Our Neighbors

Most Americans wintering on the beach in Mexico probably wouldn’t go beyond learning how to say, “yes,” “no,” or “can I have another drink,” in Spanish, let alone the fact that the local Spanish teacher was tortured four times for asserting his beliefs about indigenous rights.

It would have been easy for our friends to make fun of Tali and I if they had wanted to because spending time in Mexico has become almost cliché for American youth. But they didn’t; they recognized that we were interested in more than the pristine beaches, the abundant alcohol, the endless parade of attractive men-not that we noticed.

What was readily apparent to anyone who wanted to see were the terrible inequities of a society that is torn by racial and cultural divisions as potent as any in the world. We wanted to see.

When we arrived in Cuernavaca, we met our host families. Then we toured the Experiencia School. Like all architecture in Mexico, it’s a surprise to see what is behind the colourful exteriors. Here, we felt like we were walking into our own secluded refuge. The school was a Gaudi-inspired structure with beautiful plants surrounding the area and students, on their 15-minute break, swimming in the large pool. The school was owned and operated by members of one extended family. When we were there, we felt as if we on one big family vacation.

In fact, the school offered us a choice of either spending the first week in Cuernavaca or traveling to Playa Venturas, a beach, two hours south of Acapulco which was insulated from that tourist hub. We chose camping on the beach. The days were spent under palm huts, studying Spanish grammar; the afternoons were spent under the sun in the pummeling waves of the Pacific Ocean. At night, we would eat magnificent seafood dinners and practice our Spanish with other Mexicans vacationing for the New Year week. It felt like one of those places that vacation ads depicted but nobody ever found.

The second week began with a trip to Mexico City, where we went to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Thousands of people gathered inside and outside to participate in the Mass. It was incredible to see the many Mexicans and pilgrims who had gathered to worship or observe this miraculous site. I felt as if my journey was complete after being there. There was such a sense of peace in me. The rest of the week was spent in Cuernavaca. We continued our intensive Spanish program, but the nights were full of salsa dancing and heated debates on Mexican Politics, specifically on the Zapatistas, Vicente Fox and indigenous culture. We were surprised to find ourselves having these debates in Spanish after less than two weeks.

We went to Mexico. We weren’t drawn. Both of us felt that there was something that we already possessed inside of ourselves that would be enhanced or even exalted through the cultural exchange that our trip could be. We decided that we wanted to learn Spanish. We may not be fluent yet, but we were certainly able to function more completely within Mexican society than the average tourist. When we had those political debates we were surprised that issues to which we were so new were capable of evoking such strong emotion.

Most importantly, our trip allowed us to pursue those individual interests that led us to Mexico in the first place, an interest in immigration and civil rights, or a devotion to religion and a desire to be able to communicate with our neighbors here in Chicago.

Abroad in Africa -Genocide and Aftermath

Hey there folks. Haven’t written in a while, so I thought that you might want to see an article that I had published in my school newspaper.

“Well, the thing is, that probably no more than 500,000 people were killed.” John Floyd leaned forward, took another bite of his kung pao chicken, and attempted to explain why his client was not guilty of helping to incite the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

I listened with distaste and fascination while he spoke fast. The distaste came because I knew the facts-his client, Hasan Ngeze was the publisher of a newspaper that exhorted people to kill their neighbors. There is no question what the paper said, Ngeze was a brutal and clever person, one of the chief instigators of the genocidal regime. The fascination came because his version of Rwandan history was much different than I had learned before I arrived in Rwanda. At this point, I was not sure what to believe.

Here are the facts: on April 6th, 1994 a plane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi was shot down just outside of Kigali International Airport. Who shot it down was in dispute, but what is not in dispute is that this event triggered the fastest, most efficient genocide of the 20th century. That day, a far right military government of ethnic extremists, known as Hutu Power, took control of the country and began implementing their plan of eliminating any potential for letting the minority Tutsi group regain power in the government by ridding the country of all Tutsis.

