Apparently if you want to confuse people just try and "hang out" in the library. Well at this University at least. I'm trying to get more exposure around the University...exposure as in people know I'm around and though always the strange white lady not so strange that they can't trust me or talk to me. Not like I'm exposing myself. Just wanted to clarify. Ok, moving on.
I thought that today I'd go to the University and "hang out" e.g. get some work done on my laptop, put myself out there as someone who is working but a part of the University community. One of the first ideas I came up with was to head to the library and park myself there and observe and be observed. Sounds simple right? Students use the library, presumably, so I'd see them and they'd see me!
Well apparently that was my first mistake.
I mention to F that I'd like to go to the library and if he could just point me in the right direction I'd be happy to wander over. Well he grabs someone who was walking by (whom he knew) and said "S please take Lindsay to the library and introduce her to the Head Librarian." Ok, no biggie. Always good to have a formal introduction. So we head to the library and head to his office. After S introduces me to his secretary and explains why I am here she goes into the Librarian's office to tell him I'm here and what I want. He calls me in and I sit down. We talk a little bit about why I'm here generally at the University and why I am here at the library. He doesn't seem to understand the concept of "hanging out" (even though I expressed it differently, because I would rarely if ever use that term here) and tells me that they do not have very many public health resources available but I am welcome to check out whatever I find interesting. He said normally he would request a letter from the President's Office to allow me to be in the library (how's that for formal?) but since he saw me at the Staff Development Training and S brought me over on behalf of the President he will assume I already have his permission. Whew. Then he tells me he is a very busy man and will not have time to be available for my needs so he is going to call the Reading Room Librarian. Thank you so much sir.
The Reading Room Librarian comes to fetch me and we go down to his office. It takes about 10 minutes of discussion for him to understand what I actually want from him (really, nothing. Just a place to "hang out!"). First he tells me I can use his private office. No, that wouldn't give me exposure. Then he tells me that discussions are not allowed in the library. Ok, that's fine. I won't have any discussions, I'll just park it and work. But he doesn't seem to think that is a great idea. He asks if I have fliers that he can pass out so people know why I'm here and they can direct people to me. Um, no, that's a little formal and I'm not quite at the stage where I want to speak with anyone specific. I just want to HANG OUT, BE SEEN, and OBSERVE! I was trying to explain the concept of "just being seen" but it took a while for him to either understand what I was really looking for or to believe that is really all I wanted. Finally he seemed to either give in or give up and brought me to the "Digital Room" which is like their computer lab in the library. Great, fine. I can get some work done. The only downside is that it is tucked back in the office area and has only 6 computers and they don't allow flash drives to be used. Sigh. The person in charge of the Digital Room however is very nice and says he can scan my flash drive (for viruses) and make an exception for me. Super. Then he realizes I have my laptop with me and says he can give me a cord so I can hook my laptop up directly. Even better.
So here I am. Only one other person has come in the room, but at least I am blogging and getting some other stuff done. It's always funny when you have these unintended cultural mix-ups/confusion. There are always things I am expecting and know I will have to work through, but sometimes they come up and bite you unintentionally and since I'm a good sport and used to this sort of thing it usually turns out fine and just gives me a good story. But for those of you who are less experienced traveling internationally, just a lesson for you to think about if you should travel abroad and find yourself in a similar situation!