Size Doesn’t Matter – Your Attitude Does.

Over a year ago, without really realizing it, I started on a journey that would make me into something I never in my wildest dreams thought I could be.

It all started when I began studying for the LSAT. I knew I needed to cut out TV to focus better, but I needed something else to do with my free time. So instead, I replaced the hours I would spend watching TV with hours in the gym. I’ve always low key hated weights and the treadmill, which is why I started with something simple that I’ve used plenty of times before – the elliptical. I went from ‘running’ for 15min, to 30min, to 45 and eventually 1hr30min. It went from a way to kill time to an activity I had to do otherwise I would feel awful and be incredibly grumpy. Essentially, I became addicted to running – which is super ironic since my old motto in life was ‘there is nothing worth running for.’

What I never realized was that my new favorite past time was completely transforming my body. At the same time, I had completely changed my diet to better support higher brain activity. Where I used to eat take out at least once a week, I almost always ate steak and spinach. Where I once ate Fruitloops and other super unhealthy cereal, I now only ate Cheerios or Kashi. Instead of drinking a gallon of milk in less than a week, I cut out all dairy except for in coffee (because coffee without diary is just unfair.) And it was paying off; my test scores for the LSAT were extremely high. But it was also working with my new exercise habit in ways I didn’t imagine it would.

For most of my life, I’ve tried really hard to diet and exercise. I always tried to make myself into the ‘ideal woman’ in the magazines. My legs were always too big. My stomach always too fat. My arms too large. But I was extremely active. Most of my body was muscle, from what I could tell. I ate what I thought was healthy food. At times I barely ate at all. I tried everything under the sun to be the ideal woman, and I never could get there. Even swimming an hour every day never got me there. I had actually accepted the fact that I would never be society’s idea of ‘beautiful’ – I was me, and that was all I would ever be. I had never been smaller than size 10, and I accepted that I never would. I just wasn’t physiologically capable of it. To be honest, this mindset was actually very good. I was very comfortable with who I was, and was confident (finally) with what I looked like. But, as life goes, as soon as I was okay with something, everything changed.

I first noticed I was smaller than I had previously been when I went on a trip with my father in January. My pants didn’t exactly fit right, but I spent most of my time at home in yoga pants for the gym or a swimsuit for my job. So it really didn’t matter to me – why buy new clothes when I never wore normal clothes?

Then February came. I was going to spend the next month and a half in Europe with friends, and needed new clothes. So I went to target and grabbed what I thought was a size 10 – after all, I had never been smaller than size 10 so obviously that was as small as I could ever be. On accident I actually grabbed size 8, and when I put on the pants and they were too baggy, I was utterly shocked to find that I was wearing such a small size and it was actually too big for me! (I immediately messaged my university friends, absolutely elated and shocked and almost speechless, barely able to comprehend this new development in my life.)

I ended up buying $500 worth of new clothes in that euphoric high of fitting into such small clothes (which I promptly took back once the high wore off). Size 6. How could I fit into size 6. This was absolutely incredible!

What was so shocking, though, was while I was the smallest I had ever been in my life – smaller than I ever imagined I could be – I was not the lightest I’d ever been. At the time I was 175 lbs, 25 lbs heavier than when I was 16 years old and size 10. I didn’t understand, how could I be so small but still not be the lightest I’ve ever been?

That was in February. Eight months later, in October, I’m only 10 lbs lighter, weighing in at 165 lbs, but I’m wearing a size 2. Size 2. The size I thought no human could actually fit into fits me. A goal I never thought was possible was reached without me really realizing what was happening. Every health barrier I thought was impossible to pass had been not only passed but absolutely obliterated, without me even realizing. It is actually to the point where I don’t want to lose more weight – a feeling I’ve never had and never thought I would have. None of my clothes fit anymore, but not because I’m too big. For the first time in my life, they don’t fit because I’m significantly smaller than I once was. Even the clothes I bought in February barely fit. It’s so surreal, I’m not even sure these words really capture the pure mind-fuck this entire experience has been. I look in the mirror and literally do not recognize myself. Going through photos, I can’t believe what I looked like versus what I look like now. It’s absolutely mind blowing.

Yes, part of me thought that my new diet and exercise habit would lead to some weight loss. Some. Not a pure transformation of who I was. And honestly, I am not 100% sure I love it. But those are personal feelings that I have to work through myself, and eventually come to accept. Maybe one day I’ll write another blog about it.

