Tuesday, September 29, 2009


That's my general feeling about life right now. My first couple of weeks at American University's Washington College of Law (WCL) really weren't too bad, and I was starting to think everyone who had told me about how busy I would be was just trying to freak me out. I seemed to be managing just fine, plodding along with my readings for Torts and Contracts and Civil Procedure, and I even had time to outline (in legal lingo, "brief") all the cases! But then...out of nowhere, that little two-credit Legal Rhetoric class that had just been lurking quietly in the background pounced and bestowed upon me an abundance of citation quizzes (and these aren't your friendly MLA-style citations), pointless library research assignments (busy work, anyone?), and oh yeah, "memos" requiring more reading and researching, not to mention actually writing them... My other three classes, not to be outdone, also upped the ante and began assigning more readings, as well as in-class quizzes (but don't let the term "quiz" fool you) and take-home midterms (which is apparently only supposed to take four hours, but that's AFTER I spend a good eight hours organizing all my notes into some kind of manageable outline).

On top of all that, I applied for and got a position as an Articles Editor for the
Human Rights Brief at school, which means several hours a month of...editing articles (duh)! However, I am SUPER excited, since I came to WCL primarily because of their focus on international human rights and public interest work, and this is a great way to start getting more involved. The brief has over 6,000 subscribers in more than 130 countries, so apparently it's a pretty big deal! I mean, I'm not a big deal - I'm going to be doing a lot of fact-checking and citation-correcting - but it's still very cool to be a part of it! They publish three times a year and they recently started a "blog" that will be updated with human rights happenings all the time, but it's not online yet, so I'll give you all more information about that soon. I also have the opportunity to report on hearings of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for the blog! Lots of exciting things.

WCL divides first year students into "sections," which means I have all my classes with the same 80 people (except for Rhetoric, where there are only 12 of us from those 80). Seeing the same people all the time has its ups and downs...but I have gotten to meet a lot of really interesting and fun people!
I was a little worried about everyone being super mean and scary, but it hasn't been like that at all. Well, I guess there are a few scary ones, but it's easy enough to stay away from them :) These are a couple of my new friends --
My new friend Claire and me:
Tim and me with new friends Ryan and Jen:

As you all know, I occasionally share embarrassing stories about myself on here (come on, I know that's really why you're reading this), so here's a good law school one for ya -- Sometime during the second week of school I'm reading in the library and I get a little sleepy, so I decide to listen to music. I get out my headphones, plug 'em in my laptop, and crank up some Maná. I continue working and a couple minutes later a guy comes over and taps me on the shoulder, so I turn around and take out my headphones to listen to him...and I can still hear my music. And so can everyone else within a ten-foot radius. Apparently I hadn't actually plugged in my headphones all the way, so the very hush-hush library got a nice taste of my latino music. I guess the lack of sleep was already getting to me...

Tim and I are really enjoying our apartment so far (and we would love to have visitors!). Our building manager asked around when people were moving out this summer and found a bunch of free furniture for us so we didn't even have to buy anything! We got a couch, a love seat, a dining room table with two chairs, a TV table, a big chair, and a dresser all for free! Pretty lucky, huh?? We've rearranged a little since these pictures were taken, but here's a little taste:
This is the front door area (which looks totally different now)...
This is our dining room...
This is the kitchen... (notice the dishwasher! The phrase "I'm so glad we have a dishwasher" has been uttered at least 12 times since moving in.)
We each get our own closet!
And the outside! I love the flowers!!

Here are some more random pictures and stories from random DC highlights:

We went to a Washington Nationals game last Wednesday and they beat the L.A. Dodgers. I'm not really a baseball person, but apparently the Nationals generally suck and the Dodgers are generally good, and we went with a couple from L.A. who are die-hard Dodgers fans, so they were pretty upset. But it was still really fun!
Apparently "curly" means "win"...? Tim and me, enjoying the cheap seats:
Natalie somehow still manages to smile:

Over Labor Day weekend, we took a quick trip (less than 24 hours) via bus up to New York City to see Avenue Q at the John Golden Theatre on Broadway! Neither of us had been to NYC before, and it was amazing! I hope we'll have more time to go back in the future... And Avenue Q was SOOOO good! The show closed on Broadway about a week after we went, so we got there just in time.
This is us inside the theatre. Apparently you're not supposed to take pictures inside. I got yelled at roughly .67 seconds after this was taken.
We're hanging out with the puppets after the show :)
So awesome!!