The story began earlier than April, 1994, not in some shadowy pre-historic animosity. When the first colonizers arrived from Germany in the early 20th century, they found a country rigidly divided by class. Back then, the peasant Hutus and the aristocratic Tutsis did not consider themselves separate tribes. Instead, they were one nation with one history, religion, language and king. The Germans, and after WWI, the Belgians, a race steeped in science and psuedo-religious mythology disagreed. They saw the Tutsi as being a far superior race, born to rule and the Hutus as being little better than mules. Previously, the class system was fairly fluid, for instance a Hutu could move up to the rank of Tutsi. However, the Tutsis had no problem with the Belgians solidifying their rule. Two classes became two tribes, two ethnicities.

Along the way, Europeans began to notice certain physical differences between the groups. It was said that Tutsis were taller, lighter-skinned, and long, thin noses- unlike the short, darker, “flat-nosed” Hutus. The Tutsis were, indeed, almost European in appearance. Needless to say, this made them superior in the minds of the colonialists.

The system became entrenched. The Tutsis had unchecked power until the Belgians decided they had made a mistake. They were ready to pull out of Rwanda in the late 50’s, during the demise of the colonial system, and decided that the majority should have the power. So they turned it over in the revolution of 1959 and fled.

It is not surprising what happened next. The brutalized oppressed became the brutal oppressors. Tens of thousands of Tutsis and their Hutu sympathizers were killed, and many more fled the country. Rwanda was ruled by a former journalist who relied on massacres to distract from his incompetence. He was eventually overthrown by Juvenal Habyarimana, a military man who stopped the massacres but did little to change race-based politics of Rwanda.

Meanwhile, the exiled Tutsis were plotting their move. After helping Yoweri Museveni overthrow the cruel regime of Milton Obote in neighboring Uganda, the exiles regrouped and invaded Rwanda in 1990. This plunged the country into a low-level civil war at the same time that it saw its economy plummet.

Many Hutus, with memories of oppression, were scared of a Tutsi victory. The ruling government, unpopular for its corruption even with other Hutus, latched onto this sentiment. They began planning the genocide. Their particular stroke of genius was to remove the distancing sanitation of the Holocaust. They wanted to get everyone involved in the killings. They accomplished this both by whipping people into a frenzied state of fear, and by using the army to neutralize anyone who thought differently. People were forced to kill. This way, they could divide the nation- killed and killers. If everyone if guilty, no one is. As the main radio station said during the genocide, “leave no one to tell the story.”

This would have worked- indeed, it is estimated that as many as 90% of all Tutsis were killed in 90 days- were it not for the victory of the Tutsi exile army. They routed the Rwandan army, routed the genocidal militias and took over the country. This was met with relief from an international community that had ignored them and a media that felt it had failed. The Tutsi government, led by strongman Paul Kagame, was given a free pass to clean up the country.

Here is where my story gets confused. Going into Rwanda, I had a very high perception of Kagame. There were stories of revenge killings here and there, and disturbing reports about the behavior of his troops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but for the most part he was seen as a hero. What I learned from being in Rwanda, from talking to Rwandans, shocked me. The killings, I was told, were far more than has been reported. Indeed, many told me there has been a counter-genocide, a second genocide, or, in some cases, that the “real” genocide has directed against the Hutus.

John Floyd, the defense lawyer, emphasized this. He talked at length about the brutality of the Kagame government, which I’ve backed by further research. The confusion comes from the counter-genocide. Genocide is a tricky word, and in a police state nothing can be confirmed and nothing can be completely disproved. The truth is, no one knows right now exactly what has happened. Floyd says he does, but he has a clear agenda. (e.g.- my client was right to say the Tutsis were evil murderers)

It is easy to get caught up in the politics of murder and the semantics of slaughter, but too much of that sanitizes the issue, removes you from the actual horror. Thankfully, terribly, I got a chance to come face-to-face with death and to remove the sanitation. On the second day I was in Rwanda, I met two women who wanted to show me how they were getting on with their lives after the genocide. First, they had to come to terms with the death of their families-the government had finally given them permission to excavate the graves of their families. By graves, I mean deep holes where the dead were thrown to rot and the wounded were thrown to die. The site was in the backyard of a wrecked mansion, now overgrown with weeds and memory. I first looked in the now empty holes and imagined what I would feel if it was my parents that were left there. This is where I began to cry.

