Catherine's UN Fellowship 2005

Kia ora! Welcome! This website follows my trip to Geneva, Switzerland, to participate in the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Indigenous Fellowship 2005.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

August Week Three

August Week Two

August Week 1

Sunday 28th August

The fellows arrived by train in Paris on Sunday afternoon. After booking into our hotel, the girls went for a walkabout. We jumped on the subway and ended up at the Eiffle Tower. We only had to stand in line for about half an hour before we got our tickets up to the 2nd floor - what a lovely view of the city it was!

We returned back down to the ground and headed across the river Seine to the Palais de Chaillot. There we watched people doing hip hop on the stairs, and we listened to some people jamming arabic and african drumming music. It began getting dark, and we noticed that the Eiffle Tower lights were being turned on. Then, a second set of lights were turned on that flashed randomly around the Tower giving it a sparkly look. Then a strobe light was switched on at the very top of the Tower - a very amazing sight. We stayed for a while watching the free light show and enjoying the free music.

Monday 29th August

Our first day in the UNESCO (United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural Organization) in Paris. But before work began at the office, Anabela and I snuck in an early morning visit to Notre Dame Cathedral.

In the morning at the office, our first activity was to meet the French speaking Fellows from Algeria, Niger, Burundi, and France. We were assigned to different UNESCO divisions according to our different community interests - Tommy and I were assigned to the Natural Sciences Sector (Coastal and Small Islands). We met the staff who will host us for the next two weeks, and were given some background reading and internet research work to do.

In the evening, we visited the Arch de Triomphe. Anabela and I went right to the top where there was a bit of museum on Napoleon and his involvement in french history. And the view from the platform on the top was as good as from the Eiffle tower - even better I thought because you could see all the roads leading from the Arch out into Paris. The view of the Eiffle from the Arch was a bit funny, though - the Tower was all lit up and sat among all these concrete buildings. It looked veryo out of place or even like it was part of a computer generated image like it wasn't real!

After we returned back down to the ground, we tried to catch a double decker bus in the hopes of doing a night tour, but we found that there aren't night tours - sad! We'll have to do that another day.

July Week 5

July Week 4

July Week 2

July Week Three

July Week One

June Week 5

June Week 4

June Week Three

June Week Two

June Week One

Monday, August 15, 2005

May 21st, 2005 - New York Walkabout

Fri May 20th, 2005 (Day Five: Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, New York - From Diary compiled by all Fellows)

Morning Session

46. The discussion on the MDG2: “to achieve universal primary education” was concluded on this day. In relation to the discussion on education, it was obvious that what Governments and Indigenous peoples focused on concerning Indigenous Peoples education was different. One of the most important points raised was the fact that education is essential for indigenous children and youth. Education brings choices and opportunities. Indigenous peoples reiterated that they want their children to be educated in their mother tongue. In addition, it was mentioned in the discussion that educational resources such as books, school buildings and safety of students have an impact on school attendance and there is a need for qualified teachers and scholarships too.

47. Another main topic of discussion was the Second Decade on Indigenous Issues that was given by Jose Antonio Ocampo, the UN Undersecretary General for DESA and Coordinator for the 2nd IP Decade. The discussion focused on the consolidated achievements and positive changes from the First Decade on Indigenous Issues, the Draft Declaration, the MDG process and the launch of the second decade, the comprehensive plan, key objectives, and primary Programme of action for the second decade. The plan includes standard setting, actions and implementation, and capacity-building. The key themes will improve, benefit and create political awareness for indigenous peoples.

Side Events

48. Most of the Fellows attended the afternoon side event: “Premier of the first UN film on the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues”. The film was intended to inform about the purpose of the PFII, the target audiences for the film being UN Agencies and States (although indigenous groups would also be able to acquire copies for viewing). The film at times evoked strong emotions from the audience by images of indigenous peoples, sometimes showing graphic examples of indigenous human rights violations. It also contained information about the purpose of the PFII and its mandate. At the end of the screening, feedback was sought from the audience. Some of the Fellows thought that while the film was very good, it could have promoted more the purpose and concrete achievements of the PFII. The Fellows will provide this and other feedback to the film-makers in due course.

Regional Caucuses

49. One of the Fellows attended the Pacific Caucus and met with the Australian State Delegation to discuss matters such as Australia’s commitment to protecting indigenous peoples’ human rights and contributions to the Voluntary Fund so as to assist continued participation of indigenous peoples from the Pacific in the PFII. While these and other issues were sometimes difficult to discuss, talks were on the whole very positive and it was felt that all participants left feeling that the dialogue was extremely worthwhile. One comment the Fellow made in the meetings was that Australia is a major influential force in the Pacific – other states watch what Australia does, so it is important that Australia makes the right choices in regard to indigenous human rights.

