International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Germany
Marianne de Nazareth
invitation to the UNFCCC conference on Climate Change in Bonn in
early April had me scuttling around for my visa at the last minute.
Getting a German visa is not easy and entails going to Chennai (Madras)
for an interview. But for a three day visit, I decided to take the
chance and just send my documents by courier. It was a relief to
get my passport back, with typical German precision in two days,
albeit just stamped with a single month visa.
While getting onto
my Emirates flight in Bangalore I decided taking less luggage is better
left my heavy Toshiba laptop at home. It was a good decision 'cause
racing around huge airports and railway stations with a heavy laptop
strung around ones neck is a nightmare. The Dubai airport is so enormous,
and fabulous, I wonder how I have always believed that Singapores
Changi warranted that distinction. Dubai just floored me, and believe
you me, I have seen the best airports in the world including Seoul in
Korea. Dubai is not only huge but its exciting and brings out
that wild shopper in me!
On the flight out to Dusseldorf from Dubai I met a young German male
nurse who was tanned to a crisp brown slice of bacon on Thailands
beaches. So I shed the concept that Germans are not friendly and helpful.
My experience was quite the opposite though the only barrier is really
that their English skills are very basic. Inspite of that Stefan made
a great effort to be friendly and even guided me about taking the sky-train
on to the train station to get my connection to Bonn from Dusseldorf.
I was marking buttons lost in thought as the sky train took me to the
train station wondering how to get my ticket at that late hour. In Europe
or anywhere in the West, there are just machines from where buying a
ticket is childs play but scary for the uninitiated. Suddenly
I heard the familiar soothing sounds of Tamil being spoken and looking
up I saw a group of Indian Engineers who had just boarded. It was a
matter of minutes when they helped me buy my ticket and even helped
me get onto the right platform for my train. Amazingly they were all
fluent in German! The train was a sleek beauty which sped into the night
carrying me to (Cologne) Koln. There I had to change trains which took
me to Bonn. What was amazing was the ticket cost 14.40 Euro which is
about the same as what I would pay for the same journey in India and
no where near the comfort levels I had experienced.
I arrived in Bonn quite late in the night and was immediately advised
about which metro I should take to get to a place close to the Kanzler
Hotel where I was being hosted. It was quite amazing, the Metro station
was just a few yards from the hotel and there is an elevator which brings
one up from the train station to the road! Thats when one realises
the differences between my home country and any country in the west.
Comfort levels are at an amazing high and the low density of human life
makes living so much easier. In India we are all practically living
in one anothers armpits for most of our lives and the roads are
a seething mass of smog belching cars.
We were greeted by Jeremy Lovell our trainer for the media workshop
even though it was really late and were advised on the next days
itin. before we trundled off to our rooms and crashed for the night.
The weather was unusually hot for early April and according to the receptionist
there was no need for overcoats which was a blessing. So after an enormous
breakfast we walked in a large group to the Maritim Hotel where the
UNFCCC was having its negotiations. It was a crisp half an hour walk
past quaint old homes and large glass and chrome buildings which housed
Mercedes and Telia. A tiny tram ran through the centre of the main road
which was not open to our use. However the Metro was available for those
who did not want the walk. For me it was a flashback to my two years
in Amsterdam and Denmark when I did the Erasmus Mundus Masters in Journalism.
A flashback to the beauty of an emerging spring with the cherry blossom
and the fresh new chestnut leaves with a black bird singing somewhere
in the trees. I enjoyed the morning and evening walks back to the Kanzler
along with Ansel and Leger, two French speaking journalists from the
Congo and tghe Cameroons.
The conference like the one in New York and Poland was an eye opener
to the crisis being faced by the world and human kind. I could see the
Climate Change talks could go nowhere if the gap between the rich and
the poor countries was not closed. Yvo de Boer the executive secretary
of the UNFCCC has a hard task cut out before him trying to diplomatically
iron out the differences and work towards a solution on combined efforts
to mitigate Climate Change.
The hotel was dressed for Easter with huge Easter decorations of bunnies
and eggs alongside security machines to check all visitors similar to
the ones we went through at the airport. The uniform colour of the clothes
all the delegates to the conference was black but the delegates themselves
spoke a variety of languages and the place looked like a Benetton advertisement
with the blending of different language tones and skin tones.
Banners with Survival is not negotiable" and placards with
details about the Clean Development Mechanism, Greening investments,
Joint clean energy efforts, possibilities for mitigation and adaptation
filled the lobby as we filed in everyday. We reporters sniffed around
the rooms for stories and angles to write our pieces on the negotiations
with an angle that might get our readers back home interested in the
effort. It is strange but the human race inspite of the obvious signs
are not willing to cut back on their comforts to help save the world
for future generations just yet. At the rate Climate Change is galloping
forward I hope we live to see a world anywhere close to the one we enjoyed
as children in our own old age. Probably only when all sources of water
dry up and the sun burns us all to a crisp will the prophecy sink in.
the evening I walked back to the Kanzler and after a quick shower
decided to find where the nearest supermarket was to buy my gifts
to take home for the family for Easter. Duty Frees anywhere in the
world are expensive and on my travels I have found one can get the
best deals on chocolates, cheese and perfumes out of a supermarket!
However with having hurt my left foot with a strain in my Achilles
tendon, I had to make three trips before I could be satisfied with
my gift purchases! Take this travelling tip from me: Its really
great coming back with loads of goodies which cost a fraction of
what they cost in the Duty Free. Mon Cherie, Lindt, all the brands
are cheaper out of general supermarkets than at Airport duty frees.
One evening we all
decided to sit on the banks of the Rhine and enjoy dinner in the cool
spring air under the flowering Camellia trees. What drew us to the restaurant
was it was run by two Indian techies from Hyderabad, who were in Germany
working in IBM. Yet they followed their dream of running an excellent
restaurant with a variety of world cuisine- not just Indian cuisine.
They worked during the day and then ran the restaurant at night. If
that is not called enterprise then what is? Fantastic food and we had
a wonderful evening with a bill that did not break the bank.
Our three days were up in Bonn and it was time to fly back to our home
countries to make it in time for Easter Sunday. On the way back at Dubai
I splurged on the cutest Toshiba notebook laptop. Its inexpensive
with great features and perfect for a travelling journalist like me
to carry. I promise, it costs just $500 or less.
Hopefully we will all be back in Bonn in June to cover the next round
of Climate Change talks. We do have a long and laborious road before
us before the Copenhagen consensus in December which hopefully ends
on a positive note for our planets very existence.
© Marianne de Nazareth May 2009
mde.nazareth at gmail.com
Marianne de Nazareth
There was one last wish, one last desire to fulfill before I came
home to Bangalore forever. I had to visit Bath, in Somerset,
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