It feels like an invisible dome has sealed off Montreal from the rest of the world. Or at least isolated the four-block radius surrounding the United Nations climate change conference.
There are almost 10,000 people from 190 countries here and yet the only thing anyone talks about is climate change. If you didn’t pick up a newspaper, you’d have no idea anything else was happening outside this place. There’s a federal election campaign underway but it may as well be on another continent. I feel like I’m underwater. Or trapped in a Pauly Shore movie.
Welcome to the United Nations, or as I like to call it, Bio-Dome. There’s food on every floor, a massive computer room, a press room, conference rooms, couches, booths, bathrooms, cappuccinos. You could live here. Some people practically do. You don’t even have to go outside. Most of the hotels are connected to the conference centre by tunnels. I think I’m suffering from some sort of bubble affective disorder.
As for the conference itself, I generally have no idea what’s going on. I mean, the agenda is packed with esoteric items like: “Implications of the implementation of project activities under the clean development mechanism, referred to in decision 12/CP.10, for the achievement of objectives of other environmental conventions and protocols.” I’ve been working on environmental issues for five years and I have no idea what that means.
If this job doesn’t work out for me, I think I have a bright future in terrorism. Either I have the most innocent looking face on the planet or UN security is extremely lax. For example, all of the delegates had to show photo ID when we registered at the conference but I left my passport in Vancouver and couldn’t find my driver’s license. The only other photo ID I had in my wallet was my Triathlon British Columbia card, which is basically a laminated square of paper with a headshot glued on it. But it was good enough for UN security and they let me in. That’s right. They let me in with a flimsy piece of ID I could have slapped together in five minutes at a copy shop.
On a completely unrelated topic, where are the Starbucks in Montreal? I haven’t seen a single one yet. I’m starting to go through gingerbread latte withdrawal.
Also, I’m proud to say I've added two new words to my French vocabulary. I now know the words for medium (moyen) and receipt (resu). I’m still faking it by smiling and nodding for everything else. I’m trying not to speak English but I’m tired. I’m still on Vancouver time. Waking up at 6:30 a.m. feels like waking up at 3:30 a.m. Then again, waking up at 6:30 a.m. in Vancouver doesn’t feel much different.
Anyway, I’m trying to beat this jet lag thing by going to bed early tonight. Besides, my eyes are blurry and I can barely see. In addition to smelling like cigarettes, my hotel room is darker than the inside of a chocolate croissant.