City Living| May 31, 2011
Well, here I am. It has probably been the craziest few weeks of my life. In that short span, I finished my first year of law school, did write-on comeptition, packed my whole life into little boxes and two suitcases, and moved to Stockholm, Sweden. I came here to intern for an organization called the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA). I didn't mention much about my internship in the first blog for one simple reason: I was waiting to learn more about it myself. If you read that blog, you know that my application, interview, and acceptance of the position was as much of a whilwind as the last few weeks have been. All I really knew is that it was an international organization that worked on international and constitutional law. I read the website up and down, but the activities and programs were so diverse that I couldn't get a clear picture of where I belonged. It seemed like I belonged everwhere. It has been a couple weeks now since I arrived, and I have finally managed to settle in long enough to put my thoughts down in this blog. As it turns out, my place was in the Constituion Building Program (CBP), which not only researches constitution building processes, but provides resources, advice, and support for practitioners and policy makers engaged in the process. Currently my work mostly revolves around the website, though I have branched out into some other areas as well. For the last couple of weeks, I have mostly been on my own, updating the online database of web links, creating news summaries on international constitutional issues, and writing comprehensive country studies that examine the history, constitutions, and political challenges of countries around the world. All of this work is published on the website, which is great exposure and great writing experience. So far, my legal work has surrounded the analysis of constituions and their creations, along with the historical and political forces that both influence and challenge these legal frameworks. It has been fascinating work that looks at the legal profession for a different, and some would say more multidimensional, way. Now I have a fellow intern from Princeton who can share the load with me, giving us both more time to spend on any one task which allows us to slow down and examine issues in more depth. I am encouraged by the work and the progress we have made in these last couple of weeks.
As far as Stockholm is concerned, I had some difficulty adjusting to life in Sweden. One of the biggest challenges was the language barrier. Before I left, everyone told me that most people here spoke English, so it wouldn't be a problem. While this is true, and it could certainly be worse if they did not, this doesn't really help me when I read street signs or have to shop for groceries. In my first week here, I bought pre-soured milk in an effort to find lactose free milk, and the next week I bought apple sauce in a carton thinking it was apple juice. There have been some culinary struggles, and some tense map-filled moments, but I find myself not only settling into a rhythm, but finding an appreciation and enjoyment of the city I didn't think I would possess when I got off the plane into a completely foreign world of umlauts and lutefisk. It reminds me of Paris in a lot of ways, but is just different enough to have its own charms and beauties. I lived in France for a year, and there I came to love the river, the architecture, the food, the language, and even the people. The French, and Parisians in general, came to get the reputation for rudeness, but I realized that perhaps this was not entirely unprovoked. Living in a tourist mecca, you come to realize that tourists are annoying. As a tourist, it almost pains me to say this, especially as I plan to make a living traveling and living in international settings. However, when you are just trying to get to work, a lost tourist with a camera can be your worst enemy, and you come to dread the people who obviously came completely unprepared. It is almost an insult to you when it becomes obvious that they have not once looked at a tour book, a map, or a dictionary. For me, the best kind of travel is informed travel, and it is a mark of cultural respect to try and smooth your path as much as possible. Now that I live in Stockholm, I find that it is also a city built on water. It has similar architecture and lacks tall skyscrapers. I feel safe here, and strangely comfortable for a land so foreign. But the best part is that it is similar to Paris, but without all the tourists. Stockholm is an unrealized tourist's dream. There is plenty to see and do, with enough diversity that you don't feel trapped in museums or castles or churches, as can often be the case in Europe. The food isn't great, but most Swedes prefer Italian, Chinese, and American food anyway. You can take boat tours to the archipelego or see the beutiful countryside, all within a comfortable day's distance of the city. You can take a picture of the ancient Viking ship, the Vasa, not meters away from a modern amusment park that sits in the middle of an outdoor live history museum a-la Williamsburg, only with more Vikings. In fact, that is precisely what I plan to do this weekend. This is a short work week with one of the longest holidays in the Swedish calendar. With 5 days off, I and 4 other interns are planning on visiting some of the more touristy sites. With almost perpetual daylight, there is plenty of time in a day to get your pictures, and still have time for some lutefisk! Ah, city living.