Coming from JFK and crossing the Queensboro Bridge this morning and staring at the ice floes in the Hudson (a first for me–to see ice on any body of water!), I realized that I haven’t ever been to the UN Building. Even after nearly a dozen times to this awesome city, I wasn’t any more astute than any other NY city dweller about this venerable institution. Visitors to San Francisco often asked us if we have been to Alcatraz. The knee jerk is based on snobbery coupled with insecurity, a dangerous defensive reaction we often give.
Anyway, it caught my attention and imagination, and I had a free day to un-jetlag myself from the red-eye. It also occurred to me that a new expansion had occurred recently. So I resolved to make it my activity for the morning and find out more about a major tourist attraction that I had never thought of visiting.
After a canned tour by a Brazilizan guide, I noticed that her trick to keep visitors engaged was to ask them trivia questions. So I decided to make it fun to see what information you know about answers in the form of questions, Jeopardy style. We often made Jeopardy games for the kids in the countries we were visiting, to keep them entertained (and focused).
Category: United Nations (value: your pride) (do-do-do ling do-ding-do)
1. China, Russia, U.S., France and UK
2. Two of the six languages used for official translations other than English, French, Chinese, and Russian
3. Ban-Ki Moon’s predecessor
4. The continent with the highest number of peacekeeping operations today
5. Palestine and the Vatican
I learned quite a lot, if nothing else–to jog my memory over what I know about the UN, when it was formed (1945), and why it exists (6 good reasons, including peacekeeping, fighting world hunger, and human rights). The UN sends peacekeeping forces by edict, but costs are borne by each country that agree to participates.
Photos above (tap on photos to see captions and enlargements)
1. Security Council Chambers
2. General Assembly Chambers
3. Expansion for the U.S. Mission to the UN
Of course the deviant thought was: who built this original monstrosity?!? It has obviously suffered the test of time. The answers are yours truly, (and not a Jeopardy question although tempting): Wallace Harrison, Oscar Niemeyer, and Le Corbusier, the leading architects of the time (among others who unfortunately fall off the page). Leger, a French artist, did do a decent mural inside the General Assembly, though. While somewhat naive, it represented open and free thought that still has relevance today.
After the tour, I toyed with the idea of buying tourist trinkets, including flags, pins of each country, mugs and UNICEF tee shirts, but ended up with a free 24×36″ poster in Arabic to End Violence.
The expansion across the street was apparently designed for the U.S. Mission to the UN. (Designer: Gwathmey Siegel Architects).
Answers: see the bottom of the post!
I also asked the guide how much security was required for Netanyahu today. She looked perplexed and awkward, with no ready answer. We eventually worked out that he went to Congress today, not the UN. Oh well, close. Would have messed up my visit anyway!
1. Which countries are Permanent Members of the Security Council?
2. What are Arabic and Spanish?
3. Who is Kofi Annan?
4. What is Africa?
5. What are the two countries that have a seat in the General Assembly but cannot vote?