I am glad to let you know that on Monday, 22nd, the events that were scheduled went very well!
We met the 4 scholastic kids from Rwanda, the Minister of Culture Joseph Habineza, Jennifer, Dante and Nadine the kid’s chaperon at the Marriott Markis on Broadway for Breakfast. This was the start of the day!
As we talked, I introduced myself to Dante who had not yet gotten the video we made of the kids in Rwanda! To our relief, the video only came in by mid morning. It will be edited and presented at the Gorillas summit on Friday.
Off we went for our first meeting at the Essex hotel. We were introduced to Craig Hacktoff, Jennifer and Tom the father of the famous baby tigers! (For those who do not know this extraordinary story, check the web: baby tigers adopted by two dogs!) We all know cats and dogs do not mix, but this is an incredible story that can give the rest of mankind a lesson: We can mix and tender for one another as long as we give that bit of love and care we all have! Or so goes Tom’s story…
About ten of us crowded the room where Tom freed the 3 baby tigers from their cage! We were allowed to touch them, give them milk and experience the bond the tigers had with the dogs. What a treat! First time in my life to see a baby tiger live in a Hotel room too.Photos were taken and the kids from Rwanda had blast! When they turn twenty and tell their peers that they had a chat and a meeting with some tigers in a Hotel Room in NYC, none will believe them! This was an incredible encounter!
We spent about an hour with the tigers but one year from now, one would not even risk to put one of them in a room with someone. That would be too scary for any one to believe!
After the interaction with the tigers, our group went for lunch and had to prepare for our next meeting and encounter! Guess what, the Scholastic Kids of Rwanda met their counterparts from the USA to sign a declaration protecting mountain gorillas in the presence of the 42nd President of the most powerful nation on earth! Former President Bill Clinton!
Sweating, as we were about 9 people crammed in a small room,we waited to be ushered into the room where we would shake the hands with Clinton. But shaking hands was not part of my agenda. The Rwanda Cinema Centre and I had been among the team that facilitated the program of the Scholastic Kids,so not only did I have the responsibility of following the kids and be part of the delegation but to also record their special moments (with Jennifer Brunetti’s camera). So I had two photo cameras and one video Camera! In the end I think my presence with all these cameras was too noticeable so our friends from the Clinton Global Initiative kindly suggested that we do not video record the event but only have pictures of the former president taken! I agreed out of respect of this special territory! So like many photographers on TV and movies, I decided not to line up and shake hands with Clinton but rather walked behind him flashing away!
Too many pictures were taken of people shaking hands with the President. Minister Joe had a chat with him, and it was fun to see the kids from Rwanda have an interaction with him too and even ask questions! Still no video recordings however!
As some of you may recall, I have filmed Bill Clinton before for one of my haunting documentary films on the survivors’ account of the 1994 Genocide. The footage of Clinton is featured in a sequence of an under toned Mea Culpa! A very strong sequence.
Clinton is such an amazing orateur! He spoke with the kids on conservation and even on the current McCain and Obama campaign! It was interesting, one of the Scholastic kids from American came forward and to ask questions but forgot the content, a bit intimidated he had to go back. Clinton was kind enough walk up to the kid and request that he ask the question again.
“How bad or good is this campaign compared to the others?” the boy finally asked. This ended up being one of the best questions from the kids.
More photos were taken to the point we had to use a second Camera. (Peter from the BBC had given me his camera to take pictures of him with Bill Clinton!) It was fun and I was glad that I did not only get to meet Clinton again, but that I took so many pictures that some of his security guys whispered to me that it is enough! “Your flash is too strong,” they had told me.
Finally, the Scholastic Kids and I went to another event. Back to back, from one President to another. This time it was the President of the Republic of Rwanda in an event organized by the Macy’s Stores. Macy’s sells the famous Peace Baskets of Rwanda. These are known to be the best baskets, better than what Japan, China and other places are putting out on the market. Cecile Kayirebwa (famous Rwandan singer) performed at the event, speeches were made by the CEO of Macy’s followed by President Kagame… it was a great event!
Again, I was flashing away. Upon reaching my President and shaking his hand, he recognizing me and quietly asked how I was to, which I replied, “I am fine your Excellency.”
Having an interaction with 3 baby tigers in a New York Hotel with dogs taking care of them, meeting two Presidents in a day, watching an Opera in an open space on Broadway, what else can excite kids of 11 and 12 years old? In a nutshell, this was too much for them! They were soon worn out! This however it was all worth it as they were given five MacBook laptops by Craig Hacktoff the co-founder of Tribeca. Nadine, their chaperon got one too! A very welcomed ‘goodnight kiss’ for the kid’s last evening.