Archive | October, 2013

Root For the Home Team

31 Oct

No matter how far I travel, no matter what cities I visit, where I live or how many life-changing cultural experiences I undergo, I will never forget my home. I will never forget my up-bringing or where I came from, because sure right now I live in a tiny room on the 3rd floor of an old school apartment building in the capital of the Czech Republic, but my real home is a off-yellow colonial with eggplant shutters on a quiet road with no streetlights or sidewalks.

My home is Sutton, Massachusetts.

Image(Above: our gazebo in the center of town. You’re not a true resident until you’ve awkwardly posed here with your prom date)

Ever heard of it? Probably not. It has a population of 8,000, one school system, & a giant building in the center of town that houses the police department, fire station, town hall & library. Neighbors on both sides of me have horses, we get plowed last in the winter & it’s not uncommon to be stuck behind a tractor on the way home. Sutton is so boring, but I will always love it there.

Moving abroad I obviously say I am from Boston, because people know where that actually is. I mean yeah, Sutton is a good 50mins on the Mass. Pike & I don’t have a wicked hard accent…but I have worked at Dunkins for 3 years, say ‘bubbler’, ‘rotary’, ‘jimmies’ & ‘grinder’ & it is a mortal sin to date Yankees fans. So while I’m not technically from Boston yeah, I would say that I’m pretty f-ing close.

Telling people that I am from Boston abroad always gets the same reaction: favorable. Their eyes go wide & they comment on how beautiful the city is if they’ve been there & how beautiful they hear it is if they haven’t been there (which I assure them is very true). 

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ImageI mean, come on. It’s surrounded by water, gets all four season to a full extent, has A TON of history, delicious food & is overall just a wicked awesome place. I love Boston.

Part of being from Boston, or New England in general (aka: the rest of Mass.) is you are bred from a young age to love sports. Love as in worship. As in your whole entire family loves sports, you love sports & your future children will love sports. It just goes hand in hand with being from this part of the country. The great thing about Boston sports though is that we’re so good. Finals, playoffs, world series, you name it–expect to plan that game day party in advance. From the hustling Patriots lead by the most gorgeous QB, to the fiercely relentless Bruins, to the impressive long history of the Celtics–we do the damn thing. And yes, it feels nice to win & chant our name…

But in my opinion, a true Boston fan is a Boston Red Sox fan.

ImageWhy? Because they’re not always so good. Sometimes they lose. They catch balls with one hand & don’t hustle to the bases & are just plain awful. But we still love them. Why? Because that’s what being a true fan is. You always support your time–win or lose. You never turn your back on them. It’s called loyalty. It’s called believing & having faith that they can turn things around.

My up-bringing in central Mass. dealt with my saint of a Grampy being forced to lock himself in the bedroom during the game. A man who I have never heard raise his voice scream his head off & curse like no other during the game. The team he has been rooting for his whole life which he kindly nicknamed ‘The Red Bums’, is the bane of his existence. So much that he promised us that when he dies, we have to put on his gravestone: The Red Sox Put Me Here. I’m not kidding.

Growing up with Grampy, plus my dad, plus my two brothers, plus a ton of male cousins, I have had no choice but to follow sports. But the importance of these traditions never really hit me until I moved abroad.

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(Above: Out watching Superbowl 2012 with friends while studying in Paris, surrounded by bandwagon NY fans, wtf else is new)

When I was studying abroad in Paris in spring 2012, the Pats made it to the Superbowl. Superbowl Sunday is a HUGE deal to begin with, but when it’s your team? It’s a holiday. It’s a day full of appetizers, alcohol & aww-ing at how cute the horses in the Budweiser commercials are. And here I was, celebrating alone. Well, alone as in no one else around me understood how important that day was. I made a shirt, I painted my face, I cheered, I screamed. They lost & I cried. I cried like my brother did when Nomar Garciapara got traded. It’s a pain that only your team can give you. I felt so homesick. Like I needed to fly home & in between my Grampy/Dad/brothers scowling & storming out of the room, hear Mama G saying a re-assuring ‘Well, you can’t win every game’. Heartbreaking. 

Now that I’m older & have been to a few more games, I feel like I need to represent my team even more here in Prague. There’s been countless debates with all the boys in my TEFL class about football & defending Brady’s honor. But I never back down. After a major upset for what was a super close season for the Bruins, I can’t say I was the only one who was surprised to hear that the Red Sox were headed to the World Series. But I had hope.

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Saying I am from Boston has always been important to me while traveling, but this year, it has become so much more. After the unspeakable tragedies from the Marathon, I feel like everyone in New England has become a little closer. I can’t even describe how much this day affected me. It just seemed so unreal. A marathon that my own dad ran years ago, that my cousins & friends were watching, & one that if I went to school in Boston would also be present at. It was so close. Sure, you hear about things overseas, or tragedies in small towns in the midwest, but this was my home. I used to go to that exact street with my ex-boyfriend to our favorite restaurant. I could picture the scene.