Also, no pictures (because I forgot my camera), but Tim and I went to the National Book Festival on Saturday (one of the perks of being in DC is all the "National" events are here!). We got to hear John Grisham speak, as well as Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor. They had tons of other big-time authors too, but we couldn't stay for the whole day.
We did get some free bags and pens. All in all, it was a good time :)

Well, it's about time for me to get back to reading... I hope the next update will be sooner than two months from now, but I'm not promising anything...

I'll leave you all with this true story --
As I'm walking out of a restaurant Friday afternoon, I pass an elderly couple. The man sees my laptop bag and asks if I'm a law student. I say, yes, I just started at American. He says he has a legal question for me. I tell him I really don't know anything yet. He says he thinks I can help him with this one -- What's the difference between "unlawful" and "illegal"? I stare blankly and wonder if this is something I should know and once again tell him that I just started so I really don't know anything. He says he knows the answer anyway -- Unlawful is when you break the law, and illegal is a sick bird...


Hasta luego!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


What is Boquete, you say? Well, it's a city in Panama! To make a loooong story short, my Spanish school in Panama City wasn’t really working out for me...so, I decided to only do four weeks there instead of six. I signed up with a Spanish school called Habla Ya in Boquete for my last two weeks in Panama. I arrived last Sunday, July 26, after a seven-hour bus ride from Panama City to David, and then an hour bus ride from David to Boquete. But so far, it seems like it was worth it! I really like the school, I’ve met some more cool people, and Boquete is beautiful!! It’s a quaint little town surrounded by volcanoes, mountains and rivers, with basically perfect weather (75ish every day, no humidity, breezy...although it does rain a little every day, but it is the rainy season after all...). Apparently it’s a hot spot for foreigners to retire, so there are quite a few non-Spanish-speaking people here, but that’s ok - there are still plenty of opportunities to practice! Boquete is also home to the famous Volcán Barú, which is a dormant volcano and the tallest mountain in Panama, at about 11,400 feet. This is me with the volcano in the background (although it's kinda cloudy, so you can't see it very well):

My family here is great. I live with a lady named Gojka (pronounced JOY-kah) and her sons Oscar, age 18, and Sebastian, age 11. She also has a daughter, Maria, age 19, who goes to college in Panama City. Gojka is so sweet and I really feel like another member of the family. We all eat breakfast and dinner together every day and talk about what we've got going on. Usually the boys go watch TV or something after dinner and I chat with Gojka while helping her do the dishes. She definitely loves to talk...which is great practice for me! Especially because she doesn’t try to slow down at all, but I’m definitely getting better and better at understanding everything. I also get along really well with Sebastian - probably because we pick on each other all the time :) This is me with Sebastian and Gojka:

My house here doesn’t have internet, so that’s why it’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog...I have to use the wireless internet at school. (Although I do get HOT WATER in my shower here, so I can deal without internet.) I live a little bit outside of the town - about a 35-minute walk to school (or a 60-cent cab ride!). Usually I just walk down to the main road (about 10 minutes) and then the cab only costs 50 cents! I really like walking here if I have enough time, because, as I mentioned, the weather is AWESOME, and I get to soak in more of the scenery. Such as...this is the view I get when I leave my house:

This is my house:
Cute, huh? :)

Last Friday, my school took a field trip to Paradise Gardens, which is a "non-profit rescue sanctuary" just outside of Boquete (I actually walk right past it on the way to school). Apparently they save hurt animals and give them a home. There were a lot of birds and monkeys, as well as a couple of leopards and some beautiful flowers. One of these monkeys was eating a lizard, so the other one chased him around for a while:

This guy really liked red toenails, but luckily he didn't pick mine...:

Pretty flowers!

On Friday night, a few friends I made at my school in Panama City (Bess, Keith, and Cindy) came to Boquete, so that was really fun! My friend Loren also decided to take classes at Habla Ya for a week, and he arrived on Friday as well. We all went out to a few bars in Boquete that night and had a good time. This is the group (minus Cindy) hanging out at a chill place called Zanzibar:

On Saturday, we went to the Thermal Hot Springs in Caldera, a little town close to Boquete. We parked our car and walked about 20 minutes through a forest and then paid $2 to enter the property. There were three little pools of varying temperatures, but all super hot... luckily there was a river nearby where we went to cool off in between. It was a really relaxing and awesome day! This is the beautiful river:

This is one of the pools (which would be really romantic, but not so much with five people in it...):

We drove back to Boquete and cleaned up and then went to the famous Panamonte Inn & Spa for dinner. Supposedly it's the best restaurant in Panama, according to the Capital Chef magazine (and I'm sure the author ate at every restaurant in Panama before making such a claim). It was pretty yummy though! Definitely more expensive than your average Panamanian fare, but not too bad if you compare it to a high-class restaurant in the U.S.

Bess, Keith, and Cindy had to leave early on Sunday morning to head back to Panama, but Loren and I (along with a few other students from Habla Ya, and other random tourists) did a zipline tour through the rainforest! It was AMAZING! It was kindof rainy and cold the whole time, and I was pretty scared before the first one (ok, the whole time), and I rammed my face into the metal pulley because I didn't brake fast enough and gave myself a fat lip, but it was STILL AMAZING!!! I wish I could do it every day. It's just a totally awesome rush...makes me think maybe I could try bungee jumping...maybe. This is me zip-lining it up:
And a face view:

This is the "truck" with horrible suspension that we took up to the top of the mountain on the incredibly rocky road which we decided was probably scarier than the tree trek:

Well, that's about all I have time for right now...my mama's holding dinner for me! :) I'm flying back to Panama City on Friday afternoon, and then I leave Panama Saturday morning. I fly to Atlanta to Chicago to St. Louis, so it's gonna be a long day...but hopefully I will see and/or talk to all of you soon!

Hasta luego!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

la playa! (and some other stuff)

Hello, family and friends and random strangers reading my blog!! I hope you all are doing well :-)

I haven't written in a while, so this might be kinda long, but if you prefer, you can read it in segments and just pretend like it's several different posts...

A week ago Friday, I went with the other "youngins" at the school and a couple of our teachers to a popular open-air dance club that plays typical Latino music. Beers only cost 75 cents (awesome!) but lots of creepy old men try to dance with you (not awesome), so it's kindof a give and take...
The happy group:

Last Saturday, Bess, Laura, Loren, and I went to Isla Taboga, a little island in the Gulf of Panama that's about a 45-minute ferry ride away from Panama City. It was pretty awesome!!! Beautiful turquoise water, sandy beach, and an all-around relaxed atmosphere. The island only has 1,000-ish people, so there isn't a whole lot going on. This is the grocery store & supermarket:
It has a few basic things, but if you really want to go shopping, you probably should go to the city... There are about five restaurants on the island, and they primarily serve seafood (duh), although I didn't even eat any fish the whole time we were there...oops. This restaurant where we ate lunch had a one-woman-show (she took orders, cooked all the food by herself, then served it), so we had to wait a while, but it was yummy!

After lunch, we headed to the pretty beach to swim and tan (hey now, I can dream, can't I?) for a while.
A big storm rolled in late afternoon, so we went to this Chinese restaurant/bar/club for a while, where beers cost, once again, 75 cents. Nice. They played typical Latino music, and the locals were just dancing and having a great time while it rained.
This is me at said restaurant looking wistfully at the beach in the distance...

Laura and Loren decided to go back to the City for the night, but Bess and I stayed on the island. We found a great little bed & breakfast, Cerrito Tropical, run by a really nice Canadian woman who moved to Panama a few years ago. It was comfortable and clean and even had air conditioning! I definitely recommend it :)
I love hammocks!!

Sunday morning, Bess and I decided to hike up to this cross on a giant hill overlooking the town. Loren had gone the day before, and despite his best efforts to give us proper directions (so maybe we didn't really listen, it's hard to say), we got lost a couple times on the so-called "trail." By doing this, we did get to see...
the town's trash dump!
Pretty, huh?? Ok, we did get a nice view of the ocean too...

