US Embassy Public Affairs Section Visit in Gaborone

The following blog post is from 3L Megan Hellesen:

One of the most amazing things about Botswana, if not THE most amazing thing, was how friendly and accommodating everyone was towards us.  We had a multitude of law firms and lawyers spend their time on us and giving us lectures and cutting their holiday break short to make sure that we understood how things legally happened in Botswana.

One of the days we spent in Botswana, we were able to meet with the United States Embassy.  That was a lot different than visiting the other law firms and the law society headquarters.  It was most jarringly different in their security.  We had to go, one at a time, through a locked door which lead to a metal detector and x-ray surveillance belt to put our things through like at the airport, and then finally (one at a time again) through another locked door where we found our conference room.  Chelsea even had to drink some of her water in front of the security personnel to prove that it wasn’t poison or something.  We also needed to show them our passports to even be allowed through the security provisions.

Once we all got in the room we were able to meet the panel that they had assembled for us.  They had someone talking to us from the military aspect, the political aspect, protection of resources, management of diseases, social media, and just general public affairs.  All were interesting but there were a few points that really stood out to me.  First, and most worrisome, is Botswana’s water problem.  It seems like the problem is mostly rooted in Gaborone, but Gaborone has a month supply of water . . . and then they are out.  I found this flat out terrifying.  Pretty much all of their options to bring more water in would be expensive and, unfortunately, Botswana just does not have enough money.  A project is underway already to solve the water problem.  They are in the process of building pipeline to transport water from northern Botswana into Gaborone.  This addition would solve all of the water problems that Gaborone is facing now.  The problem is that this project was supposed to be done this past November.  And they are only half way done.

The Embassy representatives said that this could mean some new laws on the Gaborone residents; such as only being able to use water on certain days.  Water supply is a serious problem in Gaborone and likely will be until that pipeline project is completed.

Another aspect that stood out to me was the AIDS epidemic.  Things have come a long way, but I don’t think I appreciated how serious it was in Africa.  They were dealing with the probability of an entire generation being wiped out.  Luckily, now there are programs to get people the medication that they need and the education that’s needed to prevent such a disease.

Embassy PA

Megan Hellesen


Botswana High Court

The following blog post is by 3L Steve Slayden:

On the recent trip to South Africa and Botswana, the legal globalization class got the great opportunity to visit the High Court of Botswana, located in Gaborone. This is a court of general jurisdiction, roughly equivalent to federal district court in the United States. There is a lower-level court, Magistrate’s Court, for smaller matters, and a Court of Appeal that is the court of last resort in Botswana. During our trip, we had the opportunity to hear a lecture about the court system and similarities between their court and those in America. We were later taken on a tour of the courthouse and shown their filing room and the basic lay of the building. Overall, the basics of the courthouse and the workings of the clerks are very similar, if not exactly the same to the operation in the American court systems.

HIgh Court

The day started out as warm as any other we experienced on the trip. It was a dry heat though, making it all the more glorious of a morning. We arrived at the High Court early to find a beautiful building waiting for us, recently finished in 2012. The High Court is able to hear any type of matter, family to civil, and was set up much like a trial court in America with few differences. The judge sits at the front of the room with a row of court reporters in front of him. At either side of the room, directly in front of the court reporters and two boxes that sit across from each other; one for the witness and one for the defendant. Before the bar and after the boxes is a long table where the counselors sit.

Students, faculty, and court officials outside the High Court of Botswana.
Students, faculty, local attorneys, and court officials outside the High Court of Botswana.

We started the day off with discussion on the basics of Botswana’s law with our guide/confidant Pepsi and one of her colleagues. In Botswana, it is rare for firms or people to specialize in areas of the law due to the relatively low number of lawyers in the country.  Besides the normal fields of law we have in the United States, Botswana also has a “customary” law that they follow that incorporates the law of the tribes into the legal practices. This area of law also has its own court, the customary court, which is parallel to the other courts, and from which litigants can appeal to the High Court. The biggest dilemma that arises over having this type of law is deciding which court to bring your claim in, the customary court or the magistrate court. We never did get a clear answer of the best way to choose, and it seemed to be based on personal preference.

After the discussion, we proceeded to see the rest of the courthouse. The lay out is almost identical to a majority of the courthouses seen in the United States today. The judges chambers were big and beautiful, and flanked by rooms that housed their clerks and other court officers. The filing was done much the same way that we do it in the United States, with one room that received the documents and a team of people who then entered the information into electronic reserves that could be accessed on the court’s internet system. The courthouse also housed holding cells, but the most impressive thing about our tour, however, was that these people had come in early from their holidays to show us around. The people we met were even happy to see us, and were eager to tell us about their positions.

Our day at the High Court was both enlightening and entertaining. The building itself was young and beautiful, emitting a sense of accomplishment and justice that was finally brought to Gaborone.