It always blows my mind when it’s so unexpected. These people were running a race. They had trained months & months for that day, were crossing a dream off their bucket list. And then the bombs went off. I can remember being at school in Rhode Island & just wanting to go home. I couldn’t turn off the news. I couldn’t stop crying or shaking. It was so awful. It was unthinkable. Why was this happening to us? Who was trying to hurt us? 

Then the defense instinct kicked in. We had to hunt him down. You want to mess with us? A group of people who have a history of working for everything they have. Who have family that came over years & years ago who still live in the same exact house. People who deal with some of the most unbearable weather in the country & are still expected to drive to work. Have you seen our sports teams? Or, more importantly, have you seen our sports fans? We are loyal, dedicated, ruthless, tough, faithful but most importantly…we’re a family. 

While I couldn’t believe the horrendous footage I was seeing that day, I also was amazed at all the heroes. The ones in uniform: police officers, the firefighters, the hospital workers, but then there were the heroes off the street. People who rushed to help the fallen, runners who finished the marathon & immediately ran to donate blood, the local residents & restaurants who opened their doors to all those affected because we were all going through this together. It was an amazing act of humanity. It showed how resilient we truly are.

Oh & him? Yeah, we caught him. In 4 days. & People took to the streets. They cheered, danced, high-fived cops. Personally, I think they should’ve dropped that coward off in Boston Common & see what happened, but I digress…

So fast-forward to this week. The Red Sox are in the 2013 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. An underdog team with a spotty reputation had somehow managed to make it this far. And my Grampy is locking himself in the bedroom cursing out the television, everyone is losing sleep from staying up so late & every fingernail in Boston is bitten off. This was it. The final game.

And then…we did it.

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We won. We swept them, actually with a final score of 6-1. I can’t believe it. But it goes so much deeper than this. Last night wasn’t about baseball. It was about something so much more. It was about community. It was about working together. Many of the bombing victims were asked to throw the first pitch at several games this season. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. It’s bringing tears to my eyes just typing about it. Men in wheelchairs & women missing limbs stood at the pitcher’s mound in Fenway Park being hugged by players & applauded like the heroes that they are. Their courage & bravery to just wake up & get out of bed is amazing to me. & This, dear readers, is why we are Boston Strong. We love our medium iced extra extras from Dunkins, we will cut you off then flip you off in a rotary & say awful terrible things when the game is on…but when the time comes we are always there for each other. 

In the face of terror & hatred we do not cower. We get stronger. We stare down the evil. We stand together, fall together, but then always help each other get back up. Like Big Papi said ‘This is our f**king city, & nobody will dictate our freedom”. We are the 2013 World Series Champions, we went from the worst to first. Anything is possible. 

No matter what tragedies face us in the future, we will still remain strong, or more than that Boston Strong, because at the end of the day, we really are just all rooting for the home team ❤

-JG 🙂 

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24 Hours in Austria

23 Oct

Or actually it was like 15, & I was asleep for most of them. Today/yesterday was the epitome of a mini vacation. In order to get a visa to work in the Czech Republic, the country makes you super conveniently travel to a separate country to apply & then later pick up the actual visa. The Czech Republic is nicely situated between several different nations, which makes it a draw between your visa destination.

I decided to use the company ‘Easy Visa’ who, for a price that is almost $200 over my monthly rent, promises to guide you through this super difficult process. They make the appointments, they make the phone calls & they make me send terrifying e-mails to Mama G begging for more money. But it all worked out. Most of the people I know who use Easy Visa had their appointments in Bratislava, Slovakia.  Now, I have no problem with Bratislava, but it wasn’t exactly on my dream destination list. That’s why I was over-joyed when Easy Visa sent me an e-mail telling me that I had a 9am appointment at the Czech embassy in Vienna, Austria!

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(Above: I ❤ Vienna!)

Upon hearing this wonderful news, I immediately began planning my mini-vacation to Mozart’s homeland. Thankfully my appointment fell on a Wednesday, which meant that I would have a day off from work. I love my job & everything, blah blah, but I needed a break & this trip was perfect. I consulted my favorite hostel website http://www.hostelworld.com & the trusty bus I once rode 10hrs from Paris to Amsterdam Eurolines, & realized that this mini-trip would cost me under $50. Welcome to the broke life of a post grad abroad. 

