Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Waning Curacao

I swear there's something in the air that just changes when you pass the halfway point of a trip. It's kind of like the moon. Before I took astronomy I wouldn't have known there was such a thing as waxing gibbous and waning gibbous, and when you look at those moons in the sky, one or two days on either side of the full moon, they are the same, but reversed: maybe you can't immediately pinpoint it, but something is different. As of today we are thirteen days in to our adventure with nine days to go, and I feel a shift in mood, energy level, desires, satisfaction, thirst(literal and figurative), and just general state of mind. Also, I think the time starts to pass differently -- again -- as we pass the halfway point.

I am sick today. A fever and headache -- early signs of dengue fever, so I'll keep pretending it's that until it's clear that it's not. Oh wait, that's probably already the case. Anyway, six or seven people have been sick already; we have a hospital run every couple of days. Flu, dehydration, antibiotics...our professor from the Netherlands asked today, "What's wrong with you Americans, always getting sick everywhere you go?" My response: We eat preservatives in all our food and our bodies are flummoxed whenever we arrive in any other place in the world, it seems. Then again, we tend to find eggshells in the scrambled eggs here from time to time, and one girl said she found a piece of glass in her food at some restaurant downtown, so who knows?

I feel like we have to be more studious for the last half of our trip, and I wish it were the other way around. I wish they had thrown us in and scared us and then had it lighten up. I feel like I've done a lot of fun stuff, but now there are a lot of studious things scheduled for the next eight days. Yesterday we visited the central bank of Curacao, kind of like the Netherlands Antilles Federal Reserve, and heard some lectures and international banking transaction information, then had snacks. It was a cool building. As we were walking in, I pretended we were there to ask for a bailout. Just for the U.S. in general.

The fireworks began popping up last night. Tonight we will attend a celebration on the beach with drinks, live reggae music, and more fireworks. Apparently there will be fireworks all over the island tonight. And drunk people.

We have New Year's Day off, and then this Sunday will be our only other remaining full day off. There are stil a bunch of activities to squeeze in. And we are starting to think about the final exams! But first, we must do our part to ring in the new year. I'll be in 2009 an hour before the East Coast...see you there.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Conquering Curacao

Well, we've come to the halfway point of my 22-day journey. These last few days have been spectacular. First of all there was Christmas, and we had a two-day vacay including Boxing Day. Our holiday included nice meals, a party buffet dinner on Christmas Day at the Hilton including live music and festivities, some good Christmas cheer (including the liquid cheer), and a Friday morning hike up the mountain in Christoffelpark, the national park here on Curacao.

The hike was good -- we had to go early in the morning so as not to sweat to death. It was a group of seven of us in two cars including one of the students from here who goes to the Netherlands Antilles university. He said that when he left in the morning his wife had asked who is going on the hike, and he had said, "Oh, such and such students, plus the American professor." Then he realized that sounded so cinematic-adventure like, a la Indiana Jones or Jurassic Park. So, all through the national park that day we pretended the group project was going to go drastically awry at any second , particularly when one member of the group split off, then another ... one member of the hike also pretended her cuts from the rocks were velociraptor scratches.

Saturday we had a day of class again, interrupting our holidaze (ha). However, once afternoon came I was back on the beach although we had a bit of rain that day. Eight of us went downtwon for dinner that evening and had another chance to watch the moving bridge. I refer of course to the Queen Emma Bridge, which is (so they say) the world's largest floating pedestrian bridge. Willemstad is on both sides of the harbor, so you have to walk across the bridge, or take a ferry when the bridge swings open to let the ships pass. Watching the bridge open and close is half the fun of living in Curacao. It moves to the side on these little boat/barge things. Picture a needle on a dial going from vertical all the way to one side. As we watched it that night one of the other girls and I marvelled about how I went 30 years of life without knowing this cool little place with its UNESCO-noted brightly colored buildings and its waterfront and its moving bridge even existed and she said it made her think, yeah, it makes you wonder how many other things in the world we just don't know about? (I'm helping you all out by alleviating your ignorance and putting Curacao and Willemstad on your radars now.)

