(Update: I wrote this post this morning. Since then, I have found Internet! I had to pay for it, though.)
So I've made it through two absurdly long flights (on top of not having slept much the past few days anyway because of packing, and the amount of unrelated work stuff I had to finish while I knew I would still have reliable Internet access), and I'm now sitting in the lobby of a Courtyard by Marriott hotel outside the Prague airport, waiting for my laptop battery to charge. (Turns out I don't need to use the voltage adapter for it, by the way – the plug converter worked just fine, and my computer hasn't caught on fire yet. Yay.) Unfortunately, there is no free Internet in this particular lobby, and I'm writing this in OpenOffice. By the time you read this, it will be the future! ::cue sci-fi-music:: (Yes, I obviously need sleep.)
I got here a little after 7 a.m. (local time), and my flight to Warsaw doesn't leave until 2:30 p.m., and I have to change planes and re-check-in anyway...so I figured I would go outside and walk around a bit instead of sitting in the airport for the entire time. Hopefully having left the airport won't make the check-in process too much more complicated. Also, because of having to go through customs, I now have a stamp on my passport from a country I've actually visited (as opposed to just ones where I've only stopped in the airport). One lifelong goal accomplished! :P
So...pre-fieldwork. What does this mean, anyway? Anyone's guess is probably as good as mine, although Open Anthropology Cooperative has a good brief summary of pre-fieldwork and its purposes. Mainly I'm trying to go see in person some of the places I've spent the past year reading about, meet potential research contacts for when I come back to do my “real” fieldwork, and work on refining some of my research questions. Right now my explanation of what I study, when people ask me, is some variation of “memory and history practices in Poland, how this is played out in the relationship between individual and collective/public/cultural memory, and how and whether these practices are being changed by the introduction of digital media.” A clearer project proposal than this time last year, but still vague and a bit internally disconnected. I hope to have it slightly more refined by the time I go back to San Diego.
I purposely didn't schedule too many specific activities during this trip, other than taking a two-week language course, because I figure the more uncommitted time I have, the more time to meet up with potential fieldwork contacts and just generally take advantage of interesting opportunities that come up. (There are certain things I definitely plan to see and do, though.) The most important thing, I think, was getting here in the first place, then once here, trying to get out of my comfort zone, linguistically and otherwise, as much as possible. I know I won't be doing any official interviewing, since I don't have an IRB and my grasp of the Polish language is as yet nowhere near where it needs to be to do in-depth interviews. (I am hopeful that the latter of these two will improve, even if not be entirely rectified, after I've taken this class.) Still, probably the biggest thing I'm worried about is that I won't manage to do anything useful research-wise...for instance, that I'll only manage to meet other English-speaking travelers, or that I won't be able to find anyone who has time to talk to me at the museums, etc. that I'm going to visit. (Of course, there is the view that anything I do while in Poland will be informative for potential fieldwork, even if it only involves learning how not to do fieldwork.)
I can't check in until 12:30, so that gives me 3 ½ hours to wander around Prague. Goals for the next few hours: find Internet access (preferably free) [done]; get a phone card and/or access Skype through said Internet access [done]; call my parents and let them know I got here OK [done]; send off transcripts I did while on the plane [done]; e-mail people from the places around Warsaw I'm planning on visiting tomorrow; figure out whether I'm actually going to try and do anything tonight or just go to sleep when I get to my hostel.