50. The highlight for one of the Fellows today was the Youth Caucus’ presentation of their Intervention at the plenary session. While one of the representatives of the YC orally presented, the other Youth Caucus members, including two Fellows, stood behind him as a group in support. When this happened, many people in the room rushed to take photos of the group, and even before our final statement was made (about encouraging participating Delegations to include a Youth member in their Team), there was a huge round of applause in the meeting hall! It was a very beautiful and special moment, and one the participating Fellows were very proud to be a part of.

51. At the African Caucus, Julian Burger briefed the participants on what the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has been doing in relations to the protection and promotion of the rights of Indigenous Peoples of Africa. Julian mentioned that OHCHR has just organized training in South Africa in collaboration with IPACC. He added that the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous Peoples will visit South Africa. He then asked the members of the caucus to think about what the OHCHR can offer to the Indigenous Peoples of Africa in general. The African Caucus emphasized the need for law changes within the countries, and establishing UN Programmes such as Capacity building and trainings for Indigenous peoples, government officials, and UN officials serving in Africa.

52. The issue of the Pygmies was given high regard because of the extent of violations of their rights. With that, the caucus requested that the OHCHR ask the Special Rapporteur to remind governments to respect their international human rights obligations.

Thurs May 19th, 2005 (Day Four: Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, New York - From Diary compiled by all Fellows)

Morning Session

37. On Thursday, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues session started to focus the discussion on the MDG2: to achieve universal primary education.

38. During the discussion, the PF Chairperson noted that the biggest challenge was not having a sufficient number of UN Programmes, but that the benefits of the Programmes do not seem to be reaching grassroots indigenous community level. The issues facing indigenous peoples were well-known; therefore she encouraged participants to make concrete recommendations in their interventions about policies or actions to be taken.

39. During the discussion on the MDG2, some of the IASG also gave their reports and interventions on the theme.

40. UNICEF talked about primary education available to different cultures, therefore education has to be inter-cultural and be available to all children. Basic infrastructure that provides and environment conducive to learning must be provided and maintained. It was remarked that education is not a privilege; it is a human right for every child. No child should be excluded and marginalized.

41. The statement of the High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed that Indigenous Peoples quality of education is generally lower compared to the mainstream society. This clearly reflects marginalization of indigenous peoples and probably the wrong nature of the school curriculum which is not culturally suitable. In the statement two special points were raised for consideration. First, the access to education of groups that have limited access to education such as: indigenous population living in remote areas, nomadic and semi-nomadic groups who have different ways of living. Second, education needs to reflect indigenous cultures and be responsive to indigenous needs in order to achieve MDG2.

42. The statement of the High Commissioner mentioned that education is fundamental for indigenous people not only to break the cycle of poverty and exclusion, but also to protect their own cultures and languages.

43. During the question and answer portion of the plenary session, a comment about the education situation that the MDG2 doesn’t include basic education as a fundamental instrument. In addition, a question at what point are you ready to break the vicious circle when the indigenous people go to the government and ask for help and it says that they cannot do a lot because the World Bank policies and vice versa was also raised.

Regional Caucuses

44. One of Fellows attended the Pacific Caucus and discussed both substantive and procedural issues in drafting interventions. They agreed to invite State Delegations from the Pacific region to meetings so issues of indigenous concern could be discussed with State representatives. The first Delegation to be invited would be Australia. The importance of preparations for these dialogues was also highlighted.

45. The Fellows attended the Youth Caucus and shared on procedural and substantive issues about drafting and submitting interventions. This was important as most participants lacked experience in preparing for sessions such as the PFII. Some members expressed frustration at the perceived lack of support that the PFII gave to young participants. The members recommended having orientation training before the Permanent Forum to enable them to participate more fully and effectively. The youth caucus prepared an intervention on the MDG2.

Wed May 18th, 2005 (Day Three: Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, New York - From Diary compiled by all Fellows)

Morning Session

29. The PFII finally concluded the discussion on the MDG1 today. At this stage, most of the interventions were Joint Statements and Individual statements made by Indigenous Peoples from various regions of the world.

Side Events

30. In the morning one of the fellows attended the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) roundtable discussion on human rights, poverty and MDGs. Among the lists of speakers were representative from the Global Environment Facility, European Commission, International Fund for Agriculture and Development (IFAD) and UNESCO.

