Friday, July 13, 2012

Last Week In Geneva :(

            I know I keep saying it but I am SHOCKED by how quickly my time in Geneva went by! I feel like I just arrived here and was getting lost on the bus system and feeling hopelessly confused- but now its time to leave! I had a really great week this week because I got to do all of the things that I have been meaning to do since I’ve been in Geneva and just didn’t get a chance to yet! However it has definitely been a little bittersweet because I am so sad to leave!
            Monday evening was definitely one of my favorite evenings here! After work, myself and two girls from my Hostel, Brooke and India, went grocery shopping for a picnic! Then, we ate on our roof, watched the sunset and talked. One of our topics of discussion was how much we enjoy the European lifestyle. All of the stores close at 7:00PM on weekdays so after work, there isn’t much to do but relax and spend time with people! We talked about how nice it is to just sit and enjoy a nice meal and not have to be constantly rushing off to the next appointment or meeting. I know this lifestyle is obviously going to be difficult to maintain when I get home and start senior year but I definitely want to try to make more of an effort, at least sometimes, to sit down and enjoy a great meal with great friends and absolutely no sense of urgency to finish! J


DELICIOUS Macaroons! 

Our view during dinner! 

            Tuesday was a really exciting day for me because I was given the opportunity to visit CERN, a nuclear research facility, where the researchers working there just discovered a new particle! I am by no means a scientist so I was a little bit nervous about what I was going to see while at CERN and if I was going to understand any of it! But, the visit ended up being wonderful! It was a special tour organized by the CERN interns for UN interns so the tour was given by people around my age who did a great job of explaining the complicated science that they are doing in very simple terms!
            When we first arrived, we got to see old particle accelerators and detectors that capture images of particles when they collide together. The interns explained that the focus of CERN is to discover how nature works and that they place a huge emphasis on the importance of teaching and sharing knowledge. Then, they explained a little bit to us about the “god” particle that was recently discovered. The particle was given its name by a magazine editor to emphasize its importance, not by researchers as is commonly thought! (The researchers have a crude term for the particle because it has been so elusive and quite a pain!) Basically, scientists were observing clusters of particles forming but did not understand why this was happening. They hypothesized that there is a very small particle (the Higgs Particle) that was causing these particle clusters to form and they set out to understand why this is happening. They have been trying to prove this theory for 30 years and are using the biggest accelerator ever to do so! It is 37km in circumference and is underground in Geneva and the surrounding areas. I thought it was pretty interesting that he interns told us that the accelerator has the coldest temperatures in the universe when the particles are accelerating toward one another but then the highest temperatures in the universe when they collide! Scientists have been accelerating 200 billion protons toward 200 billion protons to try to form a collision so they can prove the existence of the Higgs Particle, and out of those 400 billion protons only 20 will collide!! As a result, these collisions are taking place almost all day everyday with scientists working around the clock to gather data! The interns told us that they gather 15 million GB of data each year and if they were to stack CD disks with that data on it, they would be 20 KM high, Mt. Everest is 8.8 KM high! WOW! After the seminar session when the interns explained to us the research they were doing, I was able to visit the site of the GIANT detector where they are recording the collisions- it was amazing! Overall, I was pretty confused throughout most of my visit to CERN but I think I retained some information and am definitely glad that I was able to visit such an incredible place!
(Disclaimer: It is entirely possible that I explained the Higgs particle completely wrong and if so I apologize! I just explained it as I understood it!)

Particle Detector

Another Particle Detector (It looks like a scuba diving mask to me) 

The room where they announced the discovery of the Higgs Particle!

I did a little research of my own when I was there!

Part of a particle accelerator
The size of the Detector we visited! WOW!
             On Wednesday, Fr. Olivier invited me to the Priory to have dinner with himself and the Dominicans he works with, along with Evelyn who works in the Dominican Delegation. I brought along my friend Susie who knows the Dominicans as well (she studied at Oxford!) and we had a wonderful evening! First, I went to my first ever French speaking Mass! It was a little confusing but for the most part I was able to follow along and with Susie’s help was not completely lost! After Mass we had dinner and then went for a walk. I am definitely going to miss how much everyone walks here- it is such a nice way to spend time together! We took a boat across the lake and enjoyed the beautiful sights of Geneva!
            After our walk, I joined some of my friends at an open-air salsa night! I am constantly amazed by how many incredible things there are to do in Geneva, it seems like there is always an event going on somewhere! I discovered that I can’t really salsa at all but I had a great time trying to dance with my friends and a few of them were able to give me some tips- it was so much fun!

