Saturday, 11 December 2010

48 hours on a bus in Cancun

By a female Pacific reporter at the Climate change talks in Cancun

Final night in Cancun, great to see the back of the bus
If my Mother was here, she would tell me to count my blessings, but I’m finding it hard being in Cancun Mexico at the UN Climate Change meeting, spending most of my time in a bus.  (Sorry, Mother!)

Today is the last day and already I know my lasting memory will not be the long tiring negotiations, warm climate or great Mexican food.

My lasting memory will be the warm seats of the luxury buses that can recline and the small hard shuttle bus seats that cannot really accommodate the legs of a big Pacific woman.

I normally wouldn’t share such thoughts with you, but someone sent me a link called “A view from the bus” by a correspondent from The Economist, it gave me courage because if they can lament the busses, then so can this Pacific Islander.

Over the last two weeks I have perfected the art of being able to fall asleep upon sitting in the bus, while maintaining a strong grip on all your bags and materials!  If that was an Olympic sport, as it does require some skill, then I think I would win a gold medal for my country.  After all, I have had two weeks of intense training.

14 days ago there was an air of optimism as we waited to see how Mexico would unveil its skills in organising an immense conference, everything seemed great as the culture is colourful, its warm and people are super friendly.  But it wasn’t long before we had become frustrated conference delegates that spent every possible moment complaining about the bus.

Our accommodation is literally only 9 kms away from the conference venue, but that doesn’t mean much when you can only get to conference venues on official buses that always, no matter what, take the long way.  So for us a 10 minute ride has somehow turned into a 40 minute experience of angst and fidgeting as everybody is just itching to get through those doors.  There is often a mini stampede to get to the front of the bus aisle just before it pulls up.

Our daily route is so ridiculous we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when it first happened, and I felt a little sorry for the bus driver that had to face the onslaught of complaints as people got off the bus.  But hey, someone has to take it all – and he happened to be the closest.

Every day we want to go to the Moon Palace (Venue one) for the conference, but to get there you have to go to the Cancun Messe (Venue two) to make your way through security before boarding the next bus.

So the first bus is the nice luxury one in which we want to go to the Cancun Messe, but in order to get there, we literally pass by it, then touch the entrance of the Moon Palace and then go backwards to the Cancun Messe.  Once we offload like cattle and go through security we then board the small shuttle, the very one in which my knees push the seat in front of me, to go backwards to our hotel road and then past the Cancun Messe again to get to the Moon Palace.

I’m not lying.

Can you imagine what it’s like for those that stay further away?  My colleagues spend three hours on a bus every day that is one and a half hours to get here and then one and a half hours to go home.  When you do the math, multiply three by each day of negotiations it totals 48 hours of lost time that could be spent at the negotiating table, researching or sleeping.

Then, as the cherry on the icing of the Mexican cake, after 10pm the buses run on the hour and once those doors are shut that’s it.  You are not going anywhere until the next bus comes on the hour, which is a royal pain in the behind when you have to negotiate until 2am in the morning and want to get every bit of sleep you can, but you can’t as you have to wait.  Let me tell you that reading these words of this typical experience in Cancun may make it sound like a minor complaint, but you try having the doors shut in your face knowing that you will be there, on a pavement for another hour before your hour bus ride home at 2.00am in the morning.

It pretty much sucks.

Common sense tells me that when you are overseas negotiating under tense circumstances until odd hours on such a technical issue, that every bit of emotional or logistical support you can get to help matters immensely.  

I guess someone forgot to tell the organisers of this conference that.

So, despite all the great things about Mexico, the vibrant colours, the warm weather and the really friendly helpful people, all I’m really going to remember from this visit is the bus and how my legs couldn’t fit!

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