Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Half the World Away

Hello. How busy am I?! Very. Very very. Somewhere along the way of this semester I got the crazy idea to work part-time to supplement the rapidly depleting student loan fund. Wow. Who thought that was a good idea? Oh, that's right. No one. In fact, the American Bar Association strongly discourages/forbids first-year law students to work more than 20 hours per week. Now I can see why.

Any semblance of a scrap of free time I had is now gone.

And just in time for finals!

I'm working Sat-Sun-Mon and then processing the onslaught of information and the piling-on stress of finals Tuesday through Saturday morning. I've previously reported that at law school orientation the stress was already palpable. Everyone was busily making their plans to study 24-7. Not I, I vowed. I would retain a weekend day off, at least one. I would keep my balance. One of the other 1Ls in a group I lunched with that August day agreed about taking a day of rest after six of labor. "If it's good enough for God, it's good enough for me," he said.

I had a pretty good Sunday thing going on for a while: I would get up, play the piano in the Student Center, stroll to Starbucks for hours of relaxation reading and sipping coffee, take a walk back to campus through the cute adjoining neighborhood, attend some cultural event or other, then write and catch up on correspondence throughout the evening. For financial reasons my "day of rest" has disappeared. I hadn't realized I was building a little artist's/thinking day into my week but then suddenly it was there. Now, just as suddenly, it's gone, and I miss it. I'm thinking God's student loan funds never ran out.

So here's the thing about that. Final exams. Yes, they are approaching rapidly, not so much like a train as like a big ol' rolling boulder and I'm Indiana Jones...or, alternatively, I'm on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland hoping the big boulder is just imagineered and my "jeep" will dip me out of the way in the nick of time and we'll all have a big laugh.

Somehow I'm not convinced that's how it's going to go down.

The grade in most of my classes depends entirely on the final exam. Coupled with that, there is a mandatory curve and the professors have to make the average not above a 3.1 GPA. So my grade depends partially on what I do, and partially on what the others do.

My Contracts professor gave an optional one-hour practice exam yesterday (our real exams in December will be three hours apiece). I didn't go, but I heard about 40 -50 of the 175+ students in that class did go. I also heard that it was hideous and difficult and maddening and that some people walked out halfway through, just giving up. Interesting.

When I put away the books for the night, I often unwind by watching a DVD, and of late I've resumed working my way through M*A*S*H, episode by episode. I started with Season One this summer. Right when I got back from Korea, one of my first acts was re-joining Netflix and filling my queue with all of the seasons in M*A*S*H in order. But life got so crazy from about August through now that I haven't really made it very far. That's all right. My Netflix queue waits quite patiently. Have I mentioned I love Netflix?

This past week I've been watching Season Two, Disc Two. It has some fantastic episodes, and they all resonate with me in really weird ways. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Right now, in fact: M*A*S*H may be about VietNam masquerading as Korea, but it's also quite Korea-like in the end.

I was struck by a few things watching this disc. For one thing, the way Alan Alda says "Korea." It's not like that useless, not-really-a-vowel-sound "er" we all say. He really makes it an "o" like in York. Core-ee-a. Watch some episodes from Seasons 1 or 2. You'll see what I mean.

I also gave a bunch of thought to his character, Hawkeye. The household where I grew up worshipped at the throne of M*A*S*H, daily if possible. We were taught certain things about it, too. One was that Hawkeye was great and all, but it was really a fantastic ensemble and we must remember that it shouldn't be all Alan Alda all the time, and that when the plot focused on Hawkeye's so-called womanizing, that that was kind of annoying and we should just tolerate such sub-plots while we waited patiently for the really clever stuff which took the form of group wit.

It's not that I now entirely disagree with my mom's main point--that it's not all about Hawkeye --but I find myself more OK with his story lines because he's the good one. He dates every beautiful nurse that comes through the 4077th, but he's also the one who should be! He's the one who's not married! Trapper, Frank Burns, and Henry Blake are all cheating on their wives, and that's evil. In fact, the last episode on this disc 2 was "Henry in Love" and I just have to say, kudos to Radar and to HAWKEYE for telling Henry he was being a damn fool to even consider throwing away his marriage for this beautiful 20-year-old thing that he had stumbled across in Tokyo. And yet, if I were Lorraine, I would want to know the truth and I wouldn't want my cheating husband back. That's the whole point, and, I might add, a point much discussed among us expats around the tables in our favorite foreigners' watering hole in Daegu, the Commune. So many people took the position of "single for a year" while on their tour of duty. That's so wrong. So so wrong. Of course, based on my observation I would say more of those people were U.S. Army than expat teachers. Not that the expat teachers occupied some higher moral ground, but I just think a far larger percentage of us were single -- we were there by choice and often as escapists. It was a minority of us that had a significant other back home ("significant" - ha ha ha) to whom we remained faithful.

