funny pictures of cats with captionsBefore I went to Cambodia for my internship with the Open Society Institute in Summer 2010 and around the time of my 1L finals, I discovered a lump about the size of an almond in my right boob.

Somewhat scary. I know. And maybe a little TMI. Get over it.

At the time, the boob almond didn’t seem as scary as cramming all the rules for my Civil Procedure, Contracts, Property, Torts and Criminal Law classes in my head. I conveniently put the slight fear that the lump could mean something scarier aside – my mother had a couple in the past that turned out to be benign – and turned my attention to more important things like collateral estoppel, equitable servitudes and the parol evidence rule.

Between studying for law school exams, worrying about trouble with the Boyfriend around that time, and focusing on the Terrifying Boob Almond, I chose to study for law school exams and deal with life. Terrifying boob almond (“TBA”) was put on the back burner.

I didn’t think about it again until I got back from Cambodia several months later: I was a carefree 2L (well, not quite carefree), and things with the Boyfriend were once again going swimmingly. And once I started thinking about it, I started panicking.

Just the December before (around 1L first-semester finals), an aunt who was very dear to me and to my family passed away from stomach cancer. Several years before that one of my uncles was taken by lung cancer. Several years before that another aunt had died from uterine cancer. It’s heart-wrenching to see a family member deal with such immense pain and know that there is nothing you can do to stop it. It was heart-stopping to think that maybe I would put my family through that again.

So I didn’t tell my family about the lump initially. However, as I scheduled visits to first a clinic, then a specialist, I felt that it would be good to have my mom with me. If she couldn’t provide moral support, she could at least provide transportation and/or celebratory, non-cancer cupcakes. I didn’t want to bring the Boyfriend to the doctor’s office. I dunno. I guess there’s something comforting about having a support person in the doc’s office who has woman parts.

I scheduled a visit with the campus clinic, which confirmed that I did in fact have a Terrifying Boob Almond (though they did use a more scientific term for it). A week or two after that, I was forwarded to a specialist, who confirmed the TBA was not a liquid-filled cyst that could just be drained of the liquid, but rather a firm growth that needed to be biopsied to rule out cancer. A week after that, the specialist performed a core-needle biopsy, and tagged the site with a little chip to mark the biopsied site. (Unfortunately, I don’t set off metal detectors. Sucks, I know. That would have been a pretty cool story to tell.)

After about four to six weeks total from clinic visit to biopsy results, I had my answer about cancer: the TBA was benign. FU, TBA.

I don’t think I was too surprised by the results: I am after all under 30, eat somewhat healthily (except for the midnight runs – no pun intended – to Del Taco), and exercise regularly.

However, in the course of my research, I learned that there is a minority of women in my age group who weren’t as lucky as I was, who do get breast cancer. What’s even worse is that the mortality rates for these women are much higher: since they are so young and healthy, they never think they are at risk. This often results in the cancer being caught during the later stages of development, making it that much more difficult to treat.

I was lucky. All I learned after my month-long ordeal was that some women do get benign, boob almonds on a fairly regular basis. Some women, sadly, aren’t as lucky and learn that they are part of the small minority of women under 30 who do get cancer.

The solution?

While there isn’t any cure for cancer yet and while we can only do so much in terms of prevention, we certainly can control the detection of these cancers. For women, that means touching your boobies. For men, that means encouraging your women to touch their boobies.

Hopefully, because of early detection and screening, that TBA will be MIA at your doctor’s office sooner rather than later.

For more information on younger women who are living with or who have survived breast cancer, please visit the Young Survivor’s Coalition website.

For an account of one law student’s ordeal with breast cancer, please visit The Merits of the Case blawg.

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At the risk of a poo-storm from readers (all two of you) for allowing such a thing to take place in my own home, I’ve decided to share with you all a rather interesting diagram that the Boyfriend – drawing on closing argument skills learned during trial advocacy classes – doodled on the dry-erase board on my fridge while I was making dinner the other night.

He didn’t draw cutesie hearts. He didn’t draw flowers. He didn’t even draw a happy face. No, no, no. For some reason, he felt the need to illustrate his idea of what happens to women (not me, dear readers, I assure you) during that time of the month complete with running commentary using the LOLcat fridge magnets he got me as a gift.

With the zest of a football coach drawing out plays, he drew a little stick figure wearing a dress with arrows flowing out of it and into its little head. Apparently, while stuff flows out during that special time, the same stuff also flows into women’s heads, triggering a sea of irrational and unpredictable behavior.

According to the Boyfriend’s diagram, this leads to a panicked boyfriend who stays in a panicked state for seven days, when, finally, the crazy settles down, and all is right with the world. It’s all very scientific, at least according to him.

