Saturday, December 12, 2009

Where are you from?

It's a standard question that pretty much everyone asks, especially in academia where people move around a great deal:

Where are you from?

Yet, because young researchers do indeed change jobs frequently, it's not a question with an easy answer. For instance, do they mean "where are you from ..?" as in your current main residence when not visiting this institute? Or "where are you from ..?" as in the institute you were at before starting your current job? Or "where are you from..?"; the city your parents now live in and where you might refer to as home? Or "where are you from..?"; the place you spent most of your childhood and where you accumulated your accent?

For me, the answers span three continents which makes is a tad hard to produce a single all-purpose answer unless I was to say "Earth" and I'd rather hope that much was obvious (though don't always bank on it - I do work in Physics).

Of course, I ask this question myself as often as I receive it and while having this debate with someone in the same position (who I had indeed just addressed the question to) I came to the conclusion that what I was really asking him was:

Where would you be deported to if the government discovered astronomy was actually a cover for drug smuggling?

(You see X-rays from space do you? I think it's time to you sobered up, young man!)

I would hasten to add however, that it is purely coincidental that my answer to the above question is also where I am going for Christmas. Not deported, folks, not deported. There really is a universe in my computer that I built from cubes resembling virtual Lego bricks. (I think I win for being paid to believe that.)

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