23 December 2005

being done with exams is almost as good as this

Okay, not QUITE, because this is the sun rising over the Indian Ocean as seen from Bwejuu, Zanzibar and the happiness of being in Bwejuu, Zanzibar is hard to beat, ever, but, you know, it's good. Really good.

bliss, bliss, and more bliss

~ two movies in one night

~ drinking at 2 in the afternoon after an exam (and I almost never drink)

~ reheated doro wat and vanilla coke

~ tea without schoolbooks in front of me

~ baking Christmas cookies with the kiddos

~ discovery of free stealable wireless in my apartment (this is new)

~ walking past school and not having to go in

~ browsing in stores

~ everything right now

22 December 2005

it's finally sinking in...



There is nothing that I should be doing right now. Well, there's always something. But nothing immediate. I'm deciding what to do next with this beautiful freedom.


It's not a very nice feeling to start Christmas break thinking, "um... maybe I did fail professional responsiblity."

21 December 2005


Okay. I'm on the last exam. Well, studying for it. So far none has been as bad as I feared, except the unendingness of the evidence exam. And the sheer BOREDOM. But this one is 141 true/false and if you get one wrong you get a NEGATIVE point. Like the SAT. And we have to pass it to graduate (it's professional responsibility). You would think that would make it important but professional responsibility is not ethics. Not at all. In fact, sometimes the rules of professional responsibility mean you have to do things that feel unethical to maintain the trust relationship between clients and lawyers.

Much anxiety has been alleviated by the realization that he only gave one F last year. I know, clinging to small hopes. My goal is not to be the F. Good goal, huh?

20 December 2005

another thing i should remember by this age

If one starts the day by drinking the free coffee from North Fork bank* and follows it up with drinking a cup of tea (both procrastination measures), one will probably have to pee really badly right about the time one takes out the books and opens the file that contains the outline. And then all will be disrupted again.

* I chose this bank because it looked friendlier than the others, which has been born out, and then persuaded them that it was a good idea to give me a free checking account even though they don't offer one unless you have direct deposit from your job and I don't have a job, and it turns out to have been a great choice because, first of all, they are nice, and secondly, they have this amazing little machine that makes you coffee - you just choose a little container that looks like a bigger creamer (I chose hazelnut) and put it into the drawer and push the button and coffee comes out the bottom and if you open the little drawer afterwards THE LITTLE CONTAINER IS GONE. Where'd it go? (Yes, of course I opened the little drawer afterwards to see what had happened. What did you expect? I would have opened it while it was making the coffee to see how it worked if it would have let me.)

18 December 2005

what i wish i was doing

My friend AMS left for Burkina Faso today to visit her sister. They are going to the coast in Ghana to the beach, also. So when I talked to her yesterday, she had two visas in her passport and was getting ready to leave. And I kept shivering with jealousy. Every few minutes I would suddenly say, "I wish I was going to Burkina Faso!"

I wish I was doing anything but sit here wishing I could rediscover my studying momentum. My momentum has left me before my exams are over. But I've been studying every day for three weeks and now it's just... gone. I'm mentally through with this semester, but no one has told the school that it is inhuman to schedule exams for the 22nd of December, thus ruining everyone's Christmas because they can't leave here until at least the 23rd. Jerks.

I used to imagine, when I left Rwanda, that when I had a school-year schedule I would get home in time to trim the tree and make Christmas cookies. NOT IF THE LAW SCHOOL HAS ANYTHING TO SAY ABOUT IT. Oh, no. I will never get to make a Christmas cookie again if they have their way. If they have their way, I will immediately be shuttled into a $144,000 a year job which will require me to work 100 hour weeks even over Christmas. But they shall not succeed. After I finish the sixth of the nightmares that are law school exam weeks, I will find some lovely, low-paying job that leaves me time to make cookies. And the law school will never get a penny from me unless it is to find a way to help students from low-income (and by low-income in this setting, I mean anything under, say $75,000 a year) afford housing. Because I have some anger about how much they charge for housing. And when they end exams.