We eventually got on the right track and panted (or rather, I panted while Bess ran ahead) our way up the steep hill to the cross. Here's a little taste of the "path":
The view from the top was definitely worth it though!! It was bee-yoo-ti-full!! This is the town in the distance:
And, of course, the cross:

After that hike, we visited the second oldest church in the western hemisphere, built in 1524:

We went back to the beach that afternoon for a bit. Lots of ships/boats hang out around the island while waiting for their turn to go through the canal:

We eventually had to take our ferry back to the heat and pollution of the city... :( All-around great weekend!

This past week hasn't been too exciting...I started the "law" portion of my program, so we've been learning some legal terms in class and talking about the Panamanian government system and laws and things like that. I've also been going with Bess (who is starting her 3rd year of law school this fall) to a law office for a few hours each day. We don't really do anything (and neither do the lawyers who work there, oddly enough), but we get to hang out and speak in Spanish about legal stuff, so I guess it's alright.

Yesterday, Loren and I went to Casco Viejo, the old Spanish colonial city built in 1671. The neighborhood is kindof interesting because some blocks are super dangerous, and then you walk over a couple blocks and find the fancy Presidential Palace...

We also wandered around some ruins of a building that was apparently destroyed in the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989... it's now covered in grafitti:

We also saw the Cathedral in the Plaza de la Independencia (where Panama declared its independence from Colombia in 1903):

Then we went to the Canal Museum, which has TONS of information about the history of Panama and the canal (all in Spanish!). It was interesting, but I wish it had less words and more pictures... :)

Last night, Panama's soccer team played the USA in Philadelphia for the Gold Cup tournament. Panama played well, but the U.S. got a penalty kick in overtime and managed to come out on top, 2-1. Loren, Bess, and I went to a bar to watch the game so we could be around the intense atmosphere of the excited Panamanians. We wanted to make it clear that we were American, so we took pictures of ourselves making faces:

Well, that's pretty much all I've got, but I'll leave you all on this note...so I still get honked/whistled/yelled at pretty much all the time when I'm just minding my own business walking down the street (it's not too often they see a white giant such as myself). A couple days ago, I got my favorite comment -- I was using my umbrella to keep the sun off me while walking, and a guy yelled out the window of his car something about how I probably shouldn't be using it because I need the sun for my pale legs. Ouch....

Hasta luego!! :-)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Take a walk with me!

Hola! I took a bunch of pictures while I was walking home from school the other day so you all could see the neighborhoods I walk through. Usually I blend right in (not), but this silly gringa got even more stares from Panamanians while I was taking pictures, so I hope you all appreciate this!! :-)

So I leave my school...

and walk down this street...

then I turn right and walk down this street...

this is close to the intersection where the traffic gets clogged and I almost see an accident every day...

then I walk past the closest non-sketchy restaurant to school, which has cheap Greek food and we frequent it often for lunch...

I then turn down another street and walk past this strip mall...

This is a public bus (they're called Diablo Rojos [Red Devils] - doesn't that make you want to ride one?) and are usually painted a lot crazier than this...

The REY is a huge grocery store that's part of the big mall in El Dorado...

A few things you'll find in the mall... (SAKS is an amazing store with tons of super cheap clothes! Apparently American companies send their rejects/weird sizes/surpluses down here. Most of their shirts cost less than $5!!)

I turn down another street and find another little taste of home just a short walk from my house...

I walk past this casino, where I went last weekend, every day...

Do it!...

This is an awesome Italian ice cream place where it's so cheap and amazingly delicious, I've started taking a different route so I don't tempt myself as often...

And then I pass by the TGIFriday's...

...and Country Inn & Suites (which I'm seriously considering checking into one of these days just so I can take a hot shower!)...

There's a park right across the street from my house (Las Mercedes is the neighborhood)...

With a basketball court! Although I've only played here once so far...

And then I'm finally home!!

This is the wall I climbed over when I couldn't get my key to work one day...

Apparently this Neighborhood Watch Club doesn't work so well, because nobody called the police on me while I was climbing over said wall...

Well, that's pretty much it! Thanks for coming along; you were great company :-) Maybe next time I'll give you a tour of my house!

Hasta luego!