Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dear Home, I Miss You. I've Booked My Flight Home. The End.

Have I mentioned that I've booked my flight home?

As of right now, there are 46 days, 1119 hours, 67179 minutes and 4030787 seconds left until I go home for Christmas.

Oh, no, I'm not homesick at all. ;)

Sort of reminds me of Joey in London in this clip. Ah, Friends. Such valuable life lessons.

I can't wait to get off that plane, jump into my parents' arms, and proceed to shower them with gifts from Selfridges. And Primark. Alway so trusty, that Primark. My mother has already made several requests.

I miss Tim Horton's. I miss paying a mere 85 cents for a maple glazed donut. Cheap snacks, my solace. I miss gulping down an ice capp on a sunny day. (Which have been really common the past month - and here I was warned that rain was a staple to English weather. Please, I haven't had to wear my rainboots at all!). Well, knock on wood. I also miss Tim Horton's turkey bacon club sandwich for $3.99. Because, that's what's up. And it tastes like home. *cries*

I miss Starbucks. Mind you, there's a Starbucks on campus. But, did you know they don't make tea lattes here? I've requested my usual London Fog at three different Starbucks locations and they had no idea what I was talking about. *cries* I can't wait to go home and order a Grande. Everyday.

I miss walking into a store and not having to stop and calculate the price conversion in my head. Because, obviously. I always forget to convert. And I end up happily skipping along the mall not really realizing the extent of how much I spent - the numbers just sound so much smaller here, yea?! It's a shopper's dream. Sheer oblivion.

I miss heading home for a homecooked meal. Why don't the meals I cook ever taste the same as my mother's? Maybe I need more salt...

I miss Dollarama. Where everything is actually a dollar.

I miss watching television on an actual television. Watching shows on my laptop just doesn't cut it.

I miss cheap Chinese food. Seriously, a smaller order at a Chinese restaurant around here is like 7 pounds. Mind you, that seems small. But with the price conversion, it's like $12. Is that not expensive? If you don't think so, you should check out Pacific Mall in Toronto. It'll blow your mind.

I miss plugging in an electronic without having to switch a "turn-on-your-electricity" button. Yeah.

I miss my parents. I really miss my mom.

I miss Tim.

I miss my friends.

I miss my lovely, amazing, beautiful friends!!

I miss my amazing church.

I miss my car. The 20 minute walk to school everyday makes me appreciate my trusty Asian Corolla so much more.

I miss my clothes. And my shoes. And my boots. And my purses. And my collection of heels. I may have brought a sufficient amount to England, but my closet just isn't the same without all my babies in there.

I miss hopping into a cab and not fearing for my life. Or not fearing that the cab I just got into was really a fake cab designed to cheat me of all my money. Oh, Birmingham cab drivers. I won't miss you when I leave.

I miss drinking Canadian cow milk.

I miss Toronto. Where people actually know where the Philippines is. Or who Filipinos are.

I miss cable internet. Did you know they don't have that here? Please, it's called ~broadband~

I miss competent banking services. Friends, whatever you do, don't bank at Lloyds.

I know I shouldn't be homesick. But right now, at this very moment, I am.

I'm sure this is just a lapse. I'll be fine. But sometimes, when you pause and think, you realize just how much home means to you and how much you appreciate it now that you're gone.

Right now, I miss home. So much. The end. 46 more days! Someone please greet me at the airport with Tim Horton's. I'll love you till the end of time.

"The romantics would call this a love story, the cynics would call it a tragedy. In my mind it's a little bit of both, and no matter how you choose to view it in the end, it does not change the fact that it involves a great deal of my life and the path I've chosen to follow."
- Nicholas Sparks, 'The Notebook'

"When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home."
- Winston Churchill

"Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration."
- Charles Dickens

"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."
- Robert Frost

The Problem With Law School - Competition and the Importance of Friendship?

You know that kid in Grade 9 math class who would turn around, ask you what your answer is, then proceed to tell you exactly why they're better than you? You know. Something about how your x and y axis was blah blah blah blah and thats why you're dumb and they're not blah blah blah?

