Monday, November 16, 2009

A rare update! Don't go holding your breath for the next one...

There’s no internet at the site, so don’t give me your bellyaching!  If you are reading this I’m probably dead I’ve made it to an internet café (or a café with internet, oooh baby!) to upload this.

The things I do!

I mean, if this were the good old days, I’d have just vanished and you wouldn’t expect to see or hear from me for five months.  Instead I’m typing up a blog post and taking my computer to a football (soccer for the Americans) game so that if I pass an internet café you can all read about my life in the desert.

(Pause for lunch.)

Back again.  So I’ll start by telling you about meals.

First breakfast is between 6:30 and 7 am, before we go out to work.  I’m pretty much all about the coffee and digestives, but some do have cereal or other stuff.  Proper breakfast is at 10 am, when the restaurant in the nearby town brings by food for the ravaging hoard of archaeologists.  Lunch is at 3-3:30, depending on when the restaurant brings it by and that’s the big meal of the day.  The sun sets at 4:45, so dinner is leftovers, cereal, scrounge up something whenever you get peckish.  I suppose we should call “first breakfast” just breakfast and then the last meal is dinner, not lunch, but it just seems odd to think that you have dinner at tea time!  One of the archaeologists is very clever with building things and he made a banana-toffee pie the other night.  Oh, it was good!  Since food is coming from the restaurant, we’re eating well.  It is high in oil content, though, so we’ll be dying of clogged arteries before the end of season.

Living accommodations are… well… have you seen M*A*S*H?  Movie or tv series, doesn’t matter.   Army tents with mats, but we do have proper beds with metal frames and mattresses instead of cots.  It gets cold at night so I’m already using my blanket.  We have run electricity to the tents, so we can turn on lights and have fans or heaters when it gets really cold.  The fancy built accommodations will arrive… later.  In Qatar it seems that nothing really happens until it becomes an emergency, so I’m not holding my breath waiting for the housing to be built.  It works fine enough, I have my own room with a wardrobe for my clothes and I’ve scrounged some drift-junk for a table.

“Drift-junk” - whatever washes up on the beach.  We beach comb for furniture.  Or rather, junk that we can turn into furniture. 

The bathroom accommodations are a bit primitive to western eyes.  Have you ever seen/heard of a Turkish toilet?  It’s a porciline basin with two raised foot stands and a hole in between.  You squat.  Oh yes.  There’s a little spray hose next to it to spray yourself and the basin clean.  We do have toilet paper and if you use it, you must put it in the trash can (it has a lid) and not down the hole.  This style of toilet is considered more hygienic than western toilets, because you don’t sit down or touch anything.  It works, but does hurt the knees a bit.  My legs are either going to get very strong or I’m going to have to rig up a couple of handle bars for myself.  The shower is in the same stall.  Hot and cold water.  It runs down the toilet, giving it an extra flush, if you will.  Right now there are only four girls in the tents, so we have no problems getting our daily wash.  It might be more of an issue later when a few more come.  The toilets are public, so from time to time the local fishermen come and use them.  If only they’d look at the door where we’ve put up a picture of a woman.  But no, sometimes there are men in our bathroom.  Sigh.

It’s pretty hot during the day and fairly chilly at night.  It feels colder because of how hot it gets.  My office gets quite toasty by around 10 and by 2 it’s roasting. 

Everyone here is a proper archaeologist.  That is, they have years of field experience and many have lived in quite squalid housing arrangements on dig sites.  These are probably the most adaptable people on the planet.  And the most inventive.  Our resident building genius not only makes pie, he also built a light table - we use it for copying plans and drawings that are larger than the scanner we have in the office.

The last few days have been removing backfill.  At the end of the season the open areas were covered with a rough material called “hessian” and then sand was poured over it.  This protects the exposed layers from rain and any sand blown into the site doesn’t get mixed with the archaeology.  It’s a hard job to remove, and it would go faster if we had workmen, but since the building material used on the site is so fragile, it must be done.  I, however, am not in the field, but in the registration office.  My job is to record the finds from the field and store them.  It’s one of the better uses of my OCD-tendencies.  So while I’m waiting for the finds to roll in, I’m designing a database in MS Access.  Do I know Access?  Uh, I do now!  I’m still having some difficulties, but by tomorrow I should have a fully working database designed to fulfill everyone’s needs and organized to my specifications.  It is a lovely thing.  And another skill to add to my resume.

In our down time we play a lot of cribbage. There’s no alcohol (or porn or pigs, but really, what would I do with those?), so our cribbage games, while savage, are not “drunken savage.”  We watch movies or tv shows on our computers - soon we should get a projector and we can have movie night.  Bed time is fairly early.  Ten is fairly common, though after a hard day of labor some of the team retire earlier.  I’m still adjusting to nights in the tent town and curse my small bladder I usually have to make a midnight trek to the toilet.  Thankfully I purchased a flashlight with a magnet that sticks to my bed so at night I can check for scorpions, snakes, and large beetles before I put on my shoes and when I walk the path to the loo.  I had a rather large beetle in my flip-flop last night when I got up.  He was not that thrilled when I chucked him out of my tent door.

So that’s my life in the field.  Unless those permanent accommodations are set up, it will be my life for the next five months. 

Now you’ll have to excuse me, it’s time for my shower before the mosquitoes come out!


  1. ALWAYS pee before bedtime. Nothing sucks worse than leaving the tent at 2 a.m. for a midnight pee run and walking smack into a Qatari sand storm.

    I do not miss living in a tent city. Count your lucky stars you're not living there in summer. HOT!

  2. Your food arrangements sound like something out of The Hobbit ;)

    Glad you are not dead in a ditch! xx

  3. Wow, this sounds so exciting to me! I will look forward to the next update, whenever it is that you find access to the Internets.

  4. So glad you took the time and effort for this update. Now we can pretend to be with you all at the dig.
    (And I'll never again complain about the hostel dorm room the dig staff gave me in Tiberias last month.)

    Nothing like field conditions to make one adaptable, invincible, and ready for any challenge when you return to real life.

    Fisherman really come to use a Turkish toilet ... ?

  5. Sounds like fun!

  6. Wow wow and wow.
    I have done the summer camp thing, but at least there, we had normal toilets! It does sound quite adventurous though.

  7. Anonymous7:54 PM

    Great to hear from you!!!

    So - what exactly are you cataloguing? What goodies are out there in the desert? Inquiring minds want to know!


  8. You totally impress me.... I know my limitations, and you met those about 5 minutes after arrival!! Have fun! :o)

  9. Hey, was just thinking about you today and there you are! Creepy crawlies - that is the main reason I like my camping in a place with room service (though no guarantee you still won't get the creepy crawlies) Though the rest of it sounds fascinating - looking forward to hearing more when you get the opportunity.

  10. Awesome...simply amazing. You never cease to amaze, my darling!! I am so proud of you I can barely stand it. I can't wait to hear more about this amazing adventure of yours!!

  11. So after reading about your shower and toilet are you able to shave? Or do you just not shave for the time you are there?

    But otherwise...the archaeology stuff sounds so fascinating!!

    Have fun, be safe, and thanks for thinking of us!!


Keep it clean, don't be mean....