Imagine my joyous surprise, then, when I randomly checked my email this morning and saw an email from Kaplan containing my QLTS results. I will admit that my heart was racing a little as I clicked on the email, then on the attachment, and waited 5 seconds for it to open. When the attachment opened and I read the words on the screen - business-like, fuss-free, direct, emotionless, to the point - I almost couldn't contain my happiness.
The pass mark was 56%. I fluked a pass with a 59%. The hilarity of the situation is only overshadowed by its awesomeness. This means that I did not waste my money (and it's a lot of money). This means that I did not waste my time preparing for the test, the same time that I would have otherwise spent with Wouter or, less realistically, looking for a job.
I still have to throw GBP3,510 at Kaplan and god knows how much else at QLTS School in order to qualify as a Solicitor of England & Wales, but at least the first hurdle has been crossed. I'm so relieved. I'm so pleased.
I can't wait to get qualified.
In all honesty, I haven't got a clue why I'm trying to qualify in England & Wales. The original idea was to make myself more appealing to employers in the Best City in the World and Quite Possibly All of Human Existence, a.k.a. London, but I question if I even want to work at all. I question that because I have a bad habit of getting bored in a job after two months, the same way I got bored of the internship halfway through. At that time, I was desperate to stay in London, so desperate that I would have taken anything, even jobs that I didn't want and which would have taken me not a step further in the field that I want to enter.
That has changed now. I'm still quite keen to have some experience in human rights litigation but I wonder if it's because I said half a year ago that I wanted to do it and abandoning it completely would be tantamount to admitting defeat and/or failure - which, of course, is something that I can't ever do. I wonder if I really want it, or simply thought that I wanted it and now I am unable to get the idea out of my head.
The thing about litigation is that I like it and hate it at the same time (I used the words 'like' and 'hate' deliberately). I hate it because it's stressful; you organise your life around court deadlines and clients' demands; and when you're in a trial, you basically have no life for the duration of the trial...and it doesn't matter if you're working in a private law firm on some boring commercial case or in a UN-created tribunal on a massive war crimes case. It's the same shitty deal. Not only that, I really don't handle facts very well. I don't like to dig into the details because they bore me, or will bore me after a while.
On the other hand, I like litigation because I am competitive and I like to win. I also like its highly argumentative nature, especially in appellate cases where there are less facts involved and more of the law. There is intellectual rigour involved sometimes, when one has to come up with the arguments and decide how to present it or which ones to use.
In terms of human rights litigation, though, there is an added element of importance. It speaks to my strong sense of justice and fairness, the need to do what is fair and just, even if not morally right (but even then, what is 'morally right' is debatable). I know that I don't want to do commercial litigation beyond a shadow of a doubt; I may be able to stomach some civil litigation, depending on the subject area; I can do criminal litigation but I honestly don't find it intellectually appealing; but human rights litigation is another ballgame altogether. It's an area that I am interested in but which I have never experienced - and so I can't get it out of my head. (I am too tired to explain what I mean by human rights litigation.)
Still, I think my long-term interest is still the PhD. I think my interest in human rights is more academic than practical. I like its philosophical aspect: I like thinking about its theoretical foundations and the related existentialist underpinnings of what it means to be human and why human dignity should be so jealously protected (it's not really as obvious as it seems, if one actually stopped to think really hard about it). I am intrigued by the sharply divergent attitudes to human rights between what I will loosely term the 'West' and 'Asia' - and even more intrigued by the sharp contrast between the general hostility towards human rights in Asia and Taiwan's free-wheeling liberal democracy. Something has to account for the massive gap in human rights development between developed Western/European countries and most Asian countries - for instance, as a Singaporean living in the Netherlands, I find it incredible that we are still struggling to get rid of 377A, when any moderate Dutch person (e.g. Wouter) can't imagine that gays aren't allowed to get married, let alone have sex.
I really want to do a PhD. I will have a lot of fun with it and hopefully after that I will be paid to (pretend to) be smart. I can't think of a better job than that. I really can't.
On another note: I met Wouter's parents last Sunday. He took me to his hometown of Hoorn (used to be an important port during the heyday of the Dutch East India Company) which was 30 minutes away from Amsterdam by train. His mother picked us up from the train station and drove us to their house. I realised the night before that I should get something for his parents and so we picked up a pot of purple orchids from the flower market before getting to Centraal station, where we found a non-Albert Heijn (supermarket chain) box of nuts for his father.
It was really not easy holding a potted plant in a plastic bag and sitting at the back of a bicycle, but I got through it, and it was for the greater good.
I was really nervous about meeting his parents. He said only nice things about them, and about me to them, and about them on me, but I was afraid of being too shy and tongue-tied and making things awkward and doing or inadvertently saying something that would make them not like me. I never know what to say to parents; I especially never know what to say to boyfriends' parents.
Thankfully, it went well. His parents were really nice and accommodating. His mom bought a cappuccino coffee mix for me, probably because Wouter told her that I drink capuccinos (only because the latte cannot make it in this country, ha ha ha). They spoke English with Wouter for what was probably the first time ever in their lives just for my benefit. In the living room, when Wouter was talking to his dad in English, I asked if it was weird that they were speaking English to each other. His father said, 'Yeah! I am a Dutchman. I speak Dutch!'
His father also said, 'So you only speak two languages?' I thought it was really funny. As over-achieving as Singaporeans can be, there is one area where we definitely lose to the Europeans - multilingualism. It's nothing short of a miracle, sheer force of will, and the wonders of Google translate that I worked in French for something like two months.
Anyway, I made Wouter show me his baby photos and he was so cute as a kid. His chess photos were particularly cute (though I'd seen two of them before). It's mind-bending to think that he could've become one of those chess nerds with huge glasses and zero social skills if he'd chosen to pursue it (he was really good. He was top 10 in the Netherlands at one point). I am selfishly glad that he didn't.
His parents drove us to the harbour. As we turned into the carpark, I looked out of the window and saw...deers. I wasn't even in a zoo and there were deers just sitting in the shade, all nonchalant, like it was perfectly normal for them to be there. If I thought it was mind-blowing that there were swans in my neighbourhood, the deers definitely took it to a whole new level.
The harbour was pretty. We had lunch in a little cafe. I sat in the sun, felt really hot, and instantly got a skin watch. I was quite relieved when they spoke Dutch at one point; I was feeling bad that everyone had to speak English because of me. His mom, though, switched back to English and apologised for speaking Dutch and went on to tell me what they were talking about.
They were so nice. His father made a lame joke just before we got up to leave. When I first met him, he said that Wouter was a copy of him; and Wouter said, 'Oh no, that means you're lame!' (Context: I've been telling Wouter that he has a lame sense of humour. I think he's finally realising that I am right.) It was really cute.
I really have to sleep, so I'll end this with two thoughts:
1. It's not true that I only like him for his looks, but I can't get over how hot Wouter is sometimes; and
2. We are going to Croatia, Bosnia and Spain after my internship. CAN'T WAIT.