An extremely important conclusion I have come to is – there is no such thing as a barrier. If you put your mind to something, even without realizing, you can break every wall you thought was blocking you, even some you didn’t realize were there. And also, I don’t care what your scale says. It doesn’t matter if you are 110 lbs or 170 lbs, all that matters is whether you are healthy (which, according to my doctor, I’ve never had such good blood tests in my life) and if you are happy. Size doesn’t matter – your attitude does.

MIA – But With No Shortage of Stories

For those who follow this blog, it’s probably been very apparent that I disappeared for a few months. Which is actually completely normal for me when I’m not ‘traveling’ much. (I say this in parentheses because I do travel a lot still, but to places which I do not deem worthy enough to write about. Like North Carolina. Or Washington, DC. Or even NYC. Because I’m spoiled.)

 

Since I do use this blog to keep up with the many amazing people I’ve met over the extensive traveling I’ve done, here is a short update:

In August of this year, I finally set down roots in a city – for the first time since I was 18 years old. I officially have an apartment which I will not have to move out of in 8 months – another first. And I have finally put an end to living out of a suitcase, which – trust me – gets old after the second year. I also have finally gotten to unpack all of my treasures from the 35+ countries I have visited, and get to display them for anyone who visits. Plus the semi-optional rants about all the stories attached to them, should any visitor be stupid enough to ask.

 

For anyone that has moved though, it is an extremely stressful experience, hence the disappearing act (finding a place, then packing, then moving, and unpacking again. It’s all very awful. I’m extremely content with the idea of never doing it again.)

 

First of all – dear god mattresses are disturbingly heavy. And of course I’m a fool enough to put a protective cover over mine, which I stubbornly refused to remove until after the move. And once it was removed, we realized my bed actually had handles to move it easily. Needless to say, my father was not happy with me. Stubbornness will be the death of us both.

 

Second of all – Murphy’s law always applies. And you will definitely meet a handful of your neighbors at the precise moment that you are sweating profusely and yelling at your father about how he has broken the adjustable mattress frame that was your first purchase of adult life and has now been broken before you even started making payments on it. (Only to discover it isn’t actually broken and you look like a brat to everyone 😅 It was a really stressful day, y’all.)

 

Third of all – when you’ve lived in 15+ apartments in 6 years, you accumulate a lot of things you didn’t realize. But somehow life works out that you have almost everything you need without ever having to buy anything. And really this is just a vindication for my extreme hoarding all throughout university. So I can finally say – “Yes, Dad! I DID need to fly back that baking pan and all my kitchen utensils from Canada, only to store them for over a year, because it WILL come in handy!” Now if only I had tried to hang on to my favorite cooking pots too….

 

And finally – its much more difficult than I realized to break the habit of living out of boxes. Two months in and my clothes are mostly still in suitcases/boxes while my closet and dresser are virtually empty because I forgot how normal people live… But I’ll get there again someday, right?

 

P.S. For those wondering, no I am not in law school. Yes I am still planning on going to law school. First I need some money to pay for said law school.

Pre-Birthday, Much Delayed Life Update

So I’ve been lazy and haven’t given many people an update – mainly because my life is so in flux and I’m just too lazy to keep explaining the changes. But here is an important one:

[Warning, long post, so for those who want a summary, scroll to the bottom for TLDR]

About three months ago now, I was accepted to the law program at the College of William and Mary – which was a really amazing thing, because W&M is a wonderful school in a beautiful town. And I was proud, so I told everyone about it (via instagram, because 2018.) But my heart was never truly in attending there. I had visited W&M before in high school, and it wasn’t my favorite, but I applied as a backup because it truly is an amazing school.

Fast forward a few months. Life threw me a curve ball – I was accepted to W&M, but I was waitlisted at literally every other school I applied. Georgetown. George Washington University. American University. UNC-CH. Everywhere but W&M. (Though, really, waitlist is better than rejected, so at least there was that.)

Admittedly, I had been very conceded about my application process, and I truly believe it was the universe’s way of bringing my big head back down to earth and humbling me (I definitely need it sometimes). So, since I hadn’t gotten in anywhere else, W&M was going to be my school, and I planned a trip to go visit Williamsburg and start staking out apartments.

But like I said – my heart wasn’t in it. My whole life I have been a big city girl. Part of the reason I left Raleigh was because it was ‘too small’ in my mind. After living 6 years in the 3rd largest metropolitan city in Canada, with nearly 2.5million people, the size of Williamsburg – a city purposely frozen in the 1700s, with barely 15,000 people living there – was a serious shock to my system. And I hated it. [And had a semi-mild mental breakdown that my father had absolutely no idea how to help me with.]

