Archive | April, 2014

You’re Never Too Far From Home

21 Apr

I cannot even describe how unexpectedly awesome this 3-day-weekend was. For most it was just a normal 2-day-weekend, but here in Prague, like most European cities, they celebrate Easter on Monday instead of Sunday. Cue us all getting that extra day off & hey, this tradition sounds like a great idea!

Saturday: Feeling At Home in The Nature

Since the weather was beautiful, Filip & I decided to take advantage of it the best way possible–by exploring the great outdoors! Or, in Czech terms, “The Nature”. “The Nature” we explored more specifically was Divoká Šárka, this giant nature reserve  just on the outskirts of the city that I had heard was a must-see. Turns out it totally was. 

We packed a picnic consisting of bread, cheese, fruit & chocolate (I am still very much a Parisian at heart), I threw on my hiking clothes & we headed out. We spent the next 5hrs exploring the beautiful woods, babbling brooks, little waterfalls & then, scaled a legit cliff face in order to get to the top. My legs were burning, my forehead was all sweaty & I was wheezing like crazy, but it was SO WORTH IT.

 Image(Above: Pictures cannot sum up how beautiful the highest point overlooking Divoká Šárka actually is)

After our picnic, we just laid in the sun for a while & I really started thinking about how perfect the moment was. It was just a feeling of ultimate relaxation. I just felt so happy to be alive. I had experienced a similar feeling before in October when I went to Vienna for the first time. I can remember walking around the little trails & gardens behind Schonbrunn Palace all alone & just thinking this is happiness. Sometimes it’s just so nice to have some quiet time or a moment to pause & take in all the beauty around you. For me, our picnic in Divoká Šárka was this moment. 

Strangely enough, I also felt so at home in this moment. Back in my hometown, of Sutton, Massachusetts, we are kind of famous for this place called Purgatory Chasm. Aka: this place with a bunch of rocks where you can have picnics, hike all these woods trails & where Mama G gets about 50% of her summer 911 calls from because tourists are dumb enough to scale rock walls in flip flops.

Looking back on it, I guess I never really appreciated Purgatory Chasm, or the giant field across from my house, or my neighbors’ horse barns, or the fact that we have no streetlights on my road. I never got the chance to. Now that I have been living the city life for 9 months, I realized that I actually do miss those things. I miss the peace & quiet & simplicity. While cities have a lot of great parks to take jogs & walk your dog, the nature is where you can actually admire the true beauty of the Earth. So yes, as we laid in the sun feeling the cool breeze from on top of that giant hill, I felt like I was right back in Sutton, Mass.

Image(Above: I actually felt like I was in some uninhabited Swiss village or something, this reserve is definitely one of my fav places in Prague now)

Sunday: Feeling At Home in the Kitchen

Yes, you read that right. A girl whose culinary skills extend to sometimes not burnt grilled cheeses, simple salads & soup just wrote that she felt at home in the kitchen. Honestly though, I had no choice. Sunday was (American) Easter, which was a little hard. While I planned & planned my Christmas trip to France last December, I have to admit that this Easter really just kind of snuck up on me. And I had no idea how much it would affect me. 

At home, Easter begins with running downstairs to baskets that the Easter Bunny brought that are overflowing with chocolate, then we all get dressed up for church & then head to my cousin’s for dinner. This year, I was completely planless. But I refused to allow this to be a miserable day. Since Filip also had no plans we decided to celebrated together. (Hint: holidays away from home feel so much more at home when you celebrate with the people abroad you love). 

I told him we could celebrated American Easter together on one condition–it had to be properly festive! This meant pastel colored outfits, chocolate & a delicious meal! As previously stated, I am not really renowned for my kitchen skills, but it was either whip up a giant meal or eat take out & I think Mama G, the culinary wizard, would die if she heard her daughter ate frozen pizza for Easter dinner! So I thought quick.

After a trip to the grocery store & a bottle of wine was popped open, I began chopping, boiling, slicing & mixing. I have to admit I felt so adult. And a little over an hour later a delicious meal of pepper lemon chicken breast, chive mashed potatoes, mixed veggies & warm fresh bread was ready to be served! 

Image(Above: Me with my home-cooked Easter dinner! And no one got food poisoning either!)

