Glenda Reyes' Diary

Wednesday, February 1, 2006 Thursday, February 2, 2006
Friday, February 3, 2006 Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Monday, February 27, 2006 Tuesday, March 7, 2006
Tuesday, June 13, 2006  

Wednesday, February 1, 2006 It was a normal day for me—sorting my mailbox and replying to messages sent with “high importance.” Actually, I was looking for a particular email sent by our business unit’s environment, health, and safety (EHS) department that I needed to respond to. I was already going nuts because I could not find that email.
Late in the afternoon, I tried searching for it again, as I was thinking that maybe it just got buried in the avalanche of other priority emails. During my search, I noticed an email subject header that said 2006 Alcoa Earthwatch Program. I remembered about the application I submitted a month ago, so I curiously opened the email to see if I was lucky enough to be selected for a 2006 Earthwatch expedition. I was really stunned to see the first sentence of the email: “Congratulations!  I am truly pleased to be able to advise that your application to participate in the 2006 Alcoa Earthwatch program has been successful and you will be heading off to Vietnam to work on Butterflies of Vietnam between July 14 and July 22, 2006.”
I felt so honored, because out of 100 applicants, only 15 had been selected. I was one of those lucky Alcoa employees who were offered a place in the program. I don’t know how important the program is for other locations, but for me, my selection is so important for several reasons. First, I will represent my country, the Philippines, in the program. Second, I will be the very first Alcoa employee from the Philippines to join the Earthwatch program. Third, I will be the very first Alcoa employee from our business unit (Alcoa Closure Systems International) here in the Asia Pacific region to join the program.
Several questions kept on popping up in my mind that day. Who will be my teammates? What am I supposed to do, and how can I help the researchers when I do not know so much about insects, specifically butterflies? I know very few things, and I do not have an idea how butterflies can help in telling the ecological viability of Tam Dao National Park.
For me, this is interesting, as I will be able to learn and appreciate that butterflies have other uses except for the usual things I know. It’s true that butterflies are common: we see them almost everyday, especially in our home garden. Here in the Philippines, young entrepreneurs are making good money from butterflies. They preserve butterflies and use them for home décor and as a souvenir item like a picture frame (I actually have one—my sister-in-law gave it to me as a present on my birthday). Live butterflies are even used at weddings and birthdays. Instead of the usual confetti, guests release small, white butterflies around the newlywed couple and birthday celebrants. The whole scene is really beautiful and romantic—made in paradise, I would say! 
My kids are also fond of butterflies. There is a shopping mall near our area where butterflies are inside a big booth, flying freely with lots of live plants around them. Kids are given a chance to go inside the booth to touch and even catch butterflies. Unfortunately, it’s not for free, and you have to pay for each butterfly you catch. Ouch! When we visit that mall again, I’ll make sure to take photos and include them in my diary.
My excitement didn’t end here. I told my husband and my kids about my selection, and they, too, were all very excited. They could hardly wait for the photographs and video of the butterflies in Vietnam. As early as it is, my kids are already asking me to bring home different species of butterflies. So, I am thinking of catching gorgeous butterflies and bringing them home to the Philippines. Am I allowed to do that? That I’ll have to wait and see….
This is the first time that I will visit Vietnam. I am so excited to see this country, which is very rich in history. I should know that, since Vietnam belongs to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which the Philippines also happens to be a member. Vietnam is growing fast economically, the population is increasing, and the country is definitely opening up its doors for globalization.
I want to thank Alcoa for its sponsorship and Earthwatch Institute for giving me the opportunity to learn while assisting the organization on this project.
Lastly, to the rest of the 2006 Alcoa Earthwatch fellows, congratulations and enjoy your expeditions!

Thursday, February 2, 2006 Today, I sent an email to Shamsa, the Alcoa coordinator, asking her about the complete list of other lucky Alcoa employees who were offered a place on various Earthwatch projects. Perhaps I know some of them—an acquaintance, maybe. Who knows, somebody could be a friend of mine.
Keeping in mind that I will be joining a group with diverse cultures and nationalities, I also want to know who my teammates will be. These are the people that I will be working with for 14 days.