Yes, I did want to be a veterinarian for the majority of my life, but having cows and pigs and sheep grazing – in 18th century farmyards, no less – right next to the law school was definitely not on my list of things I would expect for my future home for three years. No matter how many times I told myself, “You have to like this; this is your only choice”, it just wasn’t happening. Maybe for a year I could deal with such a small city in such an isolated place. Maximum two years. Never for three years. For gods sake, they don’t even have a dance club! What type of college town doesn’t have a dance club??

The ultimate dealbreaker – the closest airports were 50minute and 45minute drives away. Even in Vancouver, the giant metropolitan city with a million things to do both in the city and around the city, I would regularly fly away for the weekend because I have such insane wanderlust and needed to explore the world. Yeah, I will probably never have time to explore during law school, but I need the option. Otherwise I feel extremely claustrophobic. There was no way I could go to William and Mary; it was just not possible.

(All this talk of logistics aside, the school also has a seriously small international law program compared to the other schools I applied to [except UNC-CH, which also has a small program for IL, which is why it was my 2nd backup] so realistically the university was not good for my career options either. You should never attend a law school in an area where you do not want to practice, because a big factor in getting good law jobs is the connections you have. So you want to attend a place where you will make connections in the field you want to work, or the region you want to work. W&M had neither. It wasn’t just my insane nitpickiness about what type of city I can live in.)

So the decision was made. I would not attend this school in the fall; my life plan was now up in the air, and depended completely on the schools where I was waitlisted. It broke me a little, honestly. I seriously considered whether law school is really for me. Most of the adults in my life are lawyers, and all of them tried to discourage me from pursuing law. Maybe they are right, maybe it isn’t for me. I greatly disliked the constitutional law class I had sat in on at W&M; maybe this was all a sign.

With all these doubts in my mind, I chose to visit the DC area again – partly to see the amazing Tanner, but also to go to the last waitlist-open-houses that Georgetown, AU, and GWU were holding. I’m so glad I did.

I was very fortunate to meet with another close friend who graduated from AU Law this summer, Cynthia. What both of us thought would be a short coffee and see-how-you-are-doing (plus a quick tour of the law school, which was very informing!) turned into multiple hours of talking through life and remembering (at least for me) why we are friends and why I am ever thankful for having Model UN in my life (because without it, I would never have met her, or Rebekah, or Verna, or Ayush, or Angela, or Joy, or… well the list is very long). After that, and after seeing how amazing AU treats its law students, I realized my doubts were wrong. I could be a lawyer, and I should be a lawyer, but I should make sure I am going to a school that I truly believe will be beneficial for my life – I can not and should not settle.

After visiting the three DC schools, I can honestly say American University was my favorite. It may not be ranked as high as the others, but you can easily tell how much everyone cares about one another. Their international law program is amazing, as is their intellectual property law. Their buildings are brand new, technologically advanced, and right next to the metro. And the best part – well, no, there isn’t really a best part because the school is just overall very amazing – but a really good part is that they very clearly put a focus on student wellbeing and health, which is something I always thought was seriously lacking at UBC.

Since that visit, I’ve examined my life. I’ve examined my priorities, my goals, my fears, and my expectations. Its all come down to this final decision – it is not worth 3 years of my life and $100,000 of debt to just get a JD; I need to get a JD in a place I care about that I know will care about me. I’ve gotten in to other schools on my list, but what they offer me is not what I believe I need. So as my life stands, I’m moving to DC in the fall and hopefully will be attending AU Law (waitlist pending); if not, I’m going to try to get a job in international relations in DC – we’ll see how life works out.

Ultimately, though, I want to stress this one thing to everyone: everyone has a limited amount of years on this earth. You never know when you will go – it could be tomorrow, it could be in 100 years – so don’t waste it doing something you dislike, being somewhere you dislike, just to reach a goal you may not live to see or may not live to enjoy. Life is precious and fleeting, so enjoy every second while you have it. As the overused yet completely accurate saying goes, “Live every day like it is your last.”

TLDR: I’m not attending William and Mary law in the fall; I may or may not go to law school in the fall; I am 90% sure I’m moving to DC anyway (90% because life always throws me curveballs, so really I never know what is going to happen.) But ultimately – don’t settle; life is too short to be somewhere or do something you don’t like. Live every day like you last, because it really could be.

Esmeralda: The Cat That Hates The World

Today, because the wifi went out in Zouheir’s apartment (which apparently it is really common in Lebanon for the power or the internet to just disappear – though not for 4+ hours like it did today), I spent the day catching up on work that I have been neglecting for the past five weeks. This also meant that it was only me and the cat, alone, together, in the apartment.

