29 February 2008


Every day for the nearly two weeks before the bar, the sun shone brilliantly and the breeze blew and the air was warm, like spring but in February. The crocuses came out. The daffodils came out. The leaves seemed about to leap onto the trees. And we bar-studiers were stuck inside, pouring over tomes the size of pulpit Bibles, occasionally catching a glimpse of the sunshine that everyone else was enjoying.

Today, the first day I have been coherent enough to want to do something other than fall over on my couch, it started pouring rain. Typical.

It might not be a coincidence that, in the course of filling out a job application, I found myself back on the website of the organization I worked for in Sudan (looking for a phone number, I promise) and thought I would just take a look at the job openings. Just a little look.

That might have been a mistake.


28 February 2008

over and done

When it was over and done, I sat in the middle of a parking lot under a scrawny tree on one of those islands that end a parking row. I looked up at the sun and closed my eyes. Wilbur played his way through the Os (I listen to my ipod in alphabetical order, for some unknown reason). The Os are a good letter for songs. I realized that I had nothing else I could or should be doing for those few minutes, waiting for my ride to finish the exam. My coat was locked in the car and I was just a little bit cold.

I had this fantasy of spending today sitting in the sunshine on the terrace upstairs with a bottle of vanilla vodka and a two-liter of Coke. Swig one. Swig the other. Swish together in mouth. What could be better?

Instead, I have a meeting later and no money. I am too broke to become an alcoholic as a result of the bar exam. So I'm settling for tea in my own little apartment that felt strangely like home when I came back to it after the nights in the hotel near the bar exam. This is why I moved to New State: I wanted a place to feel like home.

It is very very odd, though, to realize that I might (assuming I passed the exam - who knows?) be a fully certified lawyer in two months, in a state that, 2 months and 2 days ago, I had never even visited. On the exam, every time they said, "Using only New State law..." I stared at it with a little frisson of surprise. New State? I've been studying New State law for months, but it still surprises me when I realize that I live here.

23 February 2008


In the interest of honesty, I might as well just tell you not to check back here until Thursday, at the earliest. I mean, I might be totally inspired and have something to say between now and then, but probably I am just going to continue my constant studying and my incessant stressing, my running in tight little circles like a crazy chicken and my inability to sleep. I'm currently a little worried about this bar exam. I might fail. No, really. I might fail. Anyone might fail, is the thing. There are no guarantees. So I might fail. And if I fail, I will not be telling any of you. Or anyone. We will all blissfully pretend that I passed, and never mention it again.

But! In two weeks, I will be in Ethiopia. Stay tuned.

20 February 2008


This is probably only funny if you are currently in the middle of studying, oh, I don't know, criminal procedure, which is what covers such gems as stops and arrests and searches, and when the police need a warrant and when they don't (warning: this song contains obscenities, for those of you to whom this matters):

The year's '94 and my trunk is raw
In my rear view mirror is the m*&$-f&^%$' law
I got two choices y'all pull over the car or (hmmm)
Bounce on the double put the pedal to the floor
Now I ain't tryin' to see no highway chase with Jay.
Plus i got a few dollars i can fight the case
So I...pull over to the side of the road
I heard "Son do you know why I'm stoppin' you for?"
Cause I'm young and I'm black and my hat's real low?
Do I look like a mind reader sir, I don't know
Am I under arrest or should I gas em up?
"Well you was doin fifty-five in a fifty-fo' "
"License and registration and step out of the car"
"Are you carryin' a weapon on you I know a lot of you are"
I ain't steppin out of sh-t all my paper's legit
"Well, do you mind if I look round the car a little bit?"
Well my glove compartment is locked so are the trunk in the back
And I know my rights so you gon' need a warrant for that
"Aren't you sharp as a tack, you some type of lawyer or something'?
Or somebody important or somethin'?"
Nah, I ain't pass the bar but i know a little bit
Enough that you won't illegally search my sh-t
"We'll see how smart you are when the K9 come"
(Jay-Z; 99 Problems)

Unfortunately, I find it so amusing that it distracts me from studying criminal procedure. Guess I'd better get back to that...

lunch [retrospective]

Several months ago, I thought I was done with the retrospective Sudan posts. Then I found another one that I don't think I've posted before. It's just been clunking around in my computer, and I figured I might as well post it, since my head is otherwise occupied with law, law, law. (I went back to tax last night. Worse than ever.)


