Full mind, full belly


The baristas at Truth Coffee

As soon as I heard there was a steampunk-themed café in Cape Town, Truth Coffee Roasting shot (honestly no pun intended) to the top of my list of places to visit. It took me the entire first week of my arrival in this city to finally check it out but here I am, typing what will be the first of ten reflections of my time in South Africa. If I have it my way, all ten blogs will be written here. My photos do not do it justice. Go to Truth's Instagram for better imagery.

Bathrooms at Truth Coffee

Even their bathrooms are cool.

I am interning at Legal Resources Centre, South Africa’s largest public-interest law clinic. I still can’t believe my good fortune at landing here. I came to William & Mary in hopes of becoming an international human rights lawyer. Having this internship right after my first year feels like winning the lottery (if the winnings were to have a preview of your future career). LRC has several practice areas, including land rights, education, and environmental justice. Perhaps because of a high concentration of refugees in South Africa, it seems a large part of the work is helping clients with refugee claims. This is where my focus will be. I began the week by reading The 1951 Convention, the United Nation’s document defining “refugee,” their rights, and the duties of countries that are signatories (including South Africa and is the basis for the country’s Refugee Act, which I also studied in addition to LRC’s guidelines for handling client claims). It was a lot to take in but was also a helpful foundation for when I was given my first case to review.

Due to the volume of asylum-seeker claims, my supervising attorney and her candidate attorney (which seems to be South Africa’s version of junior counsel) need help sorting through all the files to identify which clients have strong claims and which do not. I am working on a segment of those files, which entails reading its contents, assessing the strength of the claim given the information within, and then understanding the current conditions of the country from which the claimant fled. To receive recognition as a refugee, one must have a “well-founded fear of persecution” arising from at least one of a number of reasons. This is a fact-based inquiry where you will only truly be able to suss by speaking to the client. So far, I have used statements made when the asylum seeker arrived in South Africa and any available affidavits. Public disturbance or disruption compelling one “to leave his or her place of habitual residence,” is another way an asylum seeker can receive refugee recognition as is if the seeker is a dependent of someone who falls in one of the two above criteria. Regardless of what has happened during the course of the asylum seeker’s time in South Africa, I only need to consider if the client meets the definition of refugee at the present time. This also means I need to review the conditions on the ground of the country from where the asylum seeker claimed to understand if it is still too dangerous for that person to return. I will then draft memos to the candidate and supervising attorneys with my assessment.

That is week one in a nutshell. Before I close, I must share the places where I ate and drank because my favorite thing to do in life is eat. I plan to include this every week just in case anyone traveling to SA needs tips on the places to go.

Daily nourishment
  • Food Lover’s Market is the way to feed yourself on a budget. I am able to buy breakfast and lunch, including dessert, for about $5/day. Basically, you can choose from a seemingly endless selection of salad bars, cold bars, hot food bars, and food stations plus grocery items. Think Whole Foods on steroids (just cheaper. And probably with no organic options).
  • The guys behind the counter at Kamili Coffee instantly made me feel welcome when I parked myself here for their free WiFi, so I decided they would be my go-to coffee spot. Bonus that the espresso itself earned my devotion. Many days they have treats like a croissant or a doughnut hole free for the taking. (A note about South Africa and coffee: You can’t go far without running into a café. So far, I’ve observed that “coffee” equals “espresso,” my preferred method of caffeine consumption. When you want just a cup of coffee, you’ll order an Americano (espresso with hot water).)Mechelle. Drinking coffee.

This week’s spots:
  • I am still struggling with jet lag, so the 6 a.m. opening at Rcaffe gave me a way to kill time hours before I needed to be at work. I walked into a soundtrack of songs from the George White Group, perfect to ease into a morning if you are not about that pre-noon life like me. My made-to-order omelet was excellent, but the next time I go, I will take advantage of their less expensive breakfast menu created to take-away customers.Lighting at Rcaffe
  • The manager at Fork was so kind to let me have a quick bite as she was prepared to close for the evening. I had just come from a play and was desperate for something close to home. These small plates of salmon, broccoli and cauliflower, and gnocchi with a parmesan cream sauce were perfect for one. No photos because I did not want to be that person on top of potentially prolonging their closing (I did not – I left at the same time as their last party).
  • I am from Wisconsin, so I take fish fries seriously. On Friday, some of the other attorneys had stopped at Food Lover's Market for a crazy-cheap fish and chips, which made me crave it for dinner. I found Lusitania Fisheries and had to question whether I had any fish in my take-away container because it was more like chips and fish. Topped with salt and vinegar, plus with a side of chili sauce, this Wisconsin girl felt like it was just another Friday night in Milwaukee.
    Friday chipfry
  • My apartment has a washing machine, but it is too small for linens. This morning I dropped the laundry off at Xpress [sic] in Orange and then walked up and down Kloof Street, deciding to finally stop at Mustacchio Café. After enjoying a turmeric latte, the Mustacchio breakfast (my eggs topped with cheddar because Wisconsin), and the company of a friendly barista/bartender, I may have a Saturday-morning routine in the making.Turmeric. It's not just for curry.