Sunday, December 23, 2012

"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year." - Charles Dickens

Merry almost Christmas! I am realizing that it's been a month since I have last posted. I guess that's a testament to how busy/crazy things have been with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Nonetheless, things have been very merry and full of joy. I am happy to say that I safely arrived home last night (after quite the lengthy drive in our old Ford Escort) but my big and comfy bed was nothing sort of perfection.

So, I'll try to hit the highlights from post-Thanksgiving to pre-Christmas in the city. I am glad to say that I survived the December 1st LSAT! It was a grueling 5 hour endeavor, but it's nice to have more free time without my classes each week and loads of studying. The downside is I will probably be retaking it in February, so after a couple weeks of a mental break, I am going to begin studying again within the next couple of days. Because the LSAT is such a determinant of your competitiveness in the application process, it's worth putting in the extra time and dedication. I have also more or less finalized an application list and have finished most of the other big parts of my applications. So at this point, it's really focusing on taking the LSAT again and then getting my apps in and playing the waiting game. I probably won't know where I'll be attending until sometime in April or maybe even May, but I have a feeling the time will fly by and I am faithful that I will end up where I am supposed to. This year has helped me focus more on my current actions and being present to my situation. It's still really exciting to think about spending the next three years in law school, though!

The second weekend in December two of my favorite people road-tripped to Philly to see me! Sam (one of my best friends from high school) and Meredith (my college roommate) came together for a weekend of festive fun. It was so awesome to see them, and it was a great chance to do some of the touristy City things I hadn't gotten to. I walk by the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall area daily getting on the train to and from work, but am sort of embarrassed to say I hadn't done the actual tours yet. The Friday night they arrived we went to get cheese steaks at Steaks on South. Another place checked off the top 10 list Katharine and I are trying to accomplish! Saturday we spent the day exploring the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Reading Terminal Market, Love Park & the Christmas shops around it, and Macy's for their annual Christmas light show and Dickens Village. We also got pizza at one of my favorite places on South Street and explored a couple of local bars at night. It was the perfect weekend and I had so much fun showing my friends my new home. It reminded me just how much there is to do in Philadelphia and how it's important to not only experience your work site and people you encounter daily, but to also get invested in the culture in which you live. I am excited that I still have nearly six months to see a lot more of the city's wonders!

 Love Park

 The Liberty Bell

 With Santa at Macy's

The third weekend in December was a busy one! Katharine's AV mentor invited my community members and I out to a nice dinner. We went to Raddichio-Cafe, which is an amazing Italian restaurant just steps from our apartment. I had chicken parmesan and enough bread to feed an army. What I really like about most restaurants in Philly is they are BYO/BYOB so it's nice being able to bring a bottle or two of wine to enjoy with your dinner.

The next day we went to the International Reentry mass and dinner for the AVs who just got back from South Africa and Peru. The mass was at Villanova and the dinner was delicious. One great thing about being a current volunteer is we tend to get all the leftovers after events. :) It was really heartwarming to see volunteers returning to their families and friends, but also sad to experience their mixed emotions as they said goodbye to their communities and their AV leaders and mentors. I cannot fathom spending a year abroad with a group of people and then having to readjust to America and transition into a new lifestyle that is separate from your fellow AVs. It's very similar to what I will experience at the end of June, I'm sure, but for now I can't picture it!

 Internation Reentry Dinner

 International Reentry Dinner

On Sunday we went to a volunteers gathering at Chestnut Hill College in Philly. There were volunteers present from a variety of different organizations who live in and around the city. Although everyone serves at different sites and their programs are all unique, it was nice and rejuvenating to meet fellow volunteers. We did a lot of games and activities based on the Holiday theme and had a great dinner. The college itself is beautiful, and we captured some great Christmas-themed shots.

VIP has been a really amazing place to be. Each day I learn something new and have invigorating conversations with coworkers and people connected to the organization. I have slowly gotten more responsibilities and work, but I have also become better at organization and time-management. I often find myself thinking of new creative ways to enhance my experience and share ideas with others. I came up with the slogan "Do a Good Deed this Holiday Season" to promote our deed transfer cases to volunteer attorneys. I tend to stress about having so many cases that are not yet referred, although I know that eventually they will go out to volunteers. Taking a homeownership case is a big commitment, as it can take many years to complete a lot of the cases. We also had a holiday lunch and gift exchange at work, which was really fun. It seems there's always extra sweets in the kitchen at work too, so I am never short of sugar-filled goodness!

Again, it's so nice to be home for a small break. I hadn't been home in over four months. On the 2nd I will head to mid-year retreat and be reunited with all the domestic AVs. I am really excited to hear about everyone's experiences in community and at their sites. I think it's one thing to do service and internally reflect, but it's another to share your experiences and grow together in solidarity. I hope everyone has a relaxing, safe, and wonderful Christmas and New Year!

P.S. Here are some lovely holiday shots:

Philly Christmas

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