Archive | July, 2013

First Post in PRAGUE

31 Jul

So they say it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Well whoever said that didn’t just have the past 2days that I did!

My adventures began with Mama G & my dad waking me up at 6am, so my dad could say bye. My alarm was set for 7:30, and I was unable to fall back asleep afterwards. So it was rough. Especially because, true to Mama G form, we did everything the night before. I was allowed to check 2 suitcases on the plane & bring 2 carry-ons and a purse. Sounds good, right? wrong.

Monday night I ended up going to sleep at 2am after almost having a mental breakdown packing. My big suitcases weighed 52lbs when it needed to weigh “at most” 48lbs. But I didn’t want to leave anything behind! So for about 2hrs we continuously packed, weighed the suitcase, unpacked & re-packed. It felt like one of those impossible puzzles from MTV’s Real World/Road Rules Challenge! I wanted to cry.

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(Above: If this whole teaching thing doesn’t work out…hmu Mtv)

Finally, I somehow managed to make it work! Little did I know though, that I would be regretting my packing choices the very next day…

The next 24+hrs would be a blur. But here are some of the things I figured I’d share…

1.) Shame on you, Logan Airport, for charging $5 for those stupid wheely cart things to carry luggage on. Because I guess watching me struggle to wheel one suitcase that was half my size + one with a broken wheel is more entertaining.

2.) If you ever want to people watch…go to an airport. It’s like an international version of http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/ esp European male footwear. Just ew.

3.) Shame on you Icelandair for having me sit on a flight that left at 230pm Eastern Time  & land at 1130pm Iceland time (aka: 730pm), & not feed me once nor offer me drink. Everything costs ridiculous amounts of money, which you only accepted via credit card. No takks.

4.) Iceland & Sweden have some of the most beautiful people. Everyone has my desired shade of blonde hair, perfect tan (yet never wrinkly) skin, & over 6ft tall…even like 15yr old girls! 

5.) That being said, being mistaken as Icelandic/Swedish was one of the most flattering experiences. And it happened several times 😉 

6.) Free wifi, normal showers, clean water, cold beverages are all things Americans take wayyyy too much for granted.

7.) 5h20min layovers should be non-existant

8.) That’s why fate sent me friends to pass the time with. While struggling to connect to Stockholm Airport’s wifi in a cafe, I suddenly heard two boys my age speaking ENGLISH. I stopped what I was doing & asked them if my ears were playing tricks on me, they assured me they weren’t. 2hrs later after discussing everything from politics to fashion, I now have two new friends 🙂 Not to mention invites to Sweden/Switzerland! Thanks again, Jonas & Alazar!

9.) After saying goodbye to the boys who insisted on giving me a ‘Swedish Goodbye’ aka: a hug (something not many Europeans seem to be fond of), I thought: great, wtf will I do for 3 HOURS?! But then, all of a sudden a girl comes up to me & asks ‘Are you Jessi Graves?’. Courtney, a girl in my program, had her flight changed last minute & we would be heading to Prague together! Fate.

10.) Prague taxi drivers, aka: the Russian mafia, aka: scammers, aka: potentialTaken 3 characters…also seem to think they’re NASCAR drivers as well! Made me feel like I was back in Boston 🙂 all the cutting off, last minute lane switches & lack of blinkers!

11.) Czech people speak Czech. I do not. They are not very patient with this. After finally getting to the apartment a sweaty, dirty, exhausted, starving mess, I went to the grocery store alone to get food. I bought water & toothpaste at a CVS-place. I got past the ‘dobry den’ (good morning) & nodding…but then my American-ness showed. She asked me if I knew the plastic bag costs money (I did). All I could do was blank stare, shake my head & say ‘I don’t speak Czech’ in Czech as the line of people rolled their eyes. The second grocery store was better. I bought pasta, bread, drinks & apples. Apples that you need to apparently weigh on the scale & get a sticker for. I didn’t get the sticker. She told me this. Once again, I felt hopeless. 😦

12.) This made me wonder: is it better to be recognized as a tourist & then treated like one, or to be assumed a local & then surprise them when you’re not? I’d rather have the first. Something I hate! In Paris, I knew the language & could really try, so far, here I am a pathetic tourist getting on everyone’s nerves.

13.) I thought it was A SICK JOKE when my apartment was in the attic of a building. With four floors of winding staircases & of course, typical Europe, NO ELEVATORS. Thank God the man at the front saw me hyperventilating and helped. I had badddd flashbacks to when I left Paris & decided to lug everything on the metro home to save money. BAD IDEA. Winding staircases, jet lag, no sleep, no food, no AC, & a combined total of 90+lbs of luggage is an awful mix.

