Tag Archives: reflection

1:46:16 – I can do better than that

No matter what comes my way in life, I never have regrets about anything. Because every obstacle along with every win, absolutely everything that happens to you, makes you who you are today. I truly believe that, and I know that every time I fail, I try harder. It motivates me to try harder. To do better. I learn from my mistakes, from my failings, and improve.

Most failings no one knows about, because as humans we often internalize our fears and doubts and bad days. Lots of events that could be called a regret, people do know about, due to their trivial or ridiculous nature. I wouldn’t be who I am today, I wouldn’t have overcome those obstacles and become a stronger person if I hadn’t failed in those various ways or had to overcome the obstacles that I faced.  They made me mentally stronger and able to deal with and achieve so much more.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I love my life –  so I live it with no regrets.

2013-06-02 07.39.29The only problem with this way of living, is that some days, when you do fail, it really really sucks.  And no one really gets it. When I keep doing better and better, and then I do fail, it feels like the world crashes. Because once you start doing so well, you continue to win, you get this high, a sense of euphoria, and begin to feel invincible. And when you realize you aren’t, when the façade shatters, you have to pick up the pieces, and make something out of it. View it in a positive way, to move forward, and let it motivate you to do better.  Or at least you try to…

Today I ran my third half marathon. My third half marathon in 5 months, with my second half marathon completed a mere 3 weeks ago. I completed my first half marathon in New York, the 2013 Manhattan Half Marathon on January 27 this year. I finished with a time of 1:54:13, and was stoked. My goal was to finish, run the entire way, and not have my knee act up. I had injured my knee 9 months prior, and had been recovering from two small tears in my meniscus, and patellofemoral syndrome. My first run back into it was a 5km Color Run with two of my close friends in San Diego in November 2012, 7 months after my injury, with many months of physical therapy.  It had been a long recovery, so to finish a half marathon, and to finish in under 2 hours, was a huge victory.

photo 2I was ecstatic. For days I was smiling and just couldn’t believe it. At one point in the race, I started to cry tears of joy, because I was running my first half marathon, I was running it in New York, around central park, with snow on the ground, my knee wasn’t in pain, I had magic running pants, and ‘Don’t you worry child’ had just come onto my iPod. It was the most amazing feeling running it, and crossing that finish line.

Manhattan half collageSo once I finished, I set my sights high, decided to do a second half marathon, the Wellington one in June 2013. I wanted to improve my time, and finally decided on 1:45 as a good goal. I honestly didn’t think it was something I could achieve, but I wanted to push myself. And push myself I did.

Chch half marathon gear - night before June 1 2013Three weeks ago, I completed the Christchurch half marathon in 1:43:35 – a time that completely blew me away, especially because my calves were tiring and in pain from the 14th to 19th kilometer. But I beat my goal, and felt amazing. I was number 76 out of 925 female finishers – the top 9%.  The top 25% of all male and female finishers.  I felt awesome. I was awesome. It made me feel addicted. Addicted to running. That rush of crossing the finish line.  I wanted to run another half marathon, right then on the spot. Keep going. The feeling of being invincible began to set in…

C1 post chch half marathon 2013And today, I ran the Wellington half marathon. New Zealand has had all kinds of crazy weather this week, with a big storm hitting Wellington on Thursday – trees falling, power out to 30,000 homes, rain, 130 km/h winds (around 80 mph) – just insane. This morning it all cleared, but it was still very cold (not nearly as cold as New York in winter though, or Boston, where I went for a half hour run when it was -15 degrees Celsius!). In addition, we still had 30 km/h wind, and as the route was around the Wellington bays, it was very very exposed. My calves didn’t hurt, I didn’t run out of breath or out of steam, but in the first 2km I had to stop and massage my knee, as it felt like it was starting to act up. Then, the wind didn’t help. And when I approached the stadium, was 1.5km out, my iPhone told me that I had run for 1:40 – I knew I wasn’t going to beat my 1:43. My mind gave up, despite wanting to still make sub-1:45, knowing that I wasn’t going to achieve a personal best meant that my body subconsciously stopped trying as hard.