31. The representative of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) outlined some of their best practices in getting Indigenous Peoples involved in their works. The representative mentioned that some of the projects and Programmes that GEF have funded are Indigenous led community based projects. However some Indigenous participants have raised some issues with regards to GEF policy in engaging Indigenous Peoples in their projects. It was mentioned during the discussion that some country staff of GEF are not very aware of Indigenous issues. With that, they argued that in order for GEF Programmes to fully attain its vision, Indigenous peoples should be involved from the start of planning, implementation and evaluation of the GEF Programmes.

32. The representative of the European Commission (EU) has also mentioned that recently, the EU has been trying its best to formulate new Programmes that will benefit the Indigenous Peoples. She added that EU has already in fact set aside fund for their projects. With this fund, she noted that Indigenous NGO’s are given priority.

33. Another Fellow attended the panel discussion on learning strategies and techniques to increase funding for indigenous communities. The event provided good information for indigenous on how to fundraise, and prepare and develop project proposals. At the end of the discussion, the organizer distributed a booklet containing very comprehensive information on funding agencies that supports Indigenous peoples advocacy works.

34. Another Fellow attended a Side Event on the International Service for Human Rights in which panelists discussed the aspects, concerns and mechanisms of the human rights instruments of the United Nations. There was an introduction and overview on the UN Charter, Treaty Bodies, Commission and Sub-Commission on Human Rights, and procedures of the Special Rapporteur. An indigenous person shared his experience on how he used the various human rights instruments and mechanisms to advance an indigenous national movement in his community. They further discussed the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Working Group on Indigenous Populations compliment each other. The panelists recommended to the participants to know about the organizations, use the specialized agencies, and observe the grassroots actions with direct action with global development.

Regional Caucuses

35. One of the Fellows attended the African Regional Caucus. During the meeting, the discussions focused on identifying the common issues that currently faced Indigenous peoples of Africa Among the issues identified are as follows: poverty, lack of recognition of IP’s by African states, Indigenous peoples are being taken out from their ancestral lands without their permission As a concluding part of the meeting, members of the caucus discussed how to get the PFII and the UN in general involved in resolving and addressing the problems face by Indigenous peoples of Africa. Caucus members recommended having the MDG s explained to the African Caucus. The absence of the African governments in the African Caucus, and poverty is a brutal denial of human rights and leads to marginalization. In the afternoon, some of the Fellows attended the International Indigenous Youth Caucus. This time, they continued to discuss and prepare their joint statement on education. With the request of the members of the Youth Caucus, the Fellows gave a briefing about the UN system, human rights instruments and mechanisms. The Fellows also tried to explain the mandate of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and also briefed them about the Indigenous Fellowship Programme and encouraged them to apply.

Other Activities

36. At the end of the day, one of the Fellows was interviewed by a reporter with Cultural Survival Magazine, regarding a radio station and other communication methods in South Africa.

May 17th, 2005 (Day Two: Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, New York - From Diary compiled by all Fellows)

Morning Session

21. The Permanent Forum continued its discussion on the MDG1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. The day was marked by the IASG presentations and reports highlighting their good practices and identifying the barriers to their implementations. Questions and clarifications were sought from the Permanent Forum members.

22. Fellows attended the session on the Millennium Development Goals focusing on the poverty eradication by the Inter-Agency Support Group. The dialogue by the UN Agencies (UNDP, WIPO, OHCHR, UNICEF) on the Millennium Development Goals main discussion points focused on the importance of employment of indigenous peoples, policies, standards and Programmes, monitoring mechanisms, promoting and protecting, and evaluation of the content of the MDGs. They further discussed the significance of Indigenous Peoples involvement in social mobilization and participation in formulating public policy.

Side Events

23. Indigenous Fellows attended theI nternational Work Group For Indigenous Affairs (IWIGA) book launch, Indigenous World 2005 which contained brief reports of the indigenous peoples’ situations in different countries around the world. They all got a free copy of the book which was excellent and agreed that the book will serve as a good tool to use within their respective communities.

Regional Caucuses

24. A fellow attended the Asian Regional Caucus held in the morning before the plenary session started. The caucus did the finishing touches of the Region’s Joint Statement which was actually made as early as February 2005 during the Regional Preparatory Meeting in India. Discussion was centered on strategizing themselves in getting as much information from UN agencies and state representative based on the 7 thematic mandates of the PF. Members were assigned to collect statements from other regions, organizations and individuals who make interventions. The fellow was assigned to help in disseminating information through flier distribution on the side events which members of the region are going to organize.

