Archive | January, 2014

The 10 Types of People You’ll See At My Czech Gym

21 Jan

So it’s almost the end of January 2014, &, like any good optimistically ingrained American, I made a resolution for the New Year. I know resolutions can be tricky & hard to follow. So I went the safe & smart route…I made mine super vague. At the beginning of 2013 I made an oath “to find happiness”, & fresh off the plane back from Paris to ring in NYE in my new home, Prague, I’d say that goal was very much achieved. Upon welcoming in January 2014, I realized I was in fact, happy. Mission accomplished. However, now it was time to pinpoint just what exactly I would focus on for the upcoming year. 

I decided that since I found happiness in 2013, then 2014 would be the year that I wanted to find love. But first off, I have some work to do before I can find love with another person– I need to find it with myself. I need to have better confidence & self esteem before I can love & be loved by someone else. So until further notice I’m doin’ me. 

The first step to happiness & self love for me? Getting back in that gym routine! Before moving to Prague I had an extremely strict work out schedule & clean diet. I was going to 6am spin classes, chuggin’ protein shakes & the only girl on the strength training side of the gym. I was BA. My personal trainer, Laurie would kick my butt in workouts & keep me accountable. But I loved it because I realized that I am happiest when I am healthy. 

Upon moving to Prague I realized that I NEEDED a gym. I found one across the street from my TEFL school building in the terrifying looking Hara-Gym. 

ImageImage

(Above: Just the casual friendly looking exterior of my gym in Prague)

I first signed up for a month in August & went daily since it was literally 5 minutes across the street from where I was staying during the course. But then things got tricky when I moved to JZP, a 30 minute commute away. 

Stress from a new job, culture shock & money troubles caused me to put off looking for a new gym during the fall. ‘It’s too expensive…it’s too far away…I don’t have time.’ The excuses came out of my mouth like 85% of my friends throughout my life every time I asked them to come to the gym with me. I was becoming lazy. I was about to fall down that slippery slope that allowed me to gain 20lbs while studying in Paris. 20lbs that took me FOREVER to lose. I could feel myself losing muscle & getting winded. After literally binge eating all through France over the holidays I knew enough was enough.

Like pretty much everyone else on Planet Earth, I began my gym membership January 2nd. Only instead of getting a one month membership, which I had previously done half-heartedly. I saved up for the three month pass. Which is A LOT of money for Prague. But I knew that since I had spent so much of my hard earned ca$h, I would be more motivated to go. I was soon able to figure out a routine. I wake up at 8am, teach, go straight to the gym, eat a healthy lunch, teach, come home to a healthy dinner! I am extremely dedicated & focused now that I have a routine (aka: one of my favorite things in the world).

Since I am now basically a regular at Hara-Gym & got my iPod stolen in November (& someone in customs stole/lost the new iPod Grampy sent to me…) I have a lot of time to just observe what is going on around me. Czech gyms are similar to American ones, but there are some differences. Let me explain a few of the people I see at the gym…

1. The Bro

ImageYes, there are a few bros at my gym. No, they are nothing like the ones at home. They aren’t tan, have no flashy workout gear & don’t spend 3 hours looking at themselves in the mirror. They are much more humble. ‘How are they even bros then?’ you ask? Because they are around my age, completely ripped, always come with their trusty spotting buddies & are just as dedicated as me. That’s my definition of a Czech bro.  

2. The Beginners 

These are the men gasping for breath after one set. I really can’t say anything bad about them, I actually really respect them. Everyone needs to start somewhere. They’re motivated & dedicated…not to mention extremely brave to step foot in this testosterone alpha-male war zone when they are either overweight or underweight. Hang in there, guys! You will definitely see results soon!

Image(Above: Inside my gym. Welcome to testosterone city!)

3. The Body Builders

A level completely above the bros, the body builders at this gym live & breath exercise. They actually bring chicken breast with them to heat up post workout, chug strange green colored liquid all day & oh my god the SOUNDS they emit while they’re working out! Please don’t kill me! I just need the 9kg dumbbells!

