Anne de Graaf's blog: International-Intrigue-Injustice

23 July 2015

After 70 years, the salmon are back!

Filed under: Thin and Thick Places,Words by Others — annedegraaf @ 2:16 am

Northwest Umatilla-20150722-00516This sign hangs outside a group of buildings 3 miles south of Umatilla. A high fence surrounds the buildings, with signs warning this is Tribal property and trespassers will be prosecuted. When I pulled up onto the dry, hot asphalt that I thought might melt the soles of my sandals, two police cars were parked alongside each other, the men inside chatting and laughing through open windows. I opened the unlocked gate and walked in like I owned the place. This policy has gotten me into the most surprising places in the past, and it worked again. Northwest Umatilla-20150721-00510

I wandered around the Three Mile Falls Dam salmon facility, took these photos, and finally ran into a human who said he worked for the Oregon State Fisheries department, and who was I again? I dropped a few names of people I’d interviewed on the Rez, but he said, he didn’t know the people in the Tribe. “They just rent us space here.” But he was kind enough to take 20 minutes and walk me through the facility, which includes sorting pools, video cameras that count the salmon as they come up the river and enter the ladders, sluices, and hatchery areas. When I asked him what their biggest challenge was, he said, “Water. The agricultural needs in this area are huge, but somehow, the Tribe got an agreement so more water would flow through the Umatilla, and after 70 years, the salmon are back! Not only that, but we had record runs of Steelhead and Spring Chinook.” And that’s where the sign comes in.

As quoted in my papNorthwest Umatilla-20150721-00512er (see previous post): The CTUIR views land as something that cares for them, and they care for the land. The right to fish is a right guaranteed by the 1855 Treaty. So tribal leaders and members agreed that fisheries policy should be a high priority. In 1980 they initiated the Umatilla Basin Salmon Recovery Project to restore water and salmon to the Umatilla River. The challenge was to achieve this while also protecting the local non-Indian economy, which is dependent on irrigated agriculture. The core of this ecosystem-based restoration plan is an innovative water-swapping agreement in which local irrigators agreed to relinquish their claims to water from the Umatilla and instead receive water piped from the Columbia River in order to raise the Umatilla’s flow to a level sufficient to bring salmon bacNorthwest Umatilla-20150721-00513k. (Record, 2008)

The fisheries policy exemplifies the Tribes’ approach of “cooperation over confrontation.” Antone Minthorn, Chairman of CTUIR’s Board of Trustees, or leader of the Tribes, said, “If we have to, we will litigate to protect our treaty-reserved rights, but we have seen that we can create solutions which meet everyone’s needs by sitting down with our neighbors, listening to each other, and developing our own solutions. … We believe the cooperative process between neighbors can be used as a model for success in the region and beyond” (Record, 2008).

Northwest Umatilla-20150722-00514The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development listed the CTUIR as an Honoring Nation award winner for its Umatilla River Basin project (2014). The Harvard Project recognizes conditions when American Indian nations use applied research and service to achieve sustained, self-determined social and economic development. It recognizes outstanding examples of Tribal governance through the annual Honoring Nations Awards. When the CTUIR won this award in 2002 for its Salmon Recovery Project, it was just the first of several such awards.

Non-academic me here again: I’ll be interviewing Antone Minthorn about this and I’m very excited to hear his vision for the Tribes’ governance style.

In the meantime, I’ve spent the last two days listening to their Youth Council, and to young adults helping mentor youth, and to elderly people. One of the things I learned was a Creation story that includes gifts animals gave when the first Human was being made. I won’t tell you the whole story, but the Salmon chose to give two gifts. And they were good gifts. The first one was its life, so humans could feed off salmon and live. The second gift was the Salmon’s Voice. But humans had to promise to speak on behalf of the Salmon and preserve it and the land and water in return.

In the Tamastslikt Cultural Center, there are many exhibits about the past, present, and future of the Tribes. One of them says that once the salmon returned to the Umatilla River, as the salmon thrived, so did the People. I’m wondering if Voice had something to do with it.

19 July 2015

Lions and tigers and bears

Filed under: Thin and Thick Places — annedegraaf @ 10:10 am

IMG-20150719-00480I did something very different yesterday. I had heard about a lake on the Rez, called Lake Hume-Ti-Pin, which translates as “Grizzly-bitten.” On the map it’s just called “Indian Lake,” though. The temps were due to reach 100 (38C) in the valley where I’m staying, so I thought I’d head into the Blue Mountains in the hope of cooling off a bit. My shiny red Ford Focus rent-a-car bravely carried me through Pendleton, and onto Hwy 395. At Pilot Rock we took a left onto East Birch Creek Road, which, according to the website, I should follow for 19 miles. On Google maps the road did go from black to gray, now that I think of it, but I hadn’t paid much attention when my trusty laptop tried to warn me.

