Culture, Mediation, Negotiation and Facilitation

Bangkok, Saturday, February 1, 2014

It’s Saturday morning; I’ve already run 5 miles -missing my Pasadena Pacers; gone to the gym; talked to Freddy; had coffee with Bridget and cleaned the room. Yes, a very domestic start of the weekend.  In the background I listen to Héroes del Silencio and I prepare the bag for our departure to the North West for our Mae Sot field study, I realize that I haven’t been keeping track of this week’s events. So here’s my weekly post.

In class it was our third week of lectures, which started with an international fashion show. Since I was not able to bring a typical dress from Tenerife, I decided to go pop culture and bring a Spanish fútbol  jersey. Pictured here the rivals: Netherlands and Spain – with rockstar Bridget. 


For five days, we traveled across the Dispute Resolution Spectrum and learned mediation, facilitation and negotiation techniques from Jan Sunoo and Valerie Harragin, from the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service. After discussing the problems with stereotypes, we discovered which working style each of us had and were not surprised to see that half of our group is “amiable”. In mediation, we saw the importance of active listening in action and how to look for links that strengthen the relationship between the parts involved in the dispute to help them get to a joint solution.

From Tuesday to Friday had numerous exercises, including one interest-based negotiation in which I was an agricultural development officer for an American conglomerate trying to build a resort in the beautiful land of ‘Rungia’. On Thursday we said goodbye to our colleague Suthan, a social worker from Sri Lanka, who had to return home due to a family emergency. We’re now minus 1 and it will be hard not to hear his stories, learn from his resilience and bravery on his daily work empowering Tamil women.

On Wednesday, 14 of us had a cultural expedition for Korean food -my first time (don’t kill me!) after living in LA for 12 years and working in K-Town all this time and had never tried this before). It was lovely, especially as we were introduced to many of the rituals by Jan and his wife Brenda.

Lastly, on Friday, to practice appreciative inquiry in an expressionist manner, we had fun writing the lyrics of a rap song for Da Minista (aka: Don Franco):















My weekly report – end of January

Bangkok, Sunday, January 26, 2014

It’s been a couple of days since I last entered some notes in the journal, so being Sunday night; I need to recap the end of the week…here and there. 

Thursday we finished the session on Conflict Analysis with Erik Melander, which was very interesting and different from the previous one. We closed the day with an overview of tragic events of the last century, which reminded me a lot of the documentary In Our Time, for which Freddy wrote music some years ago.  Discussing these atrocities brought a lot of emotions to the room, as -unfortunately- some of these conflicts have affected personally some of my colleagues. The timeline was something like this (shall we never forget the atrociousness):

Wars between states (more destructive):

  • Korea (1950-1953) (hundred thousand of deaths)
  • Vietnam (1965-1975) (million deaths)
  • Iran – Iraq (1980-1988) (use of chemical weapons) (+ death of 5000+ Kurd civilians)
  • Ethiopia – Eritrea (1998-2000) – 100,000 died in this war, most of them soldiers

– Average Battle of Deaths of Intrastate Armed Conflicts  (civil wars have decreased)

  • China (1946-1949) big war (Taiwan-China)
  • Vietnam (1955-1964) (-1975)
  • Lebanon (1976-1990)
  • Afghanistan (1979- today)

– Worst Genocides

  • 1959: Tibet
  • 1965: Indonesia
  • 1967-70: Nigeria (Biafra)
  • 1971: Bangladesh
  • 1975-1979: Cambodia (Killing Fields)
  • 1983-today:  Sudan (North-South + Darfur)
  • 1961-1991: Iraq (Kurds + Kuwait

Erik closed the class and the week of the program with the following:

“Remember that the world is much better today than 30 years ago.

Because of media logics, positive things tend to be overlooked.

There are a lot of positive things that we can do!

And take the bigger picture into account!”


 And yes, time flies!  I want to make this count.  It’s been 3 weeks now since I arrived in Bangkok, so it’s only 2 more months left!I need to do more, I’ve been feeling so trapped inside Chula, though this last weekend I was able to explore a little bit further -thanks to the Refugee Bazaar event at Café Bicycle -the Bangkok version of Café Bolívar and met some very interesting people. Too bad I did not have business cards with me, but I’ve already email them (crossing my fingers to reconnect with them to continue the fascinating conversations). During the fair, a little Pakistani refugee girl (in blue here), ambushed me for a henna tattoo, which I was not planning on getting. I have to think that it’s a nice souvenir of a memorable night. 


