Well honestly I don’t know how a first day of work could possibly go much better. And let’s not forget: I’ve wanted to work for the UN for a solid decade now. (Kofi Annan himself knows that!)
I slept well on my first night in Den Haag and woke up at 7:30 to another bright morning. I arrived at the ICTY at 8:55 but had a brief adventure upon being told that the interns were due to report to the ICTY Administration building, which was about a block away. I walked in just as the intern coordinator arrived to move us to a cafeteria for some briefing. Amazingly, almost everyone in this week’s group is American or Canadian – apparently that’s something to do with our summer schedules. I think about 25 of us started today, and I know another group starts next Monday as well.
By 11:00 I had made some new friends, found a fellow W&M alumna, and acquired my ICTY ID badge. The picture on it is literally me in front of the UN flag. How surreal!
We trooped back over to the main building and had some fun learning how to “beep” our ID cards. (The sign actually says “please beep your card”.) To get from the outside of the building up to my office requires three beeps: one at the front gate, one in the lobby, and one at the entrance to our hallway of offices. Talk about secure!
Anyway, it was while we were waiting in the lobby that we had our celebrity sighting. A girl next to me pointed to a group of men in black suits standing several feet away from us and whispered, “did anyone else here watch ER? Is that one of the doctors?” I looked over, and sure enough, there was Goran Visnjic, aka Luka Kovac! Now, my mom and I have always been big, big fans of his – I mean, he’s Croatian! (He’s even led Matt Lauer through Dubronik on one of his international trips.) I tried to effect a casual attitude as I whipped out my iPhone and strode over a few feet for a better picture vantage point. Unfortunately, he moved his hand just as I snapped the photo, so the one from my phone only shows the top half of his face. I wasn’t willing to try again, but I was willing to stand there and stare to the extent possible given that I was still in a conversation with some people.
Next on our introductory tour was the health wing of the basement. The ICTY has its own doctor and nurse as well as a host of interesting health documents, like a pamphlet about ways to exercise if you’re lazy (one suggestion: march in place while brushing your teeth), a brochure on tips for dealing with burnout, and a briefing on office ergonomics (they told us to take it seriously and gave all of us a copy).
Speaking of exercise, the Office of the Prosecutor is on the third (Americans, read fourth) floor of the building, so as we climbed the stairs we all decided there was no need to join a gym. Once we arrived at the top, we went into a small conference room and got our Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) briefing, which was pretty simple: confidentiality is supremely important (which means I can’t really tell you anything except which case I’m on), particularly this week because the BBC is here filming footage to make a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the ICTY.
Once briefed, we were sorted into our groups and went off to meet our supervisors. I was thrilled – thrilled – to be put on the Mladic case. Now, some of you might at least recognize that name. Mladic is the one who was only caught recently and was responsible for Srebrenica, among other things. As one of our supervisors said: this case is one of the four biggest in the world right now. (Karadzic’s trial is ending; Charles Taylor’s just ended; and the ICTR is about to try its last defendant.) Look him up: Ratko Mladic. His trial is scheduled to start on Wednesday, so we have truly perfect timing.
We settled into one of the intern work rooms, where about 15 of us have desks. In contrast to our group, none of the veteran interns is from North America. Most are European, including several who were speaking BCS (the official term for the language spoken in the former Yugoslavia – Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian). I have to say BCS here because I’m not sure which country they’re from. I sat there chuckling to myself as they spoke to each other in BCS; at one point I heard the word “rakija” several times, which suggests to me they were talking about weekend activities. J I also smiled when I heard “hajde”, the word I have tattooed on my wrist!
There are two other new interns on the Mladic case with me (along with some older interns), and we spent the afternoon getting acquainted with the case. We got copies of the indictment, prosecution brief, and defense brief – all of which are pretty long, so we didn’t finish reading everything. We got an actual assignment right at 5:30 and spent another 45 minutes or so combing through a few documents looking for things (that’s all I can say – it sounds boring but wasn’t!).
I got to see Goran Visnjic one more time on my way out. He was in the lobby again, with a lot more people around him and some photographers. Since this time he was clearly dealing with some press, I felt no shame in getting out my camera and taking his picture. (This one is blurry because I turned off my flash – I didn’t want to draw attention to myself.) He smiled at me at one point while I stood there, and I swear I felt weak at the knees. Move over, Johnny Depp – Goran Visnjic just displaced you at the top of my list.
I’m now back in my apartment enjoying schwarma and a beer after going on a little exploration around my neighborhood. Day #2 in the Hague/Day #1 at the ICTY = epic win. This is going to be an awesome summer!