I had a class Tuesday 3:30-5pm, & my bus left at 6pm, so I packed everything & was on my way. The bus turned out to be a super nice double-decker with a ton of open seats. Too excited to sleep, I let my ipod & The Stranger by Albert Camus guide me across the border. My first pleasant surprise on this trip occurred when I realized that it was only a 4hr journey! (I had thought it would be 5) Walking around an unfamiliar city alone at 11pm made me (but mostly Mama G) nervous, so I was glad I would be walking around an unfamiliar city alone at 10pm instead :p 

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(Above: Oh Austria, you are so efficient with your transportation)

Whenever traveling somewhere unfamiliar, I always plan ahead where I’m going. I firmly believe that if you ever ‘wing it’ you are asking to be taken advantage of/get lost. Luckily my super awesome asst. boss Gillian saved me (noticing a theme in our relationship yet…?) & helped me map out how to get from the bus station to my hostel using the Austrian metro. 

Once I stepped in the metro I knew I would like this country.

The metro was clean, extremely quick & even had complimentary free magazines to read hanging in each seating section. I thought that was adorable, not to mention said something about the people. It meant they were honest & kind. I was pretty much blown away by how kind all the people in Vienna were to me. Or maybe I have just gotten too used to that natural Czech coldness. But while in Vienna, I feel like I definitely learned some life lessons.

Lesson # 1: Never under-estimate the kindness of strangers.

It’s a bizarre concept. We are brought up to fear strangers. Told not to talk to them, not to trust them, to ignore them. I mean, of course, some strangers are serial killers who just want to use candy to lure you into their vans. But most strangers are just normal people. When you travel you need to remember this. 

I asked THREE separate strangers how to get to my hostel. A good rule of thumb is to ask people who work in restaurants, etc. They are usually most familiar with the area. The first person I asked was a waitress who was closing up her restaurant. She pulled out her iPhone for me & mapped it out. The second person I asked was a waiter who barely spoke English. But he tried. He gestured enough for me to understand & head in the right direction. The third person I asked was to basically just re-confirm that the street I was on was in fact my hostel’s street. The restaurant owner smiled & knew exactly where I was going. He told me to have fun & enjoy Vienna. If I had never asked these strangers, if I had been too afraid or too proud I would have been lost for much longer. 

Image(Above: I saw Mozart on my trip to Austria!)

Life Lesson #2: A Good Attitude Goes A Long Way

I don’t know why, but I was so cheerful the whole time I was in Vienna. Not that I am not normally cheerful, I just felt super happy the whole time that I was there. & When I’m happy I do, what else, talkkkk. And talk. And talk. But on this trip all my cheerfulness was totally reciprocated. It started when I finally found my hostel & this adorable receptionist named Miko checked me in. He told me I got a free welcome drink & recommended I try a shot of their Austrian home-made blueberry vodka (sneaky, sneaky!). So I took it despite being exhausted & starving because hey, I was on vacation! After we started talking & I told him about Sutton & my adventures in Prague. He gave me a free city map & recommendations about the city.

I then went to my room which turned out to be one of the nicest hostels I have ever stayed in. It had 5 bunk beds & a ton of potential new friends, so I got to work. I met this group of students from India who were in Europe for an exchange program. They had been traveling together for a while & were going to, you guessed it, Prague next! I immediately jumped on the opportunity to brag about my new home & invited them to the pub crawl. Facebooks were exchanged & now hopefully I will see them Friday night to lead them from bar to bar or the best way to get accomodated to Praha nightlife 😉

But my new friends didn’t stop there. 

I was nervous about my visa meeting. The woman at Easy Visa had warned us that there were two women who worked in the Czech embassy visa office in Vienna & one wasn’t so nice. However, by some stroke of rare luck I got the nice woman! & She was really, really nice! She had to interview me about my intentions in Prague & my working situation, but of course we got side-tracked talking about her kids & her vacations in Paris (could I be turning into my mother anymore?!) She ended the interview by writing directions for me to Schonnbrunn Palace, which I don’t know how many country official workers you have experienced, but this is mind-blowingly uncharacteristically friendly. I thanked her & was on my way.

My final spurt of new friends occurred on the ride home when I talked to this couple from Toronto sitting behind me about how awesome Prague was. I also helped them with some basic Czech words & then, when we arrived, helped them buy metro tickets & lead them to their hotel. The woman actually hugged me afterwards. I wasn’t even going out of my way, I like to help people. It makes me think of all the people who have helped me during my time living over here.

Dear readers, if you put good karma into the world, you will certainly also receive some luck yourself, trust me! 🙂 

ImageLife Lesson #3: Appreciate The Beauty in Simplicity 

I never ever thought I would say it, but I missed nature. I missed grass & trees & beauty that is untainted by human hands. Maybe I just miss my hometown, Sutton, Massachusetts aka: a place where sidewalks are rarities & tractors cause traffic jams. Either way, the nature in Vienna struck a chord. I was so in awe of it. How beautiful all the autumn leaves looked. The colors were magnificent & just so vibrant. Growing up in New England all my life, I have really grown to love fall. I love the brisk days & sweatshirt weather. It brings back great memories of running with my high school cross country team down Connecticut backroads painted with breath-taking foliage. It brings back memories of spooky nights leading up to Halloween when we would go trick-or-treating at my grandparents house. Autumn is the best season in New England. & I didn’t even realize how much I missed it.

