Indaba means "great gathering". The word has been a foundation for the World Wilderness Congress (WWC) since the very first gathering almost 40 years ago. Now in its 10th iteration, the great gathering has just started in Salamanca, Spain.
My journey to this indaba started from Toronto, and, after 15 hours of planes, a bus, and a taxi, I arrived in Salamanca two days before WILD10. My journey was relatively easy. I was delayed in Brussels, and a language barrier in Madrid made changing my bus ticket a little difficult, but relative to the group that spent four months walking 2,000 kilometers to Salamanca, I can't complain.
My first day was spent with the CoalitionWILD team as they prepared for WILD10. The amount of time and dedication that the WWC staff and volunteers have committed to this conference is astounding. My 24-hour crash course in putting together a conference was an eye opening experience. From setting up tables to building presentations, the workload was tremendous and went on until the evening (until the early morning for some of us). I am most impressed with the collaborative nature of everyone here. Staff and volunteers were eager to help each other in any way. For example, getting barstools for the CoalitionWILD lounge involved an intricate web of phone calls, emails, and in person meetings (all of which were Spanish and English) between the Wild Foundation, the bar that hosted our staff meet and greet, and some helpful drivers from Salamanca. As I write this blog from the CoalitionWILD lounge, there are about a dozen volunteers making finishing touches to art installations and information booths around me. The energy is exciting!
The opening ceremony was held this morning (October 4th). After the many hours that were spent putting WILD10 together, you could feel a big breath of fresh air, an almost calm before the storm from the staff and volunteers. The indaba we worked so hard to put together has started. You could feel the awe and excitement from panelists and attendees. The first panel highlighted the honor and thankfulness that Salamanca and Spain felt upon being the chosen place for WILD10. The 800 year old Universidad de Salamanca is a perfect back drop to WILD10. With a mix of old architecture and modern research endeavours in many fields, you can feel that knowledge is being cultivated here. Also, the food and coffee in the cafeteria is awesome.
WILD10 was blessed by a couple of Native American ceremonies before the opening ceremony continued to highlight some key messages that will be prevalent for the next week. The intersection of human civilization and the work of nature is at the core of WILD10. There is an emphasis on how an entrepreneurial spirit can preserve, strengthen, and maintain the wild of the world. I could not help but notice the genuine enthusiasm and excitement from Vance G. Martin, the moderator for the opening ceremony and the President of the Wild Foundation. He really captured the kind of energy that I've been getting from everyone I have met so far. Our imdaba is ready. We have worked hard to put it together. Now, we are beginning to delve into some tough issues, with even more difficult solutions, but if the positive energy that I've felt from volunteers and staff keeps up, anything is possible!