I’ve been organising a few informal meetups for AASRN and former asian-australian_discuss folk around Melbourne this year. Now that I’m based in the the city for work, it’s much easier to get people together over a lunchtime and see them more regularly. I’m greatly enjoying the proximity to my colleagues that being CBD-based offers, and am particularly liking the monthly AAI 4 and AAFF ‘work’ meetings.

On Monday this week, long-time AASRN member and Sydney-sider, Francis Maravillas was in town in a leisure capacity, which is a much nicer term than we were using in face-to-face conversation…! It was envy speaking, pure and simple. You can find out more about Francis at his International Network for Diasporic Asian Art Research (INDAAR) profile. We met at RMIT’s Pearson & Murphy’s cafe, which was absolutely busting at the seams with customers. That’s what the first day of second semester will do to a place. I imagine it will go back to its buzzy but civilised self by next week. As well as Francis and me, several others from AASRN and the now defunct asian-australian_discuss group came along to the meetup: Caitlin Nunn (who I hadn’t seen for AGES, and who I’ll be seeing again on Friday at her seminar for the MMRN gig), Oanh Tran, Jen Kwok, May Ngo, and Chi Vu (who’s doing a play reading at VCA on 19 August). Even with a fairly cosy group, it’s hard to find the time to chat with everyone in a hurried, slightly harried lunch hour. I do miss my 3-hour lunch meetings from the research fellowship days! It’s always a good thing, though, to leave always wanting more, and the others stayed on when I had to scurry back to my desk.

I was going to give up organising these events because I thought it was about time someone else did it – it has been me for the most part over the last 10 years, after all. What I’ve come to realise, and it’s even more true now that I’m in a non-academic role, is that I really want them to happen. I find them nourishing and fun. It keeps me in the loop about what people are doing, and it drives me to retain my interests in the field.

I’m very lucky in my work because it is academically focused all week, even though it may not be my academic work that’s under scrutiny. It keeps my focus on scholarly skills, the strategies in the university game, and reminds me constantly that I can’t stereotype people by the work they do.

I was asked – with some trepidation – by a colleague today: Why am I in the job I’m in, when I’ve done so much else in research and academia? It was strange trying to answer that question in a succinct way. I don’t think I did. My answer prompted him to chat about his career and life choices, as well as giving me valuable insight into how he might work with others and his research interests. It was a good conversation, all told. The most unfortunate aspect of it is that it took place in an open-plan office, which is very much the  wrong place for any meaningful discussion.