For a bit of backstory, Zouheir’s cat was the sweetest little kitten, lovely and social to everyone. Until he went to France for university. Since then, Esmeralda has hated him and all strangers (I think she feels abandoned maybe?) and it only got worse when Zouheir’s sister left for France too. I am also allergic to cats, so while I like them, they make me sick… (literally) A single cat scratch on a normal human takes about a week to heal. On me, it takes 3 months (I know because this was tested last year after I visited a friend with a very adorable, claw-loving kitten).

Esmeralda and I had come to an understanding. She would creepily hide, often in places where I would find her and jump because she scared the living hell out of me (one time so badly I ran out of the room; I think she enjoyed it), and I would generally leave her alone. This has worked for the past four days. But not today.

First instance: I went into Zouheir’s room, looking to see if he left me the apartment keys. There was a bump under the sheets in his bed. I thought this was weird. So I touched said bump. And it moved. Esmeralda had somehow gotten underneath TWO LAYERS of sheets and was ‘hiding’ in his bed.

Second instance: Esmeralda wasn’t happy that I disturbed her bed-resting/hiding-place, so she ran away and perched herself on top of the refrigerator. Waiting. For me to walk into the kitchen. And be in the perfect spot for her to swat at my head. It is a very lucky thing that she is declawed (which generally I disagree with, but she would have probably killed me by now if she wasn’t). To her luck, I did just that, because I was too stupid to look up and realize she was waiting for me. (Side note, this swatting of people in the head from her safe position on top of the fridge is a favorite past time of Esmeralda. It occurs anytime a human does not please her. Or when she just feels like it.)

Third instance: Esmeralda wanted to drink water. I wanted to be helpful. So I turn on the tap for her, so she can drink easier. This pleased her. Which was my cute to try to pet her. One centimeter away from finally being friends, she changed her mind, viciously swatted at my hand, then ran away and perched on the fridge to observe me from a safe distant (and swat at my head should she be so lucky as to get close enough).

Fourth instance: Esmeralda, in her desire to scare the living hell out of me, literally JUMPED OFF THE FRONT DOOR AND MADE THE LOUDEST SOUND POSSIBLE. To scare me. Which she did. I think it was her way of saying ‘leave human, you are in my space and it no longer pleases me.’

Fifth instance: Again, I tried to make peace by helping Esmeralda with drinking water. I thought she was okay with this – I was wrong. Almost immediately after helping her she jumped off the counter, came to my feet and started coughing. I thought she just had a hairball – she didn’t. She instead threw up at my feet then ran away, leaving me to clean up her mess. This cat REALLY hates me.

In my defense, this cat literally hates anyone she meets – I’m not the only one. She does this to Zouheir too, and his mom, and his friend, and for his dad, she didn’t even get off her hiding place on top of the cupboards. This cat just generally HATES people. But at least it is fun to narrate her thoughts?

P.S. Dad – I’m alive, and thankfully have no cat scratches. And I don’t think I want you to die so I can have a cat anymore.

That Time We Nearly Drove to Israel…from Lebanon

Recently I posted a photo showing Zouheir and I’s almost-trip-to-Israel. I thought ya’ll deserved the full story: (PLUS a bonus audio retelling of this story [complete with lots of nervous laughter], because the only way I could figure out how to audibly tell it was to tell it to myself – though, warning, it was really hard to explain this story so it isn’t my best quality).

 

So what had happened was…… We were trying to drive to the beach for the day. There is a beach that Zouheir really likes to go to, and this beach is close-ish to the Israeli border but he just didn’t really think about it (Lebanon is so small, pretty much everywhere you go is close-ish to a border). So we are driving along and we get there, (side note, it is currently the off season, and the place we were trying to go to literally doesn’t exist during the off season…but we didn’t know that) and it is basically just an empty beach – with some locals – but there is nothing, absolutely nothing. It is just a flat patch of land, a sand dune, and then the actual beach (plus some trash thrown around because, well, all of Lebanon has trash thrown around – still a beautiful country, though, don’t get me wrong).

 

So, we are looking around and looking around, and we are thinking ‘Well, google maps has gotten us wrong before, we nearly went to Syria yesterday (a story for another day), so maybe google maps got us wrong again.’ We decide that we can walk to the beach and see if maybe we see anything from there. At this point I desperately need to pee so all I want is to just find a place that I can pee.

