17-02-2018 The ups and the downs

It’s a quiet day at the station today. Only Heather and I are here so we have complete freedom to do what we like when we like. This freedom only really extends to when we eat, usually with more people at the station mealtimes are regular and we take it in turns to cook each meal, but with only the two of us here, I ate breakfast at midday and Heather ate lunch at 3: we’ve descended into madness. Apart from that, we are still at the mercy of the weather and can’t leave the station as we have work to do here. It’s been raining the last couple of days so wifi and power have been a little dodgy, and until recently the station has been relatively full! So it’s back to our quiet little life.

Life has taken a few turns recently, ebbing and flowing like the tides of El Rio Payamino. It’s easy to see a surface view of someone’s life and assume that all’s fine and dandy, but actually there’s usually something going on there which doesn’t breach social media or light conversation.

My life has been a bit up and down recently. I think being ill always gets you down and it takes a little while to regain the swing of things; I’m still not better after my ear infection which is making me a little lethargic and foggy. Another thing – this one took me a while to figure out on all my travels – but it turns out you’re not immune to insecurities / down days / mad panics about life just because you live somewhere cool: had a few of them recently. Also, the direction of my project has changed once again. It’s been a real challenge figuring out what kind of research is available in the field, balancing my highly-optimistic research aims, and evaluating my own limitations in order to find the middle ground of what’s actually doable here.

It was quite disheartening at first, but I am a fan of silver linings and have started to appreciate the benefits of my new plan. It will be a lot simpler and easier, I will have more control over every aspect, and the write-up will be more straight forward. All boring things, I’ve lost interest over ease, but at least I can actually make a start.

Field work is surprisingly slow. There are a lot of social, political, meteorological and ecological hoops to jump through that you just don’t expect to meet when you set out on your journey, hoping to uncover some valuable resource or hidden knowledge. And field work is clumsy. Of course we adhere to ‘the scientific method’, and keep all our data as valid and reliable as possible, but at the end of the day, research is limited by the people doing it and the amount of money and time they have. We’ve recently been collecting data for an arachnid biodiversity study which sounds to me awfully professional and serious, but the actual field work/data collection side of things juxtaposes this scientific vision of serious, intelligent people doing serious, intelligent things, and replaces it with a group of people, some scientists, some undergrads, and some indigenous community members, literally catching spiders in the jungle. There’s more to it than that, years and years of research that has cultivated the perfect method and most accurate data analysis, however the literal translation from the methods section in a scientific paper to people working in the field is not what you expect. It’s been fascinating to learn this and experience some real life science in the field.

All in all life at the station has been great. The company has been wonderful, and it’s nice to be back home in our idyllic, little corner of the world. But I’d be lying if I said life has been perfect: life has been normal, I guess, but still full of discovery, new experiences, learning and getting shit done, which are the main things, I think.

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