Revision [3030]

This is an old revision of ESF08TravelReport made by EileenLaurie on 2008-10-26 19:40:08.



Last edited by EileenLaurie
Sun, 26 Oct 2008 19:40 CET [diff]


Report on Travelling and Registration-Reimbursement

As agreed in May at Babels meeting in Malmö, I would coordinate the travel arrangements. After having to wait about three months for my prepaid ticket to Malmö... I finally got there in the middle of August.

What did I plan to do?

Already in the mid of August and almost one month before the 5th ESF there was nothing on travelling. I was supposed to start contacting people for their travel arrangements as soon as possible. We set up a gmail account, from which I, the travel group, would contact the selected interpreters sending them the travel message we had composed,, giving them information about the procedure they should follow - find the cheapest solution, ask for approval, take the confirmation and proceed with booking the ticket. Information about visa issues and prepaid tickets were also included.

The idea was to make it as easier and as fair as possible for everyone keeping seperate files for each interpreter. The reimbursement form would be alreay filled in according with the details each interpreter would have given to us before arriving. During the registration we would put inside the file all the additional invoices, tickets, etc. Then we would doublecheck together with each interpreter his/ her file. We would create seperate folders for people reimbursed on Saturday and for people reimbursed on Sunday, in alphabetical order.
Each interpreter's 'pack' would be given to them during the registartion. The pack, envelope or ESF bag, should include maps for Malmö and ESF venues, local transportation tickets, the ESF program, the cultural program, the personal schedule, vouchers for food or anything equivalent, a notebook and a pen/ pencil, snack, bottle of water.

We thought of creating the “reimbursement group”. After having contacted interpreters and arranged their travel, each interpreter would receive a message from the reimbursement group asking them to send all their invoices, e-tickets, etc. In advance. Then we would print all that, so that we have everything ready, before the registration. One person from the NOC or the finance committee should attend to check by himself/ herself and take also the responsibility. Since noone from the NOC trusted us and gave us access to the budget, they shouldn't have left us alone.

What have I done?

Instead of starting directly to contact people for their travel arrangements, we started selecting people for several booths. A few days after arriving I started contacting people asking them, according to the travel message we composed, to find the cheapest way to come to Malmö. Although it was already too late, we managed to find and agree upon the cheapest solution. Some agreements were also made, in cases of delayed purchase of the confirmed ticket. There was also the decision made, between me and Francisco Contreras, that I could confirm someone to come one maybe even two days earlier, in case that would save us money. I asked him if this would create problems with accommodation, but he told that if we can save about 100 Euros from one ticket, then it would worth it and it wouldn't be such a big problem with accommodation. As he wanted to follow up the money spent on tickets, we created a google doc - an excel file with name, surname, e-mail, total travel costs, and need of accommodation -, which we shared with him and with the accommodation group.
After confirming each interpreter I would add all details in the database - total travel costs, agreement made on travel costs, date of arrival and departure, time of arrival if it was very late, need for accommodation, inform of any allergies or diseases. Then I would put each interpreter on the next stage, stage-3 travel paid or confirmed by lina/ sophie. We agreed with the accommodation group that they had to check from the database which people were already in stage-3, in order to fill in the details of accommodation and then put them in stage-4 accommodation and planning.
Regarding the 25-30 prepaid tickets, we had created another google doc which we shared again with Francisco and the treasurer, Anders Palmqvist. We should add all the information of the person in need of a prepaid ticket and then the treasurer was supposed to buy it with his credit card. I would then send the e-ticket to each interpreter. After I realised that the tickets the treasurer had already "bought" were actually only booked, because of technical problems with his bank and after I was informed that the credit card, one of the two that were used for the whole ESF had a limit of 50.000 SEK in a week, and it created some problems when trying to buy tickets, I proposed to him to go to a travel agency and finally do the job properly. It was the way we did it also in Athens for prepaid tickets. Of course all this procedure and delay cost us more money, as it was already two weeks before the Forum and the prices went up every day.

