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okay, so  i admit the title of my post is not quite original.  i don’t think aleksandr solzhenitsyn would mind though.  in fact, he might feel flattered that someone from the 21st century has endeavored on ‘borrowing’ a product his creative juices after some forty years…

unlike solzhenitsyn’s masterpiece, however, my story is not set in a forced-labor camp in siberia.  and while there is labor, it is thankfully not one that is brought about by coercion.

i have recently started working as an associate lawyer at a firm in ortigas center at pasig city.  perhaps it is because i am new to working in a law firm that i sometimes feel unsure and lost.  then again, perhaps it is because i’m new to being a lawyer and i really haven’t fathomed what it entails.

despite the apprehension i feel, i do like being in my one meter by one-half meter orange and silver pre-fabricated cubicle.  i have a black flat-screen computer monitor on the left side of my desk and a ‘was-once-white’ phone on the right.  underneath my desk are a cpu and a steel cabinet with three drawers.  all my supplies — pens, paper clips, post-its — are neatly arranged on the top drawer.  the second and third drawers hold the folders of the files i’ve been assigned to work on.  they’re not that many but they’re enough to keep me occupied.

the thing i like most about my work area is the chair.  it is bigger than most swivel chairs i’ve used.  in fact, it’s too big for me so i can safely say it’s not the comfiest one i’ve been on.  for some reason, the chair keeps rotating to the right which doesn’t help much because my monitor is on the left.  pffft… what fascinates me about it though is that its seat cover matches (both in color and texture) the orange wrapping of my cubicle divider.  i must say, the chair does make the set-up look complete.  as my chair pivots slightly to the right, i tell myself i can easily sacrifice comfort  for style. 😉

my favorite time of the day is lunch time.  i don’t usually eat breakfast (read: i don’t have time to prepare breakfast) so i’m already hungry by the time the clock strikes twelve.  i don’t have to wait that long though.  the other associates normally prance around the hallway inviting the rest to eat before noon.  when they do, i happily oblige as i drag myself to the lounge.

there are three tables in the lounge — a square table near the door for the partners, a similar table for the non-legal staff right next to it across two square tables put together for the associates.  the lounge also doubles as the happy-hour area after six o’clock. Ü

pinoy food composed of rice, one meat dish and one vegetable viand plus dessert is the normal fare for lunch.  a neatly set white corelle-like plate with matching utensils and a cold glass of water await the person who sits on the table.  iced tea, coffee or warm tea is served after the meal.  what makes lunch something to look forward to is not the free food nor the fact that mang nilo is always there to help out (those perks are super, by the way!).   the best thing about lunch is that it is the time when everyone is gathered around, sharing not just food but also a little of themselves.

after lunch, i go back again to my hole in the wall, thankful for a hearty meal and new friends.  i try to get some work done while i daydream about ivan denisovich and the gulag archipelago.

i have come to realize that not all labor is like that of the the work done by inmates in siberia.  not all stories are like those told by solzhenitsyn.  there are stories like mine which are still slowly unfolding. there are stories like mine where orange swivel chairs abound.  there are stories like mine where food and friends make the labor all worthwhile…

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