            I had been looking forward to Thursday all week because Brooke, India and I decided to go out for fondue as a farewell dinner! We went to Café du Soleil and it was the BEST fondue I have ever had in my life!! We had a wonderful time sitting outside and talking and eating so much delicious food! I am so glad that we all got a chance to spend a little time together before we all part ways! (Brooke is in Geneva until August but India is leaving next week). After fondue, we went to another intern event in the city. It was really nice to get a chance to say goodbye to some of the interns that I have been spending time with and I am so grateful that the intern community has been so friendly and welcoming to me over my time here, it has definitely helped me to feel at home! 

Do you fonDO? 

            Today is my last day at the UN which feels a little surreal! I have been walking around and trying to take everything in before I leave! This afternoon I have a closing meeting with Fr. Olivier and Evelyn, it is definitely going to be difficult to ay goodbye to them both. I have had such an incredible time in Geneva and cannot possibly express how grateful I am to have had this opportunity! I know that I am definitely going to need some time to process and reflect upon the conclusion of my internship so hopefully I will post a closing reflection at some point soon! J

Thanks for reading! :) 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Rights of Indigenous Peoples

            This week began the final portion of my Geneva experience, the Council on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Prior to attending my first council meeting, however, I met with Fr. Olivier and we debriefed my experience with the Human Rights Council.
            At the conclusion of the Human Rights Council, I was definitely a little discouraged. I felt as if the council had not accomplished very much and was extremely concerned and the number of human rights violations that are taking place around the world that it seems like no one is addressing. Fr. Olivier explained to me that although it is difficult to recognize, there really is no “clean country” in the field of human rights. The issue is definitely not black and white and there are violations of human rights taking place constantly around the world. This was definitely something that was difficult for me to realize and I wondered why the nations were not doing more to stop these gross violations of rights.
However, Fr. Olivier explained to me the fact that the field of human rights is a relatively new one and that we have already been able to see a number of positive changes since the United Nations first began addressing this issue in its own specific council. The Human Rights Council may have looked weak to me, but it is just a part of the overall negotiations that relate to human rights. The council is extremely important for long-term negotiations and is addressing a number of issues on a large scale that one would not have been able to completely witness in three short weeks.  The example that Fr. Olivier provided to illustrate this was the efforts that are being made to improve the Human Rights Situation in Syria. At the Human Rights Council that I witnessed, a few hours were spent discussing Syria. However, I was not able to witness the fact that a UN specialist had been sent to Syria last year as a result of the HRC meeting, that the security council in New York met on Syria and that there are also meetings simultaneously going on in Paris to discuss the Syria issue. All of these events and meetings are constantly impacting one another and I was able to see only one piece of this larger puzzle.
Additionally, he explained to me the importance of countries with different backgrounds being able to meet together and agree on certain issues. This is something that I have recognized over my time at the UN and I have been constantly impressed by the way that countries with such different fundamental values have been able to interact with one another and even agree on some topics. Fr. Olivier explained to me that agreeing on one small issue might open up the door for some countries to work together more closely in the future. One of the essential aspects of the Human Rights Council is allowing countries to recognize that they might not be as different from one another as they might think and that it is possible to cooperate with one another, especially when human rights are concerned.
