Friday, July 23, 2010

One hell of a morning...has turned into a bitch of a day.

The internet and the phones are down. The internet goes down 1-3 times a day usually, from what I can tell. This one’s going on a bit long.

So my first case I was assisting others doing research for an advokat (I like writing it the Swedish way, been reading too much Stieg Larsson) regarding customary law. It’s really unpleasant fact-wise, involving a 13-year-old girl who was basically sold off by her uncle and grandmother to a 54-year-old man. She did not consent and he raped her repeatedly until she finally escaped. (I am unclear how long this went on.)

Now here’s the thing. SA has a really progressive constitution but it also recognizes customary law AND for fun, there are no choice-of-law rules, meaning where they conflict it’s basically a case-by-case decision, something for the judiciary. According to customary law, ukuthwala is the practice of abducting the bride. It’s hard to read about and not judge, but it’s SUPPOSED to be this romantic thing between two people of the same age who want to get married but can’t afford to or are trying to force the other’s parents. The man and his friends/family capture the woman, who protests and resists (because to do otherwise is disgraceful) but is secretly consenting. He does not have intercourse with her at that time (but I did find a wonderful article that states should he do so, in addition to the cattle he would exchange for her for lobola (bride payment), he would also be a fined one “seduction beast” as well. Having to pay a “seduction beast” is the best thing I have read all week), but then he goes to her family and there is a long negotiation for her lobolo, and it’s a chance for the two families to get to know each other.

So even though this is clearly a huge, egregious violation of constitutional rights, we have to prove that even under customary law, our facts show that customary law was not followed. It’s difficult but yesterday, I think I really found a case similar in its facts, so hopefully it will go well. The advocate thinks it will go to the next higher court and then to the Constitutional Court, so that’s pretty fucking cool.

My two new cases are far less sexy than a con law case, just one I took in today that is really more of a social justice issue (but I met with the client and you don’t know what the problem is til you talk to them!) involving refugee status and his inability to find work or accommodations. A second case got handed off to me involving landlord/tenant rights. The person who handled the case before me not only did not have English as their first language, they also seem to think it would be far more fun to leave out crucial information as well as contradict themselves (the landlord apparently does AND does not have power of attorney from her mother, awesome). But I can’t call to follow up because the phones are down.

I also can’t research landlord/tenant rights or call shelters to see which ones are near the waterfront.

So feeling a little useless at the moment. (I’m typing this in Word but hopefully by the time you’re reading this, it means quite clearly that my net has been restored, yay!)

It’s an hour later and the fucking net is still down. I’ve been passing the time by reading the research on the shared network for human trafficking. (I also just realized this coincides nicely with my reading of The Girl Who Played With Fire.)

Also, I would like to un-read what “necklacing” entails.

Last night we had a social event which was fairly decent. I got stuck at the kids’ table somehow—teens from 15 to 17 (sometimes 18) can come for two weeks, hence they get dubbed “the two week specials,” no doubt due to the double meaning one could give the word “special.” I did feel a little weird knocking back beers around a bunch of Diet Cokes, but whatever. They weren’t so bad, I really just chatted with one girl from Somerset. She failed her driving test the first time, but unlike in the States, they have a really hard test! Not only are they driving a standard, but they have to parallel park between real cars and reverse around a corner(have you ever done this in real life? wtf?) and other bullshit trickery. I had to tell my sad little story about my parallel parking and the cones and the fail.

I’ve made perhaps even better friends from the main office, probably because they’re my age! I hung out mostly with C (the dangerous milkshake guy, I’ll just change it to DM) and G, a really neat woman who has lived here most of her life. (She even has a car and drives here, it’s wild.)They’re both a lot of fun to drink and joke with. The people in my office are great, too, but there are a bunch of them! There are 60 or so of us, though it will drop to 30 in 2 weeks. (I sense a correlation with the World Cup...)

It’s the next day and the goddamn net is still down. I may go to Koko’s after this, I think they have wifi. It’s a short day, we get off at 1. It may end up bein’ a REAL short day if they don’t get the frakking net up.