Everything leaves the mind. Legalities, semantics, politics. They slipped away as the women led me to the hot, sticky room of the mansion that was serving as the morgue. “Come and see my mother,” Angelica said. I looked at her determined eyes, through my teary ones, then followed her gaze to the floor. Forty or fifty bodies were lying there, some still in the position of their death, hands bound, faces grotesque with fear. I did not want to step in, but I needed to honor her mother and her memory.

After this, I was ready to go back to Arusha, Tanzania, the clean distant city where the genocide trials were being held at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda(ICTR). I was ready to go back to a city where I did not have to look at anyone and wonder if they were killers or if their families had been killed, or both. I was ready to go back to my job as a legal intern at the ICTR, to involve myself with the politics and semantics and legalities, but I could never look at anything the same way again. What I saw only strengthened my resolve for studying international criminal law. Indeed, I am, more ready than ever.

The Foothills of Mt. Meru

This is a bit out of order-but Saturday was so spectacular that I must write about it.

Saturday morning, Joe from Ireland (who I met on a bus from Uganda), but now staying in Moshi, arrived for the weekend. We decided to go to the foothills of Mt. Meru to see where Elly grew up and to meet his parents. After taking a dala dala, we arrived at the bottom of the hill where we jumped in the back of the truck and rode as far as the road could take us. We walked on a dirt path, with banana trees surrounding us and came to Elly’s farm.

Farms here are absolutely different. They are so colourful, so many different types of fruit. I’d have to say my top three favorite fruit are passion fruit, mangos and avacado. So we sat and talked with Elly’s parents and sister, walked around the farm, saw how they cook with no electricity and how they survive on what they have. We went to see his coffee plantation and fruit trees and then came back to eat with his parents. The food was spectacular as food always is… We had milk from his cow (three day old milk) which Brian described as yogurt, but Joe said it was absolutely not that! I am a little scavenger so I ate and drank everything I was given. We had fried bananas, chapati, passion fruit, avocado and to top it all off, some sugar cane. The sugar cane was fantastic, much better than candy, but I could not finish a stick of it.

After meeting Elly’s fabulous family, we walked through the dirt pathways, around the various farms, saying hello to people and waiting for a truck to pass by and bring us back to the bottom of the hill so we could grab a ride home. It was so beautiful that after the whole weekend was over, I couldn’t help but cry about it. I really can’t explain it, but to experience meeting simple loving people who will give everything to you, you just get a different type of hope. I know this sounds absolutely cheesy, but it’s just true.

Sunday, we went to a snake park and saw all sorts of magnificent poisonous creatures..!

All for now..

Badai! (later)

Rwanda to the Congo to Uganda to the Media Trial

I’m back and I haven’t written in so long because we’ve been traveling a lot. I’ll have to come back to add more about some of the things I’ve seen-some of the horrible horrible atrocities I’ve witnessed to some of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, but right now I’ll update you with this short time briefly what I experienced.

Rwanda: I saw a lot of dead bodies. Witnessed a lot of places where thousands upon thousands were slaughtered. I supposed I should say that we travelled throughout a lot of the country and saw many places where people have and are still being slaughtered. Also, a lot of literature is one sided and now I know a second side which was, at first, difficult to believe.

Congo: I saw Goma, a city of lava. Went to a refugee camp for people from Rwanda and the Congo which was as I expected. People packed on top of each other for years. Where is all the money going? Oh, that’s right-into the pockets of the UN, IGO’s, NGO’s and their brand new cars, houses, vacations, etc.

Also, I swam in Lake Kivu which was like bath water because of the lava and the gasses. I recommend it before the gasses explode and cover the whole city! Just kidding…

Uganda: A very pleasant country. A nice trip after having experienced Rwanda-where you’re not sure who has done what and if they are telling you the truth. People in Rwanda said, “I can’t believe that you Europeans live in truth,” meaning that their mentality is to swindle the truth. If you want to see a river, it’s right there. If you don’t, then you’ll have to cross mountains to get to it.

