As #TeamHB3 make their way home from Antarctica after a life-changing experience, we share more photos and reflections from aboard the #MVUshuaia. Stay tuned for more updates as the women return to their homes, families and lives, and apply their leadership lessons.
The first time I came across with Homeward Bound Program, an Australian initiative for women in STEMM, was when my current PhD supervisor sent an email congratulating a former PhD student for her achievement. She will soon start her journey to Antarctica to be trained in leadership. After some minutes reading through its webpage, I thought “it sounds amazing”, “that’s what we need in our world”. But these words do not pay justice, not even photos or videos. The program goes beyond.
Next round, I applied, and I was accepted. I had an urgent desire for helping our global society and planet. I became part of the third cohort (HB3).
My plane landed in Ushuaia, Argentina, the morning of 28th December 2018, after 44 hours travelling from Perth, Australia. We immediately began to recognise each other. We were 80 scientists coming from many places around the world. Laughs, smiles and hugs between us. Only a few met before, we had kept contact mainly online. It seems we know each other since while ago.
We spent two days in Ushuaia setting up the basis of our relationships, something I will call “The agreement”. It is simple and it does not take too long. Respect, no-judgment, empathy and deep listening are some keywords.
We sightly started opening chapters about personal strategy, leadership styles and visibility. We also got our first interviews and releases to social media. Something unthinkable for some of us! Yet still, we did. It is our time. Reflexion and meditation became an internal need to understand how all this new information makes sense in our lives. Many questions, only a few answers.
Next step: 31st December 2018 we started our trip to head Antarctica.
The Drake passage treated us well, 2-3-meter waves, however, I felt seasick. But come on, I have never been in a ship before. I was born in a tropical country and I hold an extraordinary addition for fieldwork inland! So, it never was in my plans to spend 20 days living in the sea!
First icebergs on my sight! First mountains with snow! Oh my God where I am? That excitement!! This connection with nature again!! I had many years without feeling this. Memories came out!
Tropical rivers and their forests were my home several times during fieldwork campaigns since I was 19 years old. Sometimes as a trainee, sometimes leading them. How lucky I was! Many times, I woke up in a middle of trees and their greens, bringing fulfilment to my life! After having our breakfast, we took our “curiaras”, boats made of wood, and then, we started our sampling again. That was one of my duties while working on a National Mapping Program in Venezuela, South America. These “curiaras” are very thin, you cannot move too much. “Doctor remembers to keep still”, our guide, a local man, told me. I spent hours and hours quietly seat in our “curiara”, looking around. We were in Maniapure river, Venezuela. Birds, otters, monkeys, small crocodiles eventually crossed our sights. Copious rainfalls in our way and winter has not come yet. Never bored. Always stimulated by such a splendid landscape. This time, another geoscientist woman was with me leading. Women were not commonly doing this. It is 2007. We built a solid and supportive relationship that has endured for years, even in the distance. Those days, we helped each other, we filled our gaps out in terms of knowledge and leadership skills. We did not receive formal training in leadership at that time. But now all make sense. How we became leaders? The answer is on these trips to remote places. Trips where you put in practice your values, where you find common values between people around you, where you made agreements, and you stick to them. They are empowering experiences. They represent collaborative spaces.
My mind went back to the ship again. The faculty team is calling us to go back after our morning break. The deeper part of the program was about to start. Our days were long and there was no time to waste. All of us held authentic motives to make it work. We were eager to learn. Our activities started no later than 8:30 am and some days run until almost 10 pm. Still, midnight and our skies were as clear and bright as it was during the morning. Night wildlife visitors were present as well, orcas and whales. The most incredible creatures I have ever seen in my life.
In the coming days, leadership as a topic was on the table again. What is a leader? How do you identify a leader? Are you a leader? Have you ever led? What do you need to work or develop for leading your family or your team? Where do you start? Again, many questions, but this time more answers. Clarity appears. You realise that leadership’ skills always were there. As women, we know what leadership means. We are constantly challenged to work between four words: IT, I, YOU and WE. Get IT done! I can do it! YOU are part of the team! and WE are stronger together! Fabian Dattner, the founder and director of this “orchestra” would call it “leading in BLUE”. So, now it is time for changes, for conscious changes.
Conscious changes are only driven by a profound and clear insight of our inner person, our lives, our styles, our habits and our impact in the world. The impact we have now, and the impact we really want to have. Here is where Antarctica plays an imperative role. Antarctica is naked. It is vulnerable. It is wild. Antarctica is displayed in few colours. Antarctica has the power to defy our senses and prejudices. Because we think, we seriously think it will last, but it will not if we do not make a conscious and positive change. We are not on the top of the food chain, we are part of it. We are as vulnerable as she is.
And time has gone. We created trustworthy relationships: faculty and HB participants. We opened our hearts and became vulnerable. But we now have more courage than ever before. We feel happy, supported and accompanied.
It is 17th January 2019. We were on our way back. This time we suffered a “Drake Shake”. The waves reached 12 meters high. But this time, I could manage my seasickness. I knew myself. I knew my physical limits. I knew what to do. I was better prepared from many points of view.
Two days after, we had a farewell dinner. Tears, laughs, dancing, late conversations. Time to say bye for many of us. The reality was waiting for us. Since that, there has not been one day I have not opened my computer and watch some videos, read some messages, notes or talk about my epic trip to Antarctica. I am here, running my life, doing conscious changes. It feels good. It feels you are not alone, I am not alone.
Join me. Join us.