I think “Grizzly-bitten” is a reassuring name, don’t you? In Pilot Rock I drove past one-story wooden houses with pickups parked beside, in front, and behind them. Car parts littered the yards. Large trailers had been converted into more permanent homes. And oh, there’s the left turn onto East Birch Creek Road. I began to switch back and climb past ranches, Black Angus cattle along and ON the road, the trees went from Live Oak to Ponderosa Pine, and slowly I watched the reading of the outside temperature drop into the nineties, then into the eighties. By the time I opened my window to see if the outside was cooler than my air-conditioned inside, I was feeling grateful for the two bottles of water and full gas tank I’d brought with me. Yellow, dry hills gave way to wooded cliffs with fallen trees and small brooks dribbling onto the road.

And then…oh yeah, the asphalt ended. My Ford Focus said to me, “Uh, Anne, I’m not a 4-wheel drive.” I said, no problemo. My little worried self said, “You will drive off a cliff and no one will find your crippled and thirsty body for weeks.” I said, come here sweetie, I love you, but you do tend to exaggerate a tiny bit sometimes. And with a spit of gravel and a cloud of dust behind me, off we went.

Where I had been walking the day before, near the museum, I had read a sign saying cougars had been sighted recently. Where I drove now looked like prime cougar country to me. I drove and drove and drove. I thought, hey, this is like writing a PhD: you think you’re almost there, then turn a corner and see that you have another stretch to go, then you turn another corner and you’re still not there. I drank water. I drove. I drove slower and slower because of the potholes. I thought, hey, this is like when Erik and the kids and I were in Botswana and we lost the road and he followed the sun and brought us exactly where we needed to be. Camel Trophy driving. My by now, dust-encrusted Ford Focus was not amused. Just once a large blue pick-up with two black labs in the back careened past. See, I told my hesitant self, if something happened, people would find us. She did not answer.

I think she was mad at the lion part of me who loves adventure. My friend in South Africa calls me a lioness, and PvK (see four posts previous) must have recognized that part of me since he once said I have more balls than most men. This part of me was having a party, soaking up the sight of mountain vistas and swaying pines and blue skies with red-tailed hawks criss-crossing above. She relaxed and let go in a way I haven’t felt for years. She said, you’ve come home, sweet Anne. Rest.

I kept driving. Twice I passed tiny wooden cabins tucked in between the trees. Every now and then a sign warned that this was Reservation land and no trespassing was allowed off the road. Did I miss the lake? How do you miss a lake? Nearly an hour had passed. How long does it take to drive 19 miles? How many kilometers is that?

I turned a corner. And there she was. Pristine. Isolated. Perfect. A sign said, “Check in with the Gatekeeper. Those who don’t will pay double.” I thought, hey, this is like heaven. Ha! It turns out, the Gatekeeper is called Mike (not Peter), and he sat behind a picnic table. ON the picnic table panted the biggest Rottweiler I’ve ever seen. I drove up, got out, shook Mike’s hand, tried to ignore the dog and said, I came over Pilot Rock. Is that the best route? “Oh you only had 9 miles of unpaved road. The other routes into here are 20 or 25 miles of dirt road.” He looked at my Ford Focus questionably. Thanks Mike. I handed him the $2 fee for State park day use and said, Hey, you have like the best job in the world. He looked startled, then smiled. “Yeah, sometimes you have to work. Number 10.”

Now I had planned to just find a shady place and stretch out in the grass somewhere. I had my picnic blanket and a towel and my bathing suit and sunscreen. But I was being sent to campsite number 10. Like a good girl I followed the signs around the lake until I saw 10, and pulled in. Nice. Blanket on the grass. Stretched out and felt all the muscles relax better than a yoga workout. I squinted up into the pines and heard them sigh. I hadn’t heard that sound since I was a little girl and we stayed in the Sierras at our cabin on Donner Lake. The pines sighed. I sighed. My Ford Focus sighed. I meditate and am gone.

And then I heard it. A woman’s voice, high and shrill, “He almost shot my kid. You keep your fucking kid away from him. And your god-damned gun! Who the fuck do you think you are, you and your fucking kid and your fucking pellet gun!” Well, you get the idea, it went on and on and was right next door at number 11! The kid is screaming. She’s screaming. The man is screaming. Their dog is barking. I told the part of me who wants to interfere and make things right that she is going to stay put and not breathe a word. In an instant I was that little girl again, listening to my mom, wondering how I could calm her down and make things safe.

The man: “I think you’re over-reacting.” Well, and you can imagine what she said to that. Then others joined in. Six pickups and an all-terrain vehicle later, it seemed a family reunion was weighing in. Someone turned up the radio, the dog kept barking, and I thought, right, time to go for a walk.

