Geneva, 24th September 2007

Rotterdam, 6th October 2007

Sines, 16th October 2007

LCD Soundsystem, 'All My Friends'

Somewhat close where somehow was stopped when something was lost.

The 'Bangkok Express' leaving PSA's Noordzee Terminal

You can find more pictures by following the link "My Pictures" on the right-hand frame or by clicking here.

Jardin Botanique

Weekends always promise more than they can deliver. Usually, one thinks that it will be the perfect time for indulging or working, depending on the respective needs. Unfortunately, when Monday is already on the horizon and one looks behind, the all-beautiful plans were transformed into laundry, ironing and cleaning, and you're happy if you managed to at least have a stroll & a drink in Carouge.

If that's true, what can I say? I'm happy, I've just came back from there. Now let's finish what we've started, port communities are waiting for us.

LCD Soundsystem, 'Losing my Edge'

But I was there.

"Build your seaport in a game and learn about complex systems"
by Geertje Bekebrede, Igor Mayer
J. of Design Research (JDR), Vol. 5, No. 2, 2006

Abstract: The authors demonstrate how simulation games can be used to test and explore initial infrastructure designs before they are implemented. Games can provide important learning experiences for (future) designers and managers. The case study of a computer-supported simulation game, SIM Maasvlakte 2 (SIM MV2), uses a game whose object is to design and allocate land for the Maasvlakte 2 port area, to be built between 2006 and 2036 in the Port of Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The evaluation aimed at improving the game, examining the system complexity of the seaport, and establishing corresponding learning effects among the participants.

I found it by chance today, when I was searching for one article about port communities. It looks interesting and funny, but my curiosity goes all to knowing how realistic is the game. Considering the way the Maasvlakte 2 project is evolving in real life, a realistic game should allow two or three generations of port planners to play around during their free afternoons. Better than an end, a never-ending loop instruction would be needed!

P.S.: More information about the game can be found here.

When I first saw this during the Fêtes de Genève, I thought it was another Swiss identity crisis. Only after I realised that Swiss humour goes a long way: a fairground attraction with several cars with the EU flag (27?), bumping into each other, is a wonderful way of showing your opinion about your neighbours and the will you have to be in such a mess. A politic statement full of wit, I'd say.

... was an intense day or raining, thesing, intern coordination and data basing. I also had my worst pizza ever at the UN cafeteria, smiled to bad weather for the first time since I arrived and keep broking my promise according to each one of these days I'll be in bed on time.

Work is piling up and it starts to be scaring. At the same time, the idea of a 3-week final effort for finalising everything is somewhat good and makes me look forward to speeding it up. And now that the sketch is set and ready, it's just a question of writing (and one or another finding along the way). GOOOOO!!!

The Port of Aveiro, in Portugal, has recently launched its YouTube channel, which can be found here. The video above celebrates the 200 years of the opening of the entrance channel of the port.

A new attempt to have another windsurf lesson, a new weekend without any wind at all. I expected during all Sunday just for a light breeze, but I haven't got even that. Hence, I ended up trying wakeboard, which was a big mistake. I hated it and I will spare you from all my complains. But the company (and the sun) was nice, though.

Saturday was spent at home, with a small Portuguese dinner prepared by me. Not that bad, I guess - the guests are still alive.

A mind map to help with a simplified version of my thesis. I used it to structure a small paper that should work as the treasure map.

This is the last volume of the "AGV Trilogy" that I've been uploading to my YouTube channel. It was shot in the ECT Delta Terminal, Rotterdam, on the 5th February 2007.

The weather is bad again. And a bit cold.

During the afternoon, I felt like taking some air for an instance and I went to the scenic cafeteria on the first floor. I grabbed my café au lait and seated at the table I usually had in my morning coffees with a former office buddy. Once I decided that table had the best view in the cafeteria, and we started to seat there every time we're going for the morning coffee, as it was the best place to indulge on the landscape and talk about work, life & beyond.

