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.


© Duarte Correia 2007

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