8 November 2007

The lunch was “meat,” my colleague whispered to me. “Maybe I can go to the market and get something for you?”

“I’ll come,” I said, and slung my purse over my shoulder.

He first suggested a cake – a packaged sweet bread (think Hostess but, well, different, in the sense of less tasty and more preservative-filled, if that’s even possible). I was really not into the cake-for-lunch idea unless it was a pretty great cake, preferably homemade, largely because one very very unfortunately side effect of the amoeba I am still carting around is that it makes sweet things taste less good than they once did. Oh, for the taste buds of my 15-year-old self that could eat Nacho Cheesier Doritos and Mountain Dew for breakfast. So good. It’s very annoying to crave junk food, eat it, and then not actually LIKE it while you are eating it. You would think it would make me stop eating it and I’d become a health nut or something, but no. Because I keep craving, I keep eating. I just don’t enjoy it. Actually, I crave MORE because I don’t feel satisfied because I just ate chocolate but I! Didn’t! Enjoy! It! (How is that even possible?)

I countered with a suggestion of lentils, if possible. We ducked into a little, dim restaurant. It was made of reeds, of course, with a tarpaulin for a roof.

It was my first real restaurant experience in Sudan. We washed our hands into a basin and received a big round tray with four round pieces of bread and two metal bowls of sauce. I had foul and he had meat. I felt very worldly for knowing what foul is. (Fava bean* paste - thank you, Hummus Place – MacDougal between West 3rd and Bleecker in the Village, New York, New York. Totally worth whatever trip it takes.) In this case, fava beans ground into a paste using the bottom of a Mirinda bottle. Hey, it works.

My bread had sand in it, but that’s not so intolerable. The foul had little bits of purple onions on top, along with finely grated white cheese. It needed a lot of salt. We sat in the dim, scooping sauce on our bread. I was the only woman in the building.

We washed the meal down with Royal Grenadine soda. It looks like this:

What is a grenadine, anyway? Because that looks a lot like a pomegranate to me (maybe? or no discernible fruit?), but the ingredients include “grenadine flavor” and “raspberry flavor” and it tastes a lot like a slightly more palatable version of red pop. My other colleague, to whom I gave a capful of the stuff when we got back to the meeting (I have a cold – sharing not a good idea), said it tasted like communion wine.

* Fava bean note: why was I required to be tested for some disease characterized by a severe fava bean allergy before I came to Southern Sudan? It has something to do with which anti-malarials you can take, but wouldn’t you think they could just ask, “Have you ever had fava beans? Are you allergic to them? Did you nearly die the last time you ate them?” Wouldn’t you KNOW if you were allergic to fava beans, if you’d ever eaten them? Also, I’ve taken mefloquine before without problems. Also, this disease occurs almost exclusively in males of African descent. How likely am I to have it? I am not male, first of all. That's fairly obvious. And then, I’ve even TRIED to have African American friends tell me if they think there’s any black blood in me when they say that they can see it in a lot of people who would be shocked to find out that they were part black and they just shake their heads and laugh and say, “Sorry. You are as white as they come.” Stupid all-Dutch ancestors. I cannot, by the way, marry a Dutch boy. It would be such a waste of genetic diversity.

17 February 2008

pretty days

It's a good thing we have a nice patio up on the sixth floor, or I'd never see daylight. I have run out of money and had to abandon my studying in coffee shops in favor of studying in the entertainment center in my apartment building. This has the additional bonus of allowing me to head downstairs for meals instead of paying actual cold hard cash for them. My grand total of spendage output for the last two days is $2.05. (Clearly I'm not including in that all ongoing expenses or the spendage output on the items already in the fridge. I still think it's pretty good.) I don't really ever leave the building now, though.

The weather was incredible today, and I took my study books up to the entertainment center and then, when it got too warm in there, out onto the patio. I had to turn my back to the sun in order to cast a shadow over my white pages of notes determined to reflect the sun. I think I might have sunburned my neck. I took off my light coat, and was almost too warm in my (also light) sweatshirt. It made me so happy.

And then, you want to know what I thought? Here I am in New State, sitting in the sun, and it's nice. But, over in East Africa, Bushie is in Tanzania. Maybe even in Arusha. I am burning with jealousy. I bet he's not appreciating it, I keep thinking, the way I would. I would love to be in Arusha, having the soup and bread with garlic butter for lunch at ViaVia, or in that little ju-eece bar drinking passion fruit juice, or just walking back behind Njiro with the kids shyly saying, "Shikamoo." You think they took him there? I doubt it. Can't burst the diplomatic bubble. What's the point of going somewhere if you aren't going to actually BE there? What a waste. Of my very own tax resources.

