Full Days and New Friends

Well, it has been a busy few days since arriving in The Hague on Sunday!  Monday me and my roommates successfully navigated the 40 minute walk to our school orientation, and made it on time despite the rain and the lack of street signs.  Coming back we convinced some other people to walk with us, which turned out to NOT be the best idea as someone insisted they knew the way back, got us nice and lost and then turned to me and said, “okay, you can take back over now.”  I was able to get us successfully home, but it took about twice as long as the walk there and was ultimately about double the distance!  I had worn a pedometer that day and clocked in at about 15,000 steps; about 6.5 miles!  After that, my foot decided to rebel, and I’ve had to take the tram ever since.  Hopefully I’ll be able to start walking to class again next week, I’d much rather see the city on foot than through the tram window!

Despite the roundabout walk and the rain, it was good to get to know some new people on that walk.  I’m in a somewhat unique situation because I’m an evening/transfer student, so while a lot of people know each other from their 1L sections, I’ve had one class with one person, and one with another, but for the most part don’t know anyone.  I’ve gotten a lot of wait, you go to our school?  Wait, you have a job?  Wait, what are you doing here, and why have we never met you before?  But it’s nice to get to know some classmates I’ll probably see more of over the next couple years.

We’ve had a variety of guest lecturers so far, of mixed quality.  Some have been great, some less so, but I think since some of them are lecturing in my current field, I may have higher-than-appropriate expectations.  Another part of our program is some mandatory non-classroom events, mainly site visits to many of the international courts/legal entities here in The Hague.  Today we visited the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and heard from a gentleman there about the history of the Court, their jurisdiction, and some of the cases they’ve decided, all while sitting in the main courtroom in The Peace Palace.

The Peace Palace, home to the International Court of Justice (ICJ)

Immediately after, we headed across the city to attend a presentation by Ambassador Ivo Daalder, the US Ambassador to NATO, about the recent NATO Summit in Chicago.  After his presentation he took questions, and I was as impressed by his answers as I was by the audience standing up with questions.  Everyone from local students and journalists, to Members of the Dutch Parliament and even another Ambassador (!) hit Ambassador Daalder with a range of tough questions, many not even related to his presentation, but questioning the Obama Administration’s policies and actions.  The Ambassador handled all of these questions with amazing diplomacy– which I guess is why he’s got the job.  Even when he didn’t answer the question, or when he sidestepped a question obviously intended to get a rise out of him, he didn’t ignore the question, but was able to respond in such a way as to toe the US party line, and speak intelligently on each topic, but also not take the bait thrown in his direction.  While some of my classmates criticized his not answering these questions directly, I was impressed by how he handled those questions.  I can only hope to one day be able to (and have to!) handle similar situations as well.

After the Q&A there was a reception where a woman from the Canadian Embassy introduced herself to some of us and we began talking about what has brought us all to The Hague.  In the course of the conversation she expressed her interest in the Canadian Foreign Service, which led us to a side conversation comparing the US and Canadian Foreign Services, the applications, the competitiveness of the hiring processes, and the differences in tour assignments.  I considered this my first foray into the diplomatic world, mingling with other foreign service personnel and networking.  Later she joined me and some of my classmates for dinner.  We exchanged contact information and I can only hope to cross paths with her again someday when we are both serving in our respective Foreign Services.

After such a full day, it’s time for me to head to bed, but not before reporting today’s pedometer step count of about 11,500 steps, and 4.86 miles!  Whew, no wonder I’m exhausted!  And finally, I have to wish my brother a Happy Birthday, so even though he doesn’t read this, his fiancee does, and I’m sure will pass it on to him 🙂


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