Friday, June 4, 2010

Week 3 at CCS Karanga

Our time outside of placement was still jam packed moving into Week Three. Here are a couple of highlights of things we got to experience:

Batik Making: Fabric plays a large part of daily life in Moshi and Tanzania as a whole. Women use basic kangas as skirts, wraps, or baby backpacks. Kitenge fabric is sold in many places around town. Once you buy this fabric, you can work with one of the hundreds of sewers/tailors sitting on the streets with their foot powered sewing machines to make dresses, skirts, pants, and handbags. A third type of fabric here is Batik, which is made using plain cloth, wax, and dye.

Most batik consists of repeating patterns, but some batik is more artistic and is used as a wall hanging much like a canvas. At CCS we were given batik lessons by a local artist, and had the opportunity to make our own piece of art. While I realize I have VERY little artistic talent, I found the activity to be a lot of fun, especially when it came to using the dye to create different shades of similar colors. The whole batik process took a long time, but I think all of us were pretty happy with our masterpieces.

Local Dance: On Tuesday night, we were treated to dinner out and a traditional dance show. The dance show consisted of both acrobats and tribal dancers. The acrobats were really cool, although some of the really skinny ones that could fold their bodies in weird ways scared me. The dancers were a lot of fun, and invited us onto the floor to dance with them. The flowing wine, Tusker, and Konyagi helped us to think we were dancing like real Africans. 

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR): On Wednesday we took a trip to the United Nations building in Arusha, where the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwandan War Crimes is being held. The ICTR began in 1995 to arrest and complete trials for those involved in the 1994 Genocide. Since 1995, over 80 individuals responsible for decision making in the Genocide have been arrested. This includes former Rwanda Prime Minister Jean Kambanda, the first head of government to ever be convicted of committing war crimes. His sentence of life in prison was the first to be handed down in an international court for the crime of genocide.

Unfortunately, the only court session being held the day we were there was a closed court case (for witness protection). We found out just as we were about to go into the viewing room. We were a bit disappointed, but got to spend the rest of our visit in the ICTR Library as well as with different ICTR officials learning about the International Court. While the local courts In Rwanda are handling many of the smaller cases, and will continue to do so, ICTR plans to close in the next year or two as many of the top leaders of the genocide have been arrested and convicted.

It was a very eye-opening experience. Close to 1 million people were killed in a matter of months. It is amazing how quickly something like this can happen in a third world country. While I try to avoid bringing up politics, the whole experience made me think quite a bit. The UN has spent the past 15 years dealing with the aftermath of this Genocide. Should this have even been necessary? The US knew this was happening, the UN knew this was happening, but neither stepped in to stop it. Is this because Rwanda doesn’t have oil? Was it because the genocide happened with a Democratic administration in office in the US? People in the US say that we’re too smart to let something like the Holocaust happen again, but it happens over and over. Uganda, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda. When and where should the US step in? The UN? Other nations? I don’t have an answer, or even a proper opinion, as the implications of these decisions are huge (can we say Iraq?) How do you place value on human life? Who is responsible for stopping disgusting crimes like these? The ICTR hopes that showing the world that Government leaders and others responsible for genocide will be caught and will be convicted will serve as a deterrent for those thinking of doing something similar in the future. Will it work?

Ok – off my soapbox. While I didn’t get as much free time during my time at CCS as I had previously expected, I really appreciated all of the cultural experiences we were able to take part in. It brought about a great respect and understanding of the Tanzanian and East African people, and made a great impact on my takeaways from this trip.

1 comment:

Emily Therese said...

While in Syracuse I had the opportunity to attend a talk given by Paul Rusesabagina, the real-life hotelier from "Hotel Rwanda." It was an incredibly moving evening, and it made me realize how much of what is going on in the rest of the world we miss by living in the United States - either because we choose to ignore it or because the issues don't get coverage over here. And the horrific events have not ceased - continuing conflicts in Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo are only two of the more visible atrocities. Thanks for getting up on your soapbox to remind folks that the work of bettering humanity still has a long way to go...but also through what you've been doing, you have been showing that small contributions can make a big difference to the individuals that you are working with.