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!
- Kiwi Accent (youtube.com)
- What Does A Californian Accent Sound Like? (laist.com)
- San Diego one week down. (jenhowes.wordpress.com)
- Life at a ‘Real’ Law School (jenhowes.wordpress.com)