22 February 2007


I realized that I haven't posted many (any?) pictures of my summer in Liberia, because my computer crashed in the middle of the summer and I didn't have the cd with the software for the camera, so nothing got downloaded until fall, when my friends at technical support replaced the motherboard and my other friends at the computer support center got rid of all the viruses.

Now I'm ready to post pictures and I feel this huge pressure: what am I going to post?

I guess, unable to please everyone who might happen here looking for photos of Liberia, I have to start somewhere and I think I'm going to start with Buchanan, just because that set of photos includes one of my favorites that keeps passing through the screensaver.

On the way to Buchanan, I was so delighted to get out of Monrovia and into something nature-like that I took profuse photos of the bamboo covering the road (in very bad condition after 17 years of not being fixed), but they all turned out fuzzy. So, you don't get one. Oh, maybe rainforest:

When we got to Buchanan, after pleasantries and finding a hotel at Otis Spot, we took a walk and saw such lovely things as the view from our old porch:

That blackened thing used to be the garage/storeroom/carport, by the way.

For some reason, I love Bossman's Workshop. He fixes wheelbarrows. Or bikes? I can't remember. I think wheelbarrows, because there is one in the workshop.

Little people (and their moms) either love us:

Or fear us:

Even if she has Stone Cold on her shirt.

We walked to one of the Fanti Towns (Small Fanti Town? Little Fanti Town? The smaller one):

Sunday morning before church, I walked back up behind Otis Spot, past Christian High, to the river and back. I shook hands gravely with a houseful of blind people who all wanted to touch me. I got scared by a dog (ever since Zulu bit me in Rwanda in 2005 I've been a little "scary" of dogs, as Liberians would say). And this little boy, since he couldn't run after me, called me over and made me take pictures of him:

After church we drove through LAMCO and took lots of pictures next to a tugboat that looked like something had taken a bite out of the back end of it (ignore the peacekeeper in too-small swim shorts. He's from Banbatt or Pakbatt or something):

Formerly known as a restaurant:

Finally, my screensaver inspiration photo. This is the old LAMCO railroad from Buchanan to Yekepa. I remember riding on the train when I was very small, when the seats were all slippery red vinyl. When my dad and brother and I were in Buchanan in 2000, we saw men pushing a little cart up the tracks. We were told they push it up to Yekepa (Nimba County) and back as the only way to transport goods for sale. I don't know anything about the new Mittal Steel deal, but maybe someday trains will once gain run between Buchanan and Nimba. I would like to take that train again.

18 February 2007


Last Sunday, I came to school around 5:40 p.m. to do some reading and preparing for my always-crazy week. I stopped in the bathroom because I had just come from eating lunch and then having coffee with some friends and I did what I apparently do about every nine months: I dropped my phone in the toilet. At least this time I didn't watch it gurgle. My reflexes were a little better. I snatched it out and washed it and it was working perfectly until I took the battery out to dry out its little compartment and then it wouldn't come back on. For some reason, this made me frantic. Last May when I dropped my phone into a toilet, I was calm. I lived without a phone for a few days. This time I needed a new one. Immediately.

I ran ran ran over to the nearest store, which was to close at 7 p.m. What I wanted from them was not a new phone but a little screwdriver to open up the back of the phone and dry things out inside. The two behind the help counter looked at me blankly and said, "We don't open phones."

"But," I said, "surely you have a little screwdriver?"

The woman looked up my phone number and said, "You have insurance. You could get a new phone."

"Doesn't that still cost $50?" I asked. "Because I know this is New York and $50 may not seem like that much money to you, but it is a lot of money to me and if I can avoid paying it by fixing this phone, I would rather fix this one."

They kept looking at me without expression. "You could try [big chain store selling electronics]," the guy finally said. "I know they sell little screwdrivers."

I ran to the big electronics store, where multiple people informed me they sell nothing like little screwdrivers. I tried a drugstore. Then I went back to the phone store, where I am afraid I was slightly testy because I felt like they had sent me to the chain store just to get rid of me. "They do not sell little screwdrivers at [big chain store selling electronics]." I told the man.

He looked at me blankly. This blankness is a particular talent of customer (dis)service in New York and it is infuriating. Maddening.

Essentially, I had to get a new phone. I was eligible for a free one because my contract was up, so I got a new one. It can be returned within 15 days.

When I got home, I put the old one on the heater. After a day or two, it started working again.

Unfortunately, I love the new phone. I had always hated the old one. It was the cheapest one they had and I bought it at full retail price after the previous phone-in-toilet fiasco. The menus on it were terribly illogical and the display was hideous. I kind of want to keep the new free one.

But as I was walking to school today for (once again) studying and preparing for the insanity of the next week, I started thinking about how disposable things are here. In Liberia last summer, I broke my sandal and instead of throwing it away, I gave it to someone in the office, who took it off somewhere and reappeared an hour later with a fixed sandal. My phone stopped working and I bought a new one, but I gave the old one to a coworker, who got it fixed for $10 and then had a phone. I miss being in a place where people bother to fix things that break.

15 February 2007

some people call this "weather"

The news told us there was a huge storm coming and on Tuesday night it said things like, "Coming up, we tell you which roads will likely be closed for the morning commute tomorrow." The alleged huge storm turned out to be three inches, if that, of snow over 18 hours. That is not a storm, that is winter. Mild winter, at that. If I can see two blocks during the raging-est of the snow, it's not a storm.

I have disappeared from here lately, mostly because I tend to blog when:
1. I'm bored
2. I have something to say.

Right now I am too busy to be bored and I have nothing to say. I think lots of things all the time, but they disappear when I have ten minutes in front of a computer.

So, let's see... random notes.

