1st December 2017
My reading at the airport! Mount Everest
After 23 hours of travel I have finally arrived in Kathmandu. The travel was filled with delays and the only highlight was being able to look out at the Himalayas and Mount Everest on our approach to Kathmandu. I am in Kathmandu representing the Jane Goodall Institute Australia at the Asia for Animals conference. The organisers of the conference were kind enough to organise an airport shuttle for us to our accommodation, but upon arrival it was clear we weren’t leaving the airport soon. To pass the time we tried to get to know each other as much as we could, and I’m pleased to say that I have already met some very influential individuals, each doing their part to make their corner of the world a better place. After a few in the traffic and getting lost in the streets, we finally reached the accommodation!
From the little bit of Kathmandu, I have seen from the air and from the shuttle bus, it is similar to many Indian cities, dry, dusty, full of traffic and people everywhere. I am excited to see what this city and country hides. But for now, I am off to find my friend and colleague Alexia and some good Nepali food for dinner!
View of the Himalayas from the flight
2nd December 2017
After gobbling a breakfast of roti and vegetable curry we caught the shuttle bus to the conference venue. The first day of the consisted of 2 sessions of workshops and a panel discussion. Alexia and I attended a workshop on increasing our social media reach, at the end of which we both agreed that it was time to develop a social media plan for 2018 as we are involved in running some of our social media platforms.
My first international conference Dr. Jane’s presence being felt
After a delectable vegetarian lunch on the sunny lawns, we were back inside for the second workshop session. The workshop was delivered by some members of the RSPCA and focused on increasing animal welfare through education. The session gave us an interactive demonstration of the RSPCA’s education campaigns in China for teachers and children! Midway through the session the presenter made us dress up as trees, flowers, caterpillars and birds and set the scene for a role play. We were in a peaceful park existing in harmony with the bees and butterflies buzzing and fluttering to each flower. I played the the role of a bird flying from trees to tree and Alexia had fun documenting my childishness on video! To make things interesting I decided to be a hungry bird and decided to have eat one of the caterpillars for lunch! The peace is then disrupted by a group of kids who decide to bring their dogs to the park and disrupt the peace. This opened the scene for wildlife officials and parks rangers to step in and teach the kids that nature is something to be treasured and not destroyed.
While waiting for the panel discussion to begin I was lucky to bump into Manoj Gautam from the Jane Goodall Institute Nepal and his wife who were instrumental in bringing the Asia for Animals Conference to Nepal. Unfortunately, our meeting was brief, as Manoj had to rush off to carry out another task.
The final session of the conference was a panel discussion featuring Manoj, a Buddhist monk and two representatives from IFAW. The panel focused on how domestic animals bring individuals and communities happiness by providing them with identity and empowerment. It was a unique opportunity to listen to the wise thoughts of a religious leader along with leaders from animal welfare organisations.
Panel discussion with a Tibetan monk Can’t stay away from the elephants
We celebrated a good start to the conference by filling up our stomachs at a rooftop restaurant and bar with our colleagues and friends from the Jane Goodall Institute Australia. Though some of the team called it a night, a few of us continued moving from venue to venue, experiencing the local music talent. Eventually we called it a night, well aware that we were in for a big day at the conference tomorrow.
3rd December 2017
The official opening of the 10th Asia for Animals conference took place this morning with traditional dances and singing. The day consisted of keynote speakers talking about the positive change they have brought about to their communities. The most popular keynote was presented by a lawyer, whose work involved granting non-human animals with legal rights. His address was so inspiring that he also managed to convince the organisers for questions at the end, although he had spoken for an entire hour!
The AFA opening ceremony A video message by Dr Jane Goodall
The culinary highlight of the day was the fact that Nikki Botha, the popular vegan chef had travelled all the way from South Africa to prepare the day’s meals!
At the end of tiring, but very productive day, all the participants gathered on the lawns for to eat, drink and dance. We were treated to traditional Nepali rice wine (Ella), which tasted a lot like vodka in a claypot. And then the real festivities began. The traditional Nepali band Kutumba lured the participants to the dance floor with their music and once a few of us were on the floor the herd instinct kicked in and in minutes we were all dancing and clapping like no-one was watching. In between the dancing we were treated to traditional Nepali dishes including momo’s (steamed vegetarian dumplings), by far our culinary favourite of the trip so far!
The stage is set for dancing!
On our walk back to the guesthouse we were followed by a cute Nepali stray dog, which pulled our hearts as he wagged his tail and lapped up our attention!