Today I represented Indonesia at the United Nations. Not officially, or even audibly. But I was sitting in Indonesia's seat.
I was at the UN to take an examination; depending on how I do, the result could be employment as a UN librarian. Last fall I applied to the UN while I was looking for new jobs. They run competitive examinations annually (but not always for library positions). Once I got the new job at Sloan-Kettering, I honestly forgot all about it. But at the end of January, I received an invitation to compete in the exam. I have never considered working for an international organization, but if the opportunity presents itself it would certainly be attractive. Helen has always wanted to live abroad, and this may be how we do it.
If I do sufficiently well on the exam, I'll be invited to an interview sometime this fall. If that also goes well, I would be eligible for employment at UN libraries throughout the world. It's far too early to know how this will turn out, but the experience has already proven to be unique.
The UN provides a sample exam online, and for the last month I've been studying for it and seeking advice from colleagues. ( Scott provided very helpful suggestions for one of the essays.) Today's test was broadly similar to the sample exam. It ranged from the mundane ("Describe the pros and cons of charging for library services") to the profound ("Name three ways that the World Wide Web has affected the work of librarians.")
The test was in two parts--A 45 minute general writing sample, which required summarizing a long-winded passage; and a 3 hours and 45 minute exam that focused on librarianship. It was hand-written, and I was a prime candidate for carpal tunnel syndrome by the end of the day.
So, what about Indonesia? The test was in the chamber of the United Nations General Assembly, not in some non-descript room. The pleasant woman giving us instructions at the lectern was standing in the same spot where President Bush embarrasses his nation every September. We all used the dorky-looking earpieces so that we could hear her more easily.
I chose Indonesia's seat because it is close to the entrance of the chamber, and was unoccupied. The woman several places down was in India's spot. I was also close to the Holy See, Palestine, and the African Union. All in all, a much more memorable experience than I had anticipated.