Before you send proposals out you need estimates of airfare and other travel expenses (hotels, taxis, carriers, etc.) to put in your budget. A travel agent will help you get the best fares to your first destinations (the country and major towns and cities within that country). Anthropologists who have been in the field can help estimate costs of flying on small airplanes (to remote airstrips) and paying carriers to transport your gear to your fieldsite. The arrangements for these travel segments of your travel are usually made once you are in the country of destination. Hotel arrangements can be made ahead of time. As hotels are expensive most anthropologists seek inexpensive guesthouses. On several visits to Papua New Guinea I stayed at the National Research Institute's Waigani Lodge while in Port Moresby. Waigani Lodge is a row of six rooms with a common kitchen and laundry facilities near the Institute offices and across the road from a bus stop and the University of Papua New Guinea - a convenient location for a new or returning researcher.
To enter Papua New Guinea, I needed a valid passport with a research visa. This was obtained through the Papua New Guinea Embassy in Washington D.C. working in conjunction with the Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies and the PNG Immigration authorities, both in Port Moresby. Also required are a number of forms, a police check, letter of recommendation from a high official in my hometown in America, various health records, chest x-rays and, today, an AIDS test. The first step in getting the research visa was to send the proposal to the Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies. I then sent for the appropriate forms from the Embassy, filled them out and sent them in, waiting many months for permission to be telexed from Port Moresby to Washington D.C. On my last two trips permission didn't come until days before I was to take off, an unnerving experience to say the least with tickets bought, arrangements made and schedule tight!
As light as possible! Getting to my main fieldsite involved a 10-12 hour walk from the Bundi airstrip over steep and muddy mountain roads and trails. The first time I went in I paid thirteen carriers to haul my supplies, packed in cardboard boxes and trunks, the twenty miles from Bundi mission to Yandera village. It was a nightmare for all concerned, although everything I brought was necessary to my work, comfort and safety during a year's fieldwork. At one stage, an hour away from any village, several carriers set down their loads, demanding (and receiving) their pay, and walked off leaving some of my supplies in the jungle until I could send people from Yandera village to retrieve it.
Any major bank in the United States can arrange for you to get foreign currency. You can also get money exchanged in airports although the best exchange rates are in local banks. You will need a small amount to carry into the country for taxis or other small and immediate expenses. Once in the country you should set up a bank account, using travellers checks or bank drafts for this purpose (it can take a week or more for the latter to clear). Many banks have branch offices in small towns and some rural stations. As I was far from any banks, I had to bring enough cash with me to Yandera village to last until I took a field break in the provincial capital every three or four months (that trek was too grueling to make anymore frequently!) While I brought most of my supplies, in the village I needed to pay carriers, pay for my house to be built, buy small treats for friends and informants, contribute to brideprices and other exchanges that villagers deem important, buy kerosene, cigarettes (I smoked like almost everyone else in the village), and the occasional bag of sugar or flour.
The trek in:
The trek in was a challenge! It is important to build up your physical strength and stamina before going to the field by hiking and exercise such as step aerobics and climbing stairs. Even so, the altitude change between the coast and Yandera (a mile high) and the rigor of the trails are such that for a week after that long hike, I limped around the village with stiff muscles and a slight case of altitude sickness. You should also quit smoking. During my first fieldtrip I learned to forgo smoking for two or three days before a long hike to increase my oxygen intake. After I quit smoking in 1990 I was amazed at how much easier it was to climb mountains, in spite of being twelve years older in 1994.
Copyright © 1996 by Laura Tamakoshi and Brian Cross