Monday, September 27, 2010

a house for mr biswas

The other day, I needed to grab a book to read on the train and picked up "The Mystic Masseur" and when I was done, I had a hankering to read "Biswas", although I can quote large chunks of both books by now.

I read "Biswas" at least once a year and every time I do I write a post about it. I should have given the book its own category on Journalspace, I read it so often!

But I love it. I have always held close Biwas' feeling "to have lived without even attempting to lay claim to one's portion of the earth; to have lived and died as one had been born, unnecessary and unaccommodated."

As much as the book makes me laugh out loud, even after multiple readings, it always fills me with deep sadness. I always feel so much like Mohun Biswas and reading this book is like when Bipti bathes young Biswas and rubs open the sores on his legs. I feel so red and raw and in pain. It passes, just like his: "... in an hour or two the redness and rawness of the sores had faded, scabs were beginning to form, and Mr Biswas was happy again."

I'm not sure I'd say I get happy again, but it does get better. And Biswas is a small boy in that scene and he is happy playing with his sister and discovering a pond.

And I miss home when I read it. It's funny, I own the house with John I live in but it has never felt like mine. It does feel like home, but not like my house. Of course, the former is better, but it's not like I don't know where Biswas is coming from. I used to plan to buy my own house and it thrilled and terrified me at the same time.

But I miss Trinidad. I miss everything I thought I didn't like and everything I truly loved. It pains to think about Annabelle and Anu when reading "Biswas". I miss mango chow and a good goat roti and sada with bhagi or bodi. God, I miss bodi! I miss Paramin seasoning and Machel's "Soca Santa" and stupid-ass crowds in Chaguanas and Hi-Lo cake. I miss making a special trip to Long Circular Mall to "see the decorations" and eat Mario's pizza in the food court. I miss Chinese food like a motherfucker.

I miss cricket in the Oval and sno cones and iffy palette from the iffier palette man. I miss doubles with chadon beni and slight. I miss the lady I used to buy papers and salt prunes from every Saturday morning. I miss the 'Nade and the corn soup truck. God, I miss corn soup. I even miss the Nagar and Emancipation Village.

I miss the newspapers and the news reports on tv. I miss 97.1 FM. I miss mas on tv and the old Breakfast Shed. I miss pepper shrimps from Town Center Mall and Lucky's Preserve Plums from Disdrugs. I miss Excellent City Center.

I am not even a third of a way through "Biswas" this rounds.

Friday, September 17, 2010

success, please

I've been taking some academic success sessions offered by the school. They are very informative and I've discovered I've embraced a lot of the tips that they are giving us. In the tradition of law school blogs everywhere, here is what I think is useful to getting through the work.

1. Keep your syllabus with you at all times.
Sounds dumb? I've found that referring to my syllabus has been enormously helpful in guiding my outline. I also have two professors who have written very comprehensive notes in the syllabi. Going back to them can give you real insight into stacking your blocks.

2. Keep stacking the blocks.
Huh? No class is in a vacuum. Every one builds on the one before it and will help put up the next one. It's not a stop-and-start but a continuous flow of information that you have to assimilate, even if your professor doesn't seem to teaching that way. No exam is just going to have an essay question based on the application of one rule. They will all be ambiguous enough to discuss many.

3. Don't get carried away with what other sections are doing.
I often ask other large and small sections what they are covering in class but I try to be careful not to stress out over whether they are ahead or we are in a totally different planet. Other sections' perspectives are good, and talking about rules and issues is helpful. Just don't let it get to you. Your professor has a method to his madness. Trust it.

4. Brief.
Try to brief every case, not just the main ones, but ones in the notes as well. I don't have time to brief every citation in an opinion, but I look it up and try to pull out where the judge is coming from. Sometimes, just reading the quote the judge pulled out is not enough for me. I need to see what the facts and defenses were in order to understand why an opinion is going the way it's going. I've also learnt that opinions cam pull out just the bit they need and slant it, which might be the original intention of the case being cited. It's a lot of fun.

