EDITORIAL

Flying Down to Rio

On many levels this is a very special eSea. If you’ve got this far you may have noticed that we are using a different platform to launch it. As you get further you will note a very South American feel, apart from a taste of the Arctic – yes, we are flying down to Rio.

We’re using our web as the main launch pad for eSea because we have spent the past year rebuilding it to become a vibrant part of our communications. Websites in general have a tendency to be there because they have to be. Like a dog, it is not just for Christmas. It needs constant feeding and exercise. It’s all too often a company ‘tick’ in the box. ‘Oh yes we’ve got a website.’ You then look in the news section to see that the latest item is four years old.

By having eSea as an integral part of the web it should ensure that we have constant freshness alongside an easier and more complete experience for you, the reader, and who knows, perhaps even as a course participant. eSea’s aim has always been to inform through entertaining. It’s never been Maersk Training’s magazine, rather a magazine from Maersk Training. It is a subtle difference which we will endeavour to maintain, even although embedded in a website. We’d be keen to hear your feedback. Positive or negative, it is the only way forward.

The Rio trip was based upon experiencing a new course where the Brazilian drill team from a rig contracted by Shell were heading into deep waters and having to drill through salt to get to the oil. Drilling through salt is particularly unpredictable and it draws upon an even greater level of clear communication. The course therefore concentrated on aligning both technical and human skills.

Safety is paramount in everything we do. Each year the entire Maersk group takes time out to focus on safety, to see how it can be improved for the next 364 days. This year there is a mind shifting decision that requires putting blame aside and seeking for the source any incident. We tease you with a few questions as to how you’d react in certain situations. Whilst in Rio one incident occurred which required the crew of a vessel to change their view of training for safety.

On the human side, in Rio we meet a trio of interesting men who in different ways might cause you to re-evaluate your lives. Enjoy.

Richard Lightbody
rli039@maersktraining.com

Sweet and Sour

It said five past eight on the wall clock, but the drill team in the classroom were about to travel back 200 million years. Their eventual physical target is just 85kms off the Brazilian coast. Hopefully it is the key to one of the riches of the South Atlantic, the extensive oilfields that stretch from Brazil to Angola, two countries in two continents that were once joined together physically and now share a common language and a potential life-changing miracle.

The sweet oil lying under a bed of salt

The Shell block in the western Atlantic seabed is comparatively close to land, but in deep water. The reason for commissioning a whole raft of new fields is that the economic tide has turned in favour of deep sea operations. The seabed from Brazil to Africa, where it was once joined all those millions of years ago, has a floor of salt, and underneath it, almost certainly some of the finest oil on earth. Salt even although it is in rock form, is a less stable bed and can cause unique drilling situations. So far all the wells sunk as exploratory have yielded huge returns.

There is no indication that the new field, although isolated and distanced from the dozens of other new and established to the south, will be any less generous. The crew from the drillship Brava Star were the second and concluding part of the drilling section to take part in a new holistic course, Well Control and Crew Resource Management. The course doesn’t define between the two topics, it blends them into one, the technical side and human skills merging, showing how they can affect each other.

The perfect marriage

It’s a path that Maersk Training has been pioneering for some time. All too often when analyzing the aftermath of an accident, the cause finds its root in human frailty in following procedures or decisions made in error. The marriage of people and technological skills has been the bedrock or a new genre of courses for new build crews and has proven itself with the return on investment within weeks of the crews going on board.

Shell Brazil’s Wells Technical Advisor, Wouter Bode, believes the return on investment was evident before they had got to day three, the final day of the course. ‘I would say that after doing this I think every campaign that we bring in a new rig I think I would look at doing similar training. It’s been tremendous. We are now also considering that maybe after a year we need to bring those crews back in for a day on the simulator to refresh and see where they are. Maybe as a result of having used the procedures offshore and during the regular well controls every week, that there are further improvements that we can then make.’

Wouter viewed the course’s success on several levels, skill and team building as well as it providing a testing and development ground for procedures. CRM’s origins go back to the airline industry and more precisely one of the case studies the team examined, the Tenerife 747 tragedy of 1977. Disasters on rigs triggered a response from the oil industry, but it is generally accepted that it still lags behind in terms of thoroughness and in setting uniform standards.

