Monday, March 23, 2009

I'm Not Alone

My friend Kirsten got halfway through our first class this morning before realizing that she was wearing two very different shoes. It was such a relief for me to find out that I'm not the only person here who is slowly going crazy.

~It Just Gets Stranger

Saturday, March 21, 2009

What Matters Is Love

By way of update: Last night I was scouted out by another person who is looking for a roommate online. So far Miss Rita is 2nd only to Georg and his boyfriend who want me to come and live with them in the southern part of the city.

Here's her email . . .

Hello, I am miss rita,I came across your profile today and became much intrested in you i will like to have you as my companion, from here lets see if our dream towards each other will became a reality i will also send you my pictures after i have recieved your mail direct to my box ( I will be glad to recieve ur mail remember age, colour, or distance doesnt mater but what maters is love,
thanks from my heart
miss rita

Happy trails!

~It Just Gets Stranger

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I was told originally that I could work through the legal counsel I'll be with in Moscow to find housing for the month and a half I'll be there; so naturally I didn't worry much about it . . . until now.

I will be leaving for Moscow in a month and a half. I've got my Russian visa application in. I've got my plane ticket. I'm studying my Russian. But I am currently on the verge of being homeless in a giant unfamiliar and likely unfriendly city. I started panicking about this a week or two ago when I emailed the general legal counsel I'll be working with to ask if he had any place for me to stay. His response was basically, "I'll check around but here's a website you can use to find a place if nothing pans out." On Sunday I emailed him again to see if he knew anything and I've yet to get a response.

My "panic" from Sunday night was "anxiety attack" by Monday, "violent heart attacks and vomiting" by Tuesday, "incoherent screaming and babbling while banging my head against concrete" by Wednesday, and "time to put on the ol' Depends, b'cause you have a lot of living to do!" by this afternoon.

I started looking through the website the attorney had sent me thinking, "I'm 63 years old. I'm sure I can find an apartment by myself if needs be." Well, the site didn't actually have any apartments but rather gave some advice about what not to do when looking for an apartment. The first bit of advice was "DO NOT find an apartment online. Wait until you get to Moscow to start looking." Additionally, the site told me that as Moscow is the priciest city in the world to live I can expect to get a downright crappy apartment for two months for no less than $1,500. However, as a trade off for lowering my standards enough to settle on an apartment this "cheap", I would have to live in a neighborhood where you are more likely to be stabbed and killed by the jagged edges of a broken vodka bottle than (insert something very likely here).

I was then led to a part of the site that allows you to search through profiles to find "flatmates" who need help to split the rent. Initially I said I would rather be homeless than travel to the other side of the world to live with an absolute stranger, unverified by anyone I know, who is more likely to mug and gang-rape me in my sleep than (insert something very likely here).

One panic attack and several Diet Cokes later, I was scouting out the online profiles. As the site has thousands of profiles, it allows you to put in your expectations of your potential roommate so it can filter out those who don't meet your standards. My initial search turned up nothing. So I had to keep going back to the questions they had asked me originally to change answers and essentially lower my standards. I found myself at first saying things like, "well I guess I don't mind if they drink a little," and "it's not that big of a deal if they have more than 10 cats." When my lowered standards in those categories still turned up no matches, I found myself finally resorting to "well I don't care if he's a convicted felon," and "who doesn't have a long medical history of deranged self-perpetuating psychosis-themed disorders?" I thought this felt a lot like dating and marriage: you start out with high standards for a companion and when you realize that there aren't any who meet those standards in your price range, you lower them again and again until you finally get a match. Then you have to decide whether you would rather settle with what you've got or live a lonely lonely life. Eventually I had lowered my standards enough to get one match. Meet Zoro:

Zoro is a heavy drinker and smoker. Zoro is 28 years old. Zoro prefers to live with "gays and lasbians pleeeaase!" Zoro's only listed interest is "sex." Zoro is also "looking for someone who good time and fun personality so party so much!" I won't even go into Zoro's profile picture.

Zoro originally didn't seem like a good match so I started over. For reasons I still can't explain, when I answered the questions the second time I had several matches, most of which looked slightly more promising than Zoro. I immediately sent out about 9 emails. I've only received 3 in return so far. One was a no go. One simply said, "Ok." Really. That was the whole email response. "Ok." I've yet to discover what got okayed. And my personal favorite was from someone who found me on the site and her email said:

hello dear,
i am miss Katurah looking for a loving, caring and trust woethy man so i will like yoy to send an email to my box for more explanatio,s with my picture. waiting for your reply.
with love from miss Katurah.
I don't want to make any rash judgements, but miss Katurah seems like Zoro's type. Except I don't know how "trust woethy" he comes across, whatever that means.
So here we are.
I guess life is sort of just made up of one challenge or problem after another. Some of them really aren't a huge deal (sort of like this one) and some of them really are. But regardless of the level of the challenge, the only relevant thing is that they are real for each of us as we go through them and that's enough to make them a big deal in their own right.
Ultimately, I'm learning at least one incredible lesson from the experience and that's that while the world sometimes seems full of the Zoro's and miss Katarah's which are great for entertainment purposes, it's also full of a lot of pretty amazing people. Throughout this week I've casually mentioned my problem to several people, busy people even, and throughout this week I've seen person after person offer their help and support when I didn't ask for it. I met one person at school today who, I found out, knows many people in Moscow; 30 minutes after I told him that I was having a hard time finding a place to live he found me to let me know he had typed up a one page letter in Russian and emailed it to about 20 different people to see who could help me. Yesterday I heard a girl that I don't know at all get on her phone to ask a friend about a possible housing connection she may have had in Moscow after this girl overheard me discussing the issue with a friend of mine. I randomly received an email from a woman in Moscow who was contacted by a customer at the bank who asked her to write me to see if I needed any help. The list goes on and on.
Ultimately I think that that's what is really important; and I likely won't remember much about this process for the rest of my life but I'll always somehow be affected by the kind of support and care people have shown me. And in a world that seems to focus on finger pointing and who-hurt-who's, it's nice to have these rays of sunshine here and there.
~It Just Gets Stranger

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Trial Ad Photos

Here are a few pictures from the trial advocacy competition of a couple weeks ago. These were taken just after the completion of finals. In the group picture you can see my partner Jeff and I on one side of Judge Sam and his two assistants (who also helped judge the competition) and on the other side is Allison and Adam. The only thing keeping us standing by this point was the right combination of Diet Coke and adrenaline. It was only 15 minutes after this picture was taken that we all started our 3-day, non-stop, sleepless pursuits to write our 20 page briefs. Man I love law school.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Oh, and One More Thing

Was anyone else functioning under the impression that our brainiac highly paid NASA rocket scientists were prepared to give us some kind of a warning that an asteroid is almost close enough to feel it? I know outer-space is kind of big but come on! You have one job! I was just going to give some kind of comparison to my job as a banker but I can't think of a proper analogy to warning the world that a 200 foot rock has traveled millions of miles to cause as much destruction as a nuclear bomb.,2933,503164,00.html

~It Just Gets Stranger

7 Days and 5 Hours of Sleep Later

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Last week was the craziest week of my life! And this is coming from someone who had an appendectomy in a 3rd world country. On second thought--this last week was the 2nd craziest week of my life!

About 2 months ago my good friend Jeff from school asked me if I was interested in participating in this mock trial competition with him as he needed a partner. I hadn't originally planned to participate at all but I then found out that it was sort of a big deal, most of my class was doing it, and this was the only way to try out for the trial advocacy team at the school which is pretty prestigious and something that I think I would be interested in. So I told him I would do it, mostly excited that it would give me an opportunity to wear my really shnazzy 3 piece navy blue pin-stripe suit.

For the competition, the school gave us a packet of information regarding a fake law suit and half the teams were assigned to represent one side and the other half were assigned the other side. We had a few weeks to prepare (find people to play the part of the witnesses we were allowed to have, build our case, prepare opening statements and closing arguments . . .). It, of course, ended up being a lot more work than we expected by the time we got to the first round. But the first round came and it was an absolute blast (and I don't use that word freely). The mock trials go for about an hour or an hour and a half and then afterwards the judges give feedback and send you out the door. If you advance to the next round you get to go again; otherwise, you can get back to the regular school work which is already more than enough to keep you busy. While the competition is run in teams, the scoring is individual so if you advance to the next round but your partner doesn't, you'll get a new partner for the new round and you may even have to switch sides if there is an odd number.

Well we made it through the first round and we were excited because it was a big cut. They started with about 60 teams and chopped it down to 16. The 2nd round was held the very next night so we didn't have a lot of time to prepare and incorporate the comments the judges had made but it went pretty well and both Jeff and I advanced into the 3rd round where they cut it down to 8.

The 3rd round was held on Tuesday of this week and was markedly more difficult as the opposing team was extremely prepared. I also very awkwardly dropped my 10,000 sheets of unorganized pieces of paper all over the room during a cross examination of one witness. The most embarrassing thing was when I was essentially told to shut up by the judge (an attorney from Salt Lake) when I tried to ask him a question at the beginning. Nonetheless, he really liked both of us and sent us into the quarterfinals.

With 4 teams remaining in the competition, Jeff and I were the only original team left (everyone else had been assigned a new partner along the way as their original teammates were eliminated). So we were feeling pretty good except that we were going up against two really talented people: one girl who we went up against in the 2nd round and one guy who we had heard rumors about (that's how good he was---we heard rumors about him). That round was held on Wednesday night and was so long and exhausting that I thought I was going to pass out by the end. We didn't leave school until after midnight but we didn't go to bed until after 2:00 AM because we had to wait up for the email to let us know if we were going to be finalists as the final round was going to be the next day at 1:00pm.

So we got the email and we made it to finals! I, of course, ran around the house screaming for about 30 minutes (using my whisper scream as it was really late). I then started calling everyone in my phone starting with the A's until a slur of obscenities were thrown at me somewhere in the D's for calling in the middle of the night.

Thursday came; I, by this time, had completely given up on trying to get caught up in my classes which were all now a good 2 weeks behind. A federal judge from Salt Lake (Judge Sam) came down to judge the even and it was held in the court room with the whole school invited to attend. The two people we had gone up against in the 4th round made it to finals as well so it was essentially a rematch from the night before.

The final round was far and away my favorite. All four of us were on our best game and it made me more than ever want to do trial work every day for the rest of my life. It was also great to have so much support from classmates who came to cheer us on. After the trial, the judge and his two clerks left the room for about 30 minutes to tally up the scores. I was so thrilled to be a finalist by that time that I surprisingly wasn't really nervous to hear the results. And I suppose it was a good thing anyway because the other team won. I was first runner up and Jeff was second runner up. Neither of us felt like we could possibly have been disappointed--that round was our best performance and we ended up as finalists in a competitive competition that started out with 110-120 of the smartest people I've ever met. I would say it was a pretty good week.

Of course, that day I had to start facing reality as I had a 20 page brief I had to turn in by Saturday night at 11:00 and due to the competition I had done little work on it. This brief makes up my entire grade in one class and, because this is law school, everyone is graded based on how well everyone else did; so I couldn't really afford to do a weak job on it. So on Thursday I worked on it from 4:00PM-4:30AM. Then I took a nap for an hour and a half and went at it again on Friday from 6:00am-Saturday 3:00am. Then I woke up Saturday morning and worked on it from 6:00am-8:00am at which point I ran into work for a few hours. Then back to school from 2:00pm-11:00pm where I turned the paper in just in time. The whole time I could hear David (a friend of mine who is a 2nd year at another law school) telling me to calm down and go home already.

So I essentially lived at my desk in the library for a few days. In the picture you can only see 2 of the 50 or so Diet Cokes I drank during that period. You'll also notice the small pile of clothes in my top left drawer. Currently I have enough pants, shirts, sweaters, socks and shoes at the school to clothe a small country.

I really started to lose it by Friday. Sometime that afternoon I lost my shoes at school and I had to walk around for a while looking for them. I couldn't even remember when I had them last. I eventually found another pair of shoes that were mine but they weren't the ones I was wearing earlier that day. I actually still don't really know how the shoes I found got to school in the first place. Several hours later I found the shoes I had been looking for in my computer bag. I'm going crazy.

~It Just Gets Stranger