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Sep 10, 2015 13 Min Read

From Kenya to Germany

After organizing our Plant for the Planet tree planting academy last November, I got an email in February with an invitation to attend the Global Youth Summit on climate change in Tutzing, Germany. I was shocked! In fact, first I treated that email as spam. After confirming it was genuine, I started to look for the documents needed for my travels. It was funny that even at this age, I could not confirm that I had been ‘BORN’ because I did not have even a birth certificate. Since I didn’t have any papers and the summit was going to start on 21st of May 2015, I had to focus immediately on preparing everything. Of all the papers and documents needed for travel, getting a German visa turned out to be the toughest and most tedious, but due to cooperation and communication from Plant for the Planet, it all worked well despite getting the visa late.

I got my visa a day before the commencement date of the summit. I booked my ticket on the 20th and flew the following day. I boarded Qatar Airways from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at around 5PM. After a connection at midnight in Doha, I arrived safely 15 hours later to a beautiful, rainy morning in Munich. I was quite naive in this foreign country. It was not only my first time in Germany but my first time out of East Africa at all. Moreover, I didn’t speak any German and it is not always easy to get by with English in Germany. I managed to catch an electric train from Munich airport to finally arrive in Tutzing, a smaller town. There I met other youth across the globe from Europe, North and South America, Africa, and Asia. A Bavarian castle was going to be our home for the next four days; it was one of the historic buildings in the state of Bavaria. I found other youth discussing what can be done to combat climate change, and many professors were in the forum and acting as mentors for writing the climate manifesto for the next generation.

David at the signing of a symbolic intergenerational contract between Plant for the Planet and DESERTEC Foundation
David at the signing of a symbolic intergenerational contract between Plant for the Planet and DESERTEC Foundation

During the summit, it emerged that the war on climate change cannot be fought on a single front, like planting trees, but rather a holistic approach where human activities are in harmony with nature. It was agreed that climate change is a global crisis and something must be done so this generation will not be at the edge of destruction. Measures and clear action were compiled in the form of a manifesto. The manifesto was to be taken to different embassies in Berlin. While still at the summit, I was chosen as the only African in the forum to meet DESERTEC Foundation Chairman Roland Berger for the signing of a symbolic intergenerational contract between DESERTEC and Plant for the Planet. The foundation promotes clean energy across the hot deserts of the world. On Saturday, the theme of Development took center stage, because addressing climate change without thinking about poverty is unrealistic. For example in Africa, poverty drives many people into activities which degrade the environment, like charcoal production and tree logging, which further effect climate change negatively. On Sunday, we worked on compiling the manifesto, the same Sunday I was chosen as the only African, again, to present the manifesto to different embassies in Berlin. You can find more photos from the summit here.

David in discussion with young people from around the world during the youth summit
David in discussion with young people from around the world during the youth summit

On Monday, we had a marvelous closing celebration with songs and dances from all the different international participants. Then we parted ways and said goodbye to so many friends that we had made within this short period. Most people were emotional during the time of departure, but my African culture taught me not to cry. But since I was in a foreign land I will be honest and say I was emotionally effected, but I never cried.

David with Kijani co-founder Tobias in Berlin
David with Kijani co-founder Tobias in Berlin

After the departure on Monday afternoon, Marieke, Tamino, Carolin, and I headed to Berlin. We were given the mandate to take the manifestos to different embassies in the Kijani co-founder Tobias would host me while in Berlin. The journey took us seven hours with a highspeed train. What a distance! At the train station, I was received by Jannis, one of the Kijani members. He took me to a coffee shop while we were waiting for Tobias. In the shop, old German songs were playing at a moderate volume in the background and we could easily chat, it was very different from the loud music in Nairobi pubs and restaurants. After a better stay in the shop reconnecting our two worlds, Tobias joined us with his girlfriend and we headed to Tobias’ family’s home. Once we arrived, I was given a warm welcome by Tobias’ mom; the kind of foods I was served were sweet and nice but they had funny German names I can’t remember.

The team that handed over the manifesto in front of the German Chancelor's office in Berlin
The team that handed over the manifesto in front of the German Chancelor's office in Berlin

I spent four day at Tobias’ place. The first two days I was working with the Plant for the Planet team to distribute the manifesto to different embassies. We started at Angela Merkel’s office; one of our team members gave the letter after undergoing a thorough security search. From there we went to the Swiss embassy where we were welcomed by the assistant ambassador. From the Swiss we went to the United States embassy where we were denied access due to logistical reasons. We made a stopover at the UK embassy, where we were welcomed by the Secretary on Environment of the embassy Susie Townend, who gave us a speech about climate change. The following day we proceeded to the Russian, French, Indian, South African, and lastly to the Kenyan embassy. Here I was happy to feel at home again speaking Kiswahili with the receptionist. You can read more about the embassy hand-overs on the Plant for the Planet blog.

David handing over the manifesto to Secretary on Environment of the UK embassy
David handing over the manifesto to Secretary on Environment of the UK embassy

On Wednesday night, Kijani supporters from Berlin gathered for a dinner at Armin’s apartment, where we discussed challenges and opportunities. There I met Olaf, a student from Eberswalde, who will be interning with us in Kenya later this year. It was a time rich in experiences. I will always be grateful of the kind of reception I was given by all the people I met in Berlin and never forget the family supper and lunches we had together and the funny conversation with Tobias’ mom and dad. I had such a wonderful connection with them in such a short time.

Selfie in the car with Urs
Selfie in the car with Urs

On Friday morning I traveled to Rhinefelden, a town in the very south east of Germany to pay a visit to Urs, who was a good friend from his time with Kijani in Kenya last year. It took ten hours by bus to get to Rheinefelden. Urs came with his car and his dog to pick me up; we gave each other huge hugs, and then we drove to Basel. It was already night when we reached his home, so we had some food and then went to bed. The following day we had a lot of fun starting from swimming in the Rhine River, to taking a ride and a walk in the black forest, and finally shopping in the nearest supermarket. It was also at Urs place where I realized that playing with a dog can be really interesting. Urs parents had gone for a vacation and they came back on Saturday when we were already asleep. The following day I met his parent early in the morning for breakfast. We had normal funny German chats at the table, and plenty of German foods just the same as at Tobias’ place. I spent some time after breakfast talking to his parents; they were warm and welcoming hosts. After chatting, I had to get ready for the long bus ride to Munich. With my bags set, Urs’ dad and mom gave me a hug and his dad said: “Do not say goodbye. For friends never say goodbye.”

David with Urs' parents in Rhinefelden
David with Urs' parents in Rhinefelden

I was going to spend my night in the apartment of Marieke, a young official from Plant for the Planet who I had gotten to know on the summit and in Berlin. I reached Munich in the evening and found Marieke in the bus station waiting for me with a big warm smile on her face. We went to her apartment and then after a short rest, Marieke took me on a night walk through the streets of Munich — it was one of the most exciting and sweet memories from Munich. Immediately after the walk we passed through a nearby restaurant before we went to get a drink and then head back to her appartment to sleep. Marieke is a welcoming German lady, sensitive to culture and accepts people from diverse backgrounds. She will forever remain my friend. The following day I took my flight back home, knowing that the experience I had in Germany had effected both my and many other lives.

David in a canola field in Southern Germany
David in a canola field in Southern Germany

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