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!

Hey everybody!

It’s been more than a month since…

I’ve gotten back from Cambodia.

I was basking in fun under the sun at Burning Man 2010.

I started my 2nd year at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

I’ve posted a blog on Asi es la vida.

It’s time to start writing again.

Yup. So here I am;

Ready….. begin!

In addition to irregular posts at Asi es la vida, I will now also begin irregularly blogging forThe Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Fletcher has several blogs. This summer I posted a few on “Fletcher Reflections” and I’ve since joined the “Year in the Life of….” [insert name of Fletcher student] crew of bloggers.

Here’s the first post of the (school) year…

View from a room with a view

So. Why? You might ask, did I decide I wanted to blog for The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy?

I like to think, try out, and process things out loud and with other people

I want to “work on my writing” (lifelong process people)

I wanted another (fun) form of procrastination

I have so many interesting things to tell you! (Uhhhm, you be the judge)

I really and truly love The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and the experiences that it brings

I thought I might learn something new in the process

On the other hand, I didn’t start blogging for Fletcher because…

I get paid to do it and needed (another) job

I actually think you’re going to read my posts all the way through

I wanted to become famous or have future employers judge me by my blogging

I think I have spare time to read, write, rewrite, edit and perfect my posts

Now that we are clear, I’ve said it once and will say it again: If you have to come back to anywhere from an awesome, fun-filled summer, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy is a fantastic place to land! It’s been wonderful being back. Everybody talks about the community at Fletcher and they are not exaggerating. The people, the places, the comeraderie, and most of all, the fun (!) that can be had while pursuing a degree in the field of international affairs, law, and diplomacy. Now that I’m settled and nestling back in, I’ll be bringing you up-to-speed on the pulse of a(nother) year in the life of… Me.

Talk to you soon ya’ll.

Destination...?

As many of my peers at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy conclude their summer jobs and internships by spending a few days traveling around, in the US and abroad, I found “ The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Travelers” a timely read with useful suggestions on how to get the most out of your travel time while approaching “difference” with respect and reverence.

I know many Fletcher students already consider themselves to be “seasoned travelers”, wanderlusts, or “world citizens”. Many were born and/or raised in countries these bloggers refer to as being traveled to. But regardless of which direction we are traveling, or the international status we profess to have, I’m sure we could each tell many stories of time traveling where we found ourselves wishing we had let go of certain standards and expectations, communicated more effectively despite the lack of common language, or gone with the flow rather than rowing an upstream battle.  And chances are we have all come across a traveler or two we wished we could hand over a copy of these tips to.

First student of Ajan Malee's Int'l Cooking School!

If I were to add or emphasize one of the habits listed below it would be to challenge yourself to do things outside of your comfort zone and engage with the local environment and people. Some might say this is inevitable when you are traveling, but I find that so many destinations cater to the international traveling scene that these days it can be difficult to step outside the tourist track, go beyond your comfort, and to truly interact with the surroundings!

What advice would you give travelers as they embark upon new adventures and voyages? Which travel experiences are you reminded of when reading these seven habits?

Ajan Malee making sure I try *all* of the food!

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Travelers

When people hear that we’ve been traveling around the world, they often imagine the two of us relaxing on a beach, drinking mai tais and reclining under flaming tiki torches.

Sure.

In reality, it’s no wonder that the word “travel” is derived from the French word travail meaning “to work hard, to toil.” While we may occasionally indulge in beachside cocktails here and there, our days are typically filled with on-the-fly problem solving in ever-changing contexts: finding decent places to sleep, negotiating safe transport, and keeping ourselves well and well-fed so that we may focus on understanding the places we visit and the people we meet.

But this makes independent travel sound like something of an exercise in endurance. Much more than that, it facilitates the development and sharpening of a rather specific set of life skills that not only come in handy on the road but also translate in the real world (you know, the place where tiki torches are replaced by fluorescent track lights).

In no particular order:

1. Seek First to Adapt, Then to Complain (a.k.a., Adaptability) – Living outside your comfort zone becomes the norm on the road. New environments provide different challenges; what worked in the last country may not work in the next. All that stuff you became accustomed to just last week? Forget about it. Independent travel forces you to continually size up each situation and adapt accordingly. Your resulting experience depends on it. Sometimes your life may, too.