One funny thing in Kampala-if someone mugs you, and others see, they’ll strip them naked. It’s their form of punishment-interesting, cruel. (which reminds me-the prison system in Tanzania is AWFUL. Every morning, you get whipped 50 times and all through your stay in prison, you are asked what crime you committed. You have to get it in your head that you were wrong, apparently. On top of that, you have to be on your knees in the police station… It’s all so cruel. Not that our prison system in the U.S. is SO much better)

The Media Trial: Fascinating. This inspires me to be a good lawyer so much more than anything I’ve experienced up to this point. It’s not like attending the 7th Circuit. I can’t explain it. There is so much disorganization, but the lawyers are operating on their sheer genius at certain points. It’s impressive. I’ll give more detail later!

Kigali, Rwanda

We arrived in Kigali last night. I am really emotional everytime I really think about what happened, and I find myself looking for that same displaced feeling I finally found days after I went to Oswiecim Concentration Camp in Poland. I’m publishing something Brian wrote because he grasps the feelings brilliantly.

Brian O’Neill

June 18th, 8:30 pm

Sitting on the balcony of the hotel. It is not late, but it is dark and I’m tired and the heart of Kigali shines subdued below. Yes, so: we’re here. Rwanda. It seems strange to finally be here; to see it. I’ve pictured it so many times, in so many ways – a tiny spot on a map, a detalied map, it’s hills, Kigali. I’ve imagined what it looks like, imagined myself here, imagined the genocide. And now I’m looking at it, finally.

The sun set as our minibus flew around the hills leading from the border. Dark came hard and fast. The headlights would shine momentarily on an object efore speeding on- endless lush greenery, punctuated for an instant by a face, freeze-frame body caught walking or staring or talking. It would catch houses, ne alone, or several in a row, some stretching out to tiny villages. And you nder, you can’t help it, it isn’t even intellectual, just a question shooting from our gut, so instant and basic it isn’t even worded: what happened here? What happened to this person? Did they see horror? Did they inflict it? House it? You catch yourself thinking this and you chastize yourself- don’t over dramatize. But you can’t. You can not over dramatize. It did happen, and it happened everywhere in this lush country.

I stop writing, light another cigarette, look at the intersection. This isn’t the heart of the city, but this is a fairly big intersection, but size hardly is relevant. At almost every intersection drunken militiamen set up roadblocks, stopping every car. If there were any Tutsis, they butchered them on the spot. Right here, for sure. There is no question about it.

Dominika said she felt uneasy being here – not unsafe, but uneasy. I agree. Evil happened here. I have never been to the death camps, never experienced anything like this, and it makes me physically ill for a few reasons. Every time I’ve made eye-contact with someone since arriving I shudder nternally. Because they know. They know why I’m here: I’m here because of the genocide. I’m here because of what happened to them, because it horrifies e, and, even more, it fascinates me. I’m a gawker. I have a purpose, but I’m still a gawker. I wouldn’t be here were it not for the pull the genocide has on me. It’s horrible, and I hate myself for it it, but I can’t help it. Somewhere I wanted this, this palpable unease, this sense of evil, this surety of ghosts. A car drives through and I can see it stopping, I can see someone dragged out screaming, hacked to death, terrible things.

Stop: Pause: another cigarette. I wanted this, yes- I am dramatic and delight in the idea of my own sensitivity. But. No, not this. I had no idea it would be so strong, so real, so sincere.

I realize something. This stupid goddam narcissim means something, is giving omething. Because I’m here and because everyone knows why I’m here, and ecause imagination comes from a more brutal reality here, the genocide is still appening. There is still someone whimpering under my bed, dying in the street, illing unstopped. Do you see- life has paved over the horrors, routine over terror, but it is still here. To deny that, to pretend it didn’t happen, to ignore the undamental basis of reality in Rwanda, to scold myself for indulgence is to betray truth, to kill history, to shape the present to how it makes me comfortable.

This realization doesn’t cure my unease, but it lets it rest easily. I finish my last cigarette, and before I go in to sleep, I watch a woman cross the street and disappear down the hill, alive.

Stars from this side of the world

I suppose I should start talking about what happened in my last entry-the blackout. The computers stayed on for a few minutes after the blackout, long enough for me to send the last line. Then the batteries died and there was pure darkness.

