Suitcase of Change: The Travel Blog of a COP18 Youth Delegate

This blog is a living, breathing documentation of an ecofeminist youth delegate's experiences leading up to and at the UNFCCC's Climate Negotiations in Doha, Qatar

Month: November, 2012

Let the COP Begin!!!

Monday, November 26 marked the opening of the Conference of Parties 18 (COP18). My day started off bright and early with a meeting with Youth NGOs (YOUNGO) to discuss and share our ideas and what work we would like to get done at this COP.

Me enjoying some traditional Qatari coffee in the QNCC

The official day of the COP started with the opening plenary. In her address during the opening plenary, Executive Secretary to the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres, shared her hopes that “the Doha COP also presents a unique challenge – to look at both the present and the future under the Durban Platform. May I dare say that under your guidance, much of this can be accomplished before the high-level segment, allowing this COP to finish not on Saturday, not on Sunday – but actually make history by finishing on Friday!”

Christiana Figueres’ address at the opening plenary (as viewed from the overflow room)

To this I say “Bring it on!” Historically, negotiations continue through the breaks over the “weekend” and tend to not propel solutions any faster. How can we make succinct, impacting, binding and non-binding agreements that are fruitful for mitigating climate change, preventing global temperature rise of 2 degrees, and keeping our atmosphere under 350 ppm? We speak our minds. We don’t take no for an answer. We react to inaction. 

On the very first day of the conference, we already had begun pressuring negotiators. An action called #ClimateLegacy staked out the front entrance that all negotiators pass through going into the conference center with youth from around the world sharing the impact that climate change has had on their lives. They asked negotiators, “what do you want to be your climate legacy?”

Sierra Student Coalition Youth Delegate Jahdiel showing negotiators the impact climate change has had on his life

In addition to the #Climate Legacy action, our very own SSC Delegate, Adriana, gave an intervention (small speech) to the opening plenary of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), saying that, “countries continue to spend hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidizing fossil fuels each year. SBSTA should ensure its reporting guidelines for biennial reports include guidance to report on the existence of and efforts to remove these. “

SSC youth delegate, Adriana, addressing SBSTA.

Later in the afternoon, YOUNGO had a special informal meeting with UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres. Questions asked of her included:

  • How do we make the voices of youth who could not attend the COP heard by negotiators?
  • In what ways can we push a gender balance within the UNFCCC?
  • What advice would you give youth to make the most impact in their time at this year’s COP?
  • How realistic will it be for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to be passed and how can we make sure that it will be?

UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres, talking with YOUNGO

After hearing Christiana speak a number of times today, I can happily tell you what I want to be when I grow up: Christiana Figueres.

Following and inspiring talk, myself and others from the SSC delegation headed to the Climate Action Network (CAN) meeting for non-governmental organizations. Now, this is a meeting that will teach you a lot. Within this meeting, there are briefings on all of the Subsidiary bodies of the UNFCCC meetings and general talks about how the negotiations are going. CAN is a quirky group that awards “Fossil of the Day” to a country (or countries) who are underperforming during the negotiations and “Ray of the Day” to a country that is doing good work. The first day, CAN decided to give their “First ever ironic Ray” to the EU for:

“having already reached their pledged 2020 target almost 10 years ahead of time! They really are the fast­est under­achievers in the KP! But wait!? The EU has told us that they are not planning to increase their 2020 emissions pledge from the already achieved 20%. How outrageous! Is the EU really planning to go for the next 10 years without doing ANY further emis­sions reductions? EU you will need to quickly increase your target or the clouds will appear and it will start raining fossils on your negotiating table.”

Needless to say- I like CAN. I like CAN a lot.

That evening, we got to go over to the Sustainability EXPO for the opening party for the COP. It was a night of “mixed drinks” (which were really different types of juices mixed together since the public consumption of alcohol is illegal in Qatar- you have to be within a hotel bar), small appetizers, and native desserts (which of course included many nut and date filled goodies). After sampling these trifles, I was ready for something of substance. I saw of tray of falafel. It took another 30 minutes of searching to find it, but when I did, each and every bite of falafel tasted of sweet, sweet victory. The EXPO is filled with many companies, universities, and booths from countries. Each particular exhibit contains information (in most cases, green washing), reading materials, and SWAG. SO. MUCH. SWAG. Tricks of the trade include schmoozing, faking interest in attending a university, and relating the organizations work to your own- or, so I observed. I stuck to the whole genuine interest thing, which proved to be less fruitful.