4. The Ones Who THINK They’re Hot 

An odd bro/has-been hybrid. Especially at this gym. They may actually have a decent body, but their attitude ruins absolutely everything. When they’re not checking me out…like deliberately making eye contact & making things super awkward…they’re checking themselves out. This is mostly a man about 45ish who spoke to me in Czech once & then about me to the whole gym. “Anglicky…krásný….” Okay so…English…beautiful…hmm, I wonder who you’re talking about? I CAN UNDERSTAND SOME CZECH, CREEP, THANKS.

Image(Above: Děkuji. Děkuji moc)

5. The Ones Who Are Actually Hot

Thank you for making this 45minute session from my elliptical perch so much more bearable 😉

6. The Anti-Deodorant Users

A classic theme of Europe. It’s bad enough that I have your armpit in my face during the morning rush metro commute, but at the gym, you know you are going to sweat, sir. So plan accordingly. Getting a whiff of you from my treadmill around the 2mile marker is enough to almost make my breakfast come up. Stop that.

7. The Chatters/Bench & Machine Hogs

A universal role that always seems to be filled in every single gym around the world. This is a gym, you are here to exercise. Talk somewhere else, I need the bench you have been sitting on for ten minutes while you interchangeably high 5 your friends/flex your tris in the mirror. Ugh, biggest pet peeve! 

Image(Above: Or in my case, any machine…)

8. The Ones Who Try To Talk To Me

5% of the gym population. Sometimes it is in Czech, to which I give my typical “Maybe if I just nod, smile & mumble something under my breath they will go away…?”. Besides two of the super awesome guys who work there who are always really nice to me, only one other gym-goer has ever spoken a word to me in English. One of the #6’s. Who is built like a god. And other guys actually gather around him to watch him work out. Our exchange went like this.

Me: (resting in between sets on the lat pull down machine)

Him: (resting in between squatting like 58483kgs) How’s it going?

Me: What?

Him: How’s it going?

Me: Oh, good…uh, do you like need this machine or something?

Him: No, I just wanted to see how you were doing.

Me: Oh okay…um, how are you doing?

Him: Good.

Me: Cool

He hasn’t spoken to me since. God I am so smooth sometimes!

9. The Ones Who Just Stare At Me

95% of the gym population. Especially when I leave the protective female cocoon of the cardio equipment & bravely enter the weights/machine area. I get to watch myself in the mirror & watch everyone else who is watching me in the mirror. Subtle. 

10. Andddd…The Girls

I think there is roughly 8 females at my gym. Or at least 5 that I have seen more than once. At least I know I will never have to fight for a locker! Some are wives of the body builders who brisk walk on the treadmills gossiping, one is this woman with short hair who I think is on steroids because she sounds like man & one is a girl my age is who is dating one of the employees. She always comes in with a matching track suit & full face of make up & leaves before she sweats any of it off. 

So there you have it! Needless to say, I certainly stand out. Who knew New Year’s Resolutions could be so entertaining! Every day is a new adventure, but I feel like I have found my way into this bizarre little family. I am just simply known as ‘The American’. I have been invited & went to the fall kegger cookout (ONLY A GYM IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC, EVERYBODY) & even the big scary 300lbs of muscle personal trainer says Dobrý den to me when I come in now! 

This is all part of getting healthy & happy so I can achieve my goals & you can totally czech me out 😉

-JG

Advertisements

I Want My Future Children to Read This Post…

13 Jan

One time I was reading an article in the classic Seventeen Magazine. For those of you who were never a teenage American girl, this magazine is full of cute accessory ideas, many ‘how to find out if your crush likes you’ posts, a dramatic feature about something like a girl who lost her fingers because she texted too much, & then maybe something with substance.

In this particular issue it was a letter that singer Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas had written. She wrote a letter to the 17-year-old version of herself. In this letter she comforted the teen, writing that all those little things she worried about would sort themselves out. She gave herself advice to stay confident & brave & to not worry so much about what people said about her because in the end she would have the last laugh.

