Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I'm Very Excited to Be Here

Picture it: 2,000 lawyers in one giant room, waiting to take a big test.

C'mon people... I'll wait while you make all the jokes you can. (Points for the funniest one!)

But seriously, can you even picture it? Let me answer that for you. No, you can't picture it. Why? Because that's 2,000 people who wear black when no one's dead; 2,000 people who neurotically answer "it depends" to the simple question of "have you decided what you'd like to order?"; 2,000 people who routinely keep highlighters in their purse/briefcase/manbag; and 2,000 people who are so completely superstitious that they feel a wee bit nervous when they pretend they're too cool to be superstitious. But I'd bet my legal education on the fact that every single person there was wearing a lucky shirt and pretending it was a "this old thing?" kind of shirt. Yeah, I spent my entire day with THOSE people.

To be fair, no one was wearing black. Oh wait! Except that one guy whose t-shirt bore the words in the title of this post. His t-shirt was black. But it made me giggle. And even though he was on his way to the bathroom mid-test and laughing out loud earned me a stern look from one of the Thomas Jefferson/George Bush spawns, it was totally worth it.

But we were all there, just about the whitest crowd you've ever seen, anxiously waiting outside of the test center at 8:29, because they told us to be there by 8:30, no later! We were instructed to bring earplugs, erasers, pencils, pens, and lunch, but no highlighters, cell phones, or a beverage other than water in a clear plastic bottle. So that meant that we were also a group of 2,000 (mostly white) people with about 10,000 pencils; 5,000 erasers; 40,000 earplugs; 4,000 pens; 2,500 sandwiches; and nary a highlighter, cell phone, or diet coke to be seen. It's a trippy experience to hang out with 1,999 other people, all carrying a clear plastic bag full of proof that "I like coloring within the lines." Truly, we're who you want when you're life goes ass-up.

The worst part is over (for me, anyway), and tomorrow is the part I affectionately refer to as "write for your life." I've got 10 essay questions to answer on topics I know precious little about, which, if you calculate it out, is EXACTLY 36 minutes per essay (no more, no less!). So my hand is going to hurt like a bitch tomorrow night, but, if I do it right, so is my liver.

Those of you who were rooting for me today, sending me your smart vibes, I can't promise that I used them to their full power (those questions are HARD!) but I can tell you that I felt all of your love and energy, and that I just can't do this without you.

Monday, July 28, 2008

It Might Not Make Me Stronger, But it Probably Won't Kill Me Either

It occurred to me last night that there are those of you out there who have no idea what this test even looks like. So for those of you not familiar with the particulars of the bar exam, I'd like to be the one to explain it to you.

The exam itself is two days long and each day is 8 hours, which includes 6 hours of actual testing, one hour for lunch, and a half hour of instructions for both the morning and afternoon test sessions. The first day consists of 200 multiple choice questions and the second day is 10 essays. The multiple choice questions test you on "the big six," or the six major subjects with which the National Conference of Bar Examiners has determined every lawyer must be at least a bit familiar: constitutional law, criminal law, evidence, torts, contracts, and property. I don't know who is actually in the National Conference of Bar Examiners, but I imagine them to all bear a striking resemblance to Thomas Jefferson, with a little bit of George Bush, Sr. around the eyes, maybe. The essay subjects are state-specific, and test you on various areas of the law in the state in which you're sitting. In Massachusetts, that includes agency, civil procedure, commercial paper, consumer protection, corporations, domestic relations, federal jurisdiction and procedure, leases, mortgages, partnership, professional responsibility, secured transactions, trusts, and wills. You are also expected to be able to write essays about the big six, for a total of 20 essay subjects tested.

