A lot’s happened since my first post: after writing it, I took a nap and then awoke to Cat, a UKYCC delegate and Facebook friend, inviting me to go swimming with her and Jonny, another UKYCC delegate. Tekweni’s pool was freezing and it was raining outside but we still had a good time, doing water aerobics with Fatima and Amy(?) leading the way. After the rest of the UK group arrived, they invited me to go out to dinner with them at House of Curries, where we sampled the local Durban dish called “bunny chow,” which is a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with your choice of curry. The UK kids made me feel very welcome in their group; I’m also staying in the same room with all the UK girls.
The next morning was the first day of COY7, aka Conference of Youth, which is being held at the UKZN-Howard College. I met Simon, a super cheery and kind delegate from Samoa and the New Zealand group; he introduced me to the rest of the delegation. I made my way to Howard College with some of the UK kids, then helped put up signs for COY as the volunteers kept setting up registration and whatnot. Once COY kicked off, I got to know some Durbanites and AYCC delegates who were sitting by me. The AYCC girls were so friendly – they really loved hearing about my involvement with Tar Sands Action! We sat through an introduction to COY and a tribute to Wangari Maathai, then had a tea/coffee break before opting to attend either a session on the history of youth at COP or a walk through some nearby gardens/forestry reserves. I chose the latter, and chatted up my new Durban friends as well as new acquaintances while taking tons of photos of the lush local scenery.
After lunch in the college’s cafe, I attended a workshop called Intro to the UNFCCC for Beginners, led by two of the UK delegates and one from the CYD. The workshop really put into perspective everything we’ll be dealing with at COP: the Kyoto Protocol, how the biggest polluters can’t really be held accountable since they didn’t agree to KP, etc. It instilled a sense of urgency and responsibility in me to push my country to pull its weight in the fight against climate change, and save the rest of the world from environmental degradation and all the repercussions of it. The next workshop I attended was on climate change in the Pacific Ocean, which was led by the New Zealand team. All of the presenters were impressively knowledgeable of climate change-related issues in their country as well as surrounding island nations. I felt compelled to attend this workshop because of my residence in Oregon; I know there has to be something my state, and maybe the US west coast in general, can do to help our Pacific communities in their struggle to save themselves from rising ocean levels, food/water shortages, climate refugees, etc.
When COY ended for the day, all the Tekweni delegates piled into a few mini-buses (large taxis) and headed back to the hostel. The New Zealanders invited me to dinner, which we had at a really nice restaurant around the corner. I really enjoyed getting to know and spend time with them over a great meal. Upon returning to Tekweni, I chatted with some of the other delegates for a bit before heading to bed pretty early – another day of COY awaits in the morning!