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On (pre)fieldwork to-do lists

The list of things I wanted to get done pre-fieldwork in Chile (coming from the US) felt endless. Getting hearing aids (which I’ve long needed, but seemed extra important where my hearing impairment is twice as noticeable when I’m already struggling with a second language). Studying and passing my doctoral candidacy exam. Making sure all other requirements for candidacy had been fulfilled and on record. Fulfilling grant requirements just in time, including medical clearance, and writing up an orientation presentation on my research and background. Compiling readings and resources on methods and fieldwork (ongoing). Figuring out my Brooklyn apartment and storage situation and moving things. Packing lists. Packing itself. Checking airline luggage size and weight limits. Ordering hiking shoes and good walking sandals, and a few months supply of a couple of my favorite toiletry items. Finding an apartment down here and coordinating with my future roommate. Ordering a new passport and an FBI background check in order to apply for a visa. Applying for the visa, and picking it up in person. Applying for a new travel credit card to avoid foreign transaction fees. Ordering foreign currency to take with when I first arrive. Setting travel alerts on my bank cards. Writing up and sharing an itinerary with flights, dates, addresses, contacts, and phone numbers with close ones. Sorting through books and slowly cutting down to the essentials I could bring with me given luggage weight limits (only ended up bringing two books and a Kindle! Though I did have some other books later sent here). Attempting to stay calm about leaving the life and home I’d built for so long to begin a very new phase of life for the next nine months. Making last visits and saying goodbyes.

Now that I’ve arrived, there’s a new list. Purchasing and installing a local phone chip. Adding money to that phone chip. Trying to upgrade that pay-as-you-go chip to a full-on phone plan (ongoing). Downloading offline Google maps of areas. Unpacking (after one week of living out of suitcases in another city for orientation and other things). Purchasing groceries, hangers, towels, a hamper, a cooking pan. Registering my visa and applying for a local ID card. Figuring out health insurance (ongoing). Signing a lease. Figuring out how to pay rent. Making plans to open a local foreigners bank account to pay that rent once my ID card is ready (ongoing). Figuring out best modes of local transportation and potentially applying for a license and buying a used scooter (which may entail getting my diploma apostilled and sent here, and later will involve selling). Finding spaces for exercise and seeking possibilities for something, anything, with a regular schedule. Meeting with affiliation professors and warmly receiving their support. Emails, so many emails! And what’s app messages and phone calls, soon—I’m not the best at phone calls (text messages and emails allow for dictionary checks in my second language that phone calls do not). To academic contacts, to activists I hope to work with, to friends that are local, to friends that are now far. Compiling more readings and resources on methods and fieldwork, now with more urgency. Making a new more detailed fieldwork methods plan, again now with more urgency. Attempting to break down my three phases of three-months each that I wrote up for grant proposals into weeks and days. Seeking advice from researcher friends. Scouring social media for local events to attend. Trying to keep up to date on local and national news here. Reading news articles, reviewing scholarship, finding new scholarship. Figuring out how the mail system works here. Ordering a big paper calendar here from the US out of desperation to construct myself some structure and schedule (was unable to find one find here). Seeking out potential work spaces outside of my apartment that have wifi. Re-establishing connections with contacts and making new introductions in person. A close friend and fellow PhD student mid-fieldwork–Angela Crumdy, who has an amazing “holistic health and wellness site for students” called Academic Muscle–started an “In the Field” what’s app group with others; brilliant idea. Missing my books and library access. Desperately awaiting that big paper calendar in the mail, and the months when close ones will be visiting or when I will visit home. Anxiety, so much anxiety.

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