I'm not entirely sure what the multiple choice questions are intended to prove, since they don't actually seem to test your ability to understand the big six. In fact, the multiple choice questions test you about law that doesn't actually exist anywhere, in any state. If that doesn't make sense to you, that's cool, because it doesn't make sense to me either. Some people really rock the multiple choice questions and stake their entire ability to pass on those questions. I am not one of those people, and I never have been. Multiple choice questions get me wrapped around the axle, tripped up, confused, always doubting myself between a few answers that sound basically the same to me, with neither one of them adequately capturing what I believe the real answer to be. The essays are where I shine, not because I'm so familiar with things like corporations or commercial paper (seriously, WHAT is commercial paper?!), but because I have a fairly strong ability to make up stuff that sounds really convincing. The essays are graded by hand (yes, by HAND!), by people who probably look more like John Quincy Adams than Thomas Jefferson, and they basically do a quick-read through your essay, looking for buzz words. I've always wondered what they'd do with a sentence that inherently made no sense, but had all the right buzz words in it: "Daffy Duck is the TESTATOR, and since his WILL evidences some UNDUE INFLUENCE by Kanye West, it's likely that the document will be set aside and his estate will pass to his wife, Angelina Jolie, by the INTESTACY STATUTES." I'd totally get like 10 points for that answer, even if the question had nothing to do with Daffy or Kanye. Hey, as long as John Quincy is happy, I'm happy.

Look, I know what you're thinking. I mean, when I go to a doctor, I'm always hoping that they don't actually know the answer to my medical mystery, but that they have a strong ability to make up something that sounds really convincing. Except, wait, no I don't! I mean, when you're paying someone $350 an hour, you kind of want them to know how to solve your problem, right? Of COURSE you do. Luckily, there's a sizable percentage of lawyers who charge $350 (or more) an hour and DO actually know how to solve your problem. And there are those other lawyers who charge nothing at all to help us protect that which the Constitution was designed to protect. Big shout out for the lawyers who aren't guessing!

But, see, that's the THING about this test. That's the thing that makes me curl my hands into fists and stomp my feet at 11pm when my coffee shop has closed for the night and I'm strung-out from reading my contracts outline for the 400th time.

Just after I'd finished my first year of law school I was at a friend's wedding, chatting with her father. He'd recently graduated from law school himself and he gave me the best piece of advice I've heard about the whole thing: "Lizzi," he said, "there are three very different aspects of learning the law. There's law school, there's the bar exam, and there's the actual practice of law. The only thing that all three have in common is that they have absolutely nothing to do with each other." At the time I thought he was crazy. I looked at him, stunned, and shook my head. I was mute with surprise, there was nothing on the tip of my tongue. I mean, I'd just finished my first year of law school and I felt like a rockstar. All those facts! All that information! Surely I'd learned something useful in that year. But no, he was right, there is nothing particularly useful about law school. Just like there's nothing useful about the bar exam. They're just the tickets that let you into the club. Law school is a marathon, meant more to determine your ability to endure than your ability to apply law to facts.

Like law school, the bar exam is the same kind of hurdle. And in case you haven't noticed, I'm pretty short. Hurdles aren't exactly my strongest sport. In fact, sports aren't my strongest sport. I'm the kind of girl who got an A+ in yearbook and a C- in gym. But here I am, plugging away at mile 20 of the 26.2, jumping over all those stupid fences they keep putting up. And I'll finish, I mean, of course I'll finish. I'm going to look like hell when it's over, I'm going to feel dumber, exhausted, beat-up, and strung-out. But of COURSE I'm going to finish. I can see it now, that ribbon off in the distance, waving a little bit in the breeze, Thomas Jefferson pondering quietly on one side, John Quincy looking disgruntled on the other. Hold onto your powdered wigs old men, I'm almost there.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Things that Make Me Saner

Immediately after I wrote that post about being at that bad place with the bar exam, a few things happened. First, things got worse. (That's always the way, isn't it?) I had a crying breakdown to Julie over gmail chat, wherein I sat typing in all of the reasons that I was such a mess. In case you're curious, typing down all of the reasons that you're feeling batshit insane isn't necessarily the best way to make yourself less so. You're just confronted with your insanity in black and white, and by your own hand, and you feel more absurd and yet strangely less able to do anything about it. But Julie calmed me down by reminding me that it's just a day, and that my only goal was to get through the day before I could move on to worrying about the next day, or the intervening days between then and test day. And then I felt better because she was being so reasonable and calm and normal.

