Entry 1: Out of Our Comfort Zones

Would I be able to make it there on my own?
Would I remember how to set up my tent?
How would I react to the challenges?
Would I be able to contribute to the team?
Would I get along with everyone?

Tomorrow is the start of the community field school and my anticipation is mounting with every second that ticks by. I’m sitting in a motel in Katherine after a multi-day, cross-country journey and am already feeling very far from my home in Sydney…

Why sign up in the first place?

When I first read the description for the field school, I immediately knew that it was something I wanted to do. The allure of exploring a remote area, the chance to meet and learn from people of a different culture, and the exposure to new ways of studying and valuing archaeology were all very appealing.

Only once I signed up did doubts and nerves creep in:

Would I be able to make it there on my own?
Would I remember how to set up my tent?
How would I react to the challenges?
Would I be able to contribute to the team?
Would I get along with everyone?

My expectations

I expect to be able to answer all of these questions by the end of the field trip. I also expect to be completely pulled out of my comfort zone! I expect basic conditions with insects and heat. I expect that I will be confronted with tough situations and I expect that I will have a lot to learn!

My hopes

I hope to be able to navigate the challenges and come out on top, having grown both as a person and as an archaeologist! I hope to make new friends, gain confidence and perhaps discover some campfire recipes, too! Above all, I hope that I can take the time to fully appreciate my time at Barunga.

I am extremely excited at the prospect of adventure, new experiences and new friends over the coming week. I feel overwhelmingly privileged and grateful for the opportunities this field school brings and can’t wait for tomorrow!

Stay tuned for Part 2 🙂

Entry 2: Experiences and Challenges

I’ve found that working and relaxing with both Community members and the Flinders ‘mob’ as one family has been a really special experience.

This morning I’m sitting in my tent with the sun slowly rising against my back. The air is crisp and alive with the sounds of flying foxes settling for the morning and a multitude of birds greeting the day. We’re just over halfway through the field school and I’ve already been surprised and deeply touched by my experiences so far.

One thing that I never expected was the contrast in pace. When we have a plan for the day and are preparing to leave, it’s go-go! Pack your things! Do you have enough water? Don’t forget the sunscreen! Which car will you be in today? Do we have everyone with us? I expected this to some extent, as I knew we would have a busy schedule and many people to organise. I didn’t foresee the slow moments. Generous mornings where you have time to cook a hot breakfast and stretch your limbs… Late night campfire chat watching the Milky Way extend above you… Conversations with elders in the Community, where each question is measured carefully before an answer is given…

I’ve also been deeply touched by the welcome that we’ve received from the Community and the amount of time they’ve invested in explaining things to us. At first everyone was quite shy and unsure, but soon relationships formed and we Munanga (white folk) were given ‘skin’ names – the markers of identity and social relations used within Jawoyn Country. This marker will enable us to go into other communities and be recognised as family. I’ve found that working and relaxing with both Community members and the Flinders ‘mob’ as one family has been a really special experience.

Entry 3: Take Away Thoughts

Most importantly, I’ve learnt that sometimes ‘Slow Archaeology’ is the best archaeology. People cannot be managed like datasets, especially when they view the world in very different ways to your own.

It’s my last morning in Barunga. Once again I’m writing this Blog post in my tent listening to the Community around me waking up. While I contemplate getting up and having a steamy cup of tea to clear the cobwebs from my brain, I know that as soon as I do this, I’ll be one step closer to packing up my things and leaving.

This trip has been a very special experience. From an archaeologist’s perspective, I’ve had the rare opportunity to see sacred and varied archaeological sites. Not only did we get to see expansive rock shelters with painted art, culturally modified trees, woven and painted contemporary artworks, historic gravesites and a stunning freshwater waterfall – we were guided by Community members with the knowledge, rights and patience to explain the significance of these areas and activities.

I’ve learnt some very important lessons in the small time that I’ve been here. I’ve learnt that I can overcome challenges when surrounded by a group of caring and humorous peers. I’ve learnt that I can be self-sufficient and rely on my own abilities. I’ve learnt about Jawoyn Country and the strong and independent people living as part of it. Most importantly, I’ve learnt that sometimes ‘Slow Archaeology’ is the best archaeology. People cannot be managed like datasets, especially when they view the world in very different ways to your own.

I will very much miss everyone here and I’m so thankful to have had the chance to attend the field school.

🙂

(And yes, I did learn some new recipes. The food was always top quality!)