So yesterday I left fifteen minutes early since everyone else already left early and I had nothing to do with no access. I grabbed a couple beers at a dive even worse than the usual place. I kinda like dives though. Wasn’t too wild about the part where I trapped a baby cockroach under my empty beer bottle, but 8RA beers should tell you what kind of place to expect… (that’s almost exactly $1). A mostly toothless man who introduced himself as, “Rob, I’m a gambler here,” tried to chat me up, but I think he was really expecting/hoping me to be from Scotland.(Apparently he went there once.) I tried to explain I was working (technically just writing, but whatever). But wow, what a great intro, it was awesome. I texted DM to bitch about it and he said, “Try not to shatter his heart, he already barely has teeth.” So helpful.

Don’t know what I’ll do after 1…was thinking of going into Cape Town to wander near the station…but it’s cool and rainy out…could be good Toy Story 3 weather…

Interesting morning, too. I always catch the minibus with Christian, one of my flatmates who also works at the human rights office. So the minibuses usually seat 13 people or so, but the one we caught was empty. I took it because Christian was with me, but typically you don’t catch empties if you’re female (though to be fair I noticed this was one of the registered ones, so it probably was okay). But another guy got on then, too. Christian was sitting in front of me, facing away. This guy sat RIGHTNEXTTOME and a little too close, thanks. I moved a little, but I was against the window. I thought maybe I was just being paranoid, but it has been my experience that by the time you wonder if you’re being paranoid, you probably have good reason.

Sure enough, we get on the highway and he folds his arms and with the hand that is under his arm, starts sort-of-touching me. This is exactly the same shit that happened to me on the Boston red line one night. I did something different this time. I took out my cell phone and typed, “Fuck Off.” I was quite sure he could see it. I wasn’t above yelling at him or just simply STATING, “Fuck off,” but I figure they get one chance prior to public humiliation. And he behaved after that.

Ironically, I got the idea from the creep in Japan who texted, “Make love with me,” on his phone and showed it to me. So I’ve got my token awkward public transport moment for South Africa, done now. Christian thought it was hysterical…

Ok, I do know what I’m doing now. I am going home after I get some goddamn wifi at Koko’s, then I have to go back out to Cavendish Mall to change some of my Amex cheques. They have a financial center inside where it will be safe to exchange. (This is such a pain in the ass since it involves going all the way home.) I got invited to Cape Point tomorrow, which I’ve really been wanting to do but it’s a group thing since you get a driver for the day and get shown around. So we get picked up at 11 and then Sunday I’m going to Robben Island with my flatmate Julia and new flatmate (a 2-weeker) Paolo, who is Italian.

So I won’t have time this weekend to change money and I’ve gotten quite low. Someone has been spending too much money…and tonight DM and I are going in search of live music on the waterfront in Cape Town. Hard to balance sightseeing and savings, but when will I be back in SA? I am also quite excited to wear a new dress I bought (hmm, I can see how I’m low on funds); I found it when looking for my jacket, and really, it was only about $35 and it’s a totally fun swishy skirt dress. You would understand if you saw it, it’s comfy and fun. I genuinely want to go see live music, but I also really just want an excuse to wear my new dress. ;)

So today was still interesting because the guy in our office who has been working on Hope Africa got a speaker to come in, a guy who is fairly well-known in SA for being pro-active with education and awareness programs. The speaker was well-known already, but in 2005 he contracted HIV, so now he promotes awareness about it. Someone actually asked him if he knew how he contracted it, which I thought was sort of irrelevant and in poor taste, but he’s quite open about everything. (Sexual promiscuity with both sexes, fyi.) But he showed us all his medication and vitamins (quite impressive) and talked about the ignorance of the people in rural parts (he is Xhosa…the Xhosa language is one of those super cool ones with the clicks in it). Condoms may be provided just about everywhere, but they have to educate, because people still don’t use them. He said people always tell him sex is about flesh on flesh, “How can you eata lollipop with the paper still on?”

But our guy who works with Hope Africa is leaving Tuesday, so I could help take it over if I want. I don’t know what that entails, and it’s more of a social justice area, but it’s still one I’m interested it. We’ll see.

Ok, I emailed this to myself at Koko's (I seriously need a new battery, that thing lasts 30 mins max) so I could upload it at the internet cafe. Here's hoping the net's back up on Monday...Jesus Christ.

Time to go home and shower and nap. Plus it smells in here. Hmmm.

1 comment:

Nebias said...

Do you own a HP laptop?

If so, perhaps good fortune regarding your battery awaits you here: