Tag Archives: tefl

Returning to The Homeland!

14 Jun

So I have only been back home for 2 days. On my way home I had a 22 hour layover in Dublin, Ireland, which let me tell you dear readers, was one of the BEST 22 hours of my life. Immediately upon stepping on Irish soil I fell in love with the Irish & their personalities. 

Never have a experienced such friendliness!

It was a little overwhelming. Like the TSA guys at the airport patting me on the back while handing back my passport & saying, “Cheers, love!”, people I didn’t know coming up to buy me Guinness in a non-creepy way, everyone offering to help me with my overweight giant broken wheeled suitcase that I was dragging behind me, & the man driving the airport shuttle bus actually waiting making sure I had secured my bag & was sitting down before he sped off. I mean do people even DO things like this anymore? Czechs–most likely definitely not. & If you meet an American as kind as an Irish person than you remember them & tell others about them. 

Image(Above: THIS is what you see flying over Ireland. Green & beautiful!)

Basically, while I thought the overall city that I saw wasn’t as breath-takingly beautiful as some of the other places I’d been (although I almost cried when I realized the river was actually a seaport going to an ACTUAL OCEAN which was nice considering I’d been landlocked for all this time), I would literally moved to Ireland just for the people. 

It might sound silly because no one ever moves anywhere for that sole reason. They move for scenery & culture. But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned both from my studying abroad for 5 months in Paris & living abroad for 11 months in Prague–the people around you really affect your lifestyle…& ultimately your happiness. After all they’re the ones you’re trying to become. 

Think about it: part of moving to any new place is learning to acculturate & blend in with the locals. When you move to Paris you learn to turn your nose up to the flower men, mini Eiffel Tower men & those ones at Sacre Coeur who try to tie things around your wrist. In Prague you learn to be silent on all public transport, but immediately offer to give up your seat for someone who needs it. But you also learn to be quiet, reserved & frown a whole lot (which socially doesn’t convey meaning like it does in USA, it’s smiling that conveys more meaning–& sometimes it’s a bad thing!). 

While in Italy & especially Ireland it was really fun to blend in aka: talk my usual (loud) volume, small talk with the people around me (something a Parisian or Czech would probably NEVER do), & just have a great time!

I knew I was only there for a short while so I wanted to make it last! I asked my hostel (complete with adorable HILARIOUS Irish men) where to go for dinner & eventually stumbled in this little pub called The Celt. Walking into the dimly lit room filled with older men in suits yelling & laughing was a little intimidating, I almost left! But then the bartender, who was so so cool, greeted me before I had time to go.

Image(Above: The Celt in Dublin. Great food, great music, great people! I totally recommend it!)

I sat right at the bar & proceeded to order my very first Guinness (which, to my disappointment, tasted almost NOTHING like my beloved Kozel Cerny) & some Fish N Chips. Before my food even came, I had officially met both the bartenders & had struck up a conversation with the kid behind me who was from Kentucky but LIVED IN BOSTON. Small world! 

I arrived at the pub around 8pm & left probably somewhere around 1am! I knew I had a flight the next day but I was just having so much fun! Everyone came up & chatted with me (although sometimes I could not understand A SINGLE WORD), there were 2 parakeets chirping away in a cage hanging above the bar, the Guinness & Bulmer’s was flowing & around 10pm the live music began! 

Image(Above: There’s live music every night! Like legit Irish music with fiddles & tin flutes!)

At one point when I told the bartender I was Irish (4th generation but still Irish!) he said, “Well welcome home little lady!” & I really did feel like I was. I looked around to everyone laughing & singing to the music, drinks in hand & just thought to myself, “God, I will miss Europe.” 

The next day I woke up at 9am with a massive hangover, missing the free walking tour at my hostel. But I was all recovered by the time I had to head to the airport at 1pm, so I had no regrets at all about the previous night! My 7 hour flight home was boring & long but it felt good to run into the arms of Mama G & Grampy who were waiting for me in the airport.

I am happy to see everyone & be back but also so sad to go.

Europe, I love you & cannot wait to come back. I had a great time these past 11 months. Solo trips to Vienna, eating my way around Italy, 2 times in Paris & of course learning to fall in love with my now 2nd home, Prague. It was a great time & I am so glad I ended the experience partying it up in Ireland. It was a celebration that right now this may be the end, but I will definitely be back soon!

JG 🙂 

The Final Curtain Call

6 Jun

So as my adventures in Prague come to a close, I have been experiencing more emotions than ever before. I still can’t believe I only have about 5 days left in this wonderful place.

I can remember getting on the plane at Logan Airport in Boston on July 30, 2013. Dragging my 2 giant suitcases behind me & slinging my 2 overstuffed carry-ons over my shoulders. I hoped I had everything I needed, but there comes a time at those moments when you realize it’s too late to turn back & if I really did forget something I would just have to deal. I said goodbye to my family & my pets & my room & my house. It was so weird, not knowing the next time I would be back there. I mean, I had a rough idea:

-Fly to Prague

-Get my TEFL Certification throughout the month of August at TEFL Worldwide Prague

-Find a job/apartment/new friends/new life immediately after 

-Stay for 1 year & then come back home

There’s a saying that goes “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” And while there were certainly a few curve balls that were thrown at me along the way, mostly everything went according to plan. 

And now, here I am, with 5 days left, living out of my suitcases at Gillian & Filip’s houses, trying to take everything in. Trying to formulate goodbyes that I swear are not permanent but then again, you never know. I am down to my last $10, have quit my job & moved out of my apartment. It’s the final curtain call.

And everyone is asking me, “Oh you must be SO EXCITED to go back!” but for a long time, I didn’t know how I felt. & Still don’t.

I feel stuck. I feel afraid. I feel worried. I am stressed out about undergoing another culture shock. Where things are completely different. Where doors always have to be locked, prices are ridiculous, & everyone around me may not like the new Jessi. 

I have changed so much throughout this experience. I am more open-minded, I am more introverted & have learned to listen a little more than I speak. This is such a stretch for a girl who would never shut up & always craved human companionship to now be able to travel alone & at times go hours without speaking. 

This change is not a bad thing. I just had to adapt to my new climate. 

And now I am scared to have to adapt again to the climate of USA, where people panic over not having a wifi signal & are going to talk behind my back about my weight or long distance relationship. How upsetting. 

One of the most freeing things for me during all this was having a crappy pay-as-you-go phone & getting my iPod stolen in November. Why? Because I was disconnected. Instead of scrolling through newsfeeds over dinner I actually made eye contact with the person sitting across from me. Instead of instagramming all my food, I actually ate & savored it. Instead of Google Maps, I read real maps & if I got a little lost, asked real people. It was refreshing. 

And now, after all the progress I have made & all the lessons I’ve learned over here in Prague I am terrified of reverting back to the way I was. Because then this would have all been such a complete waste of time. It would have just been like the vacation/escape from responsibilities some assumed it was.

Oh, & then there’s that huge elephant in the room everyone interrogates me about next: where will you work? 

Hey, guess what, I have no idea! And I am not worried about it at all. 

It is unfortunate how much your job is a form of social status. It must be, because it’s something we are all either ashamed of or bragging about these days. Personally, I think work ethic & happiness is more important. Yeah happiness won’t pay the bills & blah, blah, blah…but I just paid my bills for the past 10 months while being relatively happy over here, so what’s your point?

Chill everyone, I will find a job. Happiness though, I am a little more worried about finding that.

Image(Above: One of my favorites in the cemetery)

While in Paris, since it was my 4th visit & favorite city, I wanted to just basically chill & explore some things that I had never seen before. Somehow I had never been to Pere Lachaise. Pere Lachaise is the largest cemetery in Paris & a tourist attraction because of some of the famous people who are buried there. Musicians like Jim Morrison, singers like Edith Piaf & writers like Oscar Wilde all rest in Pere Lachaise. 

Since Zach was off exploring the Louvre, I basically had this huge window of time to explore Pere Lachaise alone on my second to last day in Paris. And I’m so glad I did. It sounds odd to say but wandering aimlessly around a giant cemetery for a few hours is eerily therapeutic. I walked right in, not even bothering to grab a map, I just didn’t care. I wasn’t there to go take a few quick selfies with the graves of people who had never affected me. I was there to find something else.

Having been to a few cemeteries near my hometown, I can honestly say that Pere Lachaise is magnificent & unlike any place I’d ever been before. The graves were not just simple headstones but intricate tombs, old stone supulchres & breathe-taking murals. I walked alone, away from the tourists. Trees shrouded the cemetery in eerie shadows even though it was a fairly sunny day & the only sound were the birds chirping high above. I was in a trance.

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I scanned the hundreds of graves reading the names of the families buried there. The tombs were lined in little winding paths that lead you deeper into the cemetery. I came across sculptures of famous deceased play-writes, actors & writers who I had never heard of. I felt a power & energy coming from Pere Lachaise. It was indescribable. All those lives intertwined, some recently departed & others long forgotten.

And this was the thing that shook me the most.

Some tombs were carefully preserved. Clean, manicured & covered with flowers, plaques & other offerings. But others were mossy & crumbling, either from age or lack of preservation. It made me so sad. Who were these people buried here? Did anyone care about them? What were their stories? Unfortunately, no one would ever know, because now the only object dedicated to this soul’s existence was rotting away just like the skeleton buried deep below.

I was so humbled.