For some reason, it doesn’t really feel like fall in Prague. Maybe it’s because there’s not that many trees near my neighborhood or it’s been uncharacteristically warm these days. I can’t feel the metamorphosis. But then, I came to Vienna. I went to the Schonnbrunn Palace & its gardens & was amazed. I seriously just walked aimlessly for 2 whole hours. I was in a trace. It was nostalgia. I could feel the briskness & smell the leaves wet with mist. I could hear the crows cawing overhead. I must have taken over 20 pictures of just the long paths in the garden, but no picture can accurately sum up those colors. It was nice to spend a day getting re-connected to my roots in a new place. That’s another interesting thing I’ve discovered the more that I travel: while no two destinations are the same, they can feel surprisingly similar, even the most unlikely. 

Vienna, or more specifically, the gardens behind Schonnbrunn Palace, you were my New England of Europe today 🙂

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So, I did it. I took a bus by myself, to a new country by myself, spent the night in a hostel by myself, went to a visa meeting & interview at the Czech embassy by myself & spent a day sightseeing by myself. It doesn’t sound that impressive but this is a huge step for someone who is so extroverted. I can remember traveling to Amsterdam & Barcelona with friends & meeting backpackers who had been traveling for months all alone. I always thought to myself “I could NEVER do this” who would I talk to? Who would I hang out with? Who would I share these moments with? 

But my solo trip to Vienna answered all those questions for me: I don’t need anyone else. Sometimes it’s just better to have some alone time, to process everything yourself, to branch out & reach out to others. To hear their stories & experiences. It’s just a recurring motif I keep learning more & more while I’m abroad: we are so much more capable than we give ourselves credit for.

So go out & explore the world, whether you have a companion or not! In my opinion, all that matters is that you have a destination 🙂

-JG

 

Culturally Shocked

13 Oct

Well this past week certainly has been one for the books. There were so many emotional ups & downs. My job has been testing my sanity daily with misbehaving children & unimpressed Czech parents snitching on me. Customs refuses to send me anything my mom mails me: including medication & winter coats. My apartment is certainly the fixer-upper, which my ‘landlord’ refuses to do anything about. My personal life has also been thrown all out of wack due to some awful unpredictable conflict. But, I try my hardest to be an optimist. Because it’s like that commercial says ‘A bad day in Florida is a good day anywhere else’ well, the same is true for Prague.

And you know what trying times teach you? Do you know why life kicks you down so many times? Why, it’s to notice all the people who are there to catch you. It’s to realize who is there to offer an outstretched hand to help you back on your feet again.

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 I have felt so many emotions this week: fear, incompetence, guilt, uncertainty & sadness. But as I sit here & type this on a Sunday morning at 10:30am…the sun is shining through my curtain-less window. That week is over & I’m still here. Tomorrow is a brand new week & I’m going to be fine. But I do want to take the time to acknowledge all the people who helped me get through to this point:

My Parents:

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Mom & Dad, having an impromtu Skype session with you on Friday was just what I needed. Sure, I have so many great new faces here in Prague with me but I missed the old ones. If I were to move home tomorrow it would strictly be to see my family. That’s who I miss the most. It’s bizarre to think that we won’t be reunited until late June. But I’m a sucker for metaphors & what’s more perfect than showing you my new home before returning back to my old one? 

Grampy:

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Nothing puts a smile on my face more than seeing I got a new e-mail from the world’s greatest pen pal. I love you more than anyone in the world, Grampy. You are my hero. Your e-mails always have the right amount of humor as you tell me you & Grammy’s daily rituals like going to Barnes & Nobles, the hairdresser & Longhorn’s for lunch. I miss that familiar routine & spending time with you. No matter what you say or do, you always cheer me up my ‘recycled teenager’.

Friends From Home: or more specifically Courtney & Meaghan 

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 Thank you both so much for your comforting words & encouraging pep talks this week. You are two of my closest friends to the point where I feel like we’re sisters. I know that if you were here you would take to the streets & hunt down the person who hurt me. Even though we’re so far away, know that I still miss you guys all the time. I am not sure when the next time is that I will see either of you, but I know that when I do it will be like nothing changed. That’s the thing about true friendship: time & distance can never affect it. Thank you girls, I love you both ❤

New Friends: Brandi, Kristin, Kathryn, Rebekah 

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Brandi- Thank you for literally taking me into your apartment like a sad lost puppy off the street. Thank you for making me breakfast for dinner & gorging Chinese food with me & making me laugh. Thank you for all the advice you gave me & telling me that first I had to appreciate myself. I really needed that. I owe you forever, girl.