I felt better right up until later that day when some perv walked into the library and started touching himself in plain sight of me. I shit you not. There are actually people who think that kind of behavior is okay, people who walk into public libraries, libraries full of sweet little children, and touch themselves because they are perverted sick bastards. And that was about the time I remembered why I'm doing what I'm doing, that in the end, law is a way to keep pervs like that guy off of the street, out of your library, and away from your kids. Dude, law can help and so can I!

And then I had another breakdown. But then, THEN I got a phone call from one friend and an email from another, both of whom have been here before, both of whom have taken this test, who know how positively soul-destroying it can be. It helps that both of these women are the kind of women whose advice and counsel I respect and seek out. And even though I listened to their words and thought, "but they don't know how little I know about Commercial Paper," I started to see that there was some light at the end of the tunnel. And I actually started to remember what I feel like when I'm not taking the bar exam. Except, of course, that we ate pie for dinner last night. That's still not normal.

Every day this week I've been studying in the Lexington Library, right down the street from where Matt works. It gets me up and out of the house in the morning, plus it keeps me on Matt's schedule, which is good, because if I was left to my own devices I'd study between the hours of midnight and noon, instead of the other way around. Because we're in such close proximity, I've had the chance to meet Matt for lunch. Monday was a shared salami sub, Tuesday we tried the Indian restaurant in Lexington, Wednesday we had caprese salad and tuna fish, Thursday we went to the Japanese/Chinese restaurant (don't ask), and today we're meeting for chicken sandwiches. Every single meal has been tailored to my bizarre and unreasonable cravings, cravings that occasionally (read: usually) change in between the time that I voice them and the time I'm eating, so that I'll get to a restaurant and stare at a menu for 10 or 12 minutes, wondering what on earth I'll do if I order the sushi box when in the end I really want chicken and broccoli, oh the choices are so overwhelming! It's tough, I know. But lunch with Matt is the absolute highlight of my day, the very best and most indulgent moment that I allow myself at this point in the process. We talk about anything but the bar exam, and we spend a few minutes lamenting the fact that we'll have to give up our midday lunch dates when the exam is over and I'm (presumably, hopefully, please oh please!) working.

The past two nights I've come home to care packages. These care packages are full to the brim with items that will surely rot my teeth, but that also make me extremely thankful that I have friends and family who love me enough to help me rot my teeth. You know you're doing well when your peeps basically send you a message that says, "of COURSE you're going to pass the bar exam. And when all of your teeth fall out, we'll STILL think you're a fantastic lawyer and a pretty great friend/sister-in-law. Although, we will then reserve the right to encourage you to find a dentist. But we'll do it gently, and with love." From the very bottom of my toothless grin, I love you guys. Thanks for thinking of me.

So it's just four wee little days before the exam and even though I had a mental breakdown in the car today (nothing to do with the test, no, this one was all about why I didn't just become a saxophone teacher, nevermind the fact that I've never even held a saxophone in my life. Sure, Lizzi, it had NOTHING to do with the exam.), I'm feeling mostly alright. I mean, I'm surrounded by a mountain of candy, I've got lunch to look forward to, and there are pervs in my library. I can feel it already: it's going to be an exciting four days! But seriously this time, I'm doing alright. I mean, it IS going to be an exciting four days, but after these four days and then those excruciating two days of the exam, it will all be over. And then my biggest concern will be the future of my dental hygiene.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

When the Solution is the Problem

While volunteering in Nepal, Lizzi and I met a couple from The Netherlands, who had volunteered with VSN two years ago. In fact, it is through their fundraising efforts when they returned to Europe that VSN was able to build the orphanage we stayed in. On their return visit to Nepal, they brought with them two humongous crates of things that were donated by various corporations. One of those businesses donated a pair of freakishly high-tech Bugaboo strollers. The hope was that a quick photo of the orphaned kids being pushed around in their new Bugaboos would result in instant "social responsibility" points for the company. Of course, neither the VSN coordinators nor the orphanage caretakers knew what to do with a set of pushcars for babies. Because, here's the punchline: Nepali people don't use strollers. Moreover, during our entire time in Asia, we didn't see a single Asian person pushing any type of device that could be remotely construed as a stroller. Asian women (at least in the countries we visited) primarily carried their children in their arms. Of course, the sentiment was fine, and the folks at VSN were grateful. But let me tell you what they didn't need: a pair of $1,000 baby strollers they won't use, when the orphanage didn't even have a single flashlight for the eight hours a day when power is out.

