The beach has always been my space of reflexivity. Back in Spain, the noise and smell of the coast was something I looked for when in a doubtful situation. As I am in the learning process of how to become a researcher, my insecurities and doubts have brought me once again to look for answers on the sand.
It is a very windy day, but the sun is still shining enough to enjoy the view. I come accompanied by my housemate, who is sitting next to me playing reggae music and taking a break from his routine. He had university today, and by the looks of him, he seems tired but joyful. The atmosphere is relaxed, probably influenced by the sound of the music and the close relationship I have with my friend. While I enjoy a warm cup of coffee, I observe my surroundings. In front of me is the North Sea, notably dirty by its muddy and dark blue colors. However, after exchanging some words with my housemate on the matter, I realized that I am wrong. The muddy color is due to the strong currents lifting the sand in a cycle.
I notice a switch in the music, Western Girls by the Pet Shop Boys is playing while I spot a group of surfers fighting against the waves. However, the fighting in their case is transformed in art, the art of accompanying the wave. My interests in surfing are due to the multiple tryouts I experienced myself. Last year, I signed up for a couple of classes, and while I enjoyed it, I also learned to appreciate the complexity of the sport. Suddenly, a group of old Dutch men approaches the sea in their swimsuits. I am shocked. I would never swim in the sea with this cold. While living on an island, I only swam when it was at least 30 degrees. They start warming up by doing some pushups, and they jump in the water. This is very amusing to me and seems very typically Dutch because I remember seeing a video of thousands of Dutch people running towards the sea on New Year’s Eve with their notably orange wetsuits. All of a sudden, in front of me, an interaction of different parties comes into place. While the Dutch men are swimming, a group of people is doing sports, a woman is walking her dog, and a man is Kate-surfing. This interaction is somewhat unusual for me. I probably pay more attention to the detail of the activities due to this strangeness. While living on an island in Spain, everything I could see at the beach was people scuba diving swimming and sunbathing. Looking towards the horizon, four oil tankers are waiting to go to Rotterdam Harbor. They wait until the oil prices are high to sell the product. At least this is what my housemate says.
After a while, I thought to myself: what do I make of all these observations? My experience as a researcher reminds me of that of an artist. By choosing and giving emotional meaning to all of these elements, I was unconsciously creating a mental painting in my mind. Art has always played a massive role in my life. As a daughter of an art dealer, I have grown out surrounded by artists and paintings. My role as a researcher is influenced by this. My reflections on a situation, or in this case, the different interactions on the beach are always related back to art. The art of surfing, or the contrast of the clouds and lights on the horizon shining on the different passengers. Art also influences me to look for a deeper meaning, to go further than just rational thinking.
On a more academic level, as I reflect on my role as a researcher, I realize that the conclusions I draw from the data gathered are almost always directly influenced by my past experiences. The sole action of choosing a beach is, as abovementioned, already a very personal choice. To my surprise, my main assumptions changed throughout the time I spent on the beach. Initially, I believed I would only encounter a few people walking their dog and some couples enjoying a cup of coffee in a bar. However, I found myself surrounded by a diversity of activities involving human interaction. Even the surfers were exchanging their thoughts on the weather and their different experiences. Pleasure or business, Scheveningen is an active and lively place at the moment.