“Trust young people, they are more than meets the eye”

Photo © UNODC / Mengting Li

Trust people more, especially young people. The more faith I’ve put in people to bear responsibility, the more impressed I’ve become. When you work with youth projects, almost all of your promotion has to run through this disaggregated network of volunteers, universities and online communities. These people, without any real incentives except that they are excited about our projects, have stepped up in impressive ways. We’ve gotten really explosive results based on little except asking for help from our friends. No one can tell me that people my age are apathetic or lazy. I’ve seen proof to the contrary.”

“Countries have gone to war because they’ve misinterpreted one another“(The Interpreter, 2005)

Photo © UNODC / Mengting Li
How is it like being an interpreter?
“Interpreting is a demanding job; it requires total concentration. According to a study, it is one of the three most stressful jobs, together with surgeons and fighter-jet pilots. Two interpreters must take turns in a booth during a normal 6-8 hours daily job to overcome fatigue and be up to the challenge.

People think that a thorough knowledge of languages is the main requirements for an interpreter a top level. I think that, perhaps, general knowledge, to be permanently updated on current affairs and studying thoroughly the discipline you will be servicing, be it social, scientific or technical, are equally important.”

What are the things at work that impressed you?
“One is, at times, taken aback by the dimension of the web of international meetings which is constantly taking place. You may think that it is a slow way of dealing with international relations or coordinating scientific standards or labour relations in the world. In fact, probably there is no easy democratic alternative to it and the lack of it could have sad consequences for co-existence.”

One thing that you learned from your work?
“After a life working with words you also learn that the real message is often somewhere else.”

Things happened at work that touched you?
“In a long life as a professional I had the chance of working with first rate politicians, film stars and other characters valued by society, but my most rewarding mission was working in prisons with life sentenced terrorist and common prisoners. The sewers of our society are full of suffering and could do with some attention, compassion and help.”

Things about yourself?
“I am probably a dynamic and outgoing person.
I write short stories and poetry, produce and stage shows. I have been a journalist and dubbed feature films. Love music and painting.
I was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, and I miss the ease of the place, the warmth of its people and the harbour’s smell.”

One biggest wish?
“To be able to contribute to peace and understanding.”

Any advice to give?
“I have no advice to give.”

Any regret in life?
“No, life is unpredictable; I take that as a learning challenge and willingly accept that the past does not lend itself to be modified.”

But what if UN didn’t exist?

Photo © UNODC / Mengting Li

Can you imagine if there was no place where the more and the less powerful nations can sit down and talk? It would be a chaos. Maybe world war III. Justice, freedom, and equality are long-term struggles, the struggles of the entire human history. And today, we are still a part of this history. It is clear that we have not attained the ultimate goal, and often we cannot provide a simple answer or a quick path to it, but we are trying hard to push things into that direction, and this process itself is also very hard.”

“A purpose driven person is the happiest, you just never know when that motivation will come to you”

Photo © UNODC / Mengting Li

Before coming to headquarters in New York, I worked on IT for a private bank in Switzerland. I have a specialized master degree in finance. But, since childhood, I have had a passion for geopolitics. I have always been interested in international affairs. I applied to a vacancy and passed the written exam, but it took me another year and a half to receive the offer. I was convinced that email must be a scam the moment I received it, as I had waited so long that I couldn’t believe it anymore.

I feel that people often tend to close themselves once they settle in their area. All they know then is what they deal with systematically every day, they may be good at it, but that’s it, it stops there, without reflection on the impact or the meaning of their doings and being, without realizing that there’s a bigger world out there that is not just composed by endless numbers at their desks, but people interlinked; a world that we shall all consciously be a part of, and a positive part of it.”

“The best part of meeting different people and learning about their life is that I find so many similarities between us”

Photo © UNODC / Mengting Li

I am from Yemen, a country of rich culture and history. One thing in particular is the architecture. There are many sites such as the Old City of Sanaa, Dar al Hajar, and the city of Shibam, that are all very famous of their old buildings built of mud bricks. The buildings have survived hundreds of years and many people still live in these buildings today!

There are many delicious dishes in the Yemeni cuisine, among them all there is one called ‘Bent AlSahn’ which translates to ‘The Daughter of the Plate’. Also, have you ever wondered where the name ‘Mocha coffee’ comes from? In fact, the coffee beans can be found in a port city in Yemen and the name of that city is ‘Mocha’.

Having lived in different countries, I have also come across many interesting cultures. The best part of meeting different people and learning about their life is that I find so many similarities between us. There are a lot more beautiful things we share in common than we may have thought.”