Outside of the bougie party (strings and opera singer, included), there was a great display of traditional Qatari dancing. It consisted of many men, each carrying a sword, swaying forwarding and backward and swinging their swords to the beat of a drum. There were two drummers and one man singing (or chanting, I couldn’t say properly which one).

Traditional Qatari dancing outside of the Sustainability EXPO COP opening party

At the end of this long, long night, we went back to our hotel to welcome our 14th and final delegate to arrive, Mallory. A very good closing to a long and eventful day, indeed.

Coming soon- details about GENDER DAY

For now, Aloha from Doha.

Stopped by Cops… at COP?: COY8 Day 3

How many people get to say that they were stopping from running across the highway in Qatar by angry looking police (cops, as we say in the U.S.) in berets and aviator sunglasses because the Prince was about to drive past? I can happily say (now that the shock has gone) that I can add this to my list of odd encounters and a story-telling repertoire. The third day of the Conference of Youth (COY8) started off with a bang, needless to say. Earlier in the morning I had a conversation with a Doha resident who is working the conference for the next two weeks that altered the way I see the city. The bus that was the vehicle of our conversation (pun definitely intended) was taking us to the QNCC to get our brand new accreditation badges that would allows us to enter the official conference which starts on November 26th. We had anticipated a very long line, but ended up just walking in, getting our picture taken, and heading over to the Qatar Foundation Student Center for the final day of COY8.

Youth Delegates from across the globe presenting on working groups.

Personally, the final day of COY was my favorite. This is not because of the sessions, the work done, or any presentations (although all of the aforementioned parts of the day were also wonderful), I had wonderful, meaningful conversation with youth from around the world. Over the span of 14 hours, I was able to connect with people from Ghana, Sweden, Oman, the Philippines, the UK, and Algeria. I feel that the 25th, for me, was the day of asking probing questions and learning about others’ life experiences and cultures. I am so grateful that there was time in the COY schedule for an open session so that I was able to start these dialoges. (for this reason, my blog does not have as many pictures- sorry!) More on these conversations and relationships to come. Today’s COY was about starting our YOUNGOworking groups. I decided to join that Women and Gender group.

YOUNGO Women and Gender working group: first meeting/session.

We had representation youth from Bahrain, Nigeria, Sweden, Ghana, the UK, Lebanon, and Canada. Reasons why people joined this specific working group included: youth empowerment, public health, reproductive rights, gender inequity, human trafficking, gender mainstreaming, and overall how women and minority groups (including those who identify as genderqueer) are more likely to be more heavily, negatively impacted by the effects of Climate Change.  We are just in the planning stages at the moment and I am really excited to progress and build a strong and intentional integration of women and gender language used in all portions of policy.

How can we see more women negotiators?! 

The last evening of COY8 was closed out with an inspiring talk given by the lead negotiator for the Philippines. He roused the crowd’s support by saying that “climate change will be solved by actions at the grassroots level” and that “your generation will make that change. you have the choices to make- no, not the choices- there are no other options” other than seriously mitigating climate change through solid commitments and continued grassroots pressure.  He said, “It’s not about commas, bracket, texts that you will hear. Of course there are not technical legal implications, but I do not want you to focus on that while you’re in Doha,” he  continued “I want you to continue helping and inspiring us.. being agents of transformation and change because we cannot afford to do this with pessimism while addressing each other.”

Filipino youth delegate introducing their negotiator. 

Wonderful words to end the night and this post on.

For now, Aloha from Doha.

Doha: Stories Unheard and Voices Ignored

Today marks the third day of the Conference of Youth (COY8) leading up to the beginning of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 18th Conference of the Parties (COP18) international climate change policy negotiations begin tomorrow.

