30 June 2007

Job! Need a job!

It becomes exhausting to have to explain over and over and over exactly what it is that I want to do with this law degree and then explain over and over and over exactly why it is that I don't have a job in which to do what I want to do with this law degree. Everyone at my dad's uncle's anniversary open house thinks it's wonderfully amazingly fantastic that I just graduated from law school. But then they want to know what I'm going to DO. As the open house went on, I drowned my growing despair about having no idea what I'm going to do in two pieces of cake and some ice cream. Also some pink punch with sherbet on top. The problem was that I didn't even like the cake, but I finished both pieces. It's very unfortunate to be eating a piece of cake and thinking, "This cake is not that great. Why am I eating it?" and then keep eating it. I felt sort of sick after all that cake in lieu of lunch.

The kids across the street are shooting off fireworks, but they don't appear to be very good at aiming them, with the result that they tend to explode on our front sidewalk. If they kill the flowers my mom and I just planted along the sidewalk with tender loving care and rich new dirt from the bottom of the compost pile, I will have to march over there myself and be the angry adult. (Me! The angry adult! It's like a bad joke.)

I paper-cut the tip of my index finger. The sensation as I type feels alarmingly like the numbness of my pinky when the golf elbow is acting up. Strange.

I can't really think of another nice wrap-it-up thing to end this. It's going to have to dangle.

29 June 2007

quote of the day

“Africa is a lovely place - much lovelier, more peaceful and more resilient and, if not prosperous, innately more self-sufficient than it is usually portrayed. But because Africa seems unfinished and so different from the rest of the world, a landscape on which a person can sketch a new personality, it attracts mythomaniacs, people who wish to convince the world of their worth.”

Paul Theroux, quoted here.

(thoughts coming later, i hope)


Note the new template, which I adapted MYSELF from a boring blogger one. I impress even myself.

long long ago, in a far away land

I would give anything right now for this blog post to be coming from somewhere other than the same old Michigan neighborhood. The world is so beautiful that it hurts me. I want to be in it, instead of watching it go by.

The sky is Rwanda-blue and I'm sitting on the porch of my parents' house like I used to sit on my stone patio in the mornings in Rwanda. Every morning, I made two slices of toast in the frying pan from wheat bread with sesame seeds on the top, purchased at the Baguette in Kigali (I had to learn how to say, "the bread with the little seeds on top, sliced" in order to buy it), and put gouda cheese from Amsterdam on one slice and chocolate sprinkles from Amsterdam on the other. I made tea with lots of powdered milk (full fat; I told myself it was okay because it was the only way I got milk) and lots of sugar. I sat out on the patio every morning facing the lake, eating my toast, moving my tea periodically to keep it out of reach of the ants, and hoping that no one showed up to ask me questions about work until at least 9 a.m., when I started work.

The rest of the country started work at 7 a.m., because the government work hours were 7-3:30, but given that I worked out of my living room most of the time and often kept working until late in the evening, I figured I could pick the hours I wanted to work, and the hours I wanted to work were 9-5 and then whatever I needed in the evening. The problem was that because the government workers and our partner organizations started at 7 a.m., they would sometimes show up at my house at 7, ready to see some goats. But because they didn't make an appointment or alert me in any way that they were going to pick that day to show up at 7 a.m. at my door, I would still be asleep and they would end up calling the guy who worked in my office, who would call me in a panic telling me they were there and ready to go, and I would say, "I'll be ready at 9. If they want to go earlier, they can warn me in advance next time." (In fairness, I have to say that it was hard to notify people in advance. I always stopped in the day before to notify. But I had a car.) And then I would go back to sleep until 8 and be ready to meet them at 9, and we would spend the day climbing mountains to visit little goat stables and ask their owners how healthy the goats were keeping these days.

As I sat on my patio every morning in Rwanda, I would look up at the blue of the sky and feel the breeze and think, "This is the most beautiful place in the world." Michigan right now has the same weather, the same sky, but it's missing the mountains and the clear blue lake right at my feet. I think Rwanda still wins.

27 June 2007

back to my roots

I grew up in the city, once we moved back to Michigan from Liberia. We lived in the kind of neighborhood where the community center offers free lunch in the summer because most of the kids in the neighborhood get free lunch at school and might not eat in the summer, otherwise. We lived in the kind of neighborhood where a girl who had been beaten up by drug dealers two streets over knocked on our door at 4 a.m. because ours was the only light on - my dad is diabetic and had gotten up to get something to eat. My brother got beaten up in our yard. We had to design a lock for the basketball hoop. Some of my sister's friends weren't allowed to spend the night there because it was too dangerous. That kind of neighborhood. I loved it.

