Monday, July 26, 2010

Random Law School Update 13

Last Location: Washington, DC
Arrival Date: July 22, 2010
Departure Date: July 25, 2010

Current Location: Becket, MA
Arrival Date: July 25, 2010
Departure Date: July 31, 2010

Next Location: Mexico City, MX
Arrival Date: August 1, 2010
Departure Date: August 14, 2010

I still haven’t figured out what clued off the customs agent when he asked if I was a lawyer after I rushed up to the checkpoint and explained that I was in Mexico City visiting friends. I checked all of my luggage and my passport for something that might indicate law school. Nothing.

Thursday was one of my many luckiest days. I woke up early with nothing to do but to wait for my 1pm flight out of Mexico. Instead, my friend Conrad offered to drive me to a taxi sitio where I caught a cab at 7:50am to the airport. Despite impending rush hour, my cabbie delivered me to my terminal in less than 20 minutes. I explained the American Airlines agent that I would like to standby for the 9:51am flight that had sold out on me the day I bought my 1pm flight.

After a more complicated than necessary immigration ritual, which involved running back and forth between the police station and the immigration office, I was given two standby tickets through to DC, arriving at 5:45pm instead of the originally dreaded 11pm arrival I had purchased. Not only did I make both flights, I ended up with window seats on both :)

As many flights as I have taken, I am still absolutely in awe of being among the clouds. As a child, I used to daydream of spending the day at cloud level. Of course, in these dreams I could suspend myself in the air without the burden of an airplane. But considering my distaste for humidity, flying is probably as good as it gets.

Growing up, I would have never imagined that I would ever travel as much as I have. I grew up with the understanding that plane flights were luxury goods for the wealthy. For the middle class, we could take a plane on very special occasions once every several years. When I found out that China was halfway around the world, I remember thinking that I’d have a better chance of digging my way there than of ever having the opportunity to visit by plane.

Things have changed. Air travel is no longer treated as a luxury good in the United States. It has become much more like taking a bus with a lot of extra hassles and a lot less leg room. And depending on your destination, it can be cheaper than driving, not to mention, statistically safer.

In other countries, however, flying is still very much a luxury activity reserved for the privileged classes. In fact, many things that most classes of US Americans (Estadounidenses) enjoy are luxury products in other countries. In Mexico City, the contrast between the privileged and non-privileged is particularly stark. From the air, the city looks typically third-worldly with simple box shaped houses practically stacked up on top of each other, colorfully painted and perfectly scattered as if a giant had gown tired of playing with them.

I wouldn’t have guessed that Mexico City was home to some of the world’s most expensive shopping areas, or that it has some of the nicest malls I have ever seen with “VIP” movie theaters with reclining sofa seats and servers to bring you sushi and cocktails while you enjoy your movie. I wouldn’t have contemplated the number of luxury vehicles and the number of secure parking garages to store them. I certainly didn’t foresee the amount of restaurants that serve meals starting at $20 or luxury gyms with memberships starting at $160/month.

One thing that I have experienced a lot during my travels, but perhaps don’t write about enough, is classism. Class divisions certainly exit in the United States, but are nowhere near as extreme as they are in nearly every other country I have visited.

In Mexico, the class divisions are blaring. I am, by virtue of my affiliates (not my spending habits), a participant of the upper class there. I, and I think most US Americans, have a hard time identifying as upper class. I feel like an outsider taking a glimpse into a world that I had previously only heard about in the media.

Working abroad is even better than merely traveling abroad and I am reveling in the new perspectives. I am particularly interested in continuing to explore the mentality that perpetuates classism, particularly race-correlated classism. I am curious as to whether those who are the most educated, empowered, and morally inclined to resolve race-correlated classism are those who are also, perhaps unwittingly, perpetuating it most. I am interested in others’ thoughts on this topic.

I arrived in DC Thursday night to briefly attend HSUS’s Taking Action for Animals Conference and to focus on some law school related efforts. My mom flew in on Saturday and yesterday we drove the eight hours to The Kushi Institute in Becket, Massachusetts for a macrobiotic lifestyle and cooking course. I tend to agree that there is a strong placebo effect at work in maintaining good health. The more you believe something will work, the more likely it is to work. My Mexico City roommate suggested that I may not having enough faith for things like biomagnitism to work. It occurred to me that I don’t put much faith in Western medicine either, especially after Meghan’s death. If there is anything I do have faith in, it is food. So instead of trying to fake faith, I have decided that I’ll have a better chance if I commit to something that I am already inclined to believe in: good food.

We don’t have internet in our room here and our days are pretty packed so I may not be responding as promptly as I’d like. Please continue to write and to send me your updates, pictures, random thoughts, etc. I really enjoy the emails I get.



Friday, July 9, 2010

Random Law School Update 12

Current location: Mexico City, MX
Arrival Date: June 27, 2010
Departure Date: Unknown

Next location: Unknown

I am loving it here in Mexico City. It is possibly better than what I had looked forward to. My job is great. I am given substantive projects that allow me to learn about various areas of law, practice my analytical skills and read Spanish. My coworkers are wonderful and are treating me very well. Almost like family. The business culture here is very different than in the United States and I am enjoying being immersed in it. On Tuesday we went out to lunch to watch the fĂștball game. After the game ended, it started to downpour, so my boss ordered a game of Dominoes and we played until the rain stopped. It was idyllic.

The weather is also wonderful. A lot of rain, but it keeps the temperatures cool and the air clean. I have been lucky so far. The rain generally doesn't start until the late afternoon. It has yet to rain during my mile-and-a-half long walk to work. Today the downpour subsided just in time for me to leave the house.

Last week I got to experience a 6.2 Richter earthquake. It lasted a few solid minutes as our top-floor penthouse apartment swayed back and forth like a leaf in the wind. It was a calm and enjoyable sway unlike other small earthquakes that rattle the walls and cause trinkets to fall off of shelves.

My apartment is in the best possible location, on the same street as my gym and close enough to work to walk. We have huge windows which we use instead of air-conditioning. My roommate has a little cat, Sasha, who I am starting to endear myself to. The secret is rubs behind the ears. My roommate also, is wonderful. He is an artist and lives a romantic and creative lifestyle just like in the movies. There is always music playing in French, Arabic, Spanish or English. There are parties and art exhibits and concerts to attend, wine to drink, and people to meet. Sometimes friends come over to exchange ideas about literature and to edit eachother´s writing. It is a very inspired and intelligent environment.

The only thing that does not live up to expectations is the mass transit system here. While there is a large metro system, it leaves significant areas of town unserviced. The metro station closest to my apartment doesn't seem to go anywhere useful and there are no stations within a mile of where I work. I have yet to come up with an excuse to go anywhere by bus or metro. Furthermore, despite being the third largest city in the world, it seems that most people own and use cars to get around. Most apartments and businesses have parking garages attached. This may reflect a negative feedback loop between the insufficiency of the mass transit system and the status symbol mentality that is prevalent here, as in most big cities.

Cabs are reasonably priced but I have been warned that they are dangerous. A system of secure cabs has been established but it requires going to a designated "sitio" and often waiting in a long line. I am not a big fan of taxis as it is, so I take my chances walking. The neighborhood I live in is supposed to be very safe, while the neighborhood I work in is said to be less so. It doesn´t appear dangerous to me, but my luck in having never yet been robbed (with the exception of one unsuccessful purse slash in Bolivia) is running out. I am taking precautions to minimize my loss if/when this happens.

The only other difficulty here is figuring out what to do about my ITP. My test in Berkeley showed a jump in my platelet levels from 16 to 30 but the most recent test shows my levels back at 19. As traditional therapies have not been working, I must become more creative and try to implement lifestyle changes in addition to alternative therapies like acupuncture and biomagnetism. The most significant of these will be trying to adopt a macrobiotic diet. I am more than happy to eat macrobiotic food, however, I have no interest in its preparation which can apparently take multiple hours per day. Most of what I prepare for food is canned, frozen or dried. If it is going to take more then 15 minutes to make, I generally choose to eat out. This is all in violation of macrobiotic principles which demand that everything be prepared fresh. I have yet to wrap my head around how I am going to pull this off short of hiring a personal chef.

Last weekend I went to Salon Tenampa to sample tequila and watch the mariachis of Garibaldi Plaza play. I also checked out el centro (downtown) and took a daytrip to the Aztec pyramids at TeotihuacĂĄn. I will post photos soon.