Tuesday, April 5, 2011

No. 6

All I can do tonight is stare -- at images from La Garconne's No. 6 inventory, which appears to house more dresses and blouses than I remembered. The past two days have been rough 10- to 11-hour, non-stop working days in the April heat. I am exhausted, and I need to look at beautiful things.

At one point this afternoon, I sat, cramped in a small dark shack, assisting an elderly woman in writing a legal complaint. Her husband, feeble, pock-marked, barely clothed and invariably silent, sat in the middle of the dark wooden floor on an ikat-patterned straw mat, staring out through the barred windows at the road outside. As I joined him in staring outside that window, I was brought back to my Portland, Oregon private-practice office, bright, spacious and clean, with light streaming in (when there was light in the Portland sky) -- quite a contrast from today's images.

And more strange is the realization that I have somehow had to initiate and lead a team in initiating this community-based legal clinic, in this community where most people cannot write let alone be expected to draft written, cohesive arguments, evidenced by technical data to which they would not normally have access; where most people are afraid to complain in light of numerous stories of coercion and intimidation by authorities; and where I am convinced the existing grievance mechanisms are broken, if not wholly disconnected from the consitutents for which they were created.


  1. wow, that is a striking contrast. just wondering, how do you communicate with the people you're helping? do you travel with an interpreter? your work sounds so fascinating. despite the long hours, i'm sure it must be very rewarding/gratifying.

  2. Hi, Jennifer. Thanks. It is tough work. Since I don't speak Khmer (pretty pathetic when I attempt it), my research officer and team (who do speak Khmer) are essential in coordinating everything. Many hours have been spent sitting under the sun or cross-legged in people's homes waiting for translation, phrase by phrase, word by word. Don't get me started on doing research here, especially the gender stuff. I do love it, and I'm learning so much.


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