After finishing up my meeting with Fr. Olivier, I left the office and went back to the United Nations for the Council on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Council is in the same room that the HRC was in so I was expecting something very similar. However, I was shocked by what a different atmosphere this council has had! I did not have to go through any security to get into the room like I did for the HRC and the room is much more empty. Additionally, the discussions feel much less formal than they did in the HRC. It definitely seems to me that the delegates are interacting with each other much more closely than they were in the HRC, when, at times, it seemed like the delegates were each speaking but not really listening to one another. I was really glad that I was given the opportunity to attend this council as well because it provided me with a comparison point and I now fully recognize how important the HRC was!
The Council on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a much weaker body and will report directly to the HRC or to the UN General Assembly. These issues used to be discussed in the HRC but there were so many concerns relating to indigenous peoples that the UN created a separate council on this topic. In this council, there are less diplomats and more junior diplomats. Fr. Olivier also explained a few of the difficulties of this council to me. One of the biggest difficulties concerning the rights of indigenous peoples is signing treaties. Since indigenous peoples are not recognized as sovereign states, there are a number of issues with recognizing or upholding treaties signed between sovereign states and indigenous groups. Another issue is the fact that many states are recognizing the rights of indigenous people but are also trying to change their way of life and integrate them into mainstream society. I have been extremely impressed by the strong desire of the indigenous people that I have seen at this council to hold on to their way of life and their determination to not allow themselves to lose their culture and traditions. This is most apparent in the various forms of traditional dress that I have seen at the council. It has been really amazing to see the different ways that each cultural group chooses to dress itself and express its heritage through clothing.
            One of the most difficult situations that has arisen in this council is the fact that different groups of people define human rights differently. Since human rights are not applied the same way in every culture, the issues becomes: does one group promoting human rights have the ability to impose these rights on a group that is not promoting human rights in the same way? Who is able to determine what the “correct” human rights are? Can years of a tradition in a culture, although the custom may seem to violate human rights to outsiders, be acceptable within the context of that culture? The question of development is also extremely important. Some states believe that they are promoting human rights by developing their countries more and providing access to different resources. However, this development can disrupt the way of life of indigenous people and it sometimes done at their expense. This definitely seems to be a violation of rights. Finally, another big issue is the fact that there is no unanimity on the definition of indigenous people and what exactly would qualify a person as indigenous. As a result, discussions at the council can sometimes become confusing based on the different definitions of this idea.
            Overall, I have been shocked by some of the wrongs that indigenous populations have been exposed to, either by the states they reside in or by third parties. Perhaps the best quote I heard thus far this week is “human rights cannot be aspirational.” The indigenous peoples are calling for an immediate recognition of their human rights but it seems that it is going to be a difficult process because of the great deal of ambiguity and questions surrounding this issue.  
            Finally, throughout this week I have also been working on the Database of Dominicans! I have finally sent out emails to all of the Dominicans that we are trying to get in contact with and now I am just waiting for all these groups to respond with their contact information. I have already heard back from a number of Dominicans who were extremely excited about this undertaking- I have such a great sense of accomplishment that I was finally able to make some progress with this project!
            Tomorrow marks the final day of the Council on the Rights of Indigenous People and I leave Geneva on Saturday! I cannot believe how quickly my time here went by and I am definitely grateful that I had the opportunity to witness the Council on Indigenous Peoples so I could learn even more about how the UN functions! 

Two Inspirational Dominicans

            As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I was given the opportunity to meet two incredibly inspirational Dominicans who were visiting Geneva during my first weeks here. I was asked to interview them both and write up a short account of my discussions with them. Below you will find my interview write-ups as well as my reflections on the interviews!