I passed more pick-ups, people laughing, people drinking, people swimming. “Ma’am, could you take our picture, please?” Me? I walked down into a hollow where four huge RVs were parked. One had a satellite dish on it and loud country music blasted out the doors. Ice chests all around, smiling people shake my hand, introducing themselves, “Come stay for a drink, who are you? Are you here alone, honey?” I took their picture with a type of phone I’ve never seen before, and smiled charmingly (the same one I used in the gun shop), thanked them and kept walking around the lake. I tried to remember the name of the movie where people said yes to hospitality and disappeared.

Slowly the noise died down, and the sighing pines remembered me. I found this spot in the photo–it called my name and I sat in the shade and memorized the smell of pine, the lap of water, the eagle’s cry. Rest. I rested and played with the silence, stretching time until it stops, inside the light dancing on water. I have come here for this moment. It stays with me.

Chuck told me these mountains are who they are as a People. Here they can visit their dead. So I visit mine: Dad, whose grave I stood by on Wednesday for the first time since the funeral–Dad, who used to say to me whenever I felt unsure: “Go get ’em, Tiger”; PvK, who never was supposed to die, and certainly not so fast; Hemayel, young and smart, who taught me about youth empowerment; other friends and family. They smile. I smile. Then I keep walking. For years I’ve longed to hike in the mountains again and today I do, picking my way through scented grass and scrambling up slopes, all the while, the sighing of the pines brushing my cheeks with cool air.

When I return to Number 10 the drama has shifted into low gear. I shake out my blanket and throw it into the back of the car, then drive to another spot and sit looking at the water for a little while longer. The peace of this lake soaks into me, and I carry it inside. If a place can make a people, then the Tribes are made well. No wonder they call this home.

Driving down out of the mountains I realize it actually only takes 90 minutes. No grizzlies. No cougars. No car spinning out of control in the gravel and diving off the cliff. No crazy Appalachian-accented people throwing me into a hole and tossing dirt over my face. No rabid Rottweiler foaming at the mouth. No child with a gunshot wound. The only real thing: the sighing of the pines, as they whisper to me still: All is well.

17 July 2015

High stakes

ImageWhen I checked in to the Wildhorse Casino Hotel on Wednesday, the front desk lady said, “Good luck!” I smiled and asked why, thinking, does she know I’m here not really knowing what I’m looking for?! And she said, “You’re checked in for so long, you’re here for the million-dollar high-stakes poker game, right?” I laughed and said not really. But then again…maybe yes, maybe no, maybe ice cream! Have never stayed in a casino before, ha!

Had my first interview yesterday—with Chuck Sams, III, Director of Communications, Confederated Tribes (Umatilla, Cayuse, Walla Walla) of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR).  He had a different kind of job in Portland for 14 years, where he worked with the Trust for Public Land as National Director of the Tribal & Native Lands Program. Assisting over seventy tribes and native communities, he helped develop strategies to reclaim Native lands with a focus on watersheds, wildlife corridors, working forests, and waterways. He told me, “Then I came home.” Two more times during the interview he used that word, instead of reservation or Rez. “At home, we…” And each time, the word resonated.

Shocking thing to hear (but then I can be so naive sometimes. As my students know, it’s all about sovereignty): “Obama might have told our youth in Washington, D.C. that he has their back, but we cannot trust the courts, and Congress runs our affairs, contrary to international law. And this Congress will do nothing for us.” What was shocking was his resignation and acceptance. I KNOW this, I know the history, but to be sitting across from a nice 40-something man who is articulate and kind and willing to put up with my questions, and hear, “We don’t trust the courts,” in a tone which brooks no argument, brings the history into the room and I look at his photos of military buddies and think he might have been in Iraq during Desert Storm, and my heart is not happy.

I am struggling with many emotions on this trip, and as is my way, writing is how I process. Which is why my long-starved blog is now feeding on words. One thing is that I’m seeing through a Social Science point-of-view…me! Well, my own people. I’m not in South Africa listening to Eastern Cape Xhosa anymore, I’m in America, watching white (maybe) Christians in a casino. And what an eye-opener that is! I walked through the casino yesterday for the first time and had a physical reaction to the noise and cigarette smoke and passivity of the people I passed. They are either heavily tattooed or elderly, mostly very overweight, slumped in front of the 1200 slots, eyes glazed over, pushing buttons, as music and video game racket screams from each machine over and over. Multiply that 1200 times and it’s a shocking contrast to the Nixyaawii Governance Center where I met Chuck. This tall building of stone and wood reached out and welcomed me with its peace and quiet. As I waited for Chuck (arrived 10 minutes early in true Dutch fashion), an elderly Native man, tiny, sat at the reception desk and told me how he doesn’t mind the 90-minute drive to work every day because he lives in beautiful country. Where, I asked. “You know where Pilot Rock is?” I nodded I saw the exit the day before. “Get on that road,” he said, “and just keep on driving.”

The Governance Center, like their museum is an architectural delight: high ceilings, a turning and twisting of corners and hidden corridors, so I am disoriented, but willing to trust the being lost. A water exhibit on the ground floor explains water rights. So still, then laughter from an office. In the parking lot, there are spaces spray painted: Reserved for Elder.