 

So we walk onto the beach and there is nothing. Absolutely nothing. And we both look at each other super confused. But there is a town in the distance and in my mind I’m thinking ‘we are not walking to this town’ – Zouheir wanted to walk to this town and that was not happening – so instead, ‘why don’t we get in the car and we drive there, so then when we get to the town we will figure it out, we’ll at least be able to ask directions.’

 

We get in the car, we drive along, we keep driving because we can’t figure out how to get to this town, we keep driving and then we get to a military checkpoint. In Lebanon, military checkpoints are fairly common along roads (there is one super close to Zouheir’s house – its actually part of the reason that ISIS has never been able to take hold in Lebanon), but this one is more intense and we realize it is actually a military base type thing that was also connected to a checkpoint.

 

So we get through and we keep driving, and there are banana fields everywhere, and I look over and I see a UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) tent – and I’m a nerd, so I know exactly what they look like – and I’m like ‘ummmm, I don’t think I saw what I thought I saw.’ So we keep going a little bit further. I see another one. And then another one. So I say “Zouheir – we’re in a refugee camp” and Zouheir responds “Nahhh”, and I counter, “Yeahhhh, we’re in a refugee camp, we should probably turn around.” So he is like “yeah, well we are not really getting anywhere” – because in front of us is nothing, absolutely nothing, just banana farms.

 

So we turn around, and this is a very fast – what in America would be a state highway with one lane for each direction but cars going 60+ miles per hour (90km per hour), and no one wants to stop and let us turn around. And there is no actually place to stop and turn around. But there is no reason for us to keep going when we are like ‘we are driving into a refugee camp, this is a bad idea.’ So we finally turn around and go back through the check point, go back to where google maps had originally sent us, and we’re thinking ‘okay, we’ll go the opposite direction; we’ll go to the town right next to us.’ And it turns out it is a very beautiful town. It’s called ‘Tyre’, and it has a very resort-ish, beach front – (not as nice of a beach as the one we were originally going to) but still beach front -restaurants and hotels and walkway.

 

So we are driving along trying to find a parking spot and we see United Nations blue helmets – which is pretty much anyone who works in a peacekeeping mission, but these weren’t normal peacekeeping mission, this was military peacekeeping mission (because again, I’m a nerd and I know what they look like). And I’m thinking ‘ummmm, wait what? Why is the UN here? And military UN no less?’ Early we had seen a UN van, so my brain had already been on – ‘Where are we? Why is the UN here?’ We keep driving and we see another UN van.

 

So we have to turn around, and we have to go back by the Blue Helmets, and Zouheir is telling me ‘you can’t take a photo of them, like you absolutely can’t’ – which makes sense. Potentially there could be repercussions on the workers should there be photos of them out there. But I still have my phone out and I’m thinking ‘ahhh I how they don’t think this is me taking a photo of them.’

 

Finally we park, and we decide that we are going to go try to find a place to eat – because I still desperately need to pee, but all of the excitement has kind of put that on the backburner for now. So we are walking around trying to figure out where to eat, but I am intrigued so I want to walk towards the blue helmets. Because they are just chilling in their giant military van, just sitting on it with another van next to it (which I thought was the UN HCR people but we actually figured out it was Lebanon tourism people who were wanting to shoot a video but they couldn’t until the Blue Helmets left). So we walk by them – and we end up finding some beautiful Roman ruins. Only could not figuring out how to actually get in to the Roman ruins so we give up, turn around, and walk back to the restaurant area. Eventually we decide we can’t find anything good to eat so lets just each burgers (in Lebanon, because why not).

 

The restaurant was very nice. It has a terrace overlooking the beach, and it has wifi so we can google stuff while we are eating. So we start investigating. And we realize:

 

  1. We are right by the Israeli boarder.
  2. There is a refugee camp right next to us.
  3. There is a UN mission that has been here for 40 years and that is what we saw.

 

But the reason we figured C out was that multiple UN trucks drove by while we were sitting, eating, and the license plate has the UN mission’s name and then numbers at the end of it. So me being a nerd, I knew when I saw ‘UNIFIL’, I knew exactly what that meant, so I googled it. So I’m like ‘ohhh, we are technically in a place that the UN thinks needs monitoring. That’s cool. That’s cool. Yeah that’s not…that’s cool.’ And Zouheir realizes something even better.

 

Technically in Lebanon Hezbollah is a political party, not a terrorist organization. So we are actually in a Hezbollah political area, which is also like ‘wait what???’ Because I’m still not getting used to that.

