Monthly Archives: September 2012

SoCal Girl

I haven’t had your typical expected upbringing. Meeting new people here in San Diego is rather entertaining – because I will start talking, and then after a sentence or so, the person I am talking to will make a weird confused thinking face as they try to work out my accent. So, if they don’t ask where I am from, I throw into the mix “oh and I am studying abroad from New Zealand this trimester.” “Ohhhhhhhhh cool!” they say. That is then followed by one of the following: “But you don’t sound like you are from New Zealand?”, “But you sound so American!?” or another confused look as they wait for me to fill in the blanks.

So I then go on to tell them that I was born in LA, lived in Texas until I was 5, moved to Indonesia and was there until I was 12, my family then moved to New Zealand where I went to school in Christchurch, moved to Wellington (the capital city of NZ) when I was 18 for college to escape my parents (don’t take offense Mom and Dad, love you!), and am now here in the sunny city of San Diego. Quite a mouthful I know!! In college I worked at a Mexican restaurant three summers in a row, and I would just tell customers I was from Texas, because it was sooooooooooo much easier to pretend I lived there all through high school and moved to NZ for university. The other option was to tell them the real story, and spend 5 minutes talking about my life with them when all they really want to do is order a margarita.

So, once I get that story out, more often than not people will then say “oh so you are international”. Or I have had one or two say “well then technically you are an expat?” So yes. I am not a kiwi nor am I an American. I am in between. I don’t quite belong to either, yet I belong to both. I am an “International”. Expat doesn’t sound right, as I was an expat in Indonesia, but America I do consider my homeland, so I am not technically away from it. I am away from my place of residence, NZ, but not from home. And home is where the heart is right? And my heart belongs to Texas, despite only spending 5 out of my 23 years there. Though maybe by the end of the year I will have rediscovered my Californian roots and be a true Californian. That is definitely going to complicate the story, adding in “then I studied ‘abroad’ in San Diego for 6 months, so this is now why I sound like a Southern Californian.”

You see, it has already started to happen. Perfect example, look above, where I stated my reason for being in the States. “Studying abroad”. That is what Americans call it. In New Zealand, it is an “exchange”. I am “on exchange” as an “exchange student”. But that requires explanation of how I can attend school in the States. If I say I am studying abroad, everyone here understands how it works. That my courses I take here will cross credit back to my New Zealand degree. I will then graduate from my New Zealand law school, not from CWSL. The only negative part about that is the States is pretty strict on who can sit the bar exam. So in order to come live and work in California as an attorney (see, attorney, not lawyer, I’m getting it!) I have to work for 3 years as a lawyer outside the US, come do my masters at a US law school, and then I can study for and sit the bar. Or work for 5 years. But I would prefer to work for a shorter time and then do my masters in law over here. 4 years instead of 5.

Another aspect of rediscovering my Californian roots is that I am learning more of the lingo – so on the weekend, before you go out to town or a party, you “pre game”. Like with football (American, not soccer), before the game there is a pre game drinking sesh. In New Zealand, we have “pre drinks”. No one would have a clue what “pre game” was. Especially if you weren’t going to a rugby game. Even if I was going to a rugby game, I wouldn’t say “pre game”. Another weird term is a “dive bar”. Cheap scummy bars are called “dive bars”. I don’t know the reason, but I am trying to get into it. I am also involuntarily getting into the accent here. Due to living overseas and attending an international school with over 30 nationalities, my accent is very mixed. It is also very pliable.

Four years ago I spent a week in New York. By the end of the week, I was saying “coffee” like the locals with that drawl. And I have made a friend here who is from New Jersey. I notice that my voice and accent changes when I am around her. It is really odd but I can’t help it. So here, my accent is already changing, although my friends will say that I have little bits of kiwi accent on some words that I say. Still. But I don’t think they know what they are talking about – I called up National Bank the other day and nearly died of laughter because the Auckland accent was so different from anything I have heard in months, I couldn’t handle it. I do not have that accent. If you don’t believe me, watch this YouTube video. I don’t even have a HINT of that accent. (Or at least I really really hope I don’t!)

At least tourists don’t think I am foreign. I have given directions to tourists on two occasions in San Diego! That’s right. Twice!! I asked if they needed help and was able to point them in the right direction, as well as give them tips on the different areas of downtown San Diego. That was a defining moment. I was late for dinner, but I didn’t care. I told this family that we were on the corner of Kettner and A, and exactly how to get to the Hard Rock Hotel. Boom! Local!!