Yesterday, on what was the best adventure yet of this trip and one of my best adventures ever, actually, we went to Klein Curacao. Those familiar with German (or Mozart) will recognize that klein means small, and, indeed, Klein Curacao is a little tiny island that is part of Curacao but is unihabited. Uninhabited! I couldn't get over how awesome that was. I've never been on an uninhabited island (unless you count Alcatraz -- but this is totally different). We got up before dawn and rode a boat for two hours to get there, watching our civilized and suddenly large-seeming island of inhabited Curacao fade into the distance. The boat rocked in the waves (those poor seasick people) as we watched flying fish leaping about the vast, dark blue sea that stretched for miles around us. Finally we arrived at our slab of land that the nine of us friends have decided to conquer. We decided it will be our new nation state and we gave ourselves various jobs and cabinet posts. Among other things, I think I'm the permanent poet laureate.

The company that runs the boat trip has a(n uninhabited) shack there where they keep snorkels and a bit of indoor plumbing, and where we had breakfast and later a huge fantastic barbecue lunch on picnic benches. We swam, sunbathed, snorkeled (snorkeling rules), slathered on ridiculous amounts of sunscreen and still turned many colors, rode an inflatable banana boat, and just basically gazed at the endlessly beautiful water. We also walked around the little island and checked out an abandoned lighthouse (dilapidated floorboards and all), a couple of shipwrecks, and a whole lot of trash, mostly plastic bottles and shoes, that has washed up from the rough waves on the south side. (We decided that's the ghetto of our new civilization, and will promptly assign someone to clean it up.)

Now it's back to going to classes three days in a row again: such a hard life.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Obama's pecs

So, our little university here is, well, little! It actually reminds me of a smaller, more dilapidated GCC (= Glendale Community College, in Arizona, which was somewhat of a "Grade 13" for my high school. Even I took a random summer class there, during college, to supplement my illustrious university education, which took place out of state. I fulfilled some random general requirement.) This University of the Netherlands Antilles (UNA) is not a sprawling campus with grassy knolls and such. Just cement walkways, a little patio-like coffee/snack area, stuff like that. There is a small gymnasium, and yesterday we had a barbecue and basketball game versus some high school students from the International School here. They won.

I am getting attacked by mosquitoes! I wasn't at first, but today while I had breakfast a mosquito apparently did too, courtesy of my leg. I was totally blowing off the whole mosquito thing, relieved that I'm not traveling in a malaria risk area this time, only to find out there's been an outbreak of Dengue fever! ARGH. So, I have to bust out the insect repellent after all, and hope it's in time. We're going to go hiking in the national park this Friday, which will be their main opportunity to feast on me. We get days off for Christmas and Boxing Day aka Second Christmas. (Note to Canadian etc audience: this is a novelty for me.)

Well, that's just a brief update. We checked out the downtown Otrobanda area happy hour last night, which was actually from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. Hey, who's to say only early evening hours can be happy? Ten guilders gets you a cup to be filled free for an hour. Ten guilders is, like, six dollars. Happy, indeed. We all got silly and ended up at a bar in the fort with an awesome singer who took requests. Good times.

Working hard (kind of) and playing hard -- I totally need my Christmas vacation!

p.s. No, I don't have anything to say about B.O.'s buff bod, although I, too, can go topless on the beach here if I'm so inclined. Just wanted to see if that title would generate more hits. Ha!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Vaster and vaster

Well, here I am. In Curacao! I know what you're thinking right now; you're thinking, "Where on earth is that?" This is even better than when I went to Honduras. For those who falter in geography double Jeopardy: Curacao Map. Yeah, have a look. Little island, eh? It was kind of trippy when we were landing in Aruba. (I stopped there first. Go on back to the map again if you need to, I'll wait.) I gazed out the plane window and just saw all this water. Sparkling and vast. And oh, looky there, a tiny little bit of land. It's so crazy. I'm just on this little bit of land. I *really* trip out at people who've lived there for their entire lives. Now, I like islands, and I like hanging out on them, unless there are cockroaches, but here I've seen hundreds of lizards and nary a roach (knock on wood), so this one would be flawless except for the fact that it really trips me out to be on this tiny, remote place!!

