Two weeks ago myself and seven other members of WUDFA returned to Sydney from the Asia-Pacific Model United Nations Conference in Brisbane. I cannot recall a time when I felt more sleep-deprived, nor a time when my feet had ached so much. But I also cannot recall a time when I had so many stories to tell …
I arrived in Brisbane six days earlier having caught a flight that left at the ungodly hour of 6:20 am. Naturally, my nocturnal ways resulted that I’d only gotten two hours sleep the night before. Just as naturally, my procrastinatory (is that a word?) ways resulted that I’d been spending that time staying up, writing my position paper for the conference that was actually due a few days earlier. I arrived in a city I didn’t know, to meet up with people I hardly knew, to spend a week at a conference I hardly knew a thing about, on only two hours of sleep. Needless to say, the first day of my first AMUNC experience was a long one.
That night, after the introductory ceremony of the conference, the WUDFA delegation decided to forgo attending the greeting drinks session organised by AMUNC and have our own dinner—as a group. This was the first chance for many of us to properly meet the other members of our delegation. People we would be spending an entire week with. As such, I was very happy to find out that not only was every one of them a human of the highest order, but most of us were pretty much in the same position. We were equally as unsure about what to expect from each other as we were about what to expect from the conference itself.
From then on AMUNC was no longer an individual voyage into the unknown world of Model United Nations, but a shared learning experience.
We were all up bright and early the following day for our first committee sessions. I was representing Malaysia at the World Health Organization; a humbly-sized committee of only 13 member states. As I looked around the room I saw a dozen other people all of which seemed far better prepared than myself. Before I knew it delegates were submitting working papers and motioning for moderated caucuses—while I still couldn’t even seem to get the Wi-Fi working on my laptop.
But it was a semi-snide remark—presented under the guise of official AMUNC terminology, of course—from one of the delegates to another that afternoon that became the catalyst for my revelation: AMUNC wasn’t really that scary after all. And there was absolutely no reason why we couldn’t all have a load of fun during the whole process. So we did! And our committee managed to power through both of our topics well before the eighth and final session was over without any of it actually having felt like “work”. Jests and jives were thrown around the room aplenty over the course of those four days, but not once did it seem to impede upon our ability to MUN (can that be used as a verb?), nor did anyone ever take any offence. It seemed we had just the right mix of personalities, most certainly embodied in a can-can rendition of a One Direction number (which, unfortunately, there is video-evidence of … but no valid explanation for).
As if the committee sessions themselves hadn’t become entertaining enough, AMUNC had jam-packed the entire week with social events in the hope that everyone would get to meet as many people as possible … and everyone would attend in the hope that they could snag as many free drinks as possible! On Monday night there were the individual committee dinners, which included just about the best buttered-chicken I have ever tried. Tuesday was a jungle-themed club night—which I prepared for by purchasing a cheetah onesie from a girls’ clothing store (no judgement, please). Wednesday was a black-and-white masquerade party—and by this stage everyone was well-and-truly acquainted with everyone. AMUNC had planned well, however, because Thursday night was the only night off during the entire week, and after three consecutive nights of events I believe I speak for everyone in saying that a little recharge-time was in order. The WUDFA delegation decided for a just a quiet night of dinner and drinks, and a few episodes of Community with some Tim Tams and tea when we got back to the hotel afterwards.
Personally, this was my favourite night of the week, and it was at this stage that I knew I had met some truly special people.
The final day of AMUNC did away with the individual committee structure and saw the entire 300+ person conference in the one room. This was much more like what I envisioned the United Nations to be: a whole load of people representing a whole load of different countries all vying for their turn to speak. It was more than a little chaotic, but it was a nice mix-up from the intimacy of the committee sessions. Unfortunately, the US “Western imperialists” (so designated by just about every delegate from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) won out in the end—much to Malaysia’s dismay. But, thankfully and most importantly, it was the last time anyone had to hear the phrase “EUCM”—the European Union’s incessant insistence upon the importance of a mentoring mandate (seriously guys, let it go!).
