Last weekend, almost immediately after the end of The Vagina Monologues, I was on the road (rails, actually) for my first visit to the Swedish city of Uppsala. It’s home to the oldest university in Sweden and, this weekend, home to the 2011 Uppsala Model United Nations.
This year’s topic was “The right to food.” The delegates were paired up to represent 21 countries in all. Our conference was meant to be a simulation of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. I was paired with a Swede named Anna (what are the odds?!?) as the delegation from the Federal Republic of Germany.
Having never been to a Model United Nations before, it was a bit weird at first. We were told to start our speeches with “Distinguished president, honourable delegates…”. Hold your placard vertically to be added to the list of speakers, but horizontally to ask a question. To communicate with other delegates, write a note and have the ushers deliver it (or…write a note with your Skype name and then chat on your computer). To meet in groups, motion for an Unmoderated Caucus of 20 minutes for the purpose of discussing working papers.
But once I learned the formalities, it was lots of fun! Germany spent most of its time working with great delegates from Finland and the UK (as the European Union), as well as the United States and some developing countries. There were lots of opportunities to practice writing quick speeches and presenting our country’s positions. And I learned lots about food security and foreign direct investment in agriculture and land. (If you’re interested, take a look at the International Food Policy Research Institute’s policy brief (PDF) and the FAO/IFAD/World Bank’s Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment (PDF).)
The conference was from Friday to Sunday, but I stayed until Monday so that I could see the city as well. The city centre in Uppsala is very nice, with lots of old buildings and a river running through the middle. I couchsurfed the whole weekend with a cool guy named Sebastian. I enjoyed hanging out at his place (except when he kept beating me at FIFA on Playstation) and he also lived very close to the conference, with I really appreciated each morning.
I couldn’t find my suit bag when I packed, so instead I made do with a garbage bag, taped shut at the bottom. But by Monday the tape wasn’t sticking very well. As I biked home, my pants slipped off the hanger without me noticing. So then, around midnight, I had to retrace my route home—looking for black pants on a black bike path. Fortunately I found them about five minutes from home, lying on the side of the path and almost perfectly clean. Phew!