One of my favorite blogs and an excellent one to consider subscribing to if you are interested in the field of International Law, IntLawGrrls, covered the passing of former Fletcher School professor, Ellen Lutz, today.

I have never met Ellen Lutz but I found her life’s work and the sense of her character that came through in this article to be very inspiring. As a Fletcher student interested in human rights law, a follower of Cultural Survival‘s work and campaigns, and as someone who hopes to find a life of balance while working in this field I feel so passionate about, her story is one I will hold close as a role model.

Ellen Lutz, photo credit: Intlawgrrls

In passing: Ellen L. Lutz

Ellen L. Lutz, an international human rights lawyer, teacher, and activist, died this past Thursday, November 4, at her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The cause was metastatic breast cancer. She was 55.

During her final two years battling the disease, Ellen directed the Cambridge-based human rights organization Cultural Survival, co-edited two pioneering books (Prosecuting Heads of State, (Cambridge U. Press) and Human Rights and Conflict Management in Context (Syracuse U. Press), submitted formal reviews on state behavior to the UN Human Rights Council, led international litigation on behalf of Panama’s threatened Nobe Indians, and sang alto with the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus. She did each with equal enthusiasm and skill.

Her concern for human rights began when, as a 15-year-old exchange student to Uruguay, she witnessed the onset of Uruguay’s state sponsored “Dirty War,” and supported the international human rights movements such actions spawned across Latin American during the 1970s. After graduating Summa Cum Laude from Temple University (1976) and obtaining a Master’s Degree in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr (1978), Ellen took a Law Degree in International Law and Human Rights from Boalt Hall Law School (University of California at Berkeley) in 1985.

Ellen’s persistent interest in Latin America continued as professional work with Amnesty International (1979-81), in Washington, D.C., and in San Francisco.

She later headed the California office of Human Rights Watch (1989-94), where she conducted research and published on little-known but extensive human rights abuses in Mexico, and she was co-counsel in two groundbreaking human rights cases in U.S. courts, against the infamous Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos and Argentine General Suarez-Mason.

Moving with her family to Westborough, Massachusetts, in 1994, she helped to set up and then served as Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, taught international law. human rights, and mediation at Tufts, Harvard and the University of Massachusetts, and wrote widely. One of her students, now a professor at Occidental College, recalled how
warm and desirous she was of connecting to students amid the formal Fletcher iciness, a marvelous force of nature.

Ellen was asked to become Executive Director of Cultural Survival in 2004, where she increased the participation of indigenous people on the Board of Directors and Program Council, while steering the organization away from local development projects to broad human rights initiatives. Ellen said:

Development work like building schools, digging wells, and providing services is what governments should be doing. Our work is to make sure governments live up to their obligations.

One of her colleagues wrote,

It would be difficult to quantify Ellen’s ferocious passion for justice. Her zeal and natural warm-heartedness combined with a legal rigor that made her a truly formidable advocate.
There was much of such personal and professional praise. But, perhaps the most encompassing and, for Ellen, meaningful compliment came from Stella Tamang, a Nepalese tribal leader and friend:

To Ellen, my Kalyana Mitra,
In Buddhism Kalyana means Wellbeing and Mitra means friend. Kalyana Mitra therefore means friends who always think about their wellbeing. You have been such wonderful friend, a constant support during the problems I was facing about the political problem back in Nepal. We also talked about family, our children, and life. I am blessed to have a friend like you. We believe that if a person has done good Karma, he or she gets to meet with wonderful people, and you are the one for me…

And Ellen was not a Buddhist. Ellen is survived by her husband, Theodore Macdonald, an anthropologist previously with Cultural Survival and now with Harvard University, and her two children from a previous marriage, David and Julia Randall, now studying at the University of Massachusetts and Harvard, respectively. Her cat, Misty, and dog, Churi, are well taken care of. Her friends, among them many women human rights lawyers, are grateful to her for her wise counsel and unflagging dignity. All are thankful to their Kalyana Mitra.

By: Naomi Roht-Arriaza of Intlawgrrls


Just me and my mustache

It’s mid-October. Baseball and midterms season. Welcome to grad-school: Take 2!

So here I am, in the library on a Thurs. night, hungry, unsure how it is already mid-October, feeling the gruel of being in the midst the ~2 weeks of midterms, wishing for warmer weather, and anxious for this weekend. This Saturday we have a double header in the Fletcher School community with the first cultural night of the year, Africana Night, followed by the school’s “official unofficial” band, Los Fletcheros’ first gig of the year!!!