I finally made it to the elusive Ethiopian restaurant and it was as amazing as I had hoped. I remembered why I love Ethiopian food. Flavorful and tasty, compared to the bland, salty nast they have been trying to give me at the old place. Hm. I need to go back. Too bad it's quite a trek to the Lower East Side.

I judge my level of weariness every day by how hard it is to walk up the subway steps at school. On good days, I don't even notice the steps. On tired days, I make it up four or five of them and then slow down and drag one leg at a time up the rest. On really tired days, the only reason I don't stop in the middle is because how embarrassing would that be?

I have 39 hours of things to do per week before any studying or extra meetings. Usually there are extra meetings. I have no days off (other than weekends, during which I try to do as much of my studying as possible) and I seldom get home before 9 p.m. My roommate regards my schedule with horror. But the real question is: HOW AM I EVER GOING TO HAVE TIME TO LOOK FOR A JOB? Answer: I won't. Which is a problem, because I have loans equivalent to a mortgage to pay back.

I'm babysitting this semester for the most adorable baby in the world, who is six and a half months old. I have to drag myself out of bed some mornings to go hang out with him but then he grins and grabs my hair and stuffs it in his mouth and all is well with the world. Kids are like that. I come home exhausted and mangled - legs all trembly-tired from walking oddly to rock him to sleep, scratches on my face from his little fingernails, arms numb from holding him, back aching from the baby bjorn carrier, spit-up on my clothes - and fall in a heap on the floor (okay, bed, usually) and S says, "Why do you DO that babysitting?" and I can only answer that for someone who likes kids, like I do, hanging out with a little person reminds me that there is something other than academics and theory to the world. Plus I've fallen madly in love with the little guy. Here is this very small person with so much personality and force of will even though he cannot talk, sit (almost!), walk, or eat on his own. I mean, he gets around by rolling. And yet his smiles make me smile, every time, and when he cries I want to cry, too, unless I can comfort him, which is even better. I can see why people have kids (not that I ever couldn't see, but you know).

Speaking of theory, I've been longing lately for the ever-so-much-less theoretical social justice crowd I knew in undergrad. I'm taking all these human rights classes and doing a human rights internship and what I keep thinking is (big confession coming up): ... Actually, even on a semi-anonymous space, I can't say what I keep thinking. Because I need a job someday. Ask me in person if you know me. As I sit in class, though, talking about the responsibilities of governments to respect, protect and fulfill human rights obligations and about complaints to be filed under the optional protocols of treaties at the UN level, I can't help wondering how this all got so far removed from what is actually happening. What happened to the days when we campaigned for free trade coffee on campus so that farmers could feed their families instead of getting screwed by big coffee companies? I miss those days.

I think the point is that, despite law school, I'm still a development girl at heart. I would rather be open about the solutions - enlist anyone who can help with getting more schools in a country, for example - than spend my time trying to make a legal argument that the country is under an international legal obligation to provide more schools. Quite frankly, I find it boring. And I miss the way that the social justice people in college tried to involve everyone, persuade all of us to change our lives to change lives around the world. When did it all get so detached?

08 February 2007

in which i want to go everwhere

I want to go everywhere. Currently, my top choices after law school (not by jobs, just by country):

1. Liberia
2. Cambodia (no idea why)
3. Sudan
4. Sri Lanka (again, no idea why)
5. Somewhere else in Africa
6. Somewhere else in Asia
7. Somewhere in Latin America
8. Oklahoma (because I just read a great article about preschool there)
9. Las Vegas (because I just overheard a guy talking about living there)
10. Mississippi (because my friend was talking about it the other day)

It's clear that I have no idea where I want to be. I just want to be there, wherever it is, and have a job. A job. Money coming in instead of always always going out.

My arms hurt.

"What if it all means something... I want to know." (ck)

01 February 2007

blog boycotting

I feel no impetus to say anything lately, despite the fact that New York is still New York and therefore crazy things happen. Yesterday, for example, S and I had agreed to finally go try this Ethiopian restaurant on the Lower East Side because the one we've gone to before is deteriorating rapidly. The doro wat is now so salty that I can't eat it. And the injera is bad - all thick and bunchy. I hung out with enough Ethiopians in Rwanda - and Tanzania - and Kenya - to know bad injera when I see it. And am forced to eat it. We were going to go to this place called Ghenet on Mulberry and Houston that got great reviews on citysearch. I was massively excited. I love Ethiopian food.

So we got to Mulberry and walked down the block and saw... nothing. No Ethiopian restaurant. There was, however, a movie shooting on the block. Movie shootings annoy me because they do things like (last year) close off the playground so they can film with it as a background and then refuse to allow normal kids into the playground. Only the EXTRAS can go onto the playground. Because somehow they play better than regular kids? Would it kill them to have regular kids on the regular playground in the background? We had to go to the baby playground instead, which is not fun with a four year old. The swings are too small.

Anyway. Ghenet. I walked through the movie set as if it belonged to me because it is a street and I live here, people. Why should I not be allowed to walk down a street? But there was no sign of the restaurant. Not on that block and not (in case we were mistaken) on the next block. Finally we went back to the movie set, where they were now annoyingly filming so we could not walk through, and asked someone if he knew where Ghenet was. He said they were in fact filming in Ghenet. There was no Ghenet. We were barely outside of Little Italy, but said movie felt a need to close down our Ethiopian restaurant, rename it an Italian restaurant, and film in it. Why not just use an Italian restaurant? Would it kill them? And on the one day that we wanted to eat there and made the trek there. The guy we asked about the restaurant tried to convince us to go to his family's restaurant which serves "authentic Southern Californian Mexican food" (wait, what?) and then said, "I thought they didn't eat in Ethiopia, anyway. No food, right?" S was proud of me for not hitting him over the head right then, but I gave him the glare. He knew. He knew he was in danger.