Day three of my second week in New York city where I am interning at the United Nations headquarters. I arrived here on September 12th (direct business class flight..those frequent flier miles are actually useful!) to a rainy, windy NY, which is a good break from the stifling heat of the Cairene September.
I applied to this internship last July. I figured it would cool to intern at the UN and see New York again, this time for a little longer. Initially, I thought that even if I get an acceptance I would have had to do some intense expense management since the internship is unpaid and I have to take an unpaid leave from work, in addition to a leave of absence from school, which means one more semester plus a summer session of juggling a full credit load and frequent work-related travel to finish my MA. I got the offer letter in early August and thought “screw all that, I am going to New York!”. At least it looks good on a resume, and I did need the “break”.
So, internship schmenternship. I didn’t really know what to expect and honestly, didn’t want to expect anything. I share the “interns office” in a quiet, windowless room (see above picture) on the 37th floor of the Secretariat building with two other interns, both Rebbechas (what are the chances, huh?) from Sweden and the U.S. This fall, there is 200+ interns assigned to various UN departments and offices, an during the orientation session, we were told that we are very lucky because this is going to be the last significantly large class of interns to be taken for a long time, the reason being that the Secretariat building will be torn down from the inside and completely renovated; a plan that is going to take about 7 years.
Things started a little slow (maybe too slow) but are starting to gradually pick up in a very unexciting way. Although just familiarizing oneself with the one billion and one acronyms people here use took up most of the first week. My computer induces bouts of “tech rage” that I try to keep under control for the sake of sparing my fellow interns a slew of expletives that I would otherwise direct at the stupid heap of scrap; it crashes if I do as much as type too fast. You’d think the U.N. would have decent machines! Ahh, amid all the excitement I must remember that this is the interns office. No expectations, only experiences. Besides, I signed a confidentiality statement or something like that and I don’t think Ban Ki Moon would be happy if he read my blog and found me badmouthing UN computers. That would be bad.
I am staying in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Manhattan is right across the George Washington bridge. The morning commute is about 75 minutes: two subway trains, a short bus ride and a 15 minute walk. Don’t mind it as long as the iPod is juiced up and piping the tunes and I’ve got something to read. I did some unintentional sightseeing though getting off at the wrong stops then wandering about thinking “this does look familiar”on the first few days. Loving New York in all its crowded, dynamic, refreshingly cosmopolitan and overcaffeinated glory.
Highlights of the week:
The General Assembly: It just started this week. Security is as tight as an iron vise ( and that’s probably an understatement) in and around all streets leading to the UN headquarters building. There are multiple I.D. inspections starting 3 blocks away from the entrance to the Secretariat building, metal detectors, dogs, cordons, road blocks, route detours, intense-looking secret service agents and cops…the whole nine.
A morning with Mahmoud Ahmedinejad: Today I attended a “briefing session” with none other but President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad of The Islamic Republic of Iran at the Grand Hyatt New York. The ballroom was packed with at least 500 interns and students.
The Iranian ambassador to the U.S. gave a short speech, and so did a couple university professors, then the man himself spoke. This was followed by a Q&A session in which he skillfully demonstrated the fine art of “political answers”, with a few gems of wisdom here and there. The session concluded with a photo op frenzy and Ahmedinejad inviting all attendees to go out and have lunch in any NY restaurant of their choice, and the Iranian Embassy is treatin’ (at which the ambassador joked “..but nothing too expensive!”).
The guy blogs too. He seems to suck almost as much as I do when it comes to updating his blog though; his last post is dated December 2007. C’mon, dude.
Celebrity spotting: Who needs to go to Hollywood? The U.N. headquartes is apparently celebrity-infested these days. Saw Micheal Douglas and a couple others during a cermemony on the occasion of the International Day of Peace, and today a fellow intern saw Jude Law walking around the Secretariat building.
That’s about it for now. Over n’out.