Another episode on this disc was "Hot Lips and Empty Arms" where she is reminded by a letter from a friend that she has "married the Army" and perhaps forever given up the dream of the rich husband, nice house, picket fence, etc. This episode is great because she tells Frank she's sick of their relationship which will inevitably end with him going home and her being "just a smile on your face your wife won't understand." It's also notably funny when Frank tells her, "Well, Margaret, there'll always be another war." Best of all, Margaret gets just obliterated drunk and it's hilarious. I love that episode. I love Trapper and Hawkeye sobering her up. Good drunk times in Korea. Good friends.

And back to Hawkeye being a good person. You know, he is. I'm seriously starting to divide this world more and more every day into the cheaters and the non-cheaters. Trapper means well, too, of course. Many of you cheaters do. But I just want to scream at you, my cheater friends, "Try harder!" Anyway, I digress. This disc also had the episode where a wounded guy asks them to make sure and give him "the right color blood" (i.e. he's white and doesn't want a transfusion from a black person) and Hawkeye and Trapper and Klinger and Ginger teach him a lesson by dabbing some coloring on his skin while he sleeps in post-op so he wakes up and learns a lesson about life. But he totally learns it! I got tears in my eyes when he comes to thank them in the Swamp at the end and salutes Ginger! It totally reminded me of being in Korea and getting just outraged at racism I witnessed but realizing the best response was to creatively teach a better way.

And, let's not forget, this disc also did have its magnificent group wit moments, like the monthly staff meeting taken up entirely by Radar calling the roll and Hawkeye moving to end the war, and the poker game with Sidney et. al. in an all-star episode (John Ritter! Pat Morita! -- and hey, he died while I was in Korea, a year ago this week, in fact). Plus "Oh, now the dirty movie!" when they watch the film Henry's wife sent.

Brilliant. Pure brilliance. And so much of it resonates differently for me now that I've done time in Korea. I swear, they perfectly nail the sort of group-camraderie/randomness and simlutaneous boredom/mania of being an expat in a bizarre scene. With some kamsa hamnidas in there to boot.

And I've really got the whole American-expat-in-Korea thing on the brain this week -- as opposed to my usual any-sort-of-expat-in-Korea thing -- because it's Thanksgiving and last year over there I had such an epiphany about Thanksgiving and I randomly met my American friends amid all the Canadians and Brits just in the nick of time...you see, things can happen just in time. There's hope for me despite the boulder that is finals coming to flatten me.

I might not get to Season Two, Disc 3 until finals are over.

I have ten more days of classes. Ten! Five more Criminal Law classes, five more Contracts, three more Torts, three more Civil Procedure, and two more Legal Writing. That's it. (The numbers are weird because our last Tuesday is turned into a Friday. That's one of my favorite things about universities, how they turn days into other days. I'm rather fond of that. I wish I could just arbitrarily decide I'd had enough Tuesdays or whatever and declare them Fridays instead.)

"And when I leave this island I'll book myself into a soul asylum
'Cause I can feel the warning signs running around my mind...
So what do you say?
You can give me the dreams that are mine anyway
You're half the world away
Half the world away
Half the world away
I've been lost, I've been found, but I don't feel down..."
-- Oasis

1 comment:

jnap said...

Having been on two sides of the infidelity line, I keep having to wonder what is SO hard about fidelity.. There is NOTHING true about what you don't know won't hurt you.. There is EVERYTHING true about the importance of faithful behavior as a manifestation of the dignity and respect you have for the partner and for the relationship... Why enter into a relationship if you do not respect relationships!!!! And, if you let someone else treat a person without respect, you are giving them permission to treat you without respect. We have been there before, haven't we?

Finals will be interesting. I guess it is like a court trial, you win or you lose. No do overs in life. Too many of us live in a world that has so many fuzzy boundaries, that maybe its okay not to do well, right, make mistakes, because we can recreate history, say it doesn't count, and next time will be different.

What happens when there is no next time? This time HAS to count!