I was apprehensive about attending AMUNC at the start. And after a ridiculously early flight, and a very long and very tedious first day of the conference, I was fearful my apprehensions would only prove true. However, each day slowly grew warmer than the last—both in terms of the weather and in terms of the company. And I slowly found myself not only enjoying these newfound friendships but enjoying the processes of the conference itself. Where on Monday morning terms such as “draft resolutions” and “moderated caucuses” had felt like technobabble buzzwords that I was confident I didn’t understand yet was too unconfident to ask anyone about, by the end of the week they had become the subject of conference-wide in-joking. Motioning for an “unmoderated caucus” became a perfectly acceptable way of saying that you needed a coffee. Shouting “decorum!” became the politest way to tell someone to shut up.
After the closing ceremony that afternoon came the finale ball. A three-course dinner with an open bar and plenty of music—and this time someone finally seemed to be paying attention to my song requests (Come on guys! We need more 80s!). I will gladly admit that between the finale ball and its after-party that I had more than my share to drink, and that my light-blue shirt was about three shades darker by the end of the night from all the sweat I had accumulated with my not-so-coordinated dance repertoire. And, other than the fact that I accidentally broke one of my cuff-links, it was the perfect way to send AMUNC 2014 out with a bang!
That night I was asked more than once by various members of my committee and delegation “Would you do this again? Would you go to another Model United Nations? Will you be going to AMUNC next year?” And my answer was a resounding “No!”—but not for the reasons I would have assumed only a week earlier. I shouted “No!” not because I hadn’t thoroughly enjoyed my time at AMUNC, nor because I didn’t want to see any of the great people I’d met again. I shouted “No!” out of the fear that no future Model United Nations could come close to the enjoyment I’d had over the course of this week. I was convinced that it was an inimitable experience. It was like a great movie that after viewing you are begging that Hollywood don’t screw up by making a sequel. I was convinced that AMUNC 2014 was like lightning in a bottle, and that one bottle would be enough to last me a lifetime.
Two weeks ago myself, and these seven people that I can now confidently identify as my friends, each returned to Sydney on separate flights. Some were up and gone before anyone else was even awake. Others left during the middle of the day. And once again my skill at booking flights proved misguided, as mine back to Sydney did not leave until 8:40 pm—a full six hours after anyone else. In the intervening time I had the city of Brisbane to myself.
It was a fine day—far better than any you’re likely to find in Sydney this time of year. And there were all the wonderful bars and cafes that we’d frequented throughout the week. Still standing. Still streaming with people. And I had decided over the course of seven days that I would one day love to live in a city like Brisbane. But this lovely city couldn’t mask a peculiar emptiness that clouded that day, and every step I took down the streets of Brisbane felt like a clock ticking down to my departure. AMUNC was over. My WUDFA companions had left. And it was time to go home—back to reality.
I have been back in Sydney for over two weeks now, which means that this blog entry is two weeks overdue. And I don’t really have an excuse for waiting so long as I don’t go back to uni for another week. I just … didn’t feel ready. I was still on my post-AMUNC, post-Brisbane, post-making-new-friends high, and I wasn’t yet ready to apply retrospect and admit to myself that it was all over. So instead of writing this entry earlier I’ve spent a majority of the last two weeks doing what I usually do when I am between semesters—watching movies that I have already seen over a dozen times. And I’m glad that I did. I am glad that I waited, because it was halfway through watching The Dark Knight for the gazillionth time that I realised something …
On the final day of the conference all the friends I had made asked me “Would you do this again?”, and I was content to answer with a resounding “No!” But that was over two weeks ago now, and that bottle of lightning that I’d hoped would last me a lifetime is already itching for a top up. And sure, I still hate a bad, unnecessary sequel more than anyone. But everyone knows that The Dark Knight was a better movie than Batman Begins, and it would have sucked if Peter Jackson had decided to make The Fellowship of the Ring and stop there without completing the story (yes I did just use Batman to make a point). And so maybe every sequel needn’t be so unnecessary. Maybe a second AMUNC can surprise me just as well as the first did.
Maybe those friendships I had made and the experiences I had needn’t be restricted to the insides of a bottle.
Oh, and one more thing …