Here is the latest blog from Elisabeth Ellingson. Doesn’t it make you want to be there too? Joe Martin
Bonjour tout le monde! (Hello everyone!)
As always, I have experienced several new and interesting things since I last wrote. The first thing was about two weeks ago when I went to the Museum of Natural Science which holds the largest dinosaur fossil exhibit in Europe. It was so cool! I had never actually seen dinosar fossils before. The coolest thing there was the leg of a giganotosaurus which was about 25 feet tall! It was surreal being next to things that were over 100 million years old. I still can hardly fathom something being that old.
But what was even cooler than seeing dinosaur fossils, was going to The Peace Palace (AKA The International Court of Justice) in Den Haag, The Netherlands. For those who don’t know, this is an organ of the UN. It is the only one that is not in New York and this is where legal disputes between countries are settled. I had the pleasure of being able to actually sit in on a hearing that was about whether to grant Costa Rica’s permission to intervene in the case of Nicaragua vs. Colombia. Nicaragua and Colombia have been arguing for a couple years about their maritime territory. Recently, though, Costa Rica and Honduras both decided that they deserve to have a say in the distribution of the territory because they are located around the Caribbean Sea as well. Anyway, the court was beautiful. The room that the session was in was much smaller than I had imagined, but was still very pretty. There were six huge chandeliers, beautiful painted glass, and a gigantic painting on the left. When the judges entered, and everyone stood, I was very surprised to see that there were fifteen of them! I had read that there are fifteen judges but for some reason didn’t think that they would all be there. Then, the representatives of each country presented their cases. Ane one of them wore one of those white wigs that people used to wear in like the 1600’s! Everyone spoke in English. However, when you first enter the room, you are given some headphones which allow you to turn on “French”. This allows you to hear the interpretors which were located on the right in a sort of separate room. But you could still see them. I liked watching them and even listened turned my headphones on “French” for part of it. It was very impressive that they could listen to the lawyers and judges in English and interpret what they’re saying to French at the same speed they are speaking in English! I hope my French will be that good one day. That would be a very interesting job to have. I was very glad I was granted permission to watch the hearing. Another very interesting thing at the court was located outside. It was the “World Peace Flame”. In 1999, seven flames from five continents were united to create this flame. Then, in 2004, every country in the world brought a special stone from their country to create a pathway around the flame (which is held in a case about 5 feet tall). And every country of the world, for the first time in history, endorsed a joint statement of peace.
I also experienced an amazing reaction to my being American. On Saturday, I went to my first Belgian party which was held at a “youth house” which is basically a dilapidated house owned by the government for kids to have parties in. Anyway my friend, her boyfriend, and I all went together. While we were there, we met some cool people that were my age (a group of about 7 people). And the second that I said “I’m from the United States”, I became an instant celebrity. They all started yelling “Woooowwww!! You’re from the United States??!! Do you know Barack Obama??”, etc. They were so enthusiastic that at first I thought they were being sarcastic. But they weren’t! They were VERY excited because several of them had never met anyone from the United States and the USA influences so much of the world. For example, most of the tv shows and movies that people watch here are American, dubbed in French or Dutch; many of the stores are American; most people listen to American music, etc. I was also told by one of these new friends of mine that they are learning about Americans in religion class. They are learning about how a lot of us go to church because most people here don’t. They have a lot of respect for that 🙂
As for my French-speaking, it’s still progressing at a good rate. And my internship is going well also. I plan to go to Paris within a few weeks because the terrorism threat has gone down now. I also may be going to London because the round-trip plane ticket is only 88 euros (about $120).
Anyway, talk to you later!