Friday, September 29, 2006

This has got to be the best 90 bucks I have ever spent.

And no, it's not something that adorns this swiftly bloating body of mine.

This weekend, I signed up for a conference commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials. Today was the first day and I've just gotten home, my mind awash with so many different thoughts and emotions I'm going to need a while to arrange them in some semblance of coherence.

Basically, this is a 3 day conference that examines the international crimes of 1. Genocide, 2. Crimes against humanity and 3. War crimes. Key note speakers include, the ORIGINAL prosecutors at the Nuremberg trial, which means that they are over 90 years old but still amazingly lucid, the President of the International Criminal Court and various other dignitaries in the field.

I can't write or elucidate anything right now because I'm going to need to review my notes before being able to say anything vaguely intelligible but suffice to say, I am blown away. This is living history. This is what higher level education is all about.

I am inspired and awed and dumbstruck and more than a little frightened.

Some of the issues we talked about today:
1. the parallels between medical trials conducted during Nazi germany and some methods of interrogation and force feeding conducted at Guantanamoa Bay.
2. The passing of the detainee bill barring judicial review of detainees and the ceding of authority to the president to interpret international laws and most damning of all, the prohibition of citing international laws, whether based on treaties or custom in US courts.
3. Just vs Unjust wars.

I cannot wait for tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Overheard today in Environmental Law class: "We need to preserve wetlands because we need a place to shoot ducks."

Words fail me.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Short update because I'm on a roll (OK IT's ROLL, not ROLE! slip of the fingers, no fault of the mind. heh):

interesting find in the library:

I mean, I know she writes, but to have a law review named after her, now that's way cool. Heh.

This is my new favourite studying haunt:

Its an attic onthe topmost floor in the library and is a perfect place to mug your afternoons away (again, I'm a mugger). Because it involves climbing 3 flights of stairs I'm usually left well alone and even if people did come up, I've managed to colonise it to such a large extent that most feel uncomfortable staying. :) I liiike. I love the high arched windows and the wood panelling and the panoramic view it has of the school, although there is now a HUGE hole in front of law school because of expansion works.

To end off, I expect I'm going to be updating less frequently because jessup training has started and it is KERAAAAAAAAAAZZZZZZZZZZZYYYYYYYY. My Jessup teammates. (both are crazy too by the way. Ashley the blondie is from texas and she's amazingly hyper. And funny. And terribly determined. And ditzy. Rachel runs marathons regularly and she conned me into joining the running club where they run twice a week, 6 miles and 20 miles. She talks while she runs. Non stop. to both. I try not to suffocate and die.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Central West End. The End.

I realised that I probably haven't given you as clear a picture of what St Louis is like as I should have since I started this thing so allow me to rectify that oversight.

Before I being though, some essential background geography. Essentially, St Louis can be divided into the North and South segments by Forest Park. (see post entitled SIO AH!!!) The school and where I live is on the South side of forest park. On the other side of Forest Park and slightly to the West is the slightly more upmarket and chi-chi-er Central West End. In this post I'm gonna give you a glimpse of that side of St Louis, the side further away from the nightly sirens and the 2 robberies a month since I arrived statistics.

The area is characterised by lovely historical old brownstone buildings and tall tall condominiums with such pretentious names as Pierre Chateau (you know that the owners just threw 2 of the frenchiest sounding words together to get that name) and the Plaza Park Royale. It is also home to the Cathedral Basilica of St Louis, which is a gorgeous gorgeous piece of architecture.

I didn't manage to get any shots of the inside of the chapel because it was closed by the time we got there but I hear it's got gorgeous stained glass windows so I'm definitely going back there soon.

It is also home to the Angel of Harmony.

Although truth be told, harmony is not the first thing that comes to mind upon casting eyes on his countenance (no offence).

This is what happens when there is no one around and liangwei has no choice but to snap self portraits by himself. We wanted to get at least some part of the statue. We failed.

At this point, my camera died. Alas.

So you see, it's really a pretty nice place and not the horrid slummy shit hole I might have painted in my first few posts. It is also, most certainly, not backward although it is a small city and no, I have not had to milk a cow yet although I have been invited to go cow tipping, which is another story for another time.