This morning was a rough start. We had to take care of some issues with the hotel (under-booked, overbudget) which took a little bit longer than anticipated. Once we finally reached our bus stop (which is about a 15 minute walk) our bus had already left.

After waiting for the bus for about 45 minutes (and making new friends with a youth delegate from Algeria), we were on our way. We were having a very intense conversation about the production of natural gas in Texas in comparison to that of Algeria, solar solutions for irrigation, and the environmental movement at large, when I was distracted by a beautiful building. The young woman sitting in the seat across the aisle from me told me that it belonged to one of the higher ups in Doha (I thought that it was a museum). She told me about how the current King took the throne from his father while he was on a trip and ever since then the cost of living has increasingly risen. If cost of living was high, I wondered, how was the overall standard of living?

Doha is a city that takes up 80% of the Qatar’s total population. Of this 80%, only approximately 10% of the people living within the city are native Qataris. The majority of the population consists of an immigrant workforce mainly from Southeast Asia, India, and Sri Lanka. My new friend’s name will be V. in this blog for the sake of anonymity. She is a local Qatari of mixed Indian and Sri Lankan descent and who was born and raised here in Doha. Before V. was born in Doha, her father, who is originally from Delhi, India, had been living here for the past 35 years. She was on our bus to the convention center because she is event staff for the conference. With tears in her eyes and a slightly choked voice, V. told me about the struggles of the laborers and “minority” populations (I use quotation marks to signify that they are, indeed, the majority of the population and are still treated as second, even third, class citizens).

In Qatar, every Thursday and Friday are what is called “family days”. This is the equivalent to U.S. weekends. In Doha, things to do are few and far between. One of the most common activities in the city is to go shopping. V. told me that laborers are forbidden from going to malls on these days, sometimes the only time off of work they will have. There is nothing else for them to do in the city. They are unable to go for drinks because in Qatar the consumption of alcohol is illegal save for within the confines of hotel bars, which are far too expensive for the laborers to afford. I was not only shocked and appalled by this blatant racism, but V. also told me that the laborers only earn an average of 500 Riyals per month(approx. $133) working well over 60 hours per week. She told me that most of the laborers will just work non-stop for two years, go visit their families for a few weeks, and then come back to work non-stop for another two years- the cycle continues.

What can they do about it? They are explicitly not allowed to assemble about it. Doha has never seen a march through the city or any sort of protest- it is illegal. I felt so much guilt when we mentioned that the COP NGOS had gotten special permitting to march on a very specific strip of road, for a very specific amount of time- the first march EVER in Doha. V. told me that she was excited about the march and that we was going to try to come because she would love to see it. While I was happy that she was so interested, I also felt guilty that we were able to march and express ourselves while others, who have struggled for years continued to be swept under the rug and denied the freedom to express their needs while we could get permission in a little under a year.

I look at the beautiful skyline and all of the growth and development and I think “wow, Doha is doing really well,” while the reality, as V. told me, is that most of the higher paying jobs in oil, architecture, and industry are outsourced to Western and other Arabic peoples. Most of the minority-majority are the ones building the new buildings, constantly cleaning the sand off of the perpetually gleaming glass buildings, and driving the frustrating turquoise taxis (a.k.a. mobile death traps).

What can I do about it? I don’t know. Other than continuing to treat every person I meet as a person and not just a door holder and entering each conversation I have with others with as much intentionality as I can, how do I approach the continual development of  exceptionally multi-faceted systems of oppression in a rapidly expanding nation, one with no outlets for people without money to voice their needs or concerns? Back home in the States, I’ve seen issues like these overcome by some of the most powerful people’s movements. In Qatar, however, they do not have the option to organize the way we are able to. How can I, as a visitor, show/express solidarity? (Any thoughts? These are my 1:30am reflections and trying to digest an issue that has been haunting me for the last 14 hours)

For now, I’m looking forward to learning more and am eager to understand the real struggles and power dynamics behind a shiny curtain of perfection, growth, happiness, and relative equality. I parted from V. with the promise and hope of seeing each other again in the next two weeks that I am at the conference.

Until later, Aloha from Doha.

Songs listened to while blogging.