Night before wellington half marathon june 23, 2013I still did it in 1:46:16. Which honestly, is a good time. Top 15% of female finishers and top 30% of all female and male finishers. I should be happy. I should be thrilled. I ran 21km today. I have done three 21km races in the last five months. I did that. I ran that today. That is awesome. Not many people I know can say they have achieved that. As the signs on the road said, I am an athlete.

But still, my heart sank when I crossed the finish line. Knowing I didn’t run fast enough. I should have run faster. I could have run faster. And that is the problem with goals – when you don’t achieve them, it sucks. You look for excuses – my knee, the wind, the cold. But really, all I feel is that I didn’t do enough.  I wasn’t focused enough.  I didn’t run hard enough.  Because when I run a race, all I think about is finishing.  I listen to music, and think about the run – think about finishing, achieving my goal, my goal is what gets me through.  So to not finish, it feels like the last two hours was a waste.  Like I should have just stayed in bed.

Wellington half marathon - 23 June 2013

I can at least take solace in the fact that, upon comparing the Wellington half times with the Christchurch Airport half times, the Chch times were on average 3 minutes and 30 seconds faster than the Wellington times.  So I guess with Wellington having 30 km/h wind, and Christchurch being very still, the wind had a negative impact of around 200 seconds on people’s times.  At some points, the wind was actually horrendous.  Especially at the 15th kilometer when you have already run so far, and know you still have to run 6km, and you want those 6km to be epic.  So if I take off 00:03:30 off of my 1:46:16, that gives me 1:42:46 – faster than my Christchurch time, and a new personal best – but it still doesn’t feel like I really achieved that.

So where am I going with this?  I ran 21km today.  I ran the entire way, with an average pace of around 5 minutes per kilometer.  I didn’t stop.  I kept going.  Sure, I didn’t achieve a new personal best.  But you know what?  The Taupo half is only 6 weeks away.  The Napier one is soon after.  There are plenty of chances for me to achieve under 1:40:00.  I wanted to achieve 1:45:00 before I stopped training hard for a while – take a break.  I achieved that three weeks ago.  And I don’t feel satisfied – I want to do better.  See what I mean – failing makes me try harder.  It also makes me crazy – most people can’t believe I put myself through this.  But it is a physical challenge and a mental challenge.  A huge accomplishment.  Only once you have run a half marathon yourself can you really understand what it is like to run that distance and accomplish it.  So I apologize body – you thought you were going to get a break.  You aren’t.  Six more weeks…then maybe, maybe, you will get a break.

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Officially Jen Howes, LLB(Hons) BA

So I graduated this week.

20130515-214748.jpgIt is odd. I studied for 5 1/2 years. At the beginning, never thought I would be finished.  The end was so far away it didn’t seem like I would ever reach it. Yet once I finally neared the end, it wasn’t magical or special or ‘wow I am finally done’, it kind of just happened.

20130515-214931.jpgAnd because I finished in December but didn’t walk across the stage then, wear the graduation gown or hold that expensive piece of paper, it didn’t feel real.

20130515-215406.jpgInstead I traveled, and upon my return to NZ, started work and started my professional studies course to become admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand.

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Graduation didn’t seem like such a big deal to me. Until I tried on my gown, hood and cap for the first time.

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It finally sunk in. I am graduating. Graduating. Walking across that stage. Dressing up. Getting my name called out. Wearing the full regalia. Receiving not one but two pieces of paper. With my name on it. Me. Done with university. Done with law school. Wow.

20130515-220507.jpgIt is a big deal. I had downplayed it obviously. But it is a big deal. And I am still very excited about it. Even though it has already been and gone. I am excited not just because I graduated, am done with university, now have a BA and LLB(Hons), but because my family and those I love and who have supported me through it were either there to celebrate or sent their congratulations to me.

20130515-220247.jpgSupported me throughout and on graduation day. And told me how proud they are of me. Which honestly is weird, because when you study you never think of how other people believe in you and root for you to succeed. But they do.

And at a time like this, when you actually achieve something big like this, you realize just how much support everyone around you has given you, how you took it for granted, but how you wouldn’t have made it had it not been for them.

