During the first week, part of our training was the afternoon visit to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), with the purpose, among others, of understanding better the difference mediation and arbitration.
As indicated in the pertinent memo, from the Clingendael we would take Bus 18 of the public transport to go to The Hague Central (Den Hag Centraal), and from there we would take Bus 22 to go to the PCA. We were accompanied by two interns, Maxim and Melanie, who would serve as guides.
While we were still walking toward the Clingendael bus station along with our two guides, Damien mounted the bus which left us all! (Public bus leaves and arrives at every station at a particular time, and the driver never reopens the door once closed for departure from one station to another.)
Naturally, Maxim and Melanie were very much worried, thinking that Damien would get lost in The Hague Central, or worse still, in his way to the PCA. Since Day 1 – Orientation Day – Maxim’s favorite maxim he would share to us is this: “If you have difficult question, ask Sharon!” Sharon, by the way, is the training’s overall facilitator who had been in contact with us from the very beginning.
Under this situation wherein one of the trainees potentially gets lost in the urban jungle of The Hague during a chilling winter afternoon, Maxim had no option but to dexterously follow his own maxim. He immediately grabbed his mobile and phoned Sharon: “Hello, Sharon! Damien mounted the bus which left us. He is now alone in The Hague Central. Do you have his number? How about his Facebook account? Is there any other way to contact him?”
Trying to assure Maxim, Sofhie whom we fondly call “Mama Clingendael” or “Mama Cling” for short, said, “Don’t worry, Damien is adult enough to know his options. Either he would immediate alight at the next bus stop and wait for us, or get back to Arendsdorp and relax.” (Arendsorp Complex is our momentary detention center whose de facto warden, Mr. George, is responsible for initiating its infamous two-level sensor-operated door.)
As the bus reached the next station, we were all happy to see Damien, shivering notwithstanding his thick winter garment, just waiting in the said station.
“Look, Damien is here!” we all exclaimed.
In spite of the gloomy winter, Maxim’s face brightened once again. So was Damien’s.
Inside the bus on our way to The Hague Central, I noticed Melanie memorizing our names, making many rehearsals therein. Since then, she has been able to memorize the names of all of us 20. I’m sure, the name “Damien” was the first registered in her mind and could not be erased even by the strong wicked storm that swept the whole Netherlands and some neighboring countries the following day.
Since then, everytime we would take Bus 18 as a group, we would simultaneously ask, “Is Damien around?”
This is one reason why we named our group “Bus 18 Batch”.
1. To be the first is not always good.
2. Always remember that the Bus has specific time to leave and arrive at a given station.
3. While serving as tour guide to a group, never allow anyone to go ahead or be left behind without your explicit consent.
(An excerpt of my forthcoming travelogue, “HUGGING THE HAGUE: WINTER STINT AT THE NETHERLANDS INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS,” Mansoor Limba (Amazon.com, 2018.)