Was getting worried as the day approached, or more exactly I was getting even more worried. That was because the organizers insisted on using the phone and, while they no longer tried to call me after I didn’t answer those first two times and then also complained about them doing this instead of sending e-mails and posting the information on the event and the page, their answer for those who posted any questions was to tell them to call the one in charge of this action. In addition, there was still that message posted on the event, asking people to send their names and how many others they’ll come with until March 30, while the last SMS sent to those who had signed up also mentioned something about confirming, though it was unclear from where I was standing.
One other person complained particularly harshly about the fact that they don’t send e-mails with the information and they definitely didn’t hold back when they replied either, so it got ugly, and I for one got no reply whatsoever when I asked what that post on the event was actually about and who’re the ones who need to send their names. Only got a rather angry reply when I sent a message with the same question to the one in charge of this action, being told that’s about the cards with names that will be tied to some of the trees that will be planted, as if that was obvious and not referring to something that wasn’t mentioned on the event or page before and therefore likely only known to those who talked to them on the phone. Also, when I asked whether we should still bring tools if we can, as they initially said they didn’t know how many they’ll have, and also exactly how much the transportation will cost, since a post on the page mentioned they’ll cover half the costs for those who’ll use the buses, the reply was that if I signed up in time I should be getting an SMS with all the information.
Yes, I did get an SMS, but it said nothing about either of those things, though a message was later posted on the event, stating that tools are no longer a problem. A message posted on the page also mentioned that water will be provided, though they initially said they won’t be able to provide any food or water and that actually proved to be the case in the end, so that part of this last message was wrong. What was right in it was that the transportation was to be provided by the authorities, but that part wasn’t exactly clear and contradicted the earlier message asking volunteers to bring a little money to cover their half of the fare, without stating exactly how much that will be, so it was quite unclear for me.
Having those things to worry about, even to the point of wondering whether they won’t simply turn me away if I didn’t call or send an SMS to confirm something I perhaps needed to, on top of being afraid of being around people in itself, meant I didn’t sleep at all before leaving. Slept like a log on Thursday, only waking up around 4 PM and therefore making up for the previous lack of sleep, and then also well enough Friday morning, waking up a few times but largely resting quite well until I got up after 2 PM, but only managed to nap for about one more hour Friday evening, despite stubbornly staying in bed for some two and a half hours and then pacing around the room for another 40 minutes or so. And then, like I said, Saturday morning I didn’t sleep at all, hoping to at least manage to fall asleep around 6 AM and therefore get a very brief nap but still being wide awake when my alarm rang, at 6:15 AM, after I spent about an hour tossing and turning.
As it turned out, I may have been able to spend another half an hour in bed, and possibly even longer. We were told that the bus will leave at 8 AM and asked to be there 15 to 20 minutes earlier, so I arrived around 7:40 AM and was in that first bus, which arrived around 7:50 AM, by 8 AM, but then I just waited along with all the others for the second, which was late. In fact the first bus finally left on its own, shortly before 8:25 AM, leaving what at the time I counted as 28 people to wait for the second, whenever that finally decided to show up. And not long after that, after we got out of Bucharest, we stopped for around ten minutes, the driver saying he had to switch with the other, though I never paid attention to see whether that actually happened.
When we finally got to the edge of the forest we were to plant in, a number of cars were already there and more joined later, along with the second bus. Not known to at least most of us at the time, a third bus was to come as well, and I think a couple of smaller ones as well, at least some of those filled with school children and a few adults who were probably their teachers, who sort of simply showed up as we were starting to actually plant. In the end, we were told that the number of volunteers was a bit over the 300 that were considered as needed for the day’s schedule, but it was also obvious that we worked far faster than they expected, as the schedule mentioned we should finish around 5 PM and instead we were done around 12 PM, with only a small number, made up mostly of those who didn’t seem to care to plant in the first place, complaining that they were tired, many of the rest wondering whether there wasn’t some other area nearby where we could continue, since we still had so much time left. And we were actually told there was, but that it was to be left for some other time… Even though the buses were obviously not ready for us to leave so soon, so we may have left even at 12:30 PM, then were called back outside for some group pictures, got back in around 12:45 PM, yet then had to simply sit there and wait until 1:30 PM, when we finally left.
