Why Fieldwork Friendships Last

Okay, so this is a bit of a personal post. I realized in my most recent trip to Costa Rica that the friendships formed in the field have all lasted. So, it really got me thinking about why.

Let me first explain what the field is like for me. In both locations that I’ve done fieldwork (Panama and Costa Rica), the accommodations have been very comfortable. I have a bed, mosquito net, roof over my head, indoor bathroom, someone to cook for me, etc. That being said, I still smell when I’m in the field. I’m a sweaty dirty mess, covered in anything from dirt to fecal matter. I never wear makeup, my only perfume is deodorant and bug spray, my hair is frizzed out from the heat and in tangles of leaves and spider webs, and I’m HAIRY (yes, that needed to be in capitals).

So, to sum it up – I’m dirty, smelly, and uncomfortably hot most of the time and I look like I just tumbled down a muddy hill with all of nature stuck to various parts of my body. Somehow, people still want to talk to me (haha!).

The first thing that really creates a bond is the fact that you can relate to one another. At the research station I was at this summer there was a variety of field workers, not just primatologists. Despite that difference, we were all there doing fieldwork and so we all understood what each of us was dealing with on a day to day basis. (It was also comforting knowing that I wasn’t the only one who would do the smell test to grade the degree of urgency of which my clothes needed to be washed)

However, I began to realize that it was much more than that. I don’t wear my usual clothes/style from home or makeup and I no longer care about shaving frequently. Ultimately what everyone is seeing is ME, naked (not literally!) and raw. To be completely honest, that can be scary and intimidating, especially when you are so used to looking and dressing a certain way, and used to the comforts from home. However, it also allows you to be vulnerable in some sense. Being vulnerable is scary in relationships, but it also allows you to form trust and a bond that cannot be easily broken. Everyone is seeing you for who you really are. For those who accept it, it’s a deeper friendship with more than just surface-level interaction and connection. It’s really quite amazing.

Not all of my friendships from fieldwork have been maintained strongly due to distance, but I have kept in touch with each and every one of the friends I have made in the field. It’s amazing to me how quickly those friendships formed. This all has caused me to think about the mask or performance I put on before stepping out of the house each day and I am thankful for the opportunity to analyze it.

So take some time to think about the walls you put up each day and work towards allowing yourself to show who you really are – let that person out!

Field Friends

Field Friends

DANTA 2015, Courtesy of Kimberly Dingess

DANTA 2015, Courtesy of Kimberly Dingess

Featured Image Courtesy of Tanner Martin

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