Sr. Anne

Born in France, Sister Anne Lécu attended medical school prior to taking vows as a Dominican sister in 1997. In January, 1997, Sr. Anne began working in Fleury-Mérogis Prison, the largest prison in Europe, as a medical doctor. Sr. Anne explains that she began by working in the men’s prison but has been working with women for the past five years. In her capacity as a medical doctor, Sr. Anne sees patients but does not speak to them about religion or the Gospel because that is not her primary focus. However, when asked about where she sees God in her work, she explains that her experiences in the prison have made her more able to speak about God outside of its walls. She honestly attests that it is sometimes difficult to speak about God after experiencing the prison and that her work there has definitely changed her faith. After spending a number of years in the prison, she now recognizes that, “there aren’t good people and bad people, there is opportunity to do good things and bad things.” After hearing about the experiences of those she is working with, as an empathetic person, Sr. Anne sympathizes with the prisoners and recognizes that the females in the prison are the same as women who are not imprisoned, they have just made mistakes. Her face lights up as she shares a remarkable story of attending mass with the prison inmates, witnessing ten of the worst inmates fall on their knees before the cross, and understanding at that moment that Jesus was with the females. Because of her work with the female inmates, Sr. Anne is able to fully recognize that Jesus is on the side of the sinners and is able to see his presence while in the prison. She states that there is no more room for sin because Jesus replaced it on the cross and is deeply moved by the fact that the women she is serving in the prison are able to recognize this as well, and that they attend Church with the hope of making a change in their lives. Witnessing this phenomenon has given her hope that these women will be able to make a change in their lives, a change that she believes was prompted by God.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Sr. Anne and really felt that I could connect to her experience after having worked in a prison last semester as a part of a Psychology internship class. Throughout that internship experience, I struggled with my own realizations that those who were imprisoned were not necessarily bad people, but had instead only made bad choices. I found myself wanting to dislike people based on the crimes that they had committed but found it hard after hearing their stories and the circumstances that had let them to commit crime. I admired the way that Sr. Anne was able to so clearly articulate this fact and the way that she spoke about seeing the good in every person. This is something that I constantly wanted to do during my internship but did not want to let myself do. However, she assured me that seeing the good is not only important, but also necessary. I was also especially inspired by her hope for these women to make positive changes in their lives with the help of their faith.

Fr. Carlos

            Born in Spain, Fr. Carlos Rodriguez Linera joined the Order of Preachers in 1969. When asked, Fr. Carlos cites his reason for joining the Dominicans as being the fact that he was looking for a change, but not just change for the sake of change, but the “soul of society” during a time that society was crumbling. After joining the Order, Fr. Carlos worked in Taiwan for eight years in a Parish and then in a Hong Kong school for twenty-one years. Today, Fr. Carlos works as the General Promoter of the Dominican order. His responsibility is to encourage others to integrate justice and peace into their lives and to live the Gospel. He asserts that our dignity as human persons is the greatest gift that we are given because God created us in his image; as a result, every time a human person suffers, God suffers, making human rights vitally important. At the center of this advocacy for the rights of the human person, Fr. Carlos further explains, is recognition that all of humanity is brothers and sisters. This is a fact that needs to be constantly acknowledged and reflected upon. Fr. Carlos also speaks very highly about the importance of respecting others who may think differently from one’s self, and engaging in negotiations. He sees the responsibility of the Dominicans, especially at the United Nations, as allowing others to recognize that by providing each and every person with the basic resources to survive, we can achieve peace. Fr. Carlos recognizes that achieving this goal and living this life is not a simple task and knows that his monumental responsibility is to remind Dominican communities around the world of the importance of preaching this message and carrying out Jesus’ mission. Fr. Carlos believes that when more people begin to live as Jesus did and to recognize the innate dignity in each and every person, that society will be on the way to allowing every human to enjoy his or her full human rights.

I was not expecting to be able to meet Fr. Carlos so I was overjoyed when I learned that he was going to visiting our delegation! I mentioned Fr. Carlos in my first blog post because he is the Dominican who visited PC last fall and who is responsible for me deciding to apply for a Smith Fellowship in Geneva! I was so glad that I had the opportunity to meet Fr. Carlos and thank him in person for everything that he did for me. I was also very excited to learn that he hopes the PC-UN relationship will continue in the future, not only at the UN in Geneva but in New York as well. I am looking forward to discussing this with him in the future and figuring out how we might be able to get involved a little closer to home.
In speaking to Fr. Carlos, I was extremely impressed by how simply he was able to explain human rights. He said that by respecting the dignity in each person and by providing each individual person with the resources that they need to survive, we can achieve universal human rights. I definitely appreciate the work of all the delegates at the UN in discussing Human Rights for three weeks at the Human Rights Council, but also really enjoyed hearing Fr. Carlos explaining the same idea in a single sentence. If we live as Jesus did and treat others with dignity, the way he did, we will achieve human rights. If it seems so simple, then why is it sometimes so hard?

The visits of Fr. Carlos and Sr. Anne were definitely one of the highlights of my trip to Geneva and I am so glad that I was able to get two additional perspectives on the ways that one is able to promote human rights in the world! J

Sr. Anne, Fr. Carlos and I :) 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Week #3 Fun! :)

      In addition to working hard over my last week at the Human Rights Council, I also am having a WONDERFUL time seeing everything Switzerland has to offer! :) Here are some pictures from last week!

A Creepy street performer! He looked at you if you paid him!

        I was very upset about not being in the USA for the 4th of July but I ended up having a really fun night! I had a picnic with a bunch of UN interns (most from the USA but some not haha!) and then we wandered down to Lake Geneva! We were hoping to see some fireworks but unfortunately did not. However, we got some amazing pictures and had a ton of fun! :) 

There was also an Opera taking place outside my Hostel on the 4th!
This is the view from my window! We got to watch it for free :)
GIANT Chess Boards in the park! 

View of the Sunset over Lake Geneva!

Picnic group on our rooftop terrace! 
These lovely ladies live in my Hostel with me! 
        I had a great time on Thursday night because I had fondue (again)! SO yummy!! I am going to be so sad when I come back to the US and fondue is not standard on every menu! Then, I went to an intern event with a few girls from my Hostel! The Geneva intern community is amazing and it has been great to get to meet so many different people from all over the world! I have really enjoyed hearing everyone's different stories and think that getting to meet so many new people is definitely one of my favorite parts of being in Geneva! 
        On Friday night, I went to a free concert in a park by the lake! The singer's name was Alice Russell and I really enjoyed the concert! She reminded me a little bit of Adele but her music was much more upbeat and we had so much fun dancing! It amazes me how many free concerts and outdoor events there are in Geneva, it feels like there is ALWAYS something to do! 

After the concert we walked to see the Jet d'Eau, a famous Geneva landmark, by night, it was beautiful!!
 I was amazed by the way that we were able to walk right out to it on the jetty that it is on!
        Saturday was a CRAZY day for me! Myself and a few friends decided to climb the Saleve, a mountain right over the border of France that overlooks Geneva. At first I was very excited, but then I saw the mountain! I learned that we were going to be hiking all the way to the top of the mountain in the picture below (where the little tower is!). There were a few points when I wasn't sure if I was going to make it to the top, but I did and the views were INCREDIBLE! Seeing Geneva from the top of the mountain made me forget how hard it was to make it to the top, it was definitely worth it! :) 

View from where we had lunch! 

        After climbing the mountain, we went to this cute little coffee shop for a snack! Everything in the shop was for sale, so you could drink your coffee at a table, and then buy it if you liked it haha! Then, to finish off our day, we went to the Patek Philippe Museum. Since Switzerland is famous for watches but I know that I DEFINITELY won't be buying a Swiss watch, I decided to look at them instead! Unfortunately I was not able to take pictures inside the museum so here is the website if you want to take a look at what I saw! ( It was absolutely amazing to see how intricate some of the watches are, it is such an incredible form of art!

The inside of "Les enfants terribles" (The terrible infant!) the cafe where we had snack.
        My week of fun finished off with a trip to Montreux (a town in Switzerland) on Sunday! The forecast predicted rain but we got lucky and had beautiful weather! We were able to visit a Castle and also the world famous Montreux Jazz festival! I found out both Pitbull and Bob Dylan have performed there this year which I thought was an interesting combination! It was an amazing day and I am so glad that we decided to chance it with the weather! :) 

There were palm trees in Montreux! 
Freddie Mercury and I! 
The boat we took to the castle!   
The view of Chateau de Chillon from the boat! 
My travel group, India, Brooke and Zack! :)

This sketch of the Crucifixion was discovered in one of the rooms believed to be a prison cell.
Some guess that it was drawn here in order to console prisoners who had been sentenced to death. It depicts St. Catherine, the patroness of dying, St. Christopher, who gives protection against death without confession, and St. Anthony, who is invoked against the fires of hell. The origin of the work is unknown. I thought this was a very interesting part of the castle tour, even though it was also very creepy to be in a prison cell. 
The Chateau makes its own wine that can only be bought there!  
I had no idea how big it was until I saw this model!  

Lac Leman in Montreux.
A poster from the Montreux Jazz Festival! 
The Canadian Jazz band that we watched for free! 

        Overall, I had an amazing week in Geneva and can't wait to see what my last week here will bring!