At the time, the whole incident of the Bugaboos got us talking about how VSN needed more appropriate donations. Moreover, we discussed that a lot of the talk we'd been hearing at home about what the developing world "needed" just didn't make sense once we were there. Computers and the internet aren't going to solve illiteracy in developing nations because most schools still don't have power or educated teachers. In general, throwing "developed-world" technology at developing world problems creates more problems than solutions.

So what technology be more appropriate? I don't know, but some folks over at MIT seem to be on the right track. Amy Smith, a lecturer in engineering at MIT, actually holds an entire course of study in appropriate technology. She and her students have come up with some amazing and appropriate inventions for parts of the developing world. To me, she absolutely has a dream job: she travels around the world and improves the quality of life for thousands in the world's developing communities through technology. Maybe on our next trip to Nepal I'll be packing an appropriate-tech water filtration system to provide clean drinking water instead of a couple of $1,000 strollers.


Remember last week when I was feeling all calm and confident? And I promised to keep you posted about my mental state in the coming days? Well, here it is folks, the much-anticipated mental status report wherein I confidently assure you that I am once again totally and completely batshit insane over this test.

It happened sometime between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning, though I suspect that Matt would report that it’s been happening slowly but surely since I started studying in June. But Friday afternoon at about 4:45pm, a kind woman announced over the library’s loudspeaker system that the library would be closing in 15 minutes. I shit you not, tears welled up in my eyes as I felt the weight of the stress of having to move to a different locale settle somewhere between my shoulders and my brain. And then Saturday afternoon, as it became increasingly apparent that I can’t, in fact, read in a moving car (um, perhaps the fact that I’ve been getting carsick since I was a child should have given this away, but no, I tried anyway), I actually felt grateful for the 90 minutes spent in the waiting room of a Subaru dealership, where Julie’s car had been towed and was getting a new alternator and several new belts. Sitting in that air-conditioned waiting room meant I got to read an extra 10 pages of Civil Procedure.

And Sunday, oh Sunday. Sunday I woke up feeling antsy, angry at myself for getting 8 hours of sleep. And when Matt expressed frustration over an undeniably frustrating experience at IKEA, I had to consciously remind myself that without Matt, I wouldn’t be able to afford to take all this time to study for this stupid test, let alone have food and shelter. After I’d calmed myself the F down, I walked back into the kitchen and looked sadly at Matt’s eyes, which were smiling at me despite the fact that I’d recently turned myself into a she-devil. “It’s happening,” I told him. “I know,” he said. “I don’t want chicken for dinner,” I said tearfully into his neck as he hugged me. “Okay,” he said, “that’s good to know. I’ll call you before I head to the grocery store.” I nodded as he hugged me, hugged me despite the fact that it was no less than 110 degrees inside our apartment, despite the fact that my wet hair was dripping all over his face, smudging his glasses.

I left our apartment a few minutes later to walk to the coffee shop that’s been my home-away-from home for the past couple of weeks. It’s full of weirdos and nerds and a quiet hum of conversation that’s more interesting than what you overhear in Starbucks. On the way, despite the fact that I feel horrible about my body these days, despite my general commitment to eat organic, I stopped at CVS and bought fig newtons, a box of cheez-its, some gummy bears, and a bottle of smart water (you know, just in case). My stomach already hurts from the cheez-its, and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be able to eat dinner until at least 10pm tonight. On the downside, I’ll feel guilty for taking a break to eat it. On the upside, dinner will not include chicken.

