I didn’t take enough photos to properly show you what my days in New York really consisted of, so I’ll have to tell rather than show. I arrived very late on Friday night, and Luc had arranged a place for us just by the office which was extremely comfortable as I really wasn’t in the mood to fight New York traffic in the mornings. On Saturday we went all in on shopping, and I brought home bags full of clothes after realizing how extremely tired I was of wearing the same office wear for the last couple of years. In the evening we met up with Renata, Isham and Den at Louie and Chan, a really nice restaurant with weird things on the menu. Sea urchin, anyone? Yum. As it got late, the downstairs part of the restaurant transformed into a full-on Afrohouse nightclub, with African beats and love blasting out of the speakers so energetically they almost made me cry from euphoria. Can you believe they played Lengoma? I was seriously the happiest kid in New York that moment.
Then Sunday came, and we continued our shopping spree, and in the evening we went to see “Sleep No More” which for me was an amazing experience. So, I know there are a lot of superlatives here, but seriously, “Sleep no More” was different from any other performance I’ve seen in my life – and the acting, the dancing, the atmosphere, the vibe, the emotions, the entire concept.. it was all amazing! Imagine a “Eyes Wide Shut” kind of vibe where it’s always a little bit too dark and all onlookers need to wear white masks.. in a huge building where you can walk around on the different floors and enter the different rooms freely, and you have been separated from your partner, and NOBODY talks. You think you’re lost and it all gets a bit scary.. when actors suddenly appear from nowhere, and dance and act.. and you can either watch them do sometimes very absurd things, or go to a different room where something else probably/maybe is happening. It’s like a real-time bizarre story unfolding somewhere around you and you just urge to find the story. “What’s going on? Where am I? What is all this?” Amazing. I’m going to save the spoilers as I think you should definitely try to go see the play if you have the chance. All I can say is that there is no way to fully comprehend it all, and people go to see it over and over again to get the full picture.. very, very, very cool. (If you are not going to see the play, CLICK here to see a little bit what it was like.)
Monday! Remember Emine from Mozambique? She was in the UNICEF office when I was there and we became good friends even though she only arrived a month before I was leaving.. now she’s working in New York so we had to meet for lunch and give each other a quick update. It was great seeing her. Then the regional office figured we might as well take the opportunity to have a meeting while the entire communication team is in New York – and what a great idea it was! We met, got introduced, and exchanged ideas as well as the challenges we are facing in our respective countries, and we planned jointly on how to take on the new Global Communication Strategy in the region. It was great meeting all the colleagues I’ve only met online so far. Turned out we have a fantastic team to represent the Latin America and the Caribbean. And then, as if my Monday wasn’t already too packed with new impressions, I suddenly got a call from Etevaldo from Mozambique, who literally was in transit in New York after competing in the World Tang Soo Do Championships in North Carolina along with his friends (and winning a bunch of gold medals for Mozambique – yay!) and basically, they were in a cab on their way back to the airport after passing by the apple store to get some much needed gear, so we got exactly five minutes and a hug and high-fives with the Mozambique gang before they needed to drive off again. So random, and so very nice! So much Mozambique in New York.
The Global Communication Team Meeting finally kicked off on Tuesday morning, and it was an intense week of great speakers, very interesting presentations, and of course Mia Farrow making a bunch of people cry by showing the three watches on her wrist, with times set to the times of the refugee camps she’s been visiting the most in Darfur and the Central African Republic, and New York. “I never really leave” she said, and concluded with “you guys are my heroes” and by making a heart with her hands. In the midst of it all I found out a C4D colleague was moving to work in Nairobi and got invited for her farewell party together with people from the Communication for Development community that I have been interacting with online for years..! It was truly a week of meetings, and I met colleagues from all over the world as we were over 170 participants representing more than 90 countries.
After the meeting on Wednesday we all went for a Circle Line cruise around Manhattan and I really realized how beautiful this part of UNICEF is when the rain started pouring down. People started laughing and ran in to hide and dance inside the boat at first, but then they started coming out into the rain, one by one, until almost all of us ended up dancing in the rain and embracing the good vibes – such a beautiful evening of bonding! Forget the Belizean saying “No working during drinking hours” when you’re around this gang by the way – people seem to love their jobs so much they couldn’t stop talking about it, and it was very inspiring to see so many people who actually enjoy what they do for a living and continue working after hours not because they have to but because they want to.
The next morning people were energized and ready to tackle the two last days of the meeting – the cruise was a strategically brilliant move by the organizers as the third day usually is when people start feeling like their brains are melting from too much information. But the sessions were interactive and people stayed engaged, we took a group photo and everybody got their business cards ready to make sure to stay in touch and exchange information, experiences and documents over borders and time zones. “Let’s support each other and not reinvent the wheel!” was heard all over.
As work officially was over, we met with friends, went dancing, did the last part of shopping and went for dinner at one of my favourite restaurants in New York, and probably one of the most bizarre ones in the world: King Noodle, I was happy to get at least quick one-on-one catching up sessions with both Renata and Den, and that I got to see Leonie who just moved to New York as well. I was officially off on Monday, but went back to the office for a couple of meetings and a proper hug from Emine. Last errands, last dinners, last everything. And very early on Tuesday morning I flew off.
It was all a bit too short, New York. But thanks again!