Before I begin, make sure you’ve read the previous blog because this is part two of a three part series. Check out the link below if you haven’t. https://ecovybz.blog/2019/06/23/peace-boat-ocean-and-climate-youth-ambassador-program-the-beginning/
Part 2- Port activities!
Our first stop was Motril, Spain on May 27th. I had never heard of Motril, usually when you hear Spain you think of Barcelona or Madrid so I was excited to discover a new town. As we disembarked the ship a coach bus was waiting to take us to Granada where we would participate in an event entitled “IV Encuentro Voluntariado Comunidad Universitaria y Asociaciones Solidarias” that took place in the Sala Triunfo of the Hospital Real at the University of Granada.
The drive from Motril to Granada was beautiful, Motril was a quiet town and as we headed to Granada there were lush green mountain ranges surrounding the roads known as the Sierra Nevada Mountains with towering wind turbines resting neatly on the top of them and a pristine river flowing beneath us. Along the way we saw many fruit trees, one type in particular looked like a mango trees which I can neither confirm nor deny but my deep love for mangoes makes me some what of an expert thus guiding my conclusion. During our bus ride we played music from our countries, shared many laughs and Nat (Singapore) took the opportunity to catch up on some sleep until reaching Granada. This city was in Spain’s southern Andalusia region.
We arrived a bit early for our event so what better way to kill time than to explore the city! We visited the Albaycin, the old Arab Quarter which truly looked like a completely different world within the city but was beautiful to see. The houses were Moorish in character and the streets were flooded with vendors selling many trinkets from the Arabian culture. We then headed to the heart of the city were we came across Granada’s Cathedral of Santa María de la Encarnación near the Plaza Nueva which was absolutely stunning! We made one last pit stop to La Alhambra which we saw from a distance due to our time restraints.
It was now time for the event!
The programme and Peace Boat’s activities were introduced by the programme coordinator, Chema, and Elsei, the youth representative from Palau, who spoke on the program and introduced the concept of Talanoa (a Pacific concept of constructive dialogue through storytelling) to the audience. We engaged with the students at the event talking about climate change in our respective countries, as well as allowed them to share their views on climate change and what it means to Spain. The session was very fruitful as we opened their eyes to the harsh realities of climate change and gained new perspectives on the issues. To conclude our session, we all took a group photo at the university’s main entrance which, fun fact – used to be the Royal Hospital of Granada.
Before our next session we stopped for a quick lunch of… you guessed it, Tapas! Epa from Fiji and myself made our name eating a lot of Patatas Bravas, seasoned chilly potato pieces baked to perfection, it was delicious!
Next, we journeyed to the Colegio Oficial de Doctores y Licenciados for a meeting with the president of the Asociación Española de Educación Ambiental (AEEA), Federico Velázquez de Castro González who explained the effects of climate change on southern Spain. Fridays for Future Granada leader Ander Pérez, was also present at the meeting and shared his experience as an activist in the city.
Our official activities ended with a trip to Federico García Lorca Park, where we participated in some exercises which deepened our understanding and relationship with the environment.
Shortly after, we made our way back to quiet town of Motril where we took the time to dip our feet in the Mediterranean, enjoy some Spanish beers and eat some good ole pizza. On our walk back to the ship we got lost, the port was super confusing however, after a few wrong turns and shuttle buses passing us straight, we found our way back to the Peace Boat, and waved goodbye to Motril.
Next stop Tangier Morocco!
On May 28, we arrived in Morocco for a series of events all focused on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which was organized by Peace Boat’s local partners Atlas for Development, the Tangier Youth Council and the Mohammed VI Foundation. I can safely say we were all super excited to be in Morocco! On disembarking the ship, we were pleasantly greeted by the sounds of drums as a local band was outside the ship passionately playing traditional instruments giving us a true warm Moroccan welcome.
To kick start our activities we travelled to the Technopark headquarters for an interactive session with Moroccan youth from Atlas for Development and the Tangier Youth Council using the Talanoa method. We shared our experiences and learnt about the amazing work the Moroccan youth are doing to tackle the climate crisis. At the end of our session we took the opportunity to take a group photo and journeyed back to the boat.
Dozens of people boarded the ship for a series of Sustainable Development Goals events most importantly the high-level panel event focused on “The Climate Crisis and the Sustainable Development Goals” where I had the honour of sharing knowledge. I was scared to death but I put on a brave face and nailed it. I had the opportunity of speaking on the panel entitled “The role of education and the Climate Crisis” where I highlighted the importance of educating every generation and left the audience with three important questions;
- Who are you educating?
- How are educating them?
- What information are you providing?
Epa (Fiji) and Natalia (Seychelles) were on the panel discussing the role of youth and the climate crisis sharing their experiences whilst Ash (Montserrat) was on the panel discussing the role of peace, the oceans and the climate crisis. He was excellent, as he captivated the audience with his exceptional speech discussing the psychological impacts of climate change using personal hurricane victim examples from the Caribbean. I am almost positive someone shed a tear even though I didn’t see it. Also joining us on the panels were Moroccan Youth and special invited guests like Mrs. Rajaa Chafil, Director of the 4C; Mrs. Fadila Caillaud – Human Development Expert- World Bank Group; Dr. Latifa Daadaoui – National Coordinator of Erasmus Office in Morocco; H.E Ms. Merethe Nergaard, Ambassador of Norway to Morocco; and Mr. Philippe Poinsot, UN Resident Coordinator in Morocco.