The registration worked more or less as planned without particular problems. For me, much better organised than in the previous ESF. The experience I had from Athens was very helpful though in trying to organise it as better as we could.
No interpreter's pack was given. No programs were delivered to us from the NOC, no notebooks, no pens/ pencils, local transportation tickets were obtained only very late, maybe last day of registration, we didn't have the food tickets ready from the first day of the registration. Although I suggested that the interpreters should use their Forum passes to eat, instead of tickets - which I, Barunka and another friend had first to stamp and then cut, a procedure that lasted about three hours, and since they were brought to us shortly before midnight, we had to stay till early in the morning at the office doing this. The irony is that these tickets weren't enough for all interpreters for all meals, so they were asked to use their Forum pass at the end! The snacks were bought in the last 'shopping stroll', one day before the Forum started, with Gregoire having to accompany Francisco and the treasurer around the city, having to wait for them to do the last-minute shopping, among other things buying the cheapest radios they could find.

First of all, we sent an automatic message through the databse to each interpreter in stage-3 travel paid or confirmed by lina/ sophie, with the information I had already added about total travel costs. People were asked to send their invoices to the reimbursement group. Among other problems we had with our contact with the Board, Francisco, We had to print people's invoices, e-ticets, etc, because we couldnt manage to find a printer and do it before the registration had started. Of course, most of the work we did the last weeks went wasted due to the problems with the NOC and the lack of cash. Instead, we had to create a new list giving priority to people coming from CEE and Turkey to get reimbursed. All the others would be reimbursed via transfer. Already 3 weeks after the Forum and most of the interpreters haven't got their money back.

What could I have done better/ problems faced?

I could have started contacting people earlier in order not having to exceed the budget in case we managed to find all the interpreters needed, according to the linguistic needs. The fact that we had less interpreters, also due to many cancellations, made us not spend a lot of money, although all the procedure had started very late.
It would also have helped a lot, if people, especially coordinators, read all the messages and protocolls carefully. In that case we would have avoided misunderstandings and double-booked tickets (just one case).
After having coordinated travel arrangements for second time, I propose that there are at least two persons dealing with that, because we're talking about 120-150 e-mails per day to be answered, otherwise the prices get higher! And be prepared of sleepless nights!
I also own an apology to people if I was a bit brusque sometimes or if they were afraid to contact Babels because of the 'harshness of my replies'. In order to avoid misunderstandings, I would suggest that commited coordinators should be the first ones to read very carefully the protocolls and messages they receive in order to inform interpreters very clearly about what they should do and make it easier for everyone. And we must not forget that we are all working as volunteers and that we are not a travel agency.

In general, it was a very well organised registration, thanks to many people! Regarding the interpreters kit we should have been more demanding and exigent with the NOC.

We shouldn't have been involved with issues like that. I insisted many times that, at least, someone from the NOC or the finance committee should be there guarding the envelopes filled with money.
If they don't trust us from the beginning, we should not get involved in this.
If we manage to find another way to deal with this, we will be left with a lot of time to do other, more important things during the forum and actually help.


Travel and Visa Problems (Ali Ottoman)
One of the most frustrating and stress causing processes however was that of obtaining Visas. It is tempting to say that the Swedish Consulate treated interpreters from the TR/KR booths pretty much like the organising committee has been accused of doing, i. e., like slaves, with this difference that volunteers were at one point asked to produce working permits under the pretext that their travel costs were being paid.

It was a process of psychological torture, with Consulate employees playing cat & mouse with the interpreters, telling them to bring a long list of documents in the morning, and another but just as long list of documents in the afternoon (the previous list having turned out to be obsolete). Most interpreters did not know whether they would obtain their visa until the last minute, some almost having to cancel and renew their tickets, because they couldn’t confirm their reservation within deadlines.

Some volunteers were also not happy about the way they were given little choice by Babels travels volunteers who seemed to be saying take that flight on such dates or leave it. Many found themselves having to take early return flights on Sunday, so that there were few interpreters left for interpretation that day.

Despite all the frustrations, Malmö will probably remain a memorable experience for many of the interpreters of the TR/KR booth. Some have made new acquaintances; some have seen their limits, while others may have discovered a vocation. We will hopefully have a clearer view on these matters, within the mail group Barish created quite early in the selection process. In the mean time, we now have a base on which to develop our network for 2010, if Babels is chosen for the 2010 ESF.

Ali Ottoman

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