Party Popping Party Poopers

So i was wondering what the best way of updating this blog was because I didn't want to record every single mundane detail about exchange life and I was running out of lead in commentaries discussing one complex moral philosophical metaphysical issue or another. The natural conclusion that then arose was that I would of course blog whatever the hell I wanted without regard for my viewers. We all know however, that it will be a cold day in hell before that happens because as Zhu will be quick to attest, I am a chronic people pleaser. Where that leaves me, I really have no idea. And don't ask me what the point of all this is either. I'm just writing whatever floats to the top of my head because Jessup training is driving me slowly but surely insane.

American kids generally move out of the family home by the time the enter college. No, I'm not going to embark on a lengthy discourse on the benefits and detriments of this physical separation of the nuclear family nor am I going to began a discussion on cultrual relativism and the conflict between confucian values and western morals in Singaporean society. I am however, going to talk about a very important necessary corollary of such early independence. HOUSE PARTIES!!! hehehe. From what I understand, undergrad house parties are really nothing to rave about, bad beer, bad company and too many wet behind the ears youngsters who probably won't see the inside of a club for another 3 years. A grad student's house party however, is quite another story. Wine. Champagne, killer cocktails, bruschetta, pita breads and pate, greek spiinach puff pastries, fantastic company, interesting life experiences, the works really.

I do wish I had taken more pictures but I was terrified of being the absurdly suakuish touristy one so I restrained my trigger happy impulses and thus ended up with pictures of the food. This is us though, sufficiently inebriated:

We were however, due to budgetary constraints unable to avoid the tackiness of dixie cups. Ah well. can't have your cake and eat it.

Zhu, the guy who is not me is BD. Non asian girl is DG's Other Roommate.

2 weekends ago, we went to Sub Zero, a sushi and vodka bar. It seems almost counter intuitive to eat raw fish when the nearest ocean is 5 hours away by plane but this is what being in a land of perpetual steaks, potatoes and ranch dressing does to it. For the record, you probably guessed right. Raw fish in the middle of america is a bad bad bad idea.

Zhu, non asian girl is DG:

Fortunately, this Sushi Vodka Bar wasn't quite as committed to its theme as it should have been because it also served pizza. Which was good. But I suppose you can't go very wrong with pizza.

So there you have it, my partying ways in St Louis. Nothing extreme, just good clean fun. Really. I promise. REALLY LAH! NOW STOP LOOKING AT ME THAT WAY!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

SIO AH!!!!

Last friday a bunch of us went down to Forest Park, which is well, a forest in a park, to watch the annual hot air ballon race.

First, Forest Park is a lovely little (although that is a misnomer because it is anything but) piece of greenery in the middle of St Louis and 1 block from Wash U. It has roiling hills and verdant slopes (in summer at least) meandering brooks and bubbling springs, chirpy squirrels and BIG ASS HUGE MONSTER DOGS WHO VIEW EVERY 2 LEGGED VAGUELY HUMANOID FIGURE AS FOOD, gorgeous oaks (I almost typed acorn trees) and fields of sunflowers.

Second, the annual hot air balloon race, more than its name suggests, is also a stroke of marketing genius. The concept is simple enough - organise a novel competition involving many large, vaguely spherical airborne objects and get companies such as Alpro dogfood, Energizer, Nippon Paint, Lays and Fritos to donate helluva lot of money in return for one of their very own and watch the crowds (and dough) roll in. It's gorgeous really, the evening before the race, the public is invited to view the Balloon Glow where all the balloons are filled whilst in a large field. Because the balloons are filled with hot air created by a huge flame, all the balloons light up the night sky. Very very pretty. More than the balloons though, I really loved the friendly atmosphere that the whole parade exuded with families and kids in tow set up camp on the field and offered us exotic looking far easterners their local delicacies of frito fries and quesadillas. I love how the weather here is so conducive for on the spur of the moment picnics and other such outdoorsy family bonding activities that one simply doesn't find in Singapore either because we love our material comforts too much or because the weather's just too damn humid to do anything that doesn't involve air conditioning. Ok. Enough talk.

Said bubbling brook and sparkling spring and (1 giant pink bunny)

Said roiling hills. (I was walking and trying to avoid said BIG ASS HUGE DOG hence the bad photography) Ok, this picture does not do the park justice at all but I was late and FINE, I"M A BAD PHOTOGRAPHER OK?????

Puuurrrrtttyyyyy baaalllooonnnsss

Aforementioned pink bunny's ass on fire.

Realising, to our horror, we were standing too close to a balloon.