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee, COY: COY8 Day 2

Downtown Doha, Qatar.

Doha is such a beautiful city. The city skyline has popped up in the just the last five years and it is continually growing, evolving, and, might I say, becoming more shiny. Each morning, I will be taking the shuttle bus from the area where my hotel is and past this gorgeous view. Each evening as we head back, the boats on the docks are lit up with what we would call “Christmas light” and they illuminate the water, complementing the reflection of the skyline.

We arrived at the Qatar Foundation Student Center, again tagging along with the AYCM, and prepared to start our day at COY8.

Following our opening session, different regions broke out to discuss their strategies and various approaches to create an impact on the negotiations. We mainly discussed the ways that we would like to slightly shift our focus from putting pressure on politicians to corporations who, in our eyes, are one of the many reasons behind dirty politics due to dirty money. The map seen in the background will be decorated by all of us with places that are environmental issues. As a youth coming to the conference from Texas, I will be adding the Tar Sands Blockade to the map and hopefully garnering International awareness of the struggle we are fighting on the ground. Our friends from Canada are from Alberta- so they know first hand the impact of the Tar Sands on our land, our health, and our climate.

North American Youth break-out strategy session. Pictured are youth delegates from the U.S. and Canada and a map of Environmental Action.

After highlighting how the 3 different U.S. delegations and 3 different Canadian groups synthesized solutions and actions, we moved back into the main conference room for a panel session led by AYCM and QEERI. “The problem is not resources. The problem is about willingness,” said a youth delegate from Lebanon from AYCM during their panel session regarding the education system in Arabic countries in regards to climate change. An issue addressed by an 18 year old youth delegate from Oman was that in order for most of them to continue their education they must be outsourced to the United States. She will be attending University of Colorado to study chemical engineering and one of the other panelists is already attending law school in the States. Their main answers were that not only were they not getting enough informal education to those who couldn’t afford private institutions (I was informed by a young Syrian, currently residing in Doha, that unless your parents work for the government you have to pay for your education).  I could go on a rant about U.S. education system, but I will save that for personal conversations rather than getting on my soapbox on the internet.

AYCM Panel about education and climate change. Representatives from Lebanon, Oman, and Egypt.

After the panel, we had 4 different breakout sessions. The first one that I attended stood out the most. The youth from New Zealand have started a project called Connected Voices that aims to gather stories from youth around the world who were unable to attend the conference and have their voices be heard by negotiators and the world at large.

The flags on the right represent all of the countries that do not have youth representation.

Testimonial: connecting our voices.

Following breakouts (which ranged from finance to reproductive health), all youth were gather together once more to discuss our collective strategy and went through a visioning session. What are our strengths/tools/resources? What are our weaknesses/challenges? There was general consensus that we have the passion, the will, and the ability to listen to one another, but that perhaps our limited resources and lack of response from negotiators were barriers that we all faced. The next thing I heard repeated over and over in the room was that we needed to keep fighting. Yes, this is not easy. No, we will not get everything done that we want. No, our negotiators will probably not make the decisions that we need them to. No, we will not give up.

As we came to these powerful conclusions, we had a special visitor:

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres.

Executive Secretary Christiania Figueres thanked us for getting to the negotiations and told us how much she appreciated our perseverance and encouraged us to continue putting on the pressure, not to give up, and to keep fighting for our futures. Overall- it was a really nice way to synthesize the events from the day into one powerful moment.

Side note:

I do not drink coffee. Never have. COY has been so fun, fulfilling, and tiring that I drank a cup of mocha. Woah. For those who know me, this is a big deal.

Mocha, oh mocha, thou dost look lovely in the sunlight.

I crashed shortly after. Caffeine or Jet Lag? The world may never know.

For now, Aloha from Doha.

Why Did I Want to Come to COP18?

Science

Numbers

Reality

New Faces & New Places: COY8 Day 1

It all started around 4am this morning. In Doha, it is November 23. I woke up around 4am Arabic Standard Time, otherwise known as 7pm Central Standard Time. I’ve heard it was because of this weird thing “Jet Lag” that people keep mentioning. Hm.

