Thursday, November 30, 2006

NOW PLAYING: The TUSKERS
The Friendly Files

For fourteen days I stayed with most of them, some even longer. Kenya just wouldn't have been the same without these flexible folks, without this fine rubber band. The first pic on this post is our tour van, that great kidney-and-boob-transplanter called the White Gazelle, equipped with Triassic-era shock absorber technology, with our valued driver and conductor S & M beaming for the cam their great reggae smiles.

The Tuskers on Tour -- it means big policy, high politics and low, small-minded humor, which, combined, can only mean one thing -- a good time.

So, in no particular order, here's a rogue's gallery to honor friends who matter, with a little bit of love and slander...

Beaming between Scottish Mhairi and Argentine Natalia is transnational Steve Sawyer, man of many talents and temperaments. He's been the chief climate and energy policy wonk of Greenpeace for sometime and was of course the head of the Greenpeace delegation in Nairobi, which also means Band Leader for the Tuskers (Steve's plays lead guitar). He used to head the entire global Greenpeace gang and in its heyday Greenpeace US, but he's really just a campaigner at heart (best job in the world), which is thankfully what his current post largely requires of him.

Mhairi says he's a pretty smart guy, and sometimes saying that feels like an understatement. If you're nice to him, he will derive for you in ten seconds the total projected carbon emissions of Kazakhstan if Lenin had lived to see Kyoto come into force, then multiply that figure with the total kilowatt-hours of saved electricity by Kiribati if half of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet melts, then divide that sum with the square root of vodka -- while he does his Stevie Wonder shtick.

To the awed, he's "Steve Sawyer", veteran sailor and fierce campaigner with a storied, continuing history of fighting the good fight. To countless friends and colleagues, he's plain endearing "Steve", repository of encyclopedic details and great stories (the number of letter 'e's in the middle of his name swells based on the quality of jokes that he comes up with). Sometimes he is also referred to as "Sawyer" -- which likely means he was or is in a grumpy state (and I've heard of times when "Captain Curmudgeon" feels more appropriate).

So here's a parting shot of Gandalf the White without the wizard's hat (my daughter doesn't think he's the Steve of Blue's Clues...) and I pray to Allah the wise wizard will have mercy on my poor soul for revealing his identity...

Kaisa Kosonen is a young Finnish woman who walks the straight walk, talks the straight talk, wears pretty pumps and speaks different languages, specializing in the language called The Alabama Drawl. In the UN delegation roster, she's listed as "Kaisa Maisa Kosonen", which sounds like she's a character from Harry Potter, and maybe she is...

Red-haired and with a first rate intellect (I have no memory of Kaisa ever laughing at the jokes of Dr. Carlos but she did follow his Travolta dance steps for a few seconds), she is fond of vegetarian sushi and that one lucky person she hitched up with in a tent who'll get to hear her bed time story about the use of many many strings long enough to wrap around your waist and strung with lots of bright orange beads...

This is Gabriela von Goerne. For someone who is really, really smart, she is probably one of the most unassuming people I have ever met. But I don't think any member of the coal industry in any part of the world will agree with me, especially after she almost single-handedly manhandled dirty industry lobbyists and their representatives in government in Nairobi.

Gabriela's mission in Kenya was to repeat a mantra in all the lobbies and halls she could find, and more or less it worked. Gabriela says: "No CCS in the CDM!" which means she's fundamentally against mixing Carbonara-Chutney Sauce with Chicken-Duck Macaroni (it's also No Carbon Capture and Storage in the Clean Development Mechanism and if you knew that already you must be a geek).

With her head tilted beside Agnes (you'll get a chance to see Agnes use her ghostly powers below) is the ever sunny and sultry Mhairi Dunlop. She works in the background but those who know her know when particular pieces of work have carried her distinct touch. She plays the musical instrument called the electric teensy-weensy violin and keeps the notes of the band in place and in the appropriate pitch, and while only fools and evil ugly people (same same, right Mhairi?) will ever doubt her ability to sing her songs, I must also be honest and say that Ms Dunlop can't remember the titles to her songs all the time -- you know, which group sang which song and what's the title to that again? I mean, she actually thought House of the Rising Sun was called Windmills of your Mind and rendered by Abba.

Her first name's pronounced the Scottish way -- Vhaaa-reeee -- and that's also how you say it when you meet her for breakfast. Say it slowly, with that wee violin between your fingers, and she'll give you the sweetest buon giorno reply you've ever heard, and if you get her some coffee maybe she'll even show you her picture of a most handsome smiling insect we met one night in Nairobi, at the bar, fluttering from table to table. The insect really posed for her camera and smiled, and I swear I've never really seen anything smile that way. Except maybe the band's front-man...