After the interview I go to the museum, then back to the hotel to type my notes. I need a margarita, I think. But I discover no alcohol is served in the hotel. What, no alcohol served anywhere on the reservation except the casino? Is this the elders’ doing? I go to the sports bar in the casino. Have to walk through the casino again, and this time I find myself holding my breath as I pass the bodies hunched forward over the slots. There are more of them. The contrast with the people I just spoke with is as great as the living and the living dead.

I do a mini-interview with the bartender: Why no alcohol served in the hotel? “Tribal law. This is sovereign land, so some of the laws are different than those of the state of Oregon.” Like what? “No liquor store either. We allow smoking in public places, like the casino.” Why? “It draws more gamblers.” What else? “No pot allowed on the reservation” (Oregon recently legalised pot and there were farms selling it during my drive on Wednesday). He smiles. “But this might change.”

I order a margarita and it is a huge bowl of ice with some mix and a few drops of tequila. Ok, that wasn’t worth the walk through the casino. I look up at the screens and see the Open being played at St Andrews!!! Yes, something familiar!! And they all look so cold and windblown. My eyes feast on the green dunes of the Old Course.

On my walk back through the casino to get to the hotel, I get all turned around. It’s a confusing place with all the noise and Annie really doesn’t like it there. So I try and hurry, but I pass the poker room, where the first rounds of the million-dollar tournament are being played, and sneak the shot shown at the top of this post.

See who the dealers are? See who the security guard walking the tables is? Native. Back in the hotel lobby a young man is sweeping the stone floor between stunning bronze statues of horses. His hair tied back, reaches below his waist. I wonder what the people who work here, mostly from the Tribes, must think of the people who come here and provide them with jobs. Am I the only one who sees the irony of white greed providing jobs for a Native community?

More interviews today: a former member of the Board of Trustees (their term for Council of Elders), she is an advocate for children’s rights and helped establish a Youth Council, and I’ll be listening to some of the young people on that council. Chuck has set this up for me. And he is also setting up an interview with at least one of the Elders, who are very busy and very protected.

I keep wondering why I have been accepted, or am being tolerated. When I first spoke to Chuck on the phone in February for my paper (see previous post), instead of me interviewing him, he interviewed me and put me in my place. (“We don’t need your help,” when I had asked, what do you need? And he got all quiet and didn’t like it when I referred to them as a marginalized group. Steep learning curve for me.) Now I have found favor. Maybe the TEDx talk helped? Yesterday’s interview with him was all about my establishing trust. I found myself telling him stories of Dad; it’s a precious story he told on the Hoek van Holland beach as we were walking together many years ago. A story about when he was 18 during WWII and on the Navy carrier off the coast of Japan. A friend of his was gay and Dad woke up one morning to find his friend gone. He’d been thrown overboard during the night. Because it was wartime, they had called it a casualty. Dad said he was so afraid to speak up, scared if he did that the same might happen to him. So he kept quiet for 60 years. And I was the first person he told. He still felt so bad about not saying anything. I told him it’s high time to let it go; it wasn’t your fault.

And then, when Dad was with me and Juul in eastern Oregon during our road trip several years ago, he told the only other war story I ever heard from him, about how ashamed he was of friends who raped Japanese women at the end of the war. “Good Catholic boys like me,” he said.

So, for whatever reason, I told these stories to Chuck yesterday. Offered them up like gems. And it broke through, bringing a new depth to our conversation. He leaned forward and nodded. “Anne, you asked why our WWII veterans came back and took the tribe in a different direction. It’s exactly because of what your father experienced. They saw the American war machine close up and knew the U.S. can get what whatever it wants. They could come and take away our land at anytime. The only way we would survive is if we learned to speak their language. So they convinced the members we needed a constitution. And we hired a lawyer on a $5 retainer to write one for us.”

That constitution was the turning point for the Tribes.

Anyway, certainly a place of shrill contrasts here. A people not just surviving, but thriving. I’ve read their 2010 Comprehensive Plan and they have a long-term vision. They have grown from 200 members in 1900 to 3000 today, and had an operating budget in 2010 of $194 million. They use the money to buy back land (sometimes from bankrupt ranchers), and to give scholarships to their youth. I asked him about present challenges, and he said dealing wisely with their prosperity.

Doesn’t really fit the picture of your average Indian reservation, does it? That’s why I’m here.

30 May 2015

Peter van Krieken–the passing of an extraordinary man

Filed under: Thin and Thick Places,Words by Others — annedegraaf @ 12:06 pm

image003(The following is the talk I gave at Peter’s funeral on Thursday 28 May 2015).

I’m going to do this in English for all the international students of PvK who are here.