And for those of you keeping score at home: the guy who hangs out at this same coffee shop who brings with him a stuffed animal that bears a creepy resemblance to a raccoon, yeah, THAT guy just sat down next to me. It’s going to be a long 9 days.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Because She Helped Me To Like Scallops

Hello Internet! Remember back when we were on the trip and we'd write up birthday messages for the people whose birthdays we didn't get to celebrate because we were halfway around the world? Well we've stopped that feature since we've been home because we're, you know, HOME to actually celebrate people's birthdays. But there are some people in our lives who we think deserve to have their birthday blogged about, who we love so much that we just can't contain what we have to say about them.

Which brings me to the subject of this post. Our favorite Cris turned 30 last week and she was out of town and away from the internet (oh, the horror!). So I waited to post this until today, when I know she'll be at work and bored out of her mind. I actually wrote this post while we were gone, because when you're thousands of miles away from your friends and family, it's nice to write about them because they feel closer somehow. (For those of you out there whose birthdays have already passed who are wondering where YOUR birthday posts are, hang tight, I WILL get them to you, I promise.) But, without further ado, a birthday tribute to Cris:

Julie sent me some pictures of the little one today, and as I stared at the pictures of this beautiful baby girl in her little red hat, ready to be loved and adored by her family at Easter, it occurred to me just how much I miss that little one and her family. I only met little-C once, back when she was a wee little one-month-old, but those few moments spent holding her were perfect and precious. She looked like her father to me then, but today, looking at those pictures of her smiling in her red hat, I saw her mom's bright and pretty eyes smiling back at me, her mouth the same happy grin of Cris's. And it just about melted my heart.

I met Cris sometime early on in college. Our paths crossed and doubled back over each other through student life and Scotch n' Soda, winding its way over mutual friends and experiences. We really met through J, and for the first three years of our friendship we danced around each other, not entirely sure how we felt about each other, probably suspecting that we could be friends, but not entirely sure how to get there from here.

But all of that changed one week in March during our senior year. It was spring break and it was New Orleans, hot and muggy and drunk and antiquated, New Orleans. We literally ran into Cris and J and their merry gang of spring breakers on the street, and if you've ever been to New Orleans, you know what a surprise it is to run into someone you know. "Wait," you think to yourself, "YOU like this much debauchery too?!" And then you laugh and get a daiquiri and several hours later you've realized that duh, of COURSE you both like this much debauchery, and perhaps you should get married and have little debaucherous children together. And another daiquiri.

Cris's feet were badly sunburned, and when I say badly, I'm grossly underestimating the pain that she was in. AIR caused her pain, they were THAT sunburned. It hurt my feet to look at her feet. And yet there she was, walking around Bourbon street, drinking and laughing and having a good time. And all at once, somewhere between the time she and a few others went to watch a sex show, but before I showed my boobs off to a balcony of leering men, it occurred to me that Cris was one of the coolest women I'd met in a long, long time, and that if J continued to be an idiot about her, I'd have to beat him up.

Fast forward a few years and a few weddings and a few different cities and here we are. Over the years Cris has become someone who is a true-blue friend. Which is to say that she'd beat up anyone who had anything bad to say about me; she loves Matt fiercely and protectively (which I know because she almost always laughs at his jokes, even the truly terrible ones); and she silently suffers with worry about where we are in the world, following our itinerary to the letter, keenly aware of whether or not we're in harm's way.

In the past few months we've had a lot of time to think about our upcoming move to Boston. We keep saying over and over again that one of the best things about living in Boston will be that we'll have the chance to watch little-C grow up, that we'll get to be a part of her life almost from the very beginning. But we've also spent a lot of time talking about the fact that in addition to the little one, we'll get to watch her parents grow up too, that we get to be a part of their lives almost from the very beginning too. Because Cris came into my life at a time when I was still figuring out what it meant to be an adult, and while at the time it meant flashing a group full of strangers for a strand of shiny, plastic beads, it now means a lifetime full of wonderful meals, ordinary treasures, good jokes and bad jokes, and watching our families become grown-ups together.