‘The course exceeds my expectations because the people were not only able to train the basics but also by working together, get to know each other. And I think it was very powerful as the operator to come together with the rig contractor and work together face-to-face for three days and really get into that mindset that they are empowered to do this and do it correctly,’ Wouter added.

Shell, Expertise and Investment

Royal Dutch Shell is investing $2million dollars a year in the Lula basin. The northern field, where the Brava Star has commenced operations, was discovered in 2007. It is relatively close to the mainland, but the seabed is deep and the pre-salt layer is particularly thick, it’s estimated to be two kilometers in places. The oil found at the Tupi reservoir due south of Rio de Janeiro with its low sulphur, is described as light and ‘sweet’.

Drilling through a bed of salt can be more tricky than solid rock – even although it can be several kilometers thick, it is less predictable and it requires even more caution than normal in the dog house.

Petrobras held a monopoly on Brazilian oil until 1995 when the constitution changed to allow foreign investment. Shell has a 25% stake in the Lula consortium.

Reality Training

Maersk Training aims is to be on the cutting edge of techniques to get the message across. Pioneers in simulation and breaking teaching and coaching boundaries, rescue instructor Felipe Santana, stumbled across a new genre that was both tragic and illuminating, reality training.

An onboard learning experience like no other

Felipe had been on location for 18 days, onboard training the crew of supply vessel Maersk Vega. It was the first time that they had been trained onboard and in truth there seemed a mild reluctance to their normal onboard routine being ‘interrupted’ by educational sessions.

Anchored offshore in Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro’s huge backwater, and being assessed before imminent deployment, the supply In the bay vessels are at an increased risk from not piracy or hijack, but stealth robberies. The vessel was in lock-down, but one man managed to clamber onboard and make his way up to the bridge. Here he was discovered by the pilot. His hands were bleeding and he was in state of semi-exhaustion. It was midnight and the story unfolded that he was a fisherman, not a pirate. The captain called for the crew to find Felipe. The man said that his fishing boat had sunk and that three members of his crew were missing, a woman and two men. It was a family owned and operated boat.

Cold and Confused

As a rescue expert Felipe was detailed by the captain to take over the operation. A second fishing boat located the two men and brought them to Vega where they were taken on board using the techniques taught just days before and Felipe and the crew revived them. The fishermen were confused and exhausted and even in Brazilian waters of 20 degrees were in a near hypothermic state. The fourth member of the crew, a 48 year-old woman, tragically had been swept away. Her body was later recovered by another fishing boat.

The whole incident was a brutal awakening to the value of the correct knowledge of what to do in an emergency situation and suddenly the crew recognized it. All that they had listened too over the past suddenly sunk in. The remaining lessons on board assumed a new significance and respect for the value of knowledge, especially if it was seemingly obvious or trivial, like the exact location or role of equipment. The seconds saved by that knowledge were precious in the recovery process of the two fishermen. The next morning the three men were transferred to another vessel and taken back to their home port.

Prior to the rescue they even had a stretcher on board, but didn’t know where it was. There were five days left of onboard training and Felipe noticed a new awareness and commitment. The whole incident was a brutal awakening to the value of having the correct knowledge of what to do in an emergency and suddenly the crew recognized it.

The bosun who had assisted Felipe observed ‘now we know where everything is.’

The X Factor

Sometimes the smallest of things can make the greatest of differences. Jerry Faria through a small deviation of his personal time and drain on his own pocket, is making a massive contribution to his home community. He takes broken and discarded things apart and gives them a new life; he sees himself as a bit of a technological Frankenstein.

Jerry’s Frankenstein antics creates chances of new lives

The village of Kawa Shee is not somewhere you find easily on the map. Even Google Earth struggles. It’s a scattered community of three to four hundred in what they call ‘the interior’, a euphemism for most of tropical Guyana outside of the coastal region. It’s not inaccessible, about 800 kms of windy jungle road from the capital Georgetown or via a grass air strip, but in 21st Century terms it is still remote.

