The security to get into the United Nations compound is tight. Understandable given September’s terrorist attack. I arrived this morning to find I was not on the list. A heavy sigh by me and a raised eyebrow by the armed guard didn’t speed up the process. So I smiled sweetly and produced my passport.
After a short interlude I was eventually badged-up and taken along a flag-lined “avenue” to the main building. It’s the start of the rainy season and this morning everything was sparkling following an early morning shower. This area is quite close to the forests and air here smells sweet, it reminds me of Uganda. The compound is set in beautiful green soundings with wildlife all around. I’ve yet to see a single monkey but my sources tell me they are everywhere.
Today was a mixture of formal meetings, introductions and less formal chats with those joining me on tomorrow’s panel. Although there is very little time difference between the UK and Kenya (three hours) I am suffering severe fatigue. Maybe it’s age? But I feel like I have been put through the mill. I’m pushing through the tiredness like I always do, but I think I’ll be comatosed on the way home. Plus it’s not even drink related.
The flight over was nothing less than a pain in the ass. First there was a delay for an hour followed by a further two hours on the tarmac waiting for a “technical” fault to be fixed and a change over in-ground staff to refuel the plane. By the time we took off and dinner was served it was well past midnight. I think I didn’t nod off until 2am. In Dubai I was left with just 40 minutes to spare in transit after what should have been three and a half hours. A quick jog to the gate, I squeezed into my seat and passed out but only for an hour’s sleep.
I don’t drink a lot of coffee as a rule. A couple of mugs in the morning and I’m good to go; but today every drink was black, hot and ineffective. I’m told the coffee at the UN cafeteria does not pack the punch it should, which explains my 5 cups in a day!
Parts of the UN building remind me of the Barbican Centre – there are long outdoor podiums with architecture that throws back to the 1970s. It’s a bit bizarre. The grounds have been landscaped and it’s quiet, you can’t hear the buzz of traffic – an oasis amid the city’s cacophony. My contact has been with a charming Austrian lawyer who has worked at the UN in Nairobi for 8 years. I’ll call him The Optimist. He gave me a quick tour of the UNEP part of the compound and then took me to the conference hall where yours truly is now moderating all day.
That’s right my role just got meatier. Not one, not two but three sessions of wildlife crime moderation plus introducing opening and closing remarks. All day of Asha Tanna, if people aren’t sick of me by the end of the morning they sure as hell will be by the end of the day. The room is intimidating. In fact when you get on stage it looks terrifying empty so Lord knows how it’s gonna look when it’s filled. Every seat has a small microphone on the shared desk and the guest list is a who’s-who of NGOs, heads of state as well as Interpol, and people from other areas like the judiciary and law enforcement. It kicks off tomorrow at 0930. Keep your fingers crossed for me because with the way the coffee is at the conference I’m gonna need every bit of luck to keep me “up” and “on it” until the close of play at 1800. Roll on that first glass of wine of the day….!