Happy 30th birthday, Crissy. I promise that you're only as old as you feel. And if it makes any difference, there's a part of you that will always be just 21 to me.

lizzi and matt

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Only Bar that Might Not Let Me In

The MA bar exam will be over in exactly two weeks. Just two weeks from right now, I will be swinging a margarita back and forth while I gesticulate wildly and contemplate packing for my four-day jaunt to the Bahamas, all while celebrating my new freedom with respect to the likes of Corporations, Secured Transactions, and Commercial Paper.

Many of you who read this remember what I was like the first time I studied for this exam. For those of you who don't, or don't know me at all, allow me to paint a picture for you: my hair was wild, my eyebrows unkempt. My cuticles were ragged and raw. I gained and dropped 5 lbs in any given day and cried at least twice. An hour. I would be loving and happy for the briefest moment, and then wildly and explosively angry. I plunged myself into new depths of self-doubt, and spent whole days uttering an endless stream of "IwillnotpassIwillnotpassIwillnotpass" under my breath. As you might guess, this kind of confidence-inspiring mantra did wonders for my mental health and I suffered the consequences of the bar exam for months after I found out that I had actually passed, and was, wonder of wonders, a lawyer in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

This time around, I'm actually a lot calmer. I'm too calm, in fact. I'm eerily calm. Sure, I've done a couple of hundred multistate questions. And I've reviewed a few of the essay subjects. But despite the fact that I'm having incredibly strange and vivid dreams, I'm not freaking myself out like I did the last time around. And I gotta tell you: it's kind of strange. I feel like a dull-edged version of my former bar-studying self. It's like I"m watching myself from outside of myself. And the ghost-like floating version of me is trying to knock off the version of me that's writing a blog post instead of a Trusts Outline, and ask why on earth I'm not feeling crappier about this undoubtedly crappy test. "Eh," I want to tell her, "chill out. It's JUST a test."

To compensate for my bizarre mental state, I've imposed a rigorous 16-hours-a-day study schedule for myself. Every moment of every day will be spent practicing inane multiple choice questions or working through subjects that never once, not even for the briefest of moments, held my interest in law school. It should be fun! Where fun = wanting to pull my teeth out. The one upside to imposing a ridiculous course of study on myself is that I believe it gives me free reign to give into my cravings. Last week it was spinach and scallops and caramellos. Today it was a toasted bagel with lox cream cheese. There's a half-eaten package of Rolos in my bookbag, along with a fruit leather and some smooshed pretzels.

Matt spent three days last week traveling for work. Life without him was odd and I felt like a first-year law student again, talking to Julie in the middle of the day, succumbing to my bizarre and over-the-top cravings, sleeping on the wrong side of the bed, dreaming about law that doesn't make any sense. I couldn't WAIT for him to come home, not least because I was craving this salmon dish that I really didn't have time to make for myself, but which I knew he'd attack with the vigor of a man who wants nothing more than for the beast to remain hidden this time around.

So wish me luck, Internet! I apologize in advance if my next post on this blog comes out as one enormous scream. Consider yourselves warned. And send candy.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Because You Asked, Part Two

Q: Place where you wish you had more time to visit?

A: Ok, Steph asked this question waaaay back when we were in Alleppey. We answered the one about the weirdest person we'd met and if we watched TV, but at the time, we felt that we were ill-equipped to answer this one. Sure, we'd already finished almost two-thirds of the trip and only two new countries lay ahead of us, but we didn't want to cheat any one of them. So we held back. Of course, life got the better of us, and I didn't find the question again until today when I was feeling all nostalgic for the trip. Lizzi and I have talked a lot about this, and we feel that it would be best if we each answered this question.

Matt's Version
It's kind of a cop-out to say that I wish I could have spent more time everywhere we visited. Four months is just way too short for our itinerary. When I look back and see that, on average, we spent less than 3 days in any one place, I realize that we only just nicked the tip of the iceberg. But before I make my pick, I want to say that there isn't a single place we visited where I wouldn't want to spend some more time. Despite the rough time we had in Vietnam, I would wish we could have spent some more time there to really find something to enjoy about it. I'm convinced that if we'd had more time we could have escaped Hanoi and found something wonderful about northern Vietnam.