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So thank you so much to my friends who put up with going through cue cards with me late at night, from the start when I couldn’t answer a single one, to the end where I knew the answers word for word. Thanks to my non-law school friends for putting up with my ridiculous legal rants and trying to teach you and always be right. For understanding when I couldn’t come out or be social. For helping me through mini breakdowns I had when I decided I had just had enough. And to my San Diego friends, you made the last semester of my law degree the best. I got first class honors based on my CWSL grades. The friendships I made there, the countless late nights in the library, endless iced lattes, and numerous 8 tracks playlists courtesy of Lauren Foley helped me through. I wore my Phi Alpha Delta pin on my graduation gown to have part of San Diego with me during the ceremony.

Thank you to my family for supporting me financially and emotionally. To my dad for the endless proof reading he helped me with, though I’m happy to say that in my last semester, I didn’t send him a single paper, and I did incredibly well grades wise. I sent him a paper after I handed it in for help writing an abstract, and he had a look through my paper as well, barely any corrections or comments. Contrast that with my first university paper I sent him, where over half of it had red pen…!

20130515-220010.jpgThank you to my mom for dealing with my emotional breakdowns and telling me to suck it up and keep going, for being so proud of me and making me feel like no matter what, I would be a success in her eyes. And thank you to my sister for not only being a wonderful friend who I can always rely on, but also putting up with my occasional inadvertent bragging and gloating. And last but not least, thanks to my classmates, we went through the process together, struggled together, and somehow made it to the end somewhat together. It was wonderful walking down Lambton Quay in the parade with law school friends, because they truly know what you went through, as they went through it also. And somehow, we came out at the other end, with a piece of paper in hand, a job, and (hopefully) most of our sanity.

We did it!!

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Where is home?

“Where is home?”

This is a question that I have been asked many times throughout my life. By friends and family alike. To most, it is a simple question. “Where is home?” However for me, it has always been complicated. Being born in Texas, growing up in Indonesia and living in New Zealand for half of my life, means that I have several places to choose from. Throw San Diego into the mix, things just get crazy. This leads to questions such as “Do you not consider New Zealand home?”, “Where do you identify yourself with most thought?”, and “Where do you want to live the rest of your life?”

I have never truly known the answer. Honestly, home has been scattered for me. I have never truly had a place to call home. I have never felt like I quite fit in any one place. I leave parts of me everywhere I live, and in a lot of places that I travel. Part of me always viewed Texas as home, and I had always planned on returning there in the future. Indonesia could never be a home that I could return to, due to citizenship requirements, and so much has changed since I left at the age of 12, but it still has a special place in my heart. And although I have lived in New Zealand for 12 years, I have never felt truly settled there. I have never truly fit into one place.

However right now, I am sitting on a train, and reflecting. I am currently obsessed with a travel writer, Paul Theroux, and in a book of his that I am currently enthralled by, he writes that “You go away for a long time and return a different person – you never come all the way back.” And today this is exactly how I feel.

I left Wellington one year ago. I left New Zealand 9 months ago. And today I return.

I return, but I am definitely not the same person as when I left. Today I leave my heart in San Diego.

San Diego. Bridge to Coronado.

Who knew that 6 months could make such an impact on someone’s life? I sure didn’t. Not until now. My entire trip, throughout my travels in Asia, Europe and Africa, and even recently through the East Coast and Midwest of the States, I found that the best memories are those that you don’t expect to make. That you don’t have photos of. Instead, you have mental images, stories to tell, and memories that will last a lifetime. It is not the tourist sites you see, museums you visit or Broadway shows you see. It is the people you meet along the way. The people who make an impact on your life. That is the true difference between a tourist and a traveler. A tourist sees a city. They don’t experience the city.

Baseball game - Padres v Giants. Phi Alpha Delta.

And I definitely experienced San Diego. I had no expectations about San Diego. No tourist sites to see. I didn’t even know if I would make a single friend, or do well in any of my law school classes. So to leave my heart behind in this city, after only 6 months, truly amazes me.

San Diego Mission Beach

The people who I met, who I became friends with, and who I saw at least once a week if not every single day, are the reason that San Diego is now the place that I call ‘my home’. So, those in San Diego who made an impact on my life, this blog post is for you.