5. Ignore people
Everyone has an opinion, but opinions are like assholes. Everyone knows one.

6. Listen carefully to what your classmates are saying in class.
At this stage, people's comments aren't terribly insightful and some are dead stupid. But. They can be helpful in guiding your thoughts away from a bad idea or to something useful. If someone is being asked a question, make sure you can answer it.

7. Answer the question being asked.
It is so easy to just chuck it and say what you know. Don't. Listen to the question being asked. If you're in a Socratic dialog, the professor isn't going to just stick to the case. Listen to him ask you something slightly different and answer it. Not knowing or being wrong is not an issue. I've noticed that people get stuck on the original question and anything that comes after it is dead air as far as they are concerned. It's a tough situation when you're cold-called but you must focus.

8. Get proper sleep.
I've phased out in a couple of classes because I have been so sleepy that I couldn't focus. Also, don't expect anyone to feel sorry for you if you went out and then came home at some late hour and had to study for class the next morning.

9. Try to stay one class ahead of your schedule.
It doesn't always work. As the semester progresses, it's tough to maintain that pace when assignments begin to rear their ugly heads. It helps not to put things off. Schedule time for the assignment in increments rather than all at once. It helps to be able to go back to it with fresh eyes over a 3-day period that frustrating yourself by doing nothing else but that one thing all damn day. Also, it means that you aren't giving up time needed to prep for classes.

10. Do something non-law school related.
EVERY SINGLE PERSON tells you this. It's a fact of life. Don't become a workaholic or one of those people who always has his head stuck in a casebook and only takes a break to ... hopefully shower. I used to work at a newspaper and it dominated my life. It was all I ever did. I did not schedule anything into my life. I hung out with my colleagues only and spent very very little time not thinking about or doing work. Now, I take a whole day off and hang out with my kid, sleep and watch tv. On the train to and from school, I read a non-school book. Hell, I spend so many hours in school that even there I pick up my novel or watch something online just to take a break. I find these things relaxing and they take my mind off school. It's good to be indulgent every now and then, otherwise you'll begin to resent being here and nothing good will come of that.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

in a fine castle

Two of the law school blogs I read regularly have issues. One shut down completely, mostly because I think he lost his anonymity and is now applying for jobs and took the safe way out. Another is contemplating shutting down because he's too busy to write.

Deciding on making this blog public wasn't easy. I really thought about a separate blog to get into law school drama. But I've named my blog "A Look Inside My Mind" for a reason, and I chose not to shut that bit out, even as I have to censor my thoughts on here. I accept that.

Law school seemed very natural. I feel like I've been doing this forever. I really love it here. I love studying. I'm sleepy like heck, but I'm coping. I've managed to get out a few times with friends, spend time with Le Pie and even get to see my husband every once in a while. We saw each other every damn day for almost 5 years. Law school might be doing us some good. He's a funny guy and he makes me laugh.

I'm not particularly overwhelmed by the work, or the juggle with work and home. I do feel guilty about not seeing Derek and John, but they don't make me feel too bad about it and I appreciate that.

I have my first writing assignment due a week from tomorrow and I've been trying to deal with it as objectively as I can. However, I have no idea how it's going. I haven't fallen into talking about work with people and for fear of inadvertent copying, I definitely try to stay about from talking about the substance of the assignments we get. I'm all for helping people with the format and even join in collective moaning, but I'm very wary of mentioning direct issues. It's not easy, because I'd like to talk over case law with someone else, but I'd rather err on the side of caution for now. I really don't want to unconsciously absorb someone's ideas or vice versa. I've seen "Inception" and I understand it!

But working on the assignment has been fun. I enjoy Contracts a lot. Civ Pro is tougher, and I HAVE a study partner for that one. Those assignments don't jones me up the way Contracts' does.