The front-man and lead singer of The Tuskers is called Don Carlos. He moonlights as a Brazilian scientist and as the mild-mannered Dr. Rittl in Manaus. When the sun sets, however, he puts on his shades and silk threads and thumps the thick strings as the bellicose bossa nova bassist of the renowned Nairobi band. Suave, smooth, slick, sly and super-duper-hyper-ultra cool, Don Carlos has an answer to all your needs -- and if he doesn't have one heck he'll go and run and find one, even if he has no idea what the question is... If you were there during the Run-Carlos-Run episode, you'll know what I mean...

Move over has-been, never-been Bono. Don Carlos -- he da Man.

Planning a grand picnic but worried about rain? Ask Da Man; cool Don Carlos will look at his watch placidly and point to the sky and say, "Baby, just do it later 'coz when things are a little bit hotter it's time to get wet..."

Planning to take your nuptial vows in an outdoor garden wedding but worried over the meaning of overcast skies? Ask Carlos; he'll tell you when the sun will come out and how many rays will shine -- because when he smiles, the sun shines...

If you're nice to forests, Don Carlos will even schedule that 30-second drizzle to delight your wedding high priest. He gives love advice and love, not necessarily in that order.

Beside Don Carlos is Don Juan Moto of The Tuskers, also known as Don Juan the American and Don Juan the Dexterous, or just Big John Coequyt (pronounced "Cook it!" as in "cook my tempura pasta now please") to friends. He's a thoroughly non-persnickety person, except where his foremost expertise is concerned -- he was recently awarded the Nobel Prize for his work developing the regulatory infrastructure of beans-biased, rules-based anthropogenic flatulence called "The Paradigmatic Interface of Modalities and the Modalities of Interfacing Paradigms".

For years, John has raved about the merits of the most consumer-friendly product ever invented by mankind called the Motorola Mobile Phone, but despite his adroit skills in punching the keypad, no one just cares to listen to his Moto-raves. So sorry, John, dial again...

This man heads the band's strings section. He is Jean-Luc Picard, capable captain of the Kyoto Enterprise. To keep him safe from marauding Carbon Klingons, we are keeping the identity of His Hareness secret...






Beside Kaisa Maisa is Yu Jie, who was first considered to play Colin Farell's leading lady in Miami Vice (piercing looks and majesty in the pose... [that's worth a big Tsingtao]). But being a fan of refined things (and great big bargains), and Farell being such a boor and a bore, Jie turned down the offer and hitched up with Greenpeace instead, a group that is no bore, though it has its fair share of boors. Jie is one of two sopranos in The Tuskers and she keeps her voice smooth and supple because of her continued practice of the Oolong arts and her memories of her hometown Nanjing, which now beckons...

The other duo in the Sopranos is the true and feisty Argentine called Natalia Truly Truchi, who keeps her voice and sanity intact via the sublime yerba mate brew. Like me, she worked for a while with the Greenpeace China office but because our stints were based on different schedules, we never really got to meet each other.

Until Kenya that is -- and what a meeting it was (that's Nat dancing in between Elom of Togo and Catherine of Uganda). I spent time with dear Natalia the longest and I also think I laughed the most with her. I haven't laughed the way I laughed in Nairobi for years and I think whether in Spanish or French or Argentine Spanish (which is like Mag Lev-Train Speed Spanish) I just kept dying from laughter. Giggling is a universal language. So are baby elephants! And so is belting out Don't Cry for Me Argentina via a candelabra and plastic roses (God bless you, Fairview Piano Man)

Natalia -- for you we shall pilfer from Neftali Ricardo Reyes: Es la manana llena de tempestad en el corazon del verano. Inclinado en las tardes tiro mis tristes redes a tus ojos oceanicos. Te recuerdo como eras en el ultimo otono. Tu estas aqui. But of course I have only nice things to say about her -- ever since that day at the market, she has acquired this awesome voodoo power which no one will never want to cross... Never say no to Natalia now, especially when you get to the point when her brows meet and she looks you in the eye and a side of her lip curls and she so very softly and menacingly asks you: "Do you love me, baby? Do you mean it? Say it again, baby. Say it like you mean it... You better mean it baby..." And of course you should.

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished delegates, it gives me great pleasure to present to you my distinguished buddy, Laetitia De Marez.

South of Asia she is known as the sari-wearing Asian blonde bombshell, and south of the Philippines she is known by the Filipino Mayors' League and a few Filipino environmentalists as Ms France. Although she didn't bring her winning contest sash to Nairobi, she did bring her heart and her smarts and her winning moments and that was all that mattered. There was never a dull moment in Kenya due to Ms France, mainly because we tanked on tons of cafe latte daily (she is a true Frenchwoman - her caffeine intake is triple what I consume... unbelievable) and wrote articles together, had yogurt together, became angry together and searched for wifi signals together -- and basically made fun of pretty much everyone almost all the time, including ourselves. During campaign crunch time, she's the buddy you would want to have on your side. You'll likely win your battles, and if you don't, at least you get to lose stylishly...

Laetitia's a committed vegetarian, which according to a popular legend, is the reason why when she got run over by a truck a few years ago, the truck's axle broke and one wheel fell off the bus and the driver smacked his head on the windshield while Ms France suffered a bruise.

Speaking of smacking one's head on something hard and inanimate, here's leading Tusker percussionist Agnes de Rooij. If you click on the picture, you'll see an ethereal Agnes laughing aloud...

She pounds a young cool beat and many a young soul has taken to following her music. Here's something known only previously by a few: the second time the band's tour bus, the White Gazelle, arrived late in the evening, Don Carlos rechristened it the Wait Gazelle. Agnes was actually so focused on the climate talks that when the White Gazelle turned up a few minutes late again the following morning, when she was supposed to cover the wild weather plenary, she head-butted the bus and then while still reeling from the collision repainted the name of the bus in order to project the issue-based character of the band. You're a tough one, Agnes.

Here's Daddy Steven Guilbeault when he still had his long long ponytail. In Nairobi, it was gone, but the beard remained. Steven played the family flute with the Nairobi band, dutifully Skyping from Nairobi with his kids and his partner almost everyday right before before the afternoon sessions in plenary or before contact groups, and he still found time to lock horns throughout the negotiations with the highest ranking representatives of Canada's government...

I actually can't find anything funny to hurl at this nice man, except maybe to recall the fact that he was one of two dots who scaled Canada's tallest structure as you can see in this photo of 2001 -- climbed and scaled the CN Tower to hang a banner which said it all... and then get arrested once he and his colleague got their feet back on firm ground. After their release from jail, Steven proceeded right away to join the international Greenpeace team in a landmark climate treaty negos leg not too long ago... Which is quite impressive actually but not very funny. I guess he Da Daddy.

To the good and calm goes a quiet entry, on George Watane, who took care of each of the Tuskers, once upon a time having hooked up with Greenpeace International in Amsterdam as a volunteer, as a staff of the finance section, as an action team member and crew. His demeanor is as quiet as the smile you see here projected, which is about confidence and a type of self-assurance that says hakuna matata to all the foibles and quirks of the rest of the Tusker gang. Maybe you'll see Ms France next year? Jambo!

And finally, Catherine Fitzpatrick. What slander can we hurl? Nothing much for this nice person actually, and also, nearing the end of this posting, unfortunately I'm just outta juice. But I do remember the fact that she may actually be the Australian's Australian: aside from the fact that she has nothing but loathing for her government (how can she hate her adorable prime miniature?) -- the first dinner we had with her one chilly Kenyan night, she was already missing her black stuff and asking Boniface the Waiter to bring the glowing embers a little nearer.

Over two weeks straight on a virtually daily 6am to midnight grind, was taxing, but working with the Tuskers -- and a legion of other staunch climate allies all over the world -- made everything worth the trouble. While there have been a few notable exceptions, when the negotiations for deeper cuts actually reflected the urgency of what the planet is facing, often the choice has really been between (a) the total collapse of the only game in town right now that can legally, not just morally, obligate the world to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, through time-bound periods and ever deeper emissions cuts, and (b) advances in negotiating inches till the arrival of the day/s when either humongous climate shocks or real, widespread outrage will largely determine the conduct and outcome of the negotiations. The forces of the uglies are still strong and powerful, led by the oil and coal barons and their client governments in the Western World and the Middle East. And so yes Nairobi could have been much much better -- but it also could have been much worse. Much worse. So maybe next time the small big band will be bigger.

The night I actually got to knock on the gate again of the Kamuning Republic, it was surreal. I arrived with my two kids fast asleep and Kala still awake, waiting for her absentee husband. Then two days later, it was a repeat of my daughter's birthday, which fell on the 16th and which of course I missed since it was the day before the Nairobi negotiations ended. This was the second birthday of hers that I missed, and I can only hope that she'll understand when she grows up and tallies her dad's missteps.

The Tuskers have disbanded. Long live The Tuskers.

Sorely missed at the bash of course were the fine climate musicians called Sergeant Srini aka Old Monk Rum, Masaaki Nakajima, another fine lead guitarist, and the Astonishing Atengteng, who is still on her sabbatical... (ang tagal naman nyan...)

Second photo of Steve from AFP. Gabriela's pic was googled... Bill's pic too. Also Steven's two pics... The rest were taken by Red.

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1 comment:

gabino2624 said...

Mabuhay ang Tuskers! You rock!!!!!