Nice weather always makes me miss Africa.

16 February 2008

internet withdrawing

I have given up youTube for Len...

Wait. That's a lie. I'm non-high church Protestant. We don't give much up for Lent. I did, however, just manage to close a browser window without watching the youTube video it was offering me. I'm proud. Very proud.

And I'm on the verge of giving up blogs. Not for Lent. For the bar exam. Most of my conversations right now start out, "Well, I read somewhere online..." This is not pretty. Most of my conversations should start out, "Well, according to the majority of state courts, the common law rule is..." That would be much better. Boring-er. People would hate me. But I don't need friends right now. I need friends in about two weeks when I realize that I'm actually living in this city and I know two (count 'em, two) people here. But for now, what I need is a passing score on the bar. Plenty of time to have a life after that.

14 February 2008

Some days, I would just like to MUZZLE myself. Today is one. Why does no one shut me up?

13 February 2008

confusion galore

Brief description of how my head feels while trying to learn tax law (basis, boot, S-class corporations, also capital gains and losses, this means you):

When I was little, and when my sister was little, and in the church nursery when I used to be a nursery attendant in high school, there was this toy. It was like a little snowglobe on wheels that a kid pushed at the end of a stick. It was full of little colored balls, and as the kid pushed the toy, the floor of the globe bounced the balls around and made a sound like loud popcorn popping.

I generally think of myself as a reasonably intelligent person, but I guess there is a reason why I am not an accountant, because tax makes me feel like someone popped my head off, threw it in that snowglobe to bounce around for a while at the whim of a toddler, and then stuck it back on my neck. So, so confused. I knew I should have taken tax law. Then again, people who did take tax law told me that, entire semester of tax notwithstanding, they still can't fill out their own tax returns. I fill out my own tax returns every year, but every year my head feels exactly this same way: bounced around.

12 February 2008

shiny bits of life

The problem, bloggy people, is that I bought a lovely little notebook at an independent bookstore. This does not bode well for posting on the blog, because I have the little notebook in which to write. I would like to point out that the notebook is made of recycled paper and it has shiny gold bits on the front. I do not know why this is, but I am exponentially more likely to write in a little notebook if it has shiny on it. I am like a raven. I am attracted to shiny. I'm also attracted to texture, and I am most likely to buy a notebook if it has shiny and texture and preferably looks like a tapestry. I am also most likely to fill this notebook while others get discarded and replaced along the way.

Here is another thing about me: I am attracted to textiles. I went to the Art Institute in Chicago and while the others were off looking at, I don't know, art, I was looking for the textiles department, because I have an unexplored obsession with tapestries, in particular. Unfortunately, the textiles department was closed for renovations. It seemed awfully cruel that it happened to be closed just when I visited. Have I mentioned that I like texture? And shiny?

(At the Art Institute, I'm also fascinated by the paperweights. And the furniture. You can't take me anywhere. I ignore a good painting in favor of the daily living objects.)

Regarding recycling, I have a dilemma. I bought 100% recycled, ehem, toilet tissue. It is 80% post-consumer, which seems good. I like this planet. I want to keep it around. Recycling = good. The problem is that it's actually less soft than the Kenyan newspapers that we resorted to using during the toilet tissue scarcity in Tiny Little Town in Sudan. I suspect this is because the paper that consumers recycle is, in fact, stiff writing paper, not soft toilet paper. I am forced to determine whether I am more committed to the planet or to a pleasant toilet experience. I remain undecided, thus far, but I am still using the recycled stuff, because it's what I have.

I realized today that I have to trade in my MI driver's license for a New State one if I want to vote this year, which has thrown me into an identity crisis. I have never had, nor thought of having, a non-Michigan driver's license. And I like New State (particularly when I can call my parents, who are expecting temperatures of 0 degrees F with windchills of -15 and tell them about how it's 55 degrees out and sunny and I had to take off my sweatshirt because I was too warm while walking). But I don't know if I like it enough to give up my MI identity!

Not that I have a choice. I live here now.

All I can say is that they'd better let me keep the old license.