Jerry was brought up in a world lit solely by candles and kerosene. Today there is a relatively new school serving the children of the isolated farmsteads, but still there’s no electricity grid. What power there is, is solar, stored in batteries, and precious. He went to school, barefooted, often shirtless, just in Bermuda shorts and it wasn’t until 1994, as a sixteen-year-old on a trip to Brazil, that he saw his first computer. It was a life-changing moment, but as it turned out, not just for Jerry.

He went to university and in his gap year returned to find that the local church had a computer. ‘The church basically showed them how to turn it on, so they would literally turn it on and stare at the screen,’ remembers Jerry. ‘No one knew what to do with it, so I loaded programs like Mavis Beacon Learn to Type and basic word processing.’ Mary’s transformation.

Jerry stayed at home for six months at Sand Creek (which Google maps can find) teaching the children. One of his early prodigies was a tiny Amerindian girl. Mary got so hooked on computer sciences that she left for the capital to do further studies and became the personal secretary to the Minister of Amerindian Affairs and married a doctor. By any stretch of the imagination that introduction to the computer was a life changer.

Jerry started to think, ‘if you can achieve this with one computer what if . . . ?’

Today Jerry works for Maersk Training in Rio as a safety instructor, particularly for the wind industry, but back in Kawa Shee they look forward to his annual trip home. He spends the previous eleven months eyes and ears open for any discarded laptops – he doesn’t look or listen out for desktops, they are too bulky. Over the years he has managed to transport up to 30 laptops back home. It is difficult to calculate how many career and life changing moments the laptops have caused. It is not an easy journey. It involves up to four internal flights and then a drive across the border. It is a drive that requires caution. As a throw-back to colonial days Guyana is one of two south American countries that drives on the left, Brazil, the right. To help the switch there’s a rather neat tunnel and bridge connection that looks like a knot where you emerge on the other side.

Jerry’s recycling doesn’t stop at computers. He extracts the 18650 battery cells from dead computers and recharges them – they then have about four years of life in flashlights, a vital tool in a community without street lighting. The mission to educate doesn’t stop at electrics. When teacher wife Karen’s school in Rio closed, they pounced on the blank exercise books and 200 bags. The bags may have had the wrong school name on them, one from 3,331 kms south, but today they are a common sight in Sand Creek.

The language question

Conversa Inteligente – Smart Talk

The headline says it all, twice. Time and time again the pitfall in causing a wrong impression or even worse, an accident, boils down to basic communication. Not so much the lack of it, since in such situations people are left to make up their own minds, more the dangerous area of miscommunication where decisions are taken on information based on faulty pretences. So imagine a situation where you have skilled technicians, about to embark on a mission requiring specialist knowledge and sometimes new skills, and much of the briefing for most of those present, is in a foreign tongue.

The crew from the ultra-deep water drillship Brava Star were the first to go through a new preparation programme at Maersk Training in Rio that involved honing technical skills whilst developing their communication strengths. The crew members were Brazilian, the managers a global mix of English, Brazilian and Dutch, the course instructors, Danish and Brazilian. They were entering a process where mix became a blend, where the technicalities of Well Control met the clarity of Crew Resource Management.

Throughout it all, the languages were English and Portuguese. Anyone who has listened extensively to either would note that there is barely a word, or sound, that is similar, despite the fact that the two countries have the longest alliance in history, over six hundred years of shared nautical understanding.
Add to this scenario that the drilling project is bringing people and companies together for the first time. So how do you conduct a three-day exercise where everyone benefits?

It would appear with ease, in fact if anything, it was a classic case of turning an apparent weakness into an advantage. Unconsciously you could see the participants clarifying their thoughts, speaking slower and more distinctly, aiding the message by using their hands and then looking to see if the message had struck home.

Well Control and Crew Resource Management is the latest marriage of skills by Maersk Training who have been pioneering holistic instruction for several years through whole crew performance enhancement. The results this time were impressive according to Wouter Bode, Shell Brasil’s Wells Technical Advisor ‘At times somebody would say something in Portuguese and another person was able to listen and talk in English and later on with some translation get everybody on the same page. While it initially seemed a challenge, I think it actually brought the team closer together with the realisation that we have to listen to each other and take time to communicate.