Today I stayed there alone, sipping my coffee and looking at the gigantic window facing the lake and the mountains. It was the first day I haven't seen any mountain. Mont Blanc is not a regular, rather a difficult client. One only has it in days of clear skies. But today there was no mountain at all. Not even Le Môle with its solitary, distinct form and sharp peak. Only clouds, mist and a vague idea of the lake.

Today I realised I only have five more weeks to finish, wrap up and put the pink ribbon on my thesis - it is due on the 24th September. Maybe I should have started to count this a bit earlier...

Today I also tried to improve my time management. From now on, I'll try to use the early minutes of my morning to sort out all the "intern coordination" stuff: answering questions, updating lists, sending notifications for events, etc. It's not that much work, but it's popping up at all time and I need some method to deal with it.

In the morning, I finished some side-work I'm doing to help my colleagues with a project for Angola. Knowing Portuguese is still handy sometimes, after all... Let's hope that people keep forgetting about that, about Angola, Brazil and all their potential - yes, because we, in Portugal, already had our time 500 years ago; and it won't come back... - and stay focused on the now-trendy Spanish and Chinese.

The rest of the day revolved around my thesis, my writings, the path to follow and the comments and guidance of my supervisor. I have my first commented draft and also advised readings to help me finding my ways. But that's for tomorrow. Tonight I know exactly where I'm going.

Good nightzzz...

UN headquarters in Baghdad, 19.August.2003 (credits: UN Photo UNE 3719)

Four years ago, a terrorist attack on the United Nations headquarters at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad killed 22 UN staff members, including the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Mr. Sérgio Vieira de Mello, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

This fourth anniversary of the Baghdad bombing was marked throughout the world by the UN, with several initiatives taking place on Friday, the 17th. In Geneva, a small ceremony was held, with a minute of silence observed and a wreath laid by UNOG's Director-General, Mr. Sergei Ordzhonikidze. The Secretary-General of the UN also released this note.

Wednesday, August 8: A "professional talk" with Mr. Khalil Hamdani, Director of the Division on Investment, Technology, and Enterprise Development (DITE) of UNCTAD, and a "talk & drinks" session about corporate social responsability and principles for responsible investment.

Picnic-ing in Geneva

Weekend #6 (August 11-12): An early morning tour to the known and typical Ferney market, just across the border, and a picnic by the lake with the product of the morning incursion. Later, the fireworks of the Fêtes de Genève. Sunday was spent at home - cleaning, working, et caetera.

Wednesday, August 15: An almost-farewell Japanese dinner after a busy day at work. Time's running out of control.

The cafeteria with a view

Thursday, August 16: The eagerly awaited lunch at WMO and the consequent disappointment due to high expectations. Not that it is bad, but I bet the view tricked many of the people who sold me this as the best cafeteria of all. But I still manage to see the machines they use to do the weather, though. Later, the intern coordinator meeting, where I was as representative of UNCTAD interns. Quiet calm, with no big frills. Me and my UNCTAD colleague decided to show how people from the right countries of Iberia - Portugal and Catalunya, respectively - enjoy meetings in bars and pubs by leaving the table to get food and drinks. It was a pity they had already finished when we returned...

The weather-makers at WMO

Friday, August 17: It was yesterday, for me. Work, lots of work. The last stop of the Cafeteria Tour, with the Red Cross Museum delivering its usual (good quality). And a this-is-it farewell dinner at a Portuguese restaurant (no, I didn't get any fee for arranging this!) and a late-night (and early morning; well, not for usual Portuguese standards) out in a club in Pâquis, dazed by being listening to kuduro in Geneva. Yah!

Weekend #7 (August 18-19): Home, sweet home.

Billy Taylor and Max Roach, 'What Am I Here For'

The perfect way to start a joyful-busy Sunday. Also a tribute to the recently deceased Max Roach and a subliminal message to myself.

Good morning!


Today, together with some friends, I started my tour around UN cafeterias. The challenge is to find out what is the best UN-related cafeteria in Geneva and our first stage was chez Guterres.