Islands are so weird! Not just Long Island. In fact, good ol' Wrong Island never even feels like an island, because you can get out of it via so many roads. And I mean, I realize that, technically, every piece of land is an island. But you know what I mean: island in the sense of what "island" connotes. Is there such a thing as geographic reverse claustrophobia? (Perhaps I just invented it. Hook me up with a DSM!) People with claustrophobia get anxious about being in small, confined spaces, right? I get a bit anxious when I'm confronted with the vastness that surrounds me.

So, our hotel is essentially at the water. Each day I go for my little run along a run path on the beach, gazing at all that vast sparkling. The Hilton and Marriott are down the road and I spend time there, too, for their beaches, spas, gift shops, and the like. Our hotel is sort of minimalist as far as fancy amenities go, but it does have a pool, restaurant with outdoor terrace seating and free breakfast, and a bar with an awesome peacemaking bartender. More later about the fight in which his peacemaking skills were on display.

Among other things since arriving, I have: attended "three weeks worth" of classes (accelerated winter session, of course), seen an old plantation house and slaves' quarters, clambered around rocky shores, drunk a pina colada on the most picturesque beach ever, eaten good food, gone to a dance club on the beach, drunk a lot of Heineken, met fun people, spoken a little Spanish, lounged on a beach chair, swum, walked across the floating bridge, danced...did I mention all that lounging on a Caribbean beach? I LOVE IT.

I'm sad I did not start blogging on the first day. Well, the first day I was stuck in Aruba for a while, but how about the second day? Being stuck in Aruba was all right; I met people also headed here for this program and every time an airline rep sort of ambled over to say, "Oh, your plane leaves maybe in thirty minutes" we knew it was time to go have another beer or two.

There are about fifty students, a mix of Hofstra and U Baltimore students plus one or two each from some other schools thrown in. The professors, of course, are totally cool and mellow. I knew they would be. However there is this little matter of having to do a semester's worth of reading, with glorious ocean views and tropical rum punches all around...

I will try to be a better blogger as the time goes on. Can't believe I'm one-fifth of the way through the trip already!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It is finished

What, you ask, is finished? The longest semester ever, that's what! It really was, too, because Hofstra started school waaaay earlier this year (hello, mid-August? half the professors were thrown for a loop, too) and added a reading day here or there and extended the finals period and and and and ... of course I had a final on the last freaking day of said extended finals period. That would be today. Today, as in, the day before I am getting on a plane to Curacao tomorrow. Yikes! The only way this semester could have been longer for me would be if I had started class at 8 a.m. that Monday morning in August instead of 10 a.m.

But, now it is done. I have made it, Brian has made it (number of irrational stress-induced freak-outs this week: at least 1. this month: um...a handful? this semester: lost count a long time ago), and I'm reasonably certain I could have passed all my finals...maybe...

And so I'll be starting two new classes on Saturday morning! Yes, come Saturday I will be studying international and comparative law at the University of the Netherlands Antilles along with a few dozen other students from Hofstra, the University of Baltimore, and a few other random law schools. Please note that I will also spend my afternoons loooooouuuuunging on a Caribbean beach. My classes are International Arbitration and EU Law. Woo-hoo! Did I mention that Caribbean beach yet?

I even have a new hat to wear on the beach! Thanks to Brian's impeccable taste. *swoon*

If you're lucky, I might even post some pictures here for you all to turn green with envy share the experience.

Merry holidaze, everyone!

Off I go!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The blogger must never rest!

What is this, like, the annual holiday slump? I swear it was just about this time last year I noticed the same thing: my friends' distinct lack of bloggage. Click almost any link over there on the left of my blog and chances are you'll find...a blog that hasn't been updated in weeks. Or maybe months! Obviously, this means I need to link to some better blogs and by better I mean more frequently updated. Meanwhile, I'll put the call out -- again! -- for some interesting Blogs I Should Be Reading But Of Which I've Never Heard. Same rules as last year: no craft blogs, no Mommy blogs. (I mean exclusively Mommy. I'm as delighted reading about my favorite bloggers' children as the other things they write about -- well, unless they cross that absolutely verboten line into bodily functions -- but I'm not interested in blogs that are only for the purpose of swapping parenting tales. You know, the ones with titles like "Things We Learn From My Two-Year-Old's Antics That You Simply Must Incorporate Into Your Newborn's Life.")(Yes the titles are approximately that creative, it seems.)