25. Indigenous youth participants of the permanent forum gathered and formed the International Indigenous Youth Caucus. The purpose of the caucus was to develop a network of young indigenous advocates, leadership skills and awareness to sustain and enforce the rights of indigenous people all over the world.

26. Fellows participated in the International Indigenous Youth Caucus and helped in the drafting of its joint statement on extreme poverty eradication. After delivering their intervention that day, the youth caucus met again in the afternoon to plan how they were going to tackle the issue of not having a venue to meet together at the Permanent Forum. At the end of the meeting, the group realized that most of the youth participants were new comers to the UN. Most needed training about the UN system and specialized agencies. On top of that, most were not aware of the mandates of the Permanent Forum.

Other Activities

27. Fellows also assisted in distributing the Voluntary Fund to beneficiaries. One of the Fellows also met Mililani Trask on that day for the first time. Mililani is a well-known indigenous peoples’ rights activist in the Pacific Region, so it was very exciting to meet her.

28. In the evening, the team attended the opening and reception of a cultural arts exhibition. The event included cultural performances by Ecuadorian dancers, American Indian drumming, prayer and song by the Ogallala, a song by the Masai, and a traditional Filipino chant by the Permanent Forum Chairperson. The appreciation of diversity and celebration of cultures was amazing. The evening culminated with the Ecuadorian band which put the delegations into a dancing mood. Indeed the reception captured the cultural diversity of the Indigenous Peoples of the world.

Mon May 16th, 2005 (Day One: Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, New York - From Diary compiled by all Fellows)

Opening Ceremony
1. The Fourth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII) at the United Headquaters in New York was formally opened with a ritual by the Ecuadorian Delegation. Ms. Rachel Mayanja, the interim Chair and Assistant Secretary General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women introduced the Members of Bureau, and welcomed the presence of the Deputy Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly, the President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, and all the participants and delegates.

2. She introduced the purpose and overview of the activities of the next two weeks and moved for the adoption of agenda and organization of work. Then she oversaw the election of Officers.

3. Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz was nominated by Ida Nicolaisen and simultaneously elected as Chairperson by acclamation. The Fellows noted that the Chairperson was elected unopposed and realized that the decision to elect the Chairperson must have been made in the PFII members pre-session.

4. The morning session concluded with an acceptance speech from the Chairperson. She emphasized the need for collaboration between States, UN Agencies, NGOs and indigenous communities. Moreover, she encouraged indigenous peoples to take ownership of the PFII as a venue for constructive dialogue and action. She reminded the Delegation to be aware of the PFII’s mandate when making recommendations to make the most of the next two weeks. Afternoon Session

5. Later in the afternoon the Chairperson formally opened the session on the special theme “Millennium Development Goals and Indigenous Peoples”, focusing on Goal 1: “Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger”.

6. High level officials such as the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, the Special Advisor on the Secretary-General on the MDGs, Jeffery Sachs Professor of Economics at Columbia University, and the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty at the Commission of Human Rights, Professor Arjun Gupta attended the session.

7. The High Commissioner for Human Rights reminded the Forum that MDG1 commits States to the reduction of poverty by 50 per cent by the year 2015. She further commented that:
a. All groups must benefit from Programmes designed to address poverty - including indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples must be involved in the development, implementation and evaluation of such Programmes.
b. There is a risk that indigenous peoples land and resources may be utilized in the name of poverty reduction. But there must be no reduction in poverty at the expense of indigenous peoples.
c. Poverty is not just about dollars and cents. Some indigenous peoples for example may have little money yet be successful in traditional ways of subsistence. Poverty needs to be defined in ways that reflect not only financial considerations, but social and cultural considerations as well. d. The only sustainable way to achieve MDG1 is for states to fully acknowledge that indigenous peoples actually have rights which underpin their need for health, education, housing, development and so on.

8. The High Commissioner went on to share about what the OHCHR had done and planned to do in connection to human rights protection and promotion. She emphasized the significance about knowing the different treaty bodies and mechanisms, and the significant role played by national human rights Commissions. She also mentioned the necessity of country engagement and creating synergy among the various UN Funds, Programmes and Agencies.