13.) Naps & good food cure all. I napped for 3hrs then had a glass of wine, and a Czech specialty of meat, potato dumplings, gravy, cranberry sauce & whipped cream. IT WAS AMAZING.

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(Above: it sounds so weird, but it was so good!)

That’s all for now! I am passing out because I want to shake this jet lag by tomorrow. But stay tuned for more of my adventures in Praha!

-JG 🙂 

 

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Here Goes Nothing…

30 Jul

The day has finally come.

2 suitcases

2 carry-ons

1 purse

+

4 airports

3 planes

2 layovers

(14.5hrs)

to get to 1 city.

Expect snapchats/selfies/(an international airport blog post?!)/instagrams while I desperately try to stay awake through my layovers. 

It’s going to be like being submerged in freezing cold water, or riding a bike for the first time without my training wheels. Only 10x scarier.

But there’s no turning back now

Because today I move to Prague.

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A (Nomadic) Post Grad Life

22 Jul

So, I am not going to lie, my senior year of college I was actually terrified of the real world. It was like the apocalypse: something unknown and vague that every adult who was living it went more than enough out of their way to warn me about how quickly it was approaching.

“You know, in the real world you will have to learn this…”

“This would never happen in the real world…”

“The real world is an awful place! Get ready!”

That’s just a rough idea of some of the things repeated to me by virtually everyone less than a year ago. Everyone who was envious of our youth. Jealous that on most weekdays my biggest concern is not my 9-to-5, kids or bills, but the fact that I am secretly praying no one realizes I’m wearing the same clothes again because I ran out of laundry quarters or that I am dying in my Friday 9am because Gill’s Bar has once again kicked Jessayyy’s ass the night before. 

Those were my college concerns.

Now, here I am, months later with a $200k ‘Media Communication’ degree in hand, moving across the world to do something I spent only 4 months preparing for instead of 4 years. Am I crazy? Lazy? Wasteful? A genius? An evil genius? Who knows.

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(Above: The tradition of all RWU seniors jumping into the school fountain the night before graduation. Rough life, I know.)

But let me tell you, so far the real world is disappointing. Disappointing in the same sense as if Mozart were reincarnated and you got to sit front row listening to him play symphonies…and then I came out after with my ‘Joy of First Year Piano’ book to struggle through Pagoda Tree. That kind of disappointing. NOTHING COMPARES TO PERFECTION!

And you, my fellow hawks, know that was exactly what we had! 

You wanted a gym? We had two story athletic heaven! You wanted food? We had a stir fry oven, quasadilla station and a freakin’ annual steak & lobster night when the school spent thousands of my tuition dollars to ensure you had the prime cut of ribeye! Don’t even get me started on location. Roger Williams is smiling down from a religiously-free heaven upon his beautiful university which is situated in prime beach front real estate! The Rog is a pretty nice place!

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 (Above: I lived here! Beautiful Bristol, RI)

Do you know how I know this? Because the real world told me so! Sutton is BORING. Gyms charge you $20 when you lose your pass, dinner is whatever food my ravenous wolf pack of brothers & dad don’t eat, and as for scenery…the inside of Dunkin Donuts hasn’t really been cutting it. My post grad life is so monotonous. 

Cue the people who are now automatically thinking/saying “That’s the real world, college is over!”

Yes, I know this…but does that mean that the fun has to end completely just because actual responsibility is introduced into my life? 

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(Above: Hi, I’m Ms. Graves & I will be teaching your children soon…)

I say NO! Sure, we all technically have to grow up, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we all have to grow old too! I may no longer be able to do all the crazy things that I did in college now that I am in ‘the real world’, but adult life doesn’t have to be so damn adult. 

I’m lucky though, because I found the loophole! I am leaving for Prague exactly one week from tomorrow, and cannot wait. So many of my friends already have adult jobs, and are entering the real world. For a while, deep down I felt like pursuing the TEFL Worldwide program was me running away from reality. I was terrified of unemployment…living in my old room, Mama G nagging at me to make my bed, rejected applications & wearing a brown apron for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to be stuck. So I took control. I chose my own fate. And guess what? You can too!

Just because I get to live in a town full of castles doesn’t mean that my world is any less real than your 9-to-5. I will have a job, rent, bills, and may very well be going hungry some nights. I will be overwhelmed, homesick and lonely. But I think that’s what’s supposed to happen. Just like fledglings take a while to learn to fly, recent college graduates stumble a few times too before we find our way. 

But we all eventually do 🙂 

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 (Above: my family & I at Roger Williams University graduation, May 2013)

Actually, that’s what I think this mysterious ‘real world’ truly is. It’s the (sometimes scary) realization that no one is holding your hand anymore and you are completely on your own. But you can get through it alone. Because you are so much stronger and capable than you think. You learn how to cook other food besides Ramen and how to save money for more than just liquor store runs.