Later on I called my family to wish them all Happy Easter. I could hear the shock in their voices when I told them about our dinner, but I knew they were proud. Even though I am really not the best cook, I was happy that I could step up to the plate (or the stove) when I needed to. Easter just wouldn’t be Easter without a home-cooked meal & making that dinner for Filip & I actually made me feel more at home. Because all I could picture was my own mom & aunts frantically rushing around the kitchen, putting the final touches on another perfect meal. And even though there were only two place settings at our Easter table this year, it still felt like a very special day.

Monday: Feeling At Home By Living Vicariously Through Others

Monday was the day that Czechs actually celebrate Easter. Before deciding to move to Prague, I was blown away by how WHIMSICAL some of the old Czech traditions were. As if St. Mickulas Day & eating Christmas carp weren’t enough, the Czech Easter traditions were definitely the best of all. 

According to tradition, on this day men are supposed to spank their women with willow branches in order to keep them fertile & beautiful (yes, you read that correctly). Afterwards, the women throw water on the men & then gift them with chocolate eggs. Filip & I were not about to break tradition! We promptly bought a colorful bundle of willow branches at the Easter market & some chocolate eggs for later. 

Image(Above: Hahaha so cute & fun, right?! Nooo. It was painful & gave me HUGE respect for Anstasia Steele for voluntarily doing such things!)

Later we followed through with tradition & it really hurt to sit down for a while. Until I snuck up on Filip & poured A TON of freezing water on him! We laughed & ate our chocolate eggs & hopefully next year’s Easter traditions will consist of just jelly beans & peeps.

While Monday was Czech Easter Monday, it was also another hugely important day–Marathon Monday (aka: Patriot’s Day). Based on New England tradition, on this day, the Boston Marathon has been held since 1897. And has since been a day where people from all over come to run, to be cheered on by college students, locals, tourists & anyone who wants to enjoy the beautiful tradition.

I do not need to go into detail as to why this year’s Boston marathon was so emotional, yet extremely powerful. More than anything I wish I was back home today to be there at that finish line with my city. But I couldn’t be so I celebrated my home pride as much as I could all weekend long. I hiked The Nature in my Red Sox hat, spent the weekend watching The Departed, Gone Baby Gone & The Town & spent the nights having long talks with tears in my eyes, trying to explain to my Czech boyfriend how overwhelmingly proud I am to be from such an amazing city. I truly cannot even put it into words. 

Today I spent the day glued to social media. Everyone’s pictures from the race made me so happy. An event that just one year ago was scarred by such tragic events was able to build itself right back up. While some may have been a little wary, they still showed up. They still stood screaming at that finish line, they still sat chanting in their #BostonStrong t-shirts at the Sox game afterwards & more people than ever before laced up those sneakers to take part in this great event. Not because it would get more media attention, not because it would be so heavily secure, but because it is a great tradition that makes our city what it is & nothing can take that away. 

Image(Above: Meb Keflezighi [left] & Rita Jeptoo [right] were the winners of the 2014 Boston Marathon)

To make this year even more special, today, for the first time since 1985, the Boston Marathon was won by an American. That actually gave me chills. Meb Keflezighi from California finished first for the men at 2 hours 8 minutes. Sure he wasn’t from Boston, on even the East Coast, but it didn’t matter. It was the fact that an amazing record was broken just one year after such horrible events. It was a little sign of hope. It was the very meaning of the words ‘Boston Strong’. 

So going back to the title of this post–it’s so true. You really are never too far from home. Even if you hop on a plane to fly 7 hours away, you are still very close to your roots. How? Because, no matter where you move, whether it be across the city or across the Atlantic you will always take a little piece of home with you. Home is memories. Home is traditions & community & most important of all, home is being with people you love. Even if the scenery has changed a little bit. 

So, dear readers, please no matter where you go–always keep important memories alive. You may not be home for Christmas, birthdays, or Easter but you can always improvise with the resources that you DO have wherever you happen to be on that day. If a day is special to you keep it that way! Don’t allow a little distance to completely break a tradition that you have been celebrating for so long. Find new ways to celebrate with new friends & if you always remember to surround yourself with love then you will never really be that far from home 🙂

-JG

 

 

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To The Class of 2014

7 Apr

Congratulations.

