6/08- “Ghetto Court”

They kept telling me, "It's the Bronx times 10," but that was all speculation based on what they had seen on TV since none of them has ever actually been to New York City.

 All of the WashU kids have left for their class in Cape Town so that leaves Susan and I at the office just the two of us. Typically we were working in the board room, but because the Board is being audited, we have been working in the cubicles. The combination of circumstances has meant that Susan and I have had a great opportunity to get to know more people in the office. Most notably, we have befriended Semo and Aslam, both of whom are incredibly nice guys who are eager to teach us and have a cultural exchange. I also met a gentleman the other day who I discussed politics and current events with and I think we both walked away from the encounter knowing much more about each other’s countries and excited to learn more. He also offered to take Susan and I out with some of his friends, which we are excited to hear because we are eager to hang out with some locals.

Work has been a bit slow this week because of the audit and Susan and I have been looking for work since we finished our journal applications. We talked to Aslam about the possibility of doing some work with him. He suggested that we come to court with him which we gratefully accepted.

He picked us up at our flat which was nice as it was a free ride and gave us a break from the character of the kombis. The court was interesting. It was a large building and all the offices around it were trailers. Aslam took us around and introduced us to everyone- and I mean everyone- from the court reported to the secretaries to the security officers and even the Magistrate (judge). Everyone was excited to meet us and some asked us about America and others expressed excitement to go there some day. It was a nice change from traveling in Europe where everyone is disillusioned by America. Here they still have the vision of America as the promised land. I enjoy it- it will make me optimistic again when I return.

Court itself was bizarre. Everyone had warned us that it was “the Bronx times 10” which was based on video games and movies. “The scum of the earth come here,” we had been told. It was not that bad in our opinion, but definitely interesting. The courtroom was about the size of my kitchen, which is not large. There were criminals lined around the corner of the building waiting to be called for the morning docket. The Prosecutor (who Susan and I loved) would call a name, a police officer would go out and page that person and then the person would come in. Most of the time the matters were postponed, but all of Aslam’s cases were plea bargains. There was one case where the boy changed his story, then his mind, but eventually at the coaxing of a police officer, the prosecutor, a translator, and his mother he decided that he was probably going down. Although upon my suggestion (I like to think it was all because of me) Aslam got the prosecutor to agree to letting him plead from a charge of theft to a lesser charge of receiving of stolen goods. Apparently they usually intersperse trials with the pleas and postponements, but we did not get to see any. We will likely be taken back as I think Aslam wants to show off his mad trial skills.



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