Tuesday, June 15, 2010

U.S. v. England – Instant Recap

We had an awesome experience three nights ago at the Greek Club in Arusha, where most of the interns from the ICTR came to watch the United States v. England game. One of the great things of the ICTR is that people are from all over the world; literally, there are people from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Tanzania, Kenya, Germany, Australia, France, and Canada. I’m sure I’ll meet people from more countries, but these are the people that I’ve met thus far.

At the Greek Club, the crowd was 50/50 American/English. The Brits were definitely more dressed up than we were, wearing their face paint and their English soccer [I refuse to call it football] shirts. However, while we failed in uniform, we made up in vocals.

At the very beginning of the game, the English supporters were far louder than we were. They were led by my friend Ben, who is from London. However, not many people know this, but I, too, can be incredibly loud at sporting events if needed. It is one of the few talents that I have. USA!

Therefore, I started leading the American contingent at the club in our cheers against the Brits:

Here are some of the chants that I and others [my friends Cam, Max, Brook, and Jeff] led:
1. USA! USA! USA! [classic]
2. World War II, World War II, World War II! [my personal favorite]
3. Yes we can! Yes we can! [Brook’s favorite chant]
4. Quack! Quack! Quack! [From the Mighty Ducks movies, which we thought was hilarious]
5. A tie is a win! A tie is a win! [My second favorite chant, but this chant caused a lot of debate among the interns of whether we were insulting America.]
6. 1776! 1776! [Didn’t really catch on]

Also throughout the game, we also sang the full versions to the following songs:
1. I’m proud to be an American.
2. The Star Spangled Banner
3. This land is my land.
4. My country tis of thee. – In response to the British national anthem. The music is the same to both songs.

One interesting note was that most of the Canadians and the Tanzanians rooted for England. Most Canadians chose to root for England, because they are under the Commonwealth which makes sense; but we Americans still noted that they were traitors to North America. I spoke with a couple of the Tanzanians, who said that they rooted for England, because they liked the English Premier League [one guy was wearing a Manchester United jersey]. I found this interesting, because England was particularly oppressive to Tanzania prior to Tanzania’s independence.

Anyway, we all had a great time, and after the game, the Brits and Americans shook hands. I told Ben and others that I would root for England in any game during the World Cup except against the U.S. [if we met again]; and they told us that they would root for the U.S., likewise. I’m starting to like this World Cup thing.

The Road to Arusha, Part Deux

First, apologies for not updating the blog sooner. I’ve been incredibly busy in Africa, trying to settle in [which I think I am a lot more settled in, now, than I was before.]

Anyway, where we left off in the road to Arusha was Nairobi. Jana and I finally met in Nairobi, and we left the next morning to take a small bus to Arusha. I had braced for this bus trip, as many people had warned me that it 1) dusty, 2) bumpy, and 3) hot. However, it really wasn’t that bad, and I got to see a lot more of the natural beauty of Kenya and Tanzania. The trip was approximately six hour long, because Kenyan roads are horrible.

Here's a picture of the shuttle that we rode to Nairobi.  Not too bad, actually.

Along the way, I saw Masai villages and many Masai people, who are the indigenous people of Tanzania and Kenya. I think their culture is incredibly interesting, and I’ve enjoyed meeting many Masai villagers in Arusha. I love how other Tanzanians/Kenyans interact with the Masai; it is not strange but very common to see Masai in their native garb walking down the street in Arusha. In America, we expect people of other ethnicities to assimilate into the “American culture”, and lose their own cultural identity, which I am starting to believe is terrible. You would never see a Native American walking down the streets of Miami in native garb; or if they did, I think people would privately ridicule them. Tanzanians are a lot of things, but they seem to be much more culturally accepting than Americans.

Here's a picture of some Masai and others along the road.

Masai Spears - Don't leave home without one.

Kenyan/Tanzanian Border

Hills/Small Mountains along the Way

A small mountain in the distance, and a Masai along the road.

The picture on my laptop background

Finally, we made it to Arusha, where Jana and I then finally went to the ICTR, where we met Suzanne, who helped me get the ICTR internship in the first place. Suzanne then took us to her home, where we crashed for about the first four days of our trip. Suzanne’s house was wonderful, and we stayed in the guest house. Suzanne lives near downtown Arusha along with her adopted son, Amari, who is Masai.

