Trip preparation

A few people have asked for some details about the conference. I’m going to the congress of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists. Every year, the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists holds a meeting. The location moves to a different country every year. Canada hosted in the congress in Guelph in 2011. This is the first time that the Congress has ever been held in South Africa. Congress involves formal presentations on topics of interest about agriculture in the host country. There is also a delegate meeting, some formal dinners, and an awards presentation. Since this is an agricultural conference, we also do farm tours, where delegates travel around to see farming operations in the host country. The majority of delegates are journalists or agricultural communicators, or are involved in the agricultural sector in some way. This year’s congress will take place from April 2-April 8.

There have been some questions about preparation for the trip, so I’ll go into that first.

I found out I’d won the bursary in January. I got a call from Trevor Bacque, who runs GrainsWest magazine for the Alberta Barley Commission. I’ve known Trevor for a while through the Alberta Farm Writers Association, and so I thought he was calling me about an article I’d just written for him. He called me and said, “I’ve got good news.” It took me a minute to clue in and then I said, “I’m going to Africa?”

I immediately booked a visit with the travel clinic to get my shots updated. I have nothing but good things to say about the Edmonton Travel Health Clinic. The nurse was thorough and very professional. Since I’ve done a fair amount of travelling, I didn’t have to get many shots. I think I got a booster for typhoid/diphtheria, a new measles/mumps vaccine because we have an outbreak in Alberta, and a tetanus shot. I think it’s really important to get all your shots updated. When you’re travelling, you can take diseases from your home area to other areas, so it’s best to be responsible and careful. I write a lot about animal disease, herd health and vaccinating animals, and this has spread over to my understanding of human health. (Weird aside- I had rabies shots when I went to Mongolia, so I have partial rabies immunity for life. This is not an invitation to bite me)
Personally, I don’t have to take any malaria medication, because I am not going to Kruger National Game park. The areas around Cape Town are malaria free. However, you still want to cover up, and bring heavy duty mosquito repellent.

I then booked my flight, which ended up being a lot more stressful than I anticipated. Because I wanted some specific things, I didn’t want to book online. I didn’t want to fly through Turkey because of the recent political situation, and I didn’t want a long layover anywhere. I didn’t want to arrive at night, because arriving late at night in a new place when you’re exhausted can be very disorienting and unsettling. And I needed to arrive on a certain day, so that I could just go from the Johannesburg airport to our conference setting, Kievits Kroon. Check this place out.

To get my flights, I ended up calling a bunch of travel agents and having lots of numbers thrown at me. There were some pretty insane prices, and some wild routes. One flight had me arriving two days early, and another had me flying through Hong Kong. (I’ve always wanted to spend time in Hong Kong, but that does not seem logical.). Finally, I drove to Flight Centre in Bonnie Doon, spoke to a travel agent face to face and got everything arranged. (Thumbs up for Vik Mahajan at Flight Centre, Bonnie Doon Branch.)
Arranging that flight took about an hour.

So now I’m flying through Seattle and Dubai before heading to Johannesburg. Please note that this flight was arranged before the current laptop ban. On the way back, I’m flying from Dubai to Seattle so I will have to put my laptop into my checked luggage.

The conference will start out at Kievits Kroon, which is in the country near Pretoria. We will have a couple days of formal presentation, and then we’ll divide into smaller groups and go on bus tours to farms. In the middle of the conference, we fly to Cape Town, and we’ll be doing some more touring around there as well. Following the conference, I’ll be staying in Cape Town for a few days to see the sites and enjoy the city.

(PS- My dad was wondering why I neglected to mention something in my last blog post. I didn’t mention that in 2008, I went on assignment as a journalist to the Philippines on a 10 day study tour with the Canadian Cooperative Association. I got to tour farms and co-operatives in the Philippines and write about them. I just edited that detail for space. So there you go, Dad. I’ve mentioned it now.)

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