Pitch black. Not just one “block,” as we would experience in the U.S., but the entire city was out. The only light in our path was the African night sky and a half moon, that looked like an eclipse. Brian and I walked two French grrrls to the Kilimanjaro hotel and then we moved toward our building. The neon signs that lit up the hotel next to ours were no longer our marker. I could barely make out the outline of my hand and I heard voices around me from time to time. A few more meters and I stopped, “I want a taxi.” I suddenly felt very unsafe and although we only had to cross the park to get to our destination, I wouldn’t move. It’s not safe for muzungus to walk around at night-the words spoken by Africans and other Internationals echoed in my head. Something could really happen right now. My stupidity of walking around at night had been shifted in pure darkness, when others who are used to these blackouts, could see me, but I could not see them. Within 10 seconds, a flash and a shout-abary ya jioni. Nzuri, I said-How much? 2000, he answered. I quickly said “no” and walked behind his car. Brian knew this bargaining game and walked along with me. The driver backed his taxi over a pothole. Ok, he said 1000. I agreed. We drove up and I gave him 1500. I can’t help it-I’m a sucker when it comes to tips. So I spent a whole dollar-I think I can handle it.

I’d have to say that I haven’t seen start like this for years. Perhaps my excuse becomes not having time to look up or maybe I’ve simply forgotten every camping trip I’ve ever taken.

Night turned to dawn and we went to the “bus station.” I emphasize the quotes because it was 5am-still dark and all I saw was a landfill and people sitting warming their hands over the fires, garbage that they had lit. It reminded me of a tent city. Did I mention that it is cold here in the mornings and that June and July are the coldest months of the year? Well…cold means 60 F, of course. However, I’m so used to the warm weather that this is cold for me. Maybe I really am an African?

The Bus-There were about 50 busses and everyone was shouting, at us, at each other. I absolutely adore moments like this. Chaos. Havoc. We kept asking which bus went to Morogoro and finally people led us to one. What I still haven’t figured out is why there is such disorganization in poor countries. Is it because they are poor or because they are disorganized? I’ve experienced similar situations in Italy and Poland, but those countries are not nearly as poor as they are here in Tanzania. I can at least speak for Poland and say that right after communism “fell”-(cough, cough-not to say it really fell) or even during, people would line up for hours/days at magazines(stores), waiting for a piece of meat. Pushing and shoving ahead was and now remains the mentality.

Anyway-it turned out that the bus was going to Dar es Salaam and not to Morogoro. The whole bus experience is worth describing. The bus was similar to our greyhound buses. Excepte greyhounds don’t act like our local transit buses and pick people up along the way. The procedure is like this: The bus sees people, slows down but does NOT come to a complete stop. People jump on as it is moving, throw sacks filled with fruit and other luggage onto it. Then the man who takes a few shillings from them smacks the side of the bus to signify to the driver that he can move on and jumps onto the first step and rides along. The people stand in the aisles, shout when it is their stop, jump off as it moves and again, the process repeats. We were dropped off at Chianze and took a local bus into Morogoro, Kola Hill-Wakapuchini. The local bus was even more fun, more packed and more chaotic. I could relive that over and over and not be annoyed. You really get a chance to do some people watching in these times.

Currently, I am writing to you from Morogoro. We are visiting Father Casimere. As Brian puts it, I know all of the Catholics in Africa. The accommodations are fantastica and I feel like I’m walking right into the Lord of the Rings books. The mountain that we are in looks exactly like one Frodo would cross. I am sorry that we have to leave tomorrow because the time here is just fantastic, but we have to try to get onto the UN Beachcraft carrier to Kigali on Monday. There are only 7 seats and people with different coloured badges get more privileges, so you can be sitting on the plane and someone can kick you off, even if you were cleared and assured a seat. If there isn’t room or we get kicked, then Brian and I will take a bus to Campala, Uganda and from there get to Kigali, Rwanda.

I think the best part of this relaxing weekend is being surrounded by hundreds of priests. I always find that I have amazing, deep, philosophical conversations with these wonderful holy people. At breakfast, lunch, dinner, the conversations are so intelligent, I crave for more. Father Casmier is fantastic, intelligent, funny. He is the Dean of Philosophy here and right as we speak, he is talking about the metaphysics of Stephen Hawking and disputing parts of it. I hope that our paths meet again some day-even if he moves back to Zaire or starts another mission in Madagascar.

