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Salutojn el Kievo, Ukrainio! (Greetings from Kiev, Ukraine!) I’m now at the Internacia Junulara Kongreso in Kiev where over 300 junuloj (young people) from around the world gather to speak Esperanto together. Note that junulo is typically up to 30 years old. During the day you’ll find lectures, the evenings are filled with concerts, and at night you can choose between dancing in the diskoteko (dance club), drinking in the trinkejo (bar), or drinking tea in the gufujo (literally: owl container).
Of course, there is a lot to prepare, but when you have an organization (Tutmonda Esperantista Junulara Organizo) backing you with over 70 years of experience, you expect that at least the basics will be done right. Well, for those of you planning to organize IJK in the future, here is brief list of what not to do.
1. Make directions to IJK as difficult as possible and offer pickup, but then don’t come to the airport to meet participants. In the last informilo (informing brochure), we were told that the way from the airport to the location was so difficult, that we should just wait to be picked up. But I’ve heard from many people, that pickup was requested and then no one was there to meet them when they arrived. Also, the brochure stated that taxis would cost a minimum of US$70, but in the airport, it states a flat fee to the city of $31! Also, the only address listed was in latin letters, which taxi drivers typically can’t read, so you had to know enough Ukrainian or Russian to transliterate the address for your driver…
2. Don’t start offering registration and Internet access until the second day. After arriving at a conference, you expect to register, right? Well, please wait. Oh, here’s your key and towels. Somewhere. Hold on a moment. You can register tomorrow, we promise. Also, want to email your family and friends to let them know you arrived safely? We’ll have Internet set up tomorrow in another building that closes for the evening. To be fair, by the third day, they did have wireless access available in the registration room with people sitting all over the floor to get online.
3. Be sure to pick the most primitive lodging option as far away from the city center as possible to make sure as few locals as possible hear about Esperanto. So, going on vacation? Well, how would you like to be staying in a place with no warm water, no easy access to clean drinking water (of which there are also no warnings not to drink the local water), showers without stalls and squat toilets? Also, there was no soap in the bathroom to wash your hands on the first day. The place is infested, so hope you brought your bug repellent! Oh yes, you don’t need any electrical outlets in your room, do you? Want to visit the city center? That’ll just be 45 minutes away by bus!
4. Don’t provide a weekly program in advance. If you do provide one, be sure to have it only available in the local language. Bonus points if that local language doesn’t use latin characters. Are you lecturing tomorrow morning? Well, there’s no way to know until midnight of the previous night (or 2am if they don’t get it up by midnight).
5. Agree to offer vegan food to participants, but then don’t explain what that means to the restaurant. Also, make sure everyone waits as long as possible for their food on the evening of arrival. So, you’ve just finished a long journey and it’s time to eat. You ordered vegan food months in advance? Well here, have some meat and cheese! Oh, you didn’t want meat? Ok, let me take it back to the kitchen and take the meat off it and return it to you. Here you go!
Of course, all this being said, there’s still a lot of fun to be had with friends from around the world speaking Esperanto together. To be fair, the main organizer of this conference had a heart attack two weeks before it started and is now lying in the hospital. Also, it is interesting to note that the average annual salary is US$3,500, so you shouldn’t be expecting first-class accommodations. You do, however, expect the location to be decent and the conference to be organized. In any case, don’t worry about the next Esperanto conference, because I’ve never seen one this poorly organized before, so you should be fine.