Jet, Number One: Diederik, Number Two: Katrien, Number Three: Sebas, friends of Peter, family–Some of you might not know this, but Diederik and Sebas are both wearing suits that belong to Peter, tailored for them. And his bow ties. Katrien, a secret he did not want to tell you, was that he felt you were the one raising him, rather than the other way around.

As we know, Peter was an extraordinary man, and an extraordinary diplomat.

But I think I am here to talk about him as an extraordinary Instructor. I met Peter when I went back to school. I am what they call, a mature student. He taught my master’s class in International Law—and I was terrified of him and his infamous exams. What he didn’t know, was that I secretly took notes on his teaching style. We disagreed. A lot. About the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the protection of child soldiers. Among other things. And it took me a while to figure out that he did this to pull me out of romantic notions of injustice into the complex world of weighing different perspectives.

Then we became colleagues, and now I teach Human rights and human security, and Violence and conflict. Which means that we’re still arguing—well discussing, as he taught Comparative law and International law, and as we all know, there is often a disconnect between the rhetoric and reality.

He and I work at Amsterdam University College, the honors college for the University of Amsterdam and the Free University, the UvA and VU. He said these last years teaching at AUC were among his happiest. His students gave him this gift. His students, past and present, from AUC and Webster, are here today, and I thank you for making my friend so fulfilled.

Last semester our classrooms were next to each other, and we played a joke on our students. We hijacked each other’s classes. We walked into the wrong classrooms and pretended it was the most normal thing in the world. I tried to teach Comparative Law. He took my Human rights class, and later the students told me he basically turned upside down everything I had teen teaching them that semester. Among other things, he argued, as he often did, that the measures in place within the human rights world do not go far enough.

He taught all of us to be critical. He urged us to fight, fight for greater recognition of human rights violations in a world that often ignores what it does not want to see. He believed in the rule of law, and in his lifetime, he cultivated the tender rose that is international law, thorns and all.

As you may have noted on the funeral card, he founded the Toekomstig Fries Bevrijdingsfront, or Future Friesan liberation army, and that was so he could challenge us with the question of whether one man’s freedom fighter really is another man’s terrorist.

We met often, and talked over lunch every few weeks. When the pain in his shoulder got worse, I told him to go to a second doctor. Go to the fysio. Our last lunch, a few days before he found out he had cancer, he admitted he had lived a blessed life, never any physical ailments, except for the pain which had now laid claim to him. At this lunch we also talked about forgiveness. What does it mean to forgive everyone, past and present? He leaned forward and said, “It’s the best any of us can do, forgive others, and forgive ourselves.”

A week later I visited him at home, in bed, on morphine because of the pain. He told me he had no bucket list, no regrets. He was at peace. I said, “Well, I’m not.” We talked about the UvA and Magdenhuis occupation, the emphasis on grant money and research. “They don’t get it,” I told him. “The joy is in the classroom.” And we laughed together.

Among my colleagues, he is known for his positive attitude, his smiles and his bow ties.

Among his students, he is known for caring: about the issues, and about the people. I have been privileged to receive a deluge of words from his students. Stories of his dry humor. “He called me a dumb blonde and said I would never make it in the world of international law. Now I have been accepted into a master’s programme at a top university, all because he gave me the kick in the backside that I needed.”

Stories about his teaching style. “I learned more from him than any other teacher I ever had, even though I wanted to drop his class at first because I felt so challenged.”

Stories about confusion: “He wanted us to leave the class more confused than when we entered it. I hate being confused. But I grew to embrace it!”

Stories about his lies. “He told us he would tell one lie per lecture. We stay up late at night arguing about what the lie was.”

Stories about how he did not want to be called Dr. van Krieken, but Mr. van Krieken. In return, he called his students by their last names: Mr. de Vries. Or sometimes Ms. Latin, or Mr. Finland, depending on where they came from. One student wrote, “To this day I don’t know if this was because you couldn’t remember my first name, but one thing’s for sure, you showed us respect, something I always felt I needed to live up to.

Stories about grades: “He tried to convince us that grades were of no importance, that we should aim to attain knowledge, to think, to discuss.”

I think that he taught us that actually, we’re here to learn.

But, our Peter is not just an inspiration, he is a Fighter. He battles in the fight for asylum seekers- clear policy so they do not suffer in uncertainty. Fight for migration. A few days ago, I found out, he taught my daughter about fighting. When she was nine months pregnant he gave her a card that I hadn’t known about, when he was over for dinner with our family, and he told her, “Now you learn what it means to fight for a child, the greatest fight there is.” Something he did for you, Diederik, Katrien, Sebas.

Last Wednesday I sat with him a few hours before he lost consciousness. He had a box of the books he’d written and wanted me to give them to his students. “I should have written more books,” he said. I said, “It’s a little late for that, Peter.” He said, “You think?” We laughed.

I asked, “Are you ready for this?” He said, “I’m at peace. But my children—I can’t do this to them.” I said, “Het is goed zo, Peter. They are like you—strong and smart. And they have us. We will watch over them. And we will always be with you. And you will always be with us. Laat het maar los—het is goed zo. Let go.”

