“Feliz cumpleaños, feliz cumpleaños…” resounded across the room. I couldn´t see anyone, but then the whole room was singing. It was somebody’s birthday in the Greenpeace Argentina office. But why was I here?

Greenpeace Argentina office

A view of the Greenpeace Argentina office.

I’d successfully completed my internship with the Volunteering Lab. After 7 years of experience as a volunteer with Greenpeace Germany, taking on an internship in Buenos Aries had pushed my boundaries, given me more insights into international work than I’d ever imagined and yet had given me the impression of the similarities as well as the differences. Still it was hard work.

In the Argentinian office there is one big working space, where it is more or less not possible to find a place just for yourself, unlike say the office in Hamburg with its teams and structures. Here people are sitting together and planning for a better world and maybe debating more. First row: finance, second row: research and so on. A little stairway leads to the second level where the campaign teams are planning and plotting, sitting on the same woody desks. I was in the middle listening to the birthday song getting to know my new world of Greenpeace as an internal organization.

This world started to open for me, back in Germany, when my internship began at the European and African skillshare. I’d followed up with my first English blog for I love the Arctic but now I was far from home. After 7 years of volunteering, both coordinating my local group and as a NVDA activist, and climber, I thought I knew this green community. But in Buenos Aires I came face to face with the international dimensions of organizing, of operating models, the worlds of SMTs and so many new terms and abbreviation, new faces and different languages.

By the end of June I was sitting in my new work place getting to grips with GreenNet – the internal intranet for all staff around the world. My task to help Araceli – the network developer for Latin America, build the world’s biggest and then most useable training catalogue for volunteers and volunteers coordinators. I just had to figure this GreenNet thing out first.

After the first few weeks we had a timeline and a structure for my little project. Skype conferences with Greenpeace staff from the whole globe started to happen. They examined our structure, interrogated the details and shared their knowledge and resources with us.

For long suffering global staff, these conferences calls are daily business. For me, this was totally new. I marveled at the different possibilities of an exchange across oceans and continents. Technical problems are almost standard and they could slow down the work flow enormous: A blurred screen and truncated or incomprehensible words, the whimsical behavior of Skype, Google hangouts and Clearsea to work on alternate days, how could this become a good use of time? But in spite of all this technical problems I still liked the conferences the most. They motivated me and they gave me this feeling of being part of a larger whole – a global Greenpeace.

This video is from an Argentinian action day in which I was involved.

One day of the week I dedicated to working in the warehouse. Painting, sewing, grinding and helping with the upcoming office move. To get to know both working areas, the actions unit and the office, was a complete experience. For me the Argentinean warehouse feels like the combination of a German local group – with their own offices, and short notice demands, and that of the warehouse in Hamburg – with the space, tools and skills to produce just about anything to a planned schedule.

All in all, I am going home with memories and impressions from the huge Greenpeace world. It is inspiring to see so many people in so many different time zones with so many different activities, working and volunteering for this organization, with commitment and devotion, and with sleepy eyes and efforts.

It fascinates me to be on the other side of the world, but to find a piece of home. I know the feeling that the way Greenpeace works here in Argentina, is more or less the same the world over. Maybe more improvised, perhaps more chaotic, and with far less resources – both humans and material. But if you, come from the probably most organized, structured and richest office (allegedly Germany) you don´t have to wonder if some things run differently – and that is a good thing.

Me gustó mucho!!!

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