My amazing San Diego friends, you made me never want to leave. I extended my trip by two months so I could spend time with you. And even now, I am not viewing my trip back to NZ as ‘returning home’. My trip to New Zealand is a vacation. A very long vacation, where I will be starting a career at a law firm, but a vacation nonetheless.

Because, to everyone who I know from San Diego, you have truly touched my heart and changed my life. I am not an overly emotional person, but the very thought of leaving San Diego, and leaving you, made me so upset that I refused to acknowledge it. Because once I acknowledged it, it was real, I was leaving. I was leaving all of you. I cried more on my last night in this city, saying farewell to you all, than I cried when my first serious boyfriend and I broke up. When everyone was avoiding the topic, saying ‘see you later’ or just ‘see you soon’, and Jon straight up says ‘Good bye Jen’, I lost it. I couldn’t hold it together, hearing the words ‘good bye’. Good bye is final. It means no returns. I am still shedding tears, on a train to LA, probably making everyone around me incredibly uncomfortable. I will most likely cry until there are no more tears left. But that just goes to show how much you all truly mean to me, and how much San Diego means to me.

Because in San Diego, somehow, just somehow, I found a place to call home. This is not to say that I am not excited to return to New Zealand. I am. I can’t wait to see my friends and family. To eat a crumpet, have a flat white and enjoy a Monteith’s Summer Ale in the sun. See sheep, snowy mountains, and beautiful New Zealand landscape. Go for a run around Hagley Park. But it is no longer my home. I don’t think it ever was, but it was the closest place I had to a home. I truly cherish the past six months, the experiences I had, and all the wonderful memories. The good times, the bad times, and the absolutely ridiculous times. There were many firsts, things on a kind of reverse bucket list of things I never knew I wanted to do, until I did them. I don’t regret a single day, and I wish I could re-live every single day I was there. But alas, I am getting emotional, and I have a long journey ahead of me. Time for another glass of wine.

You stay classy San Diego.

Farewell 2012…

I can’t believe that it is New Years Eve. December 31, 2012. The year has flown by so quickly. It seems like just yesterday I was finishing my job at Buddle Findlay in Wellington, getting on the ferry to drive down to Christchurch, saying goodbye to my home for a year. Researching and preparing for my round the world trip, and then again saying goodbye to my boyfriend, my Mom, and my friends.

Little did I know, at the beginning of this year, what 2012 would bring. It exceeded all my expectations – just blew them out of the water. 2012 will probably be one of the most memorable of my life, a year I will truly cherish. Not merely due to my experiences and the places I visited, but because of the people I met along the way. When I talk about my travels, especially through Vietnam, I focus on the people I met, not what temples or museums I visited. The people. Both tourists and locals.ImageMr Tien, my motorbike driver in Hue, who drove off road through the rice paddies, past small villages, and taught me all about the culture of central Vietnam. Luna and Tom, Hanoi locals who introduced El and me to the local activity of drinking lemon tea and eating sunflower seeds by the side of the road, whilst sitting on child size plastic seats. And I will never forget Abdul, our whiskey-drinking joyful guide in Tanzania, who had a personality larger than my Dad’s personality and mine combined. I will never forget seeing a warthog at the end of our first day, me yelling out ‘Pumba!’, and Abdul driving after him, rhythmically repeating Pumba Pumba Pumba. And driving through the savannahs, listening to ‘Circle of Life’, while he taught us all about the animals, the local culture, and his experiences as a park ranger. It was my very own Lion King.

And this year really helped me realize who I am as a person. I learned a lot about myself along my travels, and became more confident and stronger. I moved to San Diego, to a brand new law school, where I didn’t know a single soul. I had never even been to San Diego – I had no idea what to expect. I thought it could be an opportunity to reinvent myself – no one knew me, so I could be anyone I wanted to! However I soon found that I was the exact same person here. Just improved. I had no constraints on my personality based on prior high school dramas. It was refreshing, and reaffirming.

And as I said above, this year has really been the best year of my life. San Diego has been, and still is, the most amazing, beautiful city to live in. I found it hard at first. My first day of law school, when I ended up crying because I couldn’t decide what to wear. Going to a law organization mixer, not knowing a single person, but leaving having met over a handful of people, one of whom has become a very close friend. Trying to hold my own in law classes, where preparation is vital, participation is mandatory, and expectations are high. I spent more time in the library this year than my previous 4 years combined. But I have met the most amazing people, and had the best American experience a 23 (now 24!) year old American-Kiwi could have hoped for.

