Living in the field is wonderful! Every day is a new adventure and you are constantly exposed to new things – new people, new cultures, new experiences. I have loved all the Indonesian-related aspects of the field from the get-go! Indonesians are some of the nicest people I have ever met, amazingly friendly! Indonesian food is wonderful – as a vegan, I am enjoying the fact that tempeh and tofu are available at every step, as well as many traditional Indonesian dishes, such as gehu (look it up, you won’t regret it!) – and at such low prices! Indonesian nature I have already mentioned, but here’s another thing – I still can’t get over how huge some of the leaves in the forest are! My first shift in the field, I came back with a taro-taro leaf the size of my backpack. Not sure what my plan with it was, it’s been on our balcony since, but I saw it laying on the ground and could not resist picking it up! I know it’s completely silly, but this sort of thing blows my mind! Indonesian animals – I think it’s more than clear that I am enjoying being spoiled by the exposure to wildlife! Even the chickens here are free-ranging! Amazing!
The only issue that arises from this “all new all the time” pace is that everything is temporary. As happy as new experiences make me, I have come to a realisation that if I centre my happiness in temporary things, my happiness will be temporary as well. To avoid that, I am trying as much as I can to keep in touch with the constants in my life, for example my family and friends. Missing them is sometimes unavoidable, even in the most wonderful of life adventures. But more importantly, while us field people are having the time of our lives, the people we love, and who love us, are often still home, living their daily lives and missing us, the ones that left to have all of the amazing experiences without them. Staying in touch with them and letting them know we haven’t forgotten them is very, very important, not to mention nice! But sometimes an evil villain enters the scene in the form of the disappearing Internet connection!
While I think we’re lucky to have Internet in the first place, it can be very stressing (and potentially depressing) when the Internet goes out for a few days, especially if it happens on your birthday – yes, this happened to me! Things that have helped me deal with this unavoidable loneliness-inducing problem are, in the order of their appearance (and with some potential advice to others who find themselves in similar situations), the following:
Chocolate contains serotonin precursors, so this is a highly scientific thing to do! Always have a stash of your favourite chocolate, or other comfort food! For best results, find local comfort food, so you have something to miss when you go back home! The other way around is simply too main stream. You are better than that!
- Pictures of things I love
Pictures work (to an extent) because our brains, not to get too specific about it, process them in a similar way to processing reality. There are some limitations to this – if interested, please contact me and I’ll provide references! Tricking our brains is fun and luckily, as one of my favourite street artists once said (well, wrote) – It only takes your mind to trick you!
What works for me are pictures of Dublin, Ireland. These I always keep by my bed – because mornings are hard! This sounds random, as I am clearly not Irish (Hello, Croatia, I love you as well!!!) and nobody understands my love for Dublin. To be honest, not even I understand it. But love is to be felt and not questioned, so long live the inexplicable love!
Equally good remedies are the pictures of my dogs, Dublin (who saw that one coming?) and Bluma. Pictures of pets (or alternatively, any cute animals; although it’s better if there’s a previous emotional connection!) easily override any bad feelings with warm, fuzzy feelings. Because oxytocin rules!
A nature walk, also known as “the shift”
Spending time in nature heals most of lifes troubles! I really believe that many of the problems humanity currently faces could be resolved if all of us would collectively realise that we are nature and nature is us. There is a reason why this connection is so deeply felt when we allow ourselves to get completely immersed in it. Let yourself feel the nature around you. But be careful if you tend to “feel and tell” – letting people know you felt a strong connection to a particular tree will quickly get you labelled as a hippie tree-hugger (I’m giving you a virtual high five in advance, but others may see this as a negative thing! Because people are sometimes the worst! But don’t let that stop you!), so don’t be like me (Or, be like me, we need more tree-huggers because trees are awesome!) and keep that sort of information to yourself (Or again, don’t! Tree love for life!).
Trying to become friends with people at hand
This one is tricky. It is funny how sometimes friendships with people you seemingly have a lot in common somehow just don’t happen. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t be discouraged. Try again. Bond. Share feelings. Gossip. Annoy them into liking you. You may not have anywhere to escape and find new people, but remember, neither do they!
Allow multiple trials, at least 30 (because 30 is the magical number of parametric stats, and you want to use them! They are fun and sophisticated, sort of like you think you are! Most people don’t like them either, so you have that in common as well! It was meant to be!). After 30 trials, chances are you’ll have either A. gained a friend for life (or at least you now know enough about each other that you have to stay on good terms for safety reasons!), or B. gained an “Unfriend” for life (which also works because it’s important to have someone to awkwardly avoid at conferences!). In most cases, by the time you will have done 30 trials (and analysed the data, because you are, first and foremost, a scientist!), yours or theirs’ time in the field will be up. And some day you will feel strangely nostalgic about people from both categories!
(This section was written by a 70-year-old Elena from the future.)
- Deciding to live large and splurging on the phone Internet connection
Phone data price – practically nothing!
Being able to send random “I miss you and love you forever!!!!!!!” messages to your friends in the middle of the night (because emotions are awesome and people should know you have them!) – priceless!
This post is dedicated to everyone back home and in the UK, as well as in all the other places they have dispersed from there – if I haven’t messaged you in a while, for now read the text within the quotation marks in my last sentence!
- Elena Racevska, Research Coordinator