But what’s really gotten me (distracted and) excited this evening is an email from the folks over at MOVEMBER. What is Movember you ask? Mustache growing + Month of November = Raising money towards and awareness of Men’s Health! Every year students at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy organize a group to grow mustaches (at school) and raise money (online) for this sweet cause. The results are filled with fun and “making fun” while addressing this important issue.

Check out the Movember site here, and consider participating in the mustache-growing extravaganza next month, or donating to a fellow chap/friend/Fletcher student who does!

Stay tuned for profiles of some of Fletcher’s Movember participants!

When I was nine years old my family lived in Bangkok, Thailand for three months. It wasn’t until recently I realized the wit and fearlessness my parents must have had  in taking my sister and I, ages 9 and 13, out of school and in tow for our first trip abroad.  We  spent Christmas with my aunt and uncle in San Francsico before boarding the plane in January, Tokyo then Bangkok, 1992.

I’ve been thinking about those three months a lot lately. My sister could tell the story better and she does. I chime in but mostly to confirm the images I still have in my head. I knew one day I’d be back and here, eighteen years and a world of reasons later, sitting in 52A with grateful goodbye tears streaming that I find myself like you might one point amongst an infinite number along a full circle.

There are so many events, images, and stories to tell from those three months. The smell of stepping off the plane and onto the tarmac, long walks through busy streets to the bus stop, to the  market, to the University pool, stretching of sheets to fit the beds, Beatles duets while washing dishes,  train rides through the country sides, slash and burning fields burning in the night, vendors meeting a hard bargain with (me) “the baby”, cockroach mortuaries on the laundry floor, learning Thai from “Mr. Dang” on a cassette  tape, incense sticks on spirit houses, intricate daily flower arrangements, making offerings to monks in morning, Buddhist temples,  rose apples, learning to love and learn through living, the meaning of graciousness and filial piety.

I remember before leaving Thailand our friends and Dad’s colleagues at the University held an elaborate farewell luncheon for our family.  There were so many to thank and bid farewell, toasts and speeches to give, gifts to give and receive and a banquet of food to devour. Dad said, my sister and I were to be prepared to speak, give our thanks and goodbyes. I remember the long table was set for several courses and crowded with different sized cups and glasses. The cashew chicken oozed thick and dark brown with purple peppers overflowing on the pink and white plates.

At thirteen, mature and confident speaking in front of a table full of faculty and family friends, Clare stood and dutifully delivered on Dad’s request when called on. Unprepared but unworried and knowing I was next, as everyone at the table turned their heads towards me like slow motion and I immediately burst into tears. Overwhelmed and unseasoned it was all I could do at the time to express the gratitude and emotion I felt for the people around the table, and the time that we had spent with them there.

I learned a lot during those three months. We met a lot of people, had a number of  formidable life experiences, and between all of the fun and funniness of forging through heat-shock and cross-cultural mishaps, our family had established ourselves and a way of life there. It was hard to leave.

I tell this story because it reminds me of Fletcher.  It reminds me of how I first became interested in  international affairs and the world beyond Falcon Heights, MN . It reminds me of the importance of experiential learning and teaching. It reminds me how quickly we bond with new communities and surroundings, and how many meaningful and memorable moments can take place in the blink of an eye, an era we will look back on and think of fondly, some of the times of our lives. And it reminds me how hard it can be to say goodbye to such experiences and accept the circles and transitions of life.

After a phenomenal first year at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, filled with an immeasurable number of fantastic moments, events, experiences, relationships, new knowledge and skills, even the lows stand out as highs in my 27 years of life. And the Fletcher community. It’s not hard to close the textbooks and shelve the note cards for a summer internship in Cambodia, but I find myself back to sitting at the banquet  table wishing I could find the words to express the magnitude of gratitude and emotion I feel towards my fellow Fletcherites and especially the graduating class of 2010 who ushered us into the magical mystery tour.

After spending eight month’s worth of beautiful days and long nights debating, challenging, laughing, learning and loving with a tight group of people in libraries and on dance floors at house parties in Medford, MA only to turn around and bid farewell to many whom you now consider really good friends for life, I find myself returning to one of my Dad’s “life-long learning” adages: life is like a convoy.

On the one hand it’s so obvious: people get on and off your convoy, some stay longer than others.  But the key is that your convoy keeps moving.  It  navigates the intricate seas of social relationships, chance, serendipity, and fate. And though I still find it difficult to leave and let such wonderful people, places and times go, I am reminded though your convoy docks at various ports along the way enabling people to get on and off along the way, it does not stop. We keep moving.