António Guterres, also know for his nick-name Guga, is a former Portuguese Prime-Minister and the current UN High Commissioner for the Refugees. The UNHCR building, in the picture above, is not the nicest one from the outside, but the interior is something: bright, confortable, modern, it represents well a living metaphor of the different feelings of being outside or inside a home, alone or together with your people.

The gastronomic moment, even if without Mr. Guterres or Angelina around, proved to be a very decent experience. I chose a tuna steak with couscous, deliciously cooked and served with a good sauce. The set was also nice, as we stayed on the balcony, facing the sun and a small square behind the building. A good grade, for sure, but probably not enough to dethrone the cafeteria of the Red Cross Museum. Next stop: the WMO.

Fortunately, life is not only going to cafeterias: there are also restaurants; and work. Thus, the afternoon was the continuation of a busy morning and evening was the epilogue of a very busy day. Besides my own work, today I also helped some colleagues in the office with another project for which some knowledge of Portuguese is key. Yes, there are still works like this!

Thesis-wise, I issued a questionnaire and I'm praying to get some answers on time. A supervision meeting helped to keep the tram on tracks and a blind believe must guide me from now on in order to accomplish all my commitments on time. Otherwise, I must try to find a way of having 38-hour days...

Preparing questionnaires isn't easy, but getting responses on time - or getting responses at all - is even harder. Thus, one must perform some PR actions a priori, in order to assess the availability of key potential interviewees. It all went well today. Let's see how it'll be tomorrow, after the victims getting the questions in their mailboxes.

[fingers crossed]

At the Port of Rotterdam, 30th November 2006.

You can find more pictures by following the link "My Pictures" on the right-hand frame or by clicking here.

Talking with a German about conversion rates between francs and euros and referring to the latter as «our currency».

Work at work, talks, rain, more talks, work at home, reading, writing, translating.

A no-post today. I'll be back tomorrow.

The Celestial Sphere, Palais des Nations

The day rotated pretty much around UN/CEFACT's repository on "single windows", with me trying to read, understand, write. It was also the day of my first event as UNCTAD Intern Coordinator, a post I was recently promoted to. I know it's fancy and I must say I'm very proud of being the guy that has the power to update a mailing-list and, each Tuesday, send an e-mail to all UNCTAD interns calling for the Traditional-UNCTAD-Intern-Tuesday-Lunch. Today's lunch was a success and we even had to put tables together to fit all interns present, something usually not seen it this kind of initiatives - especially in August. Will this be the beginning of a wonderful career as a party promoter after arriving to Portugal?

The missed event of the day was a professional talk at WHO about current global health threats, epidemiology, and international health regulations. That and the football game after work. But more Tuesdays will follow - the next one will be tomorrow, as a never-ending round of talks and conferences is promised. I will let you know.

Boa noite!

Kitchen window & rue Blanche

According to UN/CEFACT, a "single window" is defined as «(...) a facility that allows parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardized information and documents with a single entry point to fulfil all import, export, and transit-related regulatory requirements».

It is thanks to these "single windows" that most of my last days were spent in front of the computer, looking at my kitchen-single-window and missing all the buzz and sun of Geneva weekend. A short incursion to the lake on Saturday evening and that was all that I've seen from the Fêtes de Genève.

Coincidence or not, today was the day I manage to write more at work. Let's keep it moving.

Trachsellauenen, 28th July 2007

Today, in a sunny, hot, festive national holiday, I'm still to go outside. I've stayed the entire day at home, working and catching up on postponed tasks. Not feeling great about it, but it can help me enjoying next weekend.

This weekend I've been mostly suffering from João Garcia Syndrome.

Jungfrau massif, Lauterbrunnen, on Saturday

Lauterbrunnen valley & mountains, on Saturday

Mont Blanc massif, Chamonix, on Sunday

Mer de Glace glacier, Montenvers, on Sunday

Mont Blanc, La Môle, and Lac Léman guarded by the UN flag at the UN beach

There was also work, of course. But this week was particularly intense because of the high number of intern activities scheduled. With the end of July approaching, many interns are leaving Geneva in the following days and several events took place.