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Kristin- Thank you for forever being the most awesome wing girl. Thank you for giving me one extra hug when I needed it. Thank you for going out with me on a rainy miserable night because I needed to laugh & just wanted to dance (even if you got elbowed in the face all night). I am so lucky to live so close to you Rebekah & Karen. It’s nice to know when I need to escape the world I have this loving safe haven so close up the street.

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Kathryn- Thank you for forever being the greatest roomie, even though we don’t live together anymore. I have thought of you as a comforting mother figure ever since I was crying to you about money problems back in July. Thank you for checking in on me. I don’t get to see you these days nearly as much as I would like to but I just wanted you to know that I really do appreciate you.

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Rebekah- Sorry you had to get caught in the crossfires of my crazy life, but thank you for making me feel so much better. I only tell super personal things to people who I know will handle the situation properly instead of making me feel guilty about myself. Thank you for telling me not to blame myself. I really needed to hear that.

Coolest Assistant Boss Ever: GillianImage

You are officially the cooler older sister who I never had but always wanted. Thank you for giving me the life advice that is halfway between my mom’s lecturing words & my friends’s empathetic sentiments. I owe you big time. I would not have gotten through this week if it weren’t for you. & I mean that. I would be an unsure emotional wreck. Thank you for always knowing that Mexican food & beer is the cure for all.

And most importantly (vainly?) of all: myself

I have been learning that in times of trial, you really truly only can rely on yourself. Life is going to throw you a ton of curveballs, my dear readers, & you are the only one who mainly decides how to handle them. Sure, crying, binge-eating & all day Flavor of Love marathons may suffice for a while…but sooner or later you need to stand up, brush yourself off & deal with it. This is still something I’m struggling with from time to time, but I just think of what Mama G always says:

“God always gives us the gift of a new day.”

& Whether you’re religious or not, this is still true. Because tomorrow is going to come whether you’re ready or not, so tell me–how are you going to handle it?

-JG 

 

Old Faces in New Places

9 Oct

If you’re thinking about coming to visit me in the magical Disney World-esque land of Prague…you totally should. Yeah, I know it’s expensive and you can’t get time off from work, blah, blah, blah. But let me tell you, once you step on the Czech soil, you are in for one hell of a good time.

My friend Kathleen is proof.

We went to the same prep high school in Connecticut 5 years ago where we became ‘Single Ladies’. My high school forced every student to join two sports teams (colleges love that ish), so in between my autumns on the scenic winding xc trails & my springs sporting adorable skorts on the tennis courts, I was a ‘theater geek’. Actually we weren’t geeks. We were awesome. We were a family. We were a bizarre group of random people who could all memorize long monologues that came to life on the stage. Um, are you really surprised I did plays? Anyways, I met & got close to Kathleen my senior year. We were in this amazing play called Stepping Out about a crazy array of characters in a tap class. (We actually learned how to tap dance too!) Being the veteran HBIC senior I was, I was (type?) casted as Sylvia aka: the loud, sassy, uncoordinated comedian of the bunch. Kathleen was Dorothy the neurotic, nervous, paranoid one. Best play ever.

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(Above: Our drama crew will beat you up)

Not only did I get to spend every day after school pretending to be this awesome tap dancer, but all my closest friends were there too. Doing plays was one of the highlights of my high school career. And these are people who I still keep in touch with today. Shout out to all my Single Ladies!

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(Above: Clearly we were all a little insane…)

Kathleen (and most of my drama friends) are younger than me. Thus I feel like their big sister. Like I will give them relationship advice & beat anyone up who gives them trouble. Haters, check yo’selves now. They have watched my crazy college life unfold, but now my time has passed & it’s their turn to party for 4 years. I was ESCTATIC when Kathleen said she was going to study abroad in Spain. It makes me proud to see someone following in my tap dancing footsteps. It worked out perfectly since the semester she would be spending in Spain was the same time I moved to Prague for this unreal lifestyle. So we made plans to meet up.

AND SHE FOLLOWED THROUGH!

I know that many American students don’t even know where Prague is, let alone would ever want to spend their parents’ hard earned ca$h to vacation here while abroad. But I am very persuasive. So Kathleen flew from Spain to spend 4 glorious action-packed days in Praha! 

Once Kathleen stepped off the plane, the adventure began. After getting a mandatory welcome-to-Prague complimentary fried cheese at Wenceles Square, went one of the casual (& ever-numerous) Prague wine festivals. Yet, I, true to form, was too worn out from Jessayyy going too hard the previous night. So I sipped some (alcoholic) cider while I peer-pressured Kathleen into drinking a beer. 