With that said, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise when I say that I wish we could have spent more time in Nepal. Even though we spent two weeks there, we really only got to see a small part of Kathmandu Valley, not to mention just a sliver of the country as a whole. But what's hardest for me to believe is that we went to Nepal and didn't spend a single day trekking. Not one! All of those glorious mountains went completely unexplored. I mean, if you're going to Nepal, you really should do some trekking. Personally, I have a dream of returning to Nepal to hike up to the Everest base camp or maybe trek the snowy ridges of the Annapurna Range. No matter what I desperately want to go back just to take in the vast outdoor adventures of the Himalayas.


But it's not all crampons and ice axes for me. Some of our friends at VSN who had more time ended up in Pokara, as well as a number of ashrams and even some of the more rural areas outside of Kathmandu. I'm not really a touchy-feely guy, but some of the meditation/yoga retreats sounded really relaxing, and, hey, I'm willing to try anything once.

Still, I feel that I didn't get all that I could have out of Kathmandu. The city has a little bit of everything from the adrenaline-addicted climbers to the electronic-music raves that went till the wee hours of the morning. With so much to experience, two short weeks really didn't do the city justice.

And, finally, there are the kids. I would go back in a heartbeat to spend more time with them, helping to build them a better school or lifting them high into the air just hear them laugh. Lizzi's not sure if I think about them at all, but I do. And I miss them dearly.

Ramesh Looks

Lizzi's Version
I sort of wish we'd had more time to spend in every place that we visited. Time and time again, we said that if we'd had six months to do the trip instead of four, we wouldn't have changed our itinerary at all. We would have just spent longer in each place. It certainly would have cost about the same, since the biggest expense is definitely the plane tickets.

But when I think about this question now that we're home, I think about it in terms of the places I'd return to if someone were going to give me a free ticket. Probably first on my list would be (not surprisingly) Nepal. The people and the culture there were amazing, and there's so much of the country that we didn't even catch a glimpse of. And of course, there are lose little ones at the orphanage pulling me back. But even beyond that, there was something about that country that really just felt right to me. The pace of life is slower, by and large, than the pace we left behind in northern India, and life is simply saturated with the color, smell, and sound of Himalayan culture. It's really just an incredible place to see.

Other than Nepal, I find myself often wistfully thinking of Bangkok any time I'm in a city, which is fairly often. I just loved the hustle and the bustle of that city and the general hum of life there. I loved the mix of old and new and the fascinating place that is Thailand. If I could work in Bangkok and live in Pepsicola, vacationing occasionally in Koh Lanta and Siem Reap, I'd be a happy, happy girl.


Of course, there are days when I think that I could spend a lifetime in Munnar, that I fantasize about someday being sent on a business trip to Saigon, and I wonder what the people in the Hmong village in Lao are up to. I also think that if we'd had more time in some of the places that we didn't like as much (Hanoi for me, Delhi for Matt), we would have ended up liking them a lot more. I think that it's no coincidence that part of the reason I wish we had more time in Nepal was because it was the place we spent the longest amount of time. We actually had a brief chance to get a flavor for the place, long enough (for me at least) to want to stay.

My desire to see more of the world is curbed only by the fact that the teeny tiny portion of the world that I saw only made me wish that I could spend my days as an independently wealthy traveler, staying in one place as long as I desired. The backpacker lifestyle does get exhausting and I wonder if, had we been traveling for, say, a year, we would have eventually come to place where we thought, "good enough, let's hang out here for a while." As it is, we never really got to that point (or we did, and it coincided nicely with staying in Nepal for two weeks). The bottom line, of course, is that if the Internet wanted to send me to any one of the places we visited, I wouldn't turn down the opportunity. So, um, if any one of you really REALLY wants me to go back and love on Vietnam, all you have to do is show me the plane ticket and I'll be there in a heartbeat!