Anyway- after a lovely productive morning of blogging and stuffing my face for three hours, I was able to successfully start the day! Myself and the four others here for COY from my delegation started heading out to find A. Phones B. the COY venue.

We started to walk down our busy street, stopped by a marketplace to get a bottle of water (I know, SEAKers, I know), and continued on our ventured past the numerous furniture stores to find a main street to hail a taxi.

As luck would have it, as we approached the main road, we saw signs for the COP18 bus loading stop. We might as well just check it out and make sure that we know where we’re going, right? So, we headed over the bus and saw a a large group of youth and asked where the bus was headed. The Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC)? PERFECT! We hopped on. We didn’t know whether or not we were supposed to be on it, but after a go-around numbering off we felt pretty at home on our bus. It turns out that we ended up on the same bus as Arabic Youth Climate Movement (AYCM).

SSC U.S. Youth Delegates (from left to right: Jahdiel, Jessica, Adriana, Heather) on the COP18 bus to the QNCC.

We ended up getting to the QNCC and being told that our bus would not take us to the COY venue which was not taking place at the same location as the negotiations. We, all twenty-something of us, ended up crossing crazy Qatar traffic and walking through two construction zones only to cram into a smaller bus (imagine a VW Bus from the 60s) with twenty of us, zooming through the campus of the Qatar Foundation’s Education City to our final destination: the Student Center.

The outside of the Qatar Foundation Student Center.

Having planned on eating when we purchased our phones, with our stomachs rumbling, we realized that there was not anywhere to eat around the Student Center nor transportation that could be easily hailed. So, what did we do? We explored the building. We found wonderful water fill stations and steadily growing thirstiest from our treck to the Student Center it was a welcome discovery.

Water fill stations made in Keene, New Hampshire! (One of the more positive U.S. exports here… Papa John’s in the Student Center dining hall?)

The architecture in the building is GORGEOUS! The walls are made of polished stone. There is a central elevated floor couch square (great for conversing in a relaxed setting). My favorite part of the Student Center is the sculpture garden.

After two hours of wandering around, checking e-mails, working on blogs (cough, cough), and making new friends (from the UK) it was time to register! COY8 had officially begun. Our first order of business was getting to know each other. With 100+  youth from over 30 different countries, we started to mill around in a circle and when the music stopped we introduced ourselves. What was the song they played, you ask? A song that anyone with internet would know…

Next on the agenda? An anti-oppression(AO) training. For most of the youth in the room, this was their first experience with AO and people seemed to feel empowered once they realized that we share identities that help us to relate to one another that are not easily visible. Following AO was a presentation from the Arabic Youth Climate Movement. They only started 11 weeks ago and already have participation in 22 out of 24 Arab countries.

Arabic Youth Climate Movement Presentation.

Following the AYCM, two lovely ladies from the Netherlands presented their initiative. Their idea? Make negotiators accountable through the frame of “being the solution”. Some negotiators will be put on the list of polluters, while others will be put on the list of the “soluters”.

Be the Solution!

After a few more presentations we had a “Keynote” from Bill McKibbon. He sent us a pre-recorded message telling us about his “Do the Math” tour and inviting us to join him at the Global Power Shift that will be in Istanbul next June.

Bill McKibbon’s face on a screen.

That was the end of COY day 1. Day 2- coming soon!

More adventures to come. For now, Aloha from Doha.

COY8: Day 1 Teaser!

Qatar Foundation Student Center Sculpture Garden

 

Jahdiel Torres Caba, SSC US Youth Delegate, telling COY8 about climate victories in Puerto Rico.

Vegan Chicken and Veggie Balls for dinner! NOM

 

 

 

 

Observation

The smaller, less modernized portion of Doha that my delegation is staying in has a lot of shops surrounding our hotel. There are market places, furniture stores, and a LOT of barber shops that they call “Hair Saloon”s.

The most shocking thing for me to see, or rather NOT to see, is that there are no women walking around on the streets or in the shops. The only time I’ve seen women in the area where we are staying is when they are passing by in cars. Why? I don’t know. Closer to the city, there are more women out and about, but only in the seemingly more touristy areas of town.

