Precautions to users of CO2 Starter Kit
August 25, 2015
ADA Ambassador Bootcamp Experience – Aditya Mathai.
April 12, 2018

ADA Ambassador Bootcamp Experience-Huzaifa Arab

Huzafa Arab

ADA Ambassador Program 2.0

The ADA Ambassador program was my first experience with a Bootcamp. Obviously, I was very excited and I was looking forward to meeting fellow hobbyists. What was great about the program was that it was very hands on – right from day 1, when we made a DOOA terrarium. This was my first terrarium and it was an interesting exercise. It was also my first experience working with a team on an aquarium project – presenting our ideas for the terrarium and brainstorming over the best way to do it was inspiring. We put our all into the terrarium; in fact, we were all curious about how it was doing even after Bootcamp got over.

And it got even better. The very next day, we started off with tank and gallery maintenance which is a morning ritual at ADA. I really liked how the office followed the Japanese etiquette of having employees clean the whole place with people taking turns to do the task, regardless of their position in the company. This was something unique and showed respect and dedication to the gallery and demonstrated how much effort goes into maintaining the beautiful looking display tanks. I had never collected water from local water bodies – especially for water testing. Going around Bangalore carrying bottles of cloudy water would have felt silly in any other context. The test results showed us how delicate our core natural resource, freshwater, is. Oh, and we still had fun: right from having meals at places like MTR to trespassing closed off areas for the task. :) Visiting the government-run aquarium and watching all the depressed fish in poorly maintained tanks was a harsh reality check of what mainstream understanding of the hobby.

I didn’t know people like Shimamura-san existed, especially in India, until I met him. I got to see what a high ranking IAPLC tank would be like. To be honest, we went in there with very high expectations since he was Japanese and was so engaged in the hobby, but looking at his house full of equipment and tanks of all sizes and his main tank towards the end of his life, it hit me that even someone as experienced as him faces the same issues I am trying to combat – long term sustainability of the hobby and maintenance. It was work with a lot of physical labour. That day gave me a better understanding of the fact that aquascaping is a team job. Regardless, it was fun exchanging a few phrases with him in Japanese.

My idea to make a completely maintenance-free aquarium got reinforced on the job at the Medico Pastoral Association centre when I saw how badly a tank can go wrong at a place where it doesn’t get the daily attention of a hobbyist. It was a simulation of a team. We split up with a couple of people handling each function right from cleaning to procuring material to preparing plants. Between our work at Mr. Shimamura’s house and here I have figured out the rough manpower to squarefoot ratio required to do projects. Too few and you have problems moving things around and too many and you will have them spoiling the broth. It is important for people to realize that not everyone needs to be the main guy. And that creative work in teams is best done with the vision of one trust worthy person.
Sessions with Adip on ADA products were very candid. He patiently listened to our queries and answered them all. By the end of these sessions my respect for ADA products grew dramatically because they are designed to be easy. I love how there is a story behind each product and how Mr. Amano himself went through the process of building each one of them from his experience.

The program was full of fun activities, right from creating an interesting Facebook post with Gagan to a session on sales with Harshal and to a session on verbal communication with Roger. I took home many things from all of these interactions for eg., I learned a very important mistake I used to make when speaking publicly and that is I would plan my entire agenda in a linear, bulletpoint fashion. But public speaking is also a conversation and it is more effective if you talk to a group of people as you would talk to one person. That was the most hard-hitting learning for me that day. I liked how all of these were essentially soft-skill training sessions disguised as activities without making us feel schooled or bored.

Our trip to the farm was exciting. I had never seen so many aquatic plants in one place. We got to see Dr Unni Krishnan on the job at the farm. I enjoyed my interactions with Dr Nataraj, he is such a patient, knowledgeable yet humble person. I guess people need to be down to earth to flourish in this business. (Get it? Down to earth – near soil? :P). Over-all we got to know how & where our plants come from.

Coorg is a new level of adventure. Interestingly, I had visited Coorg just a few months earlier but the parts of Coorg that we explored during the Bootcamp were a world apart. Unlike my previous experience, which was at a resort with manicured gardens and trimmed trees, the experience at Coorg during the Bootcamp was with pristine, untouched nature. The experience wouldn’t, however, have been as wholesome if we did not have Adip as a guide pointing out different types of aquatic plants and their functions and how all these plants worked together in a natural system. While Adip focused on flora, Gagan, guided our attention to the fauna in the area. We also managed to learn the difference in quality of water in natural rivers as opposed to tap water. We found and christened Microsorum Sp. Mathias and managed to see some interesting plants and fishes from the wild. Also, coming across wild elephants and deer was fantastic.

I have a huge collection of great pictures from the trip – including some underwater ones! These pictures are great for not just sharing with my family but also as reference points for inspiration for my future aquascapes. In fact, during a session on hardscape, Adip made a very valid comment about aquascapes and the inspiration from nature. “The best aquascapes are the ones that depict an underwater environment… not a landscape.” The Coorg experience has given me a lot of inspiration and food for thought around the way I want to shape my upcoming aquascaping projects.

All in all, Coorg was a bonding experience for the whole team. We also got to know each other up close and personal. Adip shared a lot of personal stories about his journey with ADA and how much time and effort he took to get to where he is today, including his association with Mr. Amano and team ADA.

In addition to all that, the Bootcamp really got me moving! Walking and exploring really kicked the lethargy out of my system and I saw Namma Bangalore from a new perspective. I definitely want to thank Gagan for helping me explore my own city – including trying out popular local eateries – each with their own history.

This hobby is as much of an art as it is a science and I have a lot to learn yet. This bootcamp has accelerated my learning process and has given peers who will help me in my journey. I conclude this write up with something I reflected over and realized towards the end of our trip…

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