I really owe most of my knowingness of San Diego (knowingness is not a word, but I can’t think of the correct one, so it is a word for the purpose of this post) to the new friends I have made. Today is my 2 month anniversary with San Diego. I arrived here 2 months ago, drove down from LA on a sunny afternoon, with no idea exactly what to expect. One month later was my first day at CWSL. I didn’t know anyone. I was nervous as hell, hoping I would fit in, find my classrooms and not make an absolute fool of myself in one way or another. And now, a month after my first day, I have met so many awesome people. I have really had to put myself out there, introduce myself and make myself go be social, but it has paid off. I am reinventing myself. It is rather fun. Figuring out exactly who you are, with no preconceptions or high school dramas holding you back. And along the way, I have been to different restaurants, bars and cafes, and seen great San Diego sights.

Last week involved beer and frozen yogurt on Monday night (interesting combination I know), with Thursday night being a big one beginning with sushi happy hour, Ghirardelli ice cream and shopping with the girls, then due to my friend Spencer’s concern for my social life (See look you are mentioned! I hope you feel special), the night evolved into drinks at the most hipster bar around (reminding me SO much of Wellington), bringing a huge lovable dog into the bar, drinks at the Waterfront where 4 Kiwi guys were on a stag do, a house party, climbing over a fence into the “Roman bath” (jacuzzi) when the gate actually opened but no one realized, old school Super Mario, and arriving home at 5am. Friday was wine and dessert at Extraordinary Desserts (so very extraordinary), and Saturday was yum cha, dinner and cocktails at Katsuya, followed by drinks at other various bars, including one where at 11pm girls came in and danced on the bar. Not customers. Girls whose job it was to dance on the bar. And it wasn’t a strip club. It was an Irish pub. I was confused at the time, and I still am. So very confused.

However there are two things I have not yet tried, which I think are mandatory before I can call myself a Californian girl. Numero uno = a California burrito. In the rest of the US, apart from California, if something is “Californian” style, it has avocado in it. Think California roll. In California, it means it has french fries in it. I mean how confusing is that? Although apparently one must be careful when trying a California burrito, because it has to be done just right. The french fries (yes french fries, not chips!) must be crisp and well done because otherwise they go soggy in the burrito and it is just not worth your time. And french fries bring me to the second thing I need to try: In and Out. It is a burger joint that people are mad about. Insane about. But in my mind, it is just a burger right? A fast food place! So I need to see what all the hype is about and try it for myself!

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Life at a ‘Real’ Law School

I apologize for my lack of relevant blog posts. But I just haven’t really known what to write. Or how to sum up things here. I have also been busy with school and getting back into real life – goodbye travel and sightseeing and photography. For now. So this blog post is about school, then hopefully the next one will be a bit more fun.

Ok. So I have survived 3 full weeks of law school and am already into week 4. I am finally settled in, have made some friends and am getting into my assignments. I also may have had a super social week last week and weekend, getting home at midnight on a Tuesday night, and drinking all weekend – including endless Mimosas on Sunday morning. (I am so glad that people aren’t so serious in law school that they don’t party!). So I feel like I am getting to know San Diego better and I am definitely beginning to love it here. Unlike many people who go on exchange, I didn’t have the initial culture shock arriving in a new country. I am American by birth and have visited over two dozen times with family. So I know how lots of things are done here. Yet there are still things I don’t know, words I don’t understand or things that completely blow my mind because they are so different.

There are a few times where someone hasn’t understood a word I have used (like “capsicum” or “gutted”), or they have used a completely ridiculous word – such as “root”. You “root” for your team. New Zealanders and British will know that you do not root for your team…I will leave it at that and say no more. This is a PG blog. And an example of things that are totally weird and totally American – you can buy pre-cooked ribs at the supermarket. You just heat it up. Insane. And you can even get a bucket of pre-cooked fried chicken. At the supermarket. For Americans that won’t seem weird, but it is. It just is.

And things are so huge here. You can buy a gallon milk = 4 liters. Four!! And HUGE jars of pickles and jalapenos and whatnot. And alcohol is so cheap – a bottle of Sauza tequila is like $15 NZD. That would set you back $45 back home. And there is far too much choice – the example I have used so far is that there are over 30 types of margarine in the supermarket here. I couldn’t decide, it was too overwhelming so I just walked away. I couldn’t do it. Too much. Then, the first night club I went to, we got in an elevator to take us to the rooftop bar, with views of the stadium and fireworks!! The club itself was about 4 stories high. I felt like I was on The Hills or some unreal TV show like that. I am definitely not in NZ anymore.

Apart from all that ridiculousness, I am actually doing something serious and worthwhile here. For those who don’t know, I am attending California Western School of Law. It is a private law school in downtown San Diego. And it has a stained glass window.

California Western School of Law, San DiegoThere are approximately 900 students and the average age of a student is 27. Well, in New Zealand a law degree is an undergrad degree. And my law faculty in NZ had probably 2,000 students. Most people were fresh out of high school, so most would graduate with a law degree by the age of 23. “Mature students” were an irregularity. Here, I am younger than most in my class as I am the age of 1Ls (first year law students) who already have a college degree. Most my friends are at least 25. And there are a lot of “mature students” – you don’t think anything of it.

The school itself is beautiful. It is downtown, consists of three buildings, and is always thriving. The law library is not quite as regal as the one back in Wellington (just because I love the historic building that Vic Law School is located in) but it is 4 stories high, with so many books. Federal and state – law books from all the states. So 50 times as many books as in NZ. (PS the below photo was taken against my will – when Mom and I looked around the school for the first time she was snapping pictures of me left right and center. But I approve the one below…)

The thing I love most about CWSL is that it is a real law school in the US. I love that. Attending a real law school. Victoria University School of Law is a university with a law department. It was great, I loved it, but it definitely does not feel the same as here. There is so much pressure on students here and it rubs off on you – in a good way. You feel serious and more focused. People are in internships in first year, already working on networking and having job experiences (though mostly unpaid). The school is really focused on helping you be successful in your future. And everyone wants to work in the law – you wouldn’t pay so much money and so much time in further study otherwise!!

I also love my classes – there are so many different courses available here. I am doing Entertainment Law, E-Commerce, Employment Law and the Law Relating to Natural Disasters. The Professors are brilliant and knowledgeable, and students really know what they want to do with their lives. Some want to be entertainment lawyers and work for MTV, others want to work for art galleries. One 2L I met even worked as an intern for an American Football team helping negotiate player contracts. These are jobs I would never even think of existing for lawyers. But they do! It has really made me start to rethink my goals and dreams and what I am really interested in – however New Zealand doesn’t have a huge basis for entertainment law or e-commerce law. So we shall see. I may be returning – I love San Diego, especially the weather. It is 28 degrees C every day basically. So warm. And sunny. It hasn’t rained in the whole 2 months I have been here – very different from what I am used to in Wellington!! People are also telling me that I should just stay. And I can, because I am a citizen. So, who knows?

Smaller wildlife – Zazus and Rafikis

Following on from my earlier post, Simba, Pumbaa and all their friends, here are my favorite photos of the smaller animals I encountered on safari.

Tarangire National park, Tanzania

This monkey was so cheeky. We encountered these Vervet Monkeys on day 1, at Tarangire National Park. Upon stopping for lunch at the top of a cliff with beautiful views of the Savannahs below, we had to guard our food from these clever little monkeys who tried to sneak up on us in any way possible.

The Superb Starling (above) was gorgeous in the sunlight. But I found that I actually captured more color and the full intensity of its feathers whilst in the shade.

The Red and Yellow Barbet we encountered in Serengeti National Park. It was the weirdest little bird but friendly too.

Looks spray painted right?? Wrong. Naturally pink and purple. What!?

Lake Manyara National Park

 

 

 

Rochester Dickens Festival

When I was in England three months ago, I was lucky enough to arrive in Rochester the weekend of the annual Summer Dickens Festival. Twice a year, Dickens enthusiasts commemorate and celebrate the life of Charles Dickens. In practice, this means that people dress up, partake in a parade and re-enact part of “Great Expectations” along the street.

Simba, Pumbaa and all their friends

As most of you know, I embarked on a week-long safari in Tanzania last month. It was a breathtaking experience. I blogged about it here, but didn’t upload any photos at the time due to being in the middle of the jungle. Yes, believe it or not, they don’t have Internet access in the middle of the jungle. (That is a half lie, our first camp had both wifi and Internet, despite being a campsite where we slept in ‘tents’ and encountered a gazelle on our way to dinner). It was a great chance to experiment with my DSLR camera settings, and although I wish I’d had at least a 300 mm lens for the trip (I only had  up to 200mm) it meant that I played around a lot with the aperture and shutter speed, to try and get good shots that I would be able to zoom in on later. So, after taking over 100 photos per day, and deleting many during the editing process, here are some of my favorite photos of the trip, to help transport you to Africa. Hopefully you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking them. And I hope that they take your breath away just as much as they take mine away, even a month later.

Tarangire National ParkTarangire National ParkTarangire National ParkSerengeti National ParkTarangire National Park, pride of lionsLake Manyara National ParkSerengeti National Park

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Morning Buns at Tartine, San Francisco

This post marks the new direction that my blog may take. I am no longer backpacking through Asia, and am instead exploring San Diego, SoCal (Southern California) and America in general. And I find the thing I am most interested in taking photos of is food.

Tartine Bakery San Francisco

Lets face it, my world mostly revolves around food. I visit a new city, and even if I don’t plan ahead what sights we will see or what tours we will take, I know where to get a good coffee and where to go for an amazing meal. And this weekend was no exception. Mom and I visited San Francisco. Thanks to the Labor Day holiday, and the prior plans of my Friday class’ lecturer, I had 4 days off school. And when we decided on going to San Francisco for the long weekend, I just knew I had to hunt down one place in particular. And that place is a bakery, cutely named Tartine, down in the Mission.

Locals will all know of this bakery, their infamous morning buns, and the long line that forms outside even before they open their doors. I only knew about it through a fellow blogger, Natasha, who has a fabulous baking blog. I am so lucky I found her blog because not only do I identify with her love of baked goods and baking, but the first blog post I looked at post-Asia was her post on Brown Butter Lemon Bars. I LOVE lemon flavored anything, and so I was immediately sold. I then read on, and learned about Tartine and their amazing lemon bars.

So, this brings us to Sunday morning, 7:30am, waking up so that Mom and I can go stand in line at a bakery, 20 minutes before they open. In most people’s minds this is insane. Standing in line for a bakery!? Before they open? But in San Francisco, it is all about the lines. If it has a line, you want to go there. You should be there, in line. If it doesn’t have a line, don’t waste your time. Bakeries have lines, restaurants have lines, and clubs have lines. Even the shops have longer lines than they do anywhere else. I waited behind 12 people today in Forever 21 just to try on clothes. But that is besides the point. We arrived at 8:40, 20 minutes before they opened, and were number 8 and 9 in the line. 5 minutes later, 10 more people joined the line. By the time they opened, there were over 30 people in line. But even my Mom, who said she would never stand in line like that just for food, enjoyed it. You meet nice people, make conversation, and learn new things. And when the doors open, you smell the coffee and the bread baked fresh that morning, and rush in trying to peer over people’s shoulders in order to see what is on offer. It is just so exciting.

Tartine Bakery, San Francisco

I had read about (and been told by Natasha) that I just had to try their morning buns. And a woman in front of me in line told me the same thing. And because I love lemon, I wanted their lemon bar too. Lucky for me, they had one lone lemon bar sitting in the counter, just waiting for me. They also had the most amazing looking tarts, cakes and breads. Far too much choice. When it was finally my turn to order, I looked in the counter and all the morning buns were gone!!!

No morning buns...at Tartine, San Franciso

Not to fear though, they brought over a new tray right away, and I got to choose the one I wanted.

Tartine, San Francisco

I then went a bit overboard, and we ended up with two morning buns, one almond croissant, one lemon bar, one banana cream pie and one walnut brownie. Of course we only ate one morning bun and one almond croissant there with our coffees, with the idea to save the others to eat over the next few days, but we have already devoured the banana cream pie and I am currently eating the lemon bar. The guy behind the counter was so friendly and helpful, and the barista at the coffee bar even knew what a flat white was!! And did it just right! So I was very happy this morning, with my perfectly done flat white and my soft morning bun.

Tartine Bakery, San FranciscoTartine Bakery, San Francisco

There doesn’t appear to be any official recipe available for the morning buns, but according to this site it is a cross between a cinnamon bun and a croissant. And I would have to agree. The outer part of it is crunchy and flaky, but then once you get through that outer layer you have soft fluffy dough swirled around like a cinnamon roll. It is orange in flavor with sugar sprinkled on top. In a nutshell, it has this combination of orange zest with sugary cinnamon sweet stickiness, partly crunchy and flaky but also soft and fluffy. It is just everything you want in a baked good, rolled into one. And I was very glad I got more than one, so I can savor the flavor again tomorrow morning.

And oh my gosh the lemon square is just mindblowingly delicious. I initially thought it was too sour and lemony, and was a bit meh. But I have already eaten half of it and keep wanting to eat more. It is very ‘moreish’. It has a top layer of thick and sticky sour lemon, with a base of shortbread crust. It had icing sugar sprinkled on top, though by the time I took a picture it had been in the car for a few hours and so the icing sugar melted into the lemon. Still tastes amazing though. And something that I will definitely make back in San Diego. Can’t say it will be good for my waistline, especially without flatmates to share it with, but I am going to be craving that lemon bar.

Tartine, San Francisco