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Published: July 11th 2007
Today I am setting off for my fourth country in a week. Last Friday I started off traveling to England, Monday I departed for Nairobi, Tuesday I made the four hour bus ride through Kenya to Tanzania and this afternoon I'll be flying to Rwanda. It's been a whirl-wind of a week, but I have had an amazing time. Farms and horse shows in England, meetings in Nairobi, an interview with a prosecutor at the ICTR and a venture out to Moshi and the surrounding villages at the entry point of Kiliminjaro. I'll try to recap all I have experienced this week as best I can...
The flight from Heathrow to Nairobi took me by surprise as it was loaded with Europeans and Americans. The only Africans on the plane were the Somali mother and four children seated in the row next to me. On the other side was a Scottish guy who had just graduated from university. Duncan, the Scot, and I spent nearly the next 8 hours with the Somali girls, playing musical chairs so that they could each have a turn in my seat looking out the window and the sky.
After landing at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport everyone herded throug the Passport Control and Visa lines. The whole process went relatively well, however Visas are quite costly at 30-50 dollars a pop depending on single or multiple entry. By the time I received my visa and arrived at Baggage Claim my backpack was waiting for me (much more efficient than Denmark in my opinion). I spotted David between the crowd of taxis drivers and safari touts and we ventured off towards his house. Arriving in the early morning allowed me to see Nairobi waking up. A city in constant motion, there were masses of people everywhere I looked. Dressed in business suits, traditional dresses, ragged shirts, pants and sandals. In Nairobi there is no such thing as crosswalks or marked freeway lanes for that matter, so at every moment you never know if someone will step into the street or swerve into your lane. To a foreigner it feels like a game of Chicken, the game where two cars go at each other until one becomes loses his nerves and swerves out of the way. But, people who live in Nairobi are completely at ease with driving and maneuvering around traffic like professionals.
David lives in a beautiful town-house complex surrounded by trees and red flower bushes. When we arrived I quickly met his German and Rwandan roommates, set my bags down and were off for a few preliminary research meetings. The first to the Rwandan Embassy located in a building right in the middle of the city where David had been working for the last few months. The First Counselor was kind enough to meet with us and give us a letter of recommendation for our research project. Soft spoken and light hearted, he warmly greeted me and showed his enthusiasm about our project. As we sat in the Rwandan embassy, on the 10th floor of a building in the center of the city, I look down at the streets. From the birds-eye perspective it reminded me of an ant farm; mazes of people following each other's lines in a blur of movement. From there we went to USIU, or the United States International University, ran around meeting professors, collecting more recommendations and bought our bus tickets for the following day's trip to Tanzania.
It finally hit me that I was in Africa on the four-hour drive to Tanzania. Snuggled into a mid size bus with 20 other people, it was not necessarily anything within the bus that interested me, but the world moving outside, past my window. At each how it seemed like the scenery changed on clockwork. The first hour we passed through the outskirts of Nairobi, little villages and run down homes were clustered among tiny shops filled with people trying to earn a living. In hour 2 we eased into the wilderness, just one road filled with potholes surrounded by land, trees, and the occasional herd of cows blocking the road. I have to say hour 3 became my favorite as we traveled past the Masai villages. With long slender limbs, colorful red and blue cloths and beautiful ornaments such as earrings or silver bracelets and necklaces, the Masai people are as stunningly attractive as they are interesting. The last hour of the journey I watched as the sun set beneath the African horizon. The sky turned dark and we arrived at our destination, Arusha, Tanzania.
After a refreshing night at La Bella Luna guest house priced at around $16 a night, we wasted no time in the morning getting to the ICTR. The ICTR is a huge complex of interconnected buildings enclosed by red fencing. Not sure of the best way to contact Prosecutor Barbara Mulvaney, David and I just went to the court and had the security guards call her for us. To our surprise she had us escorted up to her office immediately. I wasn't sure what to expect as we traveled through the Court courtyard amongst Ambassadors and diplomats, and up to 4th floor Serengeti building office. I suspected maybe we would reschedule and find a time that was more convenient for her, or that maybe she would hand us off to her subordinates. But if there is only one word to describe this woman it is SPUNK. She welcomed us in her office with a bit of skepticism, obviously questioning our motives for wanting to interview her. But, within 5 minutes of learning David was Rwandan it was all over. The two ended up spending the next 2 and a half hours talking like old friends, reclining back in their chairs and sharing stories as I wrote down notes as quickly as possible. The Prosecutor for most of the masterminds of the Genocide, it was fascinating talking to Barbara and getting a glimpse into the inner workings of the Tribunal and UN bureaucracy. I do believe that the Tribunal is a useful and much needed instrument by which justice is being served, but that doesn’t mean it or the UN are always the most ethical organizations.
After the amazing interview, David and I both felt like we pretty much received what we came for, so we spent the next day seeing a bit of Tanzania, hanging out with his friend Timo who is the manager of The Ngorodoto Mountain Lodge (if you would like a high end Safari stay I would highly recommend it) and visiting Moshi, a small town close to where Timo lives. We also spent some time with Erica, an American friend of David’s learning Swahili in the area and exploring the UN party scene.
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