Kid, relax. You wanted to roll your eyes at their self-righteousness when you were 14 years old - and you'd probably want to do the same now.

Just. Relax. Make a friend instead. It's that easy, no?

Maybe this is just rhymeless reason. Or just minor food for thought after a long, tiring day. And maybe this is just long-accepted reality many before me have come to realize and accept. Maybe this is just how law school is. So, you know, grow up, Barb. Deal with it. And maybe this is just human nature - to compete, to get ahead at all costs. To make friendships but to always always always just look out for yourself. To be extremely aware of everyone's "level of intelligence." Then proceed to rationalize how your own "level of intelligence" stacks up against your peers. It's a constant game of self-indulgence and silently malicious culture where people rationalize their own worth by belittling other people.

Seriously. We're grown ups. Do students really have to be so mean to their peers?! Why do some students have to be so mean to each other in an attempt to get to the top? I just don't understand it. Please. Save your words and let your grades do the talking.

Does law school really have to be that way? Is that type of scornful behaviour necessarily ingrained in law school culture?

Friends, it doesn't have to be that way if you don't let it.

Before I came to law school, friends warned me about what to expect. I waved their concerns off. I said, please, I've watched Legally Blonde. I know what law school's like. I know you have to work hard. I know you don't show up to a party as a Playboy Bunny. I know I need to run away if I see Professor Callahan (okay, I seriously need to chill on these Legally Blonde references). I know. But I wasn't always so sure about believing the nature of law school culture - the outward friendliness but inward, silent malicious competition.

It's kind of sad, really. Did I put too much faith on genuine kindness?

Hey, don't get me wrong. As I've said before, I love it here. I love my program, the friends I've made. I've met many wonderful, kind people - many who don't fall under the category I'm writing about today. I love the independence, I love what I'm learning. But, you know, law school also carries with it a certain stigma. That stigma where everyone silently one-ups each other in a game of outward friendliness but inward, silent competition. Where inner rationalization of your own self-righteousness makes you think you can belittle other people.

It's sad. I just wish kindness was still a staple these days.

I'm not saying we should hold hands and sing Kumbaya. I'm not naive. Law school isn't about dancing with unicorns under a rainbow. Neither is life. There's absolutely nothing wrong with competition and trying your absolute best - that's how success is born.

But competition doesn't have to be mutually exclusive with kindness. With friendship. With loyalty, affection. Constantly rationalizing why you're better than your peers or why your answers are better than other people's won't bring you friends. Big surprise.

It won't hurt you to be nice to people.

Aesop said so. It must be true. And is that honestly, really, truthfully, so hard? It shouldn't be. Whether you're in law school or not.

Wanna hold hands? Wanna sing Kumbaya? No? We don't have to go thattttttt far, don't worry. (I don't know the words!!). But what we can do is become friends, help each other out when problem cases are a confusing puzzle, give each other a hand when you skip the Misrepresentation and Negligence lecture because you couldn't stand the professor, and to just be kind, thoughtful human beings.

Is that really so hard?

Why burn bridges when you can be kind, tactful even, instead? It shouldn't be that hard, yea?

Just a thought for the day. I'll go play with my unicorns now.

"It's just something that happens as you grow up. You realize it's less important to have more friends and it's more important to have real ones."

"Are you upset, little friend? Have you been lying awake worrying? Well, dont worry. I'm here. The flood waters will recede, the famine will end. The sun will shine tomorrow. And I will always be here to take care of you."
- Charlie Brown to Snoopy

"People are getting smarter nowadays; they're letting lawyers, instead of their conscience, be their guide."
- Will Rogers

"A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval."
- Mark Twain

"Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest."

- Mark Twain

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I guess I'm Not British Yet - Culture Shock in England (From A Canadian, With Love)

Did you know the British don't tip?

I know. I didn't either.

Apparently, tipping is an "American thing."

Speaking of - did you know the British think I'm American?

If I could count how many people have asked me whether I was American the minute they heard my accent, I'd have the money to pay for next year's tuition. True story.

So. About this tipping business.