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(Above: Reunited at the wine festival & it feels so GOOD)

That night it was my roomie’s birthday so we went & got Mexican food! Something I strangely miss from home, not that I ate much Mexican food, but whenever I did it was always a good time. (Um, hello, Tequila). Anyways, this Mexican food was the perfect stomach coating for what else alcohol! We got ready & went to one of my favorite bars & then one of my favorite club-bars. I cannot tell you much about what happened next, but: we got free drinks (duh), met people (boys) from all over the world, got pizza at my fav drunk pizza place, actually figured out HOW to use the weekend tram to get home, & during the most glorious moment of the night, the song Single Ladies was played! Hearing Beyonce in a dark crowded dancefloor is good enough, but it’s 100x better when you are WITH a friend who refers to your high school crew as “The Single Ladies”. This is still one of my best nights in Prague so far!

Even though we got home at 5am, we were ready to sight see the next day!

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How Kathleen sight sees…

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How I sight see…aka: harass guards at Prague Castle!

During our day of walking around Prague, we saw EVERYTHING. For some reason this city is super confusing for me to navigate, but this day, it all made sense. We went from Wenceles Square, to Old Town Square where we were just in time to see the clock tower chime (It was almost like I planned it…but I didn’t), then we crossed Charles Bridge, then we climbed up to Prague Castle, went inside St. Vitus Cathedral & finished at the Lennon Wall. God, just typing this is exhausting. 

Afterwards we went to a local restaurant to get my favorite Czech delicacy: Svichkova. Remember that dish with steak, potato dumplings, cranberries, whipped cream & lemons? Delish. Kathleen liked it, but unfortunately it may or may not have given her food poisoning! Sorry again, girl, if you’re reading this! My b! Needless to say it was perfectly fine that I had to teach all day because she slept all day. Oops. However, typical Europe, Kathleen’s luck was about to change…

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(Above: Before our epic night out)

Later that night (after Kathleen had spent all day bed-ridden), I got a random text from a random number on my phone. This doesn’t even scare me anymore. it’s Europe. But it turns out it was this Greek guy she had met during our epic Beyonce club night. He wanted to take her out to dinner! Awww. She questioned my judgement & obv I played maddd offense. This is what you’re SUPPOSED TO DO ABROAD. You meet cute foreign men who want to slow dance with you in the rain & call you beautiful & do everything else in Taylor Swift songs! So she went out & I stayed home like the Mom I was & eagerly waited for her return. Our relationship had truly come full circle.

After Kathleen survived her date she spent her last day in Prague impressively navigating her way to the Dancing House while I worked. Um, people, give this girl some credit, Czech transport is very difficult to figure out! I’m so proud! I brought her to the airport & she was off to continue her travels in Paris ( 😦 !) & Munich for Oktoberfest. 

Even though I am super lucky to have a ton of close new friends here in Prague, seeing a familiar face from home really helped my homesickness. It brought back good memories from the past, which I feel like is important & something we should reflect on from time to time. This whole adventure I’ve been making first impressions & building up rapport with everyone new I meet. It was nice to have someone around who already loved me for who I was.

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I hope you had a great time in Prague, Kathleen! We certainly have come a long way from tap dancing on the alter at MPS. Good luck on the rest of your Spanish adventures! Remember Mama G’s words: Life is for LIVING.

And to everyone else: I hope you learned a valuable lesson in this post: I am an awesome tour guide, even if I unintentionally give you food poisoning… but I promise I’ll make it up to you in other ways. Like being the best international wing girl you know 😉

-JG 

 

 

Preschool Pandemonium

1 Oct

I’m not sure if you’ve ever spent significant time with a child before, but let me tell you: they’re crazy. Crazy as in both crazy awesome & crazy insane. But, as I previously stated, I like this mesh. I feel very natural & comfortable around children. I think they’re super cute & admire their innocence. I can color & sing with them but at the same time, I treat them as an equal. Aka: I don’t let them get away with ish. The kid’s I’ve babysat have always had a blast with me. We just click. I think they are these awesome little people who mumble to themselves while playing & spill things all the time & are a little weird, but they have every right to be.

It’s my third week as a preschool teacher & I can happily say that I made the right choice. I have a natural inclination for this. Who would have ever thought that babysitting for so many years could turn into a full time job in Europe? Life’s funny like that. However, as much fun as I’ve had being a preschool teacher at Keytone, sometimes I feel like I live in a Czech soap opera. Let me do a quick run down of my schedule for you…

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(Above: Some of the Czech kids. I didn’t take this pic but the girl in the red pants is in my class. She’s adorbs)

Monday:

10am-11am, 4 children, 1.5 years old

You are probably wondering: why is she teaching one year old children? They can barely speak their own language, let alone another language. Oh dear reader, I am wondering the same thing. First of all, one year olds are babies. Babies cry & scream & flip out non stop because they cannot express themselves. I’m not sure it’s all that helpful that you have some foreign girl speaking in a completely different language who doesn’t understand the 5 words your 18 month old brain has retained. So what do we do for that hour? We sing. Well, I sing. They stare at me all wide eyed as their moms clap their little hands together.