End of today's rant.

i would just like to share with the world

that i am wearing black knee socks with my tennis shoes, because they were the only clean socks i had. plus my jeans are really long so no one can see, anyway. but at least my socks are clean.

16 December 2005

MUST stop procrastinating.

The exam sits in front of me. I frantically read inapplicable things. When it shouldn't be that hard. But I'm all seized up with halfway-through-exams-I'm-not-going-to-make-it-to-the-end worries.

Must. Calm. Self.

at least i'm not this person, part 2

Okay, so the update: apparently, this was sent out more in the way of a survey than a complete lack of knowledge. There were two dates listed for the final and there was no consensus on which day was real.

And when I said that I was glad not to be that person... it was not intended to mean, "at least I'm not this disorganized" (because I probably am), but sheer relief at the fact that I've at least started preparing for my exams.

On second thought, maybe I'm jealous of this person who is so relaxed about the exams that it doesn't matter when he has to take them.

I cannot, just cannot get started on human rights. I loved the class but putting it all together at the end has devolved into tears several times. I can't bear the thought of trying to make sense on an exam.

15 December 2005

at least i'm not this person

seen on the law school exchange listserve:

"What day is our final? Thanks."

study or not, here they come

I must must must take my human rights final tomorrow (yet another 24 hour take home), but I cannot bring myself to study. Here's the theory that has developed in my head: studying before a 24 hour take home is pointless. You spend an entire day studying a class, but then the exam only covers about 1/10th of the information. And since there is an entire day to write it and it usually doesn't take that long, save the evidence exam which knocked me over and kicked me in the abdomen and head several times, why study? Once you print out the exam and read the questions, you can study what you need to for a few hours, then write the answers. Perfect plan.

I like this plan all the more because I'm exhausted from the evidence exam combined with a morning occupational therapist appointment to which I dragged myself after four hours of sleep, only to find that they'd left me a message at 7:50 am (phone was on vibrate inside my backpack and I didn't hear it) telling me that the OT wouldn't be in. I could have kept sleeping. Which was fine as long as I was in their office, but when I got back to the waiting room, I collapsed into a chair and thought to myself, "I don't know if I can make it home."

I could only think in short stages, so I dragged myself home in stages, thinking only of the one immediately ahead, making the following stops to get out of the cold (each stop involved staring at nothing for a while and thinking about how I could possibly make it to the next possible stop):

1. waiting room (chair = too comfortable)
2. starbucks (peppermint hot chocolate + chair = too comforting)
3. bank (warmth = too tempting)
4. CVS (magazines through blinded eyes = too much mental effort)
5. home (stairs = too overwhelming)
6. bed (sleep = too perfect)

Then tonight there were free massages. FREE. MASSAGES. Only ten minutes long, but I arrived 45 minutes early and was the first person there. I would sell my ARM for a massage at this point in the semester. Preferably the right arm, which is the most painful anyway.

The thought of being done with this semester is a week is all that keeps me from falling over and sleeping on the wood floor of this cafe. That and the 2L pragmatism. See, the first year of law school is sheer panic at exam time. This second year, I've figured out that my grades are going to be what they are going to be and they aren't really going to affect my career since I don't want to work for a big firm that is picky about such things. And it's a B curve. The B is the predominant grade. I can live with a B. Actually, at this point, I could live with a B-. And I've done the outlines. I've read them over. I'll be fine. Just have to trudge on until one week from today.

And yet, when a professor sent out an email about reading we should do over Christmas break, I was a teeny tiny bit excited. The title will tell you why: The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics. Back to my international development roots. I so love law school. Most of the time.

14 December 2005

just as a favor. to me.

Please don't ever, ever commit a crime. Or produce any evidence. Or make a record of anything. Or talk to anyone, ever again. Or go anywhere. Or do anything. Just as a favor. Because any of it, somewhere, someday, could become evidence to torture some poor law student somewhere. So just... sit still. From now until the end of time. DON'T MOVE. Or even breathe.

In other news...