Furthermore, the food at Suzanne’s house was amazing; and I’ve never eaten better since being in Africa. My favorite was Damaria’s [Suzanne’s cook’s] Carrot-Ginger Soup, and also by her pea soup. Furthermore, for the first time in my life, I have started drinking her coffee occasionally, as fresh Tanzanian coffee is actually quite good.

Jana and my guest house at Suzanne's place

Suzanne's Home

While we are on the subject of house assistants, it is a way of life for people to have house help in Africa. Most UN lawyers have a cook, someone to clean clothes/house, as well an escari [the Masai guard who is the house’s security]. For our apartment where I live now, we have a house assistant [Miriam] who cleans the apartment and washes all of our clothes, twice a week for 60,000 Tanzanian’s shillings a month [approximately $40 US per month]. Additionally, our apartment complex has three escari at anytime.

While on the subject of apartments, I selected a three-bedroom apartment located on Fire Road for $650 U.S. dollars per month. I saw many apartments/houses [some of which I refer to as “death houses”, because these houses seemed to be in far away/dangerous to access], but my apartment is by far the safest, closest to the ICTR and downtown. I have three roommates: Angela from Columbia Law, Anit from Harvard Law, and Heather from Vanderbilt Law. I sleep on the couch [with a much cheaper rent!]/ share the master bedroom with Anit. While I sometimes feel inferior to these students from higher-ranked law schools, I definitely make sure to represent the “U” as much as possible to their chagrin.

In Arusha, there really aren’t addresses to apartments, so my apartment is specifically called Yellow House on Fire Road. If you want to mail someone in Arusha, they need to have a P.O. box.

In terms of the monetary conversion rate, 1400-1500 Tanzanian shillings [tsh] equals one dollar. This makes things incredibly cheap in Tanzanian. For example, a very NICE meal out will cost you approximately 5,000tsh – 10,000tsh [the most I’ve paid for a meal], which is $3.50 - $7 U.S dollars. Furthermore, we Yellow Housers, take cabs frequently, which cost anywhere from 1,000 – 5,000tsh depending on distance. If you want to take a Dalla Dalla here, which are these fast little bus-like vans, they cost 300 tsh, which is literally pennies. I got a haircut for 6000 tsh, which I think $4 should be the American cost for buzz cuts.

If there was one phrase you could only learn in Tanzania, I would advise that you learn “Hapana asante” which means “no thank you”. In downtown Arusha, there are several street vendors who run up to you, Mzungu [which literally means “one who is lost” – somewhat a “white” slur] to sell you artwork, jewelry, bad safaris, Tanzanite, and on one occasion, someone tried to sell me a prostitute [I said no, Beth]. And I’m not talking about being harassed to buy stuff in back alleys, these street vendors come up to you in the center of town [Arusha clock tower], where you must go to buy groceries or get to work. In the first week, I tried to be polite to the vendors, but I learned that you cannot stop while they try to sell you something. The vendors are not dangerous, but they are trying to make a living and will sell money at Mzungu [expensive] prices to do it.

Other good phrases to know are “Jambo Mambo”, which means “Hello, how are you?”, as well as “Pole”, which means “sorry”. I found it funny that the Lion King basically ripped off a lot of Swahili phrases for the characters in the movie. “Rafiki” = “friend”, “Simba” = “Lion”, “Mufasa” = “father”, and “Hakuna matata” really does mean “no worries”. Thanks Mom and Dad for letting me watch this movie 1,000 times as a kid, my Swahili is much better. Haha. Now, if only the Little Mermaid could teach people how to swim.

In regards to safety, in Africa, you have to take your security very seriously. Arusha is no Nairobi [crazy], but people do get robbed in Arusha. One female intern at our program has already been robbed, and I hope this doesn’t sound sexist or racist, but white women in Africa are far more likely to be robbed than others.

