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Fear of the Unknown

Growing up in a rural town with a mere population of 800 people and with a graduating class of only 36 students, I was delayed from experiencing much of a range of diversity in both belief systems and culture. Within my town I observed vicious racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and homophobia. This intolerance was not a result of hate, but rather a lack of exposure. The majority of the population had lived in the town their whole lives, as had their parents and many generations before them. Experiencing first-hand the negative effects that a lack of exposure to diversity causes, I was able to see the nonsensical explanations that camouflaged the real reason of intolerance: the fear of the unknown.  

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There I stood at the airport with a passport in one hand, a suitcase in the other, and my mother passively-aggressively whispering in my ear. Her attempts at dissuading me from stepping onto the plane and to simply return to the car were futile. You could not really blame her. After all, even my advisor attempted to deter my plans by exhibiting a collage of car bombs, mass graves, and faces of stoic police officers. I was the first of my family to leave the country, nonetheless, go to Africa. To be honest, I was a little terrified myself as scenes of Blood Diamond and Hotel Rwanda played through my mind.  

I would be living in Nairobi, Kenya, a country with a reputation of bloodshed, engulfed by poverty and consumed by corruption. What the media often excludes from their reports is that it is also a place filled with timeless traditions, brotherhood, triumph, and endless potential. This depiction was rarely included in the time leading up to my departure, but I quickly detected it as I immersed myself in the country.  

There is a saying that circulates endlessly in Kenya: Hakuna haraka katika Afrika. There is no hurry in Africa. Even if you are running late, have previous responsibilities to fulfill, or simply do not have the time, you make time for the people around you. Each engagement is genuine and each moment is embraced as irreplaceable. Though this may sound romanticized or idealistic, it is simply a way of life. This unfamiliar cultural behavior led me to engage in deeper conversations with my new-found community and gain an overall deeper understanding of the Kenyan culture.  

Within months, the air shifted. The presidential election was nearing, and tensions were increasing. In the previous election, violence broke out due to rooted ethnic tension exacerbated by political corruption. There was discussion of the entire country closing as a precaution to the anticipated repeat of violence. As businesses and schools closed, I purchased the next bus ticket to Tanzania. After a few days, the election had passed, and the ballots were not expected to be counted for many days. There was not any news of the predicted conflict, so I had decided to return to Kenya.  

After many uninterrupted hours on the ride home, the bus came to a sudden halt. There was a large cluster of cars in front of us. Many had disregarded the asphalt highway and had driven on the sidewalk and the dirt, in attempts to go around the unknown barrier. The sounds of drivers blaring their horns relentlessly filled the air. As we inched closer to the blockade, we began to see a mob forming with their arm raised in the air and shouting words that were unheard to us. The faces of the passengers beside me showed fear and I gripped my friend’s hand in reaction. Were the results of the election announced? Was this the beginning of the anticipated violence? Were the predictions of my advisor and mother coming true? Was I about to become tomorrow’s newspaper headline: American Dead in Kenyan Riot? 

Within minutes, we began to see that they were not rioting, but rather they were celebrating the appointment of a local candidate. They were not raising their hands in anger, but rather they were raising their hands in praise for God answering their prayers. I allowed my preconceived notions of Kenya conceal the Kenya that I had come to know and love. Even though I had only positive previous experiences, I allowed my own ignorance to construct this fear. I vowed to not let this happen again.   

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Through experiences such as these I affirmed my belief that I do not want to limit myself by erecting boundaries based on fear. I continue to challenge my belief system by immersing myself in diverse communities and legal experiences. Since then, I have participated in the Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reform Project in Sri Lanka; studied human rights law at the University of London; and submitted legal trainings to the United Nations (UN). Through these experiences, I have developed valuable intercultural competency and communication. I have become highly adaptive to unfamiliar environments, which has led me to achieve goals despite ambiguity. Because I am not quick to pass judgments, I am able to establish rapport effectively.  

My intention is to bring these skills and ideals to your case. Whether it be an international case under the Hague Convention on Child Abduction or a divorce case in Chatham, Fulton, Cobb, Gwinnett or Forsyth Counties, The Manely Firm is here to provide you with representation that has proven successes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  

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