It's really sad when you get excited about getting an email at 1:45 am and it turns out to be the document you just emailed yourself so you can print it out at a public computer. Yeah. Good moment.

a slow and painful death

I am working on my evidence final. Let's put it this way: the words on the screen are all blurred together. I can't think. As I said to a friend of mine, "You know how we were so bored all semester that we wanted to run screaming from the room? I want to run screaming from this room where I'm sitting alone, writing my exam." We aren't allowed to talk about the exam, but I don't think "It's just as boring as class ever was." is giving anything away. So bored. So tired. Will this semester never be over?

I have a bed, somewhere in this city, and I wish I was in it. Or anywhere but staring at my screen for the 12th hour in a row, still getting nothing done.


That's what my evidence final looks like to me. That's what my evidence notes look like to me. All those words! Where did they come from? Do they have any meaning? I think I'm basing my answers mainly on the one season of Law & Order that I watched faithfully when I lived on Burton Street in the cute little apartment with the green carpet in the living room where in the morning I would flop down on the floor in front of the radio to turn it off so I could leave for school and then getting up was the hardest thing imaginable.

There is carpet in this room. I could lie down...

And there are three more finals after this. Why did I come to law school? And once I was here, why did I not listen to the people who told me to balance my exams and papers so I wouldn't have too many of either one? Why?

PS. I really meant it. Yeah, you know what I mean.

13 December 2005

i should know better

I should know better than to read the international news when I should be studying. The result, generally, is that I read or see something like the video I just saw, about famine in Southern Africa, and how little the rest of the world cares, and then I'm angry and sad and studying just doesn't seem to matter so much anymore.

12 December 2005

shhhhh! do not disturb

I am taking an exam. Yes, right now. Taking. Exam.

It's going okay.

Hakuna shida.
Nta kibazo.
Pas de probleme.

Only a bit more thinking and then some revision...

08 December 2005

it's like a funny joke, but not

I went to the occupational therapist today for the alleged carpal tunnel syndrome that wasn't. Oh, no, it's actually GOLF ELBOW. Golf. I once swung a golf club in my grandma's yard when my uncle Tim was showing me how. That was over ten years ago. Probably twelve. Or thirteen. So one might ask, "HOW CAN YOU HAVE GOLF ELBOW?" Yes, I asked that. There's no answer. It's just an injury. Which apparently you can get even if you have never ever played golf or even WANTED to play golf.

I have it in both arms and what you are supposed to do to fix it is rest the arms. So there are all these things about ergonomic chairs and not ever typing again (and buying a keyboard which is not a laptop, laptops apparently spelling instantaneous death for your arms) and occupational therapy which for the first few weeks sounds suspiciously like sitting in a room with heat and then ice on my arm (I can do that at home, people) but is fortunately free because it occurs at the health center and I have the university insurance which covers basically everything that can occur at the health center. So, okay. So far.

The bad parts are these:

1. Lots of people end up needed surgery for this. Which I'm okay with, as long as I can watch. If I'm going to get chopped open or at least have little holes drilled in my arm, I at least want to see it happening. So if it ever comes to that, I'm only allowing surgery if I can watch.

2. To rest your arms, you are supposed to keep them straight at the elbows. She might have to make me splints to wear at night to keep my arms straight while I sleep. These would go from above my elbows down to my hands. Now, can you picture this? Because I can, and it looks rather like this:

Thank you, show.me.uk for a non-scary photo of a mummy WITH ARMS STUCK STRAIGHT OUT. Yes, this is going to be me.

07 December 2005



i just can't get it all done.

06 December 2005

sometimes all you need is some goo goo dolls, preferably loudly

how can the world want me to change?
they're the ones that stay the same
they don't know me
cause i'm not here
they can't tell me who to be
cause i'm not what they see
the world is still sleeping
while i keep on dreaming for me
and the words are just whispers
and lies that i'll never believe
i'm still here
Actually, the word democratic didn't even go there. I made it up, apparently. And then completely misspelled it.

i'm losing it

In the last three minutes, I have caught myself (rather, the spell-checker has caught me) attempting to pass off the following as sensible:

1. combatible then combatable instead of compatible

2. demogratic instead of democratic

They were in the same SENTENCE, actually.

