The Dimagi field staff travels… a lot. When you’re constantly on the road, and sometimes not in the most comfortable of places, you learn to pack well and pack light. In order to give some insight into our lives and personalities, I asked everyone in Africa (and our Field Manager Diego in Guatemala, our brother from another continent!) to take a picture of a few things in their field bags and send me a short description. Below are their responses. Enjoy!
Stella Luk (Senegal)
Not really a “field bag” but I always carry around:
- 16GB mega-small key for taking docs and forms from partners (who will never get around to e-mailing them to me later)
- Gratitude Dude – decal a friend gave to me on positive thinking
- Phone credit for all networks – just in case…
Steve Snyder (South Africa)
On those rare occasions when I am traveling for a Dimagi project, I carry a tablet so I can keep up-to-date on what’s going on in the world (can’t live without my NYTimes/WaPo!), an iPod for when I need serenity or plan to be stuck on a nasty, long bus ride, and always, always, always a good book – most recently the Razor’s Edge, Stephen King’s 11.22.63, and American Pastoral.
Fiorenzo Conte (Senegal)
- A book
- A flashlight to read the book anywhere without getting eaten by mosquitoes
- Drugs bag because I’m allergic to pretty much 80% of normal drugs so I’d better carry my own 😛
Nick Nestle (South Africa)
- Vodacom 3G modem: Essential to be able to switch SIM cards and stay connected while travelling.
- Tide To Go Pen: I can’t keep food off my lap even when I get to use utensils. So eating with my hands in Africa is pretty perilous for me. Unfortunately most of my messes are too big for just one pen.
- “Stuff You Should Know” podcast: From Howstuffworks.com, this is the best podcast going. 25-35 minute segments on completely random and interesting subjects hosted by two entertaining guys that could definitely be Dimagi Field Managers. The perfect companion for sitting in airports or long bus rides. I DARE YOU to listen to the “How Platypuses Work” episode and not immediately download 5 more.
Marco Horta (Mozambique)
Although having only gone out to the field once during my short time with Dimagi I do carry for most of the time a similar array of stuff:
- Coffee mug. I need my daily dose of Random Caffeinations.
- Head Set and iPhone cable, debating on switching to Android. What do you think?
- Internet dongle. Mobility! +1
- USB Memory stick and SD adapter.
- Pen and Paper.
- Android phone. ODK whoot-whoot!
Andrea Fletcher (Kenya)
- Apple – I like food. There is nothing worse than having to scavenge when you are out on the road so I typically have some kind of fruit (apples are my favorite) to prevent the hunger grumpies. I’ve been eating one a day for years… just to be on the safe side with this whole keeping the doctor away thing.
- Moleskin Notebook – I take obsessive notes while on field visits with CHWs, my notebook is a pretty accurate depiction of app designs, quotes, and random ideas. It must be leather. It must be black. It must be the right size, and it must be graph paper.
- Duct tape – Comes in handy for all kinds of things. For example I have used it to prevent blisters, fix a bucket shower, and it held my ipod together for years. I also prefer obnoxious colors — you just never know when it’s going to come in handy!
Diego Rios (Guatemala)
I always carry food!!!! Crackers and cheese, yogurt shakes and mango! Also, I carry my tablet to check email, apps, etc.
Kara Grijalva (Senegal)
When I head out for field days, I take:
- My jump rope for shaking off the long days of travel (thanks Sharon!)
- A quick drying towel because they are magical
- Coffee. Always coffee.
Ryan Hartford (Mozambique):
Also not really a field bag, but working remotely for the past few years has gotten me attached to some of the contents. Per Diego’s inspirational recommendation I need to add some food.
- Notebook and pen. Electronics always fail, and a notebook feels way less rude in a meeting.
- SIM card collection. (Note, they stay alive if you use them every 90 days (even roaming) )
- Headset with a boom mic. Completely essential.
Simon Kelly (South Africa)
- Laptop display adapter
- Business cards
- Essential medical supply- pain killers, antihistamine, asthma pump etc
Kieran Sharpey-Schafer (South Africa)
- USB port extender
- Chewing gum
- Highlighter or red pen
Hilary Haber (Mozambique)
- SIM cards of various telcos – never know which one will have the best reception in the field, so best to have one of each!
- Pocket knife – cutting fruit, cheese, ties, etc. Always comes in handy.
- Water bottle – good to stay hydrated (not to mention avoid using disposable plastic water bottles that are too often left as trash where we are working).
- Headlamp – when you’re staying in sites with no or unreliable electricity.
- Notebook – for capturing everything you come across in the field.
- Scarf/pashmina – though not perfect, helps to maintain a certain cultural sensitivity, especially in conservative areas where covering ones’ head might be appropriate. Also doubles as a pillow on long bus rides, a beach throw, towel, sheet, etc.
Rosa Akbari (South Africa)
- Moleskines: various sizes, always grid
- Pencil bag of tricks
- Knife: previously used for cheese, camel meat, and SIM card ejection (in that order)
- Verbatim tiny USB (16gb!)
- Sketchy plug expander
- Homemade Knitwear (thanks Ma)