And so I remind myself that while I feel so much is forgotten when we forget to remember, as my convoys sails to Phnom Penh for the summer, it now carries the carvings of this past year’s people and passageways, as we leave pieces of us wherever we go.

Happy thanksgiving weekend everyone!

This year I am especially thankful for a spontaneous life, an amazing, fun, talented, and supportive family and community of friends, the privilege to join the vibrant Fletcher community and work towards a graduate degree in Law and Diplomacy, and last but not least, the most delicious, nutritious thanksgiving meal ever, falling just behind my mom’s annual spread.

Shout out to Baby Ace for partying like a rockstar on his first thanksgiving on earth with mom, dad, and the “R Street Hunnies Family Night Crew”!

Back in Boston the weather’s chilly and rainy, and starting to feel more like winter.  Thought I’d share some fall foliage and fun snapshots before the snow starts to stick.

The first few are from an annual fall festival called Honk!Fest – groups of “activist bands” – mostly horns, playing in the squares all weekend and marching from Davis Square through Somerville to Harvard Square in Cambridge on a gorgeous fall day in October.

Honkfest comes to Somerville

Honk!fest comes to Somerville!

Each year Honk!festers set the Davis neighborhood afire with their shiny, bold brass and the sounds of horns honking throughout the streets.  I spent one perfect fall day off the grad school grid to follow the Honk! festival, enjoying the May Day -esque celebration, watching parade of political puppetry and listening to the activist brass bands.

Stick it to me baby: Health Care!

Stick it to me baby: Health Care!

Carrying the dead

Funky Brass-town

Funky Brass-town

Get it girl!

Kanye West Makes Appearance at HonkFest

Kanye West Makes Appearance at Honk!Fest

Just what the doctor ordered!

Just what the doctor ordered!

Only in Boston

Brazilian Style Drum Jam

Davis Square
Davis Square

Fall bright

Fall Bright 2

One Example of Brilliance at Tufts

“If I hear one more person talking about the importance of maintaining a balanced life while in graduate school I’m going to…”

Steaks Burgers Stop Chicken Fish

Balance: We seek it. We work hard now to experience and enjoy it later. We want to live balanced lives. We are enamored with the concept.  So where does one find this thing we call “balance”? Does it really exist?

Lately, the whole “balance” thing has become just one more thing to add to my “To Do” list. And there aint no getting to the bottom of any graduate student’s “To Do” list, so how do we ever get to lead balanced lives while in school?  The answer, my friends, lies in the concept of the free market.

Question: If each of us were our own individual free market, would we self-regulate? Answer: Yes.

If you were looking for “the free market”, would you ever find it?  Isn’t it right there in front of you? Or all around, wherever you go?  This is how I’ve come to see the concept of balance. Would you know where to go or what you were looking for if you wanted to find it? Would you believe it if you saw it?

Maybe we can only see it when we don’t have it; when it isn’t there.

It’s easy to identify an unfree market: government regulations, income taxes, farm subsidies, tariffs on tires, just like we know an unbalanced life when we’re living it: oh the pain and anguish, the stressed, bloodshot eyes, the fast food and coffee consumption, the “just say no to invites” policy.

However, despite the prevalence of unhealthy, unsustainable practices in graduate school, I’ve come to believe that when left to our own (hypothetically) destructive devices, we end up functioning like individual miniature free markets. We may be volatile, spiking up and occasionally crashing down, we are often “all over the place”, but nevertheless self-regulating in the end.

Take last week. In the midst of  juggling a major term paper, three short assignments, four study groups, 27 bajillion pages of reading, 44 bajillion so-called “extra curricular” activities (meet the deputy prime minister of Israel! Business and GREEN club meetings, field trips, band practice, workouts), where might the invisible hand of self-regulation and life balance lead you?

Maybe it will take you to check your twitter, fb, gmail accounts. We all have our vices. Last week I downloaded an entire Stevie Wonder album and that oh-so-awesome and under- or, over-played Mario song feat. Gucci off of Itunes!  Who knows, it could even lead you to leave the whole “To Do” behind for a women’s wine and cheese night, a million mandate mixer in Harvard Square, and a post-party Ihop adventure sipping OJ and eating chocolate-chip pancakes.

You never know where the invisible hand will lead you, but trust that after a 12-hour marathon library stint, a combination of one’s physical demands and mental capacity, the limits of the market kick in and that ever-mysterious, ubiquitous and constantly moving hand will pull you to self-regulate towards some semblance of sanity – and – that thing we call balance.

Oh, how we shall savior those moments!  Because after that, it’ll pull you right back to the stacks!