We’re reminded of: When we (two American non-Muslims) were presented with a steaming bowl of goat bits at a feast to break the Ramadan fast in Kyrgyzstan, we joined in by reluctantly chewing on a jaw bone.

2. Plan With Multiple Outcomes in Mind (a.k.a, Planning) – Determine which variables are most important to you (e.g., comfort, cost, risk, time), do your planning, and optimize accordingly. In doing so, you create not only Plans A and B, but also Plans C and D, too. In the end, circumstances force you to a hastily crafted Plan E, which you later realize may have been the best plan all along.

We’re reminded of: When a Chinese train station attendant informs us that the train no longer runs to our next destination, we don’t force it. We find another one…and stumble upon a Tibetan opera festival.

3. Work a way in. Leave a way out. (a.k.a., Problem Solving) – Independent travel presents myriad problems to solve, from the mundane (how to find your way to the bus station) to the critical (whether taking that bus will present personal danger). Strikes close transport routes, hotels fill up, and conflicting information confounds. The constant challenge: work your way into the circumstances you want, while continuously leaving room for an exit strategy should the ground shift under your feet.

We’re reminded of: When the land border crossing from Uzbekistan into Kazakhstan engulfed us in a sea of humanity. We used not only our physical strength but also our wit to find a way out, barely.

4. Find the Common Ground (a.k.a., Negotiation and Compromise) – As in life, fruitful travel experiences depend often on seeking an outcome where all involved are reasonably satisfied and feel that they have been respected in the process. And we are not just talking about agreeing on the right price for your hotel room or compromising with your travel buddies about which bar to go to. Win-win relates to the larger issues of negotiating common space where prevailing cultural norms and standards may be at odds with your own.

We’re reminded of: In the hills of Svaneti, Georgia, our host family shares their emotions, we share their sorrow. Then we find a graceful exit.

5. Tune In, Filter Often (a.k.a., Observation and Perception) – Seek out the signal while filtering out the noise, particularly in order to fully appreciate what it is that you’ve come to see: the culture, the people, the country. And while you keep your eyes wide open to all that is new around you, also keep in mind that wide-eyed perception is well-served when paired with a finely-tuned bullshit detector.

We’re reminded of: In the middle of the Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan, two Tajik soldiers train their Kalashnikov rifles on us and ask for our documents. We formulate an excuse to return to the view of our driver and jeep.

6. Have Less, Do More (a.k.a., Resourcefulness) – Develop an ability to very quickly uncover relevant sources, glean meaningful data and assimilate it. Information can be found everywhere – from local people on the street to other travelers to quick searches on the internet. But the trick to finding the golden nuggets: remain open to the right people while sifting out the shills and the under-informed.

We’re reminded of: Our goal: hiking in Nepal’s Himalayas without breaking the bank. We were astounded by the prices we were quoted initially (in the $1000s of dollars) for this trip-of-a-lifetime trek for which we eventually paid about $500. How? We performed some online and on-the-ground research, talked to everyone we met who completed the trek, and triangulated our data. The result: we took the same trek as supermodel Gemma Ward.

7. Find a Common Language, Create One if You Must (a.k.a., Communication) – Interacting with people is arguably the most rewarding part of travel. It can also be the most exhausting. Having to frequently adjust to different cultures and languages takes both skill and energy. Leverage your non-verbal and verbal communication skills in order to build bridges of trust and worthwhile relationships.

Source: http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/2009/09/7-habits-of-highly-effective-travelers

It’s time I give a proper introduction to what my object and purpose is  in Cambodia this summer.  Here’s an intro to the internship I’m engaged with when not out and about having fun…

Me at the Kampon Speur Court

As a part of my graduate studies at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy I am spending  13 weeks as a Legal Intern for International Bridges to Justice (IBJ).  IBJ is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization working to provide legal aid in Cambodia. The work of IBJ in Cambodia is threefold: 1) Ensuring that the rights of the accused are respected and providing adequate, well-trained lawyers to represent them 2) Informing the public of their rights as an accused and 3) Putting the laws that are already on the books into practice in the courts.

