So, I’m doing this again, because:
1. You all love it.
2. I’m terrible at keeping in touch.
3. I hate repeating myself.
4. I think I’m funny and also a great writer, so I feel like I’m doing a service to the English speaking population.
5. So, for those of you I haven’t told (I’m sorry!), I moved to Den Haag, in the Netherlands, last week, to intern at the ICTY, and will be here until the end of 2015. So, European friends, that means I’m going to crash on your couch/cuddle with you at some point this summer/fall! So, moving to Europe – I have had THE WORST time. This has been a million times harder than moving to Africa, and most of it is through my own doing (and the restrictive mobile telephone rules of North America). So I had a couple crazy weeks – I finished articling June 5, spent a week packing up my apartment in Hamilton, headed to Toronto on the 13th to finish a course I was taking, see Dashboard Confessional, and of course, say goodbye to all the cool cats there. I drove back to Hamilton the night of the 16th, solely for the purpose of making Laura cry (again), then to London on the 17th, got called to the bar on the 18th, and then drove to Ottawa on the 19th for my cousin’s wedding on the 20th, to fly out from Toronto the night of the 21st.
So needless to say, my last week in Canada was pretty crazy. And I got back to the hotel after Erin’s wedding at like 3 or 4 am. So I get to the Toronto airport, make it through security, head on over to my gate with an hour and a half to kill… and then realize that somewhere between getting through security and WALKING TO MY GATE, I lost my passport. And my boarding pass. I was remarkable calm, went to my gate attendants, told them what happened. They judged me REAL hard, and told me to go back to security immediately. Security felt really bad for me and told me to call lost and found, who told me passports go directly to Service Canada, who told me that they wouldn’t return a passport that quickly. So basically, I hung out with the security guards for an hour and 15 minutes, and then was paged to my gate. Apparently, just as they were removing my bags from the plane, someone returned my passport and boarding pass to the gate. Clearly miracles are real, and I’ve been a fool for being an atheist all these years. So, I made it to The Hague without any further issue. My housing situation was a mess though (my original plans fell through 3 weeks before I left), so I’m currently staying in a room in a house with a kitchen that is about the size of the shower from my Hamilton apartment. Granted, that was a decent sized shower, but it’s not ideal. So I’m moving late July to house-sit at a family friend’s for three weeks, and then am trying to find a proper apartment for mid August. So I will be moving three times. I just love packing and unpacking, so much. If I ever make an online dating profile, that will be number one of my “Likes” list. Tell your single friends.
So, one of my first things upon arrival in the Netherlands, was obviously to get a new SIM card for the phone I unlocked in Canada. Thanks for nothing, Rogers. My phone was not unlocked, and their advice resulted in my phone becoming permanently locked. Then, after I did a factory reset on my phone to un-permanently lock the phone, they sent a million texts to everyone who ever texted me. So, I’m very sorry if you got those. Blame Rogers. Ask for credit. Egg their CEO’s office. I will finally be getting an unlocked phone sometime this week (or so they say, I still don’t have much faith). But since all my backups appear to be defective, that means I will probably lose your contact info, so let me know if you want my updated number, and I can hit you up on What’s App. I hate technology, guys, but you all knew that already. Microsoft Excel? Not a skill on the ol resume. (PS – Phil, come here now to help me with all my tech woes pleeeeeeease). I figured I was due for a much needed restful weekend, and luckily, Austin and some of his buddies were visiting Amsterdam this past weekend, so last Thursday I headed into the city (45 minute train ride – I’ve moved from Hamilton to the Hamilton of the Netherlands). Our first order of business, other than beers, was to visit Amsterdam’s number one tourist attraction, the Cat Boat aka Poezenboot.
I am so lucky Austin’s friends were cool enough to agree to go see the cat boat, because it is just pure delight. It’s a boat with cats! What more can you ask for?
It’s actually a cat shelter, on a boat. Admission is free, but you can donate. Sorry, Dad, you’re going to have to visit it. We also toured the canals – unfortunately, did not get to see the Cat Boat while on another boat, but there’s always next time.
