"So...," begins the conversation I've had approximately 1,247 times in the last month, "When do you leave for Africa?" Or, "What exotic place are you headed to this summer?"
It's usually asked by a sweet little old church lady who keeps me on her prayer list, or a friend I haven't seen in awhile, or a colleague whose office is still in the Cubicles of Doom and Despair and therefore with whom I rarely have conversations.
And it's an entirely reasonable question. It's been four years since I really spent a summer in Austin; five if we don't count 2004, when I was the youth intern and spent eight weeks of that summer at camp.
Well, friends, here's the shocking news that leads to looks of surprise and dismay among those who've been asking that big question: I'm not going to the Congo this summer. Or anywhere else in Africa. Or anywhere exotic, really, unless you count Peru, but a place with that much tourist infrastructure left the "tropical backwater" label behind a long time ago.
Yes, I'll be in Austin pretty much all summer, teaching in summer school, working on my dissertation, preparing for the hellish nightmare that is the academic job market, scheming to get to Big Bend before it gets intolerably hot, and spending as much time at Barton Springs and Two Ton Tuesdays as possible. Sorry to disappoint you.