More on this later. Right now, I am preparing for the Conference of Youth (COY) at the Qatar Foundation Student Center.

The small sculpture garden in the middle of the Hamad Bin Khalifa University Student Center at the Qatar Foundation.

Keynote speaker this evening? Bill McKibbon!

Hotel Fun Facts

Well.. some of them are not so fun… some of them are just interesting observations. Perhaps “quirks” is a better word:

  • There is a small hose next to the toilet
  • There is not a shower curtain and none of us can figure out how to shower without recreating a scene from “Titanic” in the bathroom
  • There are brown splotches painted on our wall- one of these splotches is, in fact, not paint, rather it is a dead cockroach smashed  (it’s legs sprawled and poking off the wall) near the crown-molding
  • We have a few lamps in each room. None of them, however, have lightbulbs…
  • Our refrigerator has a lock and key on it
  • You need a key to unlock the door from the outside AND the inside
  • There are no towels… yeah…. no towels…
  • Did I mention the cockroaches?
  • We turn on our AC using a remote (it’s in Celsius and we have NO idea what to set it to)
  • The airport “Shuttle” is a light blue Toyota Corolla or, as the driver calls it “Small Japanese Car”
  • Our couches are a nice “camel beige” and there is a camel enclosure nearby. Perhaps you will see a picture of me on a camel in the next three weeks.
  • Our room is “Max 4″ guests- but these beds can easily fit three a piece and we have a living room with a couch and 2 armchairs
  • There is waning arabic singing and brass music resonating down the alley where our hotel is located at 4am- hence why I woke up.. I think…
  • Contents of our kitchen include: Nutella, bananas, apples, crackers, Arabic equivalent of Pringles called “Mister Potato Crisps”, and round bread slices from the “London Bakery”
  • Did I mention NUTELLA?
  • We have a BIG BLUE fire extinguisher! WOAH!!!
  • There is a constant of “whirring” noise- I hope it’s the AC…
  • There are GORGEOUS rugs on our wooden floor
  • The cockroaches love them, too
  • Just kidding, there aren’t THAT many cockroaches. I just really don’t like roaches…
  • The elevator says it has a “Max. occupancy of 6″, but it’s only a 3’x3′ square…
  • The color of the wood our tables and doors are made of is a luxurious mahogany
  • The color of the roaches is slightly more sandy red
  • You can brush your teeth and wash your feet at the same time! Broken pipes- FTW
  • There’s one bracket that used to hold up a towel rod. The other bracket is missing.. so is the rod.. and there aren’t any towels to hang anyways
  • The bed is super comfy (especially with friends to snuggle with!)
  • The closets are wardrobes- Confirmation about connection to Narnia pending…
  • The TV in the lobby only plays infomercials and ads for “B” American movies (like some weird shark-attack film I’d never heard of before)

If you couldn’t tell, I can’t sleep still. Perhaps my insomnia will lead to an exciting blog for all to follow. Or, perhaps my posts will just get more and more ridiculous. Here, have a Riyal:

Riyals are so beautiful. They put Benjamins to shame.

For now, Aloha from Doha.

So This Is Jet Lag

I’ve always heard-tell of this thing “Jet Lag”. It almost seemed like a mythical creature growing up. Wouldn’t you sleep when it’s dark outside? How hard could it be to sleep through the night? Apparently, it’s a lot harder than I had anticipated.

After a long 36 hour trip and maybe about 15 hours worth of sleep over the course of 4 flights, I find myself wide awake in my hotel in Doha. There is strange, yet beautiful, music bouncing off the cement buildings surrounding me and eerily echoing through my window.

My long journey started at 3am US Central time. I flew from Austin to Houston to DC to Dubai to Doha. Along the way I have met other youth delegate from the U.S.- some from Earth in Brackets, some from SustainUS, and everyone else travelling with me is from my delegation with the SSC.

This being my first journey outside of the U.S., everything is new and exciting, a list of firsts- if you will. My first international flight! My first airplane meal! My first bag of Lay’s with printing in a different language! My first time walking on the soil of another country!

