in third person, as I'm stealing from the King's Water Blog:

King's Water PhD Student Becca Farnum gave a lunchtime seminar for the Intrepid Explorers group today. Undergraduates, postgraduate students and researchers, and staff came out to hear about Becca's time scuba diving in Kuwait and working with hydro-diplomacy activists in Israel and Palestine.

Farnum Intrepid Explorers Flyer 

Becca asked "To Veil or Not To Veil... Is That Really the Question?" about researcher experiences and values in the Middle East. Over the last seven years of her time at various universities, Becca has spent a total of about six months trotting between countries like Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Kuwait, Jordan, and Turkey. Her visits have included cheers of “Obama! Obama! America! Obama!" in Cairo’s outdoor markets after the democracy speech of 2009, international pickup games of football on the streets of the West Bank, and scuba diving in the Gulf. They’ve also included evacuations to bomb shelters during the 2014 war in Gaza, three-hour security interviews at borders, and cultural restrictions on clothing and physical activity. The talk considered the challenges – and joys – of spending time in cultures generally misunderstood and overly stereotyped in Western media and research. Using stories from her time in the field, Becca reflected on ‘meta methodology’ issues, such as how to respectfully approach differing moralities, gender norms, or understandings of law and justice without losing one’s own identity or being untrue to personal values. Contemplating what it means to be intrepid, Becca de-mystified the Middle East even as she encouraged the re-mystification of the familiar.
Farnum IE Talk 15 October 2015 - 3 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

"...being human comes before every conflict"

As many of you know, I volunteer for The Jerusalem Youth Chorus, a programme for Israeli and Palestinian students that empowers young singers to become leaders for peace in their communities by providing a space where they can engage one another in musical and verbal dialogue.

One of the biggest challenges faced by the Chorus and its members is the mandatory service for young Israelis, as the students try to navigate their values, security, and friendships. Evyatar Ofri, one of the founding members of the Chorus and a star of the “Home” music video, recently had an encounter while on his service that captures the impacts the choir is trying to make on greater scales.

Regardless of what you think of the military structures and broader systems of power currently governing his life, Evyatar is reaching out compassionately and powerfully. Thanks in large part to his time with the Chorus, Evyatar is equipped not only with the tools to hurt but also the tools to heal.

Translated from his Hebrew, Evyatar says:
"Today I met one of the most beautiful little girls I've ever seen, an Arab girl about 10 years old. She was looking for some food in a trash can about 500 meters away from where I serve in the desert. I noticed her while I was cleaning our site and took the trash out. She was standing there with her two donkeys, looking for food in the garbage, and having no success. She was wearing rags and a smile, barefoot with wild hair, yet at the same time very cute. I asked her what her name was in Arabic: Ranin.
"Then I asked her to wait a minute (stanna shwayeh), and I went as fast as I could to my room, took a box of my favorite cereal with me, and brought it back to her. The smile that she had on her face made my day, and even with the language barrier we understood each other.
"In that moment, this little girl reminded me that behind every religion, race or gender there are people, and human beings that just want to be happy and live peacefully, and we should never forget that being human comes before every conflict."

Saturday, October 10, 2015

"Doctor Who" Day

In the name of geekiness, Hamza and I took a day trip to Cardiff to visit the "Doctor Who" Experience.

It's a bit of a long journey, but the beauty of this island's public transit systems make it very possible.

Hamza was just a bit excited:

I was, of course, far more cool and collected:

And we dragged my PhD mate Dan along, just for good measure:


One of the highlights is that Colin Baker, who played the Sixth Doctor, came to the Experience for a really fun Q&A session. He had loads of great memories, cheeky stories, and commentary on the current direction of the show.

And to round out a fabulous day, just a wee bit of ancient castle architecture and a great gimmick with rugby:

 All in all, I'm calling today a win. And catch up on plenty of work whilst rewatching old "Doctor Who" episodes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Upgrade Passed!

The process intricacies of a PhD are funny things. In the U.K., students are officially admitted, not as PhD students, but as MPhil researchers - studying for a slightly less advanced degree via research. After the first 12-18 months of study, we are expected to submit an upgrade report and have an examination - which is to say, we send in some writing based on what we've done thus far and what we're planning to do for the rest of our time, and then some staff members read and critique it and decide whether we're engaging adequately with the literature to successfully complete a PhD in a reasonable timeframe. 

My upgrade meeting was today...that is, I had a fun chat with smart people who care and know about my topic and care and know about me. Was a lovely time. And now I have officially and unconditionally passed the upgrade, so I am a PhD candidate and clear to do fieldwork and all that grand stuff. 

Now that that's dealt with...the house is out of muffins and my guests are complaining about the lack of baked goods. So I'm off to take care of that little detail. ;)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Cleaning, writing, and seeing people

After turning in 50,000 words for my PhD a few weeks ago, I have been attacking the house and cleaning like a maniac to be productive but not via a computer. I have also been (more slowly than I'd hoped) catching up on other non-PhD academic projects.

But mostly...I've been hanging out with friends. Which has been very good, particularly as I'll essentially be gone on fieldwork from November to April, with very small breaks in between countries.

The school term is back, which means an onslaught of new PhD and masters students at the Geography Department. Cue the various pub nights, massive cookie baking deliveries, and the like.

A friend from the University of East Anglia now doing a masters in London had her birthday on Wednesday; we went out last night to celebrate.

I went into one of my first schools from The Brilliant Club for a reunion and a celebration of one of the student's having her essays published. I made them Oreo cheesecake - a special request, though a stressful one, given that I don't like the stuff and so have very little skill with it. But it seemed to go over okay!

I've also been meeting the new Marshalls, slowly, one by one for various lunches and teas. It's a nice chance to try and get to know them outside the five minute chats inherent to large group receptions.

And so life goes.

Happy Fall, everyone!