Thursday, January 17, 2013
Hey all! So I’ve decided to resurrect my blog for my internship at the UN. I will be working here in New York for three months, while gaining credits towards my Masters in Disaster and Emergency Management from Old York University. A few people have been asking for news and it seems like this is the best way to get a new to everyone without spending too much time. And besides, even if no one reads it, it’s good for memories. A blog is like a diary that doesn’t take up space in your secret window bench. Wait. What are you talking about, I don’t have one of those. So, I realize that my blog is called Georgia’s African Blog, and I know I’m not in Africa, but I figure I can spin it. I mean, the UN is a step for me on the way to (hopefully) important work in developing countries, and I love Africa, so I hope to end up there again for work. Therefore, I argue, this internship is part of what I might call my Africa career trajectory, and is consequently acceptable as subject matter for my African blog. Ok, so about New York. Let me start with my first day. I got off the plane super early in the morning and had to find my way to 79th Street in Brooklyn. That’s right, I now live in Brooklyn. It’s a 3 bedroom apartment with currently 6 people living in it. (Not currently, one guy moved out a few days ago.) In any case, they might as well make a TV show about it. It’s me, Nikki, who was my contact before I arrived. She’s very friendly and organized, and she does fundraising for non-profit organizations. Oscar, who’s from Peru and does product design. He’s always got some idea for an invention of something, like most recently it was re-moldable sand paper. You can reshape it so it fits into corners and stuff. John works for a huge bank downtown and has a sweet office – although not anymore I guess because he's the one that moved out. I think he's in DC now. I bet he’ll have an even better office. Anastasia is Russian and recently arrived in Canada. I rarely see her cause she works crazy hours at a restaurant. Nikki’s sister also stays with us. And me, that makes 6. We all get along pretty well, so it’s going to be a bit sad when Oscar and Anastasia leave, but we might get another roommate… Anyway, so I got off the plane and hopped on the bus. I overpaid for the fare, because the transit cards are a little confusing. I mean not when you know how they work, but I only finally really get it now and its been over two weeks. So, I’m on the bus, first ten minutes in New York, and this guy sits down next to me. He’s black and wearing a gaudy top hat and, I’m not joking, a floor length fur coat. And he had a cane. Like, this guy was an actual pimp. It was amazing. Its not that crazy now cause you see people like that a lot, depending on what area you’re in. I’ve been having a lot of experiences like that. New York feels kind of like a fantasy land. Probably because I’ve seen and read about it so much, but never been here. I get on the subway and its like that train goes to Queens and this one goes to the Bronx. And then I get off and I’m on Madison Avenue, or Broadway. And I’m like I can’t believe these places are real. It might as well be Hogwarts or Middle Earth. The other day I walked by the Trump World Tower and I didn’t even notice at first and I did a huge double-take. And then I look like a big idiot because I’m standing there in the middle of a furiously power-walking crowd gawping up at some huge building and getting in everyone’s way. It’s always something. The huge ad screens in Times Square, the massive vaulted ceiling in Grand Central Station, the Empire State Building. I haven’t seen the Statue of Liberty yet, or been on the ferry to Staten Island, but it’ll happen. Manhattan is like ten times bigger than downtown Vancouver. And that’s just Manhattan. On New Year’s Eve, I went into town and tried to get into Times Square, which was impossible. Actually. The police had blocked off the streets. NYPD everywhere. I felt like I was on CSI. Not really, but I did see this one guy get chased down and tackled by like 5 cops for trying to jump the barricade. He really wanted to see that ball drop. The truly annoying thing was that I could see the ball from where I got off the subway at 9pm, but it was a pretty bad view so I left to try and find a better spot. I never saw it again. But I had a pretty awesome time wandering around New York and gaping at fricking everything. I took some sweet pictures, which I still have to upload. I am going to do that tonight I promise. And then I’m going to take some pics of the UN and upload those too. It’s sweet. Anyway, then I went down to Central Park at midnight and watched the fireworks. They were awesome. I stared at the buildings for a bit longer and then joined the teeming masses on the subway, went home and chilled out with my new roommate and we drank an inordinate amount of tequila and got to know each other. While finding my way around has been occasionally frustrating, I have found people here to be quite friendly. As long as they’re not in a hurry. They generally have no problem giving me directions or helping me figure out the metrocards, etc. The Nuyorkians I’ve met so far have also been full of advice about where I should visit while I’m in town. I’m super busy with work, so I don’t have tons of time to explore, but I’m going to take as much of their advice as I can. Last Sunday I went and explored downtown Brooklyn. I went to Macy’s and then I went shopping for food at Trader Joe’s. Such a great place. I’ve been there on the west coast and it’s awesome. It’s a very reasonably priced and very healthy and organic grocery store. Adam and Max know. I wanted to get Mokki but I had a huge ride home on the subway and I knew it would melt. Remember Mokki guys? My first day at the UN was pretty cool too, but a little crazy. I was racing around to find the place and ended up being super early, and then no one was there to let me in so I had to wait for ages. And then I had to wait for ages to get a pass for the security doors. And then I pretty much got to work right away. We had this dig project due at the beginning of the next week so I got to help with it a bunch. It was this 200 page budget document where they submit all the projects that need to be funded by the Development Account to the General Assembly. So I edited a bunch of really important looking proposals and put it all into this document format called a “fascicle”. It was pretty officey but very interesting. Since we finished the fascicle, I’ve been sitting in on these “review group” sessions, where they assess project proposals and argue about allocation of funding and wording of “expected accomplishments” and “indicators of achievement”. There is a b*ttload of acronyms to know. ESCAP, ECA, DESA, NRP, APRM, UNCTAD, and the list goes on. Anyone read Shake Hands with the Devil? Remember how many acronyms there were in that? That’s what it reminds me of. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what is expected of me. When I edit a proposal I never really fully understand what the project will be like, so I don’t know if my comments are valid. I do try to discuss it with my bosses and they are very helpful and understanding, but I don’t want to discuss every little thing with them; then it would probably take longer than if they just did it themselves. And I want them to feel like they can rely on me. Maybe that’s crazy. What can I really contribute in two months. I work about 8 hours a day, usually 930 to 630 with an hour lunch. I’ve developed a routine. Up at 7, shower, make coffee/blow-dry hair, clothes and makeup, take the subway to Grand Central Station, Manhattan – about 1 hour from my place in Brooklyn – walk four blocks to UN plaza, work, go for lunch at the cafeteria or, lately, make something here to save money, work more, hang out after, get 99 cent pizza (oh my god you guys, 99 cent pizza here is actually 99 cents). Thankfully, there’s a social events facebook page for interns here, so I’m getting to know a lot of the other newbies. Usually we hang out after work. And by hang out I mean do serious things On Tuesdays I have French class and Wednesdays debate. Yesterday’s debate was on the Palestine vote. Very interesting. We also do fun stuff. Wednesday is $1 beer night at McFaddens Pub and Thursdays is $3 “well drinks” which is what they call highballs here, at this underground bar by Chinatown. Usually I don’t get home til at least midnight. And then I have to get up and work. Its exhausting actually. And I have school work I’m supposed to be doing for my masters too. Well, its 8:30 and I’m still at work so I think I’m going to get going. I’m planning to go see a movie with my roommate tonight and I have work in the morning. I still have about 40 pages to read about a project in strengthening capacities of countries with special needs on designing and implementing economic and social development policies to accelerate progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals for the review group tomorrow. So there. Hope everyone’s having a wonderful January. I have lots more to say so I will write again soon. Georgia PS. I have a new e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s for a limited time, but I wish I could keep it.