Memorable Students:

Theodore is the fussy one. His mother came in the school to find me, the only one in the building, & proceeded to speak Czech even after it was clear I had no idea what she was talking about. Awkward. Then her son screamed for the whole class.

Thomas is the little cutie. He sits their in his little sweater vest while I sing Five Little Monkeys and stares in pure awe. He is at that age where he just learned how to master the art of walking. So instead he runs. But his little legs move faster than his body. So he falls a lot but is just too darn happy to cry. 

Ondrej is the smart one. His mother, my saving grace, spoke English. Aka: every time I say something she translates to the other moms. Surprisingly enough not a lot of middle-aged people in Prague speak English well. This is because during the Soviet rule, they were never allowed to learn. But Ondrej’s mom is great. It’s parents like that who’s kids will actually learn something. Because it’s clear they practice outside of class. Ondrej knows all his colors & can count. In a 2nd language. Impressive.

3:00pm-4:30pm, 5children, 3-4years old

These are the Montessori kids, or the ones my boss says “learn differently”. I’m not quite sure what that means, but the Manchild went to Montessori, so I guess that explains a lot haha. Anyways these kids are really cute and a very diverse bunch.

Memorable students:

Well, let’s see, you have David who is usually always staring off into space & refuses to wear the protective aprons for painting. Ondrej is the youngest & loves to flip over chairs, throw things & sob whenever his mom attempts to leave the room. Ema & Camillka are adorable, yet like most of the kids I teach are convinced I secretly speak Czech. They often turn to me wide-eyed & excited, babbling about something & I feel awful just nodding. Seriously sometimes they tell 5 minute stories & are certain I know what they said, even after I repeat Nemluvim cesky.

Tuesday:

10am-11am, 4 children, 2 years old

I know what you’re thinking–uh oh, toddlers, this must be her worst class. Luckily, my class has escaped the terrible twos. Well, I mean for the most part. This is a class of all girls & they are sooo cute. Like most young children, they love to sing & get ridiculously excited whenever I tell them to stand up & form a circle. They are the coolest 2 year olds I know.

Memorable Students:

Sophinka is the energizer bunny. She gets more hyper than a un-housebroken puppy when we do anything. We sing: she jumps up & down. We dance: she jumps up & down. I mean I know my classes are fun, but gurl, calm down.

Lucinka is the girl in the red pants in the picture. One thing I have learned about most Czech children is that they are all absolutely beautiful. Like they could all be child models or Gerber babies or whatever. Lucie is no exception. She cannot speak really, but has the bluest eyes & constantly smiles with her 3 little teeth.

3:30pm-5:00pm, 5 children, 4 year olds

This is definitely one of my favorite classes. They just mesh so well together. No one is really high-strung or out of control & they all constantly laugh at everything I say. They love to participate & we have a great time!

Memorable students:

They really all are. Alex is my boss’s best friend’s son. He is essentially mute & didn’t want to participate. That is, until he found out that I rode horses for 11 years. Alex is obsessed with horses. Suddenly he participates & wants me to constantly draw him horses. I don’t mind at all.

Vivi & Luisa are bffs. They know each other from before & constantly hold hands. But in a cute way, sickos. Vivi is a mini-Elle Woods with her all-pink ensembles & flower headbands. Luisa sports overalls & neckscarves every class. They both love to participate, even when Vivi has mini-meltdowns. But Luisa knows her colors like a boss.

Diana & Lauren are the hyper ones. They are both very advanced though, so whatever. They recently discovered it’s hilarious to run up & tickle me mid-lesson. They also love to take my seat when I’m not looking. Lauren looks like Cindy Loo Who from the Grinch Who Stole Christmas & reached out for my hand today when we were going to snack. Awww.

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(Above: photo from our open house. Me going over animals with Georgia)

Wednesday:

2:00-4:00pm, 6 children, 6 years old

This.Is.The.WORST.Day.Ever. You’d think ‘oh they must be the easiest, they must be mature & well-behaved, right?’ Wrong dear reader, so seriously wrong. First of all, six children is a lot. Especially when five of those six children are so high strung. Two of those five are completely out of control. I dread this class. The worst part of all is that I like all the kids, I really do. I could do one-on-one time with them in a second. It’s just really hard to give them all my undivided attention. I feel like for those two hours I try to reprimand one child & the second I turn my back, another one does something. It’s time outs galore for these ones.