Steve Slayden

Pilanesburg: The First Game Drive

The following blog posts are by 3Ls Chelsea Kasten and Katie Kuhn

Pilanesberg National Park

Our first experience with the wild of Africa occurred at Pilanesberg National Park and Game Reserve. Pilanesberg is located in South Africa and was en route as we headed north to Botswana for our legal studies. Don’t worry parents –this is a malaria free zone. Pilanesberg is in a transition zone between the dryness of the Kalahari and the wet Lowveld vegetation. Depending on where we were driving we were able to see different kinds of animals that existed or prefer either the wet or dry territory. Pilanesberg is set within the crater of an ancient volcano, formed 1.2 billion years ago by overflowing magma. It makes for exceptionally rich soil and extra rich vegetation that begs for the animals to come and relax in the sun and have a few bites.

We were even able to drive through “leopard territory” but unfortunately the cats are better at hiding than we are at spotting them. The first animal we were able to observe were zebras. Or, as the locals say “zabras.” That’s right, pronounce it like you’re not enunciating the ‘e.’ Our excitement at the first sighting was palpable. We were really here, Africa! And just across the glass of our van was a herd of zebras looking less than impressed at our admiration for them. During the morning jaunt of our first safari experience we also saw elephants, rhino and different variety of antelope.

For lunch we stopped at a facility located in the middle of Pilanesberg. The Bakubung Restaurant offered us the unique experience of eating while viewing a small pond with a salt lick and the mountains at our backs. Did you know that all animals like salt licks? Imagine a family of wart hogs, some giraffes, some ostrich and wildebeest all vying for the salt lick. Specifically this one section that seemed to be gold. One of the wildebeest was so ornery that he refused to share with anyone, baby wildebeest included. In the grasses behind the pond I could see a baby antelope frolicking next to its parents, awkward and enthusiastic in his movements.

Corrigan Clouston and Chelsea Kasten near the salt lick at Pilanesburg. Wildbeest and giraffes are in the background.
Corrigan Clouston and Chelsea Kasten near the salt lick at Pilanesburg. Wildebeest and giraffes are in the background.

The food could have been sawdust and we would have enjoyed it but in actuality, it was delicious and just helped with our enthusiasm and pleasure at our surroundings. Beef is clearly a large part of this society’s diet. For those of us who don’t like beef or meat entirely, there were also delicious vegetation options. Apparently there is a large Indian population in South Africa, and so all of their restaurants are vegetation friendly.

Lunch at Pilanesburg
Lunch at Pilanesburg

Our afternoon in Pilanesberg was largely unremarkable for animal sightings. Until we came across the elephants. The locals consider them to be pests. In fact, they claim that they have an overpopulation of elephants in their country and that it is a huge problem. Considering that an example of an elephant being a nuisance  was one leaning up against a house and demolishing it, I can see how they might not be huge fans. For the tourists, however, the elephants are worth the 20+ hour flight. There is nothing cuter than an awkward baby elephant that can’t get control of his trunk. Or have Mama scolding baby when he is being annoying to the rest of the herd. We had the fortune to also see a large male elephant eating alone in a field. You know intellectually that an elephant is a huge animal. But being a just foot away from one in a large van, and feeling dwarfed, is an entirely different experience.

This is our first real day in Africa, and already I have seen such beautiful creatures and landscapes. The people we have encountered are friendly and always offer a smile. Can someone pinch me? I’ve dreamed of this trip for a long time and the reality is even better than the dream already.

Chelsea Kasten

The First Game Drive

Our first game drive was quite the adventure! Not only did we get to see the animals typically only accessible by a visit to your local zoo, but we had the best bus driver as our tour guide. He was extremely knowledgeable about all of the animals in the game reserve and also had a wicked eye for spotting these creatures. Now a quick side note, while back in the states we typically think of bus and taxi drivers as just being someone to transport us from point A to point B, Johann was not that. He was full of stories and knowledge from everything to the animals in the park to the history of the country of South Africa. He also made it fun to listen to him and told many funny jokes!

An elephant at Pilanesberg.
An elephant at Pilanesberg.


Back to the game drive. Now what you guys see back at home in the States on the Animal Planet and National Geographic is not really how a safari or game drive goes. You do not just drive around and see all of the animals you want to see when you want to see them. Its actually a difficult task to spot the animals if they weren’t close to the side of the road. We did get very lucky and see some awesome animals, but unfortunately no lions yet. I know what everyone is thinking, “How can you go on Safari and NOT SEE A LION!” Well, they blend into the bush extremely well and they aren’t just walking around during the day. Instead the usually lay under trees tucked far away from the road and on a game drive (basically just driving on the roads in the national park) this is not ideal for lion spotting. But there is hope to see some cats later on in Kruger National Park!

That’s all for now! Check back soon for more updates!

