Presenting a paper?!

Today (04/01/08) around 1 pm I received a message from Gisela Seidenstricker-Brikay, an expatriate researcher based at the University of Maiduguri, asking me whether I could possibly present a paper about my research, past or now, next Friday. My first reaction was: No way I’m not going to do that, I’m not feeling ready to present anything, last of all my undigested impressions of the Creative Arts Department at the University of Maiduguri to a room full of members of this same university!!! On second thought, I tried to see it as an opportunity to get feedback, hints and corrections on what I have been doing so far – and as a means to force me back into focus after the holiday period. Honestly, I’ve become lazy!!! But, in my defence: There were hardly any students or lecturers around, the owners of most of the art shops also travelled. And, hmmm, my mind was somewhere else … Fichtenwalde, Berlin, London, … and, last but not least, trying to figure out how to navigate local moral standards and still enjoy an occasional dinner at the local Lebanese restaurant. Not that I have to come to any conclusions in this regard. – Yes, forgive me: I love most of the local food and especially the women of my host family always rustle up some delicious food but once in a while I really feel like something different … and I don’t mind the company either. So, I thought, yes, let’s do it and hope the pressure will get me focused and organised again. But now, a few hours later I’m panicking at the very thought of it.
For once, I don’t really know what to present. I mean, yes, I’ve talked to students and some lecturers, attended performances, went to Kano for the British Council Course on Islamic Art, talked to the owners of some of the independent little art shops in town BUT I don’t think I have properly digested all this yet, I still haven’t managed to locate a proper documentation of the department’s history or any kind of archival material (it doesn’t really help that the current Head of Department only occupies his post for about two years and doesn’t really seem to take any interest in the department’s history or that I’ve not been able to win serious attention from his predecessor Dr. A.L. Satti, who has been at the department for a long time but appears to be constantly too busy to see me for more then a split-second), haven’t still met all the lecturers at the department (its been exam period so they were not required to be around) or with others I’m just not good enough to impose myself onto their time, there are still many areas in town where I haven’t checked for art shops, and I not been to the local museum. And those are only the faults and gaps I’m spontaneously aware of!!! Arrrrghhh, what have I done the last two months?!
A second reason I’m extremely nervous is that I don’t yet really know the context of this presentation. Yes, she wrote it would be informal and the audience would be made up of university folk but how informal is informal in the Nigerian academic context?
The third one is my not very good experience with such research colloquiums in the past. You ask for feedback but what you sometimes get is an all-round dismissal without any constructive criticism or someone getting hooked upon some minor detail and ignoring the wider context and all the questions you actually had to completely destruct all your self-esteem and belief in yourself and your work.
So, what have I got myself into?!
Unfortunately it’s too late and I need to send her the details and title sometime tomorrow. So all that is left is to panic!!! … … … And once, I’m trough with this, go to bed, hope for the good old wonder of sleeping it over and pray for a Geistesblitz!!! Wallahi!

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