After the on board event, we had time to explore the city with the guidance of some of the local partners and youth from Morocco. We boarded an open top bus much like the famous “‘hop on hop off”’ buses found in cities around the world. First, we stopped at an extremely scenic area with spectacular views of the coastline overlooking the point where the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean met. Then we headed to the Cap Spartel and the Caves of Hercules. It is rumoured that Hercules spent some time in the caves releasing his frustrations on the walls around him which gives it its unique shape. On the inside of the cave, is a beautiful opening to the Atlantic Sea which if you squint well enough is shaped like the African Continent. Our time exploring was short however, we enjoyed the Arabic styled architecture, the serene coastlines, and of course the few camels we spotted along the way. Hatim El Otmani, President of Atlas For Development jokingly referred to us as “Your Excellences” for the entire day and well, we knew we would definitely miss hearing it as we said our goodbyes.
On making our way back to the boat, souvenir shops lined the entrance of the port and we tried to seize the opportunity to buy a few items, however time was of the essence. This is where things took an interesting turn for me. I was casually admiring a cross body bag when the owner of the shop tried his very best to get me to purchase several items. Sadly, I informed him that I had no cash and I had to leave. Let me tell you he was not pleased, he followed me for at least 300 ft and insisted I go to a very sketchy van on the other side of port that had an ATM Machine in it to purchase the items. That was just a little too suspect to me, no way I was going to do that. At this point I had to put my foot down. I thought it ended there but no, he proceeded to follow me, loudly scould me and call me a liar. I couldn’t believe my ears, the Trini in me nearly came out but, I laughed it off, he was not about to ruin my awesome day. We boarded the ship everyone laughing and calling me a liar, and once again waved goodbye to the city of Tangier.
Next Stop Ponta Delgada!
On May 31st we arrived in Ponta Delgada. Excited to see land again we couldn’t wait to disembark the ship and see what the city had in stored for us. Ponta Delgada is located on the Island of São Miguel Island and is the capital of the Azores archipelago of Portugal.
That morning we hosted Professor José Manuel N. Azevedo, PhD student Afonso Prestes and marine biologist Ignacio Moreu giving them a short tour of the ship then proceeding to our official interactive session. We learnt about the environmental and climate change issues the islands are facing such as the introduction of invasive and alien species and the disappearance of native species in the marine environment, as a result of sea temperature increase as well as, the development of artificial sea walls around the islands due to sea level rise. They also highlighted the strong relationship help between scientist and the local government which helps in the implementation of effective policies to tackle their problems.
As the session ended we were given a tour of the island and let me tell you, we were not ready! It was absolutely stunning! We visited several coastlines where we were able to see the artificial sea walls built to tackle sea level rise as well as unique coastlines formed due to cooled larva from previous volcanic eruptions giving the islands its unique shape. To add a little excitement to our tour, Ash, was rushed by a tiny black dog which was hilarious. He was completely unbothered by it and we all laughed it off. We got a short walking tour of the city and admired the portuguese architecture, people and environment.
Next stop on the tour was the Logo de Fogo (Lake of Fire), a sight I can safely say blew us away. On the drive to this destination we were greeted by dozens of cows. It is rumoured that there are more cows on the island than humans and milk is the major economic export. Fun fact there is a flower called the Hortencia which the cows dislike therefore, the farmers use these flowers to prevent the cows from crossing pastures.
There were also a number of geothermal pipelines running through the mountains as the island runs on approximately 40 % geothermal energy. After driving uphill which literally felt like we were driving to heaven we came to a stop, excited to see this Logo de Fogo that our guests were raving about. It was a sight to behold! It is a massive crater lake resting in the central caldera of the Água de Pau Massif, which is the youngest volcano on the island, formed more than 15,000 years ago. I would love to describe it for you but my words would not do it justice so I will show you with some pictures below.
Sadly, a fog came in, and the visibility in the area drastically decreased so we left and headed back to the port, where we had some time to grab a Portuguese dinner. In true youth ambassador style, we lost half the group so Nat (Singapore), Elsei (Palau), Jeo(St Lucia) and myself spent some time purchasing souvenirs and ordering dinner which sadly, we couldn’t enjoy in the restaurant because we had to rush to board the ship. On our hasty run to embark, we met the others, made a quick stop for some ice-cream and then once again waved goodbye to yet another beautiful country.
At each port, we had the opportunity to personally connect with amazing young people and leaders all fighting for the environment. Despite all the lessons learnt and adventures had, I believe those personal connections are truly invaluable and what makes this program genuinely meaningful. I now have friends in each port who I can honestly say are true environmental warriors in their respective countries.
Up next for us was six long days at sea until reaching our final destination, New York. It was a bittersweet reality as this was our final stop but we couldn’t wait to see what the “Big Apple” had in store for us!
Look out for part three of this series where I share all our activities on board, New York City and our goodbyes.