A few weeks ago, after an evening on Broad Street, I hopped into one of the cabs (which, let me tell you, are pretty shady in this country) patrolling the area, and directed him to my residence. Upon arrival, I handed him my cash and waited for my change. He gave me 5 pounds in return, and ruefully, playing the part of the cheap student, I handed him 3 pounds.

I felt horrible. I felt cheap. I thought I should be tipping more. Back home, we pull out our Tip Calculators like it's second nature. When I told my British flatmates that we usually tip 10-15% of the bill back home, they looked at me like I grew a second head. But, that's the thing. Back home, we tip because it's social convention. Because it's rude not to.

"Keep the change," I told my cab driver apologetically, "It's not much, but enjoy the tip!"

Cab Driver looked at me in surprise, chuckled, then pocketed my 3 pounds, shaking his head.

I thought he shook his head in disapproval. You know, cheap student. Ergo, lack of common courtesy. Ergo, measly tip. I hung my head in shame.

No. Sit down, Barb. He was chuckling at your naiveté.

And so, there I was, a naive Canadian tipping EVERYWHERE. For TWO weeks. Because I didn't know any better. The hair salon, bartenders, cab drivers, restaurants - you name it. I was a freaking tipping machine. I think I tipped the hair salon 5 pounds - even though I hated my haircut and thought it looked like someone sawed my hair off. Oh, my beloved hair. They ruthlessly chopped off three inches. It broke my heart.

No wonder every country in the universe thinks Canadians are nice.

Please. Sit down. Sometimes, we're just suckers.

Because, well. It wasn't until a few weeks after my arrival I was told that shocking truth: Barb, they don't tip in England. Here, tipping bartenders is an oddity. Here, tipping cab drivers is just weird.

Oh, god. My cab driver probably thought I was hitting on him.

*face palm*

I never anticipated how much culture shock I'd experience when I arrived. What can I say? I'm naive. Pre-law school Barb thought: they speak English here. Of course their culture is similar. But it isn't. Boy, is it different. Those shocks of difference reverberated, echoed my first few weeks here.

Mind you, in many ways, the culture is very similar. Birmingham and London remind me of Toronto in many ways - the city's hustle and bustle, the quiet busyness, the individualism - these characteristics are what you can expect with any big city, I suppose.

But in other ways, I've had to adjust to a lot.

Like, did you know British eggs don't turn yellow here? I spent half an hour trying to fry eggs on high heat a few weeks ago, wondering why, pray tell, my eggs stayed completely white. They wouldn't turn their familiar bright yellow. Because apparently, they have different chickens here.

Different chickens.

DIFFERENT chickens. That produce white eggs apparently.

Their white sugar is different. They have two-ring binders instead of three-ring. Ergo, they use foreign two-ring hole punches instead of three role punches (this REALLY got to me, I tell you). They get on the bus on the OTHER side of the vehicle (obviously, I knew this coming here, but it still trips me out how opposite the roads are). And did I mention that I still don't know how to cross the street in this country? I never know where to look. Let me tell you, I've had a number of close calls with oncoming vehicles in the last month. Especially since a number of roads dictate that pedestrians don't have the right of way.

I know these seem like little things. And that I'm complaining over nothing.

Stop being such a baby, Barb.

But when you move to another country, all by yourself, where you know absolutely nobody - it's those little things, those little shocks of difference that get to you. When your eggs don't turn yellow, when you have to buy a brand spankin' new foreign two-hole punch, when you make do with foreign sugar, when your milk tastes funny and saturated and weird, when your wallet's bursting full of funny looking coins, when you get on the opposite side of a bus.... when everything just suddenly feels different.

So different that it scares you.

When everything just feels so peculiar - so foreign, so unlike home. That's when the homesickness hits you. And that's when the truth really dawns on you: that you're halfway around the world, across a major ocean, away from your family, your friends, your boyfriend, and everyone you love. You're in Europe. A brand new country. Starting life over.

That's when culture shock electrifies you.

I admit - the first week here, I was scared. I didn't know how to adjust. Every shred of independence I had in me risked decapitation. Everything was different - I was homesick.