Image

(Above:Today Fergie is successful, wealthy & married to the BEAUTIFUL Josh Duhamel. So yeah, things certainly did work out)

I wanted to try a similar experiment, but with a twist. I wanted to write this post to my future children.

Let this be a relic. A piece of writing that can span through generations. That can be read at all crucial times of one’s life & hopefully it will still make sense. I want this post to be read in high school, college & beyond. Because it will still resonate. & Someday we can laugh about it. Look back on how things actually played out. Recall what life really did have in store for us. But until then…

Dear Kids,

About 2 weeks ago, I turned 23. So far it feels no different than 22 except instead of a carefree Taylor Swift song my mantra is now a classic Blink-182 one informing me that no one will like me this year. Hopefully that’s not fully true (Go watch VH1′s ‘Classics of 2012′ to hear these songs, yes, your Mom & her friends loved them both!)

Although I’m realizing that I am now starting to do that thing adults do when they rush into thinking about the next year. I have actually caught myself saying: “Oh my God, next year I will be 24, & that’s almost 25 which is like AN ACTUAL ADULT.” Yes, at age 25 I vow to have my life somewhat together. To be able to cook more than just eggs/pasta/cereal, to be able to drive cars in cities (Which was a HUGE fear of mine at the time), & maybe learn to craft or something DIY. But most of all, at age 25 I vow to no longer chalk up all my mistakes to ‘but I just graduated from college so…’

But I guess we’ll get there when we get there.

Since making this move to Prague, something pretty spontaneous & in the moment, I never realized just how many times people would ask me about the future. It’s a little conversation that usually goes like this:

Them: “How long are you here for?”

Me: “Um, until June or July I think. I wanted to live a whole year here.”

Them: “Then what?”

Me: “Then I will go back home…”

Them: “Then what?”

Me: “Uh…I don’t know…?”

& I really don’t know.

Kids, for some people, an unknown future is the most terrifying thing in the world. They have their 5 or 10 year plan & want to follow it accordingly. But you know what Grammy G always says: ‘Man plans & God laughs.”

 2013 was certainly proof of that for me. I started the year a nervous college senior & ended it living in Europe, employed, & happy. Talkkk about a plot twist! But it just goes to show you that you never really know what lies just ahead.

When I go home, I have no idea what I will do. But I realize that the opportunities are endless. I obviously have to get a ‘job’ aka: some barely paid entry-level joke that makes me want to claw my eyes out while also working a waitressing job at night to afford those loans (you know those ones I am still paying now?) But I realize that the greatest gift one can have in this world is youth. 

Youth = freedom. It equals no real responsibilities holding you in one place for a long time. So after Prague, I plan to keep on moving. Because have you ever met anybody who said: “I traveled once, it was awful! Never doing that again. I prefer to live the rest of my existence at home, forever.” Nope. Everyone wants to get away. 

Image

& I realized: I like being away. I can survive away. I can learn new customs, new culture & adapt to them. Of course European culture is not the hardest to get used to–but it’s a good start. It’s what I wanted to get out of this whole thing. I wanted to prove that I could make it on my own. Through all the money woes & job drama & life obstacles I could find the courage to not hop on a plane to run back home. Because that’s giving up. That’s quitting. Plus that’s just silly. I’ve worked 5 whole months to build a life over here. I can’t just run back to the familiar every time the unknown ominously approaches. Because that’s no way to live a life.

Now I do have a few ideas about my near future, of course.

I want to live in Boston in a nice apartment enjoying the nightlife. I want to put my love for children to the test au pairing in Paris. I want to make some real money with my TEFL certificate teaching in Asia. Or Gillian (you know, Mom’s crazy friend she met in Prague when they had that insane boss together?) is moving somewhere new, so I may just join her.