ALSO Check out Instagram: #SIUdoesSA2015 for all of the pictures taken on this trip.

Katie Kuhn

The Cradle of Humankind and Sterkfontein Caves

The following blog post is by Audrey Crumrine, a 3L student:

A display at the Sterkfontein museum.
A display at the Sterkfontein museum.

Our first stop in South Africa was Sterkfontein Caves, southwest of Pretoria. The caves are located in what’s known as the Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where humanity is thought to have originated. It is here that extensive archeological digs have been and are currently conducted, and some of the world’s most valuable skeletal remains have been found.

Upon our arrival, we were given hard hats to wear into the caves. We began the tour by walking through an exhibit that took us through time. Various anthropological replicas of skulls and stone age mammals were showcased, explaining the purpose of the excavations at the site.

Liability waiver at Sterkfontein.
Liability waiver at Sterkfontein.

After leaving the exhibit, our guide brought us to a stone monument dedicated to Little Foot. Little Foot was the moniker given to the prehistoric man/ape that was all of 1 meter tall. It was believed that Little Foot lived in the area, and ultimately died in the cave after falling into a hole. Another highlight of the cave is known as Mrs. Ples. Mrs. Ples is the most complete skull of an Australopithecus Africanus found in South Africa.  We were told that because of the slight frame, the skull was given a female name. However, it was later determined that this was attributable to the smaller stature of a young male.

Sterkfontein 3 Sterkfontein4

The cave was dark and cold, covered in stalactites. Our guide showed us various places of interest such as where Little Foot was believed to have fallen to his death, and blunted stalactites where Italians came into the cave and removed stalactites. There was also a pool of standing water, where foreign explorers had fallen and also died in the cave. Fossils in the walls would soon be excavated very slowly and carefully, with the typical excavation happening in stages over an extensive period of time. The anthropologic finds from the cave took years to extract, and were taken out in their original sediment surroundings. Over the course of several years, and with the use of precision tools akin to those used in a dental office, the skeletal remains were extracted from their casing. Outside and inside of the cave were active archeological sites, cordoned off by ropes and fences with expansive scaffolding.

Students and faculty outside Sterkfontein.
Students and faculty outside Sterkfontein.

Making our way through the cave was difficult at times, as anyone who was taller found the small hole we had to crawl through challenging. This also made it clear why we were wearing hard hats. After leaving the cave, our guide told us a little bit more about the cave and the person who discovered Mrs. Ples, John Robinson. It was here that each person could rub the nose of Robinson for either luck or wisdom. We were cautioned not to choose both, as this would result in bad luck. With the upcoming bar exam, I was unsure which was the better option. But when it came time to choose, I decided I could use all of the luck Sterkfontein had to offer.

Audrey Crumrine

First Night in Africa

The following blog post is by Taylor Sprehe, a 2L student:

The First Night in Africa

We arrived in the Johannesburg Airport in the late afternoon of January 2nd.  Our first greeting was by an inconspicuous well-built man holding a non-descript sign which simply read “Southern Illinois”.  The lack of available time to spend wandering and exploring the Johannesburg Airport saddened me.  This winds up being a running theme for the South African portion of our trip.  The iconic bright read “Illy” sign initiated my want for exploration.  For those not in the know, Illy is a corporate espresso chain.  I was under the impression that Illy was exclusive to Europe, so this was a pleasant surprise.  Normally I’m not one to patron corporate coffee establishments, however Illy is a definite exception.  The espresso is superb.

Our group of 15 piled in a van after our luggage was tossed in the cargo trailer.  Off to the races.  The drive was slightly longer than expected but no one seemed to mind because we were collectively glued to the window, taking in our fresh surroundings.  The view was dominated by huts made of corrugated metal and cliché graffiti that can be found on an underpass the world over.  I had done my research on the unparalleled pervasiveness of the private security industry in South Africa.  Even still, I was taken aback by the amount of barbed wire, electrified fences and walled off compounds that people call home and work.

Steve Slayden and our first driver, Norman.
Steve Slayden and our first driver, Norman.
First night dinner in South Africa. From L-R, Adam Johnessee, Mark Schultz, Ian Neighbors, Bradley DeFreitas.
First night dinner in South Africa. From L-R, Adam Johnessee, Mark Schultz, Ian Neighbors, Bradley DeFreitas.

