As I have mentioned, I have two cats—Maggie and Chip and they are very different. Maggie can’t be bothered to run away. If she gets outside, she just plops down on the sidewalk in the sun or grazes in the grass. She likes being outside–she just doesn’t go far. Mr. Chips is a different kind of cat. He looks for every opportunity to run outside. He’s jumped out windows, escaped from the garage, and I swear one time I saw him tying bedsheets into a rope. He is fast and more than once I’ve chased him through the neighborhood in my robe and slippers, screaming “I’m going to turn you into ear-muffs if I catch you” (I would not, but it feels good to yell that).
I’m like Maggie. But today I am in the airport en-route to Kassel Germany via Frankfort. I’d be happy to stay in my “cozy apartment” (that is how it is advertised) find my sun spot and watch TV and follow my little routine, but I told myself when I accepted this Fulbright that this was the time in my life to say “yes” to opportunities. My colleague Sigrid James, formerly from the USA but now living back in her home country, extended an invitation for me to teach and to view some residential programs in Germany. Sigrid is one of the experts in out-of-home care and a friend, and I’ve very happy to spend time with her and her colleagues at University of Kassel. I teach two classes and a seminar and visit three programs to make contacts and collect data, one of which is a center for unaccompanied refugees. The University of Pittsburgh University Center for International Studies funded my travel and support of this research.
My time here has helped me to think about the potential my research has for extending an understanding of “home” beyond the rather limited academic path that I’ve taken with it.
Although Portugal does not have a lot of refugees, it has a group of involved researchers at my university, who have been studying how the refugee experience impacts education. I also personally have thought a lot about home and what makes something restrictive or not, just from my own experiences of living in several kinds of places in Porto. So, this house cat is on her way.