And when I say “full,” I mean it. I touched down in KL at about 4:40 am (half an hour early) and, barring about an hour of sleep around 11 am, didn’t sleep again until 10:30 pm. Despite a full night’s rest, I’m still pretty exhausted this morning. As much as I was hoping to go out and do some touristy things today, I may spend most of the day getting moved in (I now have a 100%-confirmed place to stay!) and relaxing.
To be honest, I’ll probably need it. I’m super-excited to be here, but between the sensory overload of being in a new place and the sleep deprivation/jet-lag it does feel pretty overwhelming. I’m sure it will be better once I get moved in and figure out my way around a bit more. Having a regular schedule will also probably help a lot, too. I already miss Canada a lot, but luckily through the miracle of the internet there’s lots of ways for me to keep in touch.
Oh! One more thing. Among my many “You’re not in Kansas any more” moments yesterday, the most interesting may have been the aftermath of what was, based on my experience, a pretty epic thunderstorm. One of the LRT stations was shut down due to flooding, as were a number of traffic tunnels. Can’t say I’ve ever seen anything quite like it.
Made it through my first full regularly-scheduled day!
It seems as though a large component of my time here will be teaching myself the basics of trade mark law. I powered through significant portions of two textbooks, a manual, and an introductory guide on trade marks, and I actually think that I understood and retained most of it. Why couldn’t this kind of productive mindset have set in, say, during exams?
I also had a huge and very tasty lunch at an Indian restaurant near the office. (I am starting to understand that Malaysians take their food very seriously, and in large portions.) Apparently I managed to surprise several people when my reaction was “This tastes delicious!” instead of “THIS TASTES LIKE BURNING.” But, having passed that bar, I’m told that I should be able to enjoy any particularly spicy food I encounter from here on out, without having to worry that my whiteness will be overwhelmed with Scoville units.
Finally, a teaser for upcoming content! Apparently casual Friday is not a thing in my office - instead, you may look forward to a photo of me decked out for “traditional clothing Friday.” I don’t know what that is going to mean for me either, but either this week or next week I promise photographic evidence. Should be fun!
My new friend, at Batu Caves. One of his compatriots tried to grab my bottle of Gatorade right out of my hands.
For my first week in Malaysia, people kept asking me - “What sorts of differences have you noticed?” And to be honest, I didn’t have a particular good answer. For most of my first week, I spent more time noticing similarities than differences. The LRT lines I’ve used are as good - if not better - than public transit in many Canadian cities. My room, while small, isn’t much smaller than the room I lived in during the second year of my undergrad. Several malls could be transplanted straight into a major Canadian city and few people would blink an eye. Shopping for groceries is a near-identical-to-home experience, except for the part where some of the fruit looks, as a friend described them, “like tribbles on LSD.”
Most of the differences I noticed were trivial. Most apartments have two locks - one on the door, and a padlocked gate over the door frame. I have yet to encounter a hot water tap. Crosswalks are, at best, vague suggestions. And, of course, the weather is rather warmer than what I’m used to.
Part of the reason my mind was picking up mainly on these trivial differences is because I suspect that for the first few days I was in sensory overload. In reality, there are a lot of differences between Malaysia and Canada. Some of them are substantial - like the fact that it’s an offence for a non-citizen to attend an “assembly,” subject to a 10,000 MYR fine. Some are more subtle - like the formality of starting off a presentation at the company staff meeting on keeping desks clean with “Thank you, madam chairperson.” Trying to wrap my head around everything means that, even if I’m only doing it subconsciously, I’m prioritizing certain information. Right now, I’m still trying to get a handle on the obvious differences. With any luck, before I leave I’ll manage to have at least some of those down pat.
It occurs to me that it might be fun for me to start a tourist spot check list. Places I have seen so far:
Also, as you might have noticed from the previous post, I’ve invited a couple of other friends from law school to post on their respective summer experiences. I’m really stoked to see what you guys get up to!