I flew to Ohio to spend Thanksgiving with a friend’s family, and experienced true Midwest hospitality. I got to visit her college, met her college friends, and even saw her college football team play, and dominate, their rival team. I dressed up for Halloween on three different nights. I went to Disneyland, learned to play flip cup and participated in a Color Run. I took the most interesting legal courses of my law school career, and really felt like part of a community. I was adopted for Christmas, and made to feel welcome and at home amongst a family I had never met.

And all my experiences are thanks to the wonderful people I met here, who will always hold a place in my heart. I was meant to leave the USA on December 23, but I then postponed my departure until January 18. I am now staying until February 13. I don’t want to say goodbye to America, because that means I return to New Zealand, have to start work, and resume my mundane life without 3 story bars, the ocean on my doorstep and sunshine year round. However the real reason I don’t want to leave, the reason I kept delaying my departure, is that I don’t want to say goodbye. Goodbye to the wonderful people here. My amazing friends. My new family. They are the reason that despite 3 months of traveling through 13 countries, San Diego is really what made this year the best year of my life. Friends are the family you choose for yourself. And once I leave, once I return to New Zealand, I don’t know when I will see my San Diego family again. I know there will be many tears when I leave, and I may have to be dragged onto the plane against my will. Of course I am excited to return, and excited to see what 2013 brings, but I doubt any year will ever top this last year.

So here is my year in review. The places, and people, that shaped my year.

Yogyakarta - Borobudur, and the friends I made.

Yogyakarta – Borobudur, and the friends I made.

Siem Reap, and our wonderful tuk tuk driver, Mr Golden Stone, in Phnom Penh.

Siem Reap, and our wonderful tuk tuk driver, Mr Golden Stone, in Phnom Penh.

Hanoi and Hue - Mr Tien and I on the motorbike, Tom and El eating nam, and Mr Tien's cousin, El and me at the incense shop in Hue

Hanoi and Hue – Mr Tien and I on the motorbike, Tom and El eating nam, and Mr Tien’s cousin, El and me at the incense shop in Hue

Halong Bay Sunset

Halong Bay Sunset

Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang

Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang

Serengeti National Park

Tanzania Safari – The view from our camp in Serengeti.

Tarangire National Park

Elephants, at Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

My new brothers and sisters from PAD, at the Padres game - my first ever baseball game

My new brothers and sisters from PAD, at the Padres game – my first ever baseball game

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Cindy and Lauren after the Color Run

Nike Hoops!!!!!

Nike Hoops!!!!!

Thanksgiving with the Foleys in Mayfield, Ohio.

Thanksgiving with the Foleys in Mayfield, Ohio.

OHIO - Ohio State v Michigan Game

OHIO – Ohio State v Michigan Game

So thank you to my San Diego family. I will visit you soon. Never forget you. I love you all.

Whiskey-Drinking-Football-Watching-America Jen

When I arrived in America, a mere four months ago, I was excited about the possibility of ‘reinventing’ myself. No one knew me, so I could be whoever I wanted. I could dress a different way, be interested in new things and have a completely different personality, without anyone realizing. I could escape all the prior restraints on who people expected me to be, based on high school, college and work.

The funny thing is, even knowing that I could do this, become someone brand new, free from all prior expectations on who I should be, I am the exact same person here as I am back in New Zealand. Of course I am not absolutely the exact same person, because I traveled for 3 months, am experiencing new things, and of course learning and changing based on my experiences. But for the most part, I haven’t changed too much. The things that have changed are pretty trivial, and really quite entertaining.

For example, America Jen wears jeans whereas New Zealand Jen does not.

New Zealand Jen wears skirts and dresses. She owns about five pairs of jeans, but hasn’t worn them in over two years. However in San Diego, I own two pairs of jeans (including the pair shown in the photo). And I have worn each pair at least 5 times.

Further, America Jen drinks whiskey.

