Since I got back from Mexico last year, people have been asking me if I’ve got travel lined up for work, and up until last week I was telling them no. Then I was suddenly offered the chance to fly to Paraguay to shoot a bunch of interviews with finance and bank officials who are investing in forest restoration and protection. A little less than half of the country is forested, and they’ve lost 12.7% of their total forest cover since 1990. My job is to film these financiers explaining how a web tool we’ve produced helps them make sustainable business decisions for their companies. What could I say? I started packing and reorganizing schedules to make the trip.
I know nothing about Paraguay itself other than what I’ve been able to read online. The last couple of weeks have been chaotic for multiple reasons, so I haven’t been able to prepare the way I want to, but I’ll have some handlers in country who are going to take me 2 hours into the Chaco to shoot B-roll of deforestation. Then I had an idea and contacted my neighbor to see if I could rent his drone for the price of a couple of new batteries, and he was happy to oblige. On Saturday we got a couple of test flights in to familiarize with the controls and assembly process; from all I took in the drone itself is almost idiot-proof; it finds its position via GPS and is happiest when it connects to at least 7 satellites. If it gets low on batteries, loses contact with the controller, or has any other positioning problems, it will take control of itself and fly its way back to the place where it took off. So all I have to do is make sure I recalibrate the compass and then not crash it into a tree.
The flight was more than a full day of travel; I was out the front door at 5:50 and did not hit my hotel bed until 12:30 (1:30AM local time). Sitting way back in Coach, I got used to the close quarters quickly. On my second leg I was seated directly in front of the rest rooms, and was joined by a pair of young Paraguayan men who were returning from a two-year hitch as volunteers on an ocean-going ship run by a Christian mission. They told me of their adventures, answered my many questions about the trip, their family history in Paraguay (descendants of German immigrants) and told me about the country. I did not think to have them pose for a shot with Ox, but should have. Leaving Customs with my WRI group, I spotted a family of familiar faces (tall, blonde, Germanic) waiting outside the gate, and played a hunch. When I asked them if they were waiting for Gabriel, they brightened up and said, “Yes!” I told them he was on his way out, and to say thanks again from Bill on the plane.
There’s a slim chance I’ll get some time in Ascención itself before I leave, but from what I understand it’s not wise to walk around alone after dark. The only free time I’ll get is in the evenings but there won’t be the kind of time to do full reconnaissance via foot like I did in London and Mexico City.
I’m taking a somewhat stripped-down kit with me compared to the load I brought to England; a lot of the redundant gear I didn’t use got left behind at the office. The interviews themselves should be easy to set up and break down, environment permitting–I have no idea what locations they’ll have me working at, or what the lighting situation will be, but we made the first one work with as much natural indoor light as possible, and then shot some beautiful interview footage outside.