But, you know what? Despite the shocks - I think the true test of growing up comes from being able to adjust to new circumstances. And I think I'm doing just that. Learning, Settling. Adjusting. England is amazing - and it would be a shame to hide in my own comfort and risk losing the opportunity to learn everything about it.

A month after moving here, I think I've settled in. I've gotten used to the differences and quirks this wonderful country has to offer. I've gotten used to the milk. But, mind you, I haven't been eating eggs.

At first, the culture shock threw me off. It made me miss my security, my comfort, my home. I missed everything I've known my whole life - my neighbourhood, my car, my trusty fried yellow eggs.

But, after spending the past month shaking off the shocks, I've realized that living in England isn't something I should be so afraid of - how many people get this opportunity in their lifetime? To live in Europe? To experience something more than the comforts of home?

This is an opportunity. Not something to be apprehensive about. The differences in culture might be unsettling at first - but it's an opportunity to learn about a whole new world, a whole new country that can give us life experiences which set us apart from people back home. Life experiences that change us, helps us grow up, and toy with that thing called independence.

I live in Europe now. OMG. I live in EUROPE now. Isn't that a wonderful thing? It's amazing. If there's one thing I've learn so far, it's this: we should embrace the shocks and learn about them, yea? Adjust to them, integrate ourselves, learn as much as we can! Exhibit A: my first mission is to learn why my darn eggs won't turn yellow.

So, in essence, I'm not British yet. But I'm learning to live with and embrace British culture, British quirks, British slang, British sayings. I'm not quite there yet - but I'm adjusting. And I'm ready to learn everything this wonderful new world has to offer.

"Ask most people what they want out of life and the answer is simple – to be happy. Maybe it’s this expectation, though, the wanting to be happy that just keeps us from ever getting there. Maybe the more we try and will ourselves to states of bliss, the more confused we get to the point where we don’t recognize ourselves. Instead, we just keep smiling trying to be the happy people we wish we were until, eventually, it hits us. It’s been there all along. Not in our dreams or hopes, but in the known, the comfortable, the familiar."
- Grey's Anatomy

"Every cell in the human body regenerates on average every seven years. Like snakes, in our own way we shed our skin. Biologically, we're brand new people. We may look the same - we probably do. The change isn't visible, at least in most of us. But, still, we're all changed - completely, forever."
- Grey's Anatomy

"These are my words to you: Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create that fact."
- William James

"You don't have to be a 'person of influence' to be influential. In fact, the most influential people in my life are probably not even aware of the things they've taught me."
- Scott Adams

Monday, October 17, 2011

My First Month of Law School - Summer's Over, New Beginnings, Prepping For Life-Changing Decisions

My dear loyal readers,

I've neglected you.

What can I say? I'm sorry. What do I owe you? A hug? A drink? A nice cup of steaming hot cocoa the next time I see your lovely faces? As much as I loved blogging regularly this past year, life as we know it caught up to me this summer. I'm sorry. C'est la vie.

Clearly, my last blog post was ages ago. Three months ago to be exact. A lot has changed in the last few months of this grad life of mine - it was a life-changing summer, to be sure. I last updated all of you whilst frantic on the floor of my home in Kingston, Ontario, surrounded by boxes and garbage bags, packing up my life as a Masters student at Queen's University. And, side note, I ended up having to leave some furniture behind because I had too much crap to move back home. How did I end up moving more stuff back home than I brought to Kingston?

Curses. We should have hired a U-Haul. Ah, summer memories.

These days, my life at Queen's seems like an alternate reality. My year in Kingston feels, honestly, like a distant memory these days. Running to class, grading essays, slaving over TA prep work, reading, researching, reading, and more reading. It just feels like so long ago. It's funny how time flies by so quickly and life as we know it changes so drastically with every new decision we make.

And, yes, decisions. I made them. Boy, did I make them. Remember how you left me last? Agonizing over which school to go to? It was a tumultuous summer deciding which law school to inevitably accept. And, fast forward over the tears, the panic, the reservations that plagued me over July and August, I'm here - right now, I'm thousands of miles away from Mississauga, from Toronto, from my grad life in Kingston.

Hundreds of thousands of miles away in jolly old England.