Unlike last year, I'm emphasizing that I'm looking for people's blogs, about the variety of subjects of their daily lives. Not one-topic blogs, professional people's newsy blogs, etc. Those are fine too, but not what I seek from this plea. I guess I'm looking for amateur bloggers, with better-than-amateur writing. (What I fancy myself and my blogging friends to be, of course!) I find a lot when I cruise through the blogs of expat teachers in Korea, but there are two problems with that method of finding new blogs to read: 1)I really don't want to limit my subject matter to ONLY expat teachers in Korea, although such a blog is of course endlessly fascinating (ha!) and 2)They have tendency to go home after a year and then I'm stuck in my annual quest again.
All right then, blogosphere. Offer yourselves up to me! I'm bored! (Blog bored.) And I'm trying to distract myself from two more finals here, helllloooooo.

As to those friends of mine who have once again slacked off major in the updating department - what gives?

p.s. One week 'til I'm lounging on a Curacao beach!

p.p.s. I do have one other new hobby though: reading any and all online reviews/parodies/blogs about how god-awful Twilight is. Even though I have known forever without reading the books how terrible they were and how crappy the movie would be, I'm still amazed at how TOTALLY terrible they apparently are and how insanely crappy the movie is too -- at least according to the intelligent people's reviews.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Brief update for those who don't know what's going on

So, finals finals finals -- and then, the Caribbean! I feel like I've told everyone, but I'm sure some have missed the news that I am going on Hofstra's winter break study abroad to Curacao where I will take two classes earning four credits in three weeks, studying international and comparative law, but mostly I will just lounge on a Caribbean beach.

First, though, I have to get through Law School Finals V: What, This Again? Here's a summary of how the studying is going:

1. Patent Law -- This is my first exam, today, the 8th. I am totally interested in the subject matter and the philosophy behind it. Unfortunately, I fell behind in the reading for this class back before I came to my senses and dropped from 17 credits down to 14, and I never totally recovered. I have a really good grasp of what I know, but I have this sneaking suspicion I've missed things over the course of the semester that I don't know I've missed. This makes the final, essentially, a crapshoot. We shall see.

2. Lawyers' Ethics -- Tomorrow, the 9th. This class is interesting and the professor, who I swear is Elisabeth Hasselbeck's doppelganger, is pretty straightforward. I feel prepared and I don't really mind getting two finals out of the way two days in a row. But, this class is (retardedly) subject to Hofstra's (retarded) curve, meaning the average grade has to be a B. So, let's say out of the 26 students, 5 got 90 out of 100, 5 got 92 out of 100, 10 got 94 out of 100, 5 got 98 out of 100, and one person got 100%. They couldn't all get As. The prof would basically make 93 into a B, and the 92s would find themselves with B-minuses, the 90s with Cs, and only that 100% would actually get to keep his A+. I am simplifying this a lot, but basically I'm just saying the mandatory curve is stupid. This year they decided to exempt classes with fewer than 25 students. Did I mention Ethics has 26 students? Moving along...

3. International Criminal Law -- Also curved. (I think Patent Law is my only test not curved.) This exam is already started, really, as it is a take-home exam. Don't think that means it's a breeze. It has five questions, suggested length 18 pages. It's due Wednesday the 10th, the day after I have these two exams in a row. I definitely have a lot on my plate right now. I've decided I don't care for take-home exams in the slightest. (I didn't think I would.) I'd rather take it in one three-hour ordeal. Rip off the Band-Aid.