And that is all!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Barnyard education

So. this is the barn in which we are schooled:

This is where we peruse the paperback repositories of midwestern legal knowledge:

Interesting fact: This library was donated by a Korean immigrant who won the lottery. Shortly after she made the donation, she was cheated of all her winnings and ended up without a penny to her name. (although she did have a library named after her.)

Pastures where the cattle (and students graze) what I really mean to say is we usually have our lunch on these beautifully manicured lawns, picnic style. I love how the weather is cool and not humid and the grass is green but not moist so it is possible to sit without getting soaked right through to the undies. I also love how un-self-concious people are and they really just do whatever they feel like (that of course is not unqualified but that's a story for another time):

This is the aforementioned Chrowder Courtyard where I usually get my readings done. The weather's just about right now, not too hot or too cold, with enough sun to still bask in but without burning. Lovely really:

The Church in the middle of campus. There was a lovely little wedding there just last saturday:

And with that, i leave you. I have tonnes of things I want to say about American education here but that's gonna have to wait till another day (not like you guys are holding your collective breaths anyways. :) )

Be good!

St. Louis - Gateway to the West

On my second weekend here, I joined the international undergraduate orientation programme for an excursion downtown to the heart of St. Louis. Before the pictures though, abit of general knowledge/history.

St Louis was founded in the late 1600s but the french and was named for the French King at that time King Louis (the dunno how manyeth). It was purchased by the United States President in 1804 in the first of several westward bound expansions and became known as the Gateway to the West (of the USA, not the world because to the Anglocentric cartographers, USA was already as west as you could get). The first large scale exploration past St Louis was, interestingly enough, led by Lewis and Clark. St Louis is sited on the west bank of the Mississippi river and is directly opposite Illonois.

Some interesting facts about St Louis:
Anheuser-Busch, the biggest beer manufacturer in the world and which produces Budweiser beer is from St. Louis.

So is TS Elliot and Tennessee Williams.

The uranium for the A-bomb was refined in St Louis too.

The world's first skyscraper (at a staggering 10 stories) was also built in St Louis.

Other than that, I don't think there's anything else really that interesting about it. OH!

The first black slave who sued his white owners brought his case to trial here and it went all the way to the US Supreme court who unsurprisingly decided against him.

What do I think about St Louis you ask? Well, it honestly isn't that fantastic a city, it's nice, ok maybe that would be a lie too because it has the highest crime rate in ALL OF AMERICA, but seriously, it's not bad, i like the open space, i like the vast number of cafes by the roadside (al fresco dining is big here) and because it's smallish, people are friendlier than one would expect in a big city. What i like the most about it though, is its history, I love how the city has found a way of growing into its history instead of out of it, using its gorgeous old buildings for modern day purposes with cutting edge technology instead of converting every single old building into a museum much unlike a certain island state that rhymes with schmingapore.

One last thought before the pictures (yes yes, I know no one really wants to hear my incessant ramblings) as I mentioned, this downtown fieldtrip thing was with the undergraduates. As most of you know, the law degree, the juris doctor, is a post graduate degree and having spent the past month amongst them whilst at the same time hanging out with some other undergraduates from other schools (they call them schools here, not faculties; faculty refers to the profs et al) I wonder if perhaps we too should make law a postgraduate degree because I've found that the maturity that comes with age and experience generally stands these JD candidates in very good stead (they call them candidates, not students and all their email signatures go so-and-so, 2008 J.D. Candidate. ISNT" THAT SO COOL!!!) and one immediately sees how age and experience and maturity would be greatly beneficial because I believe that more than intelligence, being a lawyer is about the moral person you are and while it might be a cliche, I think it to be much easier to draw your boundaries and mark your no-go areas when you've had more life experience then a wet behind the ears JC graduate. Also, from a practical point of view, having a prior degree will also greatly aid practice because lawyers essentially have to be experts in their chosen field of specialisation so a construction lawyer would definitely need to possess some techinical knowledge of things like engineering and the like whereas Louis, i mean, an FSD lawyer would need to know a little more about things like finance and economics (oh, silly me, he knows that already!) and generally most of the JDs here have had degrees in those fields they would be interested in practising in. And so, in antitrust class, I find myself surround by economists who can discusss this theory and that graph and marginal costs and variable whatever when all I can do is gape and think OH MY FUCKING GOODNESS WHY THE HELL ARE THERE GRAPHS IN A LAW CLASS?!! KNNBCCB!!!! whilst in International Human Rights class you find a vast majority of them being political science majors who can discuss the palestinian israeli conflict at the drop of a hat whilst i'm left repeating to myself, ok, one more time, the jews are in israel and the arabs are in palestine.