 

But yeah. So we didn’t die. We realized the actual area we were driving towards was Israel, and it was a good thing we turned around because we were coming close to being near that border, BUT (insert nervous laughter) when traveling with me…

 

 

P.S. Dad – I’m still alive. And I have some crazy ass stories to tell you.

Warning: May Contain Sappy Content

Today I left Berlin, heading towards Frankfurt to spend the night before my flight to Lebanon tomorrow. Thankfully nothing eventful has happened (yet) so I want to use today’s post to shout out to my friends that I’ve travelled with/stayed with/met up with during this trip. Some are newer, some are older, but all have made the past 4 weeks absolutely amazing. (Warning – this post contains extremely sappy material.)

First, my beautiful best friend and travel partner for most of this trip –

Lauren😘: I have 15 years of words to express how much I love and value you. But after all this time, I’m 100% sure you know how I feel (and if you don’t, you are an idiot haha.) You are my sister, and I loved our travels together, even when you wanted to kill me for not letting you stay in bed. And yay! Neither of us died! Even though Paris tried really hard to kill you haha. Love you girly; we can’t go another year before seeing each other again ❤️ (Plus we need to tour New Zealand together!!) I hope you are enjoying your week (or more) laying in bed doing absolutely nothing. I’m so proud of you for being so active the entire 3 weeks we were together! (But let’s be honest, I’m always proud of you girly! Sending you all the love in the world.)

Jana: Girl, you are awesome. And I hate we only had one afternoon to catch up. But it was one of my favorite afternoons of the whole trip! Between the Natural History Museum and Platform 9 and 3/4s, we made some really amazing memories. I know you are doing amazing things in the UK, and I can’t wait to come back and hear more about them next time I visit! (Or we could skype!!) Plus we need to nerd out about Harry Potter more together! 😂

Tringa: So many words. I know we are both sad that we missed Barcelona together, and that I got delayed by that insane storm in Edinburgh, but we still had an incredible time when we were together! I’m so proud of you and your perseverance in your masters degree (and that you decided to do your masters degree in the end!😂) Skotel was crazy, but they got one thing very right when they put us in the same flat! (With the beautiful Romina and Caitlin who I also love and can’t wait to see again). Thank you for hosting Lauren and I at your flat; and for hosting me in July too. You are the reason I love London ❤️ I can’t wait for our skype session tonight!

Elena: The fact that we didn’t hang out more in the Hague kills me. Because you are so much fun to be around. And you are one of my favorite people (with your clumsiness and all!) I absolutely love that we ended up having extra time together in Berlin (and that my last night in Berlin was spent over beers with you and Rebekah and everyone!) Even with your ‘tiny’ resume (which really it isn’t, you’ve done incredible things), I know you are going to go on to do some amazing things in life and I’m gonna be sitting there saying ‘I KNOW HER! SHE’S MY FRIEND!’ Until we see each other again ❤️ (hopefully in spain for a tour around the country!)

Sebastian: 🎼 I’m in the love with the shape of you 🎼 That song will always remind me of your beautiful voice and face. And now Ed Sheeran’s ‘Barcelona’ reminds me of you too. Your ability to party endlessly will always amaze me; you are the definition of “Work Hard, Party Harder” (because you are also one of the most intelligent people I have ever met). I’m sorry we never went out dancing like we had planned, but the trip was still amazing because of the incredible company we had.❤️ You are the best of us, and the heart and soul of the Skotel Balcony Police! Without you, the Hauge would not have been nearly as fun. I loved our time together in Barcelona, and I hope we get to see each other again soon.

Delphine: We’ve had our troubles, but you are extremely brave for recognizing your faults and working hard to make yourself a better person. I see a young version of myself in you, and I’m positive that you will go on to become a powerful, wonderful lawyer in Europe – surrounded by people who love and adore you! (Which you already are, because you are such a sweet girl.) Never worry about what other people may think about your age or how much you know – just be yourself, and people will love you. If you ever need advice or just someone to talk with, you know where to find me.😉

Vincent: I know we didn’t actually get to see each other, but I want to thank you for being so understanding when I had to cancel because Lauren got so sick ❤️ Next time I am in Paris, I promise I won’t cancel on our reunion!

Karol: You amaze me with all the incredible things that you’ve been able to accomplish, and that you like me enough to invite me to join you on your UN projects and at all of these UN conferences. Our in depth discussions about the Colombian peace process will definitely be one of my favorite memories from this trip. And the random creepers we met. (But girrrllllll – find yourself a nice boy! No more crazy ones!!!!! 😂😘❤️) The fact that we agree on so many things (including all of the reforms that the UN needs) makes our time together even better. Especially because I know that when you become Secretary General you are going to go down as one of the best in history! And I’m also gonna sit there saying “I KNOW HER! SHE IS MY FRIEND! Can I have a job?🤣” I don’t know how you keep convincing me to continue going to all these UN conferences, but somehow you do so I’ll see you at the High Level Political Forum in June!