I am bad at this whole regular blogging thing! But in my defence, I think I’ve figured out why - I’ve got myself into a routine, and while routines are comfortable, they’re not the most interesting of lifestyle patterns.
At this point, my days go something like this:
I wake up at 7:30 am.
I take a cold shower. There is so little point in taking a hot shower here that there isn’t even a temperature control mechanism. If you’re in Malaysia, your showers are cold. Deal with it.
I pick out my clothes - is the weather going to be unbearably hot, or just unreasonably warm? Then I eat breakfast, grab the necessities, and ride the elevator 28 floors to the bottom before walking two blocks to the LRT station.
I ride for one stop, then walk another two blocks to my office building. At that point, I ride up to the 31st floor, swipe in at 8:55 am, and start my work day.
At 1:00 pm, I go for lunch.
By 2:00 pm, I’m in the office, working away until 6:05 pm, at which point somebody turns the office internet off (!), so I save my work and head home.
On the way back, I might stop off at the mall next door to grab some groceries, including a 3L jug of water to get me through the next few days because the water filter in the apartment is iffy at best. I make myself dinner - something cold, because it is too darn hot to turn on the stove - and then chillax for the rest of the evening.
(Unless it’s a Tuesday, in which case I then head out swing dancing. But that’s for another post.)
The glamorous life of a law intern abroad!
My weekends have involved a little bit more adventure - if you follow me on Twitter, @devonblack, then you might have seen my photos from the Islamic Arts Museum this weekend - but all in all, it’s not that different from home.
To be honest, I’m still a little bit wary of putting my adventure pants on and heading out on my own. It can still be a bit nerve-wracking, heading out into a big city that seems deliberately designed to ensure I get lost.
(Seriously, there are no straight streets in this city. If you think I am kidding, go search Kuala Lumpur on Google Maps. It’s okay, I’ll wait.
Did you see that?! I have gotten lost walking in a straight line before, BUT THERE AREN’T EVEN ANY STRAIGHT LINES IN THIS CITY. It’s a wonder I manage to get myself home every day.)
Anyway, this week I am putting my foot down and forcing myself to go out and explore more.
After all, while there is some novelty to exploring the joys of a dryer-less lifestyle, it’s not enough to keep me entertained for long.
Okay, so remember that post where I said I was stuck in a routine?
Yeah, that’s over now.
In the past four days, I’ve sung karaoke in Tamil, ridden through the longest underwater tunnel in Malaysia, stood on top of the tallest twin towers in the world, sat through a service in what I suspect is the only Presbyterian church in KL, attended an Indian wedding, and gone out for seafood with debaters from Singapore, India, and the Philippines. I’d blog about everything in detail right now, but I have to get to bed - see, I’m going swing dancing again tomorrow night, and after the weekend I’ve had I probably need to rest up.
Here, have a purple lobster to tide you over until I’ve got time to write in detail:
One thing I have yet to blog about - the actual work that I’ve been doing! You’d think that, given this is an internship and all, I’d have written about that a bit more.
I’m working on intellectual property law. That breaks down into a few different categories, but mostly it means that I’ve been researching and writing in support of clients who come to us when it look like someone else is using their trademark, industrial design, patent, or copyright-protected material. (I’ve also been doing some stuff on domain name dispute resolution, for anyone who is nerdy about that sort of thing, but it’s a little different.)
It’s interesting, and I’m learning a lot about an area of the law that I didn’t get to cover in first year. I really enjoy the problem-solving aspects of it - for instance, how to convince a judge you’re right when the textbook says you’re pretty clearly wrong. Didn’t learn that one in class, did we?
I have to admit, though, that some days it’s a little bit frustrating. I spent my undergraduate degree studying international development - how to improve people’s lives, how to rebuild from wars, how to (at least in theory) leave a place in better shape than it was when you first arrived. When I start mentally comparing the relative importance of fundraising for a maternal surgery ward in Haiti versus drafting a notice of opposition for a trademark claim, I know it’s going to be a long afternoon. I’m not one to romanticize development work - I like to joke that the most important lesson I pulled from my undergrad was that white people ruin pretty much everything - but the comparison between the jobs I had then and the work I’m doing now is pretty stark.
