Thursday, October 01, 2009

September to October; Glasgow to Groningen

Entry for 1 October 2009:

Weds (30 Sept): Intense day discussing future of Counselling Unit as the University restructures. Lots to say about that, but maybe this is not the time or place to do it. Started orienting two therapists new to the Research Clinic; I could see that there was a lot to assimilate in this very complex research protocol, all the little bits that we’ve built up over the past 2 years. Worked with Anna, one of my PhD students on one of her ethics proposals; often it seems that the ethics proposal is the most labour-intensive part of my work with postgraduate research students.

Went home, helped Diane make a quick dinner, then our nightly dose of In Treatment: Week 7, episode 5, almost finished with season 1 of this amazing Israeli/American program about a psychodynamically-oriented therapist, four of his patients/clients, and his own therapy, which we follow for 8+ weeks, like a psychoanalytic soap-opera, which it is: Also intense, compelling. Last night was particularly amusing/poignant, as the therapist/protagonist, Paul, in for a couples session with his wife, Kate, gets dragged kicking and screaming by his therapist, Gina, into a a couples empathic listening exercise called Imago therapy. This turns out to be wildly successfull: Finally, after 8 weeks, he is able to listen to what his wife, Kate, has been trying to tell him… but is it too late? And what is the nature of the phone call he takes, somber-faced, as he and Kate leave the session? To find out, tune in next week! (But not from me; I don’t do spoilers…)

For once, I am reasonably well prepared for a trip: My handouts have been copied, thanks to a bit of help from Jeanette in our office, in exchange for some computer shopping advice. My slides may want a bit of fine tuning, but actually, it feels under control. Instead, I spend 3 hours plowing through another mountain of email, managing by my fingernails to keep my in-box down to 1100 (my new zero!). I only start packing for the next day's trip after 11pm, and manage to get to sleep sometime after 12.30am.

Thursday, 1 Oct: This is my youngest sister Louisa’s 50th birthday. (Yay, Louisa!) My family goes in for big celebrations on major milestone birthdays, and this one looks like a doozy... I’m sorry to have to miss it. Today is a travel day, one of those betwixt and between times that are like punctuation. I download 3 months of old email from my old account at the University of Toledo, finish packing my suitcase, etc. The taxi picks me up about quarter to 10, and it’s off to the Netherlands. The taxi driver is an unemployed rehabilitation therapist from Ghana; I end up telling him at the our postgrad diploma course in Counselling.

The day is lovely, mixed sun and cloud, light breeze, the flight uneventful. I sleep most of the way to Amsterdam, wait a long time for my suitcase, go out and buy my train ticket for Groningen and catch the 14.49 via Amersfort. How do the Dutch manage to keep their train lines so clean, trash-free, and well-manicured? Living in the UK, I always forget that it is possible to do so. At Amersfort, I have to change trains, but discover that it’s one of those split-train situations; at Zwolle, the front of the train will go on to Groningen, my destination, while the back of the train is destined for Leewarden. Anxiety: Am I on the right part of the train? (Once, trying to get to Brugge from Leuven, I ended up deep inside French-speaking Wallonia, so I take this seriously now.) As we pull into Zwolle, I am relieved to see that my part of the train has stopped in front of signs saying Groningen rather than Leewarden.

At Groningen, in the north of the Netherlands, instead of my usual 2-day EFT taster experience, I am going to try something new: Delivering the first half of EFT-1, with the second installment to follow, probably in March 2010. The Dutch PCE folks are eager to start up Dutch-language EFT training to compete with EFT – Couples (Sue Johnson and associates) and CBT, which dominates here as elsewhere. We are going to have to start a conversation, long over-due, about how to train the next generation of EFT trainers. I plan to work with Jeanne Watson and Les Greenberg to help our Dutch colleagues develop this training, which is planned as a top-up to a basic person-centred therapy training. I’m looking forward to it!

My hotel is the Hotel Corps de Garde, next to one of Groningen's canals and dating from the early 1600's, apparently built for the city guards to hang out. Retrofitted as a hotel, with eccentric metal circular staircase going partway up, then steep slanted stairs turning back on themselves to get me to the top. The woman from reception wants me to pay particular notice of the wooden beams, from 1628, prominently displayed outside (and it turns out, inside) my room. Renate has located 2 comic book ("strips" in Dutch) stores for me to track down volume 17 of Thorgal, a viking/heroic fantasy/science fiction graphic novel series that I have been working on for 5 years now as a way of practicing my Dutch. Both are closed (gesloten) by the time I get to them, but I run across a large bookstore that is still open, where, after some frustrated rumaging around, I manage to find the most recent number, volume 30, which I buy for want of a better alternative.

In my comic book quest, I've found the restaurant district in the old town, so I indulge one of my secret vices, doner kebab, before returning to my room to tackle the day's email and review my slides for tomorrow. As the evening progresses, the rain moves in, pounding against the skylights above and behind me. For a travel day, it's actually turned out to be fairly full.

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