My parents don't live there anymore. The year I graduated from college, they moved to a neighborhood that I like to describe as Boring, U.S.A. Today I went on a rant about how those frosted, elaborate door panels in ugly flowers and shapes do not actually make your little vinyl-sided basic ranch house look more expensive. They just make it look mismatched.

Vinyl (bland) + frosted door panels (attempt at (cheap) luxury) = hideous.

That's the kind of neighborhood this one is. I, who have no sense of style, could do it better. But anyway, it's in the middle of cornfields, this neighborhood (because why leave a perfectly good cornfield as corn! Let's put up little ranch houses with no trees around them! They can roast in the summer and require ridiculous amounts of energy to cool with the central air that everyone will be using because there is no shade! Not that I'm bitter.)

We live in this suburban, safe, nightmare now, but somewhere back there, on my mom's side, were farmers. My mom's dad, Pops, used to have a big garden in which, every summer, my mom would force us to labor for hours, picking strawberries, picking beans, picking... okay, all I remember is strawberries and beans. Anyway, for a girl who grew up in: 1. Liberia, and 2. the inner city, I find it hilarious that my mom and I frequently have the following conversation (parts are interchangeable):

Person 1: Corn's looking good this year.
Person 2: Yeah, it's nice and tall. Already more than knee-high. By the 4th, it will be shoulder high.
1: Assuming we get rain. It's looking a bit dry.
2: Yeah, it really needs to rain soon. It's looking good, but it's definitely dry.
1: I hope it rains soon, for the farmers. That corn needs some rain to keep it growing.

Who are these people? We should be wearing overalls and chewing on straw standing at the edge of the field. And we keep having this conversation over and over. Hopefully we can stop, because it finally rained today.

26 June 2007


I am something of a night owl. Given a choice, I want a 26 hour day. If I get my perfect amount of sleep (ten hours), I will go to bed two hours later every night. Unfortunately, the world does not conform itself to my ideal. Silly world. The result is that, at night, energized by having run around and around in circles of this neighborhood, dodging sprinklers and hoping that no one notices that I'm running on their lawns because the pavement is starting to hurt my knees, I prowl around online, talking to the only people I know who are either not taking the bar exam or not studying as they ought to be. I get my best job-applying done at these hours. I read the cover letters one more time and then can't care anymore and send them so I can go to bed.

I know that I'm delusional, but I expected to be heading out to a job right about now, despite not having applied as diligently as I ought to have. Today I faced the possibility that both of my backup options might fall through. It's a scary place to be. Working at a coffee shop is not going to pay off the law school loans, oh no. I worried for a while, and then I went back to the skirt that my mom and I are making (modeled on this reversible amazing wrap skirt I bought online, but this one is made of fabric I bought in Rwanda, which is even amazing-er), and kept working on it. And I moved some stones around in the front yard, because my mom is re-doing the flower beds. And I ran until I was exhausted.

I may not have a job, but I feel better, somehow, when I get something tangible done in addition to worrying and applying. I have a skirt. I have a flowerbed. I have tired legs. I can sleep, strangely okay with it all. I should be very, very afraid, but I'm only a little afraid. I feel... okay.

Given everything, that's enough.

25 June 2007

i have no idea

yeah, it turns out that if you push enter when you finish typing in the title? you post it. just the title. oops.

i'm here. and thinking. that's all. i have a boatload of emails to answer, and i want to answer them, and i need to get up and go somewhere, but in the meantime, i can only bring myself to do the simplest of life things:

i can wash my clothes and hang them on the line and then fold them later.

i can dig little holes and plant the white flowers with the pink centers.

i can sweep the sidewalk.

i can unpack a box (more electrical adaptors).

i can jog, and keep jogging.

i need the concreteness. i have decisions to make about career paths and countries, but my head goes round and round them, and ends up nowhere.

[3:55:05 AM] t says: you are smart. you will find a way
[3:55:22 AM] m says: sometimes smart only makes you overthink

(those times are wrong. my computer is still on liberia time. which should tell me one thing, at least.)

23 June 2007



So, I should write something. This feels like more of a chore than it ever has before. Usually I want to write things. But now writing, like so much of my life, feels frozen in time.

