William and Mary Law School

Work, work, work

First of all, I have to apologize for not having posted in awhile. I have been incredibly busy, both with my work here and preparing things for the Fall job search. Hopefully, this post will help fill you in on all I've been up to over the past few weeks.

Saturday was officially the halfway point of my time here in Argentina and I cannot believe it. I have been having such a fabulous time here that the time has just been flying by. I haven't taken any trips since I went to Buenos Aires, so my time has really been devoted to my work with CEDHA and enjoying Córdoba. In one of my previous posts I was talking about the fact that things were going a little slow with work and I didn't feel like I was learning much yet. While I can't speak for my classmates who are also doing internships abroad, I think this initial sluggishnss is probably pretty typical of an international internship, or at least of a culture where taking siestas is still normal and puntuality means showing up within a half-hour of the time you arranged to meet. That said, because I took advantage of the time I had during the first few weeks to really learn about the projects and goals of my program (and essentially "lay the groundwork"), once I got my assignments I was able to quickly jump right in.

I am working with the Corporate Accountability and Human Rights program. At first I was a little disappointed because initially, I had thought I was going to be splitting my time between that program and the Human Rights and Environment Legal Clinic. Now, however, I see that working with the Clinic would require all of my time, and would require me to always be working in Spanish. Furthermore, as it turns out, as part of the Corporate Accountability program, I have had the opportunity to work on two distinct, yet equally rewarding projects. First, I am working with the other members of the group on a designing a tool to measure corporate impact on Human Rights in Argentina, and hopefully, I'l actually get the chance to see the tool put to use before I leave Córdoba. What's especially interesting for me is the fact that we are going to be looking at some American companies such as Walmart and possibly Coca-Cola. My second project is actually one I pretty much came up with myself and about which my supervisor is really interested. Over the past few weeks, I have been spending a lot of time researcing an old U.S. statute known as the Alien Tort Claims Act. This law gives federal district courts jurisdiction over tort claims of violations of the law of nations ocurring outside of the U.S. Essentially, this means that in limited circumstances, citizens can sue corporations in U.S. courts for human rights violations that have occurred in foregin countries. There are a lot of interesting things happening right now with this statute, so it's a really exciting project with which to be involved. Plus, it's a fantastic opportunity to work on something that may prove  very useful for NGOs in Latin and Southern America, while also getting to apply a lot of the skills and concepts regarding U.S. law that I gained during my first year. In a few weeks I am going to be conducting training regarding the interpretations and uses of the statute in the various district and circuit courts, and I might even end up with a publication :).

Because CEDHA's office is pretty small, all of the volunteers rotate when they are in the office. My hours are from 9:00AM - 2:00PM. Once I leave the office, I usually stop and get lunch somewhere (chicken sandwiches, empanadas, salads, and lasaña are some of my favorites) and then head home to keep working for another 3 hours. Then, during the late afternoon/early evening I meet up with some friends and drink mate, listen to music, go shopping, etc. As Saturday was July 4th, I decided to throw an American party. My friend said we could have it at his house, and the party was definitely a success. We had hot dogs, blue and red lights, American music, and, of course, beer pong!! It was really great to be able to share some of my culture with people here, especially as the only experience many of them have with American culture is the exagerrated images they are fed through American movies. (Don't get me wrong, I love American Pie as much as the rest of them, but how many times do I have to explain that not every college guy is like Stiffler??)

Thursday is a national holiday here, so a friend and I are taking a weekend trip to the north of Argentina, which is supposed to be absolutely beautiful. Luckily, my work is of such a nature that I can take it with me and keep working while we're traveling between excursions. I look forward to telling you all about the trip when I get back early Monday morning.

I hope you are enjoying Argentina with me! Take care.