Kids, the point is I don’t know what my future holds but I don’t have to. & You don’t have to either. Now I am not sure if you are reading this on the white sand beaches of some tropical island, or in some chic apartment in the 12me arrondissment, or in some traditional New England colonial with a big backyard, but know that life is a gift. & You should always treat it as such. Know that the universe will send you many opportunities & signs, telling you which way to go. I want you to notice them & seize them. That’s what I did (Remember when Mom told you about that nice man she met at Barnes & Noble who inspired her to move abroad?) & I couldn’t be happier.

Image(Above: I want you to find your international happy place, like I found mine)

I want you to be whatever you want to be when you grow up. & When that doesn’t work, know that you can still be something else too. I went to school for Journalism because I have always loved to write & I still do. But now I am currently a preschool teacher & work at something called a Pub Crawl (I will explain when you’re older…). The point is: you have many gifts, you have many skills & interests–don’t limit yourself to just one for the rest of your life. 

Kids, when you are old enough, I want you to know that I am going to do the same thing to you. I will send you abroad for a year. You can (mostly) choose the place but you will live & work there for a whole 12 months. & I will work my butt off to put money in your account & make sure you don’t skip too many meals, just like your grandparents & great grandparents did for me. You will laugh, you will cry, you will want to give up–but I will never let you. You will learn how to set up bank accounts & decipher public transportation & see the world from another perspective. I am going to make you jump off the deep end, but you will learn how to swim. It may seem like tough love, but know that it is love. Because you will come back afterwards a new person.

So as for right now, I am not stressing too much about the future. And you shouldn’t either. The huge math test of Friday? You pass. All those college applications? You will get in to the right one. Your boss giving you trouble about all those assignments? You quit & find someplace better. Is your Mom psychic? No, she just knows how life usually plays out–how it’s meant to.

The future is a scary thing, kids, but it’s inevitable. & Before you know it, it’s the past. It’s nothing to cry about or worry about because life goes on & you will too.

I love you,

JG 🙂

Away From Home for the Holidays

4 Jan

Sorry it has taken me so long to write this post, dear readers! I just got back a few days ago from one of the BEST winter breaks of my whole entire life. I was finally reunited with my girl, Meaghan who took a break from her teaching life in Soissons, France to come on this crazy adventure with me!

We first began with the necessities of Prague: Kozel Cerny, fried cheese, Svichkova & climbing up the castle.

Image(Above: Meaghan & I in front of the Christmas tree in Old Town Sq., Prague)

Then, WE WERE OFF. The following 10 days were absolutely amazing. We flew to Lyon, France for one night, then took a train to Montbeliard, France to spend Christmas with my friend Apolline. Then we took a train to Paris to celebrate my birthday in my favorite city! Along the way I learned a few things…

1. You will never stop being blown away by the kindness of others

Meaghan & I began this trip by saying: “Where should we go?” Instinctively I knew France. Although Prague is growing more & more on me as the months go by, I really just love France. France is my happy place. Awesome food, beautiful scenery & I can actually communicate with people–what more could you ever want in a country? 

Once this was established, I racked my brains for our accommodation: where would we stay? Apolline graciously offered to let us spend the holiday with her & my host brother, Simon said we could stay with him in Paris. Boom. I knew these were nice offers, but I didn’t expect these two to go above & beyond. 

Image(Above: Apolline, me & Meaghan in Montbeliard for Christmas!)

Upon arriving to Apolline’s ‘tiny’ 30,000 resident town (Sutton has 8,000 & there’s no castle…) Meaghan & I were treated like queens. We ate escargot & country ham & smoked salmon. We slept in Apolline’s bedroom & had our own bathroom. We had electronic shades that made the room pitch black. We were living the life! & We got to speak French!

Then when we went to Paris, we stayed in the beautiful (GIANT) apartment of my old host brother, Simon. Upon our arrival we were greeted with pizza, champagne & MARIOKART! Unfortunately Simon went on his own vacation the 2nd day we were in Paris, but he still graciously let us have the apartment to ourselves! 

This strong feeling of gratitude remained throughout my entire vacation & I know it was all thanks to my wonderful hosts!

