February 29, 2004 A Touching First Meeting
This is Wally Berg from Berg Adventures International reporting from Arusha, Tanzania on the 29th of February 2004.
It’s been nearly one year since I spoke with Laurie Mackie and learned about a dream that was beginning to formulate at Investor’s Group offices all across Canada. We knew we needed a great challenge, perhaps climbing an alluring and symbolic mountain like Kilimanjaro. We knew that we wanted this effort to honor the memory of folks close to us who had been lost to ALS and we knew we wanted our challenge and our effort to make a statement to people that much can be learned and there can be a lot of knowledge and advancement towards finding a cure for ALS. Hence the name Climb For A Cure.
We also knew that this project was going to require months of planning and dreaming and training and certainly the support of countless people all across Canada. Now this morning all these months later the dream became realty and the plan is becoming action. We got together for a team meeting in a conference room in the hotel that BAI has used for years here in Arusha. The sliding glass doors opened and we looked out onto the green of East Africa and I can assure you there was a ‘pinch myself’ type of expression on the member’s faces as they just realized suddenly here we are in Africa, we’re finally doing this.
The meeting was to begin planning for our climb which will begin very early tomorrow morning and we will report to you through out the climb via dispatches and we’ll get photos sent back. We are all a bit jet weary I’ll have to say from long international flights. George Finlay tops the group for tight scheduling. His flight from Newfoundland via Europe and Ethiopia just landed at Kilimanjaro International Airport past 6:00am this morning and he came straight in to our briefing.
There was a great deal of excitement as we began our meeting and the warmth of finally being in the same room. Very few of us have ever seen one another, even though except for myself the people from Canada of course have worked for Investor’s Group for years. And certainly in the months leading up to this there has been a lot of email contact and phone contact getting this thing off the ground. But here we were finally together.
Also members from our BAI Tanzanian staff were here, and this is going to be a huge part of this trip. The people of Tanzania have some very diverse backgrounds, linguistically and culturally, but they have always been famous throughout Africa and the world for being a peaceful tolerant people. What we have to learn from them and the friendship and the bonds we develop with the Tanzanian is just going to be a huge part of this trip.
Well there is going to be stories every day, I think the image I can try to give to you right now is that jetlag has been a factor, but we are going to get some rest today and take off tomorrow.
The scene here at the hotel is a bit hectic, the Arusha Conference Center is located in Arusha of course and the hotel here is where a lot of delegates stay. In particular the president of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are in town now. I walked into the hotel a few moments ago and there was this long, rather worn red carpet that ran out in to the street. The hotel manager who is a friend of mine was standing there in a suit for a change and I had my usual array of old dusty duffel bags that I have to continue to prepare to take up to the mountain.
We had to go through a security screening because of the government people in town and it was kind of a funny sight to imagine this sort of dealings right here where our group is getting ready to go climb a mountain and then afterwards in some cases go off and experience a great safari adventure in the wild and northern Tanzania. But it was funny to see the smiling warm faces of all the people of East Africa that were kind of gathered around the hotel as they looked at us knowing our grimy duffel bags were going out into the wilderness and up on to Kilimanjaro were just as much part of this hotel as the government business.
We’re going to be seeing some very different sights very soon. We look forward to reporting our adventures to you and we are going to be thanking a lot of people, probably not enough but trying to include everyone back home who supported this cause and knows that they are with this team in spirit. We’ll be talking to you through these dispatches every day of the trip and you’ll be in our hearts every moment of the trip as we undertake to try and climb Kilimanjaro.