January 2005 Reflection

Part II: The Discovery

The outcome of the American election has left many in Ireland in shock. There seemed to be an unwritten understanding among the Irish I interact with that Kerry was going to win. I spent most of the month leading up to the election debating American foreign policy, and was surprised at how many people think that American dominance in world affairs will slowly decrease over time. Many of the people I talk with are already looking to China to be the next superpower. It will be interesting to see if they are right.

I spent the first part of election night at the Guinness Storehouse, where the American embassy threw an election night party. The party was fantastic – an excellent opportunity to interact with classmates and friends. It was the perfect venue to talk politics, although the more I discussed, the more I realized that I knew too little. The night ended early, but I came back to my apartment and glued myself to a television until the early morning.

After classes ended, I traveled to Morocco over the Christmas holidays with Zach, a fellow Mitchell. It was my first true foray into a Muslim country. It was full of interesting and diverse experiences, many of which served to remind me that as much as globalization has promoted standardization, there is still a world of difference among national cultures.

On Christmas day we found ourselves riding on camels (painful) into the Sahara (wonderful). I realize there is a reason why none of the Moroccans actually ride the camels and save them for the tourists. That reason has to do with the unique vertebral structure of camels and the limited availability of working saddles in Morocco. Camels, adhering to the stereotype, also spit an incredible amount of fluid, which, conveniently, they store in their humps before a long journey.

To those of you who may have a romantic notion of the Sahara, let me say that it is the world’s largest sandbox, overflowing with many, many, many granules and not much else. It is also one of the few locations I have visited that I find I cannot define adequately, hampered as I am by my meager command of the English language. A poor attempt would be that the Sahara is truly ‘nowhere’ and I have never been so grateful to be ‘nowhere’ because 1) I realize how valuable all the ‘somewheres’ are 2) and now, whenever anyone mentions sand dunes, I can merely grin. The Sahara is one of the natural wonders of the world that served to remind me of how small I truly am.

Also, at night it is absolutely freezing.

One of the highlights of our trip was a race through the medina, defined as an ‘old walled city’, of Fez. The Fez medina is one of the oldest in the world, and is reputed to have over 30,000 streets in a very small area (a couple of square kilometers). There is no official map of the medina, which makes exploration all the more fun and potentially dangerous. The medina is full of people haggling in small stores, and is exactly the kind of place where I imagine the adventures of Aladdin took place.

Our race was simple. We started at one corner of the medina, and bet on who would reach the other end first. Zach went with Jen (our host – a resident of the medina, who was on no account allowed to help Zach) and I went with Francis (a friend traveling with Zach and I). The race was hilarious. Francis and I walked around the same Mosque approximately eight times. I am happy to say that Zach was just as lost as we were about 95% of the time (I know this because we were lost, and we ran into him and Jen multiple times), but eventually Zach won.

Francis and I are convinced that Zach cheated. We are probably right, but have no proof, so alas, we lost the bet.

On the thesis front: I have chosen a thesis topic, and will research how the International Criminal Court will be affected by the Dusko Tadic case, the first of its kind that appeared before the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal of Yugoslavia. I am excited, as I will begin to delve into one of my true passions, human rights law.

But now, on to exams. Two more weeks until freedom…

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