9. One of the highlights of the whole afternoon was the Inter-Agency Support Group reports on their current commitments and their most recent progress in achieving the MDG1 regarding the promotion and protection of indigenous peoples rights. For example, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported that they are continuing their work on indigenous education through the preparation of publications, information materials, support to regional conferences and the organization of expert group meetings and seminars. UNESCO presented an Action Plan in which they identified 20 areas of interventions including not only protection of cultural heritage but also issues relating to multicultural societies in education, indigenous knowledge systems, intercultural dialogue, strategies for cultural pluralism and the use of new technologies and media.

10. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reported that it provides information on activities relating to indigenous peoples. Emphasis has been placed on the integration of indigenous perspectives into policy frameworks, the UNDP Human Development Report, global, national and regional Programming and the participation of indigenous peoples in the achievement of MDGs.

11. Professor Jeffrey Sachs discussed achieving the MDGs and the need for universal access to basic human rights, local empowerment, implementing active participation, design strategies, and closing the increasing gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’.

12. In response to the Inter-Agency Support Group Reports the Chairperson reminded the Forum that the implementation of recommendations and ensuring that benefits of UN action reach indigenous peoples at the local level is crucial. She expressed that the PFII is a good place for indigenous peoples to give advice to states and UN Agencies to protect their rights. It was observed that indigenous peoples can protect their rights but only with the assistance from the States and UN Agencies. To this end, the Fellows observed the good will that existed between States, UN agencies and indigenous peoples for working collaboratively.

13. As the UN Agencies were giving their reports, the Fellows noted that indigenous peoples were underrepresented within those bodies. If there is to be a distinct commitment, understanding and fundamental change on indigenous issues, there needs to be indigenous peoples within the membership and staff of the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum and the UN Agencies.

Side Events

14. Among the side events that the Fellows attended for the day were on the panel discussion on Peoples Partnership and the Environment organized by the Nature Conservancy and Panel Discussion on the Khmer Krom Rights and the UN PFII by the Khmers Kapuchea-Krom Federation.

15. The fellow attended the Nature Conservancy side event and was inspired by what the Chippewa were doing to clean up the ecosystems in partnership with the State concerned. She appreciated the participation as key to making the most out of the workshops in terms of information gathering.

16. With the side event on Human Rights Violations, the fellows could not believe the gross violations of the rights of the Khmer indigenous peoples. In one violation, the speaker said rice farmers were forcibly removed from their land and could not remain as farmers. With that, the Khmer peoples are requesting the UN to monitor and do actions with regards to the human rights violations committed to them by their own government.

Regional Caucuses

17. One of the fellows met the delegates from Asia and helped in disseminating information about the Asian Regional Caucus which will be held the next day. He added that one of the highlights of the day was meeting some of the Indigenous leaders whom he had met in the previous meetings and conferences, and reconnecting with them.

18. Moreover, he was particularly touched having met four of his former mentors in some of the international training courses on International Law and Human Rights which he previously attended. Meeting them at the Permanent Forum was a dream came true for the fellow. On the other hand, the fellow’s mentors were also very glad to found out that one of their former student is in fact a recipient now of the Indigenous Fellowship Programme which is one of their previous recommendations during the Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Geneva.

Other Activities

19. In the morning, the Fellows assisted in the distribution of the UN Voluntary Fund to the beneficiaries. They also helped distribute Voluntary Fund Application Forms for the next funding round in 2006. Delegates asked questions and additional information about the Fund and the fellow felt that it was a good thing they were briefed about the Fund prior to coming to the Permanent Forum and were able to answer the basic questions. One of the fellow’s observations was that most of the delegates had not heard about the Voluntary Fund and did not really know its mandate. All the Fellows enjoyed meeting the Indigenous Fellows from previous years.

20. Meeting the state representatives by Indigenous delegations during the sessions is a great opportunity for Indigenous peoples to lobby their own governments. In fact this is the easiest way to get the attention of the states as most of the donor agencies are also around and observing them. In this regards, one of the fellows met the representatives of the Philippines Permanent Mission in the UN. During the meeting, the fellow was briefed about the Philippine Mission and their most recent activities. In the same manner, the fellow shared some notes and highlights some of the most recent developments and challenges faces the Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines.