That said, what I’ve learned so far about intellectual property law has been fascinating. Did you know, for instance, that India has an archive providing communal intellectual property protections for yoga poses? Or that someone tried to patent tumeric? (That application got shot down pretty quick.) Yeah, some of this stuff is pretty neat.
I’m not sure that IP law is what I want to do forever, but it’s definitely a neat way to spend the summer.
Jalan: Road. I’m not all that directionally savvy to begin with, but for my first couple of days in KL I had real difficulty telling streets apart. This is because the naming structure for streets here is “Jalan XXXXXXXXXX”. There doesn’t appear to be any distinction between types of streets like there is back home (street, avenue, road, way, drive, etc.), and so in addition to every street name being in a foreign language, my brain was subconsciously picking up on “Jalan” as the important part of the address, rather than the actual name of the street. Luckily I got over that quickly.
Selamat datang: Welcome. Knowing this will help you find which door you should use.
Keluar: Exit. If you are lost in an LRT station, follow the signs that say “KELUAR” and eventually you will find the way out. Once outside the LRT station, there is still no guarantee that you will figure out where you are supposed to go.
Lelaki: Man/Perempuan: Woman. Important to identify women-only train cars and which bathroom you’re supposed to use. Fun fact: while some places use the familiar signs of little stick people to note which bathroom is which, other places use a man’s head (with a hat) and a woman’s head (with a head scarf). Also, not all bathrooms will necessarily have toilet paper. Also also, squat toilets are about as difficult to use as you’d think.
Muzium: Museum. Figured this one out when I was looking for the Islamic Arts Museum and I found a sign with an arrow that said “Muzium Kesenian Islam”. Between the “Islam” and the “Museum,” I made an educated guess and found what I was looking for. Speaking of which, I guess “kesenian” means “art.” Look at me go!
Masjid: Mosque. There are a few of these, and before I realized what “masjid” meant I was having the same landmark identification problems with mosques as I was having with roads. It’s sort of like travelling in Europe, in that if someone says “Turn left at the church,” asking “Which church?” is a really important follow-up question.
Negara: National. Helpful in identifying national landmarks, like the Muzium Negara, or the Masjid Negara.
Bersih: Clean. Also the name of a protest movement hoping to improve election fairness and transparency in Malaysia.
Stesen: Station. Helpful for finding public transit.
Teksi: Taxi. Helpful for when you get so lost that there is no hope of you getting where you’re supposed to go by public transit.
Roti canai: Delicious bread.
Roti sardin: Bread with sardines.
Capati: A different kind of bread.
Sambal: Delicious chili sauce that makes nearly anything immediately more tasty.
Teh tarik: Tea that has levelled up in awesome. No, really.
Milo: Chocolate beverage.
Ais: Ice. Important if you are a person unaccustomed to tropical temperatures and after 20 minutes outside you feel like you’re dying of heat stroke.
Restauran: Restaurant. Important to identify places in which to consume all the delicious foods and beverages mentioned above.
Penghakiman: Ruling. Important to know if a senior partner at your firm asks you to look through a file for a ruling, because otherwise, not know that rulings are typically given in Malay, you will spend 20 minutes searching through a 6-inch-thick file, unable to find the ruling, and look a little bit stupid when you realize your mistake. That is - hypothetically speaking.
How does bilingualism work? The etiquette is a mystery for those of us who come from monolingual places. In Montreal, the approach is actually very pragmatic, and I think the question of service in shops offers a good glimpse of how we muddle through. I’ve been meaning to…
After going to Federal Court in Malaysia and watching both lawyers and judges switch back and forth seamlessly between English and Malay, I would be really interested to have someone analyse exactly how that works.