Legal Aid Research| July 10, 2011
When I last wrote, I was reveling in my glorious victory over the elearning software. This week, I took a little break from elearning to do some research for my boss. One of the neat things about being in IBJ's main office is that we get to hear about all the plans and activities going on in the other offices around the world. The managers travel frequently to visit the other offices or to look into expanding into new countries - like Egypt. My boss, Kellie, and our Africa coordinator, James, leave for Burundi tomorrow for two weeks. They will visit the IBJ office in Burundi to hold a training session for Burundi defense attorneys. After a week in Burundi, they fly to Rwanda to repeat the process there. The managers try to visit the other offices as often as they can. I already mentioned the trip to Zimbabwe in a prior blog and IBJ's founder, Karen Tse, is also based in Geneva, but has been in and out of the China office over the past two months. Anting, a Taiwanese intern, has been tutoring her in Chinese: apparently she's making great progress.
The IBJ gang
Anyway, they will use the research I did on legal aid to initiate a roundtable discussion in the Burundi training session on the importance of legal aid and how such systems have been initiated. I rather like the final memo and the colorful graph I added. Though researching the history of legal aid in developing countries online is rather difficult. The law school gives us access to several international databases, but the history of legal aid is not quite as popular a topic as analyzing the problems with legal aid. I had to dig to find information on some of the African countries: many of their legal systems are so new and unstable that determining when legal aid legislation was passed and determining when the law was actually enforced is quite difficult. My research on European and North American countries was smoother and more detailed. But I did find quite a bit on Zimbabwe, India, and China (thanks to the wonderful Laura Bain who, as you may know from reading the blogs, is currently in working in Beijing and sent me a wonderful article on China). Russia was a bit of an issue merely because a lot of the sites I found were in Russian. I had to borrow one of the new interns, Natalia, who recently moved to Geneva from St. Petersburg to study diplomacy at the University of Geneva, to translate.
Mont St. Michel from the abbey
Last week I also mentioned the farewell party that I was to attend that night. We had it on a rooftop terrace that overlooked the lake. Almost everyone at work came, bringing their families and friends. There was so much food that most of the interns ended up taking home at least a block of cheese and a bag of chips or a bottle of wine. It was nice to hang out with everyone after work.
Mont St. Michel
Since we're an American company, we got the fourth of July off from work. So I took the opportunity to take an extended trip through France to Mont St. Michel. On Friday, I took the train to Rennes, via Paris, to break up the nine hour train ride to Mont St. Michel. Rennes is a small city in the northwest of France. There wasn't too much to do there; I mostly wandered around the older part of the city and in some of the pretty gardens. The next day I took the train to Mont St. Michel, a little island mountain off the coast of France. At high tide the island is cut off by the sea, but when I was there I could walk between two islands on wet clay like sand or in a few feet of water. The abbey at the top of the mountain was beautiful - though it took a couple hundred stairs to reach it. Walking out between the two mini islands was fun, but I slipped and caught myself with the hand holding the camera. So now you kind of have to open the shutter manually.
Me walking in the Sea
The next day, I took a twenty minute train to St. Malo, a lovely seaport town. There's a small town inside fortress walls on the beach. I was quite happy to wander about and then laze on the beach. Sight seeing vacations are fun, but very rushed and tiring. The water was freezing, but the weather was delightful. At lunch, I gave in to French custom and ate a cheeseburger with a fork and knife. I was informed by Mirjam (a German intern) that it is impolite to eat anything in a restaurant with one's hands - including cheeseburgers. I almost gave up half way through - this would be an excellent diet plan - frustrate yourself into giving up on your meal halfway through.
Mont St. Michel
I spent the fourth of July in Paris for a little while before catching the train back to Geneva. It was lovely - if very hot. I got a little homesick though for fireworks, grilling, and watching Independence Day. Still, this Friday is Bastille Day in France, so I will see fireworks across the lake then.
Me in St. Malo