I would like to say for the sake of women everywhere – and in solidarity with my exsanguinating sistahz – that I didn’t feed him dinner that night.

But I did.

Girl power fail.

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cartwheel by werriston on lomography.com

Note from the Blawgirl: I was originally going to title this post “Summer blows away” as an homage to the lyrics from The Decemberists song posted above. However, I got to thinking about just how magical the Interwebz is and how popular the name “Summer” is among certain professions, and realized that some folks might find this post looking for something completely different, if you catch my drift. Anywho, read on!

It’s Monday morning here in the O.C. (as those who are not originally from Orange County and who get made fun of by the O.C. kids call it), and the day seems to know that the weekend is over.

It also seems to know that the summer has snuck away – and won’t come out to play again until I head over to Buenos Aires with the Boyfriend in December – as the local flock of wild parrots screech against a backdrop of gray, gloomy clouds.

Totally loving the cloudy weather. Totally not loving the fact that it’s Monday.

Goodbye, weekend. Goodbye, summer. I’ll miss you.

Photo by werriston at lomography.com

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Greetings, readers!

After an incredibly long hiatus – due mainly to the Blawgirl questioning the purpose and value of this blawg and blawging in general – the Chronicles of a Blawgirl is up and running once again! The Blawgirl still questions the value of blawging, but thinks that it would be fun to write down her experiences with her third and final year of law school, and with the California Barzam, for her mom and posterity.

You’ll notice there have been some minor changes around here, notably the addition of a “Clipbook” to the navigation bar, and a handy, dandy bar at the bottom of your browser that allows you to find/stalk the Blawgirl on the Interwebz if you so choose.

This post finds the Blawgirl several weeks into the first semester of her final year in law school after a summer of sitting/broiling on the freeway to get to her internship at the ACLU of Southern California office in Downtown L.A. All in all, she would take the busyness of these first several weeks over having to crawl on the 5 freeway any day.

These past weeks have seen her celebrating her 20-ish birthday, organizing the in-house competition for the mock trial team, reading/briefing cases in her remedies and constitutional law classes, learning the ins and outs of California’s Domestic Violence Protection Act for a clinical class, piecing together documents for her Moral Character Application, and putting together this loverly website.

Somewhere in there, she’s also started reading book three of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, started swimming at Corona del Mar, continued Turbo Kickboxing and Zumba-ing, and picked up a road bike to start riding on the Santa Ana River trail here in Orange County, Calif.

Dayyum. It’s even tiring just reading about it! Anywho, the Blawgirl will mosdef add blawging to the list of things she will be doing. She can’t promise that she will post every single bowel movement of her mind, but she can promise to try to be as regular as Jamie Lee Curtis.

Photo via icanhazcheezburger.com

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Photo 21 Walking the streets of Phnom Penh is one of the best ways to get a sensory feel for the city. The busy streets, shops and food stalls are often a cacophony of rumbling moto and tuktuk motors, different languages and visitors haggling over prices.

And the smells that greet your nose cover the entire spectrum of exotic and pleasant, like the smoky scent of incense and burnt baby powder, and jasmine flowers drifting over from the temples, to the not so pleasant odors of trash laying out in the streets and sewage drains.

The juxtaposition of scents embody the character of the city: there are some unpleasant parts, but the mystery, grace and moments of surprising loveliness – like sitting in a cafe while thunder rolls overhead and rain pours down at an angle – are sometimes enough to overcome the bad.

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nompenhmosaic

Some serious stuff first

When it comes to travel, I think the best way to get a feel for the local culture is to actually eat the food that the local folks eat. But one thing that you start to notice after several days in Phnom Penh is that there are three different worlds here at minimum: there are the locals, the tuktuk drivers, moto drivers and service workers; there are the NGO and embassy workers and tourists; and then there are The Rich.

The local workers don’t necessarily go to the Western-style establishments that NGO workers go to, and the NGO workers don’t necessarily go to the primarily Khmer-speaking food joints that the native folks frequent. And The Rich, well they have their own high-end restaurants that aren’t within a law school student’s budget. Money and how much of it you have separates your world from the other ones, but there are times when the different worlds brush up – sometimes uncomfortably and jarringly – against the other.

This is most obvious when a child – no older than six or seven, straining under the weight of a tray full of copied travelers’ guides, or bracelets and necklaces of jasmine – walks up to you while you’re having dinner and asks you to buy their wares or, at the very least, give them a dollar for food or for school books. They are obviously tired – one had red, puffy eyes as if he had been crying and reminded me of my youngest brother when he was just a kid, another tiny girl no older than four shyly waited for rejection even as she pressed me to buy her flowers – and one can’t help but feel guilty for shoveling food down when all you want to do is take them home, give them a puppy, give them a video game to play, get them super excited about a trading card game like Yu-Gi-Oh!, and get them amped on candy and soft drinks.