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I really respected how most of the plaques, statues or monuments dedicated to the deceased were in no way joyous. They were honest. Death is painful, death is sad, but death is inevitable. Most of the marble plaques etched in French read things along the lines of “Farewell, Mama” or “Until we shall meet again”. My favorite was, morbidly enough, sculptures of grim reapers hovering above. A fearful creature, but in fact, one that will catch up to all of us eventually.

But why do we fear death? Personally I think it’s because we will not make enough of an impact in the world before we go. That way, just like the old warning in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, we will be buried at an empty funeral & our name or legacy will go right along with us.

But as sad as I was seeing the crumbling old no-name graves, I was amazed by the very preserved ones. 

Although it was true that most of these graves were of those whose deaths were much more recent, some were really not. Some spanned generations. Men & women who passed away decades ago who still had brightly colored fresh flowers resting on top of their tombs. & These names were ones I had never heard of before. 

I wondered why at first but then I realized it’s because even if they possibly died too soon, their time on the Earth made enough of an impact that it was not only not forgotten, passed down. Parents told their children & their children told their grandchildren. The story lived on until it because a legacy & this is a rare occasion when one experiences life after death. 

& Who knows, maybe some of these mossy overgrown tombs were once great people too. They just reached a generation where their light could no longer shine & it was distinguished. From ashes to ashes & dust to dust, is what they say after all.

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During my solo walk around Pere Lachaise while contemplating all this meaning of life, I realized just how lost I felt with my own life at the moment. I had no permanent address & was unsure about my future. I felt like my heart was about to be stretched across to two places. I was about to reunite with the people I have always loved, but in order to do that I had to leave behind all the new people I have since fallen in love with. It’s a tough feeling. 

So it was there, that I asked for a sign. For an indication of where to turn & what to do.

Immediately, a ray of sunlight poked through the trees & illuminated a single grave. I walked over to it & saw it was one of the cutest couples I have ever seen. They were born just a year apart & died a year apart too. Portraits from their youth were presented right above their dates. I instantly felt tears welling up in my eyes. This was it.

The answer was love.

This couple was born around the same time & probably got married at a young age (just like my own grandparents). They survived decades of wars, changes & hardships. But they survived them together. And then, when the woman died in 1997 at the ripe age of 89, her husband soon followed one year after. He could have gone due to complications the body experiences at this age, but I honestly believe it was because of a broken heart. 

How do you go on living without someone who has been your other half for so long? Someone who you grew up with & survived with for so many years. Most of these couples couldn’t. I soon noticed a pattern of most of the couples who were buried side-by-side in Pere Lachaise–they all died within 3 years of each other. Say what you want about medical complications, but like in The Notebook I think it was divine intervention. True love is eternal. 

Since coming to Prague, I thought I knew true love with another. I thought it was fairly one dimensional & something that would eventually fade. I was skeptical & logical & always felt I would just grow out of the other person. 

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But then I met Filip.

I have never experienced emotions so powerful with someone else. And as foolish as anyone may think I sound for feeling this way about someone I have been with since January, then please, tell me about your own love story? Are you settling, sometimes unhappy & think in the back of your head you could probably do better? Sorry, dear readers, but that isn’t true love. 

True love is my grandparents celebrating their 54th wedding anniversary & still holding hands & acting like teenagers. True love is all these beautiful couples in Pere Lachaise buried next to each other to be together for all eternity. 

And regardless of who knows what will happen, I feel like I have found something so real right now. Something that time or distance cannot alter. It was destiny. Because I am a huge believer in fate & when the universe sends you someone who makes you feel like I feel right now it’s a sin to just throw that all away. 

Before I left for Prague my mom joked that I could go on one condition:

“When you fall in love with a Czech boy, you have to promise me you will come back home.”

I laughed because I always thought Europeans were players & I just wanted to be single & enjoy the experience.

But isn’t it funny how life works out?

So now, Mom, here I am, I am head over heels in love, but I am getting on a plane in 5 days to come back to you. We will do the long-distance thing for 4 months & then Filip will come visit me in USA. But who knows about afterwards. 

They say that, “Home is where the heart is”, & my heart/home is about to be in 2 locations. But planes will always exist & I will always be welcome back…

…& You would always be willing to read Czech It Out Blog Pt 2, right? 😉

-JG 

 

Pour Some Out For My Homies

17 May

Update: I AM FREE.

After one of the most bizarre weeks ever with my (ex) boss displaying some of the oddest behavior (lurking around my classroom in the dark, crazy bi-polar personality changes, ‘forgetting’ to pay me until 4 days after pay day…), I made it. Barely though. I had my school keys already taken off the main key ring, had tossed all my un-used worksheets into the scrap paper pile & was just finishing up my final class when she decided to twist the knife deeper & completely devoid any shred of guilt I felt about quitting. 

