Friday, January 26, 2007

January 25, 2007

Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan gave a lecture today - two days after he returned home after his retirement from the UN. He is revered here in his home country, and there was much celebration about his return.

Janet and I went down to the conference centre where the talk was being held, though we did not have a ticket and therefore not much chance of getting in.

We were standing outside the centre when a young man passed by and asked if we were going in. We said no because we didn't have tickets. He motioned for us to follow him, and he asked the guard at the door to let us in.

We followed along and he led us upstairs and into the auditorium. It was packed so we sat down on the stairs in the aisle. At this point I leaned over to Janet and said, "I have to pee really bad." I thought the talk would last a couple of hours, and I was afraid I would burst long before then. Janet told me sit tight. She said if I mentioned it to our host, whose name was Christian, he feel obliged to lead me to the bathroom. I didn't think I could hold so I leaned over and asked Christian where the bathroom was. Sure enough he insisted on taking me, and we shuffled past well-dressed women - me in my dirty sneakers and sweat-soaked clothing (I still haven't gotten use to perpetually sweating here).

By the time we returned, Kofi had walked to the podium and begun his speech. We shuffled past the women again - the only people moving in the entire 2,000-seat auditorium. Janet was surely mortified - on my behalf - the whole time.

The speech itself was on the future success of Africa, which Kofi said rested on three pillars - security and peace, development of the economy and social service, and human rights. It was not a gripping speech and it was very short at 20 minutes, but we felt very privileged to be there. Afterwards, we found out that Christian was part of the United Nations Association in Ghana. We exchanged numbers and promised him we'd take him out to dinner sometime for his kindness. He took us down to the floor of the auditorium and got someone to take a picture of the three of us. We'll post it when he e-mails it to us.

The thing that struck both Janet and I was the lax security at the event. The president, his ministers, and a former UN secretary general were there, and we weren't putting through a security screen at the door. Can you imagine walking into a talk by a prominent western leader and not being subject to security check?

- Mark


Anonymous said...

Hi Mark and Janet,
I just read your blog. That must have been quite an experience. I called your father to tell him about it. He will read it from the office.
It is another beautiful day but cold here. It's hard to imagine the heat you are having.
You seem to be at the right places at the right time. It must have been quite exciting to be there for the two of you. Can't wait to see the picture.
Have a great day, Love, Mummy and Daddy

Chelsi said...

Interesting to know.