Tuesday, December 29, 2009

1L in Quito

Robby and I arrived in Quito last night for our three-week Ecuadorian adventure. Though our flight from Miami to Quito was an hour late we managed to arrive at the hostel before midnight. The first thing I noticed in Quito was that taxi drivers sparingly stop at red lights. Our driver flew from the airport to Travellers Inn, our home base for our two nights in Quito. Robby and I were tired from the travel and didn't mind the bumpy ride and disregard for traffic rules.

Surprisingly, we were up and showered by 7:30 this morning. We both noticed the sun had been up for some time before we roused and were shocked to find it was still so early. We were eager to explore Quito and were out the door by 8:30 after a homemade breakfast of fresh fruit, juice, yogurt, and eggs at our hostel. $20/night for a private room and a fresh breakfast is a pretty good deal. The fruit is the freshest I've ever had since I'm closest to the source as I have ever been.

Just flying into Quito brings me to the highest altitude I have ever been at in my life. I think my hike to Mt. Washington in New Hampshire set the previous record. There are mountains to the west of the city that you can see from any point in Quito; they seem to loom over the city as protector or predator, always engulfed in clouds. The weather in the city was clear and warm, though breezy and fresh due to the altitude. We walked from our location in the New Town of Quito to the touristy Old Town. I was curious whether I would be affected by the change in elevation and the only thing I noticed was my sinuses were congested and Robby had a bit less energy than usual. But we were captivated by this new place and persevered to finish the walking tour we had set out to begin. I've never been in a city like Quito, never been in a Spanish-speaking place, never been to a modern city with such integrated poverty. The beautiful plazas and stone streets were abound with business people and tourists, and young children offering to shine your shoes and old women selling lottery tickets. In my one-day estimation, Quito is a city that is trying very hard. The public parks and plazas are plentiful and very well groomed and clean. But we are warned to take taxis after dark and ATM's are protected by armed guards.

When we finished our walk around New Town and Old Town we went out for seafood at a place recommended by Lonely Planet, about 5 blocks from our hostel. The ceviche, garlic shrimp, and cervezas added up to $16 and were incredibly tasty.

Tomorrow we will either go to Cotopaxi, the local volcano, or check out the art museums in Quito. Tomorrow night we are taking an overnight bus to Canoa, a beach town on the West Coast of Ecuador.

My Spanish is rusty but not terrible. My proudest moment today was at the pharmacy buying deodorant when I said, "no necessito bolsa, gracias." I'll continue working on my conversational Spanish and will continue with updates on our journey.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Semester Wrap Up

Today I've been groveling around my apartment trying to convince myself that being hungover never felt so good. Though it feels great to have the first semester of 1L year over with, this in fact does nothing to lessen the hangover.

But last night was amazing. We finished our final exam at 5:30 and immediately headed to Sao Paulo's, a Brazilian restaurant close to school, for their margarita and queso (http://www.saopaulos.net) happy hour. About 20 of us gathered around tables pushed together and promised we wouldn't talk about law school. Amazingly we succeeded! Rather than bitch about future interests or debate affirmative action, we talked about our families, our boyfriends/girlfriends, our plans for winter vacation. We then went to a classmate's house party and onto a 1L party at Maggie Mae's (http://www.maggiemaesaustin.com/), a bar downtown where there was live band karaoke. A friend and I sang "Santeria" on stage but the best performance was by our classmate Joe for his rendition of the Beastie Boys "You've Got to Fight." The evening was such a welcome and celebratory end to an intense period.

Fully knowing what I cliche it is to say this, I feel unbelievably fortunate to be surrounded by the best classmates in the world. UT divides the 1L class into groups of 25 or so and our small group has really bonded. The support we give each other is invaluable and especially meaningful in this competitive setting. During finals we would check up on each other regularly, sharing notes, complaints, and even desperation. We all hugged before our property exam last week; anyone who knows me knows I love hugs so this was especially comforting.

When I moved here and didn't know anyone I told Robby that I was surprised what I missed most was being touched. I didn't just mean by him so I'll elaborate. When you're in a city full of strangers there aren't hugs, there are just handshakes or maybe a brushing of shoulders. But when you're surrounded by friends there are hugs, arms around each other's shoulders, guiding hands on each other's backs. This is a primordial comfort that I had never thought of until I was alone for the first time in my life.

So when we hugged before tests, danced the night away after our last final, and lounged around entangled in each other and our hangovers the next day I didn't feel alone. It's almost overwhelming to reflect on last semester already. The city, the school, the people... it's been an amazing four months. If my thoughts become more cogent I'll post them here but right now it's a bit of a haze.

Robby and I are headed to Ecuador for 2 1/2 weeks this break so ideally I'll have some "1L in Ecuador posts." I hope everyone has a great holiday and sending my love especially to my fellow 4C'ers. Can't wait to do it all again next semester.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Late night studying

me: 10th amendment is stupid
Jordan: totes
like if you care
put more words in it
me: totally

(from a 1:00 AM gchat conversation)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Finals Update

Today was a good day. It's been surprisingly cold in Austin (even flurried yesterday) and I elected to give in and use the space heater that was provided by my landlord. I spent the morning grocery shopping and doing laundry and then decided to work on my pot roast recipe while creating flash cards for my property final. Comfort food and coziness are a great prelude to productivity and I made significant progress on studying. I had five friends over to enjoy the roast with me - law school students tend to lack sustenance in this time and I was happy to feed my nourishment-needing classmates. Though we tend to primarily chat about exams, it's comforting to feel like we are all in this together. I brewed some coffee at the end of the meal and two of my friends stayed for a necessarily distracting conversation that in no way involved the law.

We then met at another friend's place and eight of us hunkered down for five more hours of studying. Hitting the books was happily interrupted by meaningless banter, law-based questions, and the suspenseful victory of UT football over Nebraska. 46-yard field goal with one second left!

Con Law final is Tuesday so with tomorrow I will abandon my property flash cards and proceed to judicial supremacy, the Commerce Clause, and Equal Protection. Juicy stuff.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Study Break

Today was the last day of classes. This symbolic end to the semester was anticlimactic since it was actually only the beginning of the most intense two weeks of school - finals. Because in law school most if not all of your grade is derived from the final exam, this two week abyss I am entering tends to be wrought with panic attacks, sleep deprivation and general freaking-out. I, however, am trying to keep my cool.

While the panic rushes in at moments, I have discovered ways to find calm. A search on YouTube of "relaxation video" will bring up images of meadows and streams, with a soothing voice instructing your breathing. Cooking my very first pot roast on Sunday gave me a sense of accomplishment that could only be outmatched by a mastery of the Rule Against Perpetuities (Weird coincidence - my twin in Maine was also cooking her very first pot roast that afternoon.) Laughing with my friends about the students they branded "the diaper people" (those who during an 8-hour take home exam will choose adult diapers over a 30-second bathroom break) instilled a sense of perspective. I read an article in the New York Times today about a man who is set to be executed in Texas who has an IQ between 68 and 86 - this reminded me of some of the reasons I am training to be a lawyer. Even though I am sure these next two weeks will be trying, I know there is nowhere else I would rather be.

We jokingly referred to Trinity as "the Bubble" in college. Here I feel as protected as I did there, and perhaps even as insulated. Yet law school carries with it a sense of engagement in the "bigger picture." For me, this idea is incredibly grounding during this intense period of study and preparation. I am preparing for the class exam, but at the same time and more importantly, I am preparing for a profession that is fundamentally integral to our society and our sense of justice as a people.

And now, back to the studying.