I have now been a Muscovite for an entire week! I am staying with my cousin (Lika) and her boyfriend (Konstantine) in their studio apartment by the Botanical Garden metro station. I've got a lovely Ikea bed, which folds back into a chair and we've managed to time our mornings so that we all get enough bathroom access. This type of living arrangement is very common in Russia. Especially in Moscow, where housing is very expensive, three generations can be found living under one roof in what Americans would consider cramped conditions. Honestly, it's not that bad. In my case, I am just lucky to have family in Moscow because I'm avoiding very high rental costs.
My first day at work was not uneventful. I got robbed! After a great day of introductions, familiarizing myself with publications, and general settling in, I left the office to buy a celebratory bottle of wine - only to find my wallet empty. Of course, as these things happen, just earlier that day I exchanged $150 into rubles. I rushed back to the office to tell the Director what happened. The conclusion the office arrived is that an indentified man came in and everyone assumed he was there to visit someone else. He roamed around for a bit and then, while I was away from my desk, took the money. Fortunately, he did not take my passport or Ipod, which were also in my purse (I think he might have been rushed). I was obviously devastated! Two days later, the Director reimbursed me for my loss out of his own pocket. I really appreciated that ABA handled the incident very professionally.
So, all criminal activity aside, my week at ABA has been great. The ABA Rule of Law Initiative has several programs active in Russia. They sponsor Continuing Legal Education, both for lawyers and judges, hold seminars on ethics in the legal profession, put out publications on anti-human trafficking measures and application procedures to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and also have several test programs throughout Russia on fighting corruption. The Director offered me to familiarize myself with each of the programs, which would allow me to figure out what I am most interested in. I am leaning toward ECHR work, anti-human trafficking initiatives, as well as corruption. Most likely I will be assigned some sort of research project. Thus far, I have been helping assemble the text for ABA's upcoming book titled "Fighting Corruption at the Municipal Level." Also, there will be a seminar held in our office next week and I'll be able to participate in that as well.
Most importantly, I've already learned a lot about the differences between the US legal system and that of Russia. I'll cover some of these in my next blog.
P.S. I promise to post pictures soon!