Update from South Africa [travel]

Jan 13, 2011

Hello RESOLVE and RESOLVE-y people:

Finished yesterday at noon facilitating the United Nations Environment Program meeting. The meeting was to develop options to finance international chemical and hazardous waste conventions. The delegates worked hard to understand and improve all the options and came up with a good approach to collect more information that can inform a future approach.

Really interesting to transition between local-to-national-to-international organizations and problem solving. I’m used as a facilitator with a chair, but very few people had worked with a chair managing content and a facilitator managing process so I could not do as much as I can in North America. It was interesting to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the chair/facilitator model.

After a morning debrief with the UN environmental program staff-I took a taxi to the American embassy in Pretoria, met the delegate from the U.S. there, and she had arranged for a driver to take us for a driving tour of Pretoria, then take us to the Apartheid Museum.

The museum was incredible…..emotional—sad, then frightening, then hopeful.

South Africa giraffe

I also went on a tour of the animals at the hotel.

The inn has a very active breeding and rescue program. The herbivores are free on the property so I saw different kinds of antelope, as well as warthogs, giraffe. The predators are in enclosures—big but still cages. The farm has lions, two kinds of hyena, cheetah, and a leopard cub they are treating. They are also breeding tigers in cooperation with India–did you know that 350 tigers and 400 humans are killed every year in India? Evidently with more human encroachment on tiger territory, tigers have found that we are ideal prey-slow, weak, and tasty. Unfortunately for the tiger, evolution matched us up with guns….so tigers are now on the endangered species list. The farm also have two rare white tigers here, not for breeding but to rehabilitate for a zoo.

I saw lots of birds—whole families added to my life list as well as some incredibly beautiful and/or weird birds. Unfortunately, I did not bring my binoculars but could still see a lot.

On Thursday I had the taxi driver come early to take me on a driving tour of Johannesburg and Soweto on the way to the airport. It was sobering and inspirational to see Mandela’s house, Tutu’s house,and Hector Pieterson museum.

Then I embarked on my 18 hour flight–8 hours to Dakar where we changed crew and re-fueled and then the rest of the time to the U.S. Too bad I lost my last sleeping pill so had to endure economy without drugs!

Although I am glad that I did not cut my vacation short for work, it was hard to be away from home and RESOLVE for 16 days. By the end I was tired, looking forward to seeing friends and co-workers, and really looking forward to wearing something different, my own bed, my food, and the gym.

- Juliana

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