Some of my colleagues at IBJ, Cambodia

Another one of IBJ’s underlying goals is to eliminate the practice of torture in Cambodia. Torture is well-documented as a form of carrying out criminal investigation and extracting confessions from the accused in Cambodia and many other countries where more complex methods of investigation such as forensic science or even something as simple as fingerprinting are not the norm. The idea is that torture can be prevented or mitigated when the legal system (police, prisons, and courts) are held accountable by the presence of a lawyer representing the accused. Providing lawyers for the accused is not only a way of implementing the legal rights of Cambodian citizens and preventing torture, it is a step towards building the rule of law and strengthening the judicial system.

Courtroom in Kandal Province

The need for legal aid in a country like Cambodia where there is currently no state-sponsored legal aid system (i.e. free lawyers for those who cannot afford one) cannot be understated. Cambodian law includes provisions  that require individuals accused of a felony to be represented by a lawyer. My current understanding is, however, that without NGO-sponsored legal aid lawyers, those who are accused of  crimes (not misdemeanors) would either be tried without legal representation or continue to sit in jail waiting for a lawyer. In some countries legal aid is provided by the government.  Ideally the Cambodian government would support a government-funded legal aid system but currently they do not have the funds or capacity to do so. IBJ continues to work with the Cambodian government towards that goal. In the meantime, a couple of nonprofits like IBJ try their best to fill the gap in legal aid.

Cases (literally) stack-up at court

Working with an organization that supports a small number of lawyers in rural and urban provinces that would otherwise have zero lawyers for the poor is without a doubt a rewarding experience.  Hopefully we are also making important contribution as well. As an intern I am conscious of the balance between the time and energy that interns extract from organizations and companies (and spread beyond the organization and field after they leave) and the time and energy they contribute to that organization or company during their internship. There are five legal interns, a journalist, and a videographer interning with IBJ Cambodia this summer. Both a great presence and seemingly and occasional burden on the small Phnom Penh and rural offices.

Courtroom in Kampong Speu Province

As far as day-to-day work there is a good deal to be done. I spent much of June learning about the Cambodian legal system, the Cambodian context (historical, political, social, etc.) and about IBJ’s approach to providing legal aid, education, and overarching goals of strengthening the legal system and rule of law. In addition to helping to write funding proposals, giving English lessons to some of our Cambodian colleagues, each of the legal is paired to work with one of the IBJ lawyers. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Ms. Pheak, accompanying her on prison visits and court dates to see her in action representing the accused at trials in the Kandal and Kampon Speu provinces neighboring Phnom Penh. An experiential learner at my core, I continue to learn the most from these experiences, out of which I am developing profiles and case studies of individual cases and issues that illustrate successes and areas for improvement in the legal aid system.

Ms. Pheak

There are so many elements that contribute to the creation and establishment of an independent, accountable, and sound legal system.  As I look critically and hopefully at the Cambodian legal system I continue to wonder where the crux of the complex issues lie. After the first trial I observed, I was convinced education, both basic education and educating people about the law and their rights, were the crux. I saw witnesses and family members unnecessarily scared and confused from court processes and procedures and felt it too much to expect people who have little to no education and no experience with the legal system to understand what is going on in a courtroom or to understand what their rights are even when they are explained to them if they have no context for what those rights mean and no means for exercising them. On the other hand, I know there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of uneducated, illiterate individuals around the world demanding their rights be respected and calling for fairness, justice, saying no to corruption, and working to strengthen democracy in their communities and countries.

Families talking with the accused from outside of court

Overtime I have thought the “real crux” was combating institutionalized corruption, establishing systems of accountability, continued intensive police training,, and the overall lack of lawyers in country. Of course no one crux is the problem nor the solution to these challenges. And little by little individuals working from all angles must contribute to improving their corers and cross-sections of the labyrinth.

For me at this very moment that means getting back to a questionnaire I was developing.

My favorite co-worker at the office

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