A Day in the Life (Part II)

Once I get to the office building, and if there is still some time, I get breakfast downstairs in the dining hall. It is usually some type of porridge with something a little crunchy and flavorful to go on top of it and give it some flavor. You can also get some bread and a boiled egg-- sometimes salty, but lately not. I eat, take an extra egg and bread and mosey upstairs. I set up my things at my desk, put tea leaves and some other treat into my office cup and take it to the water jug outside of my office that is stationed right next to the ping pong table. Yes, people play ping pong, but usually at the end of the day; but lately, it's been a little more rare. I fill my cup with hot water when the light is yellow, not red, and go back to the office. The jug broke down a few days ago and so every two seconds, someone in the office was asking when it would be fixed. I like to think of it as the equivalent of a coffee maker in the US. Before looking up laws regarding whatever sub-topic I'm focusing on at that time, today it's the duration of pretrial detention in England and Wales, I check my email to see if I have any translation work. Today I don't. Since it's quiet, I put my headphones in and zone in. My office is a hub for questions and clarifications. Because I'm always trying to practice my Chinese speaking and listening comprehension, I find I have to be careful about when I allow myself to listen to conversations or try to engage in conversation and when I need focus solely on my research. It's difficult to try to do all at once.

I work with mini water breaks and the occasional visit by another intern or other colleague until 11:30. We often get groups that come to visit such as law school student groups and/or professors from the US, a few lawyers from one of the affiliate workstations or, at times, a delegation from another country. No matter what has happened that morning, at 11:30, someone always reminds me that it is time to eat.

A few days ago, it was a little different. I didn't go directly downstairs to eat, but I used the first half of my lunch break to run and get money from the ATM machine nearby so that I could pay for the rest of my lodging. When I came back, the chef and his assistant had already put the food away! As I got ready to put my plate back, they both told me to take my plate to the table, sit down and wait for a minute. I said "hai keyi (it's ok!) mei shi'r, mei shi'r (never mind, don't worry about it!)" because I felt bad for being late. Usually I'm on time for lunch and so I didn't know that this was the time in which they normally a) put the food away or b) ran out of the first batch. But the assistant insisted and I sat down with a few people at one of the tables.

If there are more international interns, the conversations occur mostly in English with a smattering of Chinese. If not, the conversations are about half and half. Some days, I can tell people just want to speak in their native language and so you will hear various conversations around the table. We talk about things from what we did on the weekends, recent developments at the Center, questions about Chinese law or American law, and most often, questions about how to say a certain food item in Chinese or in English. There are often Chinese food items that don't have a clear translation in English. As is often said by a Chinese colleague who has traveled to the states, "You don't have it in America."

A few minutes later, the assistant motioned for me to bring my plate. The chef had cooked a quick meal for me, which I thought was incredibly sweet, but I was extremely embarrassed that he had gone through the trouble. It was comprised of a little egg, some fungi (something referred to as Juda's ear), some scallions and some meat, likely pork. I ate it all because of the kindness that went into it and also because it was so good-- despite how it may sound. I thanked them both again and went back upstairs to prepare for the afternoon.