Exams. No good.

05 December 2005


What you are about to read on the last posting on this blog has been posted more than three years after the events described. What can I say? I didn't have a blog then.

arriving in Kigali

on the drive to Kibuye

the view from my porch, aka why did I move to New York again?

no contest

Of course I should be studying human rights but I'm still flush with the victory of getting my evidence outline done and understanding most of it plus human rights is this really nebulous course that's hard to get started organizing, so I'm thinking of another story of Africa... Okay.

I went Rwanda for the first time at the end of October, 2002. It was also the first time I had gone to Africa by myself and I was thinking, expecting, in terms of chaos more of Liberia, whose airport is utter chaos and less of Nairobi, whose airport is normal traveling chaos. So I was a bit nervous.

Every time I fly through Amsterdam now on my way to East Africa, I think of that first time, when I was almost crying as I left Oom Cees and Tante Dieneke after an afternoon at their house and headed to a far-off terminal for the Kenya Airways flight. It always leaves from some remote place like the F terminal. In fact, I'm pretty sure it is the F terminal, at the end of a long hallway that seems almost certain to go nowhere at all until suddenly a few gates emerge going places like Nairobi and Bangalore on airlines that are not KLM and so get relegated out there. There is little to do in this terminal but the first time I got a shamefully bad hot chocolate (the Dutch need to look into this, seriously. It's a disgrace) and sat there thinking, "This might be my last hot chocolate for a while. And it's bad." Ah, the mental melodrama. It's embarrassing how at that point I thought of Rwanda as the end of the earth.

Unfortunately, because I had not been able to figure out how to call ahead and get seats, I was stuck on an aisle for an overnight flight. (Later, I would just call the Rwanda office of Kenya Airways from the US. The New York and London offices are worthless.) So I sat up miserably while the girl next to me slept peacefully against a window. In Nairobi, on a seven hour layover, I naively followed the signs to the transit lounge and slept, probably drooling, with my head on a table and my backpack straps wrapped around my feet (oh, I was prepared. No one was going to rob me.). I also ate a nasty greasy doughnut for breakfast because it's all the little cafe had. It's tragic, really, that I was so unaware. There is a perfectly nice coffee shop selling good coffee and sandwiches and muffins with CNN on the tv and windows to the outdoors and booths that you can relax in down at Gate 14 but I didn't know that until months later.

It's always fun to know, as something is happening, that it is a defining moment in your life, and I knew it when I got on the plane to Kigali. I finally had a window seat and it was midday in Africa, finally warm, and as the plane crossed Lake Victoria and headed over a swath of Tanzania, I could scarcely contain my excitement. In fact, I never could quite contain my excitement on that flight, even when I was only coming from a week of meetings in Nairobi. The woman sitting behind me was explaining to her seatmate that you can tell when the plane is over Rwanda when the houses begin to appear in neat rows of new tin roofs - all the rebuilding after the genocide is remarkably orderly. The landscape gets darker green and hillier and then the plane lands on a neat runway that is, I just saw on a satellite photo, nearly half as long as the city is wide.

The first day is a bit of a blur, although I remember that immigration and customs were no problem and the entire office was waiting for me and Jack and Elly asked me, on the way to the office, whether I could drive a stick, because the Prado had a manual transmission.

The next day, we drove to Kibuye. It is a drive whose beauty cannot really be described, all sharp curves around rich green mountains and deep green valleys and children waving at every passing car, but I get car sick and I definitely get carsick in the back seat on a drive like that. Most everyone gets carsick on that drive. The minibuses leave a trail of tied up plastic bags of puke that you have to try to avoid when driving or you'll get it all over your tires.