Hmmm. How scary am I?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

you don't know me, muthafucka

You have to say that header like Ken Jeong. Sadly, that is a joke only my husband might get. Which is probably why I married him.

On 3 different occasions today, I was told, in some form or fashion, that I was being thought of as a gunner. Not the book-hiding, page-cutting kind, but basically still the nuisance kind. They were joking. They were nice boys. They had no malice behind it. But I still found it odd that in one day, 3 different men would josh with me about my work ethic. Each time, I took it no further than their statement and just changed the topic.

Someone who was with me when it happened asked me if it bothered me. I said yes and no. It doesn't bother me because I've heard worse about myself and came through very unscathed. It doesn't bother me because I can't do anything about it, so I let it go. What does bother me is that I feel it's a tiny logical leap from "she's always prepared" to "she's going to graduate when she's 40 so her life cannot possibly be like a 22-year-old."

I consider myself very lucky. I had a long time to prepare for this. I've had this in my conscious mind for years and it got to really gestate and take form with no competition for brain space. I asked my friend, who came straight from college to law school, if she had that luxury and she said no.

I am lucky because my husband has some practical experience in handling a partner in an intense academic situation.

I have always known I cannot bar-hop and drink till 2 in the morning, stumble home and try to brief cases. I knew I had no intention of giving up my sleep. I have a child who needs me and whom I need and spending a Saturday with him is the thing I look forward to the most. It's how I get through the week. I know I have to make up for that day somehow.

I also know I've done the scene. I have my legendary drunks, fucks and parties under my belt. And I also know that I was over it when I was over it and I knew, even then, I wasn't going back to that. I killed it and it was over. And it's not any different now than it was then. The drinks are the same, the dudes still lie and the parties should still be over long before the last lime leaves. Only condoms are more expensive.

I am not doing anything more than I am supposed to. I have no secret answers in my pocket. I read until I understand. I ask or email a Prof or a TA or a 2 or 3L if the work is getting the better of me. I'm assigned the same work as everyone else. I'm just operating with different motivation. I want this. I want my kids to be proud of me. I want them to see that they can change their minds, choose to be different, to see they aren't trapped by life. It's hard when it's hard, but sometimes you get opportunities. Mine is called John.

By the way, while writing this, 2 people came to ask me for help on an assignment. It was the same way at UWI. The same people who accused me of rubbish and talked behind my back used to come to me for help. I never said no or gave anyone halfway help, even though sometimes I wanted to. I thought I didn't know them in the same way I believed they didn't know me and it cost me nothing to say some words. I didn't get any less smart and explaining something always made me understand it better.

I'm not saying these 2 people fall into that category, but the irony is still inescapable to me.

Friday, September 3, 2010

blog blues

It's not that I don't have things to post about. I do. Many, many things. But I don't feel comfortable putting them down here. I barely even talk about them. Shit that really gets on my nerves, I call Anu and Skype-rant at her for 20 minutes and come away feeling better. It's out in the world but no where it can come back to bite me in the professional ass.

God, but it's hard. I am easily pissed off and I cannot take my pissiness to FB or my blog. I've given up on Twitter. I know it seems perfect: 140 words to just state my irritation? How perfect can you get? But, I got some personal character and moral fitness shit to think about and the censoring has begun.

Not that I haven't censored myself in the past. I don't put my sex life on here. Not because it wouldn't make for interesting reading (trust me!) but I do have someone else to think about in that regard and I have to afford him some privacy as well. As Pie is getting older, I am more careful what I say about him, because he will (hopefully) read this someday and I don't need to have to foot the therapy bills for causing his dysfunction. I don't even mention Chris more than in passing. He's way to old to want to me to do that and I respect his privacy as well.

But I liked having the outlet to say that people pissed me off because of so and so. But I have made this blog public and the school is aware of its existence. That puts the responsibility on me. I accept that. I do miss Journalspace, where I could have made posts private or friends only, so at least I can put my grief out there.

For now, Skype-ranting will have to do.