Melon Vine Farm

I have finally decided what I intend this blog to focus on!  (Audible applause)

After reading blog after blog posting about why it is important to have a blogging strategy and, even better, why blogs without a purpose are a waste of time, I decided it was time to buck up, stop being casual, inconsistent, perfectionist, and journal-esque about my blogging and establish a purpose.

I started this blog as a pseudo experiment while living/working in Buenos Aires in order to talk about how life was in BA.  I also wanted to try “the whole blogging thing” out, take my facebook and twitter commentary and link sharing to a (slightly) more analytic platform, and work-on and practice my writing skills.

The blog is called Asi es la vida, which means, “like this is life” or, “that’s life”.  I prefer the first translation. It’s not, “that’s just the way it goes” it’s more “this is how it is”.  So, like many bloggers, I’m going to tell you how it is.  But now that I’m back in the States at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, it will be all about how life is as a graduate student.

It’s natural, it’ll flow, and it follows the simple and sure writing advice of my first (and one of my favorite) creative writing teachers, Barabara Grengs, “write about what you know”.

So, strap on your britches, get ready for the fun, and welcome to the next phase of Asi es la vida: Asi es la vida de una estudiante de Fletcher School!

It was another one of those gorgeous, late summer-reminiscent days today and I was laying in the grass in the Blakely Fields in front of The Fletcher School chatting on the phone, trying to get some reading done, and taking in some sun when I got stung by a bee! I had been lying there watching them get in and out of the hundreds of grassy weed flowers around me and must have accidentally swiped one with my hand as I turned to switch sun sides.  I felt that poke/sting and rapid swell spreading, tried to pull the lil stinger out but failed, so I trekked across the field to Health Services to see what they could do for me.

The last time I got stung by a bee I was at the annual boomerang tournament at the Ruhe-Ruhf farm exploring the train tracks with Luna Babes when I stepped into a beehive. And Yikes! Two or three buggers got me on my leg which immediately swelled-up balloon style, and stayed that way, itching and hurting for days, and leaving big red bumps for several weeks!  With an important tennis match tomorrow morning (I have a reigning title to defend) I was determined not to have a swollen hand for the next several days.

Which brings me to running. As one of the sweet doctors at Tufts Health Services took my pulse she asked me, “Are you a runner?”  I immediately blurted out, “Yes!” Surprised to hear myself say that I went on, “Well…” “An Athlete?” she asked? “Yeah…” I said smiling. “Nice and slow and steady,” she said referring to my pulse.

I confess I have never considered myself a runner. In fact I’ve mostly hated running.  I’d throw it into a weekly workout here or there just to change it up a bit, almost always on a treadmill and struggling to pump out more than 20 or 30 minutes at a slow pace. I only started to really like running when I was up at my cabin in August. I wanted to get back in shape and the weather was awesome, our dog Abby would come with me, and we’d run in the sun, the north woods and marshlands of Wisconsin making a great scenic trail, and sounding board, as I tried to sing at the top of my lungs while huffing and a puffing along the dirt road. When we’d get back we’d end at the dock and jump in the lake to cool off and the whole thing just made life feel good.  Here in the Medford-Somerville-Cambridge-Arlington area of Massachusetts we’re lucky to have miles of running-walking-biking trails, and I’ve grown to love the one that starts just behind our house.

Which brings me to today and why I love running.  I set off this evening just before sunset in need of clearing my head and determined to get in a good run. I started fast and with my music LOUD.  It felt so good to get out of my head and into the music and run that I decided to see which would slow me down first: my legs or my lungs.

In the beginning when I ran I’d think about running, or think about not thinking about running.  I run because I like to get a good workout. I feel strong and that feels good. I run because it’s part of my personal mental health plan, because running outdoors takes you places, because, second only to skydiving and bicycling, you really feel like you are flying.  And that’s a pretty amazing feeling.

When I passed the high school where the football and cheerleading practice is usually taking place the woods part and the sky opens up. I caught a glimpse of the sun setting magenta but kept running.  When I got to the end of my loop I had to stop to watch a few pitches of the Somerville little leaguers.  These kids were young, maybe only 8 or 9, but they could throw!

As I turned to make my loop back I started thinking about how my dad used to run track when he was younger (he also used to look a lot like Elivs Presley, but I digress..).  And though I started running to get back in shape, I don’t think I’ll ever stop (well, save for the knees) because “getting in shape” doesn’t have an end.  As my dad would attest, like most things, it’s really a life-long process.

And so it goes, Asi es mi vida corriendo.