But since I got a bit ahead of myself, let me go back and say nobody knew exactly what to do or where to go at first and I was glad I had more clothes with me, as the wind and the fact that we were between a forest and a lake made it quite cold and everybody started shivering when we got off the bus. Many even returned inside when nothing seemed to be happening right away, but eventually the foresters who were there to guide and help us simply walked away, taking a path that cut through the forest, and the rest of us followed in groups. Or, more exactly, a small group followed them, a second group followed the first and so on, without anybody having been told that we were leaving. I even heard somebody at one point, when I stopped to take a picture and therefore allowed another group to catch up to me, asking whether anyone was sure we were heading in the right direction and not simply following somebody who had wandered into the forest to pee and has since been trying to shake the rest of us off to be able to do so.
Still, we eventually arrived to the right place, finding the piles of saplings to be planted and a large number of tools to use. And we also found that the holes had already been dug, apparently in order to ensure that the rows will be straight and the trees spaced correctly. We were told those had been dug some time ago, so we may have to clear out some earth and other stuff that fell back in and also break up the earth that was dug out before pulling it back in around the roots of the sapling, but there definitely was far less work than we assumed there will be. Since this was likely known to the organizers, don’t think it means we didn’t work that much faster than expected though.
Remains to be seen how well we worked, however, and while some clearly knew what they were doing, I have to say I didn’t like some of what I saw when I happened to walk back to grab some more saplings. Not that I’m too happy with what I did early on either, as we were told to work in pairs but I obviously wasn’t going to interact with someone enough to look for a pair and then keep working together, so I did what I could on my own and it took a while before I figured out how to get it right. Think I did well enough once that happened though, despite feeling a need to work as quickly as possible because everyone else seemed to be doing the same, and I also tried to fix things in a few places where I spotted something obviously wrong in what others had done.
In what was posted both before and after, it was said that 10000 trees were to be planted, but that doesn’t sound quite right to me. While there I was actually thinking it may have only been around 3000 or even less, though later I changed that estimate to at least 5000. Still highly doubt it was 10000 though, but there were quite a few piles left at the end, so that may be the number of saplings that had been brought, to make sure there will be enough in case of losses and people damaging some or leaving them along the way, hard to find for others who’d need more.
As for how many of those saplings will actually grow into proper trees, the foresters said that losing 25% while planting is normal, and that when working with volunteers they’re happy if they lose 30% or even 35%, so that was likely why the holes seemed to have mostly been dug in pairs, so at least one of the two will actually grow. And they were walking around while we were planting, occasionally offering advice, helping or fixing something, and I’m quite sure they checked more carefully after we left, fixing even more and also planting in the few holes that happened to remain empty, when volunteers moved on before quite finishing an area, probably due to more of them meaning to move to a certain hole and then all walking away more or less at the same time, assuming the others will handle it. Not sure how much even the foresters will notice and fix any cases where the wrong type of tree may have been planted though, as we had oak, cherry plum and ash and were supposed to stick to certain types for certain rows, but after those who asked were given the right type at the start of a row, later on people may have gotten confused, plus that much of the time those who ran out of saplings walked back only to the first pile they found on their row, therefore relying on the fact that somebody else had brought the correct type.
Still, I think it went well enough overall, and as far as I’m concerned I finally did something I’ve been meaning to do for quite some time, took some pictures and managed it all without really needing to interact with the others. Then again, except one of the organizers and the person who eventually ended up sitting next to me on the bus, who was the one I clearly knew from many past events and actions but who didn’t try to make conversation either, I only rather vaguely recognized three or four more faces. On the one hand, that was disappointing, since I hoped to see more of the activists I know taking part in what seems to be the only such action organized anywhere near Bucharest this spring, but on the other it definitely made it easier to pretty much ignore and be ignored by everybody. And doing this without sleeping before probably helped as well, as I likely analyzed things less than usual and therefore also worried about them less than usual.