2. Time Changes Some Things, But Not Everything

It has been almost 2 years since I studied & lived in Paris. If you recall the post A Break-Up Letter To The Love of My Life you know that this separation has been difficult for me. Paris is my favorite city in the world. & It always will be. That’s why when I had the chance to finally go back, I had a lot of mixed emotions. I was super excited, of course, but I was also a little nervous. Would it all come back to me? Would I still feel the same way? Or had everything changed?

Turns out 2 years doesn’t change a whole lot. Sure there were a few new stores, but all the streets were the same. I still had all the memories. It was surreal. I visited my old school, celebrated my birthday first with dinner at my favorite restaurant & then at my 2 favorite bars, & then, the weirdest experience of all: I visited my old neighborhood! 

When I studied abroad in Paris, we did not have apartments or dorms: we were all assigned host families. I was really nervous about this. Would they like me? Would I like them? Would I be in a safe area? Luckily, I hit the jackpot. I was assigned to live in the 12th arrondissment (12 is my lucky number, so I instantly saw this as a sign) with a single mother who lived alone on the top floor of a giant apartment complex. All her children were grown up & moved out but would occasionally bring their children over (my baby ‘French cousins’!). & My neighborhood was adorable. Right near the beautiful Parc de Bercy (where I would go running) & Palais d’Omnisport (where I later saw a Drake concert haha)

Image(Above: Where I studied abroad Spring Semester 2012!)

Visiting my old neighborhood really made me reflect on how much I’ve changed as a person, & a traveler, since I lived there. I truly believe it was a chain reaction. I first went on vacation to Paris when I was 16 in high school. Without this trip I would have never chosen to live & study here. & If I had never studied abroad I would have never had the courage to move abroad. But no matter where I do live I will always have a soft spot in my heart for my old ‘hood, the adorable Cour St. Emilion.

Image(Above: Complete with tons of restaurants, shops & a movie theater, the Bercy area is a hidden gem in Paris)

3. It’s Okay to Break Tradition 

But it will be really weird when you do.

My past 22 Christmas seasons have consisted of Christmas Eve at my cousin’s eating delicious gourmet food with my whole family & then Christmas day at my house. It was so strange to not follow that ritual this year. I know I am lucky because I celebrated everything in Europe, but it was definitely hard being away from everyone. 

Meaghan & I just kept saying “Wow, it really doesn’t feel like Christmas…” because instead of Christmas Eve at my cousin’s house gorging on scalloped potatoes & listening to the men yell at the sports game, I was sipping champagne & eating hors d’oeurves in the most magnificent apartment ever. 

After Christmas Eve mass in a 400 year old Protestant temple (the oldest one in all of France, casual), we were invited to Apolline’s grandmother’s house. We were told everyone was going to be well into their 60’s and speak no English. But I was blown away. The night was awesome! All of Apolline’s great aunts & her grandmother were so lovely & welcoming. Over the course of the night we opened 4 bottles of champagne & were served more hors d’oeuvre courses than I could count. All while sitting in this AMAZING house (all mahogany tables, a fireplace, beautiful rugs & paintings with little lights underneath them like seriously).

Image(Above: Us with Apolline’s grandmother, the sweetest & cutest woman ever)

Christmas day was a little bittersweet, but I had no time to dwell on this. We woke up to a giant brunch complete with smoked salmon on toast & fresh pain du chocolat. Then Apolline’s whole extended family (& I mean EVERYONE) came over! I am used to having loud holidays with a lot of people so it was nice to spend the day with everyone. We nibbled tiny sandwiches & drank wine & just had a good time.

Image(Above: Us with Apolline & her sister, Violaine, on Christmas day)

But by far the best part of the day was when Apolline’s cousin, who has an AMAZING voice, got out her guitar & played some songs. This was the only really sentimental moment for me the whole trip. Back home, my friend, Molly, is also a very talented singer. Last Christmas she & her family came over & she brought her guitar & sang the song ‘Hallelujah’ which gave me chills. On this Christmas Apolline’s cousin sang the same exact song & my eyes welled up. It was a very special moment & made me feel like I was home in a strange way. I can’t really describe it.