Here are the safety precautions that I have taken: 1) I never travel alone – even in daylight. Basically, Anit, Angela, Heather, and I go everywhere together. 2) I’ve removed my ATM card / credit card from my wallet, and I have them locked up; and I only carry up to 40,000 – 50,000 tsh on me at anytime. Most of the time, people who do get robbed here are alone, and the robbers don’t necessarily want to kill you; they just want your money. So, basically I’ll just hand my wallet over if someone wants to rob me. 3) Finally, you have to be alert at all times, and learn where not to go to. There’s a bridge by Suzanne’s house where interns have notoriously been robbed, and we all avoid that area like the plague.

I don’t really want to talk too much about my work at the ICTR, because I prefer to lean on the side of confidentiality, but I think the internship is incredible. My bosses, Nus [British] and Sophie [French] are also wonderful people, and have been really easy to work for. I also have met and I really like the judges that I am working for.

So, what’s happening from here? I’ve decided that I’m going to take two major trips over the summer. My roommates and I are going to the Serengeti for four nights of camping through a reputable tour company approximately two weeks or so from now [we haven’t decided on the exact dates]. Then, on July 22nd, Anit, Brook, myself, and other interns are going to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro over six days through the Machame route, which is going to be very scenic. I will definitely have some great pictures from these trips.

By the way, I have a Tanzanian cell phone number. We haven’t been able to do this through Skype thus far, but if you figure out a way how to call me cheap, its +255 0685250333. Supposedly incoming calls are free to me, it just costs me money to call others. Everything is prepaid here.

Regardless, I hope everyone is doing well back in America. I do miss America, and I can’t wait to come back in August to DC, and then Miami. I’ll try to update more frequently as I have things to write.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

UM Law Article

This is a great article on the front page of the University of Miami School of Law website on what I'm doing in Africa this summer, as well as other UM law students are doing.


Part 1 of the Beginning of the Great African Adventure

Hello everyone,
First, I apologize for not updating this blog since leaving America. 1) I have always had difficulty updating blogs, but 2) my internet connection has been horrible in Arusha, so I feel like I have a legitimate excuse.

For one, I am well, safe, sound and secured, but a little tired. The jet lag has still not been cured yet, as I am in this trend of going to bed around 9pm and waking up at 4am. Fortunately, I’m feeling a lot better today. Additionally, I’ve already lost one belt notch since I got here, so I’m guessing I’ve lost 5 pounds or so from eating far less than I did in America.
So again, polĂ© [sorry in Swahili], but here’s a run-down of the adventure thus far.

So, Beth dropped me off at the airport at 5 AM on Tuesday, May 26th, with only one hour of sleep due to packing/applying for a scholarship the night before. It was great to see her for two weeks between law school and this trip, but it was incredibly difficult to leave her for 3 months. Beth, in addition to being my fiancé, is also my best friend, and my confidante, so everyday I miss her a bit.

But, anyway, I could write an entire book about my admiration and love for Beth, but you probably don’t care about that [unless you are Beth], so I’ll continue to write about my adventure to Africa.

I got on the Delta flight to New York, which was a horrible flight on a cramped flight. Also, JFK Airport is a horrible airport [sorry New Yorkers, but any airport, where you have to leave the terminal and go through security AGAIN to go somewhere is ridiculous.] Even O’Hare is a better airport.

However, everything got better once I got onto Emirates.

For one, Emirates’s international jets had plenty of legroom, even for tall [6’2’’ or 6’1’’, depends on the day, I’m having] people like myself. Also, each seat had its own television, which had actually really current movies on it. I saw Invictus [great movie which put me in the mood to go to Africa], Avatar [not bad, but highly overrated], and something else that was apparently so memorable that I’ve already forgotten what it was. I think the third movie was good. I don’t know.

Also, I think my favorite two things about Emirates were the meals, which were a fresh Arab/Indian mix [I have also become slightly addicted to curry over the past few months], as well as that everything was in English as well as Arabic. From being in Africa and Dubai, I have become somewhat fascinated with Arabic culture. It has some incredibly beautiful elements to it. I will definitely fly Emirates again; it was the best airline that I was ever on. If you ever have to travel anywhere internationally, check if you can fly Emirates, it was definitely worth it.

Dubai was phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal. Basically, Dubai is America with an Arabic twist. I honestly think I saw more skyscrapers in Dubai than I saw in New York; but, it literally seemed at times that Dubai just assigned three people to a skyscraper. What I have found from my international travels thus far is that most people speak at least broken English, so it was relatively easy to maneuver about the city. I thought the exchange of dollar to dirham was fair, and it was a buck or two for the most part to travel around the city.