This course was for the Brava Star’s drilling section only. The crew was split into groups, whilst oneundertook technical challenges with Danish instructor Kim Laursen, assisted by Mariana Sagas, the other group examined better ways of understanding each other with Brazilian Fabio Melo, supported by Jesper Fredskild out of Svendborg’s People Skills department. The groups then switched roles.

Within the groups there were several who were bilingual, sometimes totally, but needing confidence to recognise it and sometimes partially in that they could understand, but were not fluent enough in order to respond. This last segment drove many of the free-flowing conversations because they unwittingly changed tracks and everyone felt involved because the discussions flowed.

And flow they did. You might expect in a multi-language situation that there would be fractures as translations held the process up, but probably because of the need for clarity all contributions were concise. There were few, if any, incidents where the subject matter drifted off course though ill-thought out interventions. People spoke because they had something to say, not because they wanted to say something.

Post note:
‘You say potato, I say potato, you say Brazil, I say Brasil’ – we’ve opted to use the Portuguese with the ‘S’ when it is aligned to company names and with the ’Z’ when in more general usage.

Rock Stars prove to be a Magnificent

Through the haze the power plant, oil rigs and wind turbine vessels in Esbjerg harbour looked like a mirage. At low tide, the huge estuary was drained, but puddles remained, making the four kilometre walk through the sticky sand, seem like ten. Dressed in heavy orange survival suits, they were the lucky ones; their helicopter had crash-landed in the sea and they’d successfully made emergency exits. Now, carrying two large bags, they walked ashore hoping to find some solid ground and bed down for the night until they were rescued.

Golden team survives survival course

Geographically this was Ho, in western Denmark. Late May it was deserted, the first German holidaymakers yet to arrive, but for the seven man Anglo American Discovery team it was high summer some-where remote in western Greenland. Preparing for their summer expedition, they had completed and gained certificates for HUET, helicopter underwater egress training, and had spent the morning jumping into the 12 degree open sea in boiler suits. Now they were faced with 24 hours without the comforts of normal daily life.

Dropped off by boats, the party took turns at the two heavy bags they carried across the sand. They should have contained cover and sustenance so that the team could survive until help arrived. “Should have contained”, because the lead instructor Sonnich Bjerg Nielsen had ‘amended’ the bags to ensure that the focus would be on doublechecking things. Assumption is the mother of many a catastrophe and Sonnich had removed two tents to give the five geologists and their two Greenlandic field escorts something to think about. He’d also taken out one of the seven sleeping bags.

‘This exercise is basically about knowing exactly what is in the bag and how to use it,’ said Sonnich. ‘They won’t set-off without double- checking next time. The twoperson tents would mean a very cozy night if they couldn’t come up with a solution.

The Toggle Solution

The solution lay in what ‘wreckage’ there was from the helicopter. The Maersk Training instructors had brought along a life raft, for three of the party, with the pull of a toggle, their accommodation was suddenly up quicker than the two tents. The unlucky person to miss out on the sleeping bags would spend the night in a survival bag, wrapped up in foil like a turkey. He later reported to having slept and lost weight at the same time.

‘It’s not just a check list,’ said Sonnich. ‘The sleeping bags for instance raise questions they ought to consider. Three were of feather down and three of fiber. The down gives greater heat, but is not so weather resistant, if it gets wet, it is virtually useless. So you have to decide what’s best for where.’

Project leader Bill Stone explained why he, his two fellow Canadians, two Greenlandics, a Finn and a Dane were in a field usually occupied by sheep, ‘we did training last year, but this year we decided to step up our game and what we are learning here is that we need to step up our game a little more. We are working in a remote Arctic environment so we have some ideas for what we will need for a programme next year.’

Bill was accompanied by two other Anglo American geologists, Graig Weston and Jussi Annanoli, along with Phd student Tim McIntyre who is going to us data from the target area for his thesis. The rest of the party was made up by Claus Østergaard, a consultant geologist from Xploration Services Greenland, a company that supports projects through backup and local knowledge. When they head to Nuuk and then via helicopter to the field, Angutitsiaq Jensen and Taatsiannguaq Olsen, known as Taatsi, will accompany them. Local guys, they operate as field escorts, they are licenced to ‘take out’ polar bears, but only if that was to be the last and only option.

‘May I try hypothermia?’

They will stay in relatively normal surroundings with local fishing communities and then be flown out to the field each day. What the party is looking for will be indications of polymetallic deposits, nickel, copper, cobalt, platinum that meet Anglo American criteria.

‘Because we are a big company we need deposits of a certain size and grade to meet our economic thresholds. What we are doing is the first phases of field development and reconnaissance to see if we can figure out the geology and validate the geology as it exists,’ explained Bill.

The area was examined in the 1990’s, but time changes things relatively quickly. Not the geology, but the value, accessibility and uses of the resources.

The three days in Denmark were crammed with vital survival skills and Taatsi and Claus proved the true value of teamwork and devotion to the task ahead. They volunteered to lie in the not yet inviting Baltic waters until their body temperatures dropped to the point where hyperthermia had started to set in. Lifted out of the water and their wet clothes cut off them for the sake of speed, they were wrapped in blankets, foil and tarpaulins until their body temperatures were restored to normal.

Overall the seven proved themselves to be magnificent in pushing new boundaries. Their field work will be a journey of exploration, but it started on a positive footing with personal discoveries over the three days in Esbjerg and on the Ho peninsula.
Volunteers, yes truly, two of the team bring their body temperatures down and then slowly ‘come back to life’.

Smile, Say Cheese

Rio de Janeiro is a beautiful city, but, geographically a strange place. From ground level it is hard to grasp the shape of it. It’s like an egg carton that’s been turned upside down. Around one edge runs the Atlantic and absolutely stunning beaches. In the valleys sits industry, commerce and a huge number of people. The steep-sided egg holders, the isolated hills, are upwardly encroached by the favelas, the crudely built homes that cling like limpets to the rock, the same way that their occupants cling to existence. The hills rise almost vertically, some to 500 meters, and are frequently punctuated by tunnels to give some degree of access to the 6.32 million inhabitants, the cariocas.

William’s part-time job demands a 16 hour 900 km journey

It is not easily accessible, by bus, ferry, car or metro, getting to work is frequently a lengthy process, and three hours commuting a day across Rio is normal. How would you feel if to make your livelihood the journey took eight hours, each way, and by bus! That’s what William has been doing every fortnight for the past year, to sell his cheese. He gets on a bus at two in the morning along with two large flamingo boxes and when he arrives in Rio visits seven offices, including Maersk Training, where he sells the cheese. If he doesn’t sell at least 200 pieces, then the eight hour journey back, means his day out is a financial loss.

Cheese in Brazil costs much the same as in Europe, but with the local cost of living it is somewhat of a near luxury item resulting in Brazilians eating 3.2kilos per person per year. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization recommend nine kilos. The average monthly salary in Sao Paulo is €562. The bus costs William around 200dkk (€26) each way for the 450 km journey. Back on the bus just before the offices shut, it will be nearly midnight before William will have finished his working day. On a 200 cheese day with a 10% profit, he might expect to have €38 after local transport and a snack lunch, not cheese. If he sells 300, then the day improves and returns €88.

Home for William is north west from Rio in the state of Minas Gerais, the main dairy area for Brazil which itself is a major player in the industry, only Europe and India has more cattle. The range of cheese is very broad, all locally produced, many mimicking French and Italian varieties. The 20+ different cheeses in the two boxes are important in terms of sales with William nudging people into trying something new alongside their fortnightly favourites. Sadly for William the number one selling cheese in the country is processed – largely due to convenience and the needs of the fast food industry.

End time for the blame game

The initiative that you don’t want to fully test

‘It’s an interesting proposition, but one that will only prove itself after something has happened, like an accident.’ That was the view of one member of staff after considering the launching of the Safety Differently initiative. The switching of the traditional way of analyzing of apportioning blame, shifting from the individual being seen as the problem, to focusing on the root cause probably being from somewhere within the system, was the main message of the ‘star’ attraction on Global Safety Day. It is the one initiative that you hope proves itself without being fully tested.

