The day that we showed up on set and were asked to make world maps, I thought huh, ok, that sounds difficult but whatever. Then Andrew asked if the projection should be Mercator, and I thought that there might be trouble brewing.
An hour later we came to the other side of the barrier and looked at Andrew’s team’s map, and worked hard not to look visibly shaken. Just as disturbing was the look of mixed concern and glee on Daniel’s face as he searched ours for signs of weakness. We didn’t break. I think originally the judge had wanted to give our map a mark of 17%, but Daniel intervened and reminded him that we were complete newbies with only an hour, and the judge relented, and gave us 40%, and Andrew’s a 68%. My husband, a mapper by profession, was not impressed with me. Andrew was a star, and that map was truly remarkable.
The next day we spent crashing through the brush on an orienteering challenge. The day was boiling hot – the hottest of the whole shoot – and the poor crew was forced to follow us stumbling over difficult terrain while carrying roughly 30 pounds of equipment. They were amazing. From day one, both the competitors and crew were instructed to maintain a certain professional distance, because it was important for the crew to be able to be objective about each competitor, so we didn’t chat much, which killed me because I’m pretty social. That day I gained a whole new appreciation for the work they do: if we shot for 8 hours, they were there for 12. If we had to run, they had to run farther, carrying more, and never break. And I apologize – that day, we really made them run.
It turns out that crashing through the brush is one of my favorite things to do, and so apologies also to my team because in my enthusiasm I might have convinced them to run in straight lines through the brush instead or taking the trails. We had to stay within 10 metres of each other the whole time, so the compromise was that if the flag was at the top of a hill (which was frequent) then I would scramble up. Still, the combined zig-zagging, mud scrambling, and pauses for retching, resulted in us taking twice as long as the other team. Interestingly I got a message from Abe earlier this week who really missed being able to do that challenge, because linear travel over varying terrain is an Inuk specialty. I believe it. In a conversation about his home one day he showed me the land that he knew like the back of his hand – it is literally hundreds of square kilometers. Oh Abe, our team really could have used you that day!
During the judging, I was visibly upset – why? Because I was furious. FURIOUS to have lost so badly doing something I loved. I really struggled with how much responsibility I should take for that challenge when we started – I knew that I should start stepping up and try to take more leadership, but I also know that despite the fact I have lived in my neighbourhood for over 5 years I am still prone to taking the longest route to get somewhere. When the judge said that I was the best on my team for reading the map, I was floored, and felt a certain disappointment in myself for not taking charge. Then when Owen volunteered for elimination, I was further infuriated – I felt that that decision was either a continuation of his and Ben’s grudge match, or him trying to protect me, and that’s why we argued about elimination.
In the end, I had two friends fighting to remain in the competition, and it was hard to watch. Owen paced on his spot like a caged bear. Ben was inches from winning it, and when the tide turned and it was clear he was stuck, he did a classy thing: picked up a disc and took it to Owen. Ben, with a heart as big as the great outdoors and a true survivor, was finally eliminated.
This episode was a bit of a turning point to me. I was starting to get good at things I never thought I would be good at. I was also starting to realize that the competition was dwindling, and I had to step it up.