Course finale -- excitement and sadness

Trip Start Jul 05, 2005
Trip End ??? ??, 2006

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Monday, August 22, 2005

A new nickname..................

This past week in Paipa was filled with excitement, a sense of accomplishment and a new name for Scrappy (yeah, that's me). This last week of training included breaking down a basic trial advocacy course...we practiced openings, closings, direct and cross examinations. The participants, both prosecutors and investigators struggled at first, but by the end of the week, Saturday ('s not a boondogle!) they were able to put together a good moot court. Some were better than others of course, but overall I was impressed, as I always am, with their dedication and willingness to embrace a completely new system. So, you are probably wondering how I got a new nickname....well, I guess I better tell you what it is nickname according to the participants was La Generala (The General) or Margaret Thacher (I told them that was insulting, but they assured me they were referring to her no nonsense attitude). The way I found out about my new nickname was kind of interesting and involves some cultural explanation.

Generally, Colombians don't have a good sense of time (just ask my Colombian born sister, Lucy) and they all love to speak at the same time. Then there is the cell phone etiquette or lack there of. Everyone talks on their cell phone all of the time. Doesn't really matter whether there is a lecture going on (granted sometimes they get boring :-)) or whether they are in the middle of answering a question, the cell phone rings and they answer it. Well, that really didn't go over well with me, especially when there were American and Colombian prosecutors who had given up their time to help these new cell phone totting participants. Sooooo, after a couple of warnings, I told them how rude they were and confiscated all cell phones. I knew it was drastic, but I knew I had no choice. There wasn't a revolution, but it came pretty darn close. In fact, a coup was forming and hence, my new nickname was born. I found out later, they saluted me when they saw me and said , "Watch out, there comes La Generala." Dummy me thought they were smiling because they liked me and they were happy, when it was actually the complete opposite. How clueless am I????

So, Saturday came...the day of our moot courts. Some did really well and others so so. In any event, I was proud and I was impressed. We had a closing ceremony where lots of people gave boring speeches, except mine of course. Actually, I was very complimentary and expressive about how proud I was of them and how much it meant for me, in particular, to be able to be a part of such an amazing moment in Colombia's legal history. There were other speeches, some complimentary and then a real honest one...from the cops, of course. During the cop speech, the director of the police said that even though I was tough on them, they had learned a great deal and that Paipa (the town I was in) was a place where I always had a home. I was touched.

As the ceremony ended, a Mariachi band entered the room playing wonderful music. One of the participants, David, is the lead singer of the Mariachi band. The prosecutors and the investigators had pooled their money to get the rest of the band to perform and buy us gifts in appreciation for our work. I was almost in tears (okay, sweet, but not as good as the Alex video). Besides the wonderful serande, they bought us each a bottle of local Colombian wine (didn't know there were vinyards in Colombia) and gave us other presents. It was incredible! Never before in my OPDAT courses had a had a send off like that. Guess La Generala wasn't so bad afterall.

I found out later when I was forced to go to the tavern (they really twisted my arm, I was exhausted) with the participants. They all came up to me (before they were hammered) and told me how much they hated me initially and most of all, after I confiscated their cell phones. But, they also told me what a difference I had made in their lives and that I had forced them to look at themselves and really think about what they were about to embark upon in the next few months. They felt ready. They also thanked me for taking their cell phones away and told me that I had restored discipline that was missing. They added that they were forced to face their fears and believe in themselves, because I kept telling them (as did Virna and Tom) that they could do it!!! Nothing was impossible.

One male prosecutor at the Tavern looked at me with tears rolling down his face and said, "thank you for being so demanding, we needed have made us better people and we, I, will never forget you." I was so completely awed by what he said. I felt like I did the first time won a civil rights case. It's spectacular! Then came the bummer.

I found out through one of the prosecutors, actually David, the Mariachi singer, that one of the other participants/prosecutors, C's nanny had been kidnaped two days earlier. The kidnappers thought the nanny was C's daughter, so they beat her and threatened C through her. You have no idea how bad I felt that I had taken his cell phone away, but that wasn't the worst part. C lives in a small town a distance from where the course was being held. Despite being offered protection(which is ridiculous and minimal) from the prosecutor's office, he wanted to go back home. He explained to me that he had his daughter (an infant), his wife, his family, his house, his car and his life in this small town. He continued to explain to me that if he let them win, he would be failing his daughter and his country. He talked about a lot of other things and cried like a baby while struggling with his own internal demons...should I go back, should I leave??? What should I do. It was gut wrenching. I listened and barely said a word. I was memorized....not so much because of the content, although that blew me away, but it was the way he was describing the love for his daughter and the love for Colombia. It was unbelievable!!!! I can't say I have appreciated or loved America as much as this man loves Colombia. My advice to him was that he could always rebuild his house, get a new car, get transferred to a new office, but he could never replace his family. It sounds kind of rudimentary and simple, but to him, it was a struggle. So, I shared my own experience with him, my father's disappearance (we never found his body) and the fact that I would have and would probably still do anything to have my father alive and in my life than anything else in the world. I tried to tell him, through my own experience, that his daughter needed him and that she needed someone there when she accomplished all of her goals...some of which she never in a million years thought she could accomplish-they were dreams. And so, I learned, that by sharing some very personal things at a time I never in the world would have thought I would do, that I helped someone. I have no idea whether C went back to that small town or not. The last thing he said to me was, "will we see each other again?" I responded, "I hope so, but only you can make that happen, nothing is impossible." At that moment, I began to wonder about the notion of nothing is impossible. Perhaps for C it is. I just hope I see him again....................
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