In preparation for our scientific research expeditions with Earthwatch from July onwards (fingers crossed), we have been taking our Oceans Ambassadors out and about into nature, especially now that winter is over and the school we were using has exams. This is the ultimate test and training as our guys are going to be doing some very hardcore work, and they need to be ready in a whole bunch of different ways. This is a massive undertaking, their first time outside of Georgia in most cases, first time communicating in English with some of the world’s leading scientists and they will be interacting with other cultures and traditions, including tribes in the Amazon and Africa, community environmental education in schools, and they will be working with wild animals, including rhinos, elephants, tigers, sharks, and all very much hands on and under the supervision of Earthwatch. We also have to make sure that they are comfortable working long days and in all weathers, even when they don’t really feel in the mood, and last but not least, they have to be able to work in a team, and with young people they have never met before. It is a huge task for them, and now we have selected which students will go on which expedition, we really have to start pushing and challenging them, far beyond their comfort zones, but still in the relative security and confines of Georgia.
So, this week, we thought that Pond dipping might be good for them, and also started to delegate responsibilities to them and to let them interact and make decisions a little more. This was not just for expeditions with Earthwatch, but also in preparation for their Adventurous Journey as they will need to plan and follow a route over at least two days, with one night of camping, in teams of 4-7 people, using maps, compasses, and carrying rucsacks, whilst we will be merely supervising from a distance. It may have appeared somewhat chaotic to an outsider, but there was method to my madness, especially since I’m the only one who has been involved with Duke of Edinburgh type expeditions and also Earthwatch expeditions.
So, we met them at Elvis cafe/Philarmonic at 10am, everyone turned up at the right place and at the right time, and from there we needed to get to the Botanical Gardens and they had to find a good place for a stream or a pond. A leader was chosen and their job was to get us all there, which they did perfectly, and they handled the doubters and other alpha’s in the group very well, were steadfast and calm and did a great job. They were supervised throughout, the Project Leaders were with them, and we hovered in the wings, looking to make sure everyone was on or off the three buses we needed to take, and that everyone was ok, including our three guests who brought us lots of gifts from Germany, UK, and Netherlands through Stuff Your Rucksack.
Once at the Botanical Gardens, we had to find 50tetri per person to enter, some students had no money at all, and for others this was nothing to them, so it was good to try and address some of the social backgrounds and work together, without anyone feeling bad, a good lesson in tact and team work.
Once inside, their next job was to find the stream or pond and to remember the directions since they were last here in winter filming for their ‘Georgian Wildlife Show’. They doubted themselves a little as to the right path, one or two complained, but on the whole they were all very excited, and I have to say they were a lot better than most teenagers I’ve worked with, and complaints were very minimal. They were on the right path, but just needed confidence to follow their instinct, and it was good to see them negotiating and encouraging each other and ironing out any team dynamics very quickly. There are no maps of the gardens and there was repair work going on, so some of the usual paths were not open, some had been here before, some hadn’t. On expedition they will be learning map and compass skills, and using GPS to follow transects in the jungle or on safari to track and collect data on animals, but will be with adults throughout, however the team dynamic will be the same, and they will have to undertake tasks in teams or pairs, so they have to learn how to negotiate with others and to compromise, something that isn’t really taught in Georgia and is more a question of personality. Even yesterday, I observed a young couple having a disagreement about something, which ended up with the lady jumping up and down and whining like a two year old having a temper tantrum, until the husband eventually gave in, which seems to be the typical method of getting your own way, no matter how old you are, and I’ve observed similar behaviour in older generations. This works fine in Georgia, but won’t be a good strategy outside of Georgia, especially if catching caimans from a canoe at night and you get bored and want to go home! So its imperative that they learn not just these skills, but also expedition stamina and to tolerate boredom and learn to be alone or in silence. Alone or down time is quite a novel thing in Georgia and kids are busy going from one thing to the next, especially with their private lessons, and this tends to make them a little hyperactive. Somehow we have to put the zen into them now, and get them able to focus and being quiet for long periods of time, especially when working with nature.
By the way, I saw a really interesting film about Georgia this week. It was called ‘Power Trip’ (http://powertrip-themovie.com/homepage/) and was all about the installation and lack of electricity in the country, and was really fascinating and helps to put certain behaviours into context. A must see for anyone curious to know about Georgia. It was certainly one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in a very long time, and nicely put together.
Now back to pond dipping!! This is the Philarmonic/Elvis cafe where we met:
Amazing to see the difference in behaviour between our guys and these guys in the photo, made me very proud to see just how far we have come, and to think about our guys going on expeditions soon:
Makeshift pond dipping equipment:
We found so many things in the pond, including a snake!
We need more of these pots, this one was borrowed:
Georgia has the most fascinating insects in my view:
Georgia also has an abundance of crickets, grasshoppers, and even locusts:
Team work, and dipping with our guests from Germany, who brought us lots of lovely things:
Obligatory photo of Project Leader Dave (from Scotland), the girls seem to love him:
Initiative in making a fishing net:
One of our youngest students discovered the art of setting paper alight using just a magnifying glass:
Kartlis Deda (Mother Georgia) with her welcoming wine in one hand, but dagger in the other hand in case of attack from enemies:
Our attempt at field studio photography: