Saturday, November 7, 2009

If You Ever want to Empty a Commercial Airliner REALLY Fast

Day 1. Wild 9. Merida, Mexico. Nov 6, 2009

So if you ever want to see a completely full airliner disgorge it's passengers in less than 10 minutes, just have the Captain announce in a rather urgent tone that El Presidente Felipe Calderon is arriving momentarily right behind us and that if we don't ALL debark post haste, we will be stuck in the plane - on the tarmac - until they have cleared all areas for his landing and made sure security precautions were properly in place for his safety and exit. A possible delay of up to an hour........

A thundering but fairly agile herd of water buffalo comes to mind - but with less courtesy and decorum. Needless to say, we got off in record time. And once we all knew we were safe and sound inside the airport, it became clear that many of us were here for Wild 9 - as was Presidente Calderon! How cool is that? The President of Mexico showing up for the opening of a conference on conservation and wilderness protection.

The first day of the conference was primarily devoted to setting the stage for the rest of the week, with a number of international dignitaries and conservation leaders articulating the global vision for wilderness protection and citing concrete examples and programs in action all around the globe. But really, the highlight for me was to see the buzz about town - it was exciting to see the painted jaguar statues starting at the airport and then all about town - an arts and culture project to support the Wilderness Congress. Also to be witness to the excitement of having the President arrive to take part in the opening ceremonies.

The evening of this first day was spent, predictably, in the hotel lounge with many of the attendees catching up on current projects, networking, discussing hot conservation issues and in general, just having a great time seeing lots of familiar faces from iLCP, NANPA and beyond.

Adios. Tomorrow is another day.

Linda Helm

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