Sunday, November 6, 2011

You didn't play a lot of team sports as a kid, did you?

Alright, I admit it. There are certain things that I don´t do well, like doing a half ass job. I credit my dad for that one and have this constant mantra in my head, "how you do anything is how you do everything." My mom warned me before I started this adventure, in a very stern voice she told me, "don´t you dare turn this into a business trip." But old habits die hard. I haven´t fully embraced the Chilean way of doing things, although I am learning. I am still punctual, I still have that truly american sentiment of, I can do it myself and I don´t need your help, I work fast and take few breaks. Yes...even when volunteering.

As long as I could remember I have never been a huge fan of group work. In school I always ended up taking on most of the responsibility and feeling like I was carrying the group. That said, I tended to shy away from it. In sport, it was the same thing, I'd rather win or lose my by own performance, knowing that if I just work harder it will work out. Well...I didn´t really have that option here. We were a group, we would be working together side by side, day in and day out. We would share responsibilities, share meals, share close living quarters, share supplies. There wasn´t a lot of space for "me" or "I". It was like being thrown blindly into some reality show to see what happens when a bunch of strangers have to get along in some idealistic quest to save Guanacos. I realized there would be potential for challenge. This whole group thing was really not my element. For the most part really, it worked out ok. We were all there with the same bright-eyed enthusiasm only someone who pays to work can muster. We all knew what we were getting into...and knew that we would have to play nice and get along. With the exception of a couple bitterly cold nights we all got along well. Even the nicest of people get short-tempered once in a while. Nothing too dramatic, it just meant someone retiring early to their tent to enjoy a couple moments of solitude or perhaps a snarky comment whispered under their breath.

The first days were the most awkward. We were all strangers and being strangers, had little to say to one another other than the basic pleasantries. The work required us to work in partners, so there was that first day of school nervousness about meeting your new friends, looking around, sizing one another up, trying to gauge who could possibly be your new bff and then working up the courage to talk to them...Hi, I'm Claudia, you want to me my partner?

I zoned in on my prosective partner. I'd like to belive that I have this skill of picking out my kindred spirits as far as work ethic is concerned. In the morning we had both worked independently, quietly doing our assigned tasks. But the time had come to partner up, the moment of truth. He was pretty quiet, and didn't say a whole lot, but was nice enough and worked hard. I can get behind this arragement, I don't need to talk all day.The first day went along pretty smoothly, and before I knew it, it was time to hike back down to camp. I thanked Andy for being a rockstar partner, and started down the path, chatting with one of the other girls in the group.

The following day Andy and I ended up working together again as the rest of the group had partnered up the same as the day before. We were quietly unrolling fence and cutting wire. Stacking the wire and wood in neat little piles, moving really fast at our task. Occasionally one of us would make a small comment about how beautiful it was there or make a suggestion about how to dismantle the fence faster. We took note of how uniform and tidy our piles were when compared to the other groups and took pride in how well we worked together. It was soon discovered that Andy had gone to school for architecture. What is it with me and running into design people? It's like some strange magnet, we just find each other. First the two guys in Putre and now Andy. But this did explain our compulsive desire to make our piles in such a way. It was almost like a competition we had created, unspoken to each other and to the rest of the group: WE WILL WORK FASTER AND BETTER.

We were moving like machines:
1. I would pull a roll out from the grass and find out where it started.
2. I would grab the end of the roll and walk it away and Andy would pull from the center until it was laying flat on the ground.
3. Andy would take the clippers and cut the wire so I could seperate the wood from the wire
4. I would gather bunches of wire and take them to the wire pile. Andy would take the wood the wood pile. Repeat.

We were stupid fast. Getting nearly 2 rolls done in the time the other partners did one. In the middle of one of the rolls, we were gloating a little about our method while we looked up the watch the others with their clearly inferior methods of fence dismantling and Andy looks at me with a knowing sidelong glance and says "you didn't play a lot of team sports as a kid, did you?" I respond, "No. Is it obvious? You didn't either, did you?" We both had to laugh. We were both far too competitive to be "team players" but here we were in a social experiement of communal living.

It wasn't long before we found another one of our kindred spirits. We adopted her into our partnership of fence destroyers and dubbed ourself the the dream team. It wasn't just in dismantling fences where the 3 of us (Annie, Andy and myself) seemed to work just a little bit harder and a little bit longer. Andy had developed the habit of always making the fires, he was good at it too, and in doing this earned himself the title of fireman. He'd get up before everybody by like 30 minutes to start the fire and begin the process of boiling water. Which, I have to admit was amazing. It was a saving grace to get up in the morning and stumble half asleep out of my tent to a fire already burning and warm water to put in my oatmeal. In the evenings when we would get back from working he'd walk down first thing to the barrel and start the fire so it would be ready when we wanted to start cooking. I adopted the task of always getting the water. Water for dishes, water for cooking, water for washing hands, water for tea/coffee, water for putting out the fire. Every time we needed more water, I'd make my way down to the creek to get it for the group. It's amazing how quickly you go through water when you don't have the convinience of just turning on the tap. Annie took on the role of food preparer and stirrer. I placed myself in between these two, the one in charge of the heat and the one in charge of the food. It was a good place to be.

During the day while working we would continue to work extra; volunteering to carry the tools, carry the lunch food, carry back fire wood. Even as our numbers in the group grew from 6 to 10, the 3 of us were still were doing more. There was one day in particular that really showcased our supergroup. We had to break down base camp and take down all the gear, the tools and the food. Of course the 3 of us were packed up first, so we started taking down and packing up the communal goods. Annie and I ended up with daypacks full of canned goods (read: super heavy) and some of the cookware and tools. We left some of the other heavy things to disperse among the group and were not suprised to find that no one else could take them. So the three of us again took on the task. This time I strapped a couple of parrot tools to my backpack and placed the rockbar on my shoulders. Let's recap, my backback had my personal gear, plus communal cookware and tools. My dayback, now on the front of my body was full of canned goods, AND I was also carrying a 5ft rockbar that we estimated weighed near 30 lbs. All said and done, I think I was carrying somewhere around 60-70lbs. Andy was in the same boat. Ironically, we were the 2 smallest people in the group. Hmmm...

But the choice was either take on the extra weight or make 2 trips out of it. Granted if we took 2 trips not everyone would have to go back. By this point I already knew that if I didn't take it, then I would be hiking that path again to get the stuff left fine, strap on another tool, I can carry it. This is how it went, the dream team, always taking on the extra. So no, I may not have played a lot of team sports, and neither did the other two, but here we were, taking one for the team. Explain that.

In retrospect I probably did it to myself and it didn't have to be that way. But like the saying goes, old habits do die hard. I can be extremely competitive. I don't like to ask for help. When I take on a task or make a commitment, I give it everything I have. And I have this nagging sense of responsibility to do the job if no one else can. So...thanks Dad, even when volunteering I still work like a horse. Sorry Mom, there was a couple days in there that turned all business. Now, looking back, it's kind of funny, and I hope that the sight of a 5ft tall girl carrying 60-70lbs made the guys of the group feel like a bunch of babies. I mean, let's be honest, one of the males brought rolling luggage. Who does that?!

At least I had the dream team by my side. Even with sweat running down our backs and faces, we could still give each other sidelong glances and shake our heads and laugh. No, we may not have played a lot of team sports as a kids, but we've got the fire, the water and the food.

1 comment:

  1. No spare mules or donkeys out there? Sounds like there's plenty of grass for them to eat.