James Pirtle is a trial lawyer and owner of The Sentinel Law Group, PLLC, a Seattle law firm and he is an attorney on the ground for Legal Advocacy Worldwide (LAW), a non-profit devoted to financing direct legal advocacy on behalf of the oppressed abroad, including the state-sanctioned persecution of the LGBT community in Africa. This blog chronicles how his involvement in the defense of Thomas Kwoyelo, a former child soldier in the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda, developed into a broad international human rights practice with crusading Ugandan attorney John Francis Onyango. This blog begins with their involvement in the Kwoyelo case and continues with updates and developments in the human rights cases. Read from the bottom up to see how it all unfolds.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Post 3: Travel


What to say about the last 24 hours? Apologies in advance for what is sure to be incoherence due to my lack of sleep and wonderment at this experience already:

I was anxious and nervous on my way to Seatac. That said, I forgot I am good at this travel thing. Flying to Amsterdam was a breeze...kind of literally. I sat next to an attractive woman but she had a curious tendency towards flatulence. Could be worse, I suppose.

Oh, the merits of nicotine gum are overstated.

Amsterdam to Africa was a bit worse. Upon takeoff we were struck by lightning. Kind of thrilling for me as it reminded me of my navy days. Not so for the babies on board, as the flash and bang triggered a cacophony of wailing (that lasted an unnatural and unnerving length of time). Yes, I was in the screaming baby section. And though my row mate on this flight was kind of enough not to poison the recirculated air, he did take considerable liberties with my arm rest and leg room. A la Larry Craig, if you get my drift. I would have asked him if he just had a wide stance but he didn't speak English. Again, my thought at the time was it could be worse. We didn't have to redirect to Amsterdam from the lightning and things were more or less going according to plan.

Until dinner, that is. KLM is nice, for sure. They fed us a lot. But the trays are big and everything is covered in plastic. This ultimately dampened my row mate's romantic designs on me as his hand slipped off the plastic covering of his odd-looking pudding, swiftly launched his tomato juice off its perch subsequently and duly dousing both of us. He was horrified, I was dismayed, and the steward off-put (remember screaming babies). I would have been substantially more irritated but I recall having done the same thing with a bloody mary a few weeks ago in an ill fated effort to save a slipping pickled green bean. Again, could be worse. Red-faced-would-be-romancing-Hollander apologized many times and did not again make arm or foot contact or invasions. The arm rest was mine! He beat a hasty retreat when we landed in Kigali, but left me with the job of handing over the tomato-soaked aftermath to the clean up crew. Of course it is all over me, so their horrified impression was they were cleaning up my vomit. I shrugged and said, "Tomato juice. Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?" They believed their lying eyes.

Oh, that lightning thing. That warranted a two-hour on ground inspection in Kigali. My concern at that point was that my contact in Kampala was simply going to quit this whole affair and abandon me. Thankfully, when we finally got here, Francis was waiting for me. Customs was a breeze.

I am very impressed with my new colleague. He is tall and handsome. His shoulders droop a little and he is soft spoken. He chooses his words carefully and thoughtfully. I will enjoy working with him. Meeting the other attorney tomorrow for our initial strategy session. It appears that we have a lot to work out on how best to proceed.

It was hard to remain focused (exhaustion aside) when there is so much to take in even in the middle of the night. Beautiful people, women with baskets on their heads, drivers that put the Thais to shame (my vet friends know what I'm talking about), abject poverty. My hotel is in the middle of downtown surrounded by prostitutes and armed police. My room is, however, huge. And beset with roaches. Could be worse. I shared a bed with roaches in Prague. Maybe I convince them to bathe regularly, be mindful of my things, and we will all get along.

That's it for now. I have tomato juice and travel filth to rid myself of. I have been in the hotel long enough to write this (it's 2 AM here). Time for a shower and the real adventure to start tomorrow. I am, all in all, so thrilled to be here.