I've been gone for a while. I did a lot of driving, which hurt my poor golf elbow extremely a lot, and I encountered a lot of disastrous radio stations. From now on, I'm flying any distance over 5 hours of driving. Or if I drive, I'm doing it with at least one other person. On your own, it is not so fun.

Now I'm ready to leave Michigan. The US, really. I've had my little break, the month of June. I've explored some of this country (it was lovely, indeed). I've relaxed, so much that I'm having a hard time remembering what "work" means. Now I want to go back to Africa, specifically Liberia, and it's annoying me that the soonest I can do so is about two weeks from now, largely because I need a visa before I can get on a plane. Why, oh why, do they not sell them at the airport? All the cool countries are doing it! Rwanda? Kenya? Uganda? They do it!

Okay, the peer pressure is clearly not working. I have to wait at least a week before I leave so I can get the application all together (hopefully Monday), and overnight it to the Embassy and wait to get it overnighted back. And actually, who wants to go to a country that lets just anyone in, anyway? This shows discernment, this requiring of the application. (And, we US-ers deserve it, for what we put Liberians through in applying for our visas. I was in the US Embassy in Monrovia in 2000 and wanted to hide my head under my wing, if I had one, at the way the US staff were talking to Liberian visa applicants. I was embarrassed for them. The Embassy staff, I mean. I cringed at their rudeness. And their yelling. I would have fired them all if I were the Ambassador.)

Note that I still don't have a ACTUAL JOB. Ha. I've emailed the people I worked with last summer and hopefully they will let me give them 12 hours of my life, six days a week, for three months, at no cost to them. Funded by Ridiculously Expensive Law School. It's about time I got something back from RELS, other than some vague knowledge that I can't actually remember now and a big hairy diploma that hasn't yet arrived. (But I checked my grades, which were all there in a row like they should be, so I assume it's coming. I did, in fact, complete law school. Somehow.)

I had to get some passport pictures taken today for the visa application. It's expensive, first of all, a fact which I had been deluded about because the last set I got were in New York with a lovely digital thinggobby that printed 16 of them at a time for something like $8. Now I'm paying that for two photos, because no one from Michigan goes anywhere, so who needs a passport? The old Polaroid passport photo machines, long dead in New York, are still working here. And so the photos are all washed out and hideous. I was wearing a white shirt, the background was white, and I look approximately as white as the shirt/background. Scary. See, it's been three years since I was in the sun on a regular basis. New York - no. Tanzania - rainy season. New York - no. Liberia - rainy season. New York - no. Frightened by my photos, I determined to go to the beach tomorrow and then remembered SKIN CANCER. That's why I use the sunscreen, after all. So I'm undecided on the beach. I might risk it.

Now I sound all nostalgic for New York. I'm not. Not at all. Michigan and surrounding states are so beautiful I could cry, even though I'm back to watching jets trailing tails across the sky and wishing longingly to be on them.

So, this writing wasn't so hard. It was just the getting started. You are not a chore, my friendly blog.

P.S. How much am I starting to love running? Hint: very much. There's this running nirvana, when you feel like you could run forever, and I'm finally getting to it. Some days.

15 June 2007

you would think i was going somewhere

In a somewhat successful attempt to do something productive to keep my mind off the jobless, J.D. factor, I set the following list for myself today:

  1. Open a checking account at the bank my parents use so that when I'm overseas they can wire me money from it.
  2. Buy sturdy zipper lock bags into which to put things that go together that I will want to bring overseas (computer cables, mobile office, etc.).
  3. Unpack the box marked "desk drawers" that I brought back full of random stuff thrown at various times into my desk drawers in New York.
(check, check, and check)

So I've done these three things, and now I've moved on to even more productive things like laundry and organizing bunches o' crap that I brought back from New York with me. This has been a more interesting endeavor than I anticipated. I have come across the following relatively interesting things, in addition to many uninteresting things:

  • A bag of Kenya shillings (notes and coins) mixed with business cards of Kenya-related people, such as that taxi driver who drove me out from JKI out to the guest house in November of 2003. I also found a bag of Kenya shilling coins, which I decanted into the bag of mixed shillings. The 20 shilling coins, which look like Canada's two-nies, reminded me of the pool table at the Kibuye Guest House in Rwanda, where you had to purchase "tokens" for the pool table at something like 50 cents each. When I discovered that the "tokens" were actually 20 Kenya shilling coins, however, I saved myself some money by collecting 20 shilling coins in Kenya (worth about 27 cents at the time) and using those for the pool table in Rwanda.
  • About 25 pristine one hundred franc bills from Rwanda, which I intended to send to the kids in my mom's second grade class and then... didn't. These are now the old version of the Franc Rwandais, so I can't use them anymore at all. Also various denominations of Rwandese francs from each printing since the 1950s (?). I bought these from a souvenir seller. And a bunch of large current bills. Which I should have used or given away, really. I have about $50 in there (more than 25,000 FRw).
  • Business cards of approximately every person I met in Rwanda and Liberia, as well as everyone I met in law school who had a business card and/or wrote their email address on a little piece of paper so I could keep them up to date on where in the world I end up.
  • All my various electrical adaptor devices, which include, but are not limited to, the following: any plug to European two-prong (used in Rwanda, sometimes in Liberia) x 2, any plug to UK three-prong (used in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania) x 2, any plug to US two-prong (used most of the time in Liberia), any plug to whatever-the-other-slanted-one-is, European two-prong or US polarized two-prong to US unpolarized two-prong x 2, US three-prong to US two-prong. And yes, I've used all of them at one time or another, except the one that changes things to the slanted prongs, which I think is Australia. But that one came in a set that folds all together tightly, so I carry it anyway.
I have also started to assemble my zipper bags of things. I love these zipper bags. You can use them for transport and then use them for food when you get to your destination to keep out the critters (the bug critters, anyway). My particular favorite is the mobile office, which is a zipper bag filled with a tiny stapler, paper clips, some sticky notes, a pen or two, a couple of pencils, a pencil sharpener, a scissors, a fold-up ruler, markers, sharpies, and whatever else I can think of. I live out of that bag when I don't have a steady office. Which, come to think of, I only had in Tanzania. Otherwise I've always had dashing-about jobs. I think that's one of the reasons I loved my jobs in Rwanda and Liberia. I have too much ADD to sit at one desk all day every day. Also why I don't work at a LAW FIRM. Ick.

It’s not quite like getting a job, this organizing, but who knows how fast I’ll have to move once a job comes through.

14 June 2007

i plan never to work again

Because, really, this is the perfect life. Other than the worry about money and jobs that is lingering, pressing around the edges.

I went to the library today and got some new books and sat in a park reading them under trees and over grass. Then I went to a coffee shop, where I lunged for a hard copy of the New York Times lying on a table. New York Times, how I love and miss you.

A few weeks ago, I got a new city library card, mine having expired after three years of being inactive (Rwanda + one year, I guess). It turns out that my parents now live in a different school district than they did when I got the original library card as a teenager. Clearly I knew they had moved, because back then I lived in the old house and now I live in the (basement of) the new. I just didn't realize it mattered for library usage. I can get a city library card, they told me, but I also need one from the library in the school district where we now reside. Then I have to show the local card to the city library in order to satisfy their reciprocity demands. Maybe because the local one is the district to which we pay taxes, I have surmised.

So I got the city card, pending the display of the local one, and I stopped at the correct branch a few days ago to get the library card I'm supposed to have. I explained the situation to the librarian, who treated me as if I were lying about my address in order to get at her books. "WHY WOULD I WANT ACCESS TO YOUR TINY ONE-ROOM LIBRARY?" I wanted to ask. I had already shown her the city card, which indicates access to many, many, MANY more books, when explaining the situation. But I refrained from sarcasm, and smiled at her. She very carefully examined my driver's license and then compared it to her list, making certain to ascertain that not only my street but also my street number was, indeed, within the school district. "It's a short street." I said as she held her finger under the numbers and then reached for my license again, to triple check. There are very few numbers on this street. Not enough for such shenanigans. Then she looked up and me and said, irritably, "Oh. This is your home library."



A few nights ago, while running, I heard a hissing noise and my first thought was "Rattlesnake!" Nevermind that I've never encountered a rattlesnake in my life and have barely even been in states that have them. As it happens, it was actually one of those *&#% sprinklers going on right next to me. I'm clearly not fit to live in the suburbs.


I'm starting to think it wouldn't be so bad if I have to go somewhere other than Liberia. Perish the thought.

12 June 2007


I feel like I should be molting. I should be a caterpillar, and make myself a cocoon to crawl into, and when I come out, I’ll be a butterfly and know my next place. Looking for a job is getting discouraging, because I don’t even find jobs for which I’m interested in applying. There is a void of interesting jobs. The potential job of two weeks ago is no more – it seems to have disappeared into the ether, maybe the same void that swallowed all the other interesting jobs. I send a follow-up email or two a day, but nothing new appears.