Maersk Training sits in a unique position in relation to safety. It is in a relatively safe work environment, passing the message of safety on to those who are literally at the sharp end of the business whether it be maritime, during drilling operations or wind turbines. But safety doesn’t start or stop at the bottom of a staircase. passing the message of safety on to those who are literally at the sharp end of the business whether it be maritime, during drilling operations or wind turbines. But safety doesn’t start or stop at the bottom of a staircase.

Niels Kristian Haastrup, HSEQ manager based in Svendborg with a brief to also cover Esbjerg and Stavanger, is in a better position than most to understand the need and the way any new approach might affect the way we as individuals, and as a company, react.

‘It’s interesting, what I‘d like to see is a growth in incident reporting. They are very good at it in Esbjerg, compared say with Svendborg, but that is because of a different culture. The nature of the training in Esbjerg is more focused on work aspects where there is an element of danger.’

‘It is about changing our mindset.‘

Niels was positive about the initiative, ‘Actually I quite like it. I think it is a good approach, looking at the system and the learning rather than individuals from time to time with their poor judgements, mistakes mishaps. Not that I think it should be used as an excuse for accepting incidents, but acknowledging that incidents do occur and that you need to get the best out of it.’

A culture beyond work

Senior Technical Instructor Morten Arildsen added, ‘Generally there’s always the need for it to be proven somehow, that they mean what they say. Sadly it will come if there is an incident and fingers are not pointed in search for the root cause. It is easy to agree on a concept at the top, but it has to work its way down many layers to see if it is working.’

The fundamental change, both agreed, was that by removing the blame culture you would probably encourage a more robust reporting culture. ‘It is about changing our mindset. It’s step-by-step if you want to change and it maybe that we will have to remind ourselves of the new aim, to find the root cause rather than blaming the person,’ says Morten.

If you punish and take disciplinary action every time somebody does something, then you will not get the reports and you will not get the learning. It has to have time to prove itself. By proving itself, it will become part of the culture, one that doesn’t get left at the office.

‘Several years ago I didn’t wear a bike helmet, then we got children. So we said OK and we started wearing them to send the right message. That’s ticked off. Many things are in your backbone, like putting tools out of reach of children,’ says Morten.

Safety – The View From Brazil

The Safety Differently workshop raised both professional and semi-professional concerns in Rio. They cast the gaze on safety over a wide area of subjects, but two topics that came to the fore both involved transport. Much of the instruction in Rio is done onboard and it was in the process of getting on to the vessel that problems and danger but also offered a potential solution. Boarding after dark greatly increases the chances of a mishap, so it was decided to approach customers and request daylight boarding before 19.00. A system of checks in advance was also suggested to ensure that the right equipment was onboard and therefore cut down on unnecessary extra trips.

About half of those attending were from the office and they voiced concerns about the unreliability of public transport when traveling to and from work. No solution was offered but in just airing it, an awareness was established.

The different viewpoints of the back office employees and frontline instructors was an eye opener, as safety instructor Arthur Lima said, ‘it was very surprising to see the difference between our daily jobs routines and how others see what we actually do.’

The Global View

It’s one special day in the calendar, but it could have a tremendous impact on any other day of the year. Global Safety Day has become part of the Maersk ethos since it started in 2013 and across the entire group of companies events of relevance marked it.

At Maersk Training in Svendborg special sessions on mental health were accompanied by practical first aid sessions on CPR and how to operate an AED machine. These had a special pertinence because it was the fact that one staff member had this knowledge that a German skier is alive today. It was knowledge learnt on a military first aid course that took twenty years to be instantly brought to the forefront of Morten Kaiser.

Christian, a Danish Army instructor, took people from across all departments through how to conduct CPR, cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The range of participants stretched from an office intern right up to the chief executive. Other sessions included mental/physical training and a one hour introduction into new Maersk focus of ‘Safety Differently’.
*If you want to read about the actions that saved a skier’s life then click here

‘Safety was like being in love. It is hard to pinpoint what makes it feel right, but you sure as hell know when you are getting it wrong.’

So What Would You Do?

To feed the correct culture we’ve prepared some questions that don’t have definitive answers, but open the door to dialogue and the mind to thought, a safety forum. Pick a couple and discuss them with colleagues.

