In August, staff member Thomas Cortijo and I passed the ivory carving of the Chengtu-Kunming railroad, winding through mountains and connecting the surrounding provinces, on display at the United Nations. The gift from China mesmerized him. "This is my favourite. Every time I see it, I notice something different. See the people dancing?" The figures were a few inches tall. We stood for a moment in awe. I'd walked by that sculpture many times, but never saw it. It took eight elephant tusks, 98 people and more than two years to complete this Chinese sculpture. It was made prior to the law against ivory commodities.
The decor of a home reflects the character of its inhabitants. Countless gifts to the United Nations exhibited at UN Headquarters exemplify its values and ideals. Intrigued by the carving, I decided to take the UN tour and learn more about such treasures.
"Group 36, your tour is ready", was blared over the loudspeaker. It had been at least seven years since my last tour. 1 remembered a statue of a woman damaged by a nuclear blast--the front remained intact, having fallen face forward, but the back was flattened and scarred by a zillion pelt marks. Oddly, that first-floor display had disappeared.
A sign indicated that tours would begin 10 to 25 minutes after ticket purchase. To pass time, I viewed a mosaic--Dove of Peace--a gift from Pope John Paul II; a replica of the "Situla of Vace" from Slovenia; and silk carpets from Iran depicting the seven Secretaries-General, which from a distance, appeared to be oil paintings.
Finally, English tour No. 41 was announced. It comprised a group of 20. We surrounded our guide, Adeyemi Oshunrinade, and were led to a picture board of the UN structure. Here, he encouraged the children to speak. "What do you know about the United Nations?" Bashful, they stayed quiet. Adeyemi summarized the history, structure, and purpose of the Organization: to promote peace and
security in the world.
We moved upstairs. Out the window, we saw the Japanese Garden and the Peace Bell, cast from coins collected by children from 60 countries. Rung twice a year, it symbolizes peace. The flags of all 189 countries, alphabetically arranged, are raised on weekdays. The UN flag flies every day.
We passed the Guggenheim mural; its three parts depict war, peace and hope. In the Security Council Chamber, a gift from Norway, Adeyemi explained, "issues of peace and security are discussed". He described the use of sanctions on the trade of diamonds in Sierra Leone. …