Why England, you ask? Why not the US schools I agonized over for so long? That's a blog post for another day.

For now, I'm just glad I've decided to start blogging again. Because, well, what can I say? I've missed you all! i'm not going to lie and say I can blog regularly this year. But I will say that I'll try to regularly blog. How many of us can document their years of law school on a blog like this? I'd like to keep it up, as a compilation of memories, if nothing else.


So, yes, in the last few weeks before the start of school, I was in a state of panic. The weeks I spent getting my visa, purchasing all the items I needed for a trans-continental move, saying goodbye to friends, family, and loved ones. Booking my flight, packing my life away in several suitcases (do you KNOW how much it hurts to leave your precious wardrobe at home?!). And, basically, panicking for no reason. Because trans-continental moves do that to you.

Honestly, you cannot imagine my state of mind the last couple of months before this move. I was scared out of my mind. Moving to a US law school wouldn't have been as scary, I admit. It's just across the border. I could run home whenever I wanted. But, here, across that pond they call the Atlantic Ocean, I can't run home. I'm all by myself.

I was petrified to move to another country. To another continent when I've lived in Canada most of my life. And yet, I'll admit that it's an experience I wouldn't trade for anything. The life experience of living in Europe for a couple of years is indescribable - if moving away to Kingston did something for my independence, a move to Europe could sure as heck do wonders to a mommy's girl like me.

Well, after getting my visa, packing, flying, stopping over in Brussels for the longest layover known to man, I'm here. Safe, sound, if not a little home-sick, thrown off by culture shock, and missing the comforts of Canada. Because seriously, the minute I land in Toronto for Christmas, I'm heading over to the nearest Tim Horton's to nurse a beloved iced capp.

And, oh, believe me. You wouldn't think the British were capable of giving you culture shock. But they are. It takes awhile adjusting to another country - even if they also speak English. But that's a blog post for another day.


Okay, so I know I have a tendency to gush over how much I loooove everything (See: posts on my first day of my Masters program, etcetera etcetera).

So, it shouldn't be a surprise to read about how much I've loved and enjoyed my first month here. My first month as a law student has been nothing short of interesting. Friends have told me how much they hated Contract Law. But, you know what? I actually love it. I don't mind running home on a Friday night to slave over problem cases about Offer and Acceptance.

That isn't sarcasm.

And, hey, even if I don't understand Consideration just yet - I don't mind slaving over the 100 page chapter about it.

That isn't sarcasm either.

Don't give me a lecture about how boring this stuff is. You put that away! I love it. And I'm glad I'm learning it. There's nothing more amazing than living something you've always dreamed of.

Mind you, it's a crapload of work. My sleeping habits are nothing to be desired. I'm pretty sure I need to purchase concealer to hide the bags under my eyes. This first month of law school has worked me harder than the first three months of my Masters program. But, I enjoy it. And that's what matters, yea? The hard work - it'll be worth it in the end. And believe me, it's a LOT OF WORK.

If there's anything I can say right now, it's this: everything happens for a reason. And this transcontinental move to Europe is something I hardly regret. I'm enjoying law school more than I could have imagined.

Although, side note. Law school also breeds competition. And there's nothing worse than having to watch your back around your peers. But unfortunately, you'll find that people may will belittle you, your qualifications, and your education for the sake of looking better than you.

Law school is great. But, you need to be careful. Take my advice. I've seen it. And it's only Week 4. Unfortunately, that's the truth.

Anyway, aside from that negative note, I love it here. I love the friends I've made, and I'm enjoying school. It's funny how much my grad life has changed this past year. We're growing up, we're making decisions. We're changing careers, we've left for different schools.

Enjoy your life-changing decisions as you live them, my friends. Every minute is something to treasure!

With all my love,

Your resident grad-life-blogger-who-started-to-blog-again-woot!

"I chose to go to law school because I thought that someday, somehow I'd make a difference."
- Christopher Darden

"Unless it's extraordinary love, it's a waste of your time. There are too many mediocre things in life. Love shouldnt be one of them."

"It's my favourite class to teach. Usually, someone cries."
- Civil Rights Litigation Professor