After our twelve and a half hour flight from Washington DC to Dubai (on which I made a lovely, and slightly too friendly, friend from Yemen whom had just presented at a conference in he said was called MESA), while de-planing my excitement was tangible. These were my first glimpses of the rest of the World! Out of the airport window I saw palm trees, wavy sand, beautiful architecture, and of course, the flare stacks from oil refineries. The signs around the airport in Dubai were all in Arabic, which, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful written languages in the World. What caught my attention beyond the attire of other passenger milling around the terminals and the strenuous security measures, was the Americanization of the airport food. Recognize this? Church’s Chicken is apparently for palatable if it’s “Texas Chicken”!

Texas in Dubai, Y’all.

After an embarrassing and confusing restroom experience for us ladies (porcelain and TP were nowhere to be found), we headed back to our gate. From Dubai, we had a one hour flight remaining to Doha. By the time we took off, it was dark outside once more. We flew over the Persian Gulf, spotting oil rigs and fishing vessels lights spread out amongst the dark waves. After a light snack consisting of Lay’s chips and a KitKat bar, we caught our first glimpses of Doha!

“Where’s Waldo?” of the Middle East= “Where’s the Refinery?”. Can you spot one?

Once we landed, we had to hop onto these interesting shuttle-bus people-movers and headed to immigration and customs. Excitement: I was getting a stamp in my brand new passport! Going through was a lot easier than I had expected. “Passport? Name? Look at camera. Done.”-  my customs agent. We proceeded (“we” being myself, two other SSC delegates, two SustainUS delegates, one Earth in Brackets delegate, and one Mexican youth delegate) to baggage claim and awaited our rides to our separate sleeping destinations.

Aloha, Doha!

Upon arrival to our hotel (after an hour and a half of miscommunication with our ride getting there), I saw three American men leaning on the outside wall. In the middle, was a tall blonde gentleman, my favorite cousin James, who is staying nearby with the military. As soon as I saw him I burst into tears. I couldn’t get out of the cab fast enough to give him the biggest hug imaginable.

Truly a “Happy” Thanksgiving <3

After he helped me take my bags upstairs (which contained two presents for him: Bacon Salt and Texas-shaped bacon/ cheddar crackers- side note: bringing pork products into Qatari borders is against the law, hence the bacon flavors) we headed out to dinner. After walking down a vibrant street with many “Hair Saloons” all along the left side and various bike and furniture shops, we headed to a place called King Kabob which was in a small shopping center that seemed to be comprised primarily of Indian shops (e.g. Sari Emporium two door down). I’m quickly noticing that the majority of the people I am seeing in my part of town (not the richer portion of the city) is primarily comprised of Indian and other Southeast Asian folks. I read somewhere that the much of the population is comprised of immigrant labor from these areas- more on this as I do more research. For dinner, I had a fascinating malai kofta (potato dumplings) that was very different from what I am used to from the Indian places I’ve been to in the states. This malai kofta was swimming in a white gravy and contained both dried cranberries and cashews. It was fantastic, just very different.

Mmmm nom nom nom

After bidding my cousin farewell, I was back at my hotel where my friend and I discovered that you cannot unlock our hotel door from the inside without a key- and our key was out grocery shopping with two of our other friends. I spent about fifteen minutes in the lobby watching Arabic infomercials for the equivalent of a Swiffer until my friends returned. Their return was not only warmly felt owing to the fact that I could get into the room, but also because they bought NUTELLA! The 5 of us (our fourth friend arrived shortly after them) circled the Nutella and munched away until- COCKROACHES!!! We had read reviews saying that there were roached in this hotel, but I was hoping that something had been done about it. On the bright side- Doha roaches are approximately a quater of the size of Texas roaches.

So- here I am. Sitting on the arm of a chair in our chic living room (I just saw another roach), nomming on Nutella, unable to sleep. It’s currently 6:30 am in Doha and I have a big day ahead of me- yet, I can’t sleep. On the agenda for today: the Conference of Youth (COY) opening ceremony and sessions, buying a temporary cell phone, and maybe even checking out the Souq. Who knows- time will tell.

For now, Aloha from Doha.

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