Wednesday, April 28, 2010

We the jury

Yesterday, I was one of the lucky six picked from 25 citizens to serve as a juror for a day-long misdemeanor trial.

When I first arrived at the courthouse, I entered a room full of about 200 people impatiently waiting with a jury summons in hand. After about an hour, an employee came around to weed out those with an acceptable excuse, such as college students, and even a person who wasn’t a U.S. citizen.

One 20-something guy tried to be eliminated because he “didn’t believe in judging people,” but the courthouse employee didn’t buy it. Something tells me she’s heard more impressive excuses than this one.

When this first round was complete, bailiffs entered the room to divide us into different 25-person groups for each case. Like good kindergarteners, we formed single-file lines and were led to the restrooms for a quick break before entering the appropriate courtroom. Two state of Texas lawyers and one defense lawyer lined us up in assigned seats and asked us questions such as “would you be able to uphold this law?” and “have you or anyone you know been affected by someone driving while intoxicated?”

A DWI case. Oh goodie.

As one of the six picked, I spent the afternoon listening to how the defendant drank (supposedly two, then changed his story to four) beers while watching a college football game at Hooters, then got in his car and ended up hitting a car in a (thankfully) minor accident shortly after leaving the restaurant.

This may make me a tad juvenile, but I couldn’t help secretly giggling every time the state lawyers repeatedly said Hooters in a serious trial.

The defendant was biting his nails the whole time, clearly worried about the outcome. This probably had something to do with his alcohol level being recorded as 40 percent more than the legally intoxicated rate of .08 – and this was read by the “Intoxilyzer 5000” at the police station an hour after the accident.

What makes me laugh more than anything is the defense lawyer tried to make us believe that the “molecules” from the vehicle's airbag, which were in the defendant's system, could somehow affect his Intoxilyzer test. I know some people are gullible, but come on!

When we talked to the judge after we gave our guilty conviction, he told us that this was the defendant’s second DWI, and he’d now face jail time.

I think we made the right decision.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Wedding orders vs. Swedish residency

Before the big move to Sweden, I’ve been surprised by how many things I’ve confronted in the U.S., a country where people get upset when their Internet connection isn’t lightning fast or the food drive-thru takes longer than 5 minutes, which require more than a month to complete.
The first was when I started searching for my wedding dress. I began the hunt in January, more than four months before the wedding. I called some stores to inquire about their dresses, and when they found out my date, they had shock and horror in their voice, saying it would be really difficult to get a dress in by that time. And then, when we went shopping for bridesmaid dresses, two-and-a-half months in advance, most stores had the same surprise in their voice, saying that we’d need an expedited order, which also means extra $.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but any business in the U.S. that takes more than three months to ship an order doesn’t need my money. Perhaps it’s just the “wedding” label attached that makes everything extended and twice the cost. Thankfully, though, I found alternative bridal shops that were happy to work within my timeframe and budget.
Alice (the cat) must go to a U.S. vet and get an approved antibody count to make sure she can fight rabies before entering Sweden. This, according to my vet, must be sent to Kansas State University to get processed, and the results will be sent back in four or more weeks. Why KSU is the only place that can do this, I have no idea. The forms filled out by my vet need to be shipped to the USDA in Austin for an official stamp, and this also could take a month.
I’ll admit I became a little annoyed with the Swedish Embassy in D.C. for telling me the wrong documents to fill out for my residency permit. HOWEVER, I received my case number today, and they plan to ship my documents to Sweden next week. This is after two weeks.
If it takes around a month to approve my residency permit – going from D.C. to Sweden and back to Texas – and more than four months to order a wedding dress, then there’s clearly something wrong with the world.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Litmus test

On Sunday, I returned from a blissful day-and-a-half with Russell in Nashville. We walked around downtown and discovered Printer’s Alley, which is now filled with strip clubs (apparently the publishing industry is doing worse than I thought). But we also had a wonderful steak dinner, and Russ salivated over the good-quality beef.
I’m glad we were able to have the time together between these months we’re apart before he returns to Texas at the end of May.