You’ve almost survived four years that began with general lectures & quickly funneled down into clear cut skill refining assignments.

You entered the game with a vague idea of what you wanted to pursue & are now writing a thesis about something you hopefully love. Something you really enjoy writing about. Something you’re just really good at. You have just survived four years of being molded to perfectly fit into a box called a ‘major’ which will soon earn you that degree to begin a Type A life. But, before you walk across that stage at graduation to grab that diploma, please always remember there’s still a Type B. 

Type A is the ‘reality’ or what society tells you is the direction you should go. You are good at this one thing, you have been trained in this one thing, & now you are a shiny new model exiting the conveyor belt in the world to apply this skill set in a job specifically designed for it.

That’s great & all, that is if you truly don’t consider Type B an option.

Type B is what you actually want to do. It’s where your dreams somehow meet reality. Where you can relax on beaches, travel the world, make a living & be really happy. 

Type A people will tell you that the Type B life does not exist. It’s fantasy & unproductive. It is a waste of your education. It is a waste of your time. It’s a waste of everything you’ve just worked for.

But I wonder how many Type A people will tell you that they, themselves, are truly happy. 

They probably will because they believe happiness is something that you have to work for. Something that you will (hopefully) achieve someday. After you answer phones, staple papers, get coffees & have a ton of jobs that make you feel useless. You have to work your way up to happiness. In some corporations, sure, this is true. However, what they don’t tell you is once you make it to the top, once you’ve played all the right cards, got your big break & clawed your way to victory, is happiness truly guaranteed? I guess it all depends on your definition of the word. If to you it means money–then yes, you will be happy. But if the definition is something a bit more then I am afraid you won’t really know until you get there.

And to me, dear readers, that’s a little scary.

Being in my mid-30s & 40s slaving over a desk day & night then suddenly realizing I focused so much on making a living that I forgot to make a life. Sure I have a few more bucks in my bank account, but can they pay for all my regrets of not seizing past opportunities? I guess it’s your call.

If you want the Type A life–go for it. You will be applauded for it. You can toast to interviews at parties & impress relatives with job prospects on holidays. It’s good conversation. You sound so mature. It’s a solid foundation for a stable life. But the only problem is the future is unpredictable. Economies crash, people get laid off, things go wrong. And before you know it you’re shopping around this sole skill set that they all promised would help you sail into the sunset. 

And it’s like starting all over again.

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I can not say I have all the answers at age 23, but I can say that one year ago I was in your shoes. And I took a deep breath, held my nose & dove into the Type B life. And I am so happy where it has gotten me. My resume is currently a scattered narrative of odd jobs which I can quickly all defend as shaping a different skill set. Oh, my year teaching Czech preschoolers? Teaching/child care experience. Three years working as the Rhode Island Lottery Girl? Television experience (& a very suspicious Family Guy shout out. Youtube it). Dunkin Donuts? Taught me teamwork, customer service & a HECK of a lot of patience! Sell yourself!

One thing I have always admired about my mom is her gift of selling her different skill sets. She went to school for advertising, but years later went back to get her degree in criminal justice. When I was a baby she was a Hallmark Cards branch manager in charge of 600 people, she later worked to get a court reporting stenographer certificate & is currently the 911 dispatcher for 3 different police departments! Inspiring! She knew her interests (law), & remembered her talents (communication/organization) & morphed them into a Type B lifestyle. Think of how far she would have gotten if she allowed her UMASS Amherst college degree in Advertisement limit & dictate every job prospect? She might not have a job.

So, 2014, all I am saying is right now I know they are all telling you to go right. To start applying for these jobs because this is what you’re good at. But, what happens if you’re like me, & you decide to instead go left? I always thought I was only good at writing, so I chose Journalism. And yes, I still love to write, but now I know I also absolutely adore teaching children, something I never would have expected. Maybe you too will discover a whole new skill set, a whole new passion & a whole new route to happiness. 

I just feel like I am too young right now to be sitting in some office, stapling papers, getting coffee & day dreaming my life away. Your 20s are for living those dreams. For making mistakes, learning lessons & living entirely for yourself. You have your whole life to be bored & unhappy & ‘find that job that applies your college degree’. There’s no rush. I want to be completely selfish & do things that make me happy right now. In my 30s & 40s I will have kids & a family who are my constant source of happiness, they will be who I live for. But right now, I have no wedding ring & no diapers to change. I am completely free to fly wherever I want, so why the hell would I allow society to clip my wings at age 23?