On Tuesday, the Traditional-Tuesday-UNCTAD-Intern-Networking-Lunch is already a classic. Every Tuesday interns meet at 12h30 at the cafeteria to lunch together, ending up scattered through all the premises in groups of three or four per table. This Tuesday was no exception, but it had an extended version, with a post-lunch photo session in the UN park.

On Wednesday, the much awaited dinner at the UN beach (an area by Lac Léman mischievously called "beach") was followed by a late-night incursion in the street-bar Le Terrasse. Thursday was to rest and get ready for a Friday late-afternoon sun bathing & swimming at the Bains des Pâquis, followed by a dinner. I skipped the disco afterwards, as I needed to get ready for more important duties.

Good night, and good luck.

Time's running by and work must be done - this was the main conclusion of today's meeting with my supervisor. I presented what I've done till now and expressed my main ideas and concerns. The goal for the next two weeks is having a decent first draft of the literature review. We noted that, given the areas already covered in the literature, the data available, and the time constraint, probably the best methodology will be to work two or three case studies: one with a PCS already implemented, other of a port in the implementation phase, and another with a port still to implement it. The bad new is that the most wanted efficiency improvement analysis is difficult to perform, which doesn't recommend a quantitative approach for now. The most logical relation between ICT and efficiency would be in waiting times, but data with the appropriate detail would be hard to find. It was decided that, nevertheless the time constraint, further analysis is needed before issuing any questionnaire or conducting interviews with port stakeholders.

Work apart, Tuesdays are the usually intern's lunch day and I got the chance to meet some new people and pre-arrange a weekend trip. This is one of the advantages of being old and having an European driving licence, something that rent-a-car companies like and allows for some benefits in intern's pockets. The day was only complete after a small birthday celebration at the office. Happy birthday, partner!

My first windsurf lesson ever. Falling, getting on the board, falling again, swimming in the lake, being hit by the mast and blaming the lack or wind. I like wind, I've always liked.

A dinner at a colleague's for celebrating two positive, overlapping events. Good food, better company, and the unforgettable story of "Teddy, the Bear", travelling across the oceans in containerships. When was the last time you had a Saturday VHS night with old UNCTAD videos?

Even less wind and more sun. Morning by the lake, waiting for the wind, lunch at Café du Centre, afternoon working at home.

The bad weather is back.

Fridays are becoming the high-level days for me here in Geneva. After the "professional talk" from last Friday, today I was completed devoted to trade and development, hardly working in my thesis.

The morning was spent at the WTO, assisting, as UNCTAD representative (or guest of UNCTAD's representative, to be more exact) to the trade facilitation negotiations. My place is showed in the picture above, alogside with other observers (from OECD, IMF, the World Bank, e.g.) and facing the empty, side-by-side seats of Iran and The Holy See. No, it's no provocation, it just happens that the observer countries are sorted alphabetically.

The meeting was not very exciting, but being there, with (almost) all the world represented, the translators hidden behind their window-booths, was quite thrilling. Just like in TV, but with me starrring in the show. When it ended, I still went to have a look at the WTO building, and confirmed that it's probably the nicer that international organisations have here in Geneva. Planted in the park and only 50 metres from the lake, the view is superb and the charm is second to none. Funny enough, the second floor has some huge Portuguese tiled murals, painted the traditional way and depicting primary-sector activities: pesca and lavoura.

In the afternoon (or what remained from the afternoon), I headed to the ITC building, for a professional talk with Ms. Aïchatou Agne Pouye, Head of the Division of Trade Support Services.

Ms. Pouve explained the basics about the ICT - International Trade Centre and how this joint agency of UNCTAD and the WTO tries do enhance trade and knowledge with programmes destined to private companies (especially small and medium enterprises) of developing countries. After Mr. Belka's talk from last week, it was good listening to other voice with a very different background and understand the different areas of intervention of UNCTAD and ICT (UNCTAD being mainly a policy adviser to governments, whilst ICT takes care of the private sector). Ms. Pouve also shared her past experiences in Senegal, her home country, and addressed the main differences between the public and the private sector, where she originally started her career.