May 1st, 2005 (settling into Geneva City)

After my arrival, we grabbed a table at the airport café to wait for another Fellow who was flying in soon from South Africa. His name is Tommy. Maliina bought Morse and I a drink and we chatted while we waited for our mate to arrive. They told me that the Fellow from Alaska, Trina, arrived yesterday, and the last Fellow, Anabella from Mexico was arriving at 4pm today. When Tommy’s flight got in, we stood by the arrivals entrance and tried to pick him out from the crowd – none of us had seen a picture of him yet either! Eventually we spied someone who we guessed was him, and he smiled at us when we called out his name. After a round of quick greetings, Maliina grabbed us a taxi to our Hostel where we’d be staying – the “Foyer St. Justin” right in the heart of Geneva city. We waited to pick up some room keys and dropped off our bags, but we had to sort out later exactly who was staying in which rooms. We looked for Trina but she was out, so Maliina offered to take us for a quick walk to Geneva lake where we could get some kai for lunch. Although I was very tired and a little jet-lagged, I decided I had to make the most of every minute in this new place so agreed to tag along. The weather was warm and sunny, and there were plenty of people out and about. Being a Sunday, this is what people do – take walks along the lakeside, have lunch in one of the cafes, walk your dog, get out in the sun with the kids, take a bike ride, go roller blading or skateboarding, visit the botanical gardens or the museum. We walked to the pier where many people were sun bathing by the lake in bikinis and swimming togs – many of us found it funny that people were laid out all over the concrete pier and the stone pebbles by the lake – but no sand! And no-one was swimming, because it’s still early summer and the lake still too cold. Everyone got something to eat, except me as I wasn’t hungry yet having just finished a second breakfast on the plane before I arrived. We shared a bit about our respective home countries and some of the issues that we as indigenous people have to deal with. We found we have a lot of issues in common – in Morse’s country of the Phillipines for example, Catholicism is the main religion, and children may only attend school with a Christian name! So if you have an indigenous tribal name, you have to use a different, Christian, name when at school! Religion and colonisation – goes hand in hand around the world. Morse’s people have been continuing to oppose this policy for 200 years or so. When we’d finished lunch Maliina showed us the way back to our Hostel, and we stopped by the “Palais Wilson” where the Office for the Commissioner for Human Rights was located, and where we’d be based for the next five months. Palais Wilson means “Wilson Palace” – that’s right, our office is in a Palace! Wicked! We had to wait until the next day to see inside the Office as we didn’t have our security passes yet, but that was fine as I was ready to hit the sack. We walked back to the Hostel which was only 5 minutes from the Palais, very convenient. We bumped into Trina on the way who was waiting for us on the side of the road. At the Hostel the two boys, Morse and Tommy, had to share a room, but us three girls had to decide who would share and which lucky one would get their own room! None of us really had any problems sharing, but I really wanted my own room, and was able to make a strong case for it! I guess being the oldest helped too, thank goodness! I could now start unpacking my bags. I checked the view outside my window: all us girls are on the 6th floor – my room looks down into a courtyard surrounded by other buildings at least as high as ours. Over the roofs of some buildings I could make out a church steeple and some mountains in the background. As well as the usual curtains, all our rooms also have metal window shutters that you wind open and closed. We presumed that they were for added protection against the cold snowy weather in winter. In fact almost every building has them on all their windows, many offices are automated shutters that close and open at set hours. We also took a tour around the Hostel – there is a shared kitchen, no ovens, just stovetops and a microwave. Everything else we have to buy for ourselves, and we can’t use any appliances in our own rooms. There is a locker for each person where we can store kai, and everyone gets a box in the communal fridge (this is like our marae cooler!) where we keep our own kai too. Have to get padlocks for both. There’s a communal TV down by the kitchen, and a laundry that costs a couple of Swiss Francs ($CHF) to use the washing and drying machines. But it is advised to keep a close eye on your laundry lest it go ‘missing’, and it’s all in the basement, so I wouldn’t like to spend too much time down there. I think I’ll go to the laundry just across the road where you can at least sit and look out the window while you read your paperwork or write letters and postcards, and maybe even chat to other people doing their laundry too. After unpacking, I had to sleep for a few hours because I was so knackered. I went to slip into my bed, but couldn’t find the top sheet – just the duvet. Turns out that people in Geneva don’t use top sheets, they just have the duvet cover that serves as both the cover and the top sheet – so no top sheet! Makes sense to me. Might switch to that system when I return home! As I was drifting off to sleep, I thought how much it felt like being back at University being in a hostel again, going to ‘work’ each day to learn things, with only my stereo at night and the noises around me to keep me company in my little room. I woke some time later, and checked in with the others – we went out looking for somewhere to get some kai. Thankfully there is a Turkish Kebab place nearby – and it tastes just like Kebabs from home (Wellington, at least)! I think I’ll have kebabs for dinner one night a week, as they’re very filling and are very well priced. Things in Geneva are normally very expensive. We took our kebabs to the lake side – it was after 7pm but there were still people out and about walking their dogs etc. OK, two things about the dogs (1) they are different to NZ dogs, as generally they are very nice natured - people walk them on a leash and I guess they are used to people and crowds, so you don't feel unsure of whether it will bite you if you pass them on the street being walked about town, and the majority of them are tiny toy dogs (probably because that's more suitable for an apartment in the city), but (2) there is doggy do everywhere!!! There's so many dogs, and their owners just let them do their 'thing' any place anytime, and they don't clean up after their dogs would you believe! So you have to watch where you're walking on the footpath. There's even a foothpath cleaning machine that washes the footpaths (once a week, I think), the problem is sooooo bad!The other thing is that many people in Geneva smoke and there are designated areas for non-smokers as opposed to smokers. For a non-smoker like me from a country where there is a law prohibiting smoking in public enclosed spaces (to protect other peoples' Human Right to health!) , I feel like the odd one out and it's a bit hard to deal with! It's ironic I thought that it would be this way in a city which is a major base for the United Nations that's meant to be protecting Human Rights (among other things)! So while Geneva is certainly a beautiful city in many ways, it's also a city of contrasts.

