As a kid, I was always happiest when I was playing outside in the dirt, the grass or the water. Nature was an escape, a place where I could go to read unbothered, but it was also a way of facilitating connection with playmates who, like me, also enjoyed driving their mothers crazy by coming home with grass stained white socks.
One of the things I could spend lots of time doing on days when I was alone in my backyard was ant-watching. Turning over rocks or following their paths in my mom’s garden, I would seek them out and try to test their resilience. I would try putting loads of obstacles in their way, but always, they would find a way around or over it. I would step on their tiny mounds of sand but somehow, they always built them back up again. I even tried giving them tempting food that was clearly way too big for them to carry but always, they would find a way to pick up that piece of bread and get it to where it needed to be. They really didn’t seem to care that I was being a total jerk to them.  Unlike bees, who get really mad when you step on their home (which is understandable), ants pay no mind to you. Their goal seems to be understood by everyone in their group, and their only worry is to get it done.
For all their strength and resilience, however, ants work in numbers. Isolate an ant on an island, and it cant do much to survive on its own.
Which brings me to today’s eXXpedition activities. Visiting a school, a non-profit organization and a hotel in Barbados (Codrington school, Barbados Marriott hotel, and the Future Centre Trust) who are all doing amazing work trying to create positive change in their communities around waste management improvement, what really stood out was how passionate they all were about the issue yet how challenging it was for them to create meaningful dialogue around it.
Codrington school’s fantastic, progressive and engaged recycling club who is doing so much great voluntary work was expressing to us how difficult it was to get students excited about their initiatives. Barbados’ Marriott hotel, who is very keen on becoming a best-practice institution with regards to environmental action, says they would benefit from greater teamwork from members inside the island’s tourism community to make change happen faster. Finally, the Future Center Trust is doing fantastic groundwork, creating mosaics to raise awareness about waste and organizing community clean-up activities to clear the island’s drains and prevent floods. Yet, they are finding it very challenging to get their Bajan friends to care as deeply and as passionately as they do about their island’s health.
In a world where we have so many channels to communicate with one another, it still appears that some connections are harder to initiate than others.
However, what we witnessed today in Barbados was the early spark of imminent change. Just like hardworking ants, all the people we met are focused, resilient and relentless in what they do to achieve their goal: a clean island. They are on the verge of becoming an efficient colony: as soon as they trace new paths in the sand to find each other, they will be able to share the heavy load of work that needs to be done and climb over the obstacles they are facing together.
Really, this kind of looks like what eXXpedition is all about: creating a space where like-minded women who want to be part of a solution can meet, share and connect in order to better embody and communicate the change they wish to see in the world.
When you think about it, all the eXXpedition girls were once that kid with the grass stained socks. And deep down, we still are. The only difference now? The ocean has become our backyard and we’ve traded our grass stains for salty hair and sun-wrinkled eyes.
by Marika Dube