On the Map: All Hail the Ice Queen

In just six days 26-year-old Era Al-Sufri, a Diplomatic Officer at Brunei's Ministry of Foreign Affairs who loves math and is passionate about the environment, will embark on a dream vacation... of sorts. One of eight women from eight countries picked to participate in the Kaspersky Lab Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition, Era (aka Polar Girl) and her cohorts underwent an intensive training in order to complete a 40-day, 900km ski through blizzards and subzero temperatures (up to -40 degrees) with the goal of arriving at the South Pole on January 1, 2010.

You might be wondering why a young woman would undertake such a harrowing journey. Thrill-seeking aside, Era has undertaken this challenge as a way to represent the strength of her nation during the 60th anniversary of the fall of the British Commonwealth (*cough* colonialism *cough*), build international understanding and exchange with her fellow adventurers, raise awareness about global warming and climate change, and emphasize the accomplishments of women worldwide. She was chosen from a pool of 800 applicants.

While one might think the mental and physical conditioning exercises in Norway and New Zealand would be the most difficult part of preparing for the trek, Era's biggest challenge was raising money to fund her participation in the expedition. Unable to obtain adequate funds from government, corporate, and individual donors, a patron finally came to the rescue. BAG Networks CEO Haslina Taib, inspired by Era's courage, provided her with the financial backing to complete this dangerous mission, which Haslina believes is "important for women." "Era is a young graduate who returned home to Brunei to help us build this nation, and who has the courage to stand up, be counted and make a difference in our world," she told Brudirect.com.

The expedition is especially important for Era, as she will be the youngest person and the first woman from her home country to make the journey to the South Pole. "I want to inspire Bruneian women of all ages to do something and move out of their comfort zone," she says. "It's the drive and determination that makes it important to achieve what you really want."

Follow their women's journey daily on Twitter.

All photos are from the Kaspersky Lab Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition website.

by Mandy Van Deven
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