May 1st, 2005 (Frankfurt-Geneva)

Got to Frankfurt and the place was empty but for us passengers who'd just arrived. Many of us stood around a bit bewildered-looking trying to figure out where we were to go to next to check in for our connecting flights, as there were corridors and escalators and signs pointing in every direction! I overheard the airline staff advising someone where to go for my connecting flight, so just followed her directions. But getting around unfamiliar international airports is a kinda scary thing when travelling for the first time on your own! I think I was getting used to it, but.Found the place where I was next to check in, but I was a bit early, so went roaming (as you do). Noticed that people could smoke almost anywhere in the airport - the exception was "no smoking zones". I wanted to open a window - yuck! Not like NZ at all. Found a shop and bought some postcards, and wrote and posted them off. Then went back to the check in counter to wait for the boarding call for our plane. The call came, and passengers were directed to a shuttle bus that would take us to the plane because the airport's so big, I guess! The bus actually drove across the tarmac! There was a plane taxi-ing up the tarmac, and it was like we shot across in the bus (a bit like crossing the road for human's and checking to ensure no traffic's coming??). It was all very organised - they had designated areas for buses to drive, but to me it felt like it was a bit risky! We got to our plane - the smallest one yet, but still a 6-wide across seater. As I was walking to the plane I looked up and it was really weird - the sky looked like a cobweb - there were so many large planes that take off from the airport that the leave their vapour trails criss-crossing all over the sky. Neat effect. And I got a window seat again - massive! But for some reason my cabin luggage which fitted the overhead flight lockers in the last two planes didn't fit this one, so the hostess had to stow it beneath with the rest of the cargo. No matter, is only a short flight to Geneva. I looked down as we got in the air - most houses were white with red roofs. And many had swimming pools - means summer's going to be nice and hot, lovely! And the motorways were really long and straight with only gentle curves - I think we followed one continuous highway for most of our flight, it just went on and on! I could see how they could tolerate high speeding traffic around here, not like our windy roads in NZ. Out the window, you could also see planes at the same altitude many km's away, but heading in generally the same direction but going to other destinations. It felt like we were racing each other! And then the mountains came into view - they appeared to be so close like you could almost reach out and touch them, and they were so huge! And covered in snow, it was really beautiful - took my breath away. If only I had my camera, but it was below in the cargo hold with my hand luggage! Oh well, get the pictures hopefully on the way back.Arrived at Geneva - finally, I'm here! Got to the customs counter and realised my passport was in my handluggage, and my handluggage was on the other side of the counter at baggage pickup! But when I explained the situation I was just let through customs (what the???!!) and allowed to collect my luggage under the supervision of a local airport police man. I found my passport and showed it to the policeman, and he said "and all your money too, Madam". I was like, what?? You want my money??? But he was only joking. Ha ha. I was later to find that people in Geneva (men at least!) like to joke like that, so you just get used to it after a while! Entering the airport, I hoped that my host was there to pick me up. I wondered what she (Maliina) looked like as I'd never seen a photo of her. I looked into the waiting crowd, hoping to make eye contact - and then this voice goes: "Catherine?", and it was Maliina - and she was with one of the other Fellows, Morse, from the Phillipines. Whew! I was relieved, alright! And looking forward to seeing my accommodation!

