A day (almost) like any other
Updated: Dec 14, 2019
The morning of the 25th of June was like any other working day. Waking up early, putting on clothes, having breakfast, storing sampling equipment in the car, preparing my backpack, checking the weather a last time, and then leave to work… but not any work… fieldwork in the beautiful Pyrenean Mountains.
Actually, it was not exactly a morning like any other, as I first had to pass by an administration office to drop some official papers there, have a small chat with the person in charge there. Only then I came back home to change for fieldwork clothes, as well as to change cars. Maybe this is the detail that changed everything. Maybe. I do not know.
I was ready before the time set for meeting at home, at least I thought I was, so I jumped in the EcoLab car and started to drive. On the way, I picked up my colleagues Judit, Oliver and Adriana, walking along the road with their backpacks. Everything looked pretty normal to everyone and we had a nice drive to the mountains, speaking about many different things, including Moroccan Mountains where I spend many months studying an endangered bird species, the houbara bustard.
It is only after I had parked the car and opened the trunk that I realized that it was definitively not a day like any other. First, I could not believe it, and looked everywhere, in the trunk, in the back sits, in the trunk again. Maybe someone has made a joke, at least that is what I was hoping for. “Have you seen my backpack?” I asked. “No”. “I am sure I put it in the car. I can see myself putting it in the trunk”. Unfortunately, I have done this gesture so many times, storing my backpack in the Duster, that I could be confusing this image with a thousand others. So I had to face the facts: for the very first time in my life (and hopefully the last time), I had forgotten my backpack! I
For a moment, I considered the possibility of going home to get my bag, but it was impossible, the time to go and come back, the field day would have been wasted. The only positive point was that the mission could still be completed: all the equipment was in the car, only my field notebook was missing. I even had a one-liter water bottle available in the car (usually for a thirsty return to the car after a full day in the sun). And everyone immediately offered to share with me what I would need (and Adriana made sure that I was not starving or getting thirsty). No one questioned their very dizzy expedition leader!
I had to split the (heavy) equipment between three people instead of four and I felt terribly ashamed of myself, hiking in the mountain with only a bottle in my hands, when my co-workers had to carry even heavier backpacks because of me. When we started to hike, my back and shoulders were strangely light and it did not feel at all like fieldwork. Only watching my poor three companions reminded me of fieldwork.
Suddenly, a picture came in my mind: that of a Victorian explorer, discovering a new environment, followed by a caravan of sherpas, carrying an incredible load of equipment necessary for the mad and reckless expeditions. I think you know what I mean (in case you don’t, see below an old photograph). And then, I felt even more ashamed. Fortunately for my ego, we did not meet any tourists in the mountain who could have asked me why I would be the only one not carrying anything in this group of (crazy) scientists.
The moral of this story is that team work and team spirit is the most important when on the field and that (almost) any situation can be overcome when we remain united and positive.