Thursday, June 3, 2010

Join the Free World

I caught an Associated Press article in the Philadelphia Inquirer today. Lawyer Peter Erlinder, infamous for taking on unpopular sides of the law, was in Rwanda helping Victoire Ingabire's legal team. If you recall, President Paul Kagame declared his opposition running man (Ingabire) an agitator and a promoter of genocidal ideology during his campaign against Kagame in the Presidential elections last year. Simply by association, Erlinder was jailed last Friday for "conspiring" with Ingabire. Erlinder is a professor of law and stands that the genocide of 1994 was instigated by both sides.

President Kagame has now sat as Rwanda's President since 2ooo when President Pasteur Bizimungu was deposed. Re-elected in 2003, his seven year term was coming to a close at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, Ingabire's campaign was crushed and Kagame continues as President. That is the short story.

The longer version stems from Kagame's humble beginnings as a guerilla who studied Che Guevara and fought in public and private wars in Congo, Uganda and the former Zaire. It was also claimed by several of his former intelligence officers that it was Kagame who ordered the plane to be shot down in 1994 (the spark that lit the genocide).

Rwanda is full of life today: economic, social, technological, touristic and agricultural. Kagame sits behind a large steering wheel; one with lots of power, but hard to turn off its path. The racial issues of the past (Belgian made, of course) still loom, but it should not prevent such an ally to turn its head on democracy and justice. The American Bar Association has directly spoken out to Kagame demanding that lawyers not be condemned for their clients actions (or lack thereof, in this case).

Erlinder tried to take his own life a couple of days ago by swallowing and overdosed amount of pills in his Rwandan cell. Is this really worth it? I understand genocide is unacceptable, but allowing this lack of freedom to continue is the Western world sympathizing with a "poor, uneducated, simple African country". Hey Rwanda! Is that what you are? Join the free world and set an example. Free Erlinder, and call for a new election!!!


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

God's Creatures

Yesterday in the kitchen, we got news that tonight they would be bombing. This means that the exterminator is coming for his monthly visit, as they should in all food service facilities. It requires that the stewards cover and wrap any utensil used in food production: pans, plates, silverware, etc. It is a long a tedious job, but kind of breaks up the monotony of a dishwasher's daily chores.

I reminisced of the kitchen in Djibouti. It is a dream for a professional chef to open brand new kitchens. Everything is clean, new equipment, fresh menus and ideas; it's absolutely wonderful and inspiring. After a couple of months in Djibouti, I was checking over the Kitchen Department's finances, and came across two monthly bills from low and behold, an exterminator. This would not have caused me to pause except for the fact that I realized I had not seen a roach since I arrived! I quickly went out to the hot line where the cooks were busy with the lunch service, and called for the chef de partie on duty.

"Ali Abdullah! Viens ici!" He dropped his tongs and rag and jogged over. "Oui, chef." I asked him if he had seen any cafard? "Non, non chef. Qu'est ce que c'est des cafards?" My gosh, he didn't even know what they were. Amazing. So why were we spending money on an exterminator, you might ask? What is the most common household insect? What do you see on all of those misleading and misguided Sally Strothers commercials on dying African children? Flies. Flies were everywhere. So much, in fact, that we needed a bloody exterminator. I remember when we opened the hotel, there was a lot of excess trash including staff meals and packaging from unwrapped equipment. It had all been piled up in the loading dock awaiting removal. As I pulled up in my pickup, the entire pile, literally the size of an elephant (I should know), was black and moving, covered in flies.

The most interesting thing, socially, is the acceptance of the flies that occurs after a couple of months. Waving them away just becomes SO tiring, that one gives up. The land on your hands, legs, arms, hair, face and eventually, they fly away. All the swatting and smacking and frustration is a waste of time. They're God's creatures. (However, if you are in Djibouti and bored in the hot afternoon, sit down, have a cold beer and buy a cheap fly swatter. I think Charbel, Cedric, Djibrine and I counted 47 in 20 minutes. Beat that.)