“Where is Sri Lanka?” That’s what I asked the young boy who was representing his country at the Presidential Classroom International Summit in 1998 in Washington, D.C. He was a delegate, like me, who was representing his region of the world in a mini, teenage version of the United Nations. He told me about the culture, the food, the wildlife. Sri Lanka seemed sooo exotic and far away. I remember thinking, “I would like to visit there one day.” I guess dreams can come true…
Move forward to 15 years later: where Saved By the Bell is possibly on re-runs now and no longer a Saturday morning show, when Will Smith was now a TV star, and not a rapper OR a movie star, and Backstreet boys are currently having reunion tours and are not the hot boy band that everyone swoons over. After 34+ hours of traveling, I have arrived to Sri Lanka. Not on holiday, but as a delegate- a delegate for conservation and preservation of crocodilians and their habitat, and as one of forerunners of crocodilian parasitology. Sri Lanka is home to the 22nd Working Meeting of the IUCN/Crocodile Specialist Group. I always look forward to these meetings- not only are they intellectually stimulating, but are also one of the best social events I have ever attended too (and I have been to Coachella, Burning Man and La Tomatina! Although, nothing beats La Tomatina in Spain!!!!).
The first night was a flashback to my first CSG meeting in Manaus, Brazil- a night of drinking and socializing with the executive chairs on the future of crocodilian research. After a couple of hours of sleep, it was off to the Sri Lanka Zoo where a veterinary workshop commenced. Here, techniques of croc disease diagnosis, blood letting, dissection, etc was shared. It was a great day as you always learn something new that can help out with your own techniques.
Today was the steering committee where official business was discussed. That official business ended early/switched to another room or area- the hotel bar. Us CSG members took over the hotel bar for hours, hoping that the hotel was warned about our habits. The social part of the conference is always the most important part of the conference- this is where the networking happens, the collaborations, the new ideas- and it is always happens after a couple of beers. One thing I learned- if you are going to survive in this group, you better have a liking to alcohol and a strong liver.