Phew. That was one major rant. Anyway, that's over and so here are the pictures:

This is the arch, the tallest American National Monument and it was built in the 60s using what was at the time cutting edge technology. i forget what it was but it was cutting edge. It's really breathtaking looking up from its base.

This is the view from the base.

This is the view from the top of the arch - we had to take this teeny tiny capsule lift up the side of the arch and because it's a curved, the lift basically moved upward through a serious of horizontal and then vertical movements. Vaguely remember faint sensations of nausea.

This is the view from the otherside of the arch, facing the Mississippi river. Across the river is east st Louis which is apparently even more dangerous than Queens and Detroit City. That's where most of the crime comes from. It is filled with strip bars and seedy joints and unfortunately is also where most of the big-name concerts are. the friend who picked me up from the airport told me how he got lost once and found himself in east st louis with 1/8 tank of gas. He declined to tell me details of the fateful night but I gather he's very grateful to still be alive.

This is the inside of the old courthouse where the slave-sue-owner trial was held. The old court house is actually pictured in the pic from the top of the arch. It's the building right in the middle. It is now a museum (yes yes, I know what I said, this is the only exception. I think. heh) and the undergrads were made to act out the trial. people were given scripts and roles and everything and it was generally hilarious watching awkward non-english speaking non-americans act out a very american skit in very american english. But i digress.

The Americans love their flags

So yes, I know that the spoiler from my last post promised pictures of barnyard education here in the midwest but I haven't uploaded those pictures yet and my cable seems to have decided to take a tour of my apartment has is no longer where I remember it last being. (and please, no suggestions of otherworldly presences because that would freak me out and we don't want that do we?)

I am currently writing this in the Chrowder Courtyard which is the courtyard adjoining the students lounge or as is known here, the Students Commons. This is the venue for the school's weekly happy hour which easily half the student population turns up for. I was of course, very pleasantly surprised at this, being accustomed to little or no student support for such school functions in NUS and what struck me the most about it was that the students were genuinely enjoying themselves and there wasn't that self-consciousness we see in NUS where it's almost uncool to be at a school function and it isn't uncommon to hear people trying to excuse their presence by saying that they had no choice or that they were there to support their friends who were organising the event. I suppose it also helps that there's always free beer at these events. (Law School here is in Anheuser-Busch Building which is named for the biggest beer manufacturer in the world. They make Budweiser beer. Which tastes foul btw)

And regarding my first entry and in response to some comments, I don't deny that it is a long entry, but it isn't only about my apartment. I suppose the pictures aside, I really wanted to impress upon everyone not on exchange, the difficulty and hardships involved in coming on exchange, that exchange isn't all about cheap alcohol and travelling or even mostly about that, because exchange to me, has been about being turly independent, more than the army, more than going on holidays with your friends, more than moving into hall. It is about finding your own two feet and standing on them and finidng that hey, I can support my own weight. it is about realising the sheer effort and willpower that goes into getting simple, essential tasks and errands done; getting a bank account, knowing how to rout money from singapore, finding a place to stay, negotiating a lease, finding furniture with a small or non-existent budget, drawing up grocery lists, going to the grocers, figuring out how to get around without a cheap, clean, safe and reliable public transportation system, making friends (yes, it doesn't come naturally, and yes, it definitely is a chore at first) slowly but surely devising a standard operation protocol for how to live your life, completely and totally alone for the what will be for many of us, the first time. I was telling some friends that this past month alone has been such an experience because for the first time in my life, every single action or omission is a consequence on my life, directly and with no one else to blame. If I oversleep and don't have time to get to the grocers, then I go without milk or bread for breakfast the next day. If I dawdle about getting my internet connection up, then I deal with not having any form of communication with the rest of the world. I can no longer pick up the phone and call a parent or friend to settle some errand that slipped my mind or expect someone to drive me in the middle of the night to pick up eggs or milk. For the first time, I can honestly say, that this IS my life, because it is whatever I make of it.

So no, the first post was not a vanity post; it was to me, the fruits of a very hard first month's worth of labour and I am certain that anyone who has gone through the process of uprooting and setting up home from scratch will know exactly what I am talking about.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Hullo friends!

