Sunday, May 25, 2008

We the Youth of the United Nations

A United Nations Correspondent reporting for the world media sounds like a very impressive position - and it can be an exciting opportunity and also a great deal of fun to get to know the UN inside out, particularly if you end up becoming one of the "in house" correspondents based at the headquarters.

I was very fortunate, thanks to my fellow colleagues at the Department of Public Information (DPI) and the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) to represent the Russian media (and later one of the NY radio stations run by Gary Null called Progressive Radio Network) at the UN HQ from late 2006 onwards.

In all sincerity, I became SO immensely interested and engrossed in the day-to-day life of the UN Secretariat, I literally spent my mornings on the press floor and the briefing room, afternoons at the cafeteria and the various "chambers" of sorts (Security Council, General Assembly... Almost as impressive when seen in real life as they look on TV!) and my evenings at the delegate's lounge (an even more bureaucratic version of a rather conservative bar.)

Apart from getting to know the basic UN Secretariat activities and daily tasks, the best part of the experience (at least the first 6 months or so) was making new friends... No, not your average bureaucrats (although some are genuinely fascinating and very friendly people, albeit slightly too obsessed with the UN paperwork) but UN interns from every part of the world. We had an absolute blast and quickly became known by our first names and the newly acquired nicknames: "The Elephant", "Pussycat", "Grey Hair", "Lola", etc. In a way, the experience proved to be as entertaining as my college and Uni years... Honestly!

The first month or two were intense and we really tried to work as much as possible - noon briefings, reports, deadlines and nothing else - work, work, work. However, as we really got to know each other and became more familiar and relaxed among our little company of the "UN Youth", it was clear that with all due respect to representing the world media in the morning hours, afternoons and evenings were THE TIME for some UN fun - and did we have fun!!!

While I was still reporting for one of the Russian newspapers from the UN HQ, one of the correspondents asked if I was interested in interviewing a well-known Russian political analyst, journalist and the grand-daughter of Nikita Kruschev for one of the broadcast services... And that's how I met two of my dear girlfriends (we were soon labeled by everyone as "Charlie's Angels"!)

The broadcast "side" job was, of course, the least productive of all... 0 viewership, 0 $, but we had so much fun during those few weeks I foolishly spent hours "debating" with my girlfriends on air... CRAZY!

The daily noon briefing was our regular get-together spot first thing in the morning. The Spokesperson of the Secretary-General, Michele Montas, is one of the most charming ladies you will ever meet, so she was certainly amused watching us across the room from her platform... And we did ask the daily diplomatic questions, as well! After all, we had to report afterwards, so there was a degree of hard work involved, too, particularly on those late nights when I transcribed my lengthy interviews recorded directly onto my iPod.

In the afternoons, we used to gather around our international youth-oriented table for a 2-hour lunch break - diverse topics from latest UN news to current crushes and new ice cream flavors filled every conversation and kept us "busy" throughout the day... Until we had to split for a bit to concentrate on work in our separate offices and work areas.

After spending a couple of hours genuinely researching and writing up our articles, we'd gather at the delegate's lounge for an early round of drinks and a bit of political catch-up, discussing the UN social circle in the DL area.

Every now and then, we had too many pressing deadlines and simply had to sacrifice our bonding evenings for a bit of work and effort. It wasn't always hunky dory, of course, but we did manage to make the most of even the dullest of conferences and diplomatic gatherings.

My song "We the Peoples" was recorded around this time, so it was all the more exciting for us when we got together to celebrating the final approval of the music and lyrics by the head of the Department of Public Information... We even saluted each other every morning by shouting out "We the Peoplessss!!!"

When the internship period was over and most of our friends had to go back to their native countries, Facebook and MySpace became our primary medium for keeping in touch, but so far so good - can't complain! We have managed to stay in contact throughout and those who are still in NY get together quite often to remember those good old times at the United Nations.

I am, as you may know, still at the United Nations reporting for a US radio station on weekly basis, but it is no longer about having fun and a good laugh - it's now work, work, work - every Tuesday.

Definitely worth an internship for young people, no doubt, particularly if you are into diplomacy and what the United Nations stands for as an international body, and last but not least - if you're lucky and you happen to be there along with a whole group of fun and adventurous fellow interns, it really doesn't get much better than this!

Yet with all the crazy adventures and excitement put aside, it really is a great place to be and I love every minute of it. Nothing compares to walking into the building every Tuesday morning and feeling every bit as proud and privileged to be there as I felt the very first time I went to my DPI meeting about my song project - a song that wasn't even written at the time and was a mere idea up in the air... but more on that later!

What a shame that once-in-a-lifetime fun always comes to an end at some point... Why don't good things ever last long enough?

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