Uganda Day 15: Frustrations

I'm going to be honest with you, today has not been a very good day. It started earlier than Mondays usually do. Aliana and I were tagging along with one of the lawyers in the legal division to go to court, something I'd really been looking forward to. We were going just to watch, not because we had any involvement with the case (or the legal division for that matter). They try to let the interns experience as many things as they might be interested in. The case we were going to see was a criminal trial, in which the FHRI lawyer was representing one of the accused in a theft of goods from a truck. That's the gist of it, anyway. Apparently the client's signature had been forged on the shipping documents by the others, making it look like she was involved or complicit.

So we arrived at work early, and soon we were climbing into the car. At this point we were not aware that our destination this morning—a Chief Magistrates Court—was not actually in Kampala, but in another town a short distance away. Now, I've described to you the traffic situation here. Today was horrific. The trial was scheduled to start at 9:30, but we didn't arrive until closer to 10, after almost two hours in the car. To give you a sense of the traffic, I'm fairly certain the lawyer said the town was 18 km from Kampala. I'm getting used to this sort of thing, so it doesn't really phase me anymore.

We all breathed a collective sigh of relief when we found out the judge had not arrived yet. We took our seats in the courtroom, which was very small with a few rows of benches and a mess of microphones at the front, and waited for the trial to begin. Our collective relief very quickly became exasperation, however, when we learned that the judge would not be showing up today at all. I never found out why, but it's definitely a symptom of a much larger systemic problem in Uganda's judicial system. They've been waiting for this trial to start since March-ish 2015. And now it would be delayed once again.

It was especially disheartening for Aliana and I, since we had killed an entire morning to get here and since we may not get the chance to do so again. Thankfully, it wasn't a complete waste of time. The lawyers had to get the case adjourned, so about seven or eight people—lawyers, accused, us—crowded into a different judge's office for a few minutes so they could sort it out. I had trouble following exactly what was said—the state attorney was also trying to delete some of the accused from the charge list, I think—but it was interesting to see. At least it was something. The judge was immensely intimidating, and I'm glad I didn't have to say anything to her.

Only one picture for you today, unfortunately. I've never been to court in Canada (pathetic, I know) but I would imagine it's nothing at all like this place:

Inside the Chief Magistrates Court.

It was basically an open space surrounded by small buildings containing offices and courtrooms. We were only there for a grand total of about twenty minutes. Then we got in the car once again and headed back to Kampala. This ride was shorter—though still well over an hour—but it was much worse. We took a "shortcut" to avoid the traffic, or "the jam" as Ugandans call it. This shortcut consisted of a long time spent on very bumpy dirt roads, with speed bumps every twenty or thirty feet. Have I written about the speed bumps here yet? They're on steroids, and they're everywhere. There's one near my place that completely scrapes the bottom of my supervisor's car whenever we drive over it. They're obnoxiously violent, sometimes. And they were everywhere on this dirt road, sometimes just five feet apart—is anyone really picking up that much speed in the space of five feet? Is this necessary? Needless to say, as someone with a history of motion sickness in moving cars, I was not feeling great. It was also very hot. When we finally made it to a paved road, it felt like a dream.

Eventually we made it back to the office. With the existing interns returned from their trip and the two new ones starting today, there weren't enough seats for Aliana and I, so we had to work in the library. Probably going to become the norm, unless the room suddenly expands.

When I first arrived in Uganda, my biggest stressor was just the fact of living here, but it has now become work itself. In particular, the fact that two other interns started today. They seem like nice people and I'm sure they're very smart and capable, but it was already difficult to coordinate working on this report when it was just the two of us. As I had feared, it's going to be more work trying to coordinate everyone than it would be just to do the whole report on my own. Neither of the interns has a laptop, and there's currently only one functioning computer available in our room, so it's extremely difficult to share documents and research, let alone to collaborate fully. And they only work three days a week, from morning to mid-afternoon. I'm aware that it sounds like I'm just bad at teamwork, but trust me—I honestly have no idea how anything is going to get done moving forward.

After work I was exhausted and stressed. When I got home, I remembered that one of the locks on my door has suddenly stopped working. As of last night, the key won't turn. It's not so bad at night, because I can use the other two and it's still pretty secure. But when I leave, only two of the three have keys for locking from the outside, one of which is the broken one. I lock the one that still works, but the door doesn't seem completely secure. I spoke to the caretaker about it when I got home. I think there's someone coming tomorrow to look at it.

I was also not impressed when I walked into my bathroom, washed my hands, and went to dry them, only for one of the damn lizards to come running out from behind the towel. I've been okay with the lizards...I see them around, but they've stopped bothering me, for the most part. I could live with it. But when the stupid thing is hanging out in my towels, I'm done. I tried to catch him, but I turned my head for half a second and all of a sudden he had disappeared. Haven't seen him since.

There have also been a lot of spiders today. Again, I can deal with a few insects and arachnids, but not every time I turn a corner and find another one. I got so frustrated that I took the insecticide bottle I bought the other day and sprayed so much I essentially self-fumigated my bedroom and bathroom. I am so done with this.

And that's been my day—stress and frustrations. My experience here really has been improving, and I've been trying to stay as positive as possible, but days like today wear me thin. It reminds me just how tired I am of killing spiders and bugs, chasing lizards, cleaning up termite dust, and sweating through my clothes every minute of the day, among other things. Here's hoping tomorrow is an improvement. In the meantime, I am going to watch Game of Thrones and eat some cookies. Good night!