And so, this is now a PVKless world. One student wrote, “He inspired us to tackle the challenges of the world of international law, but I always thought we would do this, WITH him. And now it’s just up to us, without him. But what is even sadder is that he’s not here anymore to make the world a better place.”

He told me, he had to cancel several trips to Kabul, Laos, Islamabad, Kiev. He continues to make a difference through his students who have gone and will go on to work as diplomats and peacebuilders, lawyers, and teachers. He inspires us to carry on where he left off. When we doubt, remember how he believes in us. He is an incredible man and through his work and teaching he managed to touch and enrich so many lives.

I remember a few Januarys ago, when he joined me and my husband in South Africa. We were there for the birthday celebration of a close friend, the same one who taught us both that the joy is in the classroom. We sat outside in dappled light, and laughed and drank wine near Stellenbosch–he reminded us to embrace life.

It is my privilege to call him friend. You are his beloved family. You are all his beloved family. I wish us all strength and courage.

If we could still hear his voice, I think we would hear him say: I am with you always. In your hearts. Fight the good fight.

PvK, you are my brother, my friend, my Teacher til the end: you once told me I have more balls than most men, but you are the one who taught me courage, even til the end, as you taught me–you showed me–how to die with grace and dignity, and caring up until the very end, for the people who love you. Ach Peter.

***************

(What follows is the letter sent to Amsterdam University College students and staff, from Acting Dean, Ramon Puras.)

It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you of the death of our colleague, Dr. Peter van Krieken. Peter taught Comparative Law and International Law at AUC. He brought with him a rich background in diplomacy and international law, and his unique ability to combine theory with practice enriched his outstanding and enlightened teaching.

He was recently named Lao DDR’s Honorary Consul to The Netherlands. As an international civil servant with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for more than 16 years, he served in Geneva, Stockholm, Peshawar, Juba (South Sudan), Beirut, Sana’a, Addis Ababa and Zirndorf (FRG). In between these various assignments he headed Stichting Vluchteling 999, a leading Dutch refugee organization, and he was chair of the Röling Foundation, as well as the treasurer of the Netherlands Branch of the International Law Association (ILA) and inter alia also of Voorschoten Sinfonietta.

He has a long list of publications (150+) to his credit on subjects such as asylum, migration, torture, hijacking, statelessness, family reunification, migration, health, terrorism and repatriation. In particular his books Terrorism and the International Legal Order (2002) and The Hague, Legal Capital of the World (2005) have been widely acclaimed.

Peter recently retired from his position as special advisor with the Netherlands Government  and was actively involved in various EU projects in Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Malawi.

He often commented that despite his busy diplomatic shuttling back and forth between countries, his teaching at AUC was his top priority. He said, to have a lasting impact on young people gave him deep joy.

Peter’s death is a shock to us all, as he was only diagnosed with pancreatic cancer less than a month before his death. He will be remembered for so many things, including his smiles and bow ties, and positive outlook on life. He is survived by his wife and three children. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.

6 August 2014

Timelessness

Filed under: PhD!,Thin and Thick Places,Write on — annedegraaf @ 4:29 pm

time clocksWhen my big, fat, beautiful new 40-hour-a-week job at Amsterdam University College (AUC) became 60 hours a week this last year, time took on a different dimension. As I listened to my students, as I graded papers and exams, as I lectured on international relations, human rights, global identity, violence, and conflict, the best days were the ones when I was very present. I saw smiles. I watched eyes. I listened to the rain against the skylight above my desk. I tasted cool water. I heard questions and sought answers. I laughed. I have had the privilege of watching as students from all over the world expanded their borders, and with courage, learned to ask the questions that cannot be answered.

During the summer break I’m finishing my PhD. This last year trained me well: do the next thing and trust. All is well. Soon, soon, soon I submit.

It’s not that time is infinite, you see, but when the fear and anxiety of thinking about the past and future pass, all that is left is timeless present.

I see. I hear. I understand.

I live. I laugh. I love.

22 September 2013

Change of direction

_69699014_arrows_thinkstockSo is this up, or have I turned left? More than a year since my last post. Why is that? Look at the title of that entry, take away the first, second and fourth words, and you’ll have your answer.

And now…now I have a new job at the Free University and University of Amsterdam’s honours college: Amsterdam University College (AUC). Am in joy working with new colleagues from all over the world, and teaching my new students: so smart and engaged and multilingual and caring. They come from South America, all over Europe, Vietnam, and Pakistan.

We’re slogging our way through the theory now, but soon, soon they’ll be flying–choosing their own directions as we learn together how to better understand the world around us. Such a privilege to be part of that process. I threaten them with midnight phone calls, when I’ll ask them random questions about International Relations (IR):

  • 1648? (Westphalian Treaty)
  • The one sure rule in IR? (Don’t invade Russia in the winter.)
  • What is IR about? (Perspectives).

I’m a fulltime Lecturer at AUC–all IR classes, from the current IR Theory and Practice to next semester’s Human Rights and Human Security to Violence and Conflict, as well as Global Identity. Dream classes all–and with only 25 students per class. Started 1 August and feel very at home. So that’s good.

Direction is relative, right? One person’s up is another’s down. And left in the mirror looks like right. Yet, while all the gurus tell us change is good, it remains hugely threatening. BECAUSE WE’RE NOT IN CONTROL.

So my advice: Let go to lay hold.

And don’t look back.

2 August 2012

Peace and conflict studies

Filed under: Thin and Thick Places,Write on — annedegraaf @ 2:09 pm

Have been writing a slew of recommendation letters this week for students looking for jobs and internships, as well as ones moving on to graduate school. Thought to myself, does this deserve a blog entry? I’m always wanting to write about my students because they’re so extraordinary, but privacy issues keep me from saying too much. Still, I think I might manage to give you a few glimpses without giving too much away.

Two–count them–two former students have been accepted by the London School of Economics to do their graduate work. Another one is going to the University of Leiden to study Clinical Psychology. She may be followed by a second former student who comes from a country that everyone is afraid of these days. Both these women have degrees in psychology, yet they took my Human Rights classes last year because they wanted to understand. I’ve got one student who’s hoping to get into Stanford, and another who might land an internship at the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia.

The absolute best part of teaching is watching young people find their way in this world. It’s such a minefield sometimes, that when one of them makes it to the next step, and if I can help in any way by putting words together so others see them as I do, then . . . well, it doesn’t get much better than that. I listen to young people and can create a space for them to realize the next step in fulfilling all they are meant to become, to really see themselves. And when they do, we’re all doing the happy dance!

Just a few weeks ago I sat in the pub with a group of friends, when one of the LSE-destined students (who hadn’t yet heard he was accepted) mumbled about how he couldn’t find a job, doors closing all around him. Now, he’s writing me of the magnificent opportunity awaiting him in London.

Peace and conflict studies is sort-of my thing these days. I write about it, research, and teach it. We read a lot about peace and conflict among nations, and among communities, but I see it in these young people’s very lives. The minefields they dance through often involve hardships: divorced parents, financial troubles, medication, disability. A few have confessed they went through rehab and now are picking up the pieces of their lives. Their stories resonate as I watch them engage and grow and redefine themselves in terms of their heart’s desires, rather than their parents’ or culture’s idea of what they should become. They find peace on the path, as conflict rages on behind them.

So what do I write in these magic letters that help them find favor? About their honesty, integrity, and courage. About their ability to use theory and analyze. About their hearts. How hardworking they are. And smart.

And then yesterday, I wrote a letter for a former student who probably has scored a job at Victoria Secrets. I just had too much fun avoiding every shape of double meaning. Of course, I mean shade. See, that’s what I mean! Peace and conflict studies can sometimes mean something very surprising.

21 July 2012

Pedagogical geek

Filed under: Thin and Thick Places,Words by Others — annedegraaf @ 12:52 pm

I’ve recently discovered a new facet to my personality. Although I draw the line at wearing four different colored pens in my shirt pocket, I do seem to have certain characteristics that place me into a geek category. I’ve found I actually enjoy the whole educational world of assessment, syllabi, curriculum design, and learning outcomes. I seem to be able to entertain myself for hours with talk of rubrics as a tool for grading.

In May I flew to the mother ship of our university, in St. Louis, Missouri (or misery as my husband likes to pronounce it), and spent several days happily discussing general education objectives. I totally lost myself bouncing around ideas about such things as best practices with a roomful of instructors from all over the world.

But it was in Scotland a year ago, when I took some education modules at St Andrews, that I learned about the (what I think is very) exciting concept called threshold learning. And this is (so far) the most intriguing educational idea I’ve stumbled upon along this latest path in an unknown garden. Threshold learning is when we bring students to the edge of what they know, or what they think they know, or what they think they should know, and inspire them, or give them the courage to explore further, learn something new, seek out the unknown, to jump off the edge and trust.

I liken it to the phrase supposedly written on the Old World maps that the explorers used: Beyond this place, there be dragons! I checked into this and it turns out dragons were out of fashion by the time the 17th century rolled around and mapmakers added text to their charts. So actually, the warning wasn’t printed on ancient maps. I did find one consolation though, the Ottoman Admiral Piri Re’is (1513) refers to the Atlantic depths on his map with the words: “Here are monsters – all harmless souls.”

Learning how to learn: welcome to the New World.