‘Memorable’ students:

So. You have Jan, Katerina & Martin, three out of control children. They literally feed off each other’s energy. I cannot even tell who is the root of the problem. Jan is a six year old boy with severe ADD. He loves to run and run and run. Screaming is his second favorite thing. Martin & Katerina are friends, so they basically tackle each other & join Jan in the craziness. They mock me when I tell them to stop so every class I get all HBIC on them. Often putting Jan & Martin in simultaneous timeouts, in which they just throw things across the room at each other. Sigh.

Nikolka & Eva are hyper girls (whose mothers give them candy at snack time?!) who are bffs. They are both blonde & adorable but can get very loud. They’re easier to manage than the previous three, but still don’t help calm down the classroom environment.

The other Nikolka is the well-behaved shy one. She always just patiently sits & waits for my instructions while all hell breaks loose around her. I feel really bad for her because sometimes I was that student too. The one who wanted to learn while everyone else around me caused problems. Don’t worry girl, look where I ended up & they didn’t 😉 

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(Above: Luckily this photographer really understood the rule of thirds #skullprobs)

Thursday:

4:00pm-6:00pm, 4 children, 4-5 years old

This class initially rubbed me the wrong way. My first lesson began with two boys flipping over tables & ended with one of them punching me in the arm. I have never been assaulted by a 5 year old before, but let me tell you, it’s terrifying. Luckily that boy was only subbing in my class so another lucky teacher gets him instead! Now this class has become another one of my favorites. This group has a great dynamic & we have a lot of fun.

Memorable students:

Ivan is one of my all-time favorites. Some of the kids I’ve met just instantly bonded with me. So much that I would honestly ask their parents if they ever needed a babysitter. I want to hang out with them because they’re so cool. Ivan is the cutest little thing. First of all, he has a little brother, who is about 2 who is his mini-me & wears Mickey Mouse overalls. Ivan thinks it’s hilarious to pick up his brother & carry him around. It is hilarious. Ivan’s mom is awesome too & told me that he loves my class & is so excited for Thursdays! She even gave me her cell phone number in case of emergency. Best family ever!

Jachym & Tyna are brother & sister. It’s funny because they are those two siblings who look absolutely nothing alike. Jachym is blonde with blue eyes & Tyna has brown eyes & super short brown hair, which is (unfortunately) a really popular hairstyle here. These two cooperate but can be a little lazy. They get exhausted from coloring & singing about frogs apparently.

Nikolka is another one of those flawless white-blonde haired, sky blue eyed Czech children. She is very chic & sports evil eye necklaces & matching bracelets. She is often one step behind us. Teaching her the concept of Duck, Duck, Goose was impossible & we soon just all laughed as she ran from the person who she was supposed to be chasing. I love kids.

Friday:

9:00am-12:00pm, 5 children, 5-6 years old

Yes. You read that right. A 3 hour class. FOR CHILDREN. I don’t want to be in 3 hour classes, so who would ever think that children would want to be either? Bad idea. Not only do they start whining about snack time at 9:30 (to which I have to reluctantly tell them that snack isn’t until 1 whole hour later), but this crew likes to F things up. They are all different levels. It’s a popourri of kids in this class. Kids who like to cry. Kids who like throwing things. Kids who prefer hitting other kids. Yet they all have the common denominator of one exhausted teacher who cannot WAIT to drink a bottle of wine immediately afterwards. 

‘Memorable’ students:

This group really is a mixed bag. We have Viktor who can either stare off into space in his own world the whole time, or screech odd animal noises while misbehaving. Toby & Dori are siblings, which I didn’t know. I thought Dori & Matilda were siblings. Mostly because Toby liked to hit Matilda who liked to throw massive temper tamtrums when she was told art time was over & Dori, who is actually 7 years old, would comfort her & yell at Toby. Justinca is the absolute spitting-image of my friend from home, Molly, when she was younger. It’s really cute & makes me miss Molly a lot 😦 Obviously Justinca is perfect & dainty & polite while the others wreck havoc with all their inner conflict. Pretty sure they were making fun of me once they realized I didn’t speak Czech. Luckily I know how to outsmart children. While they were talking, I made eye contact with Toby & shook my head. They asked me something, which I assume was along the lines of ‘Omg, can you understand us?’ I then just shrugged my shoulders. They shut up after that. I win. Needless to say this class is going to almost guarantee the fact that Jessayyy will be making appearances every Frisky Friday, but like she needed an excuse to anyway…

So there you have it, that is what my work week is like. Jealous? Nah, it’s actually super rewarding & fun. Plus I would much rather be doing this than making coffee or stapling papers any day.

Stay tuned for more adventures later!

-JG