Forum Five

At work the policy is reverse parking and they encourage following safety practices at home. You’ve just come off a long flight and the drive to your destination is 2½ hours. It is raining as you arrive. Do you reverse in or do you drive in straight?

You are out for a walk and you see a neighbour taking the branches off a tree with a chainsaw. He has no personal protective equipment on. Do you mention it to him or do you pass by without comment?

You are the guest at an event for about 40 people in another office. The host goes straight into the presentation. Do you point out there has been no safety briefing and if so, how ?

It is a Friday in early October and your car is still on summer tires. You plan to do the changeover at the weekend, but there has been a severe frost overnight. Your office is 40kms away. Do you just head to work as normal? What action do you take?

You have just bought your ten-year old a new bike. He wants to show it to his mates but he can’t find his helmet. The friends live just round the corner, what do you say to him?

Putting Life in Top Gear

As an engineer you’d expect getting behind the wheel of a new model car would cause Leonardo Machado to analyse the engine and handling, performance and design. However, the opportunity he got caused him to evaluate his work/life balance.

The ad that put Leonardo in the picture

It came about in the strangest of ways. A cousin of Leonardo’s who was working for the Discovery Channel had recognised his profile as finger-print perfect for an upcoming ad campaign. Leonardo was deep into a meeting when she rang and with other conversations and thoughts flying around the room, he semi-blindly agreed to her request in order to get back to business.

He totally forgot about it until two months later when she rang again to say that ‘they’ wanted him. ‘They’ turned out to be Volkswagen and the car, the latest version of the Jetta, their family compact. Protesting that he wasn’t an actor, she said the concept was more documentary lifestyle. He was in it, right up to the gearstick, a glossy two-minute snapshot of his life, family man, business man – sort of James Bond without the girls, guns or gimmicks, and where the Aston Martin is a Volkswagen.

The car’s contribution to the movie was focused, but almost incidental, a wonderful bit of subtle, not-in your- face marketing. It was about values in life. As a statement the Jetta came across as the sensible way to get about with quality of build giving it a mild hint of class.

New view on creative folk

Back at Maersk Training in Rio de Janeiro, where he is the Managing Director, Leonardo would reflect on the approach – gone are the days of hard-nosed sales through cold calling – it’s about your product speaking for itself, it’s about a complete picture.

So there he was, an engineer, not an actor, in front of a wall of technicians and a mountain of equipment and definitely not in his comfort zone. Through his profession he was structured and precise and yet here he was in a world of impulsive creatives.

‘What surprised me was that it was so organised. I mean as a preconception I thought they’d all just talk about bullshit and things, not be organised at all and that they are going to do creative things every five minutes – it was nothing like that. We worked 14, 15 hours a day stopping for lunch at 3 pm, three days in a row. I never felt so energised again as with a new challenge.’

After the final clapperboard had clapped and the director had announced WRAP, Leonardo had a new focus, not just on the commercial world, but on life in general. The content of the final cut movie surprised Leonardo. It was a bit like a special mirror offering an insight into this life and lifestyle.

‘There was a message for me, listen you can take the next step as a leader of a team. I felt that my life was not that boring, when I saw the movie I thought, hey I’m an interesting guy. I started to think we have so many young people here in the office and I started to think about them and their careers and also linked to their personal lives because it all makes sense when linked together, and I could see the whole picture of this in the ad, a combination and balance of everything that makes it work.’

Nice as the Jetta was, Leonardo’s private life, although focused, didn’t dramatically change. He happily drives home in his Hyundai.

Party On

It said five past eight on the wall clock, but the drill team in the classroom were about to travel back 200 million years. Their eventual physical target is just 85kms off the Brazilian coast. Hopefully it is the key to one of the riches of the South Atlantic, the extensive oilfields that stretch from Brazil to Angola, two countries in two continents that were once joined together physically and now share a common language and a potential life-changing miracle.

The night before we say ‘never again!’

‘He’s a bit of a party animal,’ she said without considering what she had just said. After all do animal’s really party?

Well it appears that some, monkeys, dolphins and wallabies, to name but three, do. At least they get in the mood by getting drunk or high on natural substances. But what makes us want to party? We do love them. Any excuse for a party, a festival, a celebration, is pounced on.