And the best for last, Rebekah:

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for hosting me in Berlin, and really showing me the city. Thank you for making my first home cooked meals in the past month, and for introducing me to German futball culture. (Still weirded out that the police were totally okay with us drinking on the street. Germany. I swear.) Thank you for the extremely interesting political discussions, and not judging me too much when I said (and say) stupid things. Thank you for being my translator, my guide (for both travel and life), and for helping Lauren and I out as much as you have. You are an incredible, amazing woman and I’m so happy we’ve stay friends for as long as we have. I can’t wait until we see each other again! (And thank Roman for the schnitzel and potatoes! They were so good!😍)

There were a ton more people that I met along the four weeks, who all deserve shout outs too, but if I did that this post would be much too long. So for all the new friends I made – y’all are amazing and I am happy life worked out for us to meet! Hopefully life brings us back together again soon.🌎🌍🌏

And of course, tomorrow I will be with the incredible Zouheir and his family in Beirut, so I’ll have another shoutout to give an incredible friend soon!

P.S. Dad – I’m alive, and have some really amazing friends.

Respect and Common Sense, Please

Yesterday I went to the Berlin Zoo, and wrote a post about the need for respect by the patrons of zoos in general for the animals on display. Today I had a very similar experience, but this time it was humans being disrespectful at a memorial to the millions of humans who were killed during the Holocaust.

Most people know of this memorial. In the middle of Berlin, there is a large square with rows of concrete blocks which are of different sizes. And most people have seen pictures of people with at this memorial. From the surface, this doesn’t seem like that big of a deal – it is a tourist site, right? Pictures are okay at tourist sites, right? I agreed – until I went there.

The memorial is full of people running, jumping, climbing the blocks. There are children playing hide and seek. There are adults joining it. There are people taking (in my opinion, fairly insensitive) photos: doing yoga, posing between the blocks, completely lacking any introspection about what this memorial actually stands for. When you actually experience it, it is disturbingly eery and….just plain awful hearing people running and playing in a place that signifies the death of millions of people.

Respect. Education. Learning. Kindness. Introspection.

These are all things you would not think you would have to remind people about when you are visiting a Holocaust memorial. Or anywhere that signifies that death of millions. But it needs to be reiterated. If you are at a cemetery, if you are at a memorial, if you are in a place that may mean something extremely significant to someone – do not take selfies. Do not do yoga. Do not play hide and seek. Do not run around, laughing.

Simply put: Use common sense. Please.

PS Dad – I’m annoyed. But alive.

 

For reference, here is how memorial photos should look:

Zoos: A Love/Hate Relationship

One of my traditions when I am traveling is going to zoological parks or aquariums and staring at animals for hours. This may be weird for most people, but for me it is entirely normally.

 

This is because, from a very young age, I had always wanted to be an exotic veterinarian – meaning I would work at zoos. At nine years old, I attended a summer camp at NC State University where budding veterinarians spent two weeks learning the basics of veterinary school. Remember the crocodile hunter, Steve Irwin? I volunteered at his zoo in Beerwah, Australia during the summers of 2010, 2011, and 2015.

 

I love zoos – but I also think they are flawed. Which is why I find it so important to visit zoos and aquariums around the world. It is an amazing way to learn what places do right, and what they do wrong, so I can brainstorm how they can reform.

 

I think the trippiest part of a zoo is the primate house – these are animals that are our cousins, that we are extremely similar to, but we lock them in cages and treat them as entertainment for family outings. I fully support the necessity of zoos for education campaigns regarding the conservation of endangered species. But the number one thing I see in primate houses is a mob of humans crowding the enclosures with cameras at the ready to take photos of their genetic-cousins. Often there are children screaming; often adults trying to entice the primates into moving more. There is rarely ever respect for these creatures, only the desire to treat them as entertainment.

 

But if evolution had gone a little differently – we could have been the ones in the cages. (Side note – some deformed humans have been locked in cages and treated as entertainment. That’s where the term ‘Freak Show’ comes from.) And because we are so similar, you can truly recognize the emotion on the primates’ face. Sometimes it is happiness; sometimes it is sadness. And the sadness breaks my heart – these are magnificent creatures being treated as caged trophies for children’s entertainment.

