The months of preparations for WorldMUN 2015 all boiled down to 5 days of conference proper. In my opinion, it was just 4 days because the 1st day was basically orientation and opening ceremony. You could barely see some action except in the dance floor during the opening ceremony and the socials in the evening.
Nonetheless, the 1st day was a chance to get to know other delegates and know what the atmosphere was like.
When I got back to Kintex after getting my wallet in a café near Daewah Station, I saw very few delegates in the lobby. I was actually quiet scared because I didn’t know what to do.
Thankfully, the volunteers were very helpful. It was not just because they were proficient in English that made communication easier, but it was because they were all smiling, always warm and cheerful. I never felt intimidated asking them every time as they always made me feel at ease. Cheers to them!
So the volunteer pointed me out to some room upstairs and I gladly went. When I entered, I saw the Chairs in front of the room already answering questions from delegates. I sat at the back since I was late. I chose to sit at the center aisle to have a 180 degree view of the delegates.
Some of the delegates took the questioning very seriously. There was a group of Germans who asked questions in a very eloquent and smart manner. And they were very keen and enthusiastic to know more about the Rules of Procedures (ROP).
I was trying to take notes while looking around and got a feel of the atmosphere. I was thinking that it would be very competitive, but a lot of delegates looked relaxed. It was hard to determine if it was a strategy to play an underdog. I mean, not to ask so many questions so as not to appear dominant. Appearing cordial would help in getting allies later on. Or many delegates were simply too tired because some of them had just arrived in Seoul. On the other hand, I couldn’t figure out exactly if those who were very keen on asking questions were really interested in knowing the ROP or they simply wanted to get the attention of the Chairs as early as possible.
I didn’t want to misinterpret people’s behavior, thinking that they were strategizing all the time. Common sense and elementary morals tell that its wrong to misrepresent people or misjudge them. But its also important to discern and scratch beyond the surface to understand reality.
I was torn between those thoughts. I realized that it’s part of what you’ll learn in MUN. This world is simply not working in view of pure realism. Even people of authority do something out of altruism. Or else most part of the world would be in perpetual chaos, which is not. Altruism does exists. But this world is neither perfect. There are times when all of us, not just some of us, will take the opportunity to satisfy our self-interests.
A lot of delegates in MUNs are torn between competing and enjoying the company of others; I included.
When I was at the back sitting during the orientation, I had some few seconds in my mind that left me blanked and confused. During those times, it helped that I went back and remember my purpose coming to Seoul.
Nic, our Secretary-General and head delegate, asked us to write the goals we had for WorldMUN back in early December. I wrote:
1. Learn about diplomacy, international relations and other things as much as I could. I want to be surprised of what I can learn.
2. Make as much friends. Build stronger relationships with my UA&P MUN family and meet new friends from around the world.
3. Travel to Seoul!
The third goal, I achieved already the moment I landed in Korea. I had to work on the 1st and 2nd goals then.
Looking at the goals I wrote last December helped me clear the confusion I had in mind. I was in Seoul to learn not to compete. There is a fundamental difference between learning and competing. Learning is about doing all I can to know about diplomacy, international relations and about…life. It includes facts, theories, strategies and making sure I have fun. Competing is all about getting ahead of others, often to the detriment of learning.
I was also there to make friends. And the good thing is that friendship and learning can to go together. You choose your friends because you share something in common. You don’t compete with one another. You help each other to grow together. And what a wonderful opportunity to meet like-minded people who wanted to make a difference in the world than WorldMUN 2015.
All those philosophizing had to stop because the orientation was over. I was looking in front of the room to see familiar faces as delegates did their own thing after the orientation ended. I saw several UA&P delegates (I believe) Shay, Courtney, Anica and others I could not remember. I wanted to go out with them and meet other members of the delegation to go to the venue of the opening ceremony.
Suddenly, I saw Patrick who was from Canada and represented Cyprus in our committee. We knew each other through Facebook. I approached him and talked a little about what had been discussed. Then I was introduced to Daniela and Sebastian from Germany. Sebastian was also in HGA, he represented Morocco I believe.
Then there was Toska who came from Canada but originally was from the Philippines. When we learned that we were both Filipinos, people wouldn’t know how happy we were. She spoke to me in fluent Tagalog. It was so heartwarming to see how she and her family retained the language despite being in Canada for so long. Saying you are a Filipino I thought was one thing. But when you speak the language, you put it into your heart and make a real connection with your own people. It was more than just to communicate.
I think I enjoyed talking so much that the whole delegation was looking for me as we were running late for the bus. Thankfully, I was found like a lost sheep in Kintex. I thank them for their patience.
I couldn’t even remember if we ate lunch or not. All I remember was that we boarded the train and a lot of us were tired for some reason. I wasn’t even thinking of eating. The venue of the conference was several station away.
In the train we met Thai delegates. I didn’t realize that I would be meeting Ni. She and I are both part of the ASEAN Youth Leaders Association (AYLA) International Board. We usually meet for board meetings on Google Hangouts but I hadn’t seen her in person. When we met, it was as if we were friends who just met a week or a month ago. She was very friendly and she shared some insights on what to expect in a crisis committee such as the one I was into. I also met several other Thai delegates such as Phupa and Note, both were very friendly.
