Amazon Youth Expedition, i2P 2010

Hammock beds on the boat, i2P Amazon Expedition

"Hanging out" among hammock beds on the boat for the i2P Youth Expedition to the Amazon. Left to right: Ray Zahab, Jessie Lilly, and Marshall Ulrich

No doubt Marshall would go with Ray Zahab just about anywhere in the world. In the last couple of years, they’ve explored the Canadian arctic and the Sahara desert together, and Ray coached Marshall during his training for the 2008 run from San Francisco to New York—117 marathons in 52.5 days. Prior to that, Ray had finished a 4,500-mile run, and his experience and insights were invaluable preparation as Marsh got ready to cross America on foot. They’re cut from the same cloth, those two.

This year, they’re in the Brazilian Amazon together on an expedition through the Tapajos National Forest with four youth adventurers, trekking nearly 125 miles through dense jungle and swamps with a quest to learn more about the culture and biodiversity of the region. One of the youth explorers remarked that it’s like Jurassic Park all around them. (Incidentally, while Marshall is out there dealing with the intense heat and humidity and thunderstorms, we’re in a winter wonderland here in Colorado: the snow is so heavy I’m lucky to get online right now.)

They set out about a week ago, on October 21, and I heard from Marshall on Sunday, the fourth day in the jungle for the i2P team. He told me he’s in charge of the youth ambassadors, taking the lead to make sure they’re watching out for each other, staying hydrated, and communicating about how they’re doing and what they need from each other.

If problems occur—like blisters, mild deydration, overheating, or fatigue—he makes sure they problem-solve together and take action to address the issue: treating the blister, making sure everyone’s drinking enough, adjusting clothing, redistributing items from someone’s pack who needs to carry a lighter load.

He said the youth are doing really well, improving their communication and problem-solving skills every day.

The impossible2Possible (i2P) expedition site hosts a “straight from the jungle” blog with updates whenever there’s connectivity, carrying audio from the satellite phones, posting photos and videos, and displaying some of the interactive features of the classroom video conferencing. Right now, 108 schools in 6 countries with upwards of 15,000 kids are following the expedition, learning about the region as part of the Experiential Learning Program, where they can ask questions that the youth ambassadors answer for them through email, blogs, and video.

The Amazon expedition raises funds to build a school in the Floresta Nacional do Tapajos (FLONA), a protected area of rainforest in the Santaram region, which is home to more than 22 communities.

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