I refuse to take orders from people who don’t value my existent. I refuse to cower down to those who don’t even take the time to learn my name–all for a paycheck? No amount of money is worth giving up your dignity. Even at this age. I refuse to be dismissed from opportunities & interviews because my ‘1 year of prior experience’ cannot be neatly labeled under a big company name. Life gives you experience. Risk gives you experience. Change gives you experience. 24 months of sitting behind a computer desk gives you carpal tunnel syndrome & back problems. 

We all have our own paths to happiness, dear readers, I just want you to discover yours in your own direction, not just the one everyone else in the crowd is heading towards.

Congrats Class of 2014, you’re almost there! 🙂

-JG

The End Is In Sight

1 Apr

I knew this day would come. Deep down, I really did. I just wasn’t sure how I would feel about it. And now that it’s here, I am still not exactly sure how I feel. 

I just bought my one-way plane ticket home. 

And it was really upsetting, because now a little clock is ticking in my head. Now months, weeks, days, hours, minutes & seconds can begin counting down until this is all over. Until I leave this place, which has been my home for the past 8 months, to return to my actual home.

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I can remember when I bought another one-way ticket. It was around one year ago. 

I had decided in March 2013, just 2 months before my college graduation, that I wanted to move to another country. I could get my TEFL teaching certificate, find an apartment & experience a whole new life. It sounded like a fantasy. It sounded like the ultimate left turn when everyone else in my graduating class of 2,000 was turning right. But I just knew I wanted to do this.

After researching like crazy, I decided on Prague. 

Why?

Well, because it was pretty, it was cheap & I had never been there before–so why not move here?

I begged & begged Mama G. I promised I would get a job, make a life & work hard. I promised it just wouldn’t be one long vacation of partying. And she finally said yes.

And we booked that ticket.

Unless you, yourself, have done it, I really cannot describe the feeling of pure adrenaline of buying a one-way ticket.

It just has such a feeling of finality. You are not going in a circular journey that begins with eagerly boarding the plane & ends with a bummed out feeling of having to return back to reality. It’s a straight line. There is Point A aka: wherever you are right now, & there’s Point B aka: where you want to end up. There’s no turning back.

And this is how I feel right now.

I know what you’re thinking: why even come back?

I have asked myself that too, actually I ask myself that every day. It was one of the reasons I put off buying this ticket for months.

I can say it’s because I owe $600 a month on student loans,

I can say it’s because I miss my family & friends so much,

I can say it’s because I am sick of living here,

But none of these are quite the whole truth.

In all honesty, I don’t know. 

I mean I already have an apartment, an amazing boyfriend, a ton of friends & could easily renew my visa & find a new job…it would have actually been verrry easy to stay right here. 

But that’s not what I want to do in this stage of my life.

I want to keep moving. 

Image(Above: July 30, 2013, my last girl’s night out in the USA with Mama G)

I had a wonderful experience here. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but also the best thing. I have been put through the emotional ringer & become truly independent. 

Moving back home will be extremely hard, because I am leaving so many great people behind.

It will be hard like packing up all you own to get on a plane to fly to a country you have never been to before, where you know no one to start a new life….but hey, I did that already.

I just feel like it is time to close my chapter on Prague for now.

Who knows, maybe someday it will be re-opened & more will be added.

Or maybe this will just be a precursor of memories to look back fondly on, as new adventures elsewhere are being written.

But I believe that this experience was all a chain effect of life milestones I will never forget.

If I had never traveled to Paris, I would have never had the courage to keep my training wheels slightly on while studying 5 months in Paris, & if I had never studied in Paris I would have never in a million years found the courage to move to Prague. 

And this is something that I will always remember.

Paris may have showed me the beauty of Europe, the culture of food & art…but Prague, you showed me who I was. What I was capable of enduring & what I was capable of surviving. Prague made me a grown up.

So now I am not going to dwell on this receipt of a plane ticket to Boston on June 10th, but will instead look forward to the 70 days I have left in this wonderful place with these wonderful people 🙂

Na Zdravi! 

-JG