…but as for themed parties, pshh, no matter how old I get I will ALWAYS go all out!

JG 🙂

The Last Holiday

11 Jul

So, there’s only 19 short days until my epic solo adventure across the world! And it’s totally starting to sink in. Mostly because I realized that ‘apostilled’ copies & ‘notorized’ copies are not the same as just normal record copies…& Mama G & I had a mini panic attack. But we figured it out! (I think?) & then I was able to enjoy my last holiday in the United States–The 4th of July!

How epic/metaphorically ironic is that? An English nerd like me geeks out at this type of symbolism…that my last holiday celebrated in my homeland is the holiday which glorifies it the most! What a great sending off party! Image (Above: My Grandparents, two of the most patriotic people I know, at the Millbury parade)

I have always really loved 4th of July. I mean, what’s not to? There’s cookouts, family, friends, carnivals, fireworks & it’s summer! However, as I got older, I began to appreciate the holiday a little more for what it was. I have always grown up in the most patriotic household. I have been taught to shake soldiers hands & thank them for their service, my Grammy taught me the Pledge of Allegiance in Kindergarten & Mama G has always stressed how symbolic & important a red, white & blue flag fluttering in the wind truly is.

It’s safe to say that I am a very proud American. I understand the beauty of our country is rooted in equality & opportunity, regardless of differences. This mindset has since been clouded, abused & at times, depleted by some, but it’s still intertwined in the basic framework.

Traveling in the past has really given me an outer perspective of what it means to actually be an American. Sociology believes that your sense of self is comprised of both 1) how you see yourself & 2) how others see you. Sadly, I feel like most Americans have too much of part one & not enough of part two. We know what we think of us, what other Americans think of us & we just assume what the rest of the world thinks of us. 

Hop on a plane to anywhere for a quick reality check.

Sadly, most of the world isn’t our #1 fans and in actuality…dislikes us. Of course, I am speaking on general terms & from personal experience, but I met French people who brutally attacked an American’s geographical knowledge & Australians who showed me tv shows they watch daily in which our country is the punchline. The truth hurts, huh? Image (Above: smh…but too true)

While living in Paris, I found myself experiencing some inner turmoil. Part of me wanted to acculturate. I wanted to dress better, eat local cuisine & just plain fit in. However, no matter how perfect my French was or how stylish my clothes were…my hair color always was the dead give away to my nationality. I stuck out like a sore thumb in a sea of olive skinned brunettes. I was (not exaggerating here) ALWAYS WATCHED. On the metro, at restaurants, walking the streets–all eyes were on me. And I couldn’t help but feeling like this was, in no way, a compliment. It was an observation.

So many times I felt like I was the poster child for America. I felt like I had to defend the fact that so many of us don’t know half the countries in Asia, or what France’s political system is & that most of us don’t even care. I felt like I was being shamed, like I had to apologize for all my country’s problems! But this is something a proud American just cannot do. 

So I found the middle ground.

Instead of apologizing/feeling embarrassed or turning it around brutally attacking French culture…I tried to explain. The reason most stereotypes occur are due to misunderstanding. I pointed out that Geography is a subject that is barely even taught in American schools these days, while it is still heavily stressed with the French. Also, a survey found that only 37% of Americans are passionately involved in their country’s politics, while a whopping 84% of French adults are! You really cannot compare two countries that are so different, just like you shouldn’t blame every citizen for a particular country’s problem. ImageSo, as I prepare to immerse myself into another brand new culture, I ask myself one question…how? How do I remain a proud American citizen while still adapting to the ways of a completely different country? Obviously, I know I can still show my pride without fistpumping & chanting ‘USA!’ But this process of adapting is much harder than it seems. By the end of my study abroad semester in Paris–I had indeed morphed into a Parisian. I complied with norms like being silent on metros, never smiling when stranger’s approached me & just avoiding eye contact so I wouldn’t get extra attention. I changed. Normally I would be chatting away on a metro, offer a welcome smile to a lost tourist & make eye contact whenever I damn well pleased! It was weird.  But this is just all part of the process… Image ImageImage (Above: Noticing a pattern in my 3 countries of residence…?)

I always say that no matter where I live–I am always an American first. & No matter where I end up, or who I end up with, this won’t change. Yes, I will pick up some insight along the way, have some eye opening experiences, & continue to develop my sense of ‘self’.

No matter what country you reside in

Or how many houses you have,

You only have one home.

I love you Sutton, I love you 508, I love you Massachusetts, I love you America. No matter where my future takes me, I will never forget where I came from.

– JG 🙂