After I was done being corny we took to the piano! Another one of the cousins could also sing & her husband started playing the piano. We started slow & shy but 20 minutes later the entire house had gathered around to hear these 2 strange Americans accompanied by the cousins & piano belt out the best rendition of Katy Perry’s Roar you’ve ever heard in your life! So much fun! We sang Alicia Keys, Adele & some motown classics! I am still anxiously waiting for the video to surface somewhere on the internet…but it was a truly unique way to end Christmas & made me feel so at home.

Then before bed I got to Skype my whole family! It was so good to see everyone & know that I miss you all very much 🙂

Image(Above: Mini study abroad reunion for my birthday at Truskel, my fav Parisian bar)

The day after Christmas is a very depressing day for most people. But for me, it’s just a quick break before more fun! My birthday is December 27th & people always ask me if I hate it. I don’t understand this question. Sure I have heard “Now this is your Christmas & birthday present…” more times than I can count, but I really love this time of the year so it’s always awesome!

Normally my birthday always consisted of a snowstorm (gotta love that New England winter!) & slick roads, people not being able to come to my party & every place being closed. But Mama G always scrambled to make it special. In our family when it’s your birthday expect to wake up to handmade posters all over the kitchen cabinets saying Happy Birthday! We love you! It was hard to not wake up to that this year…but instead I woke up in Paris!

I spent the day eating delicious croque monsieur & confit de canard, then went to my 2 favorite bars at night, after finally getting on the first metro back home at 6am, I spent the next day dying in bed. It’s safe to say 23 was a good one! 

Although it may not have felt like Christmas or my birthday because I wasn’t with my family or at home, this vacation was still the best. But I know it was only so special because of the people I was with. 

I first met Apolline when she studied abroad for the year at Roger Williams University. My work study job was being a Conversation Partner, which was basically being assigned to different exchange students & simply having conversations with them in order to help improve their English. I was assigned Apolline & instantly loved her. She is so kind, funny & a great friend. 

Image(Above: Apolline & I at my Auntie Katy’s house on Easter 2013)

She spent Easter with my family & I. & We had one action packed weekend! We went to the casino, got thai food, had a movie night, went shopping & then had all the holiday festivities! After this my family got a letter from Apolline’s mother thanking us & saying I was welcome to their home anytime.

One year later, I took them up on the offer.

Thank you so much Hospitel family. Thank you for making my first Christmas away from home, something that could have been awful, such a special experience. Thank you for welcoming me so much into your family & your beautiful house. Thank you for the awesome Christmas gifts of a macaroon cookbook & socks from Maman H’s boutique (which I’m wearing as I type this!) You are forever welcome to either Prague or Sutton, or wherever else I live.

Vous etes comme ma deuxieme famille maitenant 🙂 Merci beaucoup!

Image(Above: Me & Apolline’s parents Skyping my parents! Hopefully they can meet for real someday!)

And Simon, mon frere. Thank you so much for always truly acting like my older brother. I know your mom has hosted a lot of students but I just want you to know that I really appreciate all you did for me. I can remember you making me lists of the best restaurants & stores, & of course the neighborhoods I should never go in (rolls eyes). It cracks me up how you still continue to lecture me until no end (the keys! always think of the keys! haha). I am so glad that it’s been 2 years since we were together but last week it was like nothing had changed. Please keep weekly e-mailing me about all the juicy gossip in your life & I will continue to do the same. 

Thank you so much for basically giving us your apartment for 5 days. It was a great stay in Paris & same for you, anytime you want to come visit Prague…or the boring Sutton, Mass., you are always welcome! Bisousss :*

Image(Above: Throwback Thursday! With my host mother & Simon in Spring 2012)

So there you have it, dear readers. I had a truly amazing vacation. It was a nice way to break up the homesickness of Prague with some familiar faces. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season too! 

The promise of a new year is something that you must take advantage of. 2014 is your clean slate & blank piece of paper…now let’s start writing 🙂

-JG