New Zealand Jen hates whiskey. Hates it. Hates the smell, the taste, the thought. But somehow, here, in California, for America Jen, whiskey is a common Friday or Saturday night drink. America Jen will order a whiskey in a bar and drink more than one. Happily. Any kind of whiskey. I have even had whiskey just by itself…yep..not even mixed with diet coke, 7up or even water.

What is wrong with me….

America Jen also watches American football. Actually enjoys American football. Understands and follows American football. And college football.

New Zealand Jen doesn’t watch sports on TV. She is not a sport enthusiast. Whatsoever.

New Zealand Jen is also not nearly as studious as America Jen. America Jen spends an average of 8 hours a day (during the week) doing law school work – attending class, researching for my two papers or doing readings and preparing for class. And add on around 10 hours on the weekend = 45. New Zealand Jen spent 8 hours a week in classes, and about 8 hours a week outside of class doing research and readings for class. 16 hours.

16 versus 45.

So actually, after looking at the above, America Jen kind of is different. She drinks whiskey, owns a San Francisco 49ers tshirt and Dallas Cowboys running shorts (I may follow football but I don’t necessarily have a set team!), and wears skinny jeans. She spends far too much time in the library, and therefore spends far too much money on iced lattes (which also, prior to California, I never drank).

But the important things haven’t changed. My morals haven’t changed, if anything they have become stronger. It has reinforced that I know who I am, and I am happy with that. I like my personality. I like who I am. I like my international background and the fact that I am ‘from’ New Zealand – it makes me who I am. I like what I like and what I don’t. The important things haven’t changed, and they aren’t going to change anytime soon.

I think the main part of this is that in a new country where no one knows who ‘you’ really are, you are more willing to do different things. Try things out. Be social. Be exciting. I realized this weekend that in the States, I never say no. I never turn down an invitation, be that for a night out, a breakfast burrito, an evening of study fun in the library, or a trip to the beach. If someone wants company, they know I’m in. I am only in California for six months, I might as well make the most of it. Take every opportunity that comes my way, and have every experience possible.

So that is why I drink whiskey on a Saturday night and Bloody Marys Sunday morning. Why I have been to two NFL games and spend 3 hours watching Ohio State college football on a Saturday. Why I even stay at the library until 11:30pm on a Monday. Because I don’t say no. Sure I may regret it on a Sunday morning after only 4 hours sleep, getting up to go to breakfast followed by the library. But I would rather do that than stay in bed a few more hours, missing out on what the day can offer. Because this year has gone by incredibly quickly. I don’t want to miss another day or waste a day away doing nothing, when the sun is shining outside.

In 3 weeks, I will have completed my last exam for my law degree. Ever. 4 weeks, and my last law school research paper will be handed in. The last component of my law degree. 6 years done. Finished. No more university classes for the foreseeable future. A day after I hand that paper in, I turn 24. I’m getting old. A week later, it will be Christmas, then New Years. Then before you know it, I will be back on a flight to New Zealand. I can’t believe the year has disappeared. It feels like yesterday that I packed up my room in Wellington, and like yesterday that El and I boarded our flight to Singapore. It feels like I only just got settled into life here in San Diego, only to be leaving in two months. So there is no way I am slowing down now. I only have two months left, but I am going to make them count.

Tomorrow I am flying to Ohio for my first American Thanksgiving in 20 years. My first time in the Midwest, and first time going to a college football game. I can’t wait. I packed last night and can barely focus on class today because I am so excited. Sweet potato casserole. Stuffing. Pumpkin pie. Cranberry sauce. Oh man. So excited. For my New Zealand friends, you may not know where Ohio is, only that it was a very important state in the recent US elections. I had to look it up on a map myself, and inquire as to why it is the ‘Midwest’ when in fact it is quite far east, especially as California is ‘west’.

After finals, I am planning on going to Texas for a bit, seeing family and friends, and spending a few days in Austin. Then once my lease finishes in January, I want to explore the Northeast – Boston, Connecticut, New York, Philly, Baltimore and Washington DC. Get some winter weather into my system before I return back to New Zealand. And again, try to do as much possible before I get on that plane to Auckland. Before I pack away my jeans and my 49ers top, have my last Bloody Mary and say goodbye to America Jen, as I don’t know how much of her will return back with me.

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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