11 February 2008

conversation (the times are all wrong)

[4:10:02 AM] [me] says: i tore the page out of the magazine at the coffee shop
[4:10:07 AM] [me] says: then i stole the magazine
[4:10:18 AM] [me] says: in two separate incidents

(words by me; humor recognized by t)

09 February 2008

"there has never been anything false about hope"

because I just keep watching this over and over...

and because this is the first time I've ever, ever thought, "I get to VOTE!"...

08 February 2008

catching the sugar high

I am barely keeping my head above water, here. There are dishes in the sink and clothes on the floor and papers on the couch and emails in the inbox and blogs on the bloglines and messages in the phone and bills in the mailbox and today I left the house at 8:15 a.m. and got back at 9:00 p.m., in a state of such mental exhaustion that I made several phone calls that could probably have been mistaken for drunk dialing.

"Yeah, so... hi. I'm sorry I didn't return your call earlier, but I was stuck in, I don't even know, 8 hours of class yesterday and 8 hours the day before and, oh, yeah, 8 hours today, too, and I had meetings in the morning and I don't even know what day it is, but I think tomorrow... yeah, maybe tomorrow would be good to hang out. Or Sunday, if tomorrow is Saturday like I think it is. Oh, no, I have a dinner thing on Sunday. So Saturday, whenever that is, except whenever Saturday is, I need to study during the day. Give me a call."

Someone needs to take the phone away from me when I'm like this.

But! I have revived enough to write a blog post, thanks to a rapid intake of two ice cream bonbons, one of which I dropped on a kitchen floor that has not been mopped in an embarrassingly long time (I've been busy, clearly), and I did the logical thing, of course, which is pick it up and eat it. I didn't even bother inspecting it. Why inspect? I knew I was going to eat it. I needed it, for the sugar. And I don't have time to go to Trader Joe's to buy more bonbons, so they must be conserved. And now enough sugar has now hit my brain that I might make sense. For a moment or two.

I was speaking to a lawyer today who said, "I have some advice. First, pass the bar exam."

That's the goal. In three long weeks, it will all be over and I can pack for Ethiopia. For now, I'm expecting relatively frequent delirium, tinged with nightmares about contributory negligence and parol evidence.

06 February 2008

weather patterns

(clouds retreating over Lake Kivu :: like glass at evening)

It's raining. I can hear the rain against the window in my climate-controlled apartment, so it must be raining pretty hard. I'm glad I'm not out in the cold and wet, but I'm also longing for a real thunderstorm. I'm sure they happen here, but I'll probably sleep through them here on the 4th floor of a 6-story building, here with windows and blinds blocking the world out. I want a real, tropical thunderstorm, the kind that makes me a little bit afraid that the whole universe is going to split into pieces, even though I am sort of an adult now and should be braver than this. I want one of those storms that used to wake me up in Rwanda, in my little house under the hill, where I would hear the crack and boom and see the glare all at the same time and think, "I hope the mountain doesn't slide down on me," but then realize that I was so comfortable in my bed and so at home that I couldn't bring myself to care. I want that storm that propelled me out of bed at 3 a.m. in Liberia to unplug the fridge and my housemate's computers that they left charging in the living room. I want that storm that trapped me in my tukul in Sudan, in the middle of the day unable to get across the compound to the comforting presence of other people, such rain and thunder that I really did get a little bit scared that somehow the weather would get in and sweep me away across the miles into the river.

Question: are weather patterns really stronger in the tropics, or is it just that we are sheltered here by thick walls and insulation in the roof, and in the tropics there is nothing between us and the storm but a few ceiling tiles and aluminum panels?

In other news, hopefully everyone is keeping up on world news and knows that Rwanda/Congo had an earthquake on Sunday, centered near Cyangugu/Bukavu at the south end of Lake Kivu (WHAT? Not everyone has their homepage set to BBC Africa? Why NOT?). The first time I ever felt an earthquake was in Rwanda; the first time I ever visited Gisenyi, at the north end of Lake Kivu, was to visit a project that was rebuilding houses destroyed in the earthquakes after Mt. Nyiragongo erupted in 2002. This set of earthquakes, this week, were pretty bad, and quite a few people died. I'm sort of wishing I could be there.