 

I am not advocating for the boycott or closure of zoos. Zoos serve an incredible part in conservation; being able to see these animals in person creates empathy for their struggles and increases involvement in conservation. Growing up visiting zoos with my mother is how I gained such a love and compassion for endangered species. And many zoos do absolutely incredible work researching their animals to better learn how to preserve the wild populations. Most also have very effective fundraising campaigns for endangered species.

 

But there needs to be a change in the zoo patrons – instead of treating these creatures as features of entertainment for your children or your family, use your visit as an educational experience. As a transformational experience. Teach your children about the incredible adaptations animals have developed to perfectly fit their environment. Teach them the human fables about local animals, like that of the cheetah’s tear marks. Teach them about their struggles. Teach them about how we can help conserve these creatures. Teach them about how close these species are from being lost to the world completely. Teach them about the ones we have already lost forever.

 

Ultimately: Teach. Learn. Love. Treat Respectfully.

 

 

P.S. Dad – I’m alive. And definitely not opinionated, not at all, never.

Exploring Bonn

Today I wandered Bonn with Karol. It is a beautiful little town, with a Champs Ellyse style park into the main town. We sat and had breakfast/lunch, then split up and I wandered the city myself for a while. Which is when I came upon one of the weirdest sights I have ever seen.

At first I thought it was a group of students about to play Quidditch. I had seen this before, in university I had even played in one match (I was absolutely terrible). From all I could see, it seemed like this might be a friendly Saturday game of Quidditch.

It wasn’t.

Y’all, I have no idea what this game was, but it was not like anything I had ever seen before. Everyone had sticks with soft padding on the ends of them (at first, I thought these might be broom sticks). There was one player on each team that had a dodge ball attached to a string – which I thought might be the buldger (clearly it has been a long time since I’ve seen or played Quidditch.) When the match started, everyone ran out into the middle of the field and tried to hit each other with the padded sticks or the dodge ball. If you were hit, you sat on the ground with one hand behind your back for probably about 1minute, then you got up and started trying to hit people again. All the while, one player on each team carried what looked like a duct-taped water bottle and tried to get it into the middle of an overturned tire at the end of each pitch. Once the bottle was in the hole, the game restarted.

You know that feeling when you can’t stop looking at a car wreck because you are just too interested in how it happened and what is happening now? That’s what I felt like. So I sat on a park bench, probably for 30 minutes, just trying to figure out what the hell I was watching (and instagraming a bit of it, hoping someone else knew what this game was). Eventually I gave up and left, but my conclusion is this was some live-action version of a MMRPG that I have never seen or heard of, and apparently it is really popular in Bonn.

So everyone else can be as confused as I was, here is video of this ‘game’:

The things you see and learn, am I right?

P.S. Dad – I’m super freaking confused, but still alive.

What is the Function of International Law?

What is the function of International Law?

International law is the framework through which the world attempts to achieve far reaching goals – such as human equality – worldwide and increase the quality of life for the human population.

While international decisions which are disregarded (such as that by the ICJ in 2016 when China rejected the court’s decision regarding the South China Sea) are often highlighted as the prime examples of international law (and therefore its failure), international law is not solely the decisions of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). Rather, international law is predominantly the treaties and agreements to which the vast majority of nations regularly obey, such as the Law of the Sea or the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

It is important to note that international law is not like national law (wherein all citizens of a respective nation are subjected to the laws of said nation).  Rather, international law is drafted by a group of nations, sometimes with competing interests, and includes a series of compromises which are agreeable to the majority of the participating nations. Once the law is drafted, nations can decide whether to ratify it or not – therefore signaling their intention to be bound by said treaty. It does happen that participating nations chose not to ratify the new law (such as the United States’ failure to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child). However, once a nation has ratified the treaty, that nation is required to comply with it.

International law lacks a vertical form of enforcement, meaning there is not police or military force that enforces international law. Because of this, international law relies on horizontal enforcement (i.e. sanctions and social enforcement by other nations who have also ratified the international treaty). Sometimes this enforcement comes from the United Nations Security Council in the form of a resolution condemning the violating nation (such as when Russia invaded Ukraine). Other times, enforcement comes from the ICJ or PCA (as well as other international judicial bodies) which exist to litigate any potential violations of international law.

Overall, the vast majority of international law is complied with and respected by those who have ratified the respective treaties. International law, therefore, functions as a regime through which nations can mutually agree to terms to which all will be subjected, essentially acting as a farther-reaching, modern form of national pacts.