Archive for August, 2009

Day Twenty

Today is Saturday. This morning we slept in a little (obviously we needed it after our late night last night). Grace and Carol headed over to Windmill Centre, a high-end local place with black light bowling. They bowled for an hour or so, played at the arcade for a while, and then had lunch at “Spur” complete with an ice cream for dessert that looked like a clown!  Buske spent the morning working on a secret project. That’s right–3 weeks together and we still have “secrets.”

This evening we relaxed a little and the family at the guesthouse hosted another Brie (sp?) for us! Dinner was AMAZING…steak, pumkin tart, amazing potatoes, lamb, and a dessert made special by their 11 year old daughter. It was delicious.. we are going to be sad to say good-bye to them tomorrow.

Over dinner, we learned that their housekeeper, Maria, had been arrested. A 13 year old girl, for whom she is the legal guardian,  was raped.  There was some mix up over where the police was supposed to pick her up. They failed to pick her up as arranged and Maria was arrested and jailed along with the rapist. The court later released her; we think the police realized that they failed to pick her up as they were supposed to.  The little girl ran away when Maria was arrested. When located, she initially refused to return home because the rapist had threatened her and was out on bail. The irony was that Maria was jailed over night and the rapist was immediately released on bail without spending any time in jail.

The owners of the guesthouse were upset, irate, and worried about the situation. Maria has worked for them for 15 years and they consider her a member of the family. When they shared their story with us, we knew we had to help. We contacted the director of ChildWelfare, the NGO that provides services to child victims (that we had met last week), and Inez who is in charge of the Legal Aid Clinic at UFS.  They both promptly responded and promised to help. We were glad we were able to help the family and connect them with resources.


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Day Nineteen

This morning we started out a little later than usual (8:30). Michelle Karls, one of the USF Professors, graciously dedicated her day to us.  First we headed to Jumbo, the South African  “Sam’s Club.”  We purchased the following supplies for our afternoon visit to the Sunflower House: 

8 packages of Twistable Crayons, 5 packages of modeling clay, 7 paint sets,  24 bottles of baby lotion, 4x 25lbs bags of Maize meal (each bag = 100 meals), 6 Tubes of diaper creme, 16 baby bottles, 14 sippy cups, 6 powder milk containers, 36 bars of soap, 18 jars of Vaseline, 12 tubes of toothpaste, 5 huge bags of candy, 8 soccer balls, 20 packages of koolaid, 450 diapers, 7 coloring books, 100 bags of chips, 48 rolls of toilet paper, 3 plastic potty chairs, 2 jars of vapor rub, 18 toothbrushes, 6 canisters of baby powder, 3 fleece baby blankets, and 48 pacifiers.

Goodies for the children at Sunflower House

Goodies for the children at Sunflower House

We got all of this for around $300.00!!!!!!

We then made our way to the Sunflower House, a palliative care home for terminally ill children.  It was created to serve as a safe and comfortable “end of life” home.  Many of the children suffer from HIV/AIDS, others are afflicted with cancer, or have severe mental and/or physical handicaps. However, due to the shortage of facilities for children in the state’s care, some of the children are not actually terminally ill.  The director explained that some of the non-terminally ill children were the victims of very traumatic rapes and are at Sunflower House to recover mentally & physically.

Buske and Carol joined a group of USF students at the Sunflower house.  They were members of the USF Legal Society and as part of their community service they were throwing a “Christmas in August Party” for the children.  We were greeted by the children singing and dancing.  The USF students brought wrapped gifts for the children and served them cake.  The children were delighted!  We enjoyed seeing the big smiles on their faces.

After cake, we got down on the floor with the children and played.  We threw balls, played with dolls, shook rattles and loved on the children.  It was a bittersweet experience.  Sweet, because of the joy in the children’s faces, but bitter knowing the struggles these little ones have already faced and will face. 

After playing with the kids for an hour or so and dropping off our car load of donations, we picked up some KFC for lunch and returned to the guesthouse. We rested for a couple of hours, caught up on email and then Inez, one of the USF Professors,  picked us up and we went to Professor Mariette Reyneke’s home for a South African Brie (sp?).   Professor Reyneke had also invited Adrian and Dineo.

A brie is something like a BBQ — lots and lots of meat (steak, chicken, sausage & lamb).  We laughed and traded stories through dinner and then afterwards settled in for a much more serious conversation over desert.  We started talking off talking about life in the student hostels and then moved on to the challenges of teaching.  They are still sorting out education post-apartheid.  The great differences in secondary school education creates enormous challenges for universities.  Those challenges are then greatly complicated by the language issue.  From there, the conversation took another turn and we found ourselves having a very candid discussion about race relations on-campus.    The discussion was a little awkward at times, but very heartfelt and enlightening for ALL of us — maybe even more so for the South Africans.  We had such a great time that we didn’t leave until nearly 1:00am.

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Day Eighteen

Another early day!  Buske spent several hours this morning in a borrowed office working while Carol worked making our arrangements for the final leg of our trip — Cape Town.

This morning we met with a group of UFS faculty  — both from the law school and the language school.  They are re-evaluating how to teach legal writing & research to students who speak different languages with the added complication that professors are often not teaching in their first language.  Very complicated!  It was an interesting discussion!

From there we had an informal lunch meeting with a smaller group of law faculty.  They took us to a student dining hall — we were clearly the only faculty in the place!  We’re not sure what we ate — it was a cross between a big biscuit and a pancake and was stuffed with eggs, cheese & bacon.  Then we had donuts for desert! 

