WNN Book Excerpt: The Bone Woman

After a fitful night of being awoken by small lizards taking refuge in my room and the sound of the linoleum peeling up from the floor (it conjured up visions of a caterpillar the size of a small dog chewing through dry leaves) I joined Dean and David to go to the UN headquarters to get our UN driver's licenses and identity cards. This was my introduction to the true international character of the UN and a glimpse of the bureaucracy for which it is infamous. The HQ, the old Amohoro Hotel, was buzzing with activity: cars passing in and out of the guarded gate, armed soldiers from all over the world escorting us, people charging around apparently getting things done, everyone wearing the blue beret of the UN at a rakish angle.

While our IDs were being processed, Dean, David, and I walked around the corner of the building to the transport office for our driver's licenses. The test consisted of driving up the street, around the roundabout, and back again. We all passed. The examiner went over the rules for driving a UN vehicle, but he spent most of the time berating us about the frequency with which these were disregarded, as though we had already transgressed.

Drolleries aside, those two bits of identification were essential: our identity cards and licenses gave us immunity, free passage, and protection from personal or vehicle search. We were to wear them on a little chain around our necks at all times. With our newly laminated cards sticking to our sweaty chests, we walked back to the Tribunal building and loaded up the Land Rover and trailer for the drive to Kibuye. Bill was staying in Kigali that night, so he had arranged for two ICTR investigators, Dan and Phil, to escort us to Kibuye. Although Kibuye was only about ninety kilometers to the west, it would be a four-hour drive, slowed by periodic Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) roadblocks and sections of unfinished road.

My first impressions of Rwanda beyond Kigali came through a soundtrack by ABBA, pouring loudly out of the car stereo via Dan's walkman. The initial forty minutes of the drive were on paved road; the latter three hours began on an unfinished graded surface and ended on potholed dirt, so those of us in the backseat could only see out of the windows only when we weren't airborne. But as we drove, I felt so light, anticipatory, and excited at what was to come that I believe I hardly blinked, and I couldn't stop smiling to myself.

Excerpted from The Bone Woman by Clea Koff Copyright© 2004 by Clea Koff. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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