Note: Tiffin resident Gabi Felter took part in an expedition to Africa this year, and recounts her experiences in a series of columns.
The most recent installment of my experiences on the Biosphere Expedition to Namibia focused on animal life. Yet, I would be remiss if I did not give an overview of the people with whom I spent 12 days on Ongos Farm in southwest Africa.
Traveling by myself has afforded me many opportunities to observe and take in the different personalities that make up group dynamics. Studying people has been a covert fascination of mine for many years. I had a good teacher, my mother. The two of us were fond of the hotel lobby, where we would discuss the people around us in German, occasionally getting caught by someone who spoke the language, too.
I have compiled a list of personality types that make up most groups with whom I have been fortunate to travel. I believe we can all relate to this list.
Here is my list:
The Seasoned Traveler
Traits include comparison of the current trip with other past adventures. How the other trips were different and, often, better. Sentences start with "Well, when we were in Nepal and came across the Bengal tiger in the Royal Chitwan National Park" or "While hiking through the Brazilian rain forest, I was able to spot a three-toed sloth camouflaged in a tree."
In my Namibian group, everyone but I fit into this category to some degree. Only a few took it to the annoying level.
This person comes armed with 25 pounds of camera equipment strapped around the neck. He is constantly removing and replacing lenses for the perfect shot. Often, there is a tripod involved. Time is taken to carefully put this really expensive equipment back in its proper place. All the while the rest of the group is waiting, waiting, waiting.
I must admit, though, the pictures are always great.
One of the experiences I had with "the photographer" went as follows:
We were on our 5 1/2-hour trek by foot. It was Hour No. 5 and I was tired and had wet boots going squish-squish from crossing a river and falling in it. We came upon a field and spotted a herd of hartebeest to our left. A. is, of course, getting his camera equipment together. He then commences to drop his glasses and can see about as well as the two black rhinoceros who were heading for us to the right.
So, three separate scenarios are occurring at the same time. J., the wife of A., is feverishly looking for A's glasses as he becomes increasingly more agitated. G. and I were doing the data work on the herd of hartebeest we had spotted. Meanwhile, two very large, horned rhinoceros were getting a wee too close for comfort.
Fortunately, A's glasses were found and we were able to get out of that field.
The Know It All
This is the individual who pipes in when the experienced group leader is explaining something, and offers a much different explanation. I question how it is she got so knowledgeable so fast - and it is only Day 2! Our scientist, Berndt, took the high road upon being continually interrupted by two dueling know-it-alls. Yet, at one juncture, I had to interrupt, saying politely, "let's let Berndt talk and you two just listen."
Our dueling know-it-alls also were immediately experienced Land Rover drivers. With complete confidence, they attempted to travel the bumpy dirt roads of which they knew nothing about. G., being the owner of several Land Rovers, was a good driver but driving so fast that we often were unable to enjoy our surroundings.
Berndt finally raised his voice and told him to stop because the know-it-all almost ran over a perfectly intact chameleon.
Our second know-it-all would grind the gears of the Land Rover and then stall, causing us to go backward. When he would finally get the vehicle started, he drove like a maniac and we almost lost the four people who were in the back of the Rover.
Our scientist, Christina, lost her cool at this point. This did not seem to affect him in the least, though.
This is the person who has everything to fit any situation he might encounter in the travels. The problem is, too much time is spent looking for the stuff and involves that one more trip back to the tent to get something as dire as those extra pair of hiking socks.
In the meantime, the rest of the group is waiting, waiting, waiting.
The Picky Eater
The first example is the person who piles up the plate with a lot of food, eats practically nothing and throws the rest away. The second person is the one who won't try any of the food and ends up with a lackluster plate of pasta and one piece of butter bread for 11 days.
We had one person of the expedition with dietary needs, specifically gluten intolerance.
I know this is serious and I am not making light of the condition. Michaela, who ordered and put together the menus, was careful to provide food items that were specifically requested by our gluten intolerant friend. We watched, with dismay, each meal so carefully prepared, go back untouched, as our cook wondered what he had done wrong.
This person then would drag out her bags of cereal she had brought and eat that instead.
The hoverer is that person who watched intently as you struggle though the practice of a new skill, giving you all the free advice and instruction you did not want to hear or have demonstrated. One of my experiences with the dueling hoverers was when I was practicing checking tire pressure on the Land Rover tires.
They were talking at the same time and breathing down my neck. I finally told them to back off and let me do it my way. This worked.
This is the one person who can find fault with at least one thing out of each scenario. I tend to stay away from people like that.
This is the one who is new at everything and not naturally adept at following verbal directions. This person has to be hands-on in getting it right, which usually is not right away because everyone else is waiting. This person would be me; the group, however, was great and they did not make me feel I was holding them back.
When all is said and done, by the end of our trip, each one of us had something different to contribute and we all were able to laugh together. This is the beauty of group dynamics.