4. Criminal Procedure -- I have a few days off in between my initial triple threat and my last two exams, which are next week. I've done the reading for this class all semester, I totally "get" my professor (Alafair Burke, who is awesome, by the way. She also writes mystery novels), and with the few days to study it shouldn't be too bad. That's a huge class, so the curve isn't quite as evil (although it's still retarded). Just as with Criminal Law first year, a similar subject matter, I find myself entirely more interested in the class than I ever thought I would be. It's weird because I haven't got the slightest desire to work in the criminal justice system (where, as we all know, the people are represented by two separate and equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute...) But it makes sense to me, and is interesting, unlike, say, civil procedure.

5. Trademarks -- Also of ridiculous if random interest to me. This class, taught by Russell Crowe's doppelganger, seems to also mesh with my brain. Last year in Entertainment Law I got a brief glimpse of Trademarks and immediately knew I wanted more. I generally talk about some trademark issue or other a few times a week to Brian or anyone else I can make listen.

My sixth class, Legal Decision Making for Children and Incompetent Adults, has no final. It was a small group class where we were graded on short papers, in-class exercises, and other projects. We actually finished up our last class meeting a couple days before Thanksgiving. I've practically forgotten all about it by now! (ha)

So, wish me luck!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

In the the sea of finals, there are bubbles...

Just wanted to come up for air and say hello ... yup, another week passed without a post ... and, well, don't expect me to get back to anything resembling frequent posting any time soon. Because we have reached that glorious semi-annual event known as EXAMS!

Now, the funny thing about me and law school exams is that I don't really hate them and dread them in the way that many of my cohorts do. In general I don't mind tests, and when I like my classes I don't even mind studying for tests, even tests which determine your entire semester grade based on one intense three-hour performance. But there are some things I hate about finals, such as Hofstra's idiotic curve (mandatory curve, I might add) in most classes. Also I hate when I am feeling a wee bit unprepared for a class here or there and wish I had just one more week to read. But probably the thing I hate most about finals is that they have taken away my holiday season for the last three years!!!

I love Christmas. I love the holiday season. I love Thanksgiving, food, snow, living in the desert and thinking about snow, trees, big dinners with family and friends, Christmas lights, Christmas music, football, sitting on the couch, get-togethers, gift exchanges, sleigh bells, you name it. Unfortunately, ever since 2006 my holiday season thought process has gone something like this:

"Yay! Thanksgiving! Uncle, I'll meet up--CONTRACTS. CIV PRO. CRIM--take the train, we'll get to Grandma's--CONTRACTS!!!!! TORTS. NEGLIGENCE. SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE--mashed potatoes, is the game on? Oh, it's snowing in New England--LEGAL WRITING IS DONE. ERIE. INTERNATIONAL SHOE--gifts for my nephew yet--CIVIL PROCEDURE FOR THE MILLIONTH TIME--what time is my flight? Wrapping paper? HUH?!?!"

You can just substitute second- and third-year classes right on in there, but don't forget to add the insane 30+-page papers you get to write in place of finals during certain upper level classes.

So. Once again this year, for Thanksgiving I gathered with the New England throng. Brian and I headed to cousin Kim and her husband AJ's place in Framingham. They've been married a year now, this was their first Thanksgiving in their recently bought house, and while I enjoyed the cousins, board games, football, and all the delicious food they made, in the back of my head I kept hearing that nagging little voice saying, "You have several cases to read for Patent Law. You really need to review the Model Rules for ethics. Have you even thought about what you're bringing to Criminal Procedure?"

Don't forget that during the holidaze immediately prior to law school I was in Korea having a decidedly unusual life moment, so it's actually been four years since I've had my Thanksgiving of old. I tell you I cannot WAIT for 2009. I swear I'm taking the entire two months off and doing nothing but being festive and Christmasy. Maybe I'll even host a big Thanksgiving meal. Hmmm...that will require knowing where I'm going to live next year...and *that* will require having some sort of job...job...human rights? mediation? global justice? my girl Hillary's State Department? INTERNATIONAL CRIM! TRADEMARKS! LANHAM OBVIOUSNESS 4TH AMENDMENT MODEL RULES!!!!!

Gotta submerge now. It's been nice breathing with you for a minute.