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Center for Global Justice Intern – Michael Aiello

Michael Aiello, 2L
International Justice Mission
Human Trafficking

I can’t believe I have been here for a week already. The time has really flown by. Must be because I’m in tourist mode. Okay, first week assessment:

Doi Suthep = beautiful;
markets = fun;
food = delicious;
job = awesome;
motorbike driving = absolutely terrifying!

Reader meet Doi Suthep, Doi Suthep meet reader. You’re both pretty much awesome, but one just so happens to be a giant mountain that I  can see from my apartment with a 309 step dragon staircase leading to a Buddhist temple on top!

Markets! Markets! Markets! They are everywhere and a brand new concept to me. Sure there are festivals with venders at home but not like these. In the last seven days I’ve visited four different ones and barely scratched the surface. There are many kinds of markets, each with a different focus and layout.

I’ll start off with the Sunday night market in the old city, because it offers a little bit of everything. Imagine an old city with two main streets. The streets form a cross and all the entrances blocked off for market. There are venders on both sides of the street and down the middle. Each vender occupies about a 10×10 square patch of pavement. Some sell food and others shirts, smoothies, woods carvings, watches, shoes, etc. You name it you probably can find it. There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason to organization, but that makes it more exciting! You never know what the next vender will have.

Markets are an excellent opportunity to have some of the best street food ever. I like to think of it as an À la carte restaurant. Grab phat thai at one place, a coconut waffle at another, and finish it off with mango sticky rice. Yum! Good thing there is a gym at my apartment. Each item is about 30 Bhat (about $1). Personally speaking, not only is the food delicious, but it is safe for western stomaches. I’ve had street food every day and have not been sick once. Knock on wood.

Bonus question, name that object. Any ideas on what the red thing is? Stay tuned to find out.

Job time. After coming from the rigors of law school, the Thai office is a much needed respite. The first thing to know is Thai work culture tends to be more relationship oriented than task. Therefore a 30+ minute coffee break with others or simply catching up is normal. This doesn’t mean nothing gets done, actually quite the contrary. Having a close relationship with everyone in the office saves time, because each of them are happy to help out with anything you need. For example, why spend hours reading through dozens of cases looking for aftercare highlights when I can simply ask the aftercare staff. Not only do I get the task done in a fraction of the time but I also learn some Thai words and teach some English!

I won’t bore you with the details of the assignments, but I am personally excited for my upcoming research projects exploring Thai law and being able to go to court in a few weeks! Thailand uses a civil law system compared to our common law system, meaning I don’t need to look up analogous cases to understand the law. Woot!

If anyone has been to Southeast Asia, then you are probably familiar with motorbikes (moto for short). A moto is a “light motorcycle” meaning a smaller engine. Mine is 100cc. Motos are the primary source of transportation for most people since they are relatively inexpensive and you can fill up the tank for 100 Baht.

I’m not going to lie, I was absolutely terrified when I first got on my moto (and still partially am). It was the first time I ever drove one, first time using a semiautomatic transmission (shifting gears but no clutch), and on top of it all Thailand drives on the left side of the road. The latter part took a few days of getting use to. I must have committed all the cardinal left side of the road sins. I drove on the right side, looked left and not right while crossing the road, and tried to get into the driver side of the car when I was a passenger. Oops silly American me… as a side note the far left lane and sometimes the shoulder is the default moto lane here.
Learning how to drive was an adventure. I am forever thankful to my teacher for all the tips, practice, and driving alongside me to make sure I got home safe. Thank you! The first day I took it slow. Practiced around the office and stayed in first gear. The next day I started shifting gears-pun intended. The third, I was out on the main road and by the end of the week I’m driving on the highways. My mantra is take it slow and be safe. Weaving in and out of traffic is normal and is actually a requirement for motos. For example at a red light (which take five minutes during rush hour), motos are expected to drive in between the cars to the front of the line. Especially for right turns. This allows them to advance without being boxed in by cars. In spite of the cars not moving, weaving in and out of them takes some getting use to. But hey, at least you can park a moto just about anywhere!