Sundeep Bhutoria

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

At the WFUNA Rio plenary

I am in Rio de Janeiro for the 40th Plenary of World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA). Rio, already a favourite tourist destination, has recently emerged as one of the new conference centres of the world.
For Indians and those from the Anglophone nations, Rio has a problem – language. If you don’t have a working knowledge of Portuguese or Spanish you’d have a trying time communicating with the locals and finding your way. It was a revelation for me to find that the world’s hottest tourist spot doesn’t have a single English language daily published locally.
The Economist in a recent article had mentioned Rio as one of the most expensive city for hotels as far a value for money is concerned.
The hotel I am staying in, Royal Tulip (formerly Intercontinental Rio), is fully occupied. 
The delegates of 40th WFUNA plenary have spread across different hotels like Windsor Barra, Sheraton, Mango and others.
I have heard that there is a statue of an Indian one “Mr Bose” in a area named Place Calcata in the city which now stands derelict. Though the details are very sketchy, I am told that the statue, which dates back to the 18th century, was erected in honour of his bravery and for standing up against the French.
The WFUNA plenary out here is being held at the brand new campus of Ibmec University which opened earlier this year with the most modern amenities. The old campus is located in the down town area of the city.
At the Ibmec University
Ibmec is regarded as one of Brazil’s prestigious institutions for higher learning.
Rio is unique in many ways. It is perhaps among those rare places in the world which has seas, mountains and lakes in close proximity. No wonder it is a tourists’ paradise. The city has its own cachet and I find the people in general seem pretty laid back and relaxed and also rather informal, especially in the sartorial sense.
I found it very surprising that in this era of revolutionary communication systems of ours you cannot buy a pre-paid SIM card for a mobile phone if you don’t have a local social security number or citizenship documents. My Indian cellphone, though active, could only receive SMSs. I later realized that there is a separate code for different mobile networks out here and the ubiquitous + international code doesn’t work here.
I was able to make calls but my numerous attempts to send SMSs proved futile. Thanks to the front office manager of the hotel, Adriana, she accepted my request and went out of her way to help me procure a prepaid connection in her name. But I still can’t send SMSs to India. Strangely SMSs to London and US numbers were working fine.
In the morning I went to Ibmec campus and met with many of the delegates who started arriving here from 4th November onward for the plenary. I have decided to contest the elections, to be held on 9th morning, for the post of Treasurer for the second time in succession.
I wonder how Rio would host the Olympics for I feel that it would not be a proper venue since it fails to address the basic needs of International tourists who do not speak Spanish or Portuguese. The answer perhaps lies in the fact that Rio has very successfully pulled off two important International conferences recently in which delegates from over 100 countries participated, including many heads of states.
ess bee

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