Printer's Alley in Nashville, aka stripper's alley

Last week I started reading Julia Child’s autobiography, My Life in France. I know I’m a bit behind the trend to read it, but I think now is the perfect time for me to seek spunky Julia’s wisdom because, in some ways, we have a similar situation.
Julia left California to travel across the ocean (not by plane, but ship – yikes!) with her husband Paul, who accepted a job with the United States Information Service in France. Julia said she could have stayed in California and married a banker (and subsequently become a drunk like her friends – ha). Instead, she chose Paul, describing him as a “painter, photographer, poet, and mid-level diplomat who had taken me to live in dirty, dreaded France. I couldn’t have been happier!”
And if Julia hadn’t chosen to go to France, there’s a good chance she wouldn’t have found her own passion – a love of food. I hope to discover my own passions while in Sweden, whether that is a continuation of my current interests and/or something else completely. This has occupied many of my thoughts lately, and while I’m doing my best to wait on the unknown, it isn’t always easy being in a state of transition between career choices and personal pursuits, relationship status and country of residence.
However, Julia wrote something that speaks true to our situation in many respects, and it gives me comfort:
“Travel, we agreed, was a litmus test: If we could make the best of the chaos and serendipity we’d inevitably meet in transit, then we’d surely be able to sail through the rest of life together just fine. So far, we’d done pretty well.”

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Move to Sweden, learn Spanish

To my great delight, Russell’s boss wants him to learn not Swedish, but Spanish.

Since he’s working for an international company and will travel on a semi-regular basis, his boss thinks it’s more beneficial for him to know Spanish, an unfamiliar language to most of his co-workers.

This makes me happy because I have a certain fondness for the Hispanic culture. During college, I went on a study abroad trip to Guadalajara, Mexico, for four weeks and took a two-week travel writing course in Puerto Rico. We’re even planning to go to Barcelona for our honeymoon.

                                                                                     Guadalajara Chivas soccer game

While I can comprehend most Spanish, I’m rusty in conversing because I don’t practice the language on a regular basis. Now, I have the perfect partner to work on becoming fully fluent.

This weekend, when I see Russell in Tennessee (hooray!), I will bring him a Spanish-English dictionary and a book called “1,001 most useful Spanish words” for his trip to Chile and Peru to get started. When I move to Sweden, we plan to take Spanish courses together.

And then who knows, perhaps our next move will be to Spain or another Spanish-speaking country.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Civic duties

While listening to a co-worker prepare for his U.S. citizenship test this week, I was reminded about a letter I received for the first time ever last week – a jury summons.

I want to be picked because I’m a nerd who thinks it will be interesting to experience. Since I’m a journalist, I don’t know what the odds are of this becoming a reality, but there’s always hope.

This comes shortly after I filed my taxes and completed the 2010 U.S. Census. Is there anything else the government can get out of me before I leave?

Friday, April 2, 2010

You know you're in love when...

Some couples have arguments because they spend too much time together.

For Russell and me, we’ve had little spats because right now, we haven’t spent enough time together.

This may not make sense, but to those who know what it feels like to be away from the one you love, your sadness of missing each other turns into arguments that have nothing to do with being upset with that person, and more about the deeper reason – I just want to see you.

These moments remind me of how much I do love Russell. While we would prefer to be together, when we’re apart, I remember how good it is to have him around, how he makes me laugh, supports me and loves me. I never want to take this for granted.

Today, I sent my passport and the 20-plus pages required by the Swedish government for my “planning to marry a permanent resident” visa application to Washington, D.C. The potential new senior editor at work is already starting to take on some of my duties. This weekend, I’ll begin the packing process. And in May, I’ll better know what direction my personal career and development in Sweden will go.

The once far-off journey is now becoming reality. I’m ready.