May 1st, 2005 (NZ-Singapore-Frankfurt)

Arrived at Singapore airport for a 4 hour stopover. Walked off the plane to find an airline staff person waiting for me and the other passengers connecting to Frankfurt. The airline staff member told us there would be a delay until early tomorrow morning (!!), took our boarding passes for Frankfurt and gave us new ones. I asked why the delay, but the answer wasn't clear. So I asked what I was meant to do - book a hotel room or something? And she directed me and other passengers to the airport hotel. I went there straight away because I wanted to drop my gear and come back to email ahead to Geneva about my delay.
After checking into my room, I headed back downstairs to find an internet cafe - Singapore airport (what I saw of it) was huge! With rows of flash shops and places to eat for some distance, even a little bush/ pond area in the middle of the terminal - very nice! To my amazement, I found internet booths and they were provided free of charge! Howz that?? You were allowed max 15 minutes, then had to give your station up to whoever was waiting to use it, but there were plenty of booths and hey it was free so I wasn't complaining! It was just enough time for me to email ahead and to update a few whanau.
Then I heard my name over the airport speaker system - I was being paged. I went to the airline helpdesk who said there'd been a mistake, there was no delay - "Very sorry!". Oh well, at least we're getting on the plane soon (I thought to myself, quite relieved). But what about the room I just paid for??! "Don't worry," they said, "We'll reimburse you immediately". I waited for 45 minutes for my correct boarding pass, and for the paperwork so I could get reimbursed. While I waited I got a bit paranoid about keeping a close eye on the time, so went for a walkabout to find me a (cheap!) watch. Found a shop that sold everything for no more than $20.00 - cool! Found a watch that I liked bought it, then went and got a couple of postcards and stamps. After getting my new boarding pass, I went back the hotel, checked out and got my money back. That's the shortest stay in a hotel I've ever had! All I had time to do was brush my teeth. Thank goodness I wasn't taking a bath!
Went back to the internet booths and emailed ahead to report that everything was back on track and I was ok. By that time and after all that drama and stress (!) it was almost time to board my connecting flight! Well at least the time flew by. I had just enough time to write something on the postcards, pop them in the mail and board the plane. A window seat again - kia ora to my Travel Agent! I was feeling quite weary by this time, but looking out the window, Singapore at night looked very nice. I tried to watch the in flight movie, but couldn't stay awake. Last thing I remember is the sound of the hostess bringing round the food trolley for (what meal are we at?? Dinner???), but I guess I was too tired to eat.
Next thing, I'm awake-it's early hours of the morning, and the plane is all lights out except for a few night owls and the nightlights dotted around the plane. No movie showing, just info about the temperature outside (way below freezing!), how much longer we have to go, etc. I re-set my watch to match the time at our destination. Then the hunger pangs hit me - geez, I'm starving! But breakfast was still a couple of hours away (that'll teach me for dropping off to sleep before dinner!). So I try to go back to sleep. When I wake up again, it's breakfast time - what a relief. Soon we'll be landing and connecting with our next flight to Geneva. (But geez - my butt is numb!!).

April 30th, 2005

Drove from Te Awamutu with partner Vance and four year old son Kahutotara to Auckland airport , arrived at about 8:30am. TVNZ camera man was there to greet us at the terminal entrance, so took some footage of us entering the building. Went straight to check in, then met some whanau that had come to see me off. A small crew from the Hiku Branch Maori Party also arrived, including Saana Murray - I was so stoked to see them! Then had to quickly do an interview for Te Karere news. So grateful Saana was there to tautoko in te reo for that as well. Went upstairs to spend my last hour with everyone before boarding the plane. Before long, it was time to leave, and I was getting quite nervous! Everyone gathered in a circle holding hands for a final karakia led by Saana, we sung a wee waiata to finish things off and then hugged everyone. My son didn't seem to care at all that I was leaving - all he was interested in was hanging out with his bestest mate in the world, Siagogo Herbert! (Sia was there with his nana Anahera Herbert. Ana will be caring for Kahutotara while I'm away which I'm very grateful for). There were a few tears as I walked through the door, and then I was on my way!Hadn't even presented my passport when I met another 'whanau' with connections from home! He was the official who checked my boarding documents who asked if I knew the Petriceviches in Kaitaia. Small world! Boarded the plane, got a window seat - cool. I got my second wave of anxiety as we lifted off, and I looked down over the land which I wouldn't be seeing for another 5 months, then the land turned to ocean and the coast of Aotearoa was growing more and more distant until there was only water below with an 11 hour trip ahead to Singapore, our first stop-over.