Michigan is gloriously beautiful right now. The new leaves are coming into their rich summer green and rustling in the breeze in the woods behind my parents’ house. I resent the water wasted on the perfect lawns, but the grass glows with a surreal new shade of green-gold as the sun sets. The sky is a perfect blue dome, fading around the edges where it is contaminated by the earth’s touch. I can’t bring myself to spend even an hour of the evenings in the basement to unpack one of the boxes I brought from New York.

Time feels suspended.

The problem with suspending time is that you never know where time will be when the suspension stops. If I’m not careful, months may pass this way, my brother and dad working on the transmission of R’s new/old car in the driveway, my mom weeding the tiny square of a garden, and me reading a book on the front porch before I go for a jog.

Tonight I was jogging steadily (slowly) along, almost to the end, when I heard a repeated buzzing around my head. I am normally the calmest of persons around bees. I am not allergic, although no one likes to get stung even if all the injury they incur is a little itchy red dot on their arm. I read when I was young that bees and wasps only sting when they feel threatened, so as far back as my fourth grade year in a little schoolhouse in Liberia, I turned into a statue when a wasp approached. I remember sitting on the railing of the little house at lunch time, probably eating milk powder plain, because I went through an odd eating-milk-powder-plain stage that year, watching a wasp walk up and down my arm while everyone screamed and I said, “They don’t sting if you don’t move, I read.” After a few long minutes, the wasp flew away and my fun fact was vindicated. Today, however, I started jumping and hopping and flailing. I don’t know why. I think it was worry that it was my sweat that had attracted the bumblebee and I would never avoid getting stung. It followed me for three or four flailings and runnings. I flailed and flailed again, took my hair out of the ponytail and flailed it. And got followed. And even after it stopped following, sans a sting, I still heard it everywhere, in a faraway lawn mower, a car on the distant road, everything. I still thought it was following me.

You should know that after three years of law school, it is nearly impossible to type the word “statue.” Your fingers automatically make it “statute.”

11 June 2007

i just need to freak out for one little second

I am never going to get a job.

And I think I have Lyme disease.

09 June 2007

in the land of the living

Back from northern Minnesota. I like that place, actually. I spent a week snuggled under a blanket reading books (6 or seven, I lost count), watching movies (five), and kayaking (not under a blanket, obviously: verdict = stupid, stupid, for the arms; fun, fun, otherwise). I don't know if I'm quite ready to give up the world of cell phone reception, because really? even Buchanan, Liberia has cell phone reception these days, but I spent the week thinking, "I could live here! After all, there are good bookstores, which there are not in Rwanda or Liberia." But then I remembered winter and how I hate it, and decided Africa's still a better option.

So now I'm back (?) to not a lot going on, since I turned in the paper-of-death the night before I left for the Land of 10,000 Lakes. It's strange. I feel like I've severed my last tie with the law school, which was my only real institution. I don't have a job, so I don't have a employer-institution. And now I don't have an education-institution either.

That's been just fine all week, not having an institution, because I didn't need an institution, I had movies to watch and books to read, but right now I'm a wee bit anxious about it. And a bit at loose ends. I just looked through all the job sites online and found... well, just about nothing for which I want to apply.

I'm going to go off for a run and hope it cheers me up. I ran, by the way, in MN, although the first time I ran with my phone dangling from my hands because of the BEARS. There might at any moment be BEARS. Then by the third night of the running through the road in the woods I was okay, mostly, although I still spun around every now and again, JUST IN CASE. Because you never know when you might get eaten by a BEAR, just like you never know when a tick might get you and kill you with Lyme disease. It happens. And if it's going to happen, I'd rather have some advance warning.

01 June 2007


PEOPLE. I have a dilemma. My dilemma is this: I might have an offer for a possible job but not a perfect one and not a long term one and what if another one comes through while I'm doing this one? Without pay, I might add. But what if another one doesn't come through? I wish I made the timetable for the whole world. Another thing I would change, other than the rate at which people offer me jobs, is the global warming schedule. It would be happening a lot slower if I were in charge. And emissions reductions and conservation and alternative fuels would be happening a lot faster. Also cures for AIDS and malaria. And WORLD PEACE.

Oh, also I'm going on vacation. To Minnesota. To a lake in Minnesota. They have lakes in Minnesota, I hear. And I would probably only have a week or two after Minnesota before taking off for a whole new country if I did this job. Whoa. I'm feeling kind of inarticulate at the thought. A whole new country.