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Flagstaff Mountain and the Bluebird


By Monika Erzsebet Berenyi

This poem, penned in the moment, chronicles a glimpse into the experiences and perceptions felt, whilst ascending and descending Flagstaff Mountain. It is a panoramic portrait of the wild and alluring world which informs the current place I call home – Boulder County, Colorado. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Nothing is certain, save for eternity.

In Boulder County,
The sun is rising,
With cadence
And with song.
A clock in space and time,
Set to cradle, this world of beauty.
The certainty of light
Stands the hero here,
Or so the Bluebird tells me.
And one, I dare not miss.

What dances along with Nature,
Therein lies –
A truth so bold.
I am humbled by Her –
Subservient to the call of
Morning calm, and daybreak drawing.
Lines of symmetrical light
Envelope this climb –
To a summit so near, yet to an elsewhere land.
Here, I am one.

The air is cold –
Dangerous at times.
Dense with volume, like a hot air balloon,
I rise through space and time.
The blue hour fades.
There are no constraints.
Only the soft sounds of morning.
So this is rocky mountain high?
The Bluebird nods,
And I surrender.

The elevation is grand,
A mile high if not more, so the locals say.
Calling out for consciousness,
I step higher
Into a realm which touches the sky.
A perfect light comes into the fore
And the sun…
On Flagstaff Mountain,
In Boulder County –
5:37am.

I pass Chautauqua Park.

Columbine rules and foothills meander
Below the great Flatirons on Green Mountain.
Steadfast and careworn,
With glowing permanence –
These “Chautauqua Slabs” – known colloquially,
Are readied for the break of day.
I am awestruck by their faces,
Shifting from tones of pink and orange,
Yellow and red,
With hints of Violet and Magenta Blue.

I coast along,
Cascading lightly –
Around jagged edges,
Bends and Turns.
With moon and sun exchanging faint hellos and goodbyes,
There is no end to higher grounds.
The Bluebird flies ahead,
And the wild woods sing softly.
The wind –
A vortex, untouchable.

Ascending higher,
The portal awaits –
To a space which holds
A thousand shades of Colorado blue.
Indigo
Cobalt
Cerulean
Phthalo
And Viridian reign,
With clouds of powder.

Passing Realization Point,
The compass points toward Tenderfoot Trail.
Beyond a fragrant thicket of Ponderosa Pine –
Blanketing jagged rocks and crags,
The Bluebird –
Perched high,
Calls out from Flagstaff Mountain.
I pause.
I am filled.
I am there – beholden now to the Colorado Continental Divide.

There is no beginning.
There is no end.
Nor will there ever be.

Turning again,
Charged with inspiration,
I take another bend with curve,
Traversing unmarked earth –
Fearlessly,
No ceilings known.
I reach Chapman Drive –
A remnant project of the Civilian Conservation Corps,
Forged during the New Deal,
At the time of the Great Depression.

I reach Morse Well –
Built in 1929.
I then touch down at Flagstaff Stone Shelter,
Continuing toward Sunrise Amphitheatre –
Storied places which conjure
History…
The determination…
The hardship of America…during the 1930s.
I imagine “the” hopes and dreams,
Once vested in these structures.

At 7400 feet, the air is thin.
I recover my thoughts;
I recover my breath.
Acknowledging the Bluebird –
The guide to my morning path,
I turn again,
And face a landscape, ever enduring –
Dotted by the wildflowers of Boulder County.
Grounded and anchored by Flagstaff Mountain,
I enumerate:

Wild Chokecherry
Boulder Raspberry
Miner’s Candle
Common Mullion
Silvery Lupine
Arkansas Rose
Golden Banner
And the Rocky Mountain Phlox.
Burgeoning,
Commanding magnificence.

And the trees, known by name
Leaf and ornamental needle
Stand prudently tall,
Interspersed amongst the Ponderosa Pine.
They are tomes of their own.
Rocky Mountain Maple
Blue Spruce
Limber Pine
Rocky Mountain Juniper
And the great White Fur.

And at times, the animals along the way –
Mule Deer
Elk
White-tailed Deer
Colorado Chipmunk
Deer Mouse
Pine Squirrel
Coyote
Rabbit
And the Prairie Dog.

And the butterflies –
Parnassians
Swallowtails
Whites
Sulphurs
Gossamers – the likes of Coppers, Hairstreaks, Elfins and Blues
Metalmarks
Snouts
Milkweeds
Longwings
True Brushfoots
Admirals and Relatives
Emperors
Satyrs and Wood Nymphs
Spread-wing Skippers
And Grass Skippers.

And to the elements,
Nature’s dear forces –
Which have come to punctuate
These mornings,
So Untamed, so free at will –
Snow
Hail
Wind
Rain
Electricity and Lightening.

With gratitude for Nature,
The presence of Flagstaff Mountain,
And Bluebird as guide,
I look out once more – grateful.
This is Boulder County.
I fill my lungs,
With an expanse and vastness,
An endless panorama –
Colorado.
Is it possible to count such beauty?

Today I draw in words,
Though envision the paintings
And hear the symphonies of sound –
Spawned only on such grounds.
And rest – in knowing,
That before I descend,
The sun will rise,
And tomorrow,
Once again –
I will return to all that Nature holds here.

 

¡Buenos días desde Argentina!

Since I’m the first McGill student to intern in Mar Del Plata, I think it’s appropriate to use my first blog post to describe what life is like here in Argentina.

Mar Del Plata is a city of about 1 million some 400km south of Buenos Aires. The city is known within Argentina as a summer resort spot owing to its beautiful coastline, which stretches for 47km along the Atlantic Ocean (and makes for a spectacular view on morning runs).

One interesting thing about Mardel is that unlike Buenos Aires, which is an international tourist hub, very few tourists come from outside of Argentina. In fact, I’m the first Canadian that most people I know here have ever met. Similarly, English is not widely spoken here, and the only way to learn it is by attending costly private institutes.

The food here is nothing short of incredible—milanesas, empanadas, locros, alfajores, and of course a steak with chimichurri sauce and a bottle of red wine from the Mendoza region of Argentina are must-haves for anybody visiting the country. One thing to know, however, is that supper in Argentina is not normally served until around 9 or 10pm, and trust me, you will be laughed at if you go to a restaurant at 6pm and ask for the dinner menu. Another thing to get used to is that most stores, offices, and buildings close between 1 and 4pm for siesta. Personally, I think a 3-hour naptime is something we should bring to McGill.