We arrived at our own walled off compound that was the Indaba Hotel.  The word hotel is a bit of a misnomer for this multifarious complex that contained lush foliage, lovely meandering animals and striking architecture.  We piled out of the van and walked straight through the lobby into the adjacent, open-air courtyard.  It’s as though we all subconsciously assumed our professorial leaders would handle the check-in process, which gratefully they did.  Everyone was in dire need of a chill session which commenced both intuitively and immediately.  Wine was ordered and a collective sigh of relief was palpably exhaled.  We spent the next hour gazing at the giant chess board which measured approximately six feet by six feet (two meters by two meters for any of our new metrically inclined friends that happen to be reading this).  The chess pieces were in proportion to the comically oversized playing field.  Our presence was graced by an itinerant peacock who appeared all too calm to be in such close quarters with 13 young adults.  We finished the wine as if it owed us money.  Our room keys were handed out and I was reminded of the much welcomed fact that I was the lucky student that did not have a roommate for the night.  God bless odd numbers.  I immediately retired to what turned out to be one of the most contemporary accommodations experienced in my life thus far.  Shower, reflection, repeat.  That indulgent repetition forced me to be the last American to join the dinner table.  I enjoyed the first of many delicious curry dishes on this outing.  The beverages were equally satisfying.

Getting to South Africa

The following blog post is by Katie Kuhn, a 3L student:

Step One: Getting to South Africa

Well it’s been five days since we left the States and landed in South Africa. Finally, we are able to settle in so I wanted to take the time to update everyone on the happenings over here (and it’s required as part of the course). When you Google “flight time to South Africa” generally the answer is 18 hours. Reading that one might think “Wow! That’s a long flight.” Well, no one knows how long it truly is until they actually make the trip themselves.

The 24+ hours of Travel

I certainly thought in my head “that’s a long time” but nothing could have prepared me. We first had to spend our New Year’s Eve quietly at home because we had to be at O’Hare (others at Lambert Airport) at 6:45 am. Our first flight was at 8:40am CST to Dulles (Washington DC).

Students waiting for flight in St. Louis.


It was a quick flight, only one hour and twenty minutes. It also had pretty spacious seats. So it was a good start to our trip. Once we landed we looked at our tickets and saw our next flight wasn’t until 5:40pm EST (it was currently 11am EST). But we all made the best of it, either sitting in a lounge area relaxing or grabbing something to eat. Finally at 4:40pm we started loading the plane.

Once I found my seat I noticed it did not have the same amount of legroom as the domestic flight. Not even close. My seat was closer the amount of room found in child’s high chair. I settled into my seat and waited for everyone to load. It took forever. Finally, at 5:40 we took off. During our take off the pilot informed everyone we would have a bit of a shorter flight–instead of eight hours it would only be about seven. What a relief! However, the plane did have good in flight entertainment in the form of various movies and television shows. So I settled in and started my first movie. Five hours later I was finishing my third movie. I checked to see the arrival time and my television screen which had current flight info informed me we still have 2 hours and 20 min left. And this was just the first leg of the trip. 7 hours and 25 min later we landed in Dakar to refuel.

Still more flight time….
After the hour of refueling we settled back into our seats for ANOTHER SEVEN HOURS of flight time. Now again reading this you guys might be thinking, “ok, ok we get it. It was a long flight” But like I said earlier, you might not truly understand until you experience it for yourself. One the second leg of the flight I managed to get about 3 hours of sporadic sleeping time. There is nothing quite like sleeping on an airplane. You find so many strange positions to lay your head or prop your feet up just for a sliver of hope that you can actually get comfortable.

Finally, after 24+ hours of traveling we landed in South Africa! I am not sure what I was more excited about landing in South Africa or just being able to get off of the airplane!

I’ll spare all of you the boring details of us gathering our luggage and going through customs and move into discussing our first adventure in South Africa!

Katie Kuhn and Audrey Crumrine in airport. View of airplane wing in flight. Pictures of the Indaba Hotel in Johannesburg.



Day 1 in South Africa: A Quick Update

From the Kedar Lodge near Rustenburg, SA.

This is just a quick update of our activities for the first full day of our trip. In the next day or two, I will post blog entries from the students recounting their adventures and insights. In the meantime, students are posting pictures at Instagram at #SIUdoesSA2015.

Last night we stayed at the Indaba Hotel in Fourways, a suburb of Johannesburg. After the long flight and the bus ride to the hotel, we all had a restful night’s sleep and were ready for the day’s adventures.

We left the hotel at about 8 am and traveled to the Cradle of Humankind, a region in Gauteng Province. We visited Sterkfontein Caves,, where we descended about 70 meters below ground.

After visiting the caves, we traveled to the Pilanesberg National Park,, for a game drive. We saw elephants, zebras, wildebeest, impala, kudu, rhinos, a hippo, and several other animals. It was hot: about 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Later in the afternoon we got caught in a thunderstorm, which culminated with a beautiful double rainbow.

We will return to Pilanesberg at 5 am tomorrow morning for another game drive. Many of the animals were resting during the heat of the day yesterday, and we ought to be able to see more of them in the cool of the morning when it is more comfortable for them to move around.

Look for some blog posts from the students in the next day or so. And in the meantime, check out the pictures they are posting at #SIUdoesSA2015 on Instagram.

–Professor Behan