It was Jeanette’s fault – that is what I think.

Jeanette and me (left) at the 2010 ELAW Annual Meeting in Costa Rica

There is strange feeling I get when I become sleep deprived. It’s something between hunger and the shakes, which you cannot truly put your finger on, until days later.  You see, dear Jeanette Noack, a marvelous attorney from Guatemala, shared a room with me in Punta Leona, Costa Rica. No, she did not snore or talk in her sleep. The truth is, we would meet in our room, after the day’s meetings, work groups and activities, and proceed to talk and laugh until 2 a.m. Was this done on purpose? Obviously not. We had spent the day talking, sharing and discussing stories with many other lovely attorneys we know. But something would happen after we would come in the door, the exhaustion lifted, and we would share the day, look at photos, laugh while we sent emails to catch up with those absent and of course, lose track of time.

Ritwick Dutta of India and Lori Maddox, Associate Director of ELAW

So while I did make a superhuman effort to be ready at 6 a.m. one day, to finally get a chance to see Playa Blanca — that idyllic beach you think only exists after expert Photoshopping — I did not regret it. This is where I saw the toucans, the families of scarlet macaws and the blue morpho butterflies.

There were moments when some of the veteran ELAW members attending the meeting may have felt we were having conversations we had had in the past. We have spoken about access to justice before, and transparency and climate change. But just as new members of the group become aware of kindred spirits around them, the veterans also realize that we have different skills now, new knowledge and capacity which provides for new perspectives. While there is no doubt that the comraderie and friendship felt at the meeting will energize our souls for the struggles back home, we cannot fail to see that there are things to learn, to do better, to try to perfect.

Edu and Gines from Spain sing to the crowd of meeting participants

By now we have all returned home, the memories of our trip neatly packed into digital cameras and memory sticks. The mementos stem from fragrant coffee and chocolate to business cards and emails. We have already exchanged messages thanking our hosts in Costa Rica, and said good-bye with ‘Pura Vida’ on our breath. We have each come back to our local news, security issues, and pending litigation, with the problems we left waiting patiently for our return. Yet nothing can replace the moments we have had singing by the moonlight, listening to songs from Edu and Gines from Spain, Manolo from Ecuador, and Benson from Kenya… Malaika, nakupenda Malaika. It was wonderful seeing you all again, and Jeanette, the only thing I can say is, Gracias.

Carla García Zendejas
Tijuana, Baja California, México