Digging, dining, and drinking; rarely in that order and often overlapping. Some days we would forget about digging all together, and in the most remote locations, drinking was not an option. I first became aware of the three “D’s” in a conversation with Mandy Mijares, a faculty member at the University of the Philippines. Still wet behind the ears, I asked Mandy what archeology was all about. Needless to say I was delighted by its simplicity.
An impatient man, I feared digging would interfere with my enjoyment of the trip. Thankfully I neglected to consider the tranquility that monotonous manual labor can bring to a mind that never stops. You know those little Japanese sandboxes with the rakes that people keep on their desk to reduce stress? Well, my sand box was two meters by two meters and instead of a rake I had a trowel. Not all of the digging was peaceful; digging in some sediment layers was thrilling, like when we excavated the remains of a 700 year old skeleton, while digging in other layers was so laborious that we needed a local to stay on call to fix the pickax because it would break every tenth swing. Our hard work was balanced with rest, and our mindless excavating was balanced with complex high-level thinking as we attempted to connect our finds to a larger historical tapestry.
I’ve never eaten so much rice in my entire life. If you took the amount of rice that I consumed over six weeks and put it all in one place, it would fit up three of our sieving buckets, maybe four. After spending the day in trenches you could have put anything in front of me and I would have eaten it. Sure there were strange foreign foods that you would never consider consuming in the States – duck embryo, chicken intestines, goat blood, and fish eyeballs – but in reality the cuisine was fairly basic. We ate a lot of fish, some chicken, and the occasional pork (a local delicacy.) We ate well, but, if I had to complain, I would ask for fewer bones and more sweets; oh the things I would have done for a piece of chocolate after every meal.
The best beer I have ever had was enjoyed on this trip. It was the second can of San Miguel that I drank during lunch on our island-hopping day in El Nido. It was ice cold, unexpected, and accompanied by good friends and good music. That beer taught me that while happiness may not be entirely situational, a good beer is. Our team certainly had a lot excuses to indulge – a new destination, the end of trench rounds, or even the end of a lecture (or during.) Depending on the night you had three options – cold beer, warm beer (if you didn’t get to the local store before the crowd,) and rum. It didn’t matter the occasion, drinking was always accepted, nay, encouraged.
Some might argue for a forth or even fifth “D” – documentation or danger perhaps – but when I look back on my time in field school I have to tip my cap to ole’ Mandy for helping me stay focused on the necessities.