…it means, basically, “hold on to your diapees!”
Let me preface this by saying that there are three basic steps to handling crisis situations when faced with them as a leader of any group of people.
If you are a leader and you notice that a crisis situation might be forming, you subtly and quietly do what you can to handle the situation, being as careful as possible to hide the situation from others. The worst thing that can happen is for others to find out before it’s fully manifested itself, an eventuality that inevitably leads to rumors, misinformation, and others who really want to help, very sincerely, but only end up being a hindrance to your efforts to eliminate said potential crisis situation.
Sometimes, though, eliminating the situation earlier than visibility is impossible, and the crisis manifests itself in such a way that it is very obvious and begins to negatively affect the group. In this instance, you must do the opposite. You must very, very obviously and openly deal with the situation. The group you are leading must be aware that you are doing everything possible to handle the situation in whatever manner available to you. This way, if it isn’t fixed (and sometimes it’s not), they cannot accuse you of not doing everything possible to remove the situation.
If these two routes fail, a good leader looks at the situation, sighs, laughs because crying does absolutely nothing to hold the group together (the leader, save a few exceptions, must always be strong), looks at the group, and says: “Okay, guys! This is a team-building activity.” Basically, if you haven’t purposefully scheduled a team-building activity (like we do for Model UN at UNC Charlotte by employing Venture), and you say a situation has become a team-building activity, it means that nothing you could do worked, and everyone’s in it for the long haul. Together. They’ll hate it, but after it’s over (and time decrees that, eventually, it will be over), they’ll be stronger as a group for having endured it as an entity.
Really, though it sucks while you’re experiencing it, I’ve found in my time as a leader that these situations are the ones that bring everyone together the most.
Anyway, that’s what happened on the trip to Santa Marta and home from Cartagena.
We were on a very tightly-packed bus without AC in 42 degrees Celcius temperature for 26 hours to Santa Marta, a journey littered with stops because one of the three buses continued to break down. The trip home from Cartagena took even longer, spanning 32 hours and one memorable 8-hour span where we didn’t stop to pee, and when we did we were guarded by a man with a gun. Food and water wasn’t always available, either.
Enter a classic “Look, guys, a team-building activity!” moment.
We left after the Germany World Cup Final on Sunday because four of our trainees are German (it was awesome because half of us were supporting Germany, and the other half Argentina; I’ve found that the rule here in Colombia is: always support Colombia. If one cannot support Colombia, always support the remaining Latin American countries. Unless, of course, that Latin American country eliminated Colombia. In that case, never ever even breathe the name of The Country Who Must Not Be Named).
I didn’t take pictures for the first 12 hours of the journey because it was dark. This is the first I got, located at a random stop in the early morning hours (I think around 7:00 am?) of Saturday.
The thing about Colombia is that the sun rises very early and sets very early, always at the same time, and very suddenly. All I remember was finishing reading The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers at about 3:00 am, falling asleep to our radio blasting Michael Jackson at an ungodly volume (I’ll have an entire post dedicated to our bus driver), and waking up two hours later to the brightest sun and hottest atmosphere I’ve ever encountered.
In true parental fashion, when asked if there would be TVs on the buses, Cristian responded, “The window’s your TV, watch that.” Even though past about 11:00 am everything was obscured by a heat-and-development-induced smog.
This is at about 11:00 am in The Middle of Nowhere, Colombia.
Look how happy our team is!
You can see that The Middle of Nowhere, Colombia, has a booming tourism sector and stunning landscapes.
Such team-building and optimism!
Really, we all needed a little nap.
Such dust. Much dirty. So sweat.
This was circa I-don’t-know-what-time. By this time, every Colombian kept telling us that Santa Marta was only two hours away. Just two hours more! Every five hours.
Bea was totally a fan of the Colombian time system.
This guy was casually rinsing his dentures at a tree and I was amused.
Oh look, another stop! This time, we’re surrounded by some nice road and super hot conditions. I think this was around 4:00 pm on Saturday?
My camera broke halfway through this trip so I don’t have pictures of the ride home, but it was longer and hotter and even more memorable.
Even though the tone of this post is fecetious, though, I wouldn’t have traded those terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad bus rides for anything in the world. Something about enduring a situation with 30 people from around the world is so bonding. I have so many inside jokes, stories, and memories from this, that I know in five days, five months, five years from now, I’ll always look back on those hours, sweating in a van, so dirty that when I ran my nails through my hair they emerged covered in black grit, and I’ll call Kimi, or Bea, or Sofia, or Ben, or John, or any other person I shared that trip with, and get a laugh like no other.
As a leader and as one who is being led, here’s to the beauty and magic of “team-building activities.”