Copacabana, Bolivia - August 2005
My text is my voice
So there’s a new voice around here, Danae’s voice. But before I start to use my voice and spread my word, let me tell you who I am.
A snapshot of myself draws a picture of a polyglot communicator with a PhD in linguistics and social anthropology. I work two jobs, one as a communication consultant at Anaphora and the other one as a university lecturer. On my CV, you will find scientific publications with renowned international publishers and talks given at famous universities, plus an award and a couple of grants.
But that’s not how I see myself. I see myself as someone who was lucky enough to be born with a gift and grateful enough to use this gift to help others. This means that I can make a living with my skills and enjoy it. At the same time, I am also a mother, a friend, a runner, a dancer, a loud laugher, a silent observer, and a lover of life.
Whatever I do, I do intensely.
Also this blog. It took me too long to start it because the journey has been intense, but here I go presenting the world through my lens. So, how has my lens come about? The story behind my lens in a nutshell is this: I have gone through top academic training and have been shaped by a life that is as close to people as it can get.
I grew up in a socially complex environment in Berne and picked up languages with ease. From my early days, I was very independent and engaged in activities of all sorts, like volleyball, girls scouts, and horseback riding. Accordingly, I never had outstanding grades but thanks to my improvisation and language skills, I managed to decently get through high school.
Off to new shores!
One month after finishing high school, I boarded a plane headed to the South American hinterlands. My plan was to work with a group of ornithologists in the Bolivian Pantanal for two months. After that, I spent a rather compelling six months in Southern Brazil before I decided to settle in breath-taking La Paz.
When I say breath-taking, I mean it. La Paz spans an Andean valley on 3,600 meters above sea level, and its thin air has you gasping for breath. La Paz is intense, especially from dusk till dawn when temperatures drop and people either hide away under a blanket or party all night. During my time in La Paz, I spent every single day out in the streets. I fought for the civil rights of African-descendants and volunteered as a translator for a human rights organization. I paid my bills teaching English to locals and Spanish to foreigners. If such a thing as cultural immersion exists, then that’s what I experienced.
My academic experience
After four years, I felt like getting a more solid education and decided to start studying linguistics and social anthropology at the University of Zurich. Once I got started, I couldn’t stop anymore. I rushed through my BA and MA degrees and found myself researching and teaching minority varieties of Spanish and English with inexhaustible energies.
I traveled to Bolivia, Paraguay, and the Caribbean to collect field data with the aim of documenting how Australian communists had set up a colony in the middle of nowhere, how isolated African-descendants in Bolivia had developed their own variety of Spanish, and how English is spoken in the Lesser Antilles. I successfully published my research, won an award and grants, got invited to give speeches at renowned universities, and presented my results at international conferences. The people I worked with were great. The purpose was great. The results were great. I loved it!
The only challenge was the fact that this type of research happens in academia. And unfortunately, research and academia are two different things. While I am fully committed to research, academia is a place where ideology prevails, and if you are not fully devoted to it, your research will not feed you. I just didn’t fit in. And given that I have two girls who depend on my income, I always had to freelance on top of my research activities. I taught business Spanish to bankers and revised manuscripts in English and German for academic and corporate clients.
By 2017, I had become a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Bremen funded by a prestigious Swiss National Science Foundation grant. Things looked promising for me to soon land a position as a professor. But at what cost? Was I bound to move somewhere with two little girls in tow and live a life under constant pressure to fit into a system that I wasn’t made for? No.
I decided to quit the professorial track.
Finding my path
To be honest, the road out of something you are truly good at is stony, and I stumbled a couple of times. A job at an international executive search company looked like a great match at first because the required skill set matched mine as an anthropologist and researcher, but the company culture wasn’t for me. I also tried working for a foundation, but life soon told me I should do my own thing and go independent. So, I co-founded Anaphora with the aim of building up something that will grow and remain instead of fading into the void.
So here I am, starting a blog on the Anaphora platform and all excited about it! Be sure to join the journey and keep expectations high! Because I will be giving you a different view on the world through my unusual lens.