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Aboard the Animal Train

We sit around the table, talking at the same time, each person's voice answering someone else's question, commenting on another's thought. It is a conversation punctuated by laughter, by loud, raucous guffaws, by bursts of bright and glorious hysteria, and I look across the table to see Matt laughing so hard that his eyes scrunch into tiny little slits with wrinkles at the side as he nods his head up and down, up and down, chortling into the hand clenched into a fist at his mouth, which is wide and grinning. Cris has to excuse herself to pee, because when you laugh so hard that you have to pee, and you've already had to pee for about 20 minutes, you know that if you sit at a table for another moment, you will surely wet yourself.
We wake up bright and early to the sound of the baby's cries. We're not used to it, those of us who are not yet parents, and particularly those of us who prefer to use our weekends catching up on sleep. But when I stumble into the living room, my hair a wild mess, and see the little one on the floor, toys already in her mouth, I feel my un-caffeinated self softening a little, waking up by the sheer energy of the amazing little person I'm seeing first thing in the morning. "Don't worry," her father assures her, "Lizzi doesn't talk first thing in the morning. She'll be nice again in a minute." After I brush my teeth and wash my face, I come out of the bathroom and the little one smiles up at me again, hopeful that I will smile back. And I do. And then she lunges for Julie, giggling as she grabs fistfuls of her hair and pulling her towards her so that she can gum on her face with her two shiny new teeth.
I'm in the kitchen now, cooking pasta, chopping vegetables, marinating meat that will later spend some time and then, whoops, it's not done yet!, more time on the grill. "What are we doing in here, hmmm?," Adam moos at me. "London broil. Orzo Salad. Green Beans and Tomatoes," I respond. "Me likes," Adam assures me. I smile as I turn towards my artichoke hearts, waiting to be cut into bite-sized pieces and tossed with parsley and kalamata olives. "Grab me one," Katy calls out to Geoff and he responds in kind, equal parts affectionate and gross, grabbing a beer out of the cooler for himself and Katy. They sit around the table, feeding the baby, keeping the beer bottles out of her reach, talking about talking about talking, and I cook.
We wander into a restaurant in Provincetown, ready to stretch our legs after the hours and hours of traffic heading east. But none of us want to be there, none of us are interested in the overpriced menu, or the food that doesn't sound appealing. So we leave, packaging up the baby and grabbing our bags, and head out to the street, where some of us search for good pizza, others of us eating fried seafood and sandwiches. Adam, who snacked too much on the way down, is hungry for none of it. We are not surprised, we probably all have the same thought that's running through my own head: "that's Adam!" We wander around the town, smiling in the direction of Ellie and the overly tanned and muscled men, thinking that we're all tired and zonked, wondering how J and Cris do it day after day with the little one. We find ourselves in a cool little store and J is impulsive and it makes us all feel a little bit giddy for him and for Cris. They are exceptionally nice watches.
We have been around the world, I think to myself as I watch Matt sleeping. We have been to corners of the earth that we will never see again. "A lot has changed in a year," Matt remarks. And he is right. A lot HAS changed in a year. But here we are, back again, back with each other, back where I cook and Geoff is ridiculous, where Adam eats snacks and Katy talks about artsy things we don't understand. Back where we would give anything, anything at all to know what Julie has to say about us, where J and Cris have done the most amazing thing imaginable and brought this new little creature into our circle, into our lives. We are back in the best part of our world, the part where our family knows us, wants nothing more than to be with us and make fun of us, where we always know we have a place to call home.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Down South

If you think selecting the best out of 5,491 pictures is easy, think again. It's a huge undertaking, which hasn't been helped by a heap of procrastination, but slowly and surely, the pictures will keep coming. The latest batch comes from our first few days in Kerala in southern India.

We started in Fort Cochin, having taken the night train from Goa. While Goa was pleasant with a fresh sea breeze, Fort Cochin was hot. Damn hot! At night, we laid on our bed as naked as the nasty sheets would allow us, trying our best not to touch each other because, yes, it was THAT hot.

There's more to the story than just the heat, like our desperate craving for fresh vegetables (our intestines be damned!). But that'll have to wait until I'm a) less tired and b) have more time to actual tell a decent story. In the meantime, enjoy some pretty pictures. The second pic is of two guys performing traditional martial arts. We were just a few feet from them, and we could actual feel the impacts of their blows. They weren't kidding around.

twilight in fort cochin

kerala fighters