Fire and Ice and My First Encounter with the Police

By: Mena G.

After a 16 hour flight to Dubai, 13 hours in Dubai (half of those hours spent in the city and half trying to sleep in the airport), a 6 hour flight to Uganda, and a 2 hour drive to Kampala, I made it to the apartment. The travel was fun and nothing to complain about, but it was nice to finally shower.
I was surprised to see the apartment had air conditioning. When I was going to bed, the air conditioner started rattling and making loud noises and then it started spewing ice chunks. It was like it was hailing, which is cool, but it was too loud and was covering my bed, so I shut it off. In the morning I found the gym at the apartments and did a quick workout before work. When I tried to blow dry my hair, my converter started on fire.  But no damage was done, except the converter or the hair dryer won’t work.

The Justice I am working with was not at work today, but Paula and I got to talk with his secretary, Joseph, who is a lawyer.  He welcomed us and graciously answered all our questions, and educated us on some aspects of the legal process.

I was surprised to encounter a conversation about the law criminalizing homosexuality on my first day.  In a conversation unrelated to the work we will be doing, Paula and I were shown a code book of laws (published in 2000 but the laws were written in 1960) which said homosexuality and knowing but failing to report a homosexual has been a criminal act since 1960.  However, I did not find that reasoning very persuasive as a justification for the current law, especially because the U.S. has had many laws discriminating against race or gender that were established long ago, and that is not enough of a reason to expand them further. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus loves and died for everyone regardless of age, race, or sexual orientation. That is the most inclusive love I can ever know, and I hope this love can be evident in my interactions with others.

The only problem that I have run into/time when I felt scared was when Paula and I were walking to the mall to buy local phones, get an Internet stick, and get groceries. There are no crosswalks and to cross the street you just go when you can make it. Kampala has heavy traffic and there is hard to find a clear time to cross big streets, but some have a median with grass separating the two opposite lanes. Paula and I walked across to the median, then waited until it was clear and crossed again to reach the mall. As soon as we walked up, a police officer told us to come with him. We stayed on the sidewalk and he told us it was illegal to step on the grass and we had to pay him $200 or go to court. After talking for awhile, we said we weren’t going to pay him and we would go to court. He pretended to call a car to take us to court, but when I said I could call my Judge, he stopped. Then he asked if we could be friends.

I am very excited to work under such a wise and experienced leader who on his website says he has a duty to protect and promote the human rights of all people equally. I recognize that the potential of reaching justice through the law can be limited by money resources or time, and I hope I can bring my energy this summer to help alleviate the caseload burden.

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