And that was all for today. I'm tired now. I'm over&out.

If you interpret it literally, you cannot prevent smiling when you see students exchange "business cards": which business do they run? I prefer the Portuguese expression cartão de visita, which can be literally translated as "visiting card" - even if you plan to do business, your intentions are hidden beyond the "visiting" purpose. This way we make sure there is always food and drinks involved.

I remembered this when I was on my way home after an intern get-together at a bar near Plainpalais. The event, inscribed in UNING (UN Intern Network of Geneva) casual Thurday drinks, was less casual than usual and I saw myself surrounded by networking professionals, mangling ideas and exchanging business cards as they were playing poker. I didn't escape, even if I tried to keep quiet with my friends in the very edge of a bench looking at the square. The conversation was nice, but it was too hot and the wine was rubbish.

Closed for contemplation reasons. We'll be back tomorrow.

A meeting with the supervisor is the best way to start the week and to dissipate some clouds that were threatening the clear skies of the project. Unfortunately, it hadn't the same effect on the actual weather of Geneva, which is now suggesting a turn back to its rainy mood.

Work-wise, the day was not very productive, but at least served to get valuable insights for the ongoing research. The goal now is to start writing and forgetting about the so-searched thesis structure that has been haunting me. Learn about and investigate the problem first, hypothesis and methodology will show up with a vengeance after. I hope.

I've just found out that Dennis Fok won the Erasmus Research Prize 2007.

I had him lecturing about time series in January and the classes were very good, including assignment follow-up, feedback and off-class availability.


Weekend #2, weather surprisingly good (it has been TWO days in a row, I mean), let's get out of the city! Where to? To the jazzy Swiss Riviera, for a night-&-day trip to Montreux.

The city, usually calm, was taken over by the jazz festival, which was also fun. During the afternoon, the urban hiking led us to Château de Chillon, one of Switzerland's top-5 for all guide books. And it's truly beautiful, not only the castle itself but also the scenery where it is set, surrounded by the never-ending waters of Lac Léman and inspiring mountains closing the background.

Château de Chillon, Montreux

During the night, it was time for dancing and listening to some music. It was hard to find out our way with so many people around, but we eventually found the free gigs and enjoyed them till late night.

Sunday was more relaxed, experimenting Geneva and the sun. I went to the cathedral for the first time and finished the day strolling around the lake with all Geneva around me.

I was told it was a "beach", Geneva

Weekend, finally. Not that I have a lot to complain about today. The major highlight was this morning's "professional talk" with Mr. Marek Belka, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). Under the organization of the UNING - UN Intern Network of Geneva, the session was destined to interns only and proved to be a very interesting initiative. I will make sure I won't miss any of the forthcoming.

The meeting took almost all morning, which meant that I was only able to work on the thesis during the afternoon. And the progresses weren't much; or, at least, didn't look much, as everything I keep doing: hours of reading and always going back home with the feeling that no advances are being made. Probably I should start writing - something.

The bulk of the afternoon was spent with a recent article about the impacts of electronic commerce on the strategic management of container shipping companies. Not bad, but not that relevant, either. I also search for some literature on IT and transaction costs (good ol' Coase, always present!) and browsed through some data I had requested from HQ back in Portugal.

The history wouldn't be complete if I didn't mention that the weather is fine, at last, and that the white mountains popped-up for the first time since I arrived in Geneva. With a scenery like this, time passes me by faster at the scenic cafés and cafeterias of the Palais.

Have a nice weekend!

My time today was completely wasted and I almost regret started this daily reports. No progress whatsoever in my work, a sense of frustration and still lots of doubts. One of those what-am-I-doing-here-?, my-topic-is-rubbish-and-I-want-to-change-it day.

Today I decided that I should keep a log of my daily tasks, in order to assess my own productivity and research route. I'll try to do it and to transform these notes into a true journal of my research, but I don't promise anything. I guess that boredom and lack of time will hit me hard and all the plan will be called off.