MDP offers some of the best nightlife in the country, but a Saturday night out in Argentina is very different from a night out in Canada. An average night on the town consists of meeting up with friends around 1am to catch-up and enjoy a few drinks together. Then, around 3 or 4am, head to the bar, which will only be beginning to get busy. Stay and dance to the hottest Latin-American music until the bar closes at 630am—by the time you get home the sun will be rising, and you’ll probably hungry enough to eat breakfast before going to bed.

Parque Nacional Tierra Del Fuego

Climbing Monte Olivia in Ushuaia

 

Argentina is incredibly geographically diverse. Two weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Ushuaia, the capital of the Tierra Del Fuego Province of Argentina, and the southernmost city on the planet. It is the middle of winter there and the temperature hovered around -5 to -10 degrees.

On the other hand, last week I went on a two-day trip to Las Cataratas del Iguazú, breathtaking waterfalls in the north-eastern part of the country along the border of Paraguay and Brazil. The climate in Iguazú was tropical and the temperature reached nearly 35 degrees with the humidity. The distance between Ushuaia and Iguazú is roughly 4,500km. In perspective, this is double the distance from Winnipeg (my beloved hometown) to Montreal.

Iguazú Falls

 

A view from the Brazilian side of the falls

Between Mardel and Iguazú lies Buenos Aires, the largest city in Argentina and one of the largest on the continent. During my 2 day layover between Iguazú and Mar Del Plata, I had the chance to tour some key landmarks of the city: Boca Stadium, the old sea port, and the Recoleta cemetery. Likewise, I made a day trip to Uruguay in order to see Colonia Del Sacramento, which is listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

When I returned to Buenos Aires that same evening (July 1st), I went to a Canada Day party organized by the Canadian Embassy where there were over 100 Canadian travellers and expats. At the bar, I got the chance to sit down and have a beer with Robert Fry, the Canadian Ambassador to Argentina and Paraguay. We had some very interesting conversations about my internship, his daily life as an ambassador, and of course argued about which NHL team was the best (go Jets).

Hanging out with some lobos marinos on the beach

Argentine lifestyle, in most respects, is not all that different from life in Canada, but there are a few quirks. One thing that I have noticed is that people here are much more affectionate. For instance, every time you meet someone or see someone you know, instead of shaking their hand, you give them one kiss on the left cheek…Needless to say the first time I met a group of 5 male coworkers, the greeting caught me off guard.

All in all, my experience here in Argentina has been absolutely amazing so far and I’m looking forward to the last few weeks of my internship.

Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll be providing an update on some of the human rights work I’ve been up to.

¡Nos vemos!

Re-Visioning Justice in the Yukon

Jones Rebecca

By Rebecca Jones

The Yukon Human Rights Commission

This summer I am living in Whitehorse, the land of the midnight sun, and working as a legal intern at the Yukon Human Rights Commission (YHRC). The YHRC is responsible for enforcing the Yukon Human Rights Act, advocating for legislative change, and human rights education and outreach. In general, the Commission performs a “screening” or “gate-keeping” function. When someone enquires about a case of discrimination or harassment the staff at the Commission must first determine whether this person’s inquiry falls under one of the “grounds” (characteristics such as ancestry, sex, religion etc.) and “areas” (employment, service provision etc.) protected under the Yukon Human Rights Act. Generally, if these two criteria are met, and there are no additional jurisdictional issues, then the Commission might investigate the complaint. After investigation, a complaint might be referred to the Board of Adjudication, informal resolution, or might be dismissed. The Board has the power to impose remedies such as compensation, or even mandate human rights education. As a legal intern, I am helping with inquiries (some of which might turn into human rights complaints), investigations of complaints, preparations for hearings in front of the Board of Adjudication, and some legal research and development of educational materials. I am enjoying this opportunity to dive into the intricacies of how a small statutory human rights agency operates.

Working at the office

The Yukon River. This is my view during my bike ride to and from work everyday.

Re-Visioning Justice in the Yukon

A highlight of the first month of my internship at the YHRC was participating in a conference called “Re-Visioning Justice”. The Commission collaborated with other local organizations to hold a conference to address systemic discrimination issues in the Yukon. This event created a space for First Nations governments, the Yukon Government, the RCMP, civil servants, advocates, and citizens to discuss the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action. The conference was held at the beautiful Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre, by the Yukon River, on Kwanlin Dun and Ta’an Kwӓch’ӓn traditional lands. Each morning, the conference started with an opening prayer that included drumming and singing by the sacred fire. This ritual allowed all participants to come together in solidarity and silent reflection before embarking on the tasks of the day. A main theme of the conference was the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice and child welfare systems.

Dr. Cindy Blackstock, the Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and Professor at McGill’s School of Social Work, opened the conference with her passionate keynote speech. As she pointed out, there are more First Nations children in child welfare care than at the height of the residential school system.[1] While provinces fund child welfare for children living off-reserve, the federal government is responsible for funding child welfare on-reserve (ultimately because the federal government is responsible for First Nations on reserves under the Indian Act) and these children have been receiving less funding. As Dr. Blackstock noted, our country has a two-tiered child welfare system where First Nations children on-reserve systematically receive less funding for child welfare services than First Nations children off-reserve.

Dr. Blackstock has been successful in proving that the federal government practices racist fiscal policy; she was responsible for filing a human rights case against the federal government for discrimination against First Nations children living on reserve.[2] I remember excitedly reading this Canadian Human Rights Tribunal landmark case during my first year of law school. Dr. Blackstock fought this case for nearly 10 years with consistent setbacks, mostly due to the federal government trying to argue procedural issues. In one of the decisions, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal even found that the federal government retaliated against Dr. Blackstock by spying on her during the case.[3] Unfortunately, since the decision first came out in 2016, there have been 3 non-compliance orders against the federal government.[4] To this day, Dr. Blackstock continues to fight to ensure that these First Nations children are not forgotten. During her keynote, she spoke about the moral courage that it takes to activate our values and the importance of “having the guts to get into trouble for the right thing”.  She reminded us of the personal sacrifices that sometimes have to be made, and the long-term vision and perseverance required, when engaging in social justice and human rights work.

