Nah, I just needed to get your attention. This article is about my journey to Morocco, not an analogy for my personal development and growth, but quite literally my logistical journey from Cardiff to Morocco.
One of the (super) most important things to confirm you have in order, are your logistical arrangements (Thomas is probably nodding his head vigorously at this). This includes travel and transport, hotel and VISA. Please also remember to notify the Malaysian Embassy in whichever country you travel to for COP that you will be attending it. Among other reasons, it will help them reach you and your family in cases of emergency i.e natural disasters, war, and violence, etc.
Morocco requires Malaysian-passport holders to apply for a visa in order to enter the country. If you are accredited with a pink or yellow badge, you would receive a Visa Confirmation Letter for a Visa Upon Arrival which would save you the hassle of trudging up the visa offices to get it done the conventional way.
My case was slightly different; I received my funding and accreditation pretty late. I had also maxed out on the number of days I could apply for a leave of absence for my trip to COP22; any more and I would have to defer a year. This meant that I relied entirely on my VCL for my visa as I was unable to make the trip to London because I would have to miss classes. The problem was, I had not received my letter via e-mail, even the night before my flight!
I rang the Moroccan Embassy in the UK for several days before that to inquire, but I was either put on indefinite hold or they never picked up. I finally left a message the day before my flight and resigned myself. I was unsure as to whether I should travel to the airport the next morning considering it was a 3.5-hour train journey and I was likely to reverse my journey without my letter anyway.
I took a leap of faith and took the train to London, and miraculously the Moroccan Embassy decided to call me back. I received my visa letter before arriving at London and printed it at the airport. All good, right? No.
I was denied boarding. Despite showing the staff my accreditation letter, my passport, and the visa letter, I was not allowed to board my flight. It was one of those incredulous moments where I stood dumbfounded at the blatant dismissal of my precious, legitimate travel documents. A lady who was boarding the same flight and attending COP tried to vouch for me but she was disregarded like a babbling child as well.
So I made my way to the customer service with the other passengers with issues; through the security check, immigration, baggage collection, etc. I speak to the customer service and they can’t seem to help me because although they didn’t find a problem with my documents, it was the ‘manager’ that made the call to deny me boarding. I kept intending to speak to this manager, but mysteriously she only communicated to me through everyone else.
I discovered several things:
- The airline, EasyJet was terribly ignorant about one of the biggest events of the year that was happening in Morocco despite flying several trips to the country daily.
- Their customer service left a lot to be desired because, at one point, I was asked questions that tried to imply that the fault was mine, or that my documents were not in order while keeping me waiting for at least 45 minutes for the manager who never arrived.
- I was not going to board any flight to Morocco with this airline anytime soon. They required (the exact same) letter delivered by hand by the Moroccan Embassy, except it was Friday after hours and I had no way to get it by Monday, which is when COP22 starts.
So about 4 hours later, I realised it was a battle lost and having never travelled to London (aside transits) before, I was on my own in a foreign city without certainty about my flight to Morocco by Monday. Fortunately, a few friends helped me book a hostel I gratefully crashed at.
That night tested my faith and determination – with all my teammates either in Morocco or flying there with no issues, the niggling voice of naysayers at the back of my mind amplifying my doubts, a part of me refused to back down. I was like a dog with a bone; have been from the start of MYD. I was getting my funds, getting my badge, getting there, period. Backing down was not an option. I was told in one of the meetings that I had to ‘die die’ want to go to COP. Well, I didn’t think it per se but I did not think of going back, so I must have wanted to ‘die die’ go after all.
The whole time, I kept the MYD team updated on my status and they offered me useful advice and unicorns. The next day, I followed Adrian’s advice to camp at the airport until I got my flight sorted out. I had no plan, but I decided to go to Heathrow Airport instead of returning to Gatwick Airport.
I waited for two hours to show my documents to a staff from Royal Air Maroc that verified that it was sufficient for entry. By that point, I was already a disheveled, raving, desperado, frantically pointing to the COP22 banners and asking her repeatedly if I really would be allowed in. After I explained my position, she stopped looking at me like I was a lunatic and replied that there was no reason why I should be denied boarding.
I immediately booked my ticket to Morocco on that day before tickets were sold out or booking closed, and managed to fly with no problems.
So folks, my advice to you is to plan ahead and always have a contingency plan. I kept in touch with the team and they were updated every step of the way, and because of that, I not only received useful tips, but also their warm support and encouragement. More importantly, never give up. The night before my flight, Thomas told me to take that train when I was doubtful.
‘You came this far, don’t give up now.’
I’m glad he did, and I’m glad that things happened the way they did because when you lug around a 12 kg backpack, fall on your face, spend two days trying to figure out an alien place on your own for the first time, you learn a lot about yourself, the way you deal with adversities and realise how far you are willing to go to reach your destination. You measure the worth of something by how much a person is willing to pay for it. Likewise, I realised the lengths I would go to, just for COP22.
Written by Nachatira Thuraichamy
Edited by Choy Moon Moon