10 July 2012

With you

Filed under: PhD: South Africa!,Thin and Thick Places,Words by Others — annedegraaf @ 4:00 pm

March. April. May. June. Last week I sent 7 packages to friends in South Africa. I wrote letters. I remembered the warmth and sunshine in our own summer, and I was able to pick up the journals with notes from over 100 interviews. My field work has waited for me four months as I taught and did what needed to be done at the university where I work. But now, this summer, I’m back in PhD mode and that means reading articles and books, typing up interview notes, and watching the themes in the research emerge like images in a darkroom tray.

This painting is called “Women in Motion,” and it is by Lesley Charnock of Cape Town. I brought it home with me and after months of waiting, it is framed and ready to be hung in our home. A woman in motion, that’s me. I’ve already booked my next plane ticket to South Africa. Must go back. Must breathe.

Have had the student BBQ, when my home world and school world merged. Quote of the evening: “Vodka, Miss–kudos!” That after my sweet husband made blinis and served caviar and vodka for my Russian students.

If summer is overdosing in the U.S., it seems to have forgotten northern Europe. Still gray and raining here.

Feel in a holding pattern. Writing. Reading. Remembering. What’s a PhD? It’s just a PhD, my supervisor told me the last time I saw her. What you have here is a book. Write just the PhD first. Filters: youth, narrative, agency.

Taught human rights theories last term, all about agency. Searching. Listening. Listening still.

End of August I start teaching again: Critical thinking–so happy to have the privilege to stretch young minds. Why? How do you know that? What is not being said?

I hear the wind and smell lavender. Rondebosch. I taste honey. Free State. Do you remember my questions? Stellenbosch. The neighbor’s child cries. Fish Hoek. My fingers tapping on the keys. Cape Flats. Young eyes hoping.

because of you
this country no longer lies
between us but within

it breathes becalmed
after being wounded
in its wondrous throat

in the cradle of my skull
it sings, it ignites
my tongue, my inner ear, the cavity of heart
shudders towards the outline
new in soft intimate clicks and gutturals

of my soul the retina learns to expand
daily because by a thousand stories
I was scorched

a new skin.

I am changed for ever.  I want to say:
forgive me
forgive me
forgive me

You whom I have wronged, please
take me

with you.
-Antjie Krog, Country of my Skull

16 March 2012

Reflection

I’m home. I feel all mixed-up inside. I brought Cape Town back with me, it warms my heart as I stare at gray North European skies and put on yet another layer of clothes. No one knows my secret: I’m tan!! Well, my husband knows.

I hit the ground running, going into work for a week starting the day after I arrived, and working straight through the weekend. Then yesterday I heard myself telling our daughter that my emotions are all mixed up and bubbling. “My heart feels like a water balloon, rolling around and around, about to burst. I don’t know what to do.” She wisely asked (where does she get it from?), “What does your heart say?” And I suddenly knew what I had to do: geef het een plek (give it a place) and write down how I feel.

This blog came into being when I returned from another trip to Africa, much more battered than I am now. Putting down the truth and telling how I felt healed me then. The slow showing up to write every day for a half hour helped me breathe new life into a blocked writing habit. I don’t have that problem now. In fact, I’m all excited to be home and can’t wait to start teaching on Tuesday. I’m happy to see my colleagues and I love sleeping in my bed. The best part has been hanging out with my family and watching their eyes and memorizing their voices, now no longer skype distorted. No, I’m okay. But as a wise friend said to me on Wednesday, “You need to let it all settle.”

But it won’t. Memories lift me at the most surprising moments, like birds taking flight. Smiles on the street. The eyes of a 12-year-old I interviewed who said her dream is to get pregnant because then she will receive R200 (€20) per month. The smell of wood smoke and sewage inside a community. Air warm against my cheek while cool water caresses my ankles. Mountains rising across False Bay with a thousand shades of teal between the other side and me. The faces and voices of all those many interviews; their words still swirl though my heart.

It needs to be said that I have met children who have no hope. Struck down by poverty, orphaned, sexually abused–still they dared to tell me things like, “When I grow up I want to be a chartered accountant.” Where does that courage come from?

Oh, you want to know about my Thank-you Lunch! It was perfect. Three people didn’t show and one woman brought her two sons from the community, so we had just the right amount. We ate and laughed and at some point I moved my chair from one end of the table to the other. Then I asked the kids if they wanted milkshakes. Chocolate? Right. We ate some more. Beneath ancient trees sun dappled our long table full of roses and glasses. Who was there? Friends and family: a reverend, psychologist, student, anthropologist and her two little girls, a favorite little girl of mine who has the heart of a peacemaker, mentor and colleague, husbands, wives, think-tank program director, filmmaker, teacher-to-be and me. We did the usual de Graaf thing: ate and talked and laughed and told jokes and listened to stories. There was also a fair amount of exchanging phone numbers, so that was cool. I miss them, these friends and family.

I feel . . . mixed up. Sad and relieved. Sad that so many children seem left behind. “You can’t save them all.” No, but I can save one. And I’ll teach and write and use all the gifts I’ve received: listening and seeing, trying still to understand.

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