We had literally 2 minutes left of class, & I told the students to start cleaning up. Post quitting celebratory drinks with Gillian & Filip at our favorite pub were already arranged & I could not GTFO of there fast enough. When all of a sudden, this woman comes into my room.

“Hi, I am looking for Jessica.”

“Uh, yeah, that’s me.”

“My daughter has a private lesson with you right now.”

Um what.

See this is what I am talking about, this is why I despise my boss so much. She is so damn inconsiderate. She NEVER mentioned this lesson, never asked if I was free for the lesson, NEVER EVEN BROUGHT IT UP. Yet she made this poor woman & her daughter drive all the way across the city in rush hour traffic. 

“Um, I had no idea about this lesson, I’m sorry, I have plans, I can’t do it.”

Suddenly, what do you know, my phone is ringing & it’s my boss telling me she has a problem & forgot to tell me & begs me just to sit & talk to this little girl for 10 minutes just to see what level she is. And reluctantly, I agree.

But I am so glad I did.

This girl was adorable, smart & way too advanced in the English language to be wasting her time at such a horrible school that only wanted her money. Talking to her for those 10minutes made me realize, while I was estactic about quitting my teaching job, I was really going to miss teaching. So I wanted to write a post to give some special shout outs to some of the little ones who have changed me over these past 9 months.

Kamila, 4,

One of the most well-behaved Montessori children I have ever encountered. I am not sure if you are aware of the Montessori teaching style but it mostly results in unruly children who don’t understand the concept of sharing or being directed by a superior. But Kamila did. She always chattered away in long sentences in Czech to me, like I understood any of it, to which I always responded with an excited “Wow! Okay!” That always made her smile. 

Veronika, 5,

Another great Montessori kid who would always greet me with a huge hug when I would pick up her class downstairs. She loved to make little art projects & always wore the same pink dress over her clothes. She is one of the kids who, from early on, instinctively always went to hold my hand as we were walking up the stairs to our classroom.

Filip, 2, 

My youngest student, but also one of the most improved. I would have an hour long one-on-one class with him because every other child who attempted to enter the class was not as mature and often left crying & screaming. ‘Fifi’ as he called himself blew my mind every week when he would greet me at the start of class saying ‘Monkeys jump, monkeys jump!’ (Referring to the 10 Little Monkeys Song) He was like a sponge, repeating EVERYTHING I said & actually remembering & understanding. He would tackle me & hug me & his favorite sentence by the end of the year became: “Fifi is crazy! But Jessica is crazy too!”

Prokop & Elias, 5,

These two extremely hyper blonde best friends originally did an observation class in one my most calmest classes. The results were awful. The tackled each other & Prokop “Rocky” left crying with a bumped head. I was weary when my boss created a special class with only these two boys, but it worked out great. I mirrored their energy & after every snack time for 10 minutes they would chase me around the room pretending to be Iron Man or Spiderman. Their final class with me consisted of me painting their faces like transformers. 

THE BEST CLASS: Vivi, 5, Luisa, 5, Diana, 5, Lauren, 4, Sophia, 5, Hermina, 3.

I loved coming to this class every week & simply referred to them as ‘my girls’. They were not only all extremely smart but they all loved me & listened to me. They would all come in with homework completed, follow directions & give me big hugs when they left. They loved to point at me & say I was various items they had for snack that day. They thought it was hilarious. My biggest victory as a teacher came around March when all the girls (even little Hermina who is basically a baby my boss stuffed in the class because her mom already paid) said their first sentence. Going over family vocab & I said: “Me, I have 2 brothers, do you have a brother?” They all went around the room responding USING THE CORRECT PLURALIZATION “I have 1 brother”, “I have 2 brothers” “I have no brothers” I have never been so proud.

Pata, 8,

The mature & smart older sister of little Honza, a boy who was too unruly to be in class, Pata was very responsible. She always did her homework correctly & just loved to learn English. She would often ask for copies of worksheets we did to practice further at home & impressed me with her improvement each class.

Eliska, 8,

Sweet & shy, Eliska was also one of the strongest in her class. She would always come in with her long brown hair in 2 braids & would wear cute little skirts. She also loved to learn English, but was also an amazing artist. Many of the homework assignments I asked her to do are still hanging on my wall & will continue to in USA just because she is that talented. 

Andrea, 4,

This little spit fire who began the class shy & quiet certainly came out of her shell. She is the one who would joke at snack time that her water bottle was actually filled with alcohol. She especially thought it was hilarious to sneak up and take the pillow I sit on at circle time. I will miss her for her wonderful personality & her cute little metallic rhinestone outfits she would rock each class. 

Danny, 4,

Another one who began extremely shy but soon found his place. Danny is the little boy who was so excited about the weekend he accidentally peed his pants. He was so adorable & fit