This picture is Nina, not just because it is an actual photograph of her, but because it captures her essence. “I dance with the ocean, I listen to music and I am free.”
Nina grew up in Peru with her mum, grandparents and three older brothers; her “warriors”. Her father died when she was just a few days old, but although he was “already gone to another dimension, he was still present in our hearts and spirits”. Nina says she learnt from an early age to value what she could not physically touch, to cherish this life and to appreciate it as part of a multidimensional spiritual world. “We have this one chance to live this life, to love, to share and to do good deeds. When we leave here, we leave everything, and we may leave with no warning. Our deeds remain to be passed on to our loved ones and to those we impacted during our lives.”
Nina had a strong sense of family and its importance as a uniting force. If ever she felt weak she would remember the strength and unifying force of love, learned from her family, that transcends all boundaries. She also had a connection with animals from a young age. The family often went to her grandparents’ farm in northern Peru where she would adopt sheep, chickens and other animals. While still a teenager she became a vegetarian as a consequence of her relationship with the animals; no one told her about vegetarianism, it was simply a natural choice she made for herself.
Nina’s strongest guiding force in life has always been her intuition. She was a good student at school and enjoyed studying new things. At university she studied business administration and began working in the private sector. But at this time she felt a pull by her intuition; it told her she needed to “change the direction of my life”. Miraculously her chance came in the form of a letter from an old friend of her father’s.
Her father had been close friends with a Japanese man called Kazuo Nagai. From the age of 17 Nina had been in touch with him, exchanging letters and photographs. Aged 22, Nina wrote to him asking how she could learn more about meditation. And now, just when her intuition was telling her to go abroad, a letter arrived from him. In the letter Kazuo invited Nina to England and Japan to experience meditation and learn about new philosophies that would aid both her personal and professional life.
Nina learnt a great deal from that trip about people and the many different ways they look for spiritual development. This aligned with her own philosophy that “love is universal and it does not matter which religion a person chooses to find it. As long as a person finds what is right for them and follows their own purpose, then that is what matters”. In Japan she also began to learn about the killing of dolphins. She had already been dreaming about dolphins, now she began to get the feeling that she would one day have to do something to help them.
Nina returned to Peru where she began researching what to do next in life. Her options appeared to be either a job in business administration or applying for further study. But then one day her friend showed her a sticker which said, “Don’t eat dolphin meat, save the dolphins!” Immediately she told her friend that she had to find out in the next hour who had made that sticker…
She tracked down a woman called Olga Rey who was running a dolphin campaign. When they met, Nina remembers telling her “I would like to give you all my energy, passion and business knowledge, and work in partnership with you”.
So in 1994 Nina and Olga worked together on the campaign. At this time in Peru it was legal to kill and eat dolphins. People across all social classes ate dolphin meat, although it was given different names for higher and lower quality cuts of meat. Many people ate it without even knowing what animal it was, knowing only that they ate chancho marino or muchame. Nina and Olga’s campaign was intense. They worked with lawyers, the media, businesses, government, everyday people… everyone. They carried out market research, ran focus groups, generated publicity in newspapers, on television, on the street and the internet. They lobbied congressmen, publicised the issue to animal campaigners across the world, who in turn sent letters to the government. At the focus groups, they asked people questions about why they ate the meat, whether the flavour was good and whether they knew what animal it was from. They educated people showing them pictures of ‘Flipper’, whom everyone loved, and explaining that this was the same animal which they were eating.
The campaign was a “crusade for the life of dolphins”. In March 1996, their intense pressure prevailed; a new law was finally decreed making dolphin killing illegal. This was a monumental achievement by Nina, Olga and the many others who took part in this campaign.
Throughout this period, Nina had been in touch with a man in Germany called Stefan. He was one of a network of people she was contacting about the dolphin issue in Peru. From his intense, serious, heavily detailed emails she assumed he was probably in his mid-fifties, maybe 30 years older than her. Over the next couple of years they were in touch as colleagues and friends but never met.
Nina travelled to the USA to study for an MBA, (while still running a dolphin project back in Peru). She remembers being in her second year at university and having an amazing time, “having fun with friends, studying, going to conferences and courses, partying… being me and having the time of my life!” One day she received an email from Stefan; he was informing all his conservation colleagues that he was leaving the conservation world. Nina emailed back telling him he should rethink,“He was a wonderful conservationist with so much to give. He could not leave because of feeling defeated and betrayed. I felt he just had to continue”.
The next evening when Nina went with a friend to the computer lab in the university, knowing that a message from Stefan was waiting for her, she felt a strong presence. Suddenly she thumped both hands on the desk and said, “Only I can give him back the belief he has lost. He is a good soul and he has helped me so much. Now I must give back to him. I have to go to Germany!”
Her friend’s reaction was “Uh oh, when you have an idea to do something you always do it!” And she did. Without even consulting Stefan, she booked a plane ticket to go to Germany and help her friend, who she had never met, to re-find his belief in life.
The spark was bright… With it, the fire had been lit… A love affair of magical proportions was about to begin…
But more about that next time…