It's about time I suppose, I set up some sort of repository for my (mis)adventures in the midwest of the US of A. It's been exactly a month since I arrived and school's been going on for the past 4 weeks which really explains my absence thus far - I arrived just in time for school to start, without accomodation, or anything remotely resembling a plan as to how I was going to get through the next 10 or so months here. Suffice to say, I've survived, and despite being thrown into the deep end without so much as a lifebuoy I have managed to avoid drowning or being eaten by sharks.

Washington University, for the uninitiated, is in St Louis, which is in Missouri, which is a state in the midwest. No, it is not in Washington state, nor is it in Washington, Capital of America (And no, capital of America is not New York). The university is a quiet little place in well, University City in St Louis and is really quite a quaint pretty place. It's basically a sort of converted castle with huge arch windows and dark wood floors and the works and is honestly very very breathtaking. Has a terribly academic feel to it and walking through its stone hallways almost makes me feel scholarly.

I arrived here about a month ago, to a warm reception from a secondary school friend who was kind enough to put me up since Wash U DOES NOT HAVE HOUSING FOR GRAD STUDENTS )**&&*&!!!!! and I thought I would be smart and not risk getting misled by online agents and accidentally end up renting myself some barely inhabitable rat hole. So the first week was marked by frantic apartment hunting and to my great pride and pleasure, i found a lovely studio apartment 10 minutes walk from school for a pretty decent price (610USD) a month and uh-hm, even negotiated the lease down from a 12 month lease to a 10 month one (yes yes, I am that good). There was one slight problem though.

IT WAS COMPLETELY UNFURNISHED. empty. devoid of furniture like substances.

So that marked the beginning of a 3 day long mad search for furniture, oh I am such an expert at craig's list and online used-anything-under-the-sun searches now which eventually culminated in me having to rent a HUGE ASS VAN to transport all the bits and pieces of furniture I bought from all over st louis to my new place. (my sofa came from someone's basement. my bed belonged to a highschool girl. WHO USED LEOPARD PRINT SHEETS. the mattress was also stained on oneside with something that looked suspiciously like blood but her mother assured me it was wine. Which of course begs the question of why a HIGH SCHOOL GIRL'S BED WOULD HAVE WINE ON IT!) In the process, I also picked up:

1. a microwave
2. ricecooker
3. kettle
4. toaster
5. 1 huge ass frying pan
6. 1 huge ass soup pot
7. A set of 7 chef's knives (it was on sale, don't ask)
8. 1 chopping board
9. Plates and bowls
10. Cutlery
11. A standing lamp and a bedside lamp (which were both from someone else's basement)
12. Pillows, cushions and various other soft fluffy things
13. A steam iron
14. A teeny tiny ironing board
15. A mop, broom and other cleaning implements.

So. Within a week of my arrival, I had set up my home away from home from scratch. And i'll tell you now, that I'm so proud of myself. It wasn't easy, it was actually very very tough, the first night I slept in my apartment, it was on the floor with a borrowed comforter. I thought I was going to die there alone and I suppose what makes it so hard is that it's so difficult to get around when you know virtually no one or nothing at all about the place. If nothing else, this is one thing that makes the trip all that worthwhile, being completely and totally independent and self-sufficient. So, with further ado, this is my humble abode:

It's a studio apartment with attached bathroom kitchen dining area. Very nice really.

This is my work area/couch-y place where i suppose i hang out. i will have you know i MADE THE WORK DESK AND WORK SHELF FROM SCRATCH. broke my toenail in the process. Note the lack of a tv.

This is the dining area, would you believe I bought the dining table and 4 chairs for 50USD?? Of course, i had to venture into a most unsavoury part of town to get it but I had my big ass van so I suppose I could ahve run over anyone who tried to rob me.

The kitchen, I love the fact that this apartment is about a hundred years old and the cabinets are the original ones. Amazing innit?

The bathroon, the toiletbowl and the FEROCIOUS FLUSH. everytime i flush, i depress the lever then leap away because the bowl spews water ALL OVER THE PLACE. DISGUSTING. but at least, there is never the problem of floaters.

oh, and my favouritest part of the apartment:


So, it's a pretty nice place really and this is what it looks like from the outside:

And now friends, I have to leave you because I have a ton of readings to catch up on, yes yes, I am a mugger, so until next time, be good!