Monday, September 30, 2013

Same issues despite being half-way around the world

I've been reading De Rebus, the monthly publication of the Law Society of South Africa.

Interestingly, South Africa's legal community is wrangling with the same issues confronting the U.S. legal environment.  Just as in the U.S., lawyers here are discussing changes to legal education, the need to better prepare students to practice, and how best to respond to technological and social media challenges.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Turn right at the Monkey Fountain

Sofia and I made it home from the shopping center without international incident in a mere 15 minutes. The key to avoiding driving lost in ever-increasingly larger circles for an hour is to remember to turn right at the Monkey Fountain Nursery and pet supply

Victory Park Shopping Center
photo credit: Bental Group
I remembered to tip the parking lot attendant for assisting me in backing out of the parking space. I felt I should have given him more as he did take his life in his hands standing behind Sofia as I backed up. It has only been four days, and I have not yet perfected shifting with the left hand and staying in the correct lane all at the same time. 

All in all it was a good trip. I get more confidence every time I go out. This trip I even passed a bus and traveled at the posted speed limit instead of letting cars line up behind me. The gear crunching has also lessened. The Nissan clutch is definitely not a Volvo clutch!

I am now the proud owner of a Woolworths preferred shopper's card. It feels a bit like shopping at Fresh Fields or Whole Foods. The company has made a commitment to organic and to the environment in its packaging. The larger stores carry clothing, furniture, and household goods. It felt similar to a Macy's. However, this impression could very easily be wrong given my general lack of interest in visiting large department stores in the US.

I also have a new shopping bag sponsored by WWF and Woolworths; proceeds to go to the protection of the rhino. It should help with my goal not to contribute to the litter and landfills while I am here in South Africa. However, since its size is about the capacity of my refrigerator I will have to remember to shop lightly.  

This is a picture of Sofia. Given my propensity to get lost, I wanted a partner that could contribute to successful expeditions once I start to venture outside of Johannesburg. I chose "Sofia" in the hope that "wisdom" will come from somewhere when I am sitting at the intersection determining which way to proceed.  

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Dear Peace Corps, I finally made it, almost...

It is one day shy of a week since I arrived in Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa, to start a fellowship with the Legal Resources Centre of South Africa. Over the next six months, I'll be working with the LRC staff to develop, organize, and begin implementing plans to modernize their library and research operations to better support the work of the LRC lawyers.

The LRC is South Africa's largest and oldest national public interest law organization. Since 1979 the LRC has been working on behalf of the most vulnerable populations in the areas of land and housing rights, children's rights and education, environmental justice, HIV/AIDS, health and other social services, refugee matters, and women's equality. The LRC is the leading public interest law firm pursuing constitutional litigation in the South African courts. Nelson Mandela appointed LRC's founder, Arthur Chaskalson, to serve as the first President of South Africa's Constitutional Court in 1994.

Janet Love is the National Director of the LRC. She has been a part of the anti-apartheid movement since 1974. She spent 10 years in exile and worked inside South Africa as a member of the African National Congress underground. She is a Commissioner of the South African Human Rights Commission.

The LRC library is named in honor of Bram Fischer, a key figure in the anti-apartheid fight. A South African lawyer of Afrikaner descent, he was, among other things, the lead defense attorney for Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists arrested at Liliesleaf Farm in 1964. Many believe it is due to his work that the activists received life sentences rather than the death penalty.  

Memorial Plaque for the LRC library
I've spent the last week getting to know the library, its staff and operations, and the collections, current and archival. I am all ready to roll up my sleeves on Monday morning and get to work. The next six months should prove interesting.