August 2020 – Learning While Working Remotely

By Nevada McEniry-Hatajlo

The subject material of my project is engaging, but difficult in the sense that I’m writing about something that is still ongoing. This means that I have been challenged with having to write broadly, but succinctly and precisely at the same time. I’ve chosen to focus on many countries, and while that assures my project will be comprehensive, it’s also a lot of work to take on. I’ve definitely had moments of panic, and I constantly need to refocus myself instead of allowing myself to get overwhelmed.

I recognize now that this project would have been perfect to take on in person. The difficulties of working remotely have impeded my ability to truly engage in the material, which is disappointing, but expected for a time like this.

What’s been really fun, however, is that I’ve been introduced to two legal advisors at BCNL, Aylin Yumerova and Zahari Yankov, who have given me ample information about the political climate in Bulgaria right now. I have really loved learning about this, and it just reinforces the fact that I need to visit Bulgaria once the pandemic has subsided. Everyone has been so helpful and personable; it makes me miss a place I’ve never even visited before.

What I’ve been reading about lately is the rhetoric surrounding rioting and violence that overlaps with public demonstrations. While I don’t condone violence, I ultimately value human life over property damage. And considering that I am white, because of this I will never truly understand the Black, Indigenous and POC experience. Instead, I strive to be the best ally I can be, and to not be critical of what I think is the right or wrong way to protest.

The discussion around violence and free assembly in Bulgaria is nonexistent, and there is a strict emphasis on the need for peaceful protest, and only peaceful protest. This is fascinating to me. In discussing this with Aylin and Zahari, they expressed the fact that Bulgarian protests right now are primarily focused on disrupting main traffic arteries in the capital. Another reason I wish I was in Sofia right now, because it would be fantastic to witness this in person. They told me that people are camping in the streets, and while yes there have been instances of government corruption and police misconduct, these protests have continued steadily and calmly.

Taken from: “София осъмна блокирана от протестиращи”. Vesti.bg (in Bulgarian).

Taken from: “София осъмна блокирана от протестиращи”. Vesti.bg (in Bulgarian).

Canada and Bulgaria have different histories and relationships with colonialism, discrimination and political turmoil. I can assume that this results in these countries having different perspectives on violence. It’s one of the interesting intricacies I have observed throughout my internship and uncovering this has motivated me to explore more.

June & July 2020 – Adjusting and Coping

By Nevada McEniry-Hatajlo

I was supposed to do a major European trip this summer. Every time I travel, I research for a while, and eventually create a massive map with points of interest and activities to do. I’m a ‘see-all-no-time-to-stop’ kind of traveler. From June to August 2020, I was going to be living in Sofia, Bulgaria. I’ve never lived away from home for that long, nor traveled that long by myself. The idea of being away from friends and family for that time was difficult to deal with. I was also nervous about living in a foreign city, in which I didn’t speak the local language, or could even read the alphabet. It took a lot of time to adjust to this opportunity, but ultimately, I was over the moon.

And then as we all know, the world was put on pause when COVID-19 hit. I’m in my last semester of law school, and this would have been my only opportunity to do anything abroad before I graduated. It’s been a whirlwind of emotion, from grief, to sadness, to relief and happiness that I would be with family during this unexpected and stressful time. And ever since lockdown, time feels as if it has stood still. Strangely, however, it feels as if it has gone by too quickly as well. As I’m writing this, I feel as if my internship is almost over, when I don’t even feel as if it has started in the first place.

I was fortunate enough to be able to pursue a remote internship with the Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law (BCNL), and I am incredibly thankful that the organizers, Nadia Shabani and Anna Adamova, were able to accommodate me. We’ve met several times over Zoom to discuss my topic and progress, and they’ve provided me with great resources and contacts to help me with my research. They are…so nice. They are caring and engaging individuals, and I feel as if I know, even though I’ve never met them in person.

What I’ve struggled with the most, as I know everyone else has, is transitioning from in person to remote work. Motivation and concentration have been equally difficult to harness. I find that I need to create lists to push myself to do the work. I get easily distracted by the comforts of my own home, by the cat, and by the current events. We are witnessing such a tumultuous time, fraught with protests, violence, corruption, greed, and discrimination. I tend to be an empathetic learner, and because of that, it’s hard not to feel despair during this time. This is probably the biggest obstacle for me during this remote internship.

For this reason, I asked my supervisors if I could direct my work towards what’s currently happening in the world. I’ve directed my research to explore what it means to exercise your right to assembly during a global pandemic. When Montreal hosted their first Black Lives Matter demonstration, the COVID numbers in Montreal were still way too high. I was very uncomfortable leaving the house, let alone participating in a demonstration involving thousands of individuals. It was upsetting that I was debating staying home, when I felt this urgency to support and be the best ally I can be. I’m glad I went, but it still terrified me. I thankfully haven’t experienced any loss due to COVID, but I have very close friends who have, and I’ve seen how serious this virus is.

This internship has been helpful in coping. By virtue of the subject matter I chose for my report, I’m learning about an ever-unfolding chain of events as its happening, and this has provided me with stability and comfort. I just need to keep at it and be kind to myself when I get emotionally exhausted.

 

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’re all doing well!

 

Nevada

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