After two days of travel, I am happy to be sitting in a bright meeting room of the World Wildlife Foundation on the first morning of the U.N. COP25 climate conference in Madrid, Spain.
The last two days are a blur. There was packing, repacking, driving to Atlanta to get my flight, relaxing on the plane (but not really sleeping), meeting up with people on the Christian Observer program in the Madrid airport the next morning, waiting for the rest of the group, and then dragging my stuff all around Madrid for hours up and down the metro stairs. Did I mention it was cold and rainy? Why oh why didn’t I pack lighter? I learned the depth of our program leader Lowell Bliss’ kindness when he grabbed the side handle on my suitcase and helped me carry it up steepest flights in the metro.
When we arrived at the COP25 site we found a huge convention hall with heavy security at the entrance, which made sense because heads of state and high-level diplomats from all over the world were headed here. We were wet and worn but our excitement helped us muster a smile when asked for our ID cards. We got our credentials and trudged back to the metro where we would have to switch lines three times before reaching our destination, meaning even more stairs!
By the time we arrived at the Air B&B that afternoon I was soaked, exhausted, and every muscle in my body hurt from the hours of dragging that heavy suitcase, but as we entered the tall door from the cobblestone side street, we were greeted by smiling faces of all ages and my grumpiness disappeared. I was finally meeting my colleagues I’d talked to on our web training calls for the last few months. Our flat was on the third floor but there was an elevator that we stuffed full of luggage and made our way up the old wood stairs to meet it. The flat was perfect our large group with a long hall that led to multiple bedrooms, and I was fortunate to get my own small room. After a hot shower, I felt human again. Some of the group took off for an interfaith meeting, and I took a short nap to recover some of the hours of sleep I was missing.
I woke up hungry and found Lowell and Samuel from Canada in the common room, so we decided to brave the rain and head out for some dinner. We ended up at a traditional tapas restaurant right around the corner from our flat called La Taperia and I savored a simple meal of roasted potatoes, marinated shrimp, and a glass of sweet Sangria.
Back at the flat I reconnected with Lindsay from north Georgia, Camille from New York, and Shaina from Pennsylvania and we shared stories about what brought us here, what we hope to learn, how we expect to be changed. We coordinated schedules and finally went to bed because we all had a lot of sleep to catch up on.
I woke up to the smell of coffee and gratitude that I slept well and felt refreshed. We enjoyed a continental breakfast and our leader Lowell shared an inspirational message about how we can find the kingdom of God through our climate change efforts. It was a message I soaked in and felt hopeful that my work could be as small as a mustard seed, but still impactful in the face of as monumental a problem as climate change. As we headed out to the Metro as a group, I felt filled with possibility of how this week might transform us all. It was cold but the rain stopped, and I was light and free as we made our way back up the narrow cobblestone street toward COP25.