Staying in Touch with Home
If you have an iPhone, you can get an app. called Viber, which allows you to make calls and texts as normal over the Internet network.
Other's recommend: What's App/ iMessage -- make sure to get your iMessage working. Definitely use iMessage if possible when texting, even to other numbers in the field.
Other options are of course: Skype. I plan to get a SkypeIn number, so that my friends and family can call me.
Make sure to update your address book before you go -- so you can send postcards!
I have looked into getting a Google Voice number -- make sure you do it in the US, because you cannot get a Good Voice number while abroad -- you have to have US ISP. It is possible to get a US ISP with certain programs -- they fake a US ISP, but it is just easier to do it in the US!
Advice: Do your research thoroughly on what it means/will take for you to get your phone unlocked in your fieldwork site. I have an iPhone from the US, and technically it is under contract with AT&T, so they will not unlock it for me (meaning no local SIM card --> need to buy a new phone in Jordan --> very expensive!). So of course, I asked around and got the skilled hackers to unlock my phone and now it works great, and data plans here are definitely worth it! As far as I know this is NOT illegal, and does not break your contract with AT&T (although I am not positive about that). There are risks with unlocking your phone, especially if it is not still under contract, it can become "disactivated" and then would need to be "hactivated" to get it working again...but this is where I really think it is worth asking other students/expats who have gone through the same situation about what is possible in your country.
I have an actual framed photo of Simo, so much better than computer pictures, and some small decorations to help me make my living arrangements feel like home.