And, we did a walking tour! Our guide had some great dad sandals on, but was lacking in the dad joke department. But it was informative, and we got free cheese (the veganism has officially died in the Netherlands, until I get more stable here, at least), and I’m quite food-motivated, so all in all, solid walking times.
Along with learning about the city, we went to watch some of the World Championships of Beach Volleyball, which was truly the best sporting event I have ever attended. The mascot was a seagull named Spike, and he hated me. So I think that tells you everything you need to know. Classic bird move. I headed back to The Hague Sunday afternoon to get ready for work yesterday. I’m pretty limited in what I can say about the work I’m doing because security is very tight – I have to lock my computer when I go to the bathroom, I’m not allowed to leave documents on my desk, and I’m not allowed to take any documents, including my own notes from meetings, outside the secured areas of the Chambers III division. So anything that I tell you about my work in this blog is information that can be found publicly on the ICTY website and/or Wikipedia. As a brief description, I’m working as part of a team for Chambers III of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which are the Francophone Trial Chambers. I’m assisting the judges of that Chamber in drafting a decision that is, according to the ICTY website, tentatively scheduled to come out by “the last quarter of 2015”, regarding the case of Vojislav Šešelj.
So. Working entirely in French. With a Franco-Italian as an officemate, and being the only native English speaker in this part of the Chambers. It’s… I mean, challenging, is a word. I remember in grade nine, Sacha asking me to just speak French to her after school one day, because it was so tiring/frustrating to keep up all day with native Anglophones. And that was how I felt my first day – I desperately needed to hear English at the end of the day. It’s actually great though; after two days speaking French all day, I’ve already picked up way more legalese than I would’ve had this been a slow start, and, fortunately, the lead lawyer on our team is Québecois… so I understand her better than the Euro French speakers do. It’s exhausting, but I’m so happy to feel this challenged and I can already see what an amazing opportunity this is for me to improve myself, which is just so fantastic. And the interns I’m working with are great and the team in general so far has been so supportive. I’m really excited to be doing this. And guys, the work I’m doing. Is so cool. SO. COOL. Yesterday, I had a meeting with the judges of the Šešelj case, which means I’ve already met three ICTY judges, and have had 5 hours of meetings with them. With more meetings to come for the rest of the week. It’s so cool to actually see the process of such a huge decision being made, and, somehow, between all my exploring in Africa and late nights on Long Street, I learned a lot about this type of international law at the University of Cape Town, and really feel like I know what I’m doing here. Which is not what I expected at all. I’m just gonna link to Šešelj’s wikipedia page, for those of you interested in knowing more about the man in the case I’m working on, but also, some brief tidbits (pulled from the ICTY website/wikipedia):
- He’s brilliant. He completed his 4 year undergrad program in 2 years and 8 months, obtained his Ph.D. at age 25 – making him the youngest Ph.D. holder in Yugoslavia – and taught poli sci at the University of Michigan.
- He was the leader of an opposition party to that of Slobodan Milošević, with Milošević, at one point, describing Šešelj as “the personification of violence and primitivism.”
- He surrendered to the ICTY in 2003 following an indictment including eight counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of violations of the laws or customs of war.
- On 11 February 2009, after 71 witnesses had been heard and with the expected conclusion of the prosecution’s case seven hours away, the judges of the ICTY suspended Šešelj’s trial indefinitely at the prosecutors’ request, due to concerns about intimidation of witnesses.
- A contempt of court case against Šešelj was opened for him having revealed, in a book he had written, the identities of three witnesses whose names had been ordered suppressed by the tribunal. For his contempt, he was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment by the ICTY.
- The trial resumed 12 January 2010, and continued until 17 March 2010, when it was adjourned indefinitely due to health concerns of witnesses.
- In September 2011, the ICTY rejected Šešelj’s bid to have his trial discontinued. Of all the ICTY indictees, Šešelj has spent the longest time without a verdict being delivered.
- On 6 November 2014, the ICTY granted Šešelj provisional release due to his diagnosis of metastatic cancer, and general deteriorating health.
So, that is about all I can tell you about my work. And I’m about due for bed, so I can get up at 6:00 for some marathon training before my next meeting with the judges. Rest easy, gentle souls.