About 15 km from Kibuye, long after Lake Kivu had begun appearing on some curves, sunlight winking off the water in the distance, islands dark shapes with no sparkle, Jack got in the back seat and let me drive. And so, the first time I came up around the curve to suddenly find myself at Kibuye's only roundabout, the first time I drove up the hill past the Friday market, the first time I saw the sharp downward turn to my house that required quite a bit of skill to manuever, I was driving the Prado. Later, I would know that truck better than any other vehicle, exactly how it would handle mud or slippery pavement and precisely how much space it required to get between two obstacles, but the first day, it was all new to me. And nervewracking. Here I was with Jack and Elly, this retired couple who knew the country and the work and EVERYTHING and I knew nothing whatsoever and I was terrified that I would stall the truck or crash it or something.

Which I didn't. Fortunately.

I really miss that Prado.

04 December 2005

one of my many attempts to capture the color of the water in the most beautiful town in the world


When I woke up and looked out (contact-less) to a dim world, it took me a second to figure it out. It has finally snowed in New York. The curliques on the fire escape outside my window were all covered in little shadows of snow.

Of course, by noon it was all melted and the streets are just slushy and wet. The problem with snow in New York is that it has nowhere to live. Every inch of space is used over and over every day.

Bye, snow.

03 December 2005

yay for Liberia

So I found blogs about Liberia. Very very exciting. I used to read obsessively about Liberia when I was in college but then I graduated and went to work and after a while to work just happened to be in Rwanda and the two years there were some of the best and worst and most interesting and most difficult years of my life (so far) and my obsession transferred and last summer all I wanted was to get back to Rwanda. I am a go-backer. Some people leave and move on. I go back. I need to go back. I went back to Rwanda and now I want to go back to Liberia and be a big kid there instead of depending on other people to arrange everything for me.

This is the thing about Liberia. I remember it as a backdrop for being a kid: the beaches were for playing in the waves, the roads were for riding bikes, the markets were for buying marbles. And we lived in Buchanan which, let me just say, has to be one of the most boring second-biggest cities in the country in the entire world. Not that Kibuye, Rwanda was any better (although smaller, I think). And touristy. Ish. For Rwanda, anyway.

But when I read Kevin's blog, I realize that Liberia could actually be, well, fun. I realize that this is possibly akin to heresy in the hardy Protestant missionary community in which I experienced Liberia, but I'm excited. In my head, Liberia is something completely different from Rwanda or Uganda or Kenya or Tanzania. I think of East Africa as an entirely different, far more developed version of Africa. And it might be more developed - think sour gummy worms at Shop Rite and good dish soap at Uchumi, think movies at the Sarit Centre and chana batura at Garden City Mall, think movies twice in two days in Nairobi and BMWs in rows in Arusha, think perfect roads in Rwanda and upcoming wireless access everywhere in the country. But I'm getting the impression that Monrovia (where I've actually spent very few days of my life and in recent memory none except one horribly hot night at CHAL in 2000) might just have enough NGO and UN people (war does that) to have decent restaurants and a few things to do at night. The key is finding them. Not that decent restaurants and things to do at night make a country. Kibuye had pretty much nothing except the guesthouse and our NGO gatherings on Thursday nights and there were many nights when I lay on my couch reading by candlelight and thought, "What is there to DO here?" But I still loved it.

Just that Liberia might not really be all that different. Except hotter. The good restaurants in livinginliberia.com are all air-conditioned, unlike Rwanda where every single restuarant is open to the air and you have to bring warm sweatshirts or freeze (people say that it's not that cold, but trust me, it's cold. I often wore a long-sleeved shirt and a fleece and was painfully cold while around me the very strange people wore t-shirts).

Okay, story: the Kibuye Guesthouse was the only thing of note in Kibuye and now it's closed because the owner didn't have enough money to make the upgrades necessary to fit into the grand plan for tourism development in Kibuye. It's tragic, really. The little cabanas are going to be replaced by some horrible tall hotel with a pool. When the lake is swimmingly right there. But anyway. The Kibuye Guesthouse was classic in that it rarely had the stuff on the menu. Regular ordering food scenario:

Friend = "I'll have an omelette simple."

Server = "We have no eggs today."

F = "Okay, I'll have two beef brochettes."

S = "No beef today."

F = "Well, then, I'll have a salad."