The day was pretty much like the previous ones, with me still looking for a road towards the Graal. I read two articles, started another, had a look at an Excel database and, in-between, went to try the much praised Red Cross restaurant, which, it must be said, is up to its fame. Cosier than the cafeteria at the Palais des Nations, the food is delicious and prepared right in front of us. My vegetarian crepe was perfect and the stewed beef was even better. The only drawback of the day was the failed attempt to buy tickets to a sold-out concert of Tori Amos in the Montreaux Jazz Festival. I won't comment on the rain.

Monday, the day for supervision meetings. Today I presented a draft with the outline of the proposed research. It was no fancy at all, just a scheme to help me thinking the path ahead. My supervisor gave me his comments and input and I proceed with my readings.

PS: It's nice walking by the lake, in the park, after work.

This weekend was the first prove I tasted of Swiss efficiency and conservatism. It rained the whole weekend (today I haven't even went out), except for the period the traditional Lake Parade party was crossing the streets of Geneva. Inspired in Berlin's Love Parade, the Lake Parade shows that Swiss are very fond of keeping their reputation of discretion and conservatism.

Life is going on, even if I don't know in what direction. Unfortunately, these first days don't allow me to be very positive about the city. First impressions were very bad: I arrived here without accommodation and only with three nights at a very expensive hotel (for my standards; for Geneva ones, it's nothing more than mid-range), the only one I found available in the whole internet. With never-ending high-level conferences and summits happening in the city, there were no rooms at all, call it hotels, hostels, university residences, anything. To help with all this, the weather was (is?) miserable, with constant rain (heavy, annoying rain that prevents you from going out, not Rotterdam-style rain), grey skies, thunderstorms, and not that warm temperatures (now, in this precise moment, is hot like hell, but tomorrow I may need to wear a pullover...). Last but not the least: the prices - they are outrageous. I was told that everything would be around 30% more expensive than in Rotterdam, but that's way too low. As an example, let me tell you that, for 2 kebabs and 2 bottles of water bought in a Turkish corner shop, I paid 32 francs, which means 19,5 euros. And all the rest is the same thing. The place I've found to live (and quite luckily) is costing me twice what I'm paying in Rotterdam.

Adding to all this, I don't find the city that nice and beautiful and full of quality of living. The centre is indeed nice, as well as the lake and the mountains. But that's for shops and tourists - and guys with green-coloured Ferraris with arab license plates -, not for living. And all the other areas I've seen so far cannot even be compared to Rotterdam in terms of liveability and cleanliness. At least to the ones I know in Rotterdam.

UN-wise, things are a bit different and I must say that is quite thrilling working here, being "one of them" and thinking that I'm doing something really important. It's an illusion, of course, but it gives me a good feeling: the premises that we see on TV, people from all other the world, etc, etc, etc. My reception in UNCTAD was very positive and people really put an effort to introduce you to everyone in the department and to make sure that you're alright.

And that's all.

I arrived. The weather is bad, I only have three nights at the hotel and from Wednesday on I don't have any place to stay.

Welcome to Geneva.

Ten days ago, in a connection flight between Amsterdam and Zurich that would lead me to Istanbul, I saw something I'll meet soon.

You don't look bad, you know? J'arrive, j'arrive...

I'm a Portuguese student doing a master's degree on Maritime Economics and Logistics at Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, in The Netherlands. After finishing my coursework, I was granted a three-month internship at UNCTAD - United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, in Geneva, during which I should write my master's thesis. The topic, suggested by UNCTAD, is related to ports, ICT, and port community portals; and the main research question is "how can developing countries benefit from these systems and technology?". The issues to address relate to economic, organisational and trade facilitation aspects, not to the technological ones.

This blog is intended to serve as a diary of my research and day-to-day life in Geneva during the forthcoming months. I'll try to update it regularly and to post information about the progresses, doubts, and questions of my work. I will also post the nitty-gritty of living, working and looking at the lake in Geneva. I don't intend to lie.

My e-mail address is somewhere at the top-right corner of the blog and all messages are most welcome. Have fun.


© Duarte Correia 2007

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