(Mt. Nyiragongo :: above Gisenyi, Rwanda)

05 February 2008


A little cafe. I am holding my hands over my ears, trying to block out all sound but the music playing on Wilbur (I just accidentally wrote Wallace, {sob}, who is buried in a latrine in Sudan), so I can concentrate on practice questions for the bar exam, but I can still hear the conversations around me. The man who looked knowingly at my bar review book sits down at the next table, joined by the woman in the embroidered skirt. They talk about work he needs done and she says, "I don't want a real job. I get skittish when I have to be somewhere," and I peer sideways around my hands still over my ears, in horror. How did this woman make it through law school? Please let them not be doing a job interview. "I pay my investigators and researchers before I pay myself," he says. "I depend on them to come through when I need them, so I make sure they get paid first." She takes notes of the research he needs done, and they stand up to leave. The woman in the non-conventional lawyerly clothing carries the cups off to the tub and I can feel the man watching me read the same question over and over (my brain is so tired), so I finally look up to see him nod at the book and say, "Good luck." I smile and shrug. I feel on display, with this big book and wearing a suit. Every lawyer who walks by knows exactly who and what I am: a recent grad, a job applicant. There is no hiding.

04 February 2008


I was downtown, on a street corner, under the spitting sky. The buildings were six or eight or twelve stories high, and the streets were narrow and overshadowed by height. I was thinking about meetings and resumes and does this bag I just bought look too much like a purse to be a briefcase but the other ones look all bulky and manlike, and I don't want a manlike briefcase, I want a feminine briefcase, and this one was on clearance. There was a pick-up truck coming down the little street. I looked at it, watched it come closer, and then I turned to stare after it once it passed. It looked like Africa, and I couldn't figure out why. It was light blue, which is not a common Africa-car color. It was US-made - a Chevy or a Ford - and there are few of those in Africa. And I wasn't even thinking about Africa. I played the truck's passing over and over in my head, and then I realized what it was. The truck drove through a pothole as it approached me. It jostled one wheel down into a hole and back out again, like a truck on a rough dirt road. My brain knew, if I didn't, that trucks shouldn't do that downtown, between buildings, in the US.


The bus was coming as I reached the corner, but I had two blocks to go to the stop. Even with the light on my side, even with the line of people getting off the bus, even running, I couldn't make it. I gave up and slowed down, and the bus started to pull away. And then, on the sidewalk by the front of the bus, a scruffy 30-something sandy-haired guy smoking a cigarette in the district of men's shelters and cheap-apartments-not-yet-gentrified motioned over his head to me. "This bus?" It was clear, even without words. I nodded and ran again, and he held the bus for me. "Thanks!" I puffed, as I ran up, as the driver opened the door. "Thanks!"

02 February 2008

horrible, overpowering smell of chemical

I may have just poisoned myself. I know that the spray bottle says not to spray the water-proofer in an enclosed area, but I live in a studio apartment. What was I supposed to do? I opened the window. I sprayed my shoes in front of the window (constant rain = need for waterproofed shoes. tired of wet socks). But I think I'm still being poisoned. Horrible, overpowering smell of chemical.

01 February 2008

daily routine

I realized that I directly contradicted myself yesterday. I said that things were all law all the time and simultaneously said that I had done no studying. Both are true. It goes approximately like this:

1. Wake up.
2. Turn on computer, read blogs. Avoid checking email because I might have answer emails if I read them, but if I haven't seen them yet, they don't exist.
3. Wash face, eat breakfast, etc., interspersed with reading more blogs.
4. Play around on internet.
5. Open notes/book about law. Stare at page for 3-5 min.
6. Sigh and lean back, staring at ceiling. Read a few more blogs, if anyone has updated their page in the last few minutes.
7. Moan audibly about the horrors of bar exams.
8. Chat with a few people online.
9. Look at clock. Panic. Frantically pack everything up and go to a coffee shop.
10. Open notes/book about law. Stare at page for 3-5 min.
11. Sigh and decide that practice questions are better than just reading over things that barely make sense. Open that book instead.
12. Realize I need some insulation from the noise in the coffeeshop. Hunt around in backpack for Wilbur.
13. Find Wilbur and start some music. Also find sudoku book and play a few games of sudoku.
14. Chat with weird uptight middle-aged man who asks me if I ever have to guess at sudoku, in between telling his mother "NO! I don't WANT to go to that play." while his wife tries to smooth things over since the mother has clearly spent a great deal of money on season tickets for the three of them.
15. Look at clock. Panic. Frantically start doing practice questions.
16. Finish a reasonable number of practice questions. Notice that it's getting dark. Pack up and go home.
17. Play on the internet for the rest of the night, finally opening and answering any applicable emails around 11 p.m.

I may or may not be exaggerating about this.