A Typical Day

Its 10:50pm. I just spent the last half hour walking buckets of water up to the bathroom to refill the “flushing water” drums. Not having consistent running water puts a lot into perspective.  

I’ve been trying for a few days now to write a “typical field day” blog post. Things like the above have been getting in the way. Constantly.

So. Welcome to the typical field day.

I wake up at 5ish am and mentally prepare for it all. I’m out of bed by 0530ish. Coffee in hand, I prepare for the day. It consists of making sure the field crews have their supplies and their radios are charged.

Then breakfast. I’m never hungry at breakfast but I know better. So I mechanically chew my rice + something. The most interactions with crew and students throughout the day are meal times. The tables are used up by different work activities so people fill into empty spots on benches, the floor or sporadic chairs.  Cross talk happens a lot.

The mornings are hectic. Everyone tries to get their chores done, their breakfasts eaten, and themselves ready. All by 7am. Because at 7am we are loaded up on the Jeepney and rumbling off to the site. Because at 7am there is no time to grab that last something you forgot. Adam is hollering “load up!” in general. And we are hollering “load up!” to our crews.

Grads riding the jeepney  

Grads riding the jeepney  

It’s a sometimes bumpy road mostly it’s a windy road. From the road the valley of terraced rice fields splays out and the mountains rise up behind those. Along the road are homes and business. People, chickens, and dogs go about their days. We get a vignette of these on the way down and the way back up. Sometimes there are kids. Some yell “Americanu” up at us. Some wave, laughing when we wave back. My mind often wanders. There’s more and more to think about.

When we roll up and I step off that ladder, I am back to it. Now I think about the field, what my objective for the day is. Whether I’ll miss a step on the way to the site.

We trek to the site. I haven’t timed it yet. We get quite the variety of views. We start off from the gravel yard, through rice fields, along terrace walls, across bridges, and hopping river stones. It’s a beautiful walk, somewhat treacherous. Usually the walk wakes me up. We file into our base of operations, the granary.

Crossing the metal bridge

Crossing the metal bridge

It’s a granary that’s somewhat central to the entire terrace property. It’s there we store our tools. The day takes off from there. My fellow crew leaders and myself consult our notes and then get our teams organized and working. This can often be challenging. There isn’t a routine day in the field. Our job is to make sure the archaeology gets taught, gets done, and is organized. This means more than managing, it means teaching the thought behind the method. They should learn from us the how and the why, so that by the end of the field school they can make their own decisions based on the underlying thinking.

Hopefully I do my end well enough. My students are generally on top of things. What seems to always get us is the humid heat. As we work the sun draws the moisture from the fields and seems to deposite it on our arms.

Breaks are frequent and the lunch break is nap time for some. I spend it listening to conversation and decompressing.

Its 3ish when we close up and make the trek back to the jeepney and ride back to headquarters, the SITMo (Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement) office. On arrival, we debrief while our funk ferments. Then we have a break while we take turns showering.

Emily, one of the students, walking back after a long day

Emily, one of the students, walking back after a long day

Evening lab work begins for those assigned and the rest work on other things. For me, the second half of the day goes by very quickly. Dinner comes fast and then there’s more to do. Write reports, collect reports, finish lab work, prep the next morning and then off to bed by 10 or 11.

There is often a beer or two spread out throughout the evening.

That’s my field day except for when there are exceptions; which routinely happen.


June 20 2016 - First Days

It is super cool that I live in a time where I can hop on a plane and be across the Pacific in a day's worth of travel. Sure beats languishing on a boat. My taxi driver from the airport last night joked that I should take him with me when I go back home. Even though it was just a joke there is something of a slight hope in the jest. I am remarkably privileged to be doing what I do and I'm super grateful that I'm back here in the Philippines with people I care about for the 4th time.

As I write this post, I'm sitting in my hotel room waiting for Maddie so we can go and get a late dinner (update: she went to sleep). My roommates (Marko and Jared), both of whom I met in 2014, are still M.I.A. I imagine the traffic has something to do with it (Update: they were slow). This is the first alone time I've had since I was packing my bags on the night of the 17th and Glen was asleep on the couch because she didn't want to waste time sleeping when she could be spending time with me. But she fell asleep anyway, so I slipped a blanket over her. Leaving her that next morning was pretty hard and I find myself thinking about her on most of my downtime. Again, I got fortunate with Glen.

So anyway, I'm waiting for Maddie and I remembered that I wanted to start this blog. Finally, I'm doing it. I figured I would aim this field series at those people in my life who are interested in what I do but don't quite get the amount of detail they might want (you know who you are) because when I get back I'm not too keen on talking about it. So for those of you: I'm sorry about that. Jared said my writing is a bit robotic (I didn't use inhumane, against his wishes). That's because I'm tired and a feeling a bit like a robot.

For the other peeps who happen on this. Here is a glimpse into field work and field schools. Generally unedited.

The first few days are hectic. All my stuff is tightly packed into two backpacks (44 and 20 liters). I've refined my supplies and clothing to the point that I'm willing to call my packing job an art form. Maybe it's cheating that I buy a good amount of toiletries once we get to the town near the site. That town is Kiangan.

There's a level of stress that accompanies the knowledge that your lodging is ephemeral. 

Because all my things are so tightly packed I loathe changing because that means pulling clothes out of their compressed bag. I tried to set aside a couple sets but forgot to pull out the shirt I need for tomorrow.

Tomorrow is the big meet and greet. We introduce the perma-crew with the field school students and attempt to set the tone for the field school with our first mini-talk. Also tomorrow we take whoever wants to go to SM North (the closest mall) for last minute supply shopping and for mobile phone SIM cards.

Finally we will pack up our things (again) to load onto our bus that will take us to Kiangan, Ifugao. Traditionally this ride takes 9 hours and is freezing the whole time. Rest stops involve a lot of standing around outside the bus to thaw out our extremities and get blood flowing again. Every year Maddie and I take the time to make it abundantly clear to the students that the bus is freezing and every year someone doesn't actually believe us. The bus ride back down invariably involves a lot more blankets.

This field school requires more sweaters and blankets than most people think. People think 90 degrees and humid when they think the Philippines but it can get somewhat chilly when the rains start up in the mountains. It's notable that Baguio was conceived as a Manila away from Manila in the Summer for U.S. Officials in the early 1900's. I'm actually wearing a sweater in my room right now because I have the air-con blasting and I don't dare turn it down.


Welcome to IAP 5.0, More updates to come. You'll probably notice that these are posted on a time lag. Edits are graciously provided by Maddie and Jared