Another notable conference guest was Effie Snowshoe, a First Nations woman who courageously shared her story as a single mother who struggled to keep her children out of the child welfare system; she eventually lost her son Eddie to suicide while he was in solitary confinement in prison. Unfortunately, Eddie’s story is not unique. His, and his family’s experiences, illustrate how our “justice” system consistently fails Indigenous people and people with mental health issues. The use of solitary confinement and segregation in our correctional facilities is a public health problem. Conference attendees spoke of justice reform requiring public health reform in the way that we approach addiction and mental health issues and trauma. Too often, due to stigma and a lack of social support, people with mental health issues are criminalized which exacerbates their situations. Some jurisdictions across Canada have started revising the use of segregation in corrections by ordering reports and developing guidelines.[5] We still have a long way to go. Overcriminalization is a symptom of a society that lacks the appropriate social services. It is evident that we require a multi-pronged and intersectional approach to reforming our justice system that addresses prevention and early intervention. Moreover, prison reform must look beyond the justice system to address the ongoing legacy of colonization.

Find Your Call: A Workshop Bringing Reconciliation to Life

The day after the conference, the Commission hosted a workshop on reconciliation. The session started with the “Blanket Exercise,” an interactive history lesson and empathy-building experience that walks participants through pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization of Indigenous peoples in Canada and their resistance. [6] Blankets are arranged on the floor to represent the land, and all of the participants imagine themselves as Indigenous people. The Indigenous facilitators step into the role of the colonizers. Several participants are given scrolls to read out different moments in history. As the exercise progresses, blankets are moved or taken away and participants perish from small pox, their experiences in residential schools, and other denials of Indigenous nationhood. During the exercise, participants are told that they can resist. It was painful and powerful to see the few people left near the end splayed out and clinging to their blankets. During the debrief, several participants shared how much energy it took to consistently resist. Another emotional moment occurred when participants were asked to turn their backs on the children who had survived residential schools and who had returned to their communities. This action symbolized the loss of culture and identity that these children experienced and how they struggled to fit back into their families and communities. The most poignant part of the exercise for me was the sharing circle at the end. Half of the participants in our exercise were First Nations, and hearing them share their personal experiences – as survivors of residential school, children of survivors, or children of the Sixties Scoop – was a stark reminder of the ongoing legacy of colonization. As a law student, I was also reminded of the law’s sinister role in implementing and enforcing colonial violence through legislation such as the Indian Act. This exercise acted as an important primer, reminding us to understand where we came from before we start to work together on where we are going.

After the “Blanket Exercise,” UVic Law professor Rebecca Johnson asked us to raise our hands and share five of our favourite Calls to Action. These 94 recommendations, published by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, aim to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of reconciliation.[7] While the public might assume that these calls are only for the government, they engage multiple organizations, institutions, and even individual Canadians. Professor Johnson’s question prompted a humbling, personal realization – despite having read the Calls several times, I had never actually understood the Calls. As the Associate Director of UVic’s Indigenous Legal Research Unit, she introduced us to a particular method of engaging with the Calls by paying attention to the nouns (who is being called) and to the verbs (called to do what). It is only after an in-depth reading of the Calls to Action that I realized how much potential and creativity are captured within these 94 statements.

Final Reflections on Re-Visioning Justice

Throughout my involvement in these events, I noticed repeatedly the frustration expressed by Indigenous people. This frustration sometimes appeared as apathy among some of the elders and as anger among some of the youth, resulting from all the “talk” about reconciliation without substantive action. For years, Indigenous people have been working to de-colonize and re-indigenize. The self-governing agreements signed in the Yukon by 11 First Nations are just one example.[8] Yet progress is slow and the government has stalled. How do we ensure that the TRC does not eclipse the significant work already accomplished by previous generations of Indigenous people? How do we ensure that the TRC Calls to Action do not become another report in a long line of good intentions collecting dust on a shelf? What can I do in my life right now – as a law student, community volunteer, and member of society – to work towards reconciliation? How do we “re-vision” justice when justice has never seemed to exist for certain members of society in the first place?

While I am convinced that I will never have complete answers, I will continue to ask myself these questions. Human rights work consistently requires us to engage with uncertainty.

Downtown Whitehorse, an architectural allusion to the Yukon’s Gold Rush past.

Fish Lake, located a short drive from downtown Whitehorse. Snow and ice still covered this lake at the beginning of May.

Almost at the top of Caribou Mountain.

Looking out at the mountains from the remnants of an old mining structure left over from Sam McGee’s silver mine in 1905.

[1] https://fncaringsociety.com/fncares

[2] First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada et al. v. Attorney General of Canada (for the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada), 2016 CHRT 2.

[3] First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada et al. v. Attorney General of Canada (for the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada), 2015 CHRT 14.

[4] First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada et al. v. Attorney General of Canada (for the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada), 2017 CHRT 14.

[5] https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ottawa-provinces-to-pursue-universal-guidelines-on-solitary-confinement/article35210516/

[6] https://www.kairoscanada.org/what-we-do/indigenous-rights/blanket-exercise

[7] http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=890

[8] https://cyfn.ca/agreements/umbrella-final-agreement/

Elections in Cambodia: Redirecting Forces of Repression into Winds of Change

Rintoul Andrew

By: Andrew Rintoul

As the sun rose over Boeung Tompun in Phnom Penh on a Saturday morning, Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) supporters began arriving in droves. This was the first day of the campaign period, with the elections still several weeks away. Tuk-tuks, moto-bikes, and vehicles were all emblazoned with CNRP motifs while matching hats, shirts and flags were passed around the 10,000 supporters present. Through the lens of a DSLR, I observed supporters celebrating and dancing, honking their horns loudly as smiling spectators waived and asked for party hats to be thrown their way. I listened to the cheers and calls for change in Khmer and popular Cambodian pop songs dubbed over with CNRP-supporting lyrics. I heard a recorded speech of Sam Rainsy, former CNRP leader and now exiled man due to spurious criminal charges pressed against him in Cambodia, through a loud-speaker hitched to the top of a Jeep.

The mood was festive, the people were excited and passionate under the 40-degree sun, and the diverse amalgam of security personnel and military police under the auspices of the CPP did nothing but stand idly by as songs were sung late into the evening.

CNRP supporters cheer in Phnom Penh

It has been nearly one month since the country took to the polls for the first time since 2013. The ruling party, eventually settling on the current name, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), has held power in the country since the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979. For over three decades, Prime Minister Hun Sen has sat at the head of this regime, carefully crafting his image as a pseudo-deity and a generous and supreme leader. His heavy-handed policies and powerful military arm and security forces have been instrumental in maintaining this lustre and preserving the power of his party.

Four years ago, this armour revealed an unexpected crack as the general elections witnessed an extremely close race between the CPP and what has come to be the main opposition, the CNRP. Following results depicting a slight victory for the CPP, CNRP members and outside observers demanded accountability and argued election-rigging. Yet, in what appears to be familiar Hun Sen-style, the storm eventually blew over and the CNRP, which had boycotted the National Assembly for a year, finally came back into the fold and returned as the opposition.

It is this tumultuous political climate that provided the backdrop for the lead-up to the commune elections of June 4th. In the past four years, the voices of opposition supporters and any calls for change disruptive to the status quo have faced a string of new repressive legislation designed specifically for suppressing dissent. Under the guise of vague language such as public order, national security, incitement, colour revolutions, and confusion, new laws have created an arsenal of inaccessible rules giving authorities the capacity to manipulate and arbitrarily apply them to their liking. Human rights defenders are increasingly targeted and vulnerable, as are the organizations which set out to defend them.

CNRP rally through Phnom Penh

The streets seemed eerily quiet on the morning of June 4th. When I arrived at the office, citizens across the country had already been voting for thirty minutes. I quickly took a seat at my desk alongside several others to assist in running the organization’s live-stream of the event as reports and photos from monitors in the field began flooding in. In the afternoon, I accompanied a senior lawyer to a polling station and observed the last of the voters trickling in, followed by a closed-door counting of the ballots. Moments before the counting began, voters had been ushered out of the premises by heavily-armed security personnel who stood guard at the gates until the ballots were fully counted and relocated in transport vehicles.

Security guards sit at a polling station in Phnom Penh

In the weeks following the elections, the atmosphere in the capital has taken on a much different tone. The energy of the pre-election period has faded, likely to come back ten-fold in the national elections next year. According to the official results released last week, the ruling party maintained its grip on power by a large margin, in line with the expected result. Though not victorious, the opposition party made massive gains from the last commune elections, moving from winning only 40 communes in 2012 (combining the wins of the two parties who merged the following year to become the CNRP) to winning 489 out of the 1646 communes this year. Despite its apparently poor performance in the 2012 commune elections, the CNRP still took home 44.46% of the popular vote in the 2013 general elections to the CPP’s 48.83% of the vote; with twelve times more communes won this year, a continuation of the trend could mean a strong victory by the opposition in 2018.

It remains to be seen exactly what the ruling party has in store for the country in the lead-up to next year’s general elections. Certainly, much of this is dependent upon the actions and movements of civil society and the opposition party in the months to come. A glimpse into what may be in store occurred last week as Prime Minister Hun Sen called upon the Interior Ministry to investigate the legality and neutrality of an NGO collective after they reported several concerns over the recent elections. Amidst the uncertainty of the immediate future lies an inevitable truth; repressive legislation and targeted crackdowns will persist, but as they do, they will be met with a resilient and robust civil society capable of redirecting forces of repression into winds of change.

Be Patient; Stay Fearless

Nearly eight weeks ago, I stepped off a plane and into the chaos of the Jorje Chavez airport parking lot in Lima, Peru. My first experience on South American soil began with a wave of taxi drivers calling out “Taxi! Taxi” and waving their permits at me as I searched for my Uber somewhere near Gate 11. Towering ahead of me was an enormous billboard, advertising LATAM Airlines, which read: “Welcome to Lima.”

It took about half an hour and many WhatsApp phone calls – all of which served as a stark reminder of just how different the language in in a Spanish-speaking country was from the Spanish I had learned in high school – before I finally met up with Rodrigo, my driver. I threw my suitcases and my backpack into the trunk of his grey Hyundai, almost exactly like the one my parents drive at home, and hopped into the backseat, ready for what I knew would be the adventure of a lifetime.

A lot has happened since that first day. The sun that I was met with when I first stepped through the airport’s sliding doors has started to disappear, making only its signature rare appearances as “the Grey city” falls into its winter months. I’ve seen penguins and sea lions off the coast of Paracas, sand-boarded down the dunes of Huacachina, rafted through valleys in Arequipa and spent five days hiking through glaciers and the high Peruvian jungle to the beautiful Machu Picchu. I’ve finally figured out how to properly unlock the front door of my apartment after too many hours spent on the verge of tears, locked out with my groceries lying on the front steps. The family that I once knew as simply Kat and Gus from AirBnB have become like my second parents, including me in their family celebrations and mornings to the market, sitting with me at dinner, and teaching their one-year old son to walk towards me and, occasionally, roll me his ball.

On top of the sand dunes in Huacachina

Standing in front of Humantay Lake at the beginning of my Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

On top of Machu Picchu after 5 days of trekking!

Of course, I have also become quite familiar with the corner desk I was given at the Institute of Democracy and Human Rights (IDEHPUCP) – once empty, its drawers are now filled with notes bearing my handwriting, the airplane headphones I use to drown out the sound of my coworkers’ singing when I need to concentrate, the books on human rights I have read since my first day, and the box of vanilla cookies I bought from the grocery store down the street to snack on with my afternoon coffee.

I first stepped through the gates of the big yellow building on calle Tomas Ramsey and into the doors of the Institute at the end of May, one month ago. I had been slightly anxious to start my internship – at twenty years old, I have never had a desk job, and as a first year student, I’ve never worked in the legal field before. I nervously gave the security guard my name on that first morning, and he greeted me with a large, warm smile – one that I’ve gotten used to these past weeks, and that I still see every morning as I walk into work with my morning coffee in hand. That first morning, his smile acted as a sense of comfort in the new adventure I was about to embark on. “Good morning, Melisa,” he had said as I signed my name in the registry. “Welcome.”

Since the beginning of my time here at the IDEHPUCP, I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot about many different aspects of international human rights law – particularly, I’ve studied the notion of corporate responsibility in international law, participated in discussions on corruption in Peru, and helped the Institute run two parallel events on rethinking gender roles in Latin America and on the continued reality of human trafficking in the area. Yet, in these past three weeks filled with great learning opportunities, two lessons have stuck out to me so far: be patient, and stay fearless.

On Being Patient: Learning to Leave My Fast-Paced Lifestyle Behind  

My internship at the Institute began with a warm welcome from the entire IDEHPUCP family – I was given a tour of the different departments, greeted with a signature one kiss on the cheek or a dynamic wave by everyone I met and even invited to the Institute’s events during my first week, as if I had already become one of the team.

However, my work also began at a time where the organization of two of the Institute’s biggest projects (hosting two conferences within the same week) was just nearing its end – a time where there was just enough work for those who had already been involved in the preparation of these events to keep busy, yet not enough for me to join in too extensively. As a result, for my first two weeks of work, I was only given two books to read – one on the effects of international law on corporate activity, and another on the functions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights – and some translation work from Spanish to English. I began to worry if my Spanish skills were seen as not strong enough to handle more heavy workloads, or if my lack of experience in human rights law deterred my supervisors from including me in big research projects.

Then came the week of the events, and I quickly found myself busier than ever, running around the University campus making sure everything was running smoothly, being tasked with small jobs here and there. I even had my first of what I expect to be many late nights within my legal career, when I was asked to help a colleague find information on the biographies of the events’ panelists due the following morning. Since then, my days at the Institute have been filled with a variety of different tasks, making every moment spent at work unique – in addition to my translation work, I have been assigned to do research on the international and national protection of elder rights, have co-written an article on labor rights violations within Peru which was published on the Institute’s website, and, most recently, have been asked to help with a jurisprudential study on recent constitutional decisions in the country.

Not only has my work life gotten busier, but my Spanish has already improved tremendously, giving me the confidence to start coming out of my shell more, going to more social events and becoming good friends with my colleagues. Lima really is starting to feel like home – so much so that the barista at the Starbucks on my way to work has started to greet me with “Hola Melisa, que tal?” and knows my order almost by heart.

Life in Lima is not nearly as different than life in Montreal as I thought it would be – its streets are bustling with busy busses and cars and large boulevards lined with shopping malls and gourmet restaurants, and its nightlife in Miraflores and Barranco rivals that on Blvd St-Laurent. One of the biggest culture shocks for me was definitely learning to take a breath, and coming to terms with with not having heavy workloads all the time. I grew up in a culture where I was taught that being hardworking and being productive often meant being busy every second of every day. Here, things are different: being a good employee is more about being available to lend a hand to your teammates when they need it, and doing everything you do, no matter how little work you’re given, as best as you can.

All in all, I have definitely come a long way in my month by myself here in Lima, and most of my adaptation happened simply with time. I have come to realize that the IDEHPUCP is largely a place for learning – my supervisor ensures that every project I am given can somehow tie back to Canada, even in the smallest way. One of the biggest lessons I have learned so far is how to be patient, to wait for my opportunities to arise (or even to create my own), and, in the meantime, to take advantage of the little things this internship has to offer, such as the experience of simply being in one of the most important research centres in the country, learning from some of the most dedicated human rights workers in the area, and being able to help out with their work, even in the simplest ways.

On Staying Fearless: Nothing Worth Doing Ever Came Easily

Like many people I know in McGill’s Law Faculty, I came to law school mainly driven by a love and passion for international law and human rights. Also like many in my Faculty, I have become well aware of how difficult pursuing a career in this field will be.

My experience so far at the IDEHPUCP has opened my eyes to the merits of pushing through obstacles and overcoming seemingly impossibly high mountains – of always staying fearless, whether it be when crossing the street in Lima’s busy traffic, swallowing my pride and joining in on conversations and social events with my colleagues even when I still sometimes have trouble keeping up with the local jarga (Peruvian slang), and most importantly, when making decisions about my future career choices.

Here at the Institute, I spend most of my time immersed in a culture of devotion and passion

The controversial panel on the respect of gender and LGBTQ rights in religion

for human rights work. I watch my colleagues, some of which are still students, juggle their work with their studies, running back and forth from the Institute and the PUCP campus, putting their theses that they need to complete in order to graduate on the back-burner in order to complete what they see as more urgent tasks, like writing up on pressing human rights issues or conducting studies on international law. During the panel on Gender Rights, I watched the head of the Institute, Doctora Elizabeth Salmón – one of the most respected and successful people in the field of international law and human rights law in the country – defy social norms by setting up a panel on the continued struggle to find balance between the protection of women’s rights and LGBTQ rights and religion in Lima.

More recently, one of my best friends at the Institute told me that her dream job is to spend time working with the International Red Cross in Iraq or Iran protecting human rights, fully aware of the dangers attached to this career, because she wants to spend every day of her career being able to tackle human rights violations in these countries face-on: “I have a friend who worked with the ICRC in Iraq, and she had the power to see these violations every day, and to say ‘Enough,’” she had said. “My dream is to be able to do that, too.”

Everyone at the Institute, I have come to realize, spends the better part of their careers making sacrifices for the bigger cause of defending human rights, both within their country and beyond. They are all fearless in their work, not only because of their passion for their jobs, but because they know that what they do needs to be done in order to make a change – no matter how difficult, or scary, it may be.

 

As the halfway point of my time here at the IDEHPUCP approaches, I am already so grateful for all of the experiences this internship has brought me, and for all of the important lessons that I’ve learned, and will continue to use in the future – wherever my career, and life in general, take me.

 

Updates from Malawi

  By Julia Bellehumeur

The Surprise Internship:

On May 10th I arrived in Blantyre, Malawi to work with the Equality Effect and the local organization WLSA (Women and the Law in Southern Africa).  Although I had been preparing for months to travel to Africa to work with this organization, this internship came to me by surprise.

My original placement with the Equality Effect was in Meru, Kenya.  A few days before my departure I got an email informing me that my internship in Kenya was cancelled due to concerns about the political climate.  My Equality Effect director and McGill’s IHRP director worked very quickly to arrange my new internship placement and a few days later, I was leaving for Blantyre, Malawi.  I knew very little about Malawi and I knew even less about what I would be working on, or where I would be living.  But I accepted the placement, trusting that this would be an adventure at the very least.

This last-minute switch seems to have foreshadowed and prepared me for my summer in Malawi. It set the tone for the internship in that I’ve had to be very adaptable and ready to take initiative in situations of uncertainty.  The work that I am doing is very different from what I would have been doing in Kenya, and the Equality Effect projects in Malawi aren’t quite as far along as they are in Kenya. Nevertheless, I feel fortunate to have been granted such a wonderful and unique opportunity in Blantyre.

