With my coffee mug, I stand on the balcony looking at deep coconut forests, and beyond the trees a wonderful beach. My desire! I feel like I am drinking in joy. I am filled with an overwhelming sense of peace and how lucky I am to be here. Meanwhile, I hear somebody calling “time is up guys!”. The scenery around is so striking that I feel like our 20-minute break passes in just a second. Okay, let’s go back. I want to tell you why I was here in wonderful Sulawesi, Indonesia.
I was representing our Taxus team in the 2018 Conservation Management and Leadership training organized by the Conservation Leadership Programme. The training arrived quickly and before I knew it I was packing my bags and on a Malaysian Airlines flight from Nepal. This was my first international flight. I felt a bit excited and a bit nervous. When we were about to reach Jakarta, a fascinating view of small islands caught my attention and I realized I had reached the island country! I was traveling with Devendra, another CLP trainee from Nepal. We had three hours transit in Jakarta so I had plenty of time to hover around.
It was evening when we reached Manado and I felt all my energy drained from the journey. We were picked up at the airport by a wonderful lady, Charlotte, from the CLP staff. We drove through traditional villages to reach Botanica Nature Resort, the course venue. My first impression was of rustic simplicity. The room I shared with Janet and Van was homely and comfortable. The classroom was on a hill, a seven-minute hike up a steep road. It offered beautiful views of a beach. The breeze set the petals of flowers fluttering. It was a perfect training venue for conservationists.
The course offered us different modules on leadership, project planning, gender and conservation, behavior change, fundraising and monitoring, and evaluation. The sessions were very effective, I must say. And, throughout the sessions, there were four amazing faces from the CLP management team – Christina, Stu, Laura and Charlotte – who never got tired of motivating us. I got to explore my own leadership style with the help of Mo and I learned the value of stakeholder mapping and peer consultation. Over three days, Martin helped us build a logical framework using a giant blue sticky wall. The main message from the gender session was clear: effective conservation requires the participation of all. Sari showed us that information does not equal behavior change. She helped us organize an event for our class, modeling what community engagement and material preparation should include. I have another new lesson from the fundraising session: fundraising is not about asking for money, but it is all about selling ideas.
Besides these regular modules, our time was filled with group work, presentation sessions, field activities, culture nights and an alter-ego party. Our first field trip was the exploration of Tongkoko nature reserve. After walking for almost an hour, we encountered the black-crested macaques; one of them welcomed us with pee! It was fun watching them pose with us.
Our next break was a morning trip to the beach. All of us were excited, but my level of excitement was a bit higher as it was my first time visiting the ocean. When we arrived I saw its beauty – the long sandy beach, the deep blue water. Being from a landlocked country, I guess anyone can imagine the level of excitement I felt at seeing the glistening blue sea for the first time.
Another adventurous part of this training was our day trip. We started with a hike to see Mahawu crater. I was thrilled to see a volcanic mountain in front of my eyes, again for the first time! We walked through the cloud forest, which offered views of different orchid varieties and well-managed agricultural land. We stopped at a museum and saw the world’s largest playable trumpet! It took me some time to learn how to play it, but I did! Our last destination for the day was Lake Linow, a sulphurous lake. The scent of sulphur perfumed the air, and bursts of steam came from the deep blue water. This beautiful moment was accompanied by banana chips and sips of dark coffee.
Thinking back on my time in Sulawesi, I remember all that I learned through sessions that kept us engaged and energized. The strange thing about this training was that it not only allowed me to grieve about conservation issues but also to identify innovative and effective ways to deal with them. I began to discover my own potential and was inspired to continue working for nature.
I can still hear the group shouted: “We are CLP, yeah yeah you and me!”.
-The author is working with Greenhood Nepal
(It was originally published by Conservation Leadership Programme).