From Proposal to Field Research
The distance between writing a grant proposal and actually doing the field research might be as rough of a connection as the long dirt road that brought me here.
After sealing the envelope to my import permit application and packing the final field supplies I ordered last minute, I found myself thrown into the alert state of international travel. I am not sure why I always have to relearn this lesson, but kale smoothies are not that green in Atlanta. And redeye flights combined with sleeping on the airport floor do not add up to a relaxing travel experience.
All of this together made it challenging to cautiously navigate the paparazzi of taxi drivers and rental car companies offering me a better deal when the company I reserved did not show up. Somehow, miraculously, I became a vessel through which my Spanish could flow easily and I convinced one of them to call the company to have someone pick me up.
Being shuttled off somewhere to the rental car company by myself was far less nerve-wracking than agreeing to rental car liability insurance policies in Spanish, however, both were positive experiences resulting in me at the driver’s seat with vague directions to the field station in Spanish, and 4-wheel drive (cuatro por cuatro).
The cuatro por cuatro decision was the best one I had made all 24 hours of travel—way better than the kale smoothie decision. Not only because I eventually traversed mild jeep trails that get washed out, but also because it was the first moment I was alone, away from the shuffle through aiport travel, and having a car with the power to get unstuck if needed made me feel this freedom and my first feeling of pura vida.
My moment of freedom was riddled with anxiety however, being in a new place alone with my phone on airplane mode as I tried to find a research station somewhere in the Costa Rican forest. This anxiety quickly took over again when I was moving in and made a joke about not having any snakes in my room, and the host warned me: not in there, but out here, sí hay. Constantly scanning with every footstep and imagining a deadly coil at the base of every tree, I made it to the office to check in back at home.
But then it hit me- I have to figure out the logistics for my research plan, and then do it- all on my own. Up until this point I was going along with all of the steps it takes to “do field work”: 1. Apply for a grant. 2. Get permits and supplies. 3. Pack and get there. 4. Do the research.
Here I was at step 4, in the right place with a carefully written plan, but what I saw in front of me was a forest.
Looking into the green I saw an unfamiliar forest, knowing that, yes, it does have venomous snakes, and that somewhere it has the plant I came here to find and study. I guess I’ll be taking a hike through the forest.
-Adrienne Godschalx, October 20th, 2015