S = "No salad today."

F = "Fine, a fillet of tilapia a l'ail."

Server goes off to kitchen. Forty-five minutes later the table next to us, which arrived after us, gets four plates of fish. Ten minutes after that, the server returns.

S = "No fish today."

F = "What do you have today?"

S = "We have goat brochettes."

F = "I'll have that. Anything. Anything edible. Bring the goat live and I'll eat it, I'm so hungry."

Meanwhile, I ordered grated carrots, chopped green peppers and chips (S = "No peppers today"), which arrived with undercooked chips (I sent back every plate of chips three to five times a week for a year before they started coming the right way) and carrots garnished with the green pepper they supposedly didn't have.

02 December 2005

the problem with studying on Friday night

is that there is nothing to distract me save what I create for myself. There are, for example, no emails coming in. Usually I can at least count on the law school exchange listserve for some amusement. A few hours ago, for example, someone sent out an email urgently asking for a sample outline (we make outlines to prepare for exams) for a first year class that, erm, doesn't have an exam. Someone did not read the syllabus. Or pay attention. Ever. Which is funny, because he's so overachieving that he's getting ready for an exam that does not exist but usually those are the very people who read the syllabus and pay attention in class.


I'm tempted to just post a whole bunch of pictures because, well, I figured out how. And I like advertising Africa and I have some amazing photos of Africa. But I always find it boring when people post one miiiiiillion photos on their blogs, so I won't.

Yesterday I sent in all my stuff for a scholarship that had to be postmarked by yesterday and most of it was fine and my references were fine and all was on time, but at the last minute (that would be Wednesday afternoon, while babysitting) I realized that when they said, "cumulative college transcript" they probably did not mean, as I had assumed, my undergraduate transcript but college and law school. The application is for people all the way from high school up to grad school, so the instructions get a bit confusing.

Yesterday morning I went to the Registrar's Office at the law school and filled out a form for an official transcript, but they told me it would take five to seven days and I could send in an unofficial one pending the sending of the official one and the two women behind the counter were glued to their computer screens and had no time or patience for me, so I left, but then I started thinking, sitting in class, and what I thought was this:

There has to be some way to get around this.

One of the side effects of having been female, blonde (enough), and young in Africa is that I no longer believe that the rules apply to me. Well, the RULES I believe apply to me, but not the rules, the bureaucratic nonsense that controls so much of our lives. Now that I think about it, there are other reasons for this belief I have, but they are more boring. Anyway, I learned in Rwanda that, for example, it's not strictly necessary to actually possess all the documents that you are supposed to have (and, conversely, that actually possessing all the documents you are supposed to possess will not necessarily be enough - there will always be more they can ask for). And those rules about where you are supposed to be allowed to go and what you are supposed to be allowed to do? I would say more but I might incriminate all the nice people who've helped me out.

Just so you know, I never paid a bribe of any sort to get around the rules. Mostly I got around rules through a strategy that I like to call, "Give people a chance to use their power for good, not for evil." That is, by helping me. There is usually someone in every bureaucracy who has the power to do things a bit differently than they are usually done.

So yesterday, when I needed a transcript immediately, I took matters into my own hands. I went to the regular registrar (not the law school) and asked them and they told me to call the main processing center, which I did and described the situation for the woman in such a way that she could best show her power through good and not evil and one fax later she was calling me honey and printing out my transcript and bringing it to the mailbox herself to make sure it was postmarked Dec. 1. There are, after all, really really nice people who are also trapped working for the horrible bureaucracies (which I can only imagine is even worse than trying to get the horrible bureaucracies to work for you).

I miss the days of my undergrad college, where I think I still owe them about $20 for transcripts they've sent out but they still keep sending them out for me and where once when I couldn't get the fax machine to work to fax the request, the nice lady just asked me lots of questions to prove my identity and then faxed the transcript to me.

Any sensible person would tell me, "You need to learn to deal with the consequences of your actions and get this stuff done on time." And I will, I will. But in the meantime, it's nice to have some people who will help me out of messes of my own creation.