Friday, February 3, 2006 As soon as I saw Shamsa’s email, I got so excited. At last, I would be able to see the names of my teammates and other Alcoa employees who will join the Earthwatch projects. 
I began to scroll down the file and was excited to see the names of Ana Gonzalvo (we both belong to the CSI business unit) of CSI Spain, and, of course, Kenny Wang. Although Ana and I will not be on the same team, I hope to meet her in another time and place.
Kenny is a good friend of mine. He is the EHS manager for AFL (another business unit of Alcoa) based in Shanghai, China. Actually, he previously worked in CSI as a project manager. Our friendship started when I participated as a special auditor and helped the Australian internal audit team audit their location. I would describe Kenny as a very warm guy who speaks with sense and is a very helpful person. No wonder he’s a friend to almost everybody around him.
On that same day, I sent an email and congratulated him on his second opportunity. Why second opportunity? Last year, he was supposed to go to Portugal for the storm petrels project. However, he decided to withdraw from the project to attend to a very important work issue. He’s a very dedicated EHS guy indeed!
I got his reply on the same day. He was very glad to know that we are both participating in this year’s Earthwatch program, and he’s excited to read about my future adventures in the diary.
David Willyams from Alcoa in Australia will be my teammate, and right now I am planning to make initial contact with him prior to our actual expedition.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006 Alcoa will be sending out a corporate press release about us, the lucky 15 Alcoa employees who were selected to participate in the Earthwatch program. Wow, it didn’t occur to me that our names will be published in various newspapers around the globe.  This is so cool!

Monday, February 27, 2006 Would you believe that my selection as an Earthwatch fellow made me feel like an instant celebrity, inside and outside of Alcoa?   
A few days after the press release for the 2006 Earthwatch fellows was published, congratulatory messages started pouring in. Frank Cicela from CSI Crawfordsville sent an email congratulating me and wishing me to enjoy the wonderful experience that awaits me. Frank is a past Earthwatch fellow. He enthusiastically participated in the Costa Rica rainforest caterpillar project in 2003. Obviously, he really had a wonderful time with that project, as he actually created a website to share his one-of-a-kind experience in Costa Rica. I encourage everyone to take a look at that website. There are lots of interesting pictures and slide shows. It looks so real to me.
There was one email message that I wasn’t really expecting. Our business unit president, Mr. Lance Mitchell, congratulated me and Ana Gonzalvo for being selected as Earthwatch fellows. Of course, I was ecstatic. I guess Ana felt the same way, too.
There are other congratulatory messages I received that came from my Filipino friends and acquaintances. A lot of them saw the press release on the Alcoa website and felt very proud and happy for me. I just wish I can bring home souvenirs for all of them upon my return!

Tuesday, March 7, 2006 Today, I received the package from Earthwatch Institute containing the expedition briefing and a blue Earthwatch T-shirt. The package was delivered straight to my home address.
The expedition briefing booklet contains very helpful information. Almost everything that I need to know and prepare for the project is all there, including visa information, travel and hotel arrangements, health requirements, expedition packing checklist, and, of course, the details about the research itself—its background, objectives, and methods.
The expedition is four months away, so I thought I still had lots of time to prepare—both physically and mentally. However, I should have started working on getting a visa first, as some embassies take a long time to process visa requests. Fortunately, our travel agent informed me that citizens from ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member countries do not need a visa to enter Vietnam. The Philippines is a long-time member of ASEAN. A valid passport and return ticket are the only documents that we need to present to immigration, and tourists can stay up to 21 days in Vietnam. On my part, I just want to make sure that I can enter Vietnam and meet the team. I will take all the documents related to the Earthwatch project.
So, I don’t have to worry about a visa. The next task would be to book my flight and make hotel reservations. According to the expedition briefing, I should make my travel arrangements through Alcoa’s corporate travel agency. Honestly, I don’t know how this works, because this is the first time that somebody from our location would be using the Alcoa corporate travel agency. Anyway, for me, this would be another exciting part of being an Earthwatch fellow.
Aside from the well-prepared expedition briefing booklet, I was also impressed by the T-shirt. I actually took pictures of both the booklet and the shirt, which you can see in my photo gallery.
Blue is one of my favorite colors. The size of the shirt fits me perfectly—not so loose, not so tight. My attention was caught by the wordings printed on the back of the shirt. It says I only need to bring with me a “long-lost desire to help make a difference.” For me, the statement has an intense meaning. I just realized that I don’t have to be a scientist, famous, influential, or rich to be able to make a difference. Even an ordinary person like me can make a difference. Anybody can if you have that earnest desire to help make a difference burning inside of you.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006 One month away from the expedition day itself, I started to feel excited and at the same time anxious. I have been traveling extensively for the past two months, and I admit I wasn’t able to focus much on this. Until now, I haven’t read a single piece of literature about butterflies. I promised myself that I would devote an hour of my time at home reading related literature prior to my trip…and that is approximately four weeks! I just wish my brain neurons would not break and be able to absorb and store all this information.
By the way, I received my Earthwatch baggage sticker and tag and the volunteer team list. My teammates hail from the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. I hope that even after the project, we can still keep in touch despite our busy schedules.

Photo Gallery

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Earthwatch Institute

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Butterflies of Vietnam

Learn more about the expedition and its scientists.go