I am actually proud of myself, because I made sure to see the major things in the city. I only had a 7 hour layover in the city, so I had to use my time as effectively as possible. If you ever have only a few hours in Dubai, I highly recommend using the Dubai Metro, as you will be able to see most of the city quickly. First, I went and saw the Burj Khalifa, which is currently the tallest skyscraper in the world. I almost went up in it, but I was more impressed with how humanity could build something so tall. I then saw the Dubai Mall, which was literally at the same metro stop, which looked like an incredibly modern mall.

Truthfully, the only thing that really disappointed me about Dubai was the amount of American influence over the city. I saw a T.G.I.Fridays as well as a Chili’s [I’m embarrassed that this is how people probably think of us abroad], while I was there as well as multiple Burger Kings, etc. I wanted my first real foreign experience abroad, to be distinctly “foreign”, but it felt strangely like America.

The last thing that I saw that I was in Dubai was the Palm Tree Island, which is a huge man-made island, right off of the coast of Dubai. You can only really see the outline of the island from different parts, which looked cool. Dubai is also making a set of man-made islands, which will look like the world, but these islands are still a couple of years away from being open to the public.

Another thing I actually somewhat liked was the presence of the military everywhere. While the civil libertarian side of me screams “NO! BAD!”, I got to be honest, I felt really safe in Dubai. It makes sense why their crime rate is so much lower than the U.S. The military officers were very polite as I asked them questions of how to maneuver around their city.

The only thing that I did not see in Dubai was Ski Dubai. I saw it from the outside at the Mall of Emirates, but it would have been interesting to see from the inside. Anyway, I’ve never gone skiing in my life, so it really would have lost its purpose on me, as well as it leaves me something to do the next time I’m in Dubai.

Here are some pictures of Dubai [Captions Below]
This is a view of a part of downtown from the Metro.

This is the view of the Burj Khalifa from ground level.

A picture of one of Palm Tree Island's Fronds.

What Palm Tree Island would look like from the air.

Dubai's Airport feels like a palace.

Dubai does not need a Coldstone Creamery.  Then again, neither does the United States [nor me specifically!].

I then got back on Emirates and headed to Nairobi. Let me tell my initial entrance into Nairobi was quite a culture shock, as I got in around 7:30 pm that night. First, you have to realize that Kenya, Tanzania, etc. is in winter, so it gets dark outside around 6:30pm – 7:00pm at night [it’s also very cold at night]. Additionally, I was supposed to meet up with a friend that I met on facebook, Jana, but unfortunately, we got our signals crossed, so I was alone at the airport. I found a cab driver who took me directly to my hotel, the Kwheza Bed and Breakfast, which was located right outside of Nairobi, but it was a very safe/secure hotel, which had GREAT internet [I was able to skype call my Dad and Beth], and a GREAT view of the city.  Jana and I finally met up later that evening.

I found out from locals after I left Nairobi, that Nairobi is probably one of the most dangerous cities in the world. I’ve heard that there have been a lot of carjackings there, and fortunately, I was only there for a little while. Jana, who had worked in Nairobi for two months before, said that she really loved the city, and said that its bad reputation was overrated.

The thing that I disliked the most about Nairobi was the smog, and the general dirtiness. I was corresponding with my friend Henry, and I really blame foreign companies from coming into Nairobi and operating their manufacturing industry, not to the higher anti-pollution standards [still, way too low] imposed in America. Especially from traveling through the African countryside, Africa has great natural beauty, but I think foreign companies like America are destroying it.

Well, I will end my description of part one of the journey, here, leaving you with a couple of cliffhangers.

Did I ever make it to Arusha? Did I ever start work at the ICTR? Did I ever find housing? Did my stuff make it with me? What does Harvard, Columbia and the U now have in common?

[For potentially worried family members/significant other, the answer to all of the questions above is yes. Sorry to ruin the surprise for everyone else, but then again, everyone knows I secretly hate surprises.]

Talk to you all soon. I miss you all, but I am well.

A picture of Nairobi from my hotel.

Khweza Hotel

Asante sana! Heri, mate!