Since I still have a bit of time and I don’t know when the next time I can write a new entry, I’ll spout out a few more thigns.

First of all-death. When someone dies here, at least in Arusha, all the friends and family mourn with the suffering family all night long. I think that is beautiful. It is similar to a wake but lasts all night. that is another example of community that they have here in Africa. People share everything here-even grief.

Something else-I have found my favorite food here-I ate it at the Augustinian sisters house in Arusha. Pumpkin leaves(similar to spinach, but Popeye would convert if he tasted these) Ugali(maize and boiled water mixed together-gives you a lot of strength), and red beans. On top of that a salad of tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and cucumbers=a happy belly! All the food here is natural, fresh-there are no preservatives and I just feel healthy. I have so much strangth.

How shall I end this entry? Well, I’m astonished every day that I’m here and that I’m allowed to have these blessed moments and this time for reflection. I look forward to everyday and I thank God for every minute for whatever I’m being prepared for.

Well, I am off because Fr. Casimere has offered to do a private mass for us since we will be on the bus all day tomorrow.

My African Home

Perhaps it is because my family moved around so much that I never mind being away. Or perhaps I’ve become older and I know that I have to find my own life now. Or maybe it is the fact that I have found good times, good friends and exciting new traditions that causes my mood to shift every time I think that eventually I’ll have to leave.

I have returned. Before I left on this trip, my parents explained to their friends that I was not going to Africa, but instead, I was returning.

Electric outage. Will write more later.

Massai Traditions and Food Galore!

My objectives in this blog are to write about two things that occured last night. It all focuses on dinner with a Massai and other friends of ours.

Brian and I went to several different places last night. Jambo Cafe, the Police Mess, and Troopers with Marcus, his girlfriend(I haven’t figured out how to spell her name yet), and Philimon. Philimon is a Massai. I was so excited when I found this out because this tradition is so unfamiliar, but so fascinating to me.

I asked many questions and found many things out. One of the most interesting is the circumcision that occurs when a Massai turns 18. Philimon is now a Lutheran, but his father has many wives and he still follows many of the traditions. He, of course, made it clear to me that if he married a Mezungu, he would not force the kids to follow Massai tradition. I reaffirmed his idea and told him that I doubted that a Mezungu would ever allow half of the things that Massai have to go through, happen to her child. For example, the circumcision. Three days before the circumcision, a cow’s artery is punctured so that 3 liters of blood pours out. The blood is mixed with warm milk and sits until the circumcision is finished. At the age of 18 a Massai boy must sit without medication and be cut. The procedure is very slow and excrutiatingly painful. If the Massai cries, he will be killed right there with a huge knife and 10 cattle will be taken from the family because of the shame brought onto the family.

Clearly, Philimon did not cry and now he is cast as a warrior. Traditionally, he paints his face white and wears black clothing, different from other Massai. It is similar to an Indian Caste system where you are born into your specific role. He told me so many interesting things, but I’ll save those for when I come home!

A side note-Philimon told Brian and I that he is going to take us into the bush to kill a goat, like the Massai do. We will wear the garb and have nothing but that, knives, and a camera. That should be at the end of the month.

Next, the dinner. I feel it’s about time to describe a traditional dinner because the whole process is fascinating. You go into a restaurant, grab your seats and then proceed to the kitchen. People yell at the cook, call out, point to the meat hanging from hooks and tell the cook exactly what they want. You then sit back down and wait. In the meantime, you have something to drink and enjoy your time with your friends. Soon, the cook himself comes to wash your hands. He poors hot water out of a teapot over your hands and into a bowl. You squirm in anguish from the hot water, and they laugh and say Mezungu. Africans are used to this temperature. You let your hands drip dry and wait for the food. Then a large platter with pieces of chicken, goat, liver are brought out and set in the center of the table. On the edge, a pile of salt and on both sides spicey sauce for further dipping. One more plate is brought, piled with fried bananas. It is a meal worth eating. The meat is fresh and you can taste that it is village meat. What I mean is, that the animals ran around instead of being born to die and be processed. At the end, again, hot water is poured over your hands.

The dinner was spectacular. And wow, did I sleep well after my stomach was full.

