This week I’m in the field. The field. That term is thrown around so much by those development folk. For me, it means going to the real Cambodia. When I first moved here, a friend mentioned to me that “Cambodia’s 20 minutes outside of Phnom Penh.” And he’s absolutely right. I find it refreshing to get out of this emerging little Asian city that comes with all the congestion of development and into the countryside. But this also means that I need to bring some gear with me to keep me afloat, a little more sane and all the gears running so I can get the work done. Here are some of the bits and pieces I definitely have along with me this week (and a big bottle of hand sanitizer of course).
1. Mountain Equipment Co-op Pika Daypack
Like any true Canadian, I’ve got one of these little guys. And they’re so incredibly helpful to carry everything I need while conducting research in the field. They may be small, but they’re another one of those Mary Poppins bags. I’ve had this one for the last few years and it’s still going strong. I love the throwback model that MEC’s got up now too.
2. Electrolytes (similar here)
It gets really hot. Like seriously WTF, how can this really happen? hot. And eventually, you’ve sweated out everything and not only do you need water, but also sugar and some minerals to fight against that dehydration drunkenness that will ensue. Oh right, a pesky stomach bug might hit you too. So I like to keep these little packets of electrolyte replacement powder that they sell at pharmacies all over Asia on hand. And they come in snazzy new flavours too (hello JELLO strawberry).
3. Cotton scarves (similar here)
For two things. In no particular order: sopping up sweat (see above) and making that no frills field outfit look a little hipper. Friends are also always asking why the heck I’m wearing a scarf if it’s so goddamn hot. Well not only is it sopping up that sweat, the moisture is going to keep the back of your neck a little cooler. This I learned from some Sri Lankan and Filipino colleagues and I feel like they know.
4. Books, books and more books (a, b, c)
There’s a lot of downtime during field work. In most cases, I’ll be attempting to take notes while a colleague facilitates a focus group discussion in a village. But eventually, there’s only so much I can do. So I always make sure I have a book on hand. Preferably a physical one so I don’t distract anyone by waving a very conspicuous e-reader around.
Like I’ve said before, I’ve been blessed with a complexion that doesn’t lend itself to burning (not bragging!). But I am very aware of protecting my skin from evil UV rays. And since my mom stowed this in my bags when I first left Canada, I haven’t been able to stop using LaRoche Posay’s incredibly light and moisturizing SPF 30 sunscreen which is perfect for facial coverage and applicable everywhere else!
6. Granola Bars
This goes into the same boat as the electrolytes. You don’t want to see me get hangry. Nor do you want to see me go into a hypoglycemic stupor. These guys keep me in check between meals.
I can’t even begin to describe how much I love these shirts. They are so freaking light. They make me look like I have a modicum of professionalism. I also feel like they somehow give me some cred, or I’m channeling Dr. Ellie Sattler or something like that.
Field notes! Always so many field notes! I pretty much have to document everything. And everything goes into these perfectly sized and ruled Moleskines. Plus they take a good beating.
I rely on my iPhone for pretty much everything from coordination to data collection. I need it to be fully powered at every point in a day when I’m out the field. This external battery saves my life and my work. All you do is charge it up before heading out, and it provides enough power to charge an iPhone six times over! You also look pretty good when you save the day for a boss or two.
10. Canon EOS Rebel
Clunky they are, those DSLRs, but I’m a fan of this guy. I’m often needing to document research while I’m collecting data, so this line of cameras come in handy for taking high quality shots. Not too bad for vacation photos either.