The travelers guides and websites caution against giving money to these children or even buying something from them, as they don’t necessarily get to keep what they get because their handlers will take their earnings at the end of the day. Folks passing through have taken these disclaimers to heart and are used to the intrusion, sometimes just waving their hands and going back to their conversations, ignoring the little person standing right next to them. I fear becoming so desensitized that the children become part of the scenery, and I hope I don’t.

That said, because of the sometimes oppressive heat here and seeing the children that have way less than some domesticated pets back in the U.S., I haven’t really had much of an appetite here. But I have faithfully taken pictures of the meals I have had, just in case some of y’all were interested in food porn.

nompenh_nmNom Penh

The oddest meals I’ve had so far were at the Night Market and at an eatery called Good Dream Restaurant (I think).

At Night Market, you get to pick your plate from a selection of skewered and deep-fried food. I decided to be adventurous and got the whole fried quail, barbecued chicken hearts, barbecued beef tongue and fried cauliflower with fish paste, washed down with pressed sugar cane juice with lime. The quail tasted like fried chicken, and the barbecued chicken hearts and beef tongue just seemed like the chicken and beef flavors were concentrated into a protein with a chewier texture. My favorite thing on the plate was the fried cauliflower, which tasted like tempura with salt in the batter.

The meal at Good Dream Restaurant was more about the company than it was about the food, which consisted of traditional Khmer-style dishes. I had graciously been invited to dinner by another NGO that OSJI is working with to join the co-directors, a staffer, and two other interns – very smart young ladies – for dinner.

The dinner was something of an introduction to Cambodian-style steak, fish paste and beer. The steak was fairly basic: grilled with sliced, raw garlic on top. The flavoring of the steak came from dipping the sliced meat into pepper, and prahok, a salty, somewhat sour fish dip that is part of many Cambodian dishes. It sounds a bit unusual, but the food was pretty good washed down with several glasses of beer. Or that could have just been the beer talking.

nompenh_cricketsPerhaps the highlight of the night, however, was the appetizer selected by one of the co-directors: deep-fried crickets. He happily noshed on the little critters, saying that they tasted like almonds. Based on the review, one of the more adventurous interns, who is also a first-year law student, decided to try one of the bugs. Not to be outdone by a former Ivy Leaguer and another girl, I decided to dive in. The hardest part about eating a cricket is contemplating the fact that it has a face and was possibly hopping about doing bug-like things. Once you get past that, however, the flavor is very mild, and both the texture and flavor is similar to soft-shell crab. I just had one, though, and, again, that could just be the beer talking.

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mosaic692048a6f788904cb185edacb51f0f2d784f0c63Chronicles in Cambodia: Dispatch 3

Bar review Phnom Penh style

One of the great things about having hundreds, maybe even thousands, of NGO workers living and working in Phnom Penh is the fact that a whole host of restaurants and bars have sprung up to give them something to do when they’re not doing something NGO-ey. I didn’t know it at the time I booked my hotel, but the street I’m staying on, Street 278, is one of the more popular streets for these restaurants and bars.

4648957882_da270547b1So, after doing more shopping at the Central Market on Wednesday and visiting The Killing Fields at Choueng-Ek on Thursday (click on photo on right for Flickr photostream), I decided on Thursday night to check out the Equinox Bar, Restaurant and Gallery, which is just a stone’s throw from my hotel. The scene was pretty quiet when I first arrived, with handfuls of foreigners congregating around small tables, and nursing imported and domestic beers while catching up on the goings-on of the day. The bar did pick up a bit when swing music started blasting over the sound system, and several men and women stood up to dance. Apparently, a group of expats get together after a swing dancing class to practice their moves at Equinox.

Earlier in the day, I had gotten a hold of a local cell phone number with the help of a super-nice photo shop owner, and found out that one of the California students I met at the airport, we’ll call him Econ Dude, knew the exact bar that I was at. So Econ Dude grabbed a tuktuk driver and met me on the second floor of the bar, where I had been doing some people watching.

Since Econ Dude had done a lot of traveling before and was more familiar with the streets of Phnom Penh, I asked him to confirm many of the suspicions that I had about certain things that I had come across during my brief travels. Yes, your tuktuk driver is metaphorically taking you for a ride if you pay any more than $5 for just one trip. Yes, the business owners only want fairly new, untorn and unmarked American money and will refuse to take blemished bills. Yes, there is a separate price for locals and foreigners on goods and food in the market. Yes, you have to negotiate the price for everything or risk being overcharged. And, yes, the beers of Phnom Penh, Angkor and Anchor, both taste like light beers and go easy on the alcohol.