Pole, Pole

I think the most common phrase I hear is “In Africa everything is pole, pole.” (slow, slow) I like this very much, but only when I’m not in a hurry. :)

If I am looking at a menu and can’t decide, I hear: Pole, pole. I don’t have to rush through my food and I can stay there for hours after and still I hear, pole, pole.

You can decide on things pole pole. At the market, in the library, on the street.

Today, I had coffee with the sisters in the morning before I headed off to the ICTR. When I asked them how many nuns there are in the house, they asked, “in this house?” I said, “yes, here.” Sister Emily Siana replied, “with you, there would be 15.” I laughed. In fact, I laughed harder than I’ve laughed this whole trip with them this morning. They were so much fun.

At the ICTR, I read Akayesu’s case-what a blast. Ok-not really. I actually was so horrified at the things that he participated in that I had to put the book down several times, go look at something else, and come back to it. I see that my time is up!

Everything is nzuri sana (very good)!

Hakuna Matata

Abari ja mchana (Good afternoon)

500 million years ago, volcanoes erupted, creating the Rift Wall. This is one of the many incredible sites that I saw this weekend. Along with the Rift Wall, I saw the Rift valley. The fact that God created such spectacular wonders is just outside of the grasp of my reality. Every morning, I woke up and questioned myself. Did I really see what I saw? But, the memories remained and the rolls of film had been used up and there was my evidence of having been to these places.

On Friday, I went to Lake Manyara. On Saturday, Ngorongoro. After deliberation, I decided that I wanted to see Ngorongoro more than the Serengeti. Well, technically, I saw part of the Serengeti, when I went to Oldupai Gorge and the Shifting Sands, but not like a Safari tourist would.

Ngorongoro is the Garden of Eden. I say this, not just because the Tanzanian’s gave it this nickname, but because it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I don’t think I could even imagine a place more beautiful than this. Try to think Jurrasic Park X 1000. That’s just a glimpse of it. So many different types of terrains-ah, my words lose all meaning.

I saw animals in their natural habitat, lions mating, cubs fighting each other, giraffes eating accacia leaves, hippos playing in the water. I still can’t believe that I saw animals in their natural habitat-so much more exciting than a zoo! I asked so many questions. One thing that is really interesting is that Zebras have 28 species of worms inside their bodies that help them digest and if you see zebras dying during the dry season, it must mean that all other animals are dead. Apparently, the zebra is the last animal that will die during that time.

Something else that I saw that was one of the more spiritual parts of my weekend is the shifting sand. A volcano blew out this metalic sand and it sits in the middle of this enormous plain and moves 17 meters a year. It was so amazing. I sat on the top of it and leaned my arm against the sand to see how it moved and almost started crying. Could this be added to the wonders of the world?

While driving along, standing on my seat with half my body outside the top of a green ranger, I observed farmers and Massai in their daily lives. Cutting up wood with their sharp knives, killing a goat, walking on the side of the road with their cattle-it was good to watch. I think watching people in their daily lives is more interesting than anything else. I could do it for hours. Simple (for lack of a better word right now) people are amazing. Their lives revolve around feeding their families. They are happy when they see a car come by and wave at them. Their smiles are genuine and they wave back, shaking their arm so that it looks like it will fall off. Children are the most fun! They run after the cattle and hug each other, dirt covering their whole bodies.

I think one difference that is prevelant with the American/European life and the African life is that children are given responsibility at a younger age here, whereas Americans emphasize a good childhood. Everything revolves around whether you had a good childhood or not. I mean, you could be thrown into a mental institution if a psychiatrist convinces you that your anger stems from your terrible childhood! (that one’s for my nurse mom) Ok-I’m exaggerating a bit, but you look at this 7 year old child carrying her 1 year old sister in a sack on her back and you know that she’s walking for miles to get to wherever she’s walking and you think-wow, I never had to do that and my children probably won’t either.

I think I really enjoy that people here (of course excluding the upper class who is very similar to us) or perhaps I should say that people in general who have had trying lives find happiness in the simple things. I wish that I could remember that the next time I complain and just be happy with what I’ve got.

Until next time…

Page 10 of 11« First...7891011