Where to GO? What to DO?

I approached the choice of my first Earthwatch expedition with many things in mind: where to go, what area to work in, who the Principal Investigators were. As I looked at all the tempting possibilities spread before me in the big catalog, I had trouble making up my mind just what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go.

I'm a generalist - a dilettante in the old parlance. I'm interested in animals AND in archaeology AND in anthropology. I'm curious about most natural things and most eras of history and art. I want to be "useful" and work on a project that will somehow broaden knowledge of an area or an animal. There's no part of the world I am NOT interested in visiting. So narrowing down which projects would be of interest to me was not easy. My first narrowing came when I realized that there were certain times of the year I could be absent from the office more easily than others. In my case this was winter: January or February. Besides, I was really tired of New England winters and anticipated leaving one behind for a tropical clime.

I also felt that for my first expedition I'd want to be in the hands of an experienced Investigator, someone who knew how to work with volunteers of varying degrees of ability in the field, someone who sought out their assistance year after year.

And I needed to find an Expedition that wasn't too physically taxing. At 61 I'm in reasonably good physical shape but my tolerance for two weeks of sleeping on the ground after hiking several miles a day and fighting heavy currents on rivers has waned, and I didn't want to be a drag on a group of youngsters (for whom that would seem marvelous).

Finally, I cook every night at home for my family. I truly didn't want to be on an expedition where I'd be fending for myself cooking, or having to cook for others!

So I pored over the Expedition catalog and the web pages. One Expedition seemed to be tailor-made for me: the Origins of Angkor, digging for evidence of early civilizations in Thailand.

Thailand - sufficiently exotic and distant and WARM to suit me, at its best in January and February. The Origins expedition has been supported by Earthwatch for many years, under the direction of Professor Charles Higham, from the University of Otago, in New Zealand, and Rachanie Thosarat, from the Fine Arts Department in Phi Mai, Thailand. That was point two in its favor: experienced Investigators who must like having Earthwatchers around or they wouldn't have kept DOING it so long.

The Expedition didn't sound too hard, physically, and good Thai food was promised, food I didn't have to cook! Perfect!

I signed on for the late January expedition and made plans to fly to Thailand through Tokyo. I planned to spend a few extra days in Japan on the way home. I expected that I'd never return to Asia and wanted to visit Kyoto.


ęClare Durst 1997