 

The Projects

The Corroboration Litigation 

The Equality Effect together with WLSA has been working on a constitutional claim against the Corroboration Rule in Malawi for cases of rape and defilement (defilement is Malawi’s legal term for sexual intercourse with a child).  Corroborative evidence is defined as any independent evidence over and above the complainant’s testimony that confirms that a crime was committed and connects the accused to the crime.  The Corroboration Rule comes from Malawi’s colonial past and is based on the discriminatory assumption that women and girls tend to fabricate claims of sexual violence, and that these claims are easy to make but difficult to disprove.  An example of corroborative evidence often required is a medical examination of the victim to prove that a rape or defilement did in fact occur. . . Of course, this is often impossible to provide for countless reasons.  The Corroboration Rule requires the judge to warn him or herself about the danger of convicting on uncorroborated evidence.  You can imagine how problematic it is to impose this additional requirement on women and girls when there are already so many other barriers to access to justice for survivors of sexual violence.

My co-intern Michelle and I have been going to court to try to find new claimants for the case, although the bulk of our work for the litigation will pick up near the end of our internship.

 

The Workshops

WLSA has suggested developing a legislative campaign as another route to tackle eliminating the Corroboration Rule.   They’ve suggested that a conference would be a great way to get people talking about this rule and share some of the available knowledge and information within the community.  Michelle and I have taken on organizing this conference, which has proved to be quite a challenge.  Planning these initiatives usually requires a significant amount of time and funding.  Fortunately, we have been meeting with many engaged members of the community and have been coming up with creative ways to overcome these challenges before the end of our short stay in Malawi.

 

The One Stop Centers

We have observed many barriers to access justice for survivors of sexual violence in Malawi.  For example, police corruption, inconclusive or lost medical exams, a lack of education and awareness about the laws and resources, and most notably a lack of funding for fuel and transportation to bring victims into court or to the police stations.  These barriers all contribute to a high rate of withdrawal of cases, and are exacerbated for women and girls living in rural communities.

Michelle and I attended court twice this week and witnessed how some of these challenges come into play.  For the first case, we waited an hour after its start time for the magistrate to arrive.  Once he arrived, he informed the prosecutor that we could not proceed until the victim attended court.  Earlier the prosecutor had told us that the victim could not attend court because she lived too far away and they had no way of getting her.  A couple days later we came to see another case at 10am.  There was a small 7 year old girl waiting with her mother along with a doctor who came from the hospital to testify.  We all waited for over 3 hours for the magistrate who the prosecutor claimed was stuck in traffic.  Eventually the case was rescheduled to a later date.

The Blantyre One Stop Center has stood out to me as a beacon of hope among these obstacles for survivors of sexual violence.  At the OSC, victims and their families can come and report an experience of sexual or gender-based violence.  The OSC has social workers, a police officer, a doctor, a nurse, and a counsellor available onsite. They are all very committed to helping each person get the justice they deserve and the counselling they need to move forward.  They also organize awareness-raising events in local schools.  Unfortunately, these centers do not receive any funding beyond the minimal salaries provided to them by the government.  From what we’ve seen, the work of the OSC provides the most immediate results for individual victims. If they had even slightly more funds, the OSC has the potential to create widespread change. Michelle and I hope to help them create a crowdfunding type of fundraiser, and possibly even a student legal clinic to help them reach their potential.

 

Malawi

When I was told that we would be going to Malawi instead of Kenya, I had to quickly check on a map to find exactly where this tiny country was located.  I am not sure if it would have ever crossed my radar as a place to visit in my lifetime.  Yet now, it’s starting to feel like home.

Although Malawi is one of the continent’s poorest countries, it is known as the warm heart of Africa.  This was immediately apparent, Malawians tend to be very friendly and welcoming.  We have a lot of fun with our co-workers and we’ve enjoyed immersing ourselves in the very welcoming arts community at the weekly poetry nights and at an arts festival/party.

We arrived in their winter time so the landscape is incredibly lush. The fresh air and hilly backdrop makes Malawi feel like paradise.  In our yard, there are two avocado trees from which the best avocados I’ve ever had, measuring about the size of my face, fall almost daily. At night, I could spend hours looking up at the brightest starlit sky you can imagine.  I have found inner peace in Malawi – this country is truly breath-taking.

The first half of this internship has been amazing so far and I have learned so many unexpected things.  Navigating a role where I am encouraged to take initiative in a foreign country with a colonial history can at times be very challenging.  But I have learned a lot about what it takes at the primary stages of a human rights initiative, and I am working hard to ensure that the many skills I develop are appropriately balanced with a positive and sustainable impact on the women and girls in Malawi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Qamutik

Matyas David

By: David Matyas

A few weeks ago a friend took me out on the ice. There were three of us with just one snowmobile, and so for the first leg of the journey I rode in a ᖃᒧᑏᒃ (qamutik) attached by thick steel hitch to the back of the Ski-Doo. Though I’d seen qamutiks around Iqaluit, resting next to houses or snow-flecked on the back of a Bombardier or Arctic Fox, it was my first chance to ride the famous sledge.

The qamutik is one of those traditional designs that has maintained its relevance over time and has continued to outperform newer technologies. Explorers from Britain and the United States, who thumbed their noses at the Inuit design at the start of their expeditions, saw sleds imported from Europe reduced to splinters naught but a few miles into journeys. And locally, one friend told me that while many Inuit have replaced dog teams with snowmobiles, the qamutik design has endured, with only the smallest of changes in material.

The first part of our trip crosses the rough ice next to the shore—a field of towering chunks and gnarled fissures, cracked and compacted by a winter of shifting currents and reaching sea-ice. The qamutik heaves. Bounces. I’m tossed and jostled like an apple forgotten in the flatbed of a pickup on a country road. The wood squeaks and flexes but holds fast and before too long we are out on the smooth ice.

The genius of the qamutik design lies in the knots that bind the cross-pieces (or napooks) to the runners. Where the repeated thud of wood on hard ice is enough to wriggle ever the most resolute of nails free from their place, the knots and cord give the design flexibility, allowing it to maintain its integrity as it pounds across the rough terrain.

I’m banged and bruised but the ride is much more fluid on the open ice. The snow-mobile weaves around patches of blue ice and the qamutik bends along behind like a slinky. We stop and look at the mountains on the far side of Frobisher Bay. A small flock of geese flaps over the ice. In a landscape without trees to blow through, I find the wind sounds lower, throatier.

