Crag Law Center, with the word “Law” in its name, made me really nervous about my first day of work over the last weekend. Even though I was told by my Crag supervisor, Suzanne, that Crag had a perfectly casual work environment multiple times, I scoured through my limited wardrobe on Sunday to find an outfit that magically looked formal and informal at the same time. Needless to say, whatever I was expecting of Crag, it was not that.
A 12-minute light rail ride and a few minutes’ walk took Elliot and Me to Crag’s offices. It was a cozy place and the staff were far from the lawyers in movies who were always dressed up and stern-looking. I exchanged greetings with them imagining them to be lawyers with decades of experiences seeing college students as children, only to find out some of them were interns like me, figuring out what the mission of Crag was about.
Suzanne, Elliot and I went through the work plans again to identify potential projects that we could either work individually or as a team, and customized them to our personal and academic interests. The next eight weeks sounded daunting and scary as Suzanne passionately unraveled her visionary plan for improving Crag’s development and communication, not to mention we had a summer party the next day to prepare for. Website overhaul, interviews, blogs, newsletters, image galleries, donor databases, partner lists, fundraisers were all the table for me to tackle. At this moment, I came up with an ingenious way of digesting all that overwhelming information and assimilating into an unfamiliar environment and lifestyle in general-I would first deal with the summer party tomorrow, and pet Suzanne’s lovely dog, Bella.
Preparation for the party was still handy, which involved putting posters into frames, making slideshows and getting ready drink tokens and Raffle tickets for donations. The idea that I was only going to do menial jobs slowly sneaked into my mind as my hands were repeating the motion, but that idea was soon displaced when I glanced at the summer schedule of Crag lying on the shelf. The staff meeting later further convinced me that these attorneys in T-shirts had a very tight schedule and intense legal battles waiting in line for the next week. As a result, I would not have an easy time, especially if I could understand 10% of the acronyms tossing around during the meeting.
Suzanne and Courtney took three interns including me out for lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant, as the first (and probably last) intern welcome. All five of us were from quite different backgrounds. Therefore the lunch quickly became an interesting one when five of us delved straight in to difficult topics such as the racist history and Portland, racial diversity, gentrification, urban growth and identity issues. The discussion strengthened the belief the problems faced by Portland were subtle and complicated on multiple interconnected layers. Even for Suzanne and Courtney who had decades of experience of working in the field, the consensus is that nobody has it quite figured it out. As an intern who is about to work with environmental injustice for the first time in life, I probably cannot appreciate the depth of their frustration when they hear the news that some farmers are displaced exactly because some rich people care for a more refreshing lifestyle and build elaborate houses next to their farms, only to realize they hate the smell of cows. In the meantime, probably I cannot fully appreciate their tenacity despite the occasional frustrating news.
The first day of work was far from enough for me to really get to understand Crag and its dedicated staff, though it got me ready for exploring more and possibly leaving my little stamp here like previous DukeEngagers.