10 Field School Experiences

10. Your shower routine will change along with your previous definition of “shower.” No longer is a shower a cleaning device spewing warm water; during field school it becomes an atavistic mechanism with less water pressure than a drought-stricken stream and with only two temperature settings: Artic-iceberg and not-so-much-Artic-iceberg.  You will come to realize that the shower’s water will never actually clean the dirt and grime from your body; it will only congeal with the aforementioned dirt and grime to form a mud paste.  You disembark from the shower, put on “clean” clothes, only to realize that you are neither cleaner nor dirtier than before; only wet and slightly colder. And on that note…

9. Clean clothing will become a foreign concept.  Your jeans or pants will have this immortal life—there is no amount of stainage that can mortally wound or kill them.  You worry that your clothes will begin to smell, only to realize that field school is this equalizing world, a place where everyone’s level of stinkage and stainage is distributed fairly and homogeneously.  Excessive and bold patches of sweat, food, and mud stains become some sort of Medals of Honor.  You proudly show off a huge dirt patch on the front of your shirt as you recount the harrowing tale of you crawling face-first into the debts of a tarantula-filled tomb barely escaping from the clutches of the poisoned fiends with the ceramic shard…and your life.

8. You will encounter some of the world’s most dangerous and obnoxious wildlife.  The air is filled with these tiny gnat-like bugs, but you realize they are in fact biting flies only after a swarm of them attack your momentarily exposed ankle.  Local workers will casually inform you that they passed a 2 meter long python on the way to your operation.  Students and instructors will play cruel, cruel tricks on you that involve your beloved dark-brown fedora and a dead tarantula the size of a fist.  You would think that the living humans would band together to fight these deadly foes instead of terrorizing others for the sake of a laugh and squeal, but they do not.

7. You forget that the world consists of other people outside the circle of your 20-or so cohorts.  Though they begin as strangers, soon they become something like a family, complete with squabbling, tears, laughter, and bullying.  Another student drinks the last of the boiled water without refilling the container, so you passive-aggressively “forget” to make her mayo-free tuna for lunch.  There is no concept of personal space; you frequently wake up snuggling the person in the sleeping bag next to you.  After it happens three times, you stop feeling awkward and just go with it.  You have your special trowel, bucket, notebook, etc., that you guard will your life and dare anyone to try to take it from you.  Instructors place bets and which students will hook-up first.  Students rank the hottest boys/girls.  Once you leave the field school and find yourself surrounded by other people, you are overwhelmed, your senses overstimulated, and you have a complete melt-down.

6.  Common manners and decorum are long forgotten.  You eat with your hands, talk and crew with your mouth full, and scratch like no one is watching (but really, everyone is, it’s just no one cares).  Discussion on your and other’s gas and bathroom activity is not only common, but expected.  It’s just weird if you don’t talk about it…like do you think you’re something special, huh?

5. People who you normally wouldn’t consider attractive are suddenly gorgeous.  Be it fellow students, instructors, locals…everyone.  It’s the goggles phenomenon, wherever you are, suddenly, without warning, you’ll accidently have on “insert state/country” goggles.  That annoying, creepy guy in the village who would make excuses to softly caress your shoulder or hands suddenly seems sexy and exotic.  Don’t listen to the goggles! They are lying to you! Quick, take them off before you do something you will definitely regret!

4. You find new and strange ways to release stress and procrastinate.  Activities include building fire pits, making songs about archaeology in the tune of classic Disney songs, stargazing, and playing pato, pato, ganso (duck, duck, goose) with the local children.  You find yourself engrossed in absurd conversations that are somehow about absolutely nothing, only to realize you started the conversation with, “hey guys, what is the Canadian NASA called? CNASA, right?”  But these things never hit the spot, so you just end up drinking.

3. And you drink. A lot.  You buy the cheapest beer by the box.  Beer helps you to divide you day into designated allotments.  Work ends, beer.  Dinner, beer. After dinner, beer. Almost ready for bed, beer in sleeping bag.  You spend the weekend nights inventing and playing raucous drinking games, which everyone will take seriously.  After you buy a few cajas, the local store owner will assume you only enter her establishment when you need beer, asking either “caja?” or “cerveza?” You accept that in her eyes, you will always be that girl/guy.

2. You become very invested in the lives of the locals.  Suddenly idle gossip and drama becomes huge, huge news.  You know all the dirt on everyone.  The locals then become super invested in you.  One of the store owners asks you how old you are, and when you say 22, she’ll shake her head judgmentally and ask you why you aren’t married yet.  She’ll try to scare you, saying that if you wait any longer, there won’t be any men left or you won’t be able to have children.  She’ll try to set you up with one of the local boys, asking you if you find any them cute, are tall enough for you, and would you like to have a local wedding.  Sometimes you’ll start chatting with a local, and accidentally share too much.  Then the next time so-and-so walks by, she’ll catch your eye and giggle knowingly.  Then you die of embarrassment.

1. You will count down the days until field school ends, only to wish it would never end.  Somehow, all the inconveniences and nonsense just becomes a part of life and without it, you feel lost, unbalanced, way too sober, and way too clean.

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