We arrived at the venue and it was quiet big. I couldn’t imagine how several floors (literally like a lot) in an auditorium would be like. It was not the biggest auditorium I’ve been to, but it was enough to impress me.
The highlight of the opening ceremony was the formal opening of WorldMUN 2015. Looking at Brian and the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies’ (HUFS) Secretariat, made me realize how much work they put into the conference. It was not a perfect conference. Honestly, at the time, I thought it would have been better if the opening ceremony was held somewhere near Kintex. Travelling between venues was an added stress for the delegates and to organizers themselves. And they ran out of bus which drew an ire from some delegates and faculty advisers. But other than those, I didn’t have any complaints.
I loved, by the way, the performances during the opening ceremony. When the group of guys performed hiphop, I though that was flawless. Then there was a traditional Korean dance performance which surprised me when one of the members belted out “Let it Go” from Frozen. Other delegates rose to their feet when the girls played Dancing Queen and another song in Español. I myself could not help but stood up and got into the beat.
A few UA&P delegates decided to go to the Global Village, the social event for Monday night. Others couldn’t because they were working on their papers for finals. Those had to be sent immediately to their professors back in the Philippines.
It was I, Wildy and Patty who decided to go together and eat with Atty. Jemy Gatdula, one of our faculty advisers. We drank beer in the nearby Lotte Mall while munching some steak. It was fun to share our career plans to Atty. Jemy and hear his stories about his time in Cambridge as a student.
He had to leave early because he had to go somewhere with his wife. The three of us left for MVL Hotel where the bus would take us to HUFS where the socials would be held. We stayed in the beautiful lobby of the hotel, listening to the singer belting out very nice acoustic songs (I believe she’s a Filipina) while waiting for the bus.
The bus came and we went inside. We saw the delegates from the American University of Beirut inside. They were really friendly and spoke really good English huh. Then the Venezuelan delegation from Universidad Simon Bolivar (I believe) followed. There we met the very bubbly Maria Angelica. She sat next to me and she was so animated, moving back and forth the bus. She was teaching people Spanish, singing and saying random stuff.
She called us her Filipino friends (I, Patty and Wildy), “Mis Panas”. That’s the cooler way to call your friends in Español she said. Then it was someone’s birthday. I didn’t know if its true. The Germans, I believe, started singing happy birthday in Deutsch. The Venezuelans sang in Español while the Lebanese sang in Arabic. So embarrassing, we didn’t know how to sing it in Filipino. Only when I came back to the Philippines that I remembered that we had our own version entitled “Maligayang Bati”, which could be literally translated as Happy Greetings in English. Have to sing happy birthday in the native language more often then.
Now while on the bus, many of the delegates got a little silent. But Maria and I talked a lot about Chavéz, Maduro, Venezuela’s economy, cosmetic surgery, violence, Venezuelan food, Filipino food and she taught me Español. I was surprised how much Filipino and Español had in common.
THE NIGHT I GOT DRUNK
When we arrived at the venue, it was chaotic. People fill the Obama Hall of HUFS and there were much drinking, singing and jubilation around the place. Imaging having 118 nationalities there. It was like a mini world inside the Obama Hall. You’d hear people speak in Spanish, Deutsch, French, English, Korean, Putonghua (Mandarin), Bahasa, Filipino, Portuguese, Norwegian, Arabic and what not.
Despite our differences, we had one goal in common: have fun!
I just deposited our coats and bags, so I was just wearing my thermals. I was party ready! Patty, Wildy and I decided to start drinking. I believe the first one I tried was a liquor from Venezuela. The thing was, people didn’t want you to drink on your own. They held my neck and counted until I gulped that alcohol down. Good grief! Then I went to the Colombian booth where the same thing happened. Just lost count of how many booths I went to and how many kinds liquor I drank. I also tasted vegemite (tasted awful for me but just tried it) from the Australians and some sandwiches, chocolates, etc. from some countries I forgot specifically,
I was somewhat drunk already. But I was conscious of what I was doing, thankfully. Didn’t notice the Philippine booth but I saw Toska and the Canadians, and we took pictures. Then I saw the other Filipino delegates from Benilde and UST at last. They were wearing the national costume, which was good. I danced a lot, shook the hands of a lot of people. Some people I forgot already. But it was really fun that I just let myself got lost in the moment.
I drank a lot and had so much fun that when we got back to Myeongdong, where our hotel was located, I vomited. Of course, I had to be polite and looked for some pile of garbage to vomit and not just anywhere. Embarrassing….but fun!
Back to the socials though. I thought people would use it to lobby, but I saw few did. I didn’t notice a lot maybe. But it could also be due to the fact that people was there to have fun.
Socials in some ways draw people to WorldMUN but they’ll get so much more because serious discussions during the day are also part of the package. It works in both ways: for fun and learning. The key there from my experience was not to let socials and fun be the sole purpose of why you went there. It was important to remember that the conference was the primary reason you came to WorldMUN. When you maximize learning and maximize fun, then that’s how to make the most out of WorldMUN.
I hope everyone would learn a lot and have fun next year in Roma for WorldMUN 2016! Cheers.
P.S. I’ll write about the Conference Proceedings and Closing Ceremonies in the coming posts.
Part 3 to follow