I also met Anoop from Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, who reminded me a little of me -as both a coordinator and connector with so many agencies and very involved in the issues in this region. I also got to practice my broken French with Beatrice, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo who was selling necklaces and earrings (got some green ones) and 2 other refugees from Pakistan (2 sisters) who had fantastic vegetarian options and whom I hope to meet again.


Sunday morning was relaxing, reading a lot and updating my Individual Conflict Assessment (ICA). Then around noon went for some pool time and brainstorming discussion   under the sun with Iona (New Zealand) -which was quite productive. Tried getting my laundry back but it was closed, instead got some fruit and headed back to the dorms. I read some more and skyped with Freddy -from my room (wifi luxury!!!). It’s midnight already and after 1 hour of journaling I might have to change my plans of running in the morning from Monday to Tuesday…let’s see! Good night!


Bangkok, Tuesday, January 21, 2014 (Sunday, Monday and Today…)           

I haven’t written much since Saturday, so I have some lines to catch up with… Where to begin? Sunday!

After an intense Saturday, I went to bed early and watched some Newsroom, as we had absolutely no wifi in the building -connections were down. Sunday morning I woke up to find out the situation was still the same. Before leaving for church, I decided to try the new coffee shop in our building Mongkol, which was AMAZING! I sat down and enjoyed it together with a butter croissant and some orange marmalade. Yes, it sounds so trivial but I needed this so much! Finally a perfect latte that is not super expensive (same price as in campus!), what better stabilizer to close this week?

At 9 AM, I left for Church with Suthan (Batticaloa, Sri Lanka), Stephen (Assam, India) and LaMonte (Philadelphia, USA).  Anjali, the cousin of my ACLU-SC friend Ahilan had invited us to her church -which I mistakenly thought was Catholic. Once we got there, we realized it was Anglican, but that people from other denominations also attend. It is a very international gathering. We first met Neal and Anjali’s kids. She was directing the service, which was fantastic. Longer than the usual services I have attended in Catholic churches, but definitely much more grounding. Many of prayers are the same and different than Catholic Church, it is much more participatory. After the service, we had some tea with them and got to talk about a Sri Lankan family that’s seeking refugee status here in Thailand, who Anjali is trying to help. We headed back around 1 PM and decided to get lunch at MBK.  While I thought we were going to end up talking about religion, we didn’t. It was an interesting lunch conversation, about the group experience of the fellowship and life and the similarities among us.

In the afternoon we got news from Martine hat there had been a bomb explosion in Victory Monument and to avoid any protest areas.  That same night, a security tree was designed by Suthan and circulated among us. This will allow us to get crucial security updates in circumstances like this.

Before heading to campus to study for the week, I got to do some Facetime with Freddy and the gang, as most of my friends were at Elik’s place for his birthday. It was very emotional, after so many weeks here, to see them all at the same time. It makes me realize how much I value the life that we’ve built in California.

Monday I woke up with a cold, not nice… so the day went by with a headache, some chills and congestion. Also, as I got to campus, I received a message from my brother Santiago that my mom had been in the hospital as she fainted at home and was by herself. Not a good way to start a week. After a couple of minutes, I was able to get more updates with him before heading to class: she was already back home resting.

Good thing is that Monday we discussed a very interesting topic and had an excellent speaker, who kept us engaged regardless of the deep theoretical content of what we were discussing. Our lecturer for the week is Erik Melander, a Swedish professor and Second Lieutenant in the Army Reserve who had served in the Bosnia-Herzegovina mission.  I loved how Stephen introduced him, he didn’t just read his bio but added a very personalized style to his introduction and made us laugh as well.

In the afternoon, I retreated to my room and slept this cold away. Then made myself a cheese, avocado and tomato sandwich (which was very good!) and studied some of the materials on Peace and Conflict Impact Assessment, which we will be presenting to the group on Wednesday afternoon. I talked to my mom around 8 PM and then came back to read some more and watch some Newsroom before falling asleep.