AFter lunch Buske guest lectured in a couple of classes.  UFS students must write a major thesis before they can graduate.  Buske lectured about developing a thesis — she used the topic of embryo adoption as the basis.  Embryo adoption — as a legal and moral concept — was something none of the UFS students had ever heard of.  It was interesting to hear how they framed the issue and what sort of things they took for granted as being a non-issue.  Most students, for example, simply assumed that an embryo is “human” and were surprised at the idea of framing the issue as a property or tissue/organ issue.  What an interesting class — not in the least because it was held in the agricultural/farming building and we could smell the dead animals stored in the basement!

Late this afternoon we went to Leborne — an orphange for children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.  There were about 40 children, ranging in age from birth to 16, who lived there full-time.  There’s another 40 or so children who attend the day care center on a daily basis.  Some of the children are HIV+ and some of them have lost their parents to AIDS.  The youngest was a set of twins who are about 8 months old — they weigh about 7 pounds.  It was both sad and encouraging — sad that there’s a need for such places and encouraging because these children seemed cared for and cared about.

It was another emotional day — up and down.  The poverty and need here is so overwhelming.  But there’s also great joy and hope here too.

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Day Seventeen

We spent the morning at the domestic violence court.  We were given a guided tour by Patrick, one of the Staff Attorney’s at UFS’ law clinic.  He had previously clerked at the court and knew everyone there — we were waived through security even though we had lots of contraband in our bags.

Our first meeting was with one of the judges who hears the criminal domestic violence cases.  Here, the initial orders are civil orders of protection.  It only becomes a criminal matter if the order is violated or the perp is charged separately under the criminal code. 

Our next stop in the courthouse was at their equivalent of victim services for sexual assault cases involving children.  Their primary purpose is to prepare child victims to testify by explaining the process and what they will be asked to do.  They use child-size dolls to represent the various courtroom players:  the judge, the defendant, the attorneys, the police, and the child.  The children do not actually appear in the courtroom — they are in another room where they testify via camera.  The staff spent a long time explaining the process and asking about our system.

From there, we visited with the child services clerk.  As we understood it, that office acts as the administrative office for foster care cases — they schedule court dates, issue foster care payments, and work in coordination with Child Welfare.  Like the American counterpart,  the hallway was lined with families who were waiting for their cases to be heard or administrative assistance with their case.

The Domestic Violence Courtroom

The Domestic Violence Courtroom


After that, we sat in on a couple of criminal domestic violence cases heard by the judge we had met with earlier in the morning.  One of the things we’ve come to understand about South Africa is how the multiple languages play out.  In court today, for example, the judge, lawyers and defendant all spoke in Sewto (sp?), but because the official transcript must be in English, the defendant had to speak through an interpreter.  It seemed cumbersome to us — it went like this:  the judge asked questions in English, the translator repeated it in Sewto, the defendant responded in Sewto, then the translator translated it into English for the official record….but, the judge understood Sewto to begin with.  It seemed to us that the translator wasn’t simply translating….it seemed more like she was cross-examining the witness!  And, just like the American system, continuing cases was common.

The Defendant

The Defendant

We had a late lunch at the law school with UFS faculty to talk about the development of their legal writing programs.  They must deal with obstacles we didn’t really appreciate before today.  One of the major difficulties is that there are 11 official languages in South Africa.  For UFS, that means classes must be offered multi-lingually.  Each class is offered in English and Afrikaans.  There’s also discussion that a third language will be required in the future.  Another significant challenge is the variance in secondary schools  — there is some concern about grade inflation to ensure students will be accepted at University.  Consequently, there’s a huge range in the education prepardness of law students.

In the afternoon, we visited a residental center for street boys — Kids Care Trust.  The NGO operates a home for about 20 boys, ranging in age from 8-18.  It is not a foster care situation — the boys are what we would call runaways/homeless.  We had a candid conversation with the director about the lives of these boys and the resources that are available to them.  One of the big differences in Bloemfontein regarding street children is that the police partner with the NGO — the children are not viewed as criminals or nuisances.  This is in stark contrast to most places where street children are viewed as the “problem”  instead of the consequence of  a larger issue.

We got to talking about some of the reasons the boys run away from their families.  In addition to the usual abuse and neglect, we learned that a significant number of the boys run away to avoid male initiation ceremonies.  From what we’ve gathered, for the boys to be considered “men,” they must complete “initiation school.”  Initiation school isn’t something that is talked about — but it seems to be that the boys are taken into the mountains during the winter, stripped of their clothes and left with only a blanket.  They are circumcised with rudimentary tools and no anesthesia.  They are then left in the mountains for many days.  There have been several recent reports in which as many as 10 boys have died due frostbite, infection & gangrene.

This evening Carol went back to the hostels with Dineo.  Tonight the girls’ hostels travelled across campus and serranded the male hostels.  Afterwards, Megan, Dineo & Carol went out for coffee and treats. Carol enjoyed spending time with new friends!

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This evening,  Dineo invited Carol out to an acappella event on campus. Each of the guys’ hostels (dorms) organized a group and sang to each of the ladies’ hostels.  They wore various costumes including: referee uniforms, joker outfits and even formal 3 piece suits.  Each hostels’ arrgangements varied but included songs in Afrikaans, English, pop and traditional music.  Next week the finalist will perform again and an ultimate winner will be announced.

Hostel life here is alot like Greek life in the States. There is extreme camaraderie within the hostels and competition with the other hostels.

Carol met lots of interesting people and learned a great deal about campus life.  Several of Dineo’s suite-mates insisted that they take Carol out on the town.   Hesitantly, Carol agreed but actually enjoyed herself.  Carol even learned how to dance “Afrikaans,” also known as “sake-sake” (not sure about spelling?).  It’s kind of a funny looking dance.

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