So, if you are like (some of) us, you’ve left the holiday shopping till the last minute. In that vein, we thought we would share some of what we find essential as we do the field (and other) research.
Markus: My new essential is my Steripen. I spend a lot of time in hot climates and thus drink copious quantities of water. Finding bottles of water was taking up too much time (and I am clearly too cheap to spend 6 bucks for the minibar offering – when that’s even an option). So I went to my neighborhood outdoor store looking for an easy portable clean water solution. They recommended this portable UV light in the shape of a pen (well a pen my six year would use - this isn’t fitting into any suit pocket). This lets me clean the tap (or other) water wherever I am. And it runs on AA batteries, which is handy when there is no working plug around. So this is supposed to kill off the bugs and I kind of think its working. I was contemplating a randomized trial on myself, but my penchant for eating local food of unclear origin makes the number of trips I would have to do rather prohibitive (I am not giving up the kitfo!). One side benefit is that you actually get to taste what the local water tastes like – which leads to fun discoveries like the fact that the water coming out of my tap in Dar Es Salaam was basically sea water. Of course, the best feature is that it works via UV light, so when the lights go off and you are cleaning your water, you have your very own mini-rave.
Berk: I gots to have my universal plug, without which the trip could be a disaster for days – until I find one. It charges my laptop, phone, iPad, headphones, etc. in any country I go to. I am not sure what I did before – I think I asked the hotel I was staying in for an adapter, which would inevitably be an adventure to find. The second thing is a Petzl headlamp. You often have to do some field work after the sun goes down and many rural areas are still without electricity. Furthermore, heavy rains bring down the power in Zomba at times, so you can work in the dark with them in your hotel room or at the restaurant while nursing a “Kuche Kuche.” They’re light and provide adjustable light – we have given each of our enumerators one. Plus, it makes a good gift for someone when you’re leaving.
Jed: Three things are essential. First, ear plugs and eye shades, for sleeping in vehicles and noisy guest houses - you know, you have to go to the field at 6am, but the downstairs disco is rocking till the wee hours...Second, a full course of Artemisin Combination Therapy - even if you are in a malarial area, it's likely (or perhaps merely possible) that the fever you feel coming on is not due to malaria... but when feeling feverish or chilled, why take the risk? if diagnostics aren't available, many African countries promote presumptive treatment. I'd follow their advice. Third, running shoes... good for some quick exercise when your car is stuck at the side of a flat dirt road disappearing into the horizon...
David: I’m an urban kind of guy, so my essentials are a bit different. One essential is a second research affiliation, since whenever I go talk to firms and say I'm from the World Bank I get asked for a loan. So business cards from the institute of researchers who don't have money to give you most of the time, are not from the government, and would like you to tell the truth in your replies (we just need a snappy acronym) could be an excellent present for the World Bank researcher in your life. I'm still searching for the other essential - a polite way to refuse a Durian when it is given to you as a gift!
All together: So that’s what our essential gear. Now if that funny guy in the red suit is reading this, what we’d really like for the holidays are computers like our academic friends have and internet access that works.
So what are your essentials?