 Today is Tuesday. Still, with a cold. In class, we continued with the mind mapping and discussed the Conflict Triangle and the 3 angles: Actors / Attitudes ,Behaviour/Dynamics and Contradictions / Compatibilities. After the lunch break, we split in groups to work on the case of Farmers vs. Herders in Darfur.  I worked with Franco, Sulo, Rachana, Dara and Josephine for the first time.  Came back home after grabbing an afternoon coffee and caught up with the journaling (amazingly enough, I’ve been writing for an hour almost now!). Here’s one of the mind maps that we used in class this week:



OK, time for a mini-nap before I head out to get some food reserves and water. Still with a cold, but hoping this goes away soon -at least no asthma attacks yet! Tomorrow morning I will be meeting with Martine to discuss the topic and next steps, so I need to prepare a bit about that. 

Exploring the city, finally!

Bangkok, Saturday, January 18, 2014

City tour of Bangkok and our first bus ride together (many AOC memories!). We visited the Grand Palace, The Temple of the Reclining Buddah and The Temple of Dawn (which was amazing!). 




I’m so tired! It’s been a long day, and I can start feeling the toll on me. Well, that and the fact that Erin and I decided to go for a 6 mile run to Lumpini Park after being out in the city tour for 8 hours. On the way there, I realized that the park lays on one of the intersections where the protesters are setting camp and that the park itself had been occupied by tents with hundreds of people. Maybe they came from the countryside and they are just staying here until they see change. While there, we caught up with a zumba class -yes, in the middle of the park! It was great…and exhausting. My feet hurt so much now.

  I just showered and ate dinner, hoping I could gain some energy, but instead I’m collapsing while I try to write the journal and prepare to do some of the readings. I should go to campus to use internet and get up to date with communications too… but I need some alone time. That’s what’s taking a toll on me, I think?

Things to remember:  the reclining Buddha statute; zumba express in Lumpini Park; feeling guilty as we ran by the protests in Silom; and the spectacular view of the city from the top of Wat Arun. 




Feeling melancholic – Reflections on peacebuilding

Bangkok, Friday, January 17, 2014

 Today was our last day with Michael Fryer and Rita Manchanda, I can’t believe the 1st week of class is already over! So many things we learned and many others to go back to -like a delicious buffet!

 Michael closed the week reading Jean Paul Lederach’s The Poetic Unfolding of the Human Spiritand telling us the touching story of a group of peasants from La India (Colombia), who started a non violent movement, of which Josué Vargas and his family are protagonists. Lederach introduced the book by telling us about a personal and professional crisis:

“(…) The professional crisis: after three decades of work, I had noticed that the most interesting peacebuilding emerged spontaneously and seemed to have little to do with all our peacebuilding work. Was this work worth the effort? And what, if anything, seems to be the core that holds it together?


Here’s an excerpt of one my favorite parts of this poem…

“I learned from these people. Simple things. Simple principles that when combined create movement and echo. They were visionaries. They had the capacity to envision a web of human connections that included building relationships with their enemies. They refused to accept a dualist “you are with us or against us” approach. They embraced complexity. They held a firm belief in the human capacity for creativity. In the face of violent threat, they forged ways forward that did not depend on weapons. None of them ever picked up a gun. And of course, they took the risk to step into the unknown, armed only with love and courage in the midst of hate.”

Tears… I don’t know if it’s the melancholy of the week ending or the power of the subject that we’re discussing, but I’ve been full of emotions this week, discovering new worlds and learning about conflicts that I knew very little of and learning about myself, trying to be more aware of the situations that upset me and trying to center myself more.

The day closed with a special security briefing by Director Surichai and the Thai Violence Watch team. There were some explosions (we were told “firecrackers”) near the Tesco that we usually go to…Apparently they were targeting the opposition leader, Sunthep. This was quite scary to us, as we felt more misinformed and isolated than we have already been. We were asked to avoid protest areas.

Friday night we had our first social event of the course: a party on the 5th floor. I was in charge of mojitos (and of music for a little bit), which was fun. We met Spencer (Peace Fellow from the June 2013 class) and talked for a while. Before saying goodbye, Michael read our poem -which surprisingly was very in sync and taught us how to play a game called “Grand  National”. It was hilarious! 

Many things to remember!



No wi-fi yet… Quick hello to all my friends out there!

(via Facebook – Bangkok, Thursday, January 16, 2014)

Here’s a bit of my second Thursday in Bangkok: early run around campus; fulfilling day of class discussing gender and conflict and a super interesting panel with journalists at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (some pictured here… BBC’s Jonathan Head, Al Jazeera English’s Veronica Pedrosa, Prachathai’s Pinpaka Ngamsom and Blue Sky TV). I’ve got very limited wi-fi, sorry for the radio silence! Miss you all! 





