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

Why Did I Want to Come to COP18?





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






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 ❤

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.

6 Days Away

In 6 days I will make that giant leap: leaving the U.S. for the first time.

My eVisa is in my inbox.

My passport is packed and ready.

Suitcase… eh…. working on it.

Rather short update: my University posted a lovely article about my trip to COP and I am over the moon!

Back to packing, I’ve been deliberating what to and not to pack. I want to enter this new community (the world!) in the most intentional way possible! Doha citizens have started a campaign called “One of Us” to educate visitors of acceptable garb to wear in public spaces in the city.

“One of Us” Campaign Posters

Luckily, I’m a suitcase half-full kind of girl and am more than happy to throw a sweater over the majority of my outfits. The issue, however, may be covering the knees of a female towering at 5’8″. My hope is that all other delegate will have the same amount of respect and excitement in learning how to enter this new and stimulating environment in the most intentional way possible!

Next up: POLICY UPDATE!! Until later, Aloha, Doha!

Doha Dreamin’

Having never left the continental U.S. before, I can tell you that I am very nervous about finally taking that giant leap (or flight) out. I’m over the age of twenty, but just got my very first passport a few months ago.

I’m getting ready to attend COP18, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s negotiations on international climate change policy. As an environmental studies undergraduate, this opportunity means the world to me.

I’ve been preparing for this since July of this year when I was first selected as a youth delegate with the Sierra Student Coalition (more on this to come).

For now, aloha, Doha. I’ll be seeing you soon.