Of motos and meetings

The day after the Equinox bar review (Friday) was the first day that I had to report to the Open Society Justice Initiative office, which is located in one of several large office buildings in Phnom Penh. Once again, I hired Mr. Black, my unofficial tuktuk driver, to take me where I needed to go.

When I arrived at the office at 7:45 a.m. for an 8 a.m. call time, I had to hang out in the hot and humid hallway of the building for a bit until about 8:15 when a small, bespectacled girl gripping a motocycle helmet came in and asked if I was the OSJI intern. I said “yes” and she ushered me into the small office that housed OSJI’s Cambodia operations. After making several calls, she told me that she would now take me to a meeting, and grabbed her keys and helmet off the table. Yup, I would be taken to the meeting on the back of her moto.

This wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t received a lengthy email from my law school professor, who had been to Phnom Penh many times before, about some of the dangers one might encounter in the city. One of these things was getting on the back of a moto, as there is a possibility that a bag snatcher will attempt to grab your bag and drag you off the bike into Phnom Penh traffic. With this in mind, it was a little daunting getting onto the back of the bike whilst gripping the messenger bag that carried my Macbook, but, after I got over the initial fear, the ride was quite thrilling.

After a 10 minute ride through the streets of Phnom Penh, I was deposited at a place that upon first glance looked like a private home, but turned out to be the office of another of Cambodia’s many NGO groups. I sat in on a meeting with some important people, met my project coordinators, went to lunch, sat in on another meeting with some very important people, and was told to get ready to work on Monday (more on that later). For some reason, those meetings in the comfort of air conditioning were so much more tiring than wandering about Phnom Penh for an entire day, but it sounds like the project I will be working on should be fun.

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I hope this isn’t the beginning of a trend, but for finals last semester and for finals this semester Undergrad Neighbor has done something unintentionally, yet incredibly annoying. Last semester, the day before my Torts final, it was inviting his douchey, possibly hipster friends to talk about Picasso, smoke douchey herbal cigarettes, and scream like Howard Dean while running into walls.

What could possibly be worse than that?

One word, nerds: Drums. And not just any drum kit, mind you. From what I gather, Undergrad Neighbor has either borrowed or has recently purchased a digital drum kit, which means that there is one drum set with a million preset kits on it. And he’s going through every single one of them.

Every. Single. One.

Frak.

Now, I wouldn’t mind if he had drum skills so crazy mad that he could play the dress and undies off a feminist groupie, but that is not the case, my friends. All I’ve been hearing for the past hour or so is “bass, bass, bass, bass-snare … high hat!” tried with all the different kits that came with the drums.

To grasp my level of annoyed, think Rock Band on the easy setting played by a rhythmically challenged kitty cat, minus any potential cute factor. “But kitty cats have no hands, much less the manual dexterity afforded by thumbs!” you say.

Uh-huh.

Puppies, kittens, unicorns and rainbows.

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Episode_4_Millennium_Falcon_1Since my last video post earlier this last month, things in law school have gone from 0 m.p.h. to being able to make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. In other words: Son, this ish has picked up speed.

I turned in my final 14-page Legal, Writing and Research open memo on doorway arrests (they’re no bueno), participated in a Moot Court practice round (aka ZOMFG! Barf.)  in front of six student judges the day after the memo was due, participated in the first round of the 1L Moot Court competition, advanced to the top 32 quarter-final rounds, and accompanied The Boyfriend to his law school’s Barrister’s Ball (aka law school prom).

On top of that, the day before the memo was due, I found out that I was selected for an eight-week internship with the Open Society Justice Initiative, a non-governmental organization, in their Phnom Penh, Cambodia, office working with media rights. Another Chapman Law student was selected to intern with the same organization for six weeks to help with the monitoring of the Khmer Rouge tribunals.

For sure, I’m super excited about going and the work I’m going to be helping with, but I also had to start thinking about funding for the whole venture so I wouldn’t have to pay the costs 100 percent out-of-pocket.

whosawesomeloldogThankfully, the professor who informed me about the internship, the law school administration and upperclassmen from some student organizations were incredibly helpful in finding funding (Seriously, they’ve been super awesome). An awesome board member from the Student Bar Association arranged for me and the other student to appear before the board and request funding. It was a not-so-awesome experience there, and, um, loud to say the least, but, thankfully, the amazing people at the Public Interest Law Foundation and the law school’s Center for Global Trade & Development more than made up for the lack of support from the SBA.

So the flight and hotel have been booked, vaccinations are scheduled (so I don’t come home puking and my important bits falling off, like Zombie Cat), and now I can just focus on preparing for my flight toward the end of May.

Oh, and for those teensy, little, insignificant things called finals in two weeks.

Urgh.

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