In Denmark the month of May, for example, is riddled with reasons for flying the flag. Along with days and half days off to mark religious, political, historical moments, and the day when flowers double in price to thank mothers, the opportunities to put a smile on your face are rife. There are eleven days noted as a holiday from April to June, in reality two actual months, and then none until December 24. What they do to fill in the gap is to stick flags on buses to mark each royal birthday, and there are quite a few of those, so many in fact that it might be an idea to alternate the information about the route with the name of who, or what, we are celebrating.

Apart from significant date celebrations, we have parties to mark house warmings, wedding showers, stag dos, class reunions, election days, personal milestones, the Super Bowl, the Oscars, divorce, coming out, divorce and coming out, the list goes on and on. Even just a simple dinner party with the excuse of to be together, is reason enough.

Happy Hungover and Healthier 

And here is the soundest reason. Research points to parties being good for your health. As the organizer, perhaps there is a temporary increase in your stress levels, but that is counterbalanced by training you to embrace stress and by the fact that the goodwill generated increases the diversity of your social network. There are indications that people with a broader base of friends have healthier hearts.

How many times have you woken up from a party and said ‘I can’t remember a thing’? Well conversely, actually the party has probably helped your memory. It creates a new one, revitalized the old as you recall stories from the past and refresh putting names to faces. The American Academy of Neurology even put a figure on it. They say that people who travel and are socially active are 55% less likely to develop symptoms such as dementia.

Then there is the laughter factor. There’s an old Yiddish saying that what soap is to the skin, laughter is to the soul. Laughter is a means of controlling pain; the endorphins produced by laughing enable us to endure more physical discomfort by increasing our threshold. A test at Oxford University showed that research team A, who had watched a serious documentary, were more susceptible to pain than team B, who had just watched a comedy. A good belly laugh actually tightens the stomach muscles. It’s an argument in favour of a pub visit in preference to the gym.

There are of course those that do little to improve the brain or body, the confusingly named Oktoberfest which happens in September, or the simply confusing Night of Krampus where a horned half-goat half demon whips children into being nice at Christmas. Both Germanic in origin there are also Dutch and French versions of the mad goat. Sleep easy on that one. There are festivals that are wasteful, La Tomatina in Valencia springs to mind as a ripe example. For 70 odd years, tomatoes have become weapons of fun in a Spanish village. It is a spectacular squandering of vitamin C that many a starving child might find hard to quantify.

The Big One 

Then there is carnival – now that’s a party wherever it is held, but the four days in Rio are something else. It is a city that lives to party, even if the origins of the festivities are not as they might seem. Carnival was born out of Christianity and the season of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. If it were to be religiously applied, steak houses and burger joints would have to hang up their long-handled tongs. The term for the reason behind the colourful costumes and sounds comes from carnae levare, the removal of meat. The same calendar marking is called Fastelavn, Shrove Tuesday and Mardi Gras in other cultures, but it is the sheer enthusiasm injected into Carnival that has made it a collective noun for having a good time.

It was a total accident, because if you want to work in Rio don’t try during carnival. I mistimed my visit and witnessed it at Copacabana –the big show happens elsewhere and people pay a lot of money to get a good seat, but it is in the local neighbourhood blocos, that you get to touch on something that is rawer and more authentic. Standing in the warm rain at nine in the morning, the parade was due to move off along the promenade. A huge lorry with a trailer had enough loudspeakers to make the ground shake. The public were 20% on the sidewalk, 70% participants with the remainder seemingly on the bottom step of setting-up an international drinks organisation – an old luggage trolley, a flamingo insulated box and bag of ice into which you dump cases of Brahma and Antarctica.

Brazil is the third biggest consumer of beer in the world and that’s down in part to Carnival – one hundred million liters is drunk daily over the four day holiday. Perhaps that’s why after three and a half hours the parade had moved a staggering twenty-five meters.

It’s party, party, party – but with buried heritage and a serious purpose. For four hedonistic days you can hide your worries with costumes, blast your anxieties with sound and drown your reality in caipirinhas. Yes, forget the hangover show, parties are healthy. Flying down to Rio is good for your health, even if it bruises the wallet.

Contact
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