When everybody arrived at Lunahuaná for our weekend of getting to know each other, team building & interviews, it was a little bit awkward. A group of strangers, in a strange environment; they were probably thinking who is this guy who can barely speak Spanish, and how the hell are we gonna do any kind worthwhile project with him…? We had picked 12 of the best applicants and invited them, straight away it was disappointing that 3 of the girls canceled with only a few hours notice on Friday night. (Hindsight: Making the trip free for everyone is a nice gesture and idea, but in reality to get a real commitment from people, they gotta cough up some cash). We were aiming to keep the team gender balanced, but this setback made that goal impossible straight away.
Tierra Langla is the kind of place where you don’t have a regimented plan, you don’t look at the clock very often, you just let things develop and see what happens. At first it was a little bit strange with everyone not sure what to say or do. After a swim in the river, a solid and delicious lunch, then a quick rafting trip everyone relaxed a bit more. Sitting round the fire, playing music, it was great to see everyone connecting in a way that is only ever possible when you are surrounded by mountains, rivers and a blanket of stars.
On Sunday everyone split up into groups to harvest the season’s final Nisperos, pick chia and separate the seeds or put together our delicious lunch. Mid morning it was great to see everyone jump in the river, but this time they really looked like a team. Helping each other swim through the current, linking arms to form a chain to pull someone across and seeing them all sitting on the boulders in the middle.
Ana Teresa, Mariaelena and I spent the full day interviewing each person individually, and also filming short interviews which will be interesting to look back on after we complete the project. It quickly became clear that each person had a major role to play in this team, and that there was no way we could pick one over the other. Their skills were too complimentary and everyone seemed to mesh together better than we could have hoped. We asked each person individually: Do you want us to select the final team now, or we can just get to work straight away; all 9 working together on the project. We will find a way to get the funds together to make the trip happen for everyone, and if we can’t find the funds, we will select the final 6 for the expedition in February or March. It was unanimous. Everyone really enjoyed working with each other and just wanted to be a part of the mission.
The upside is that now we can see everyone in action, see what everyone can contribute before we select the final team (if we have to do any selecting). I think there is an extremely high possibility we will be able to secure the extra funds needed to make it an incredible experience for all.
I have been told that despite everyone’s tiredness from the weekend, on the Sunday night drive back, everyone in the van was talking, brainstorming and throwing ideas around about how we can make this happen. A really good result. Since getting back to Lima I have had individual meetings with each person to really figure out what their roles will be over the next few months. Everyone has their own idea and side projects they would love to develop, its a really exciting time with all these new ideas blooming. It will be interesting to see over the coming weeks which ideas gain traction and get done, and which are left behind. When I ask each person about the rest of the team, about the weekend its always the same answer It was a great weekend, and it’s incredible how well we all get along so well. In a team, I couldn’t hope for more.
It was also great to see that a few of the guys are really keen to learn to kayak, setting them up with the big goal of getting enough experience so they can paddle some sections of the Marañon. When I return to Peru early next year, its definitely something I will be interested in helping them out with.
I’m back in Lima this week, working super hard getting everything ready to go. There is an insane amount of opportunities popping up. From getting grant applications together, putting together a campaign to find volunteer guides & safety boaters for the journey through to planning our first short movie & putting together the social media campaign. Waking up at first light with a whole bunch ideas fresh in my mind, getting them written down before they disappear. The rest of the day is jam packed full of meetings, further research and planning each persons role and work plan for the coming months. From 6am til late in the evening hacking away on the computer is a bit of shock to the system, however I would rather get it all done as quick as possible, then I am free to escape again.
Hopefully I get everything wrapped up soon and everyone on their way, im itching to get down to Chile! (And my visas is getting more and more overdue. I think it expired sometime in mid October…)