It’s been business as usual the past few weeks. On October 31st, I celebrated Halloween by going to Jodd Fairs night market where they had Halloween decorations, food, face paint, and costumes. I was surprised that there were more Halloween events happening in the city than I was expecting. Even though it didn’t feel like Halloween weather-wise, it was still nice to get together with friends and celebrate. It was a day full of smiles and zero scares.
The next week, we had the day off work on Friday, November 1st for wellness day. A few coworker friends and I went to a cafe where we read and enjoyed the backyard bbq they were cooking up. It was a beautiful space and appears to have been a family’s home before it was converted to a cafe. There’s an outdoor sitting area with flowers and fairy flights, plus an indoor dining area, central cafe with baked goods and nooks to sit in, plus a very quiet upstairs area with lots of natural light. The cafe holds events frequently, including their weekend bbqs, workshops, and their daily paint & plant sessions (paint pots and plant, 2 in 1). After that, my coworker friend and I jetted off on his bike to a kpop dance class across town. We learned the dance to B.O.M.B by TREASURE, but it was taught in Thai, so I did my best to follow along. After the class, my friend taught me to count from 1-10 in Thai and quizzed me on the way home, asking me about different numbers on the road signs. It’d be a good road trip game, and it made learning Thai feel more fun than your average class!
We have two new VLAs (same position as me) at work on the RSD team, which will expand the team’s capacity. Although it will take time to train the new VLAs and get them up to speed, they have great experience with research and screening/interviewing clients. It’s also nice to have other VLAs on the team with me because I’ve been the only RSD volunteer for a few months since our summer intern and another VLA departed.
The upcoming weeks will be quite busy and challenging at work, especially as I’ll have a heavy caseload, many of which are new processes to me. I am in the midst of conducting country of origin research on the treatment of women in Somalia (particularly FGM), working on an appeal submission, completing my first full screenings, and also my first accompaniment. For the appeal submission, the steps include reading through the client’s file and testimony, scheduling another interview with the client, interviewing the client, and then starting the appeal submission from there. Possible reasons for appeal include: incorrect facts, problems with procedures or process at first instance, new information relevant to the refugee claim, other reasons, or if there’s any additional documents or evidence the asylum-seeker would like to submit in support of their case.
Also, although I’ve completed pre-screenings part 1 and 2, this week I will be conducting full screenings wherein I ask the clients detailed questions about why they left their country of origin. After that, I will write up my analysis to my supervisor, and he will make the final decision on whether or not to represent the client.
This week, I will also be accompanying a client to their first instance RSD interview with UNHCR. AAT provides accompaniment to clients who are from groups who are typically unfairly rejected from UNHCR or who present vulnerabilities. The legal advisor is not able to intervene during the interview; the legal advisor’s role is to transcribe the interview, which can take the entire day. This is to support the client and also presents the possibility that AAT can submit post-interview submission (PIS) for the client if there are any errors or anything that did not go well during the interview. Due to current UNHCR Thailand policy, I will be unable to type the interview. Therefore, I will need to handwrite the entire interview, then spend the next day converting it from my handwritten entries to text.
As we say at work when it gets hectic like this, susu! This is a Thai phrase, which means ‘fight! Don’t give up.’ This is a phrase of encouragement, which can be used in many different contexts, for example if you’re eating with friends and still have lots of leftover food to eat, or if you have lots of work to do. It’s similar to the Japanese phrase, ‘ganbatte’ ((がんばって), which means ‘do your best,’ or phrases in English like, ‘you got this! You can do this.’
I’ll keep you all updated on the new work developments and the accompaniment in my next post. Thanks for following along!
P.S. Monsoon season is over, so we’re heading into the dry and cool(er) months. I actually kind of miss the daily rain from before :/