Beyond the functional importance of the qamutik, the traditional sledge-runner is also represented in art and architecture, carvings and design. At the busiest intersection in town, the four corners, there is a large red building designed to look like a qamutik. At galleries around Iqaluit, I’ve seen miniature qamutik carved from caribou antler or serpentine. And, in one of the courtrooms, the barrier (or bar) that separates the gallery from the bench and counsel tables, is made to look like two long qamutiks.

At the far end of the Bay I get out of the qamutik. I hear creaking beneath my feet. The ice, I’m told, will be solid for several weeks. In the interim, puddles form and freeze upon its surface that you can still fall through—not enough to reach the swift tidal current below but sufficient to ruin a good outing. The qamutik floats like a barge on this frozen sea and I return to its safe confines.

As we turn and head back towards town, I look out on islands in Frobisher Bay. They seem to peek through the ice like mountaintops through clouds. I think about the qamutiks represented in the courthouse, wondering how they are meant to relate to justice in the North. Are they meant to reflect the system as it is? Or, are they presented as aspiration, an allegory of what the system might become? Are efforts like the Gladue reports that are considered when sentencing offenders of aboriginal background the flexible knots in an otherwise harsh carriage of justice as it bumps and crashes across a socio-cultural landscape? I reflect on judicial processes adapted for the context, from decentralization efforts to official Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun language requirements, wondering if they will endure. I think about certain imported features of southern justice and if they are as doomed to fail in this context, like European explorers’ sleds dashed upon the ice.

I hop out of the qamutik feeling privileged to have had the ride. I’ll look at them differently as I walk through town. Hopefully, another chance to ride in a qamutik will glide past again.

Au pays de la Téranga

2017-Boily Audrey Par Audrey Boily

La chaleur me berce tranquillement dans l’autobus public qui m’amène au travail. Chaque matin, je quitte ma famille d’accueil pour me rendre à mon lieu de stage à proximité du centre-ville de Dakar. Je prends la grande route où se trouvent une foire, de nombreux immeubles commerciaux et plusieurs gratte-ciels. Je descends de l’autobus et le trajet pour me rendre au bureau se fait facilement. Je réalise mon stage auprès de la « Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (RADDHO) ». Il s’agit d’une organisation non gouvernementale sénégalaise fondée en 1990 à Dakar. Depuis 2013, la RADDHO est partenaire avec Equitas dans un projet innovateur sur le droit des femmes se nommant «  Autonomisation et participation citoyenne des femmes et des filles ». Le but du projet est de créer des communautés plus sûres où les jeunes et les femmes exercent leur leadership pour la promotion des droits humains.

La beauté du projet est que le principal travail est effectué sur le terrain par des acteurs de la société civile. Des comités locaux ont été mis en place dans trois localités au Sénégal; ils sont responsables d’organiser ou de superviser des actions communautaires ou toutes autres activités liées au projet. Dans le cadre de mon stage, j’ai eu la chance de participer aux réunions organisées par ces comités locaux. Suite à ces rencontres et à la réception des rapports narratifs d’activités communautaires qui se sont déroulées au printemps, j’ai été mise responsable de comparer les résultats des activités communautaires et de les analyser en détail.

Dans le cadre de mes lectures, j’ai appris davantage sur la problématique de l’état civil, l’une des thématiques importantes du projet. Dans une école où s’est déroulée une action communautaire, 522 élèves sur 1200 ne possédaient pas d’acte de naissance. De ce fait, ils ne pouvaient pas passer l’examen final pour obtenir leur diplôme du secondaire et ainsi pouvoir poursuivre leurs études à l’université. L’accès à l’éducation est considéré comme un élément clé pour l’autonomisation des femmes et des filles. Par conséquent, les membres des comités locaux organisent des activités de sensibilisation sur cet enjeu et supportent la tenue d’audiences foraines pour que les jeunes puissent obtenir leur acte de naissance.

À la fin de  ma journée de travail, je retournerai auprès dans ma famille d’accueil pour partager le souper et passer la soirée avec eux. Les différents membres de ma famille d’accueil m’ont rapidement intégrée au cœur de leurs activités. Vivre dans une famille me permet de me plonger dans la vie quotidienne des gens, de partager des moments de qualité et de comprendre leurs différentes réalités. Je suis vraiment au pays de la Téranga, ce qui signifie « hospitalité » dans la langue courante du Sénégal, le Wolof. Je finirai par m’endormir aux différents sons de la vie active de mon quartier.

Research, Policy, Advocacy and the Messy World of International Affairs: My Adventures in Colorado

Greenberg AnastasiaBy Anastasia Greenberg

Having just finished first-year law school exams at the end of April, I had about seven days to visit family and friends in Toronto that I hadn’t seen in ages, take care of a massive pile of errands that are naturally set aside to cultivate and grow during exam periods, pay attention to my husband who has been neglected during the past months; leaving me with just about a few hours to pack my bags and move to Colorado for the summer. I barely had any chance to process what had taken place in the last eight months of law school, and I really started to feel disengaged and confused about why I was studying law to begin with.

I arrived in Colorado on a Friday and had two days to settle into my apartment before starting work on Monday. I showed up that morning at the One Earth Future Foundation (OEF), not really knowing what to expect. I was warmly greeted upon my arrival and immediately rushed into a room where I was shown an emotional video about what OEF does, what its mission is, how it operates and so forth. All this was followed by a heavy stack of mundane paperwork to fill out: important steps before embarking on solving world peace. In the video (and in the mundane paperwork) phrases such as: “peace through governance” and “stakeholder engagement” were frequently used, but did not really make much sense until I started communicating with my co-workers and putting the pieces together of how this very interesting and unusual organization was functioning.

OEF is essentially an international “Think” and “Do” Tank. The organization is a non-profit and views its role as providing high quality research and intelligence on issues of inter- and intra-state violent conflict, while engaging various “stakeholders” such as government and non-government actors to implement policy action. There are several departments within OEF that each focus on different issues such as departments working on the role of women in peace and security, issues related to ocean piracy, micro-financing in so-called “fragile” states, as well as the largest department: the research department, which is my home for the summer. OEF is a bit unusual in comparison with many other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in its choice to use rigorous empirical methodology within its research mandate and in its choice of adopting a “neutral” approach to advocacy. In a sense, they would like the research to speak for itself and prefer to stay away from “cherry-picking” information that fits advocacy goals.

On the other hand, OEF has very broad mission statement objectives such as “a world without war in 100 years”. This is clearly a value laden statement (yes, it’s idealistic) but an overarching one, lacking specificity. In this way, I feel that their approach does have a clear advocacy angle, while also being broad enough to allow for issue-specific adaptability, within this broader framework, that is ultimately informed by their research. The whole idea that a world without war is possible is supported by famous psychologist Steven Pinker who is, interestingly enough, an adviser to the organization.

OEF produces all kinds of different work including academic publications, policy reports, documentary films, op-ed articles, as well as on-the-ground work through their partners and staff members that are located in various countries of interest where programs are directly implemented. Many staff members are themselves either from, or have lived for years in, the countries that they focus on. From what I have seen so far, while their approach is rigorous, it is also rich in quality and multifaceted.

So what have I been working on?

Having come into the organization with a research background behind me prior to starting law school, my supervisor (who is the director of the Research Department) decided to allow me to define my own project that touches on my interests in human psychology. I have been working with a large dataset collected from thousands of people across 60 different countries that asked people questions related to all sorts of beliefs and personal values. Broadly speaking, I am interested in which types of reported beliefs are associated with people’s tendency to justify violence against others, including support for war, as well as how country-level socio-economic and political factors may interact with personal-level beliefs. For example, how do country-level factors such as GDP, income inequality, homicide rates, and years of civil war modulate the relationship between various beliefs and violence justification at the individual level?

Another project that I am assisting with is the creation of a Maritime Security Index. The idea is to take in massive amounts of data from many different sources and try to build an intuitive index that will help identify which countries are doing a poor job and which countries are doing a good job at ensuring security on their coasts and in their waters. This includes measures related to human trafficking by water, illegal fishing, environmental violations, piracy, drug trafficking, and so on. I have been having a lot of fun “geeking-out” over index methodology with some PhD scientists on the team. While this highly mathematical approach may seem (and most definitely is) far removed from the qualitative reality of people who are suffering as a result of violence at sea, it is really important that we get the numbers right. In delving into some of the index methodology of various indices created by other NGOs, there are instances where the creation of these indices is questionable at best. For example, one such organization (which shall remain unnamed) decided on the “weighting” of various sub-indices based on how many hits came up on a Google search of the topic. OEF’s index will be used to single out countries that are under-performing in relation to some of their international agreements, and therefore, the nerds do have an important role to play here.

What other cool things have been going on at OEF?

I have also been learning about other really interesting initiatives at OEF. The research team has an ongoing project whereby they try to predict the onsets of coups d’état in different countries. OEF also recently co-hosted an event on “Peace Through Technology” which discussed ways in which technological innovations could be leveraged to promote peace-building. The Oceans Beyond Piracy team is also heavily involved in hostage rescue operations in Somalia. One of my favourite ongoing projects that I learned about from my next-door office cubicle mate Roberta Spivak is an event-series that she has been working on as the Editor-in-Chief of the Global Governance Journal. Every year, the editorial team of the journal select an article and host an event at one of the United Nations headquarters during which the author of the article gets to presents their research to a group of UN Ambassadors. These Global Governance Discussion Series are meant to stimulate conversations between researchers and policy makers.

Do I have a life?

Outside of work, I have been trying to take full advantage of the gorgeous Colorado landscapes. Just two weeks after my arrival in early May, we saw an unexpected massive snowstorm. While I was not at all prepared, I decided to make the most of it and went snowboarding at a resort west of Denver called Arapahoe Basin. Since then, the weather has been very warm and lovely which gave me lots of opportunities to explore hiking trails not far from Boulder. I’ve also enjoyed a lively Art Walk event in Denver with art galleries opening their doors to passersby until late into the night. On top of it all, OEF also held a cultural experience event for us non-American interns at a Rockies baseball game. I am not a huge fan of baseball, but it was pretty great having a day off and a chance to get to know my colleagues in their “natural” American habitat.

What’s next?

While I am still not exactly sure where my career is going to take me next, so far, this summer internship experience has been a really refreshing and eye-opening adventure. I can now appreciate the true value of an interdisciplinary team working on complex interdisciplinary issues. OEF has staff members with backgrounds all the way from PhDs in Psychology and Political Science, to lawyers, to former NATO guys, to artists such as an in-house filmmaker. Tackling complex issues requires expertise and skills across a range of disciplines, and ultimately, I see myself working in such a dynamic environment in the future.

 

A few thoughts…

 By Caroline Lavoie

I can’t believe it’s already been nearly a month since I arrived in Morocco- time flies!

One of my tasks over these past few weeks has been to compile a list of NGOs based in Africa and North America. I was expecting a straightforward task of simply searching for these organisations and copy-pasting their mission and contact information, and while technically that’s what it was, I found myself unexpectedly moved by it.

It was deeply humbling to see the sheer multitude of people organising themselves, around the world, to make lives better- whether it was the lives of members of their communities, of people like themselves, of future generations, of their loved ones, of strangers, or their own. What’s more, these activists sometimes put themselves at great personal risk to do this work. One NGO I stumbled across, “Awid Women’s Rights,” has an online memorial that “honors feminists and Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) who have died and whose contributions to the advancement of human rights are very much missed.”(1) Needless to say, it was hard to read about people- many of whom I identified with, who are a part of my community and/or advocate on behalf of it- getting killed because of their work in human rights. It was a serious reminder that it’s thanks to the work of people like this, over generations and still happening now, that the good life I have and the opportunities available to me exist.

To conclude, a list of a few random thoughts outside the context of the internship itself…

-Something I’m missing from home: Dancing!

-Something I know I’ll be missing from Morocco: Those fresh, fresh juices.

-Something I’ve learned: Where to line up to catch the shared commuter taxi.

-Something I’m grateful for: Rabat’s ocean breeze, usually keeping the temperature in the very pleasant 20-30C range, unlike in other Moroccan cities (looking at you, Marrakesh.)

-Something I’m listening to: Elida Almeida, “Bersu d’Oru” (thanks for the introduction, Festival Mawazine!)

-Something I’ve read: Amin Maalouf, “Leo the African” (a great read when you’re in the midst of travelling yourself.)

-Something I dislike: Still dressing modestly when the temperature climbs…

-A place I loved: Essaouira!

-Something I’m nervous about: attempting a few days (too optimistic??) of fasting for Ramadan, or as my coworkers call it, ‘aww, the equivalent of a child’s first Ramadan!’ Wish me luck!

 

FOOTNOTE: (1) https://www.awid.org/about-whrd-tribute

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