Shutdown Bangkok

Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, January 13, 2014

Today was Shutdown Bangkok, which meant that 7 major intersections that provided access to the city were closed, to impede government workers to get to their jobs. All this was part of a massive protest, asking Prime Minister Yingluck Shinnawat to resign and cancel the February 2 elections. People were marching on the streets, with black shirts that read “Shutdown Bangkok” and gathering together at these strategic points to occupy the city and shut it down.


For us, it meant that the university gates were closed, so we went through a construction site and cut across the little creek to get to our building. We proceeded with class without interruptions. It was out first formal day of the program, in which Michael Fryer and Rita Machanda introduced us to the field of conflict resolution, influential scholars and schools of thought. It was an intense day, but we had a couple of group exercises that were very interesting. I specially liked the one about the 5 presidents and the UN Security Council.

While we were learning about the theory of peace and conflict, outside of our classroom things were heating up and next door to us, some of the Chula political science students had set up a watchdog website called Thai Violence Watch, through which people could report the incidence of violence on the street. They developed questionnaires and surveyed people that were calling them -and others that they crossed on the streets. With indicators such as hate speech, tools used, etc. they were measuring how hot the situation was getting. I thought of Syria Tracker and my friend Hend and the wonders of crowdsourcing to document human rights abuses.

After class, I decided to stay to use Internet and set up our Class’ Facebook group. It’s been a week and we didn’t have one yet? How did this happen?! I also worked a little bit and worried a bit about some of my clients, who will be needing services while I’m gone. After a couple of hours of getting back to people via emails and talking to our Deputy Director about several ideas, we went for dinner with 6 other fellows. On the way back, I tried to help L set up his Skype, so that he can see his family -but the wifi challenge here continues.

Things to remember:  waking up early to have a decent Facetime conversation with Freddy -even if it meant being bitten by a hungry mosquito that was lonely all night in the common living room of the International housing. Second favorite thing: the opening of our class  when Michael used the example of how in Syria they are worried about foreigners influencing internal politics and then putting our picture of the protest on Sunday night…


Busy Sunday!

Bangkok, January 12, 2014

First Sunday in Bangkok, and it was one full of activities. We had the Rotary Orientation first thing in the morning and I had not been able to talk to my husband Freddy all day on Saturday, so I went downstairs early to try to have a FaceTime and it hit me suddenly: I miss him so much! It was a good start of the day, touring our casita via iPhone and seeing him get ready to go to the West Side (Alpha Table Tennis Club) 🙂

At the Rotary meeting, I met Penny and my co-counselor, Siri and we spent some quality time together today. Yesterday I learned that Penny is a music teacher and that she runs her own music academy, what a coincidence!  I loved hearing how active Siri and his wife Ben are with the political movement that is going on in Thailand. Also, I enjoyed very much talking more to Penny during the lunch and after the meeting.  She took me to a mall to walk around called Terminal 21, where every floor is named after a city or tourist destination. After a quick pit stop at the supermarket to get some food before tomorrow’s strike, I came back to the dorm to change quickly and leave for the Siam Sinfonietta’s concert. Here’s a couple of pictures of the Rotary orientation…




Today’s afternoon concert was very special, as it was in commemoration of Children’s Day in Thailand.  Martine organized this for us, and told us how special the conductor was. Indeed! Somtow Sucharitkul is amazing.  With concerts like this, he’s making music more inclusive and participatory in Thailand and giving the opportunity to many children to get involved in music programs.  While guest conductor Trisdeena Patalung took over, he narrated Peter and the Wolf, explaining all the animals of the forest and how they were represented in the orchestra.

Post concert, some of us went for dinner in Siam Square, with our guest lecturer for this week, Michael Fryer. We had some good chats and walked back to the dorms while doing a couple of detours -first through the demonstration and last at the marching band competition. It made me think that while the city prepares for a huge strike tomorrow Monday, there’s a part of the city that wants to carry on, that would like Thailand to be bright and vibrant like their uniforms and that want to believe again that there will be a future free of corruption, where hard work and dedication will open doors for them, no matter their social status.

Little did we know that this competition would be going all night at the nearby stadium and that at 10:15 PM massive fireworks would cover the sky of the city. Those of us in the West side of the building heard the explosions and were not sure of what was happening. I went to my balcony and saw the reflection of the colors, so ran to my neighbor’s balcony to get some good shots. 3 minutes later, everybody started coming to the corridor, with the same question/concern regarding the explosions. 


Fireworks National Stadium



First Long Run in Bangkok

Saturday morning…missing my irreplaceable morning run with the Pasadena Pacers so I decided to go for a long run to Lumpini Park, the Central Park of Bangkok. Thanks to Khun Jun for the recommendation! It was GREAT! There was some sort of 5K going on, since I saw a group of runners with bibs. Here’s a picture of the victorious return to the University campus in this super humid weather…

Came back and headed out for breakfast, which it was not Europane as my normal Saturdays, but I did treat myself to a real Starbucks coffee and decided that could only do that once a month (100 Baht!). After that, I helped my friend LaMonte get some clothes and bargained prices for the first time -not sure yet if we got a good price but it seemed fair.

Back to the dorm to chill for a bit -tried to read- and headed out early to the soft opening of the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra at Mahidol University. Ipek’s counselor, President Santi drove us there -in heavy traffic, for 2 hours -so thankful for not being behind the wheel. She told us that the tickets were an invitation of the Argentinean Ambassador, whom we met. The program included some popular classics from Strauss, Rossini and Verdi and the audience was ecstatic. For the first time I saw a conductor direct 360º, as there were young musicians in the balcony who performed the opening with the Fanfare to Mahidol Suttakarn -a military march, of course. There were a couple of very well thought moments at the concert, such as special guests giving a gift to the young sopranos and tenors, and immediately after that, keeping them all in stage singing “Libiamo” from La Traviata all together. It was a nice evening, and good to hear the impressions from my other fellows who had not experienced this kind of concert before. On the drive back, Stephen’s co-counselor drove us back to Central Bangkok and I found out that during the last Fellowship session he was my friend Matthias’s counselor -what a coincidence!

After almost 2 hours to get back to central Bangkok we tried to go out for dinner but Sasa was closed so I ended up having a sandwich in my room for the first time, which was different. While I was getting ready to go to bed I got a call from Mezhghan, who’s in the hospital with baby Kivan. She told me not to worry, but that she would still meet us for the Rotary meeting in the morning. How scary this situation! I was glad that her counselor was taking care of her and to see that we’ve become community and that we check on each other.Run Pacer Run

Individual Conflict Analysis – Presentations

Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, January 10, 2014

Somehow, after a long day of presentations, I’m not tired. I’m excited to know that all my peers will be researching and analyzing very interesting topics and that we’ll be learning together. What an amazing group of practitioners! Today, we were joined by one of the lecturers, Michael, who happens to live in San Diego and who is also friends with my Rotary home counselor Manisha and who happened to have visited my lovely hometown before coming to BKK. Yes, I miss Pasadena!

It’s Friday, 2 PM, my turn to present to the group, so I had to use my classic secret weapon:  stretch and wake up! It went better than I though, given that it’s a topic that I’m still not very familiar with: Central African Republic, but which I will be immersed in it for the next 12 weeks. After class, some of us ventured out of campus, trying to get some air.  On the way to the BTS we came across a protest and one of the fellows fell ill.

In 15 minutes, we went from 10 to 9 as one of the fellows fell ill. Our deputy director Martine came to the rescue -not knowing- and took her back to the dorms. For our Friday night outing, there were various options of where we’d be going and we ended up at some random night market with an Irish pub in the middle of some sketchy part of town. Some of us refused to stay there and started walking -hope no feelings were hurt. This neighborhood was full of darkness and what looked like trashy tourists -sadly. Still, I know that this was not one of the ugly ones. After going up and down streets, we ended up by a great 3-story building with amazing seafood (Somboon Seafood). We tried and loved their specialty: fried curry crab. No pictures, sorry!

To wrap up the day, we walked back to the CU International House, crossing town and campus at night, which was quite phenomenal -as we didn’t get lost! Tomorrow: starting the week with a group run.

Things to remember: LaMonte’s presentation and his phrase: “The uniform is my career, but doesn’t define me as a human being”. Ipek giving all of us a lovely bracelet with Kurdistan’s beads. And lastly: the protest of white shirts saying “Respect My Vote” and people singing with candles in their hands.