Friday 6 March 2015


The bundle of conference papers LJ carried was becoming crumpled as she scanned the eager faces of the crowd for the colleague she was meant to meet. Hawaii was the third Pacific country she’d been to this week, and the novelty of airports was wearing thin. As the humidity engulfed her, she wondered again about the impact of global warming, and was grateful for a job that enabled her to make a positive difference, however small.

‘Sorry!’ her colleague called, pushing through the crowd to help LJ with her bags. ‘I was running on local time.’

‘Are we doing the set-up today?’ LJ asked, referring to the conference preparations. She liked to make sure the meeting rooms were arranged and the microphones and PowerPoint were working. Last minute glitches with technology were all too frequent, and detracted from the message she was here to present.

‘Sure,’ said her colleague who knew from experience that LJ would not be happy until after the venue was sorted.

Looking at the lectern and the circle of chairs LJ was reminded of the heated discussions she had attended recently in Kiribati. Delegates from some of the smaller Pacific Islands had been frustrated by the higher ocean levels and the repeated inundation of their homes. They threatened a walk-out at the apparent lack of commitment to change on the part of larger, more developed nations. It had taken all her powers of persuasion to prevent this happening and to move the discussion along. In the end an agreement of sorts had been reached, and she now looked forward to months of shuttle diplomacy as the details were refined.

I need some fresh air,’ LJ announced, suddenly realising that her jetlag was taking hold.

'Come on,' replied her colleague.

An hour later, standing on a mountain outside the city, LJ followed her colleague as she shared some simple poses. ‘You will feel the power of the island inside you,’ her colleague said, beginning to stretch.

To her surprise, as LJ emulated the island’s rugged peaks by pointing her toes to the sky, a sense of calm and equilibrium enveloped her. When she curved her body like the waves rolling in and settling on the sand below, she realised they had travelled across the expanse of the Pacific. Just like me, she thought. 

The next day at the conference, buoyed by the island’s energy, LJ found that an unusual harmony had calmed the fractious delegates. She drew in a deep breath, remembering the feeling she had experienced as she stretched in the sun. From now on, she resolved, I will carry the strength of the mountain and the persistence of the waves inside me. 

As a Hawaiian song drifted across the conference room, LJ hoped there might one day be a solution to the rising tides that battered islands like Kiribati.

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