It is strange how many old aquaintances that happen to be in New York right now. Here I thought I would be arriving to a new city all on my own and instead I have a hard time managing to catch up with all of my old friends.
During my first year at Mahindra United World College of India we were four girls who lived in a room- me, Jo from Kenya, Sneha from Bombay and Tazeen from Bangladesh. Right now three of us are in NYC. From a little hill in rural India to Manhattan. What is the likelihood of that? And of course there seems to be another ten or so people from college who are here to.
Tonight I am meeting up with four friends from my term as an exchangestudent in Singapore and by chance I got to know yesterday that Cecilia, whom I spent many long nights with preparing for the Nordic Moot Competition for Human Rights last spring, is also doing an internship at the UN right now.
Apparently all roads lead to New York!
Today my lovely friend Malena turns 25. If I wasn’t in a far distant country I wouldn’t miss her birthdayparty for the world . But instead I get to sit far way pondering on all the good thing that I miss about Malena. Here comes a list of Malena top 5:
1. Going to Soulville and asking them to play “Baby I need your loving” by the Four Tops and see Malena hurl around the dancefloor
2. Having dinner at Malenas place because it is always extraordinarily delicious AND she is the queen of all kinds of desserts
3. Drinking red wine with Malena and discussing some interesting topic like cultural identity or affirmative action for hours, taking different positions just to try out the end of a reasoning
4. Going for long Sunday walks with Malena and a camera to catch hardly noticeable but beautiful details
5. Hearing Malenas quick and witty comments when anyone tries to put her down. Chauvinists beware!
Happy birthday Malena and I hope that in 25 years time from now I will be writing a list of Malena top 5s not to different from this one.
I think there are not more than two arcitectures that I know anyting about, but one of them happen to be Le Corbusier, the designer of the UN skyskraper. But interestingly enough I didn’t know that he had designed this building until I arrived here. Instead I knew about Le Corbusier due to the fascinatingly and terrifying experience of visiting his modelcity Chandigahr during my time in India.
In the 40s Le Courbusier must have been the ikon of modernity, because when India and Pakistan became two seperate countries, and the Indian part of the state of Punjab lost it’s capital to Pakistan, president Nehru decided to use this opportunity to signal to the world what a modern country India was. And he did this precisely by giving Le Courbusier free hands to create a new regional capital from scratch. That became the city of Chandighar, a city created according to the architects fascination for straight lines, concrete and perfect orderliness, something quite unusual for an Indian city. Also the UN skyskraper was of course meant to signal modernity and a fresh start at it’s time of creation. (These days modern is not the first concept that comes to mind as you visit this dripping, asbestos infiltrated building that is finally getting an overdue facelift)
This is my way of letting you know that three of the other interns have arrived. I am of course glad to get some company! They all seem like people I will enjoy having around, eventhough we don’t know each other yet.
There is first the gracious Teresa, who will work with budgetary issues of the fifth committee of the General Assembly. Teresa speaks fluent Italian and there is some sophisticated air about her.
Then we have Shantana, who I think is the coolest of us all. She is from Bangladesh and have been in New York several summers before to dance. So she will split her time here between monitoring the Security Council and running to popping-dance classes.
And then finally there is Patricia, or Auntie Patsy as she has already titled herself (though there is very little about her that resembles an auntie, I must say) Patricia had a tough choice deciding whether to keep her hikingboots and become a mountainguide in New Zealand or change into her high heels and climb the UN skyskraper instead. She will be working with development issues.
And there will be a fifth intern arriving in a couple of weeks, Karin, of whom I have heard many good things. So things look hopeful.
This weekend I have:
– Walked around a frozen Central Park surrounded by eager joggers and dogowners
– Been interviewed by a Japanese television crew that happened to find me at Strawberry Fields. With uncertain mandate I have answered to inquires as “What is the importance of John Lennon for Swedish People?” If you happen to be in Japan and watch a musicshow about John Lennon you just might see me!
– Had coffee and dinner with a newfound friend called Stephanie, who is an intern at Women´s International League för Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
– Seen the movie Slumdog Millionaire and been reminiscing about India with same Stephanie
– Lost my wallet and miraculously found it again
– Lost my hat, bought a new one, lost that one too and miraculously found it again
– Given Sex in the City a new chance due to the overly NYC romatic touch of the series and overcome some, but not all, of my dislike for the show
One thing that is less great about living in New York, especially when living on Swedish studentsupport, is money. The exchangerate of the Swedish krona to the dollar is not to our advantage at the moment as the dollar has been floating above 8 krona for quite some time now (today it was 8,42). For a novice in economics as myself it was difficult to understand why the krona is so weak when the Swedish economy is said to be coping better with the financial crisis than the American. But I have not gotten explained to me that in uncertain times noone wants to get stuck with a small currency so everyone invests in hard currencies like the dollar and the euro.
So what does this mean in my everyday life? That everything is expensive, that my rent is greater than my monthly income and that I walk an hour to and from work everyday to save the subway ticket. So if this situation remains I will be a poor but athletic at the end of my stay.
My task for the day was to fill the Swedish seat in the Committee on NGO’s, a committee that decides which non-governmental organisations that get consultative status to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Despite the somewhat derogative tone of the title of this blogpost, I do find it an honorable position to fill. Especially since I was sent to monitor the applications of a couple of LBGT-organizations (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) that Sweden likes to support, but which often find it hard to gain support from more conservative nations (the usual routine seems to be that opposing states find a controversial statement made by someone associated with the organisation, in this case someone who said something that could be interpreted as a justification for pedophilia, and then force the organizations to denounce the person or otherwise find ground to reject their application).
The story of the day is that many hours passed and these organizations were not even close to getting their application considered, to the great dismay of the Swiss representative in the chair next to me who were there to defend a Swiss organisation for lesbian womens rights. As an experienced diplomat he instead spent his time helping me to interpret the political play infront of me. The main strategy of nations that dislike NGO-participation in general seem to be to filibuster all and any decision. During the morning session (10 am- 1 pm) two hours were spent discussing the status of French as a working language ( I can not imagine that this issue has never been dealt with previously during the last 60 years) Then the UN always have a two hours lunchbreak to resume the meeting again at 3 pm. But when I arrived after lunch there were hardly any memberstate representatives present. At 3.30 the president of the Committee arrives and at 4 there is sufficient quorum to resume the meeting. Then translaters of the five official languages have been sitting on payrole waiting as have diplomats and NGO representatives… Apparently just another day in the UN accordning to my new Swiss neighbor.