Peace Doves 4Eva? JGI-USA team circa 2003
Long ago in 2002, I worked for the Jane Goodall Institute in the US – at the time, the office was in Silver Spring, MD.
In retrospect, I was so young. I’d just come back from working in Kakamega Forest in Kenya, but I worked hard at JGI and made my way from volunteer to intern to full staff member.
It was grueling work; we had a huge amount of things to administrate, from Dr. Goodall’s lecture tour to a variety of projects the Institute ran in Africa. I worked 50-60 hour weeks. I loved my job, but it was hard.
And, as a fledgling primatologist, I got to meet Jane Goodall and be a part of her work. Even now, 10 years later, I can remember how my knees shook the first time I met her.
If anything this past weekend, my coordination and conducting Jane’s visit to Nairobi felt like a tangible, visible ring on my tree of life.
Working for the Institute in 2002, I was on the bottom of the totem pole. There were tons of exclusive events, but I, of course, was not at any of them. I felt honored to be a part of the team, and to facilitate Jane’s various visits to worldwide locations, but the likelihood that anyone, outside of my immediate team, knew what I was doing or who I was would have been extremely unlikely.
Exponential Facilitation – 2013
Since then, I’ve conducted independent research on chimpanzees, plunged myself into one of the most difficult places to conduct science, and have a barrage of field stories of my own. I’ve come into my own.
The bulk of planning and organization for Dr. Jane Goodall’s visit to Nairobi fell into my lap when I arrived here, because of my familiarity with Jane events and considering Jane’s connections to GRASP. After all, she is a GRASP Ambassador.
I was a bit nervous; she usually travels with a familiar troupe, and I never knew even back in the day what the exact protocol was of the inner circle. Would I talk too much? Too little? Forget her white orchids and only-green M&M’s?
Me and John Sibi-Okumu (as Jane and the Kenyan leprechaun photobomb)
As it turned out, everything was perfect. I shuttled her first to an interview at Kiss-TV. While I was filmed for the camera during her entrance, I didn’t make it onto the final broadcast. WOE to my MISSED OPPORTUNITY FOR KENYAN TELEVISION FAME.
I felt super prepared. I was super prepared. I had every base covered. I had key talking points written in my notebook. I had the schedule perfectly timed. I kept us on schedule, even in Kenya.
The second event, a busier, more chaotic affair replete with gaggles of school children, 500 expected attendees, and a simultaneous Hindu prayer conference, could have been an absolute nightmare. Yet with careful pre-planning and serious logistical frameworks in place, it went smoothly.
I may not feel different than I did 10 years ago, but the fact is, I am. If I can concede anything, it’s that I’ve certainly become a logistics wizard.
And sitting in the back of the car for the extremely lengthy trips on Friday, I got to hear incredible stories firsthand that I’d never read in any Jane Goodall books. Even more amazing, she asked me questions about my work, and we talked about issues facing great apes, and she laughed at my Congo stories, encouraging me to write them up.
I’m in no way as accomplished as she is, but sitting there, chatting and laughing casually, I felt like a peer. Take that, impostor complex!
On Saturday night at my big event, I was behind the scenes, greasing the wheels and making things happen. I sat out on the terrace away from the hubbub, happy, with my friends in a more casual atmosphere, happy that everything had gone so spectacularly.
And because my parents will plotz, enjoy some photos from the weekend.
Thanks to Yikun Liu for the photographs