2017 was a year of many beginnings, many ends, many aims, misses a-good-one and lessons galore. I will start by defining myself here so that I can be understood; or scorned.
I was born a sanguine. “Everything will work out just fine, right?” Sanguines are optimists, happy-go-lucky people with generally high energy bringing life into teams but can be a piece of work when they drop off the ledge.
Soon after (when I was 6 years), I made two childhood friends, Cornelius Mwonya and the late Andrew Obura (sigh). The strokes of cane that I endured in those yesteryears, all occasioned by this tripartite contraption of a relationship, do not find any synonym in the current day and age. We had the time of our lives! From coming home with swollen faces from bee stings on honey harvesting adventures to burning down fences in the process, the joys of unsolicited fruit harvesting from neighbors’ gardens and getting lost in caves as we went for river adventures in the quest of finding its source and possible treasure (blame it on long John Silver), you name it – we did it. It in-turn earned us endless beatings on the bottoms and countless days of grounding so much so that I’m actually surprised that I still had any days left to walk out of the house before I was 18.
That said, I grew up into a sensible young man, self-declared, and more into a phlegmatic, learning to get a bit more organized, practical, calm, in control and cool. Say cool again :-)! With a stroke of luck, I turned out to be an environmentalist, loving music, loving people, abhorring anything that tends to be too serious. After all, “it will work out in the end, right?”
For the last two years, I have taken cycling a level higher. I have had to do it for two reasons which you can find more about on of my blog. As an environmentalist I keep asking myself, “is cycling a totally carbon neutral activity?” Well let’s do the calculations! (BOooRING! I know I’ve been there :-)). Please stay with me for TWO PARAGRAPHS ONLY!
According to Strava (by the way cool app for cycling) I cycled 4,907 Kms. Well, that does not factor in the moments when the App refuses to work and cuts short the ride midway. According to Britain’s most ethical insurer, ETA (and don’t ask me questions) cycling costs the environment about 21g of CO2 emmission per Km (mostly associated with manufacturing and production) which brings it to a total of 68 Kgs of CO2 emitted in 2017 on the bicycle. In tree-terms, I need to keep 3.22 fully grown trees alive to stay carbon neutral on my bike. What if I drove to work? The clever peeps say that an average car will produce 271g of CO2 per Km, on nice smooth tarmac roads with no traffic. So my emission for the same distance would be a cool 877 Kgs per year in tree-terms 41.7 trees to keep alive.
So now to the conversation. How many trees are those again? I must confess that as an environmentalist, my job still entails a lot of travel which profusely releases CO2 into the environment! In 2017 alone and for work only, I drove more than 16,000 Km, flew more than 8,000 km :-(. So much for sustainability huh? Shocking! Quite honestly, I still struggle with sustainability choices but I will not give up! Cycling in 2017 is a celebratory year in its own way though. It could have been worse!
My work travels however were for good causes – to spur conversations on conservation. In the process, I met new friends, crossed new paths and learnt the way of endurance, which can be long, arduous and unrewarding in the moment. In making new friends, I learnt one “weird” thing: people will work with people they love, and this is exactly how the Mara wetlands in Tanzania happened to me.
I loved every bit of travelling to Musoma. I spent time thinking about how to enlighten Mara wetlands communities everyday, every month for the last three years. I spent time teaching, sharing and learning they ways of sustainable management, natural resources protection and the ups and downs of a wetlands society. I watched as their eyes and personalities glistened with knowledge. We shared many light bulb “aha!” moments and filled our lungs with laughter as I “totally annihilated” the Kiswahili language, many times bordering on insults. I learnt the cultural nuances of the Tanzania society and how to accord respect in every situation. I immersed in the ways of a people.
The family I found at Afrilux hotel (God Bless them) made every visit to Musoma worth it’s while. They fed me, talked to me and taught me. We had fun and we shared loads of laughter. More than that I fell in love with the Mara wetland, it’s biodiversity and its people. The birds, the fish… the humongous fish yes, are a site to behold especially in a plate. The sparse streets of Musoma filled with Kiswahili cheer, the land lined by the great blue lake, the fish eagles family on the trees overlooking the cliff, the cliff chats clad in collars of grey, the African sunset over the lake, the slender-billed weavers colonizing the water’s edge, (I could go on and on) stole my seat of love and oiled my heart to work for the people I love, the place I love.
“Good things come to an end”. I will track down the Englishman who coined this phrase and bring him to and end as well, but only if he is a good man. After three years of working in the Mara wetland, time came to pass on the baton to some more fleet-footed millennials, who also have become very good friends, including Emmanuel and Enock (God Bless them). More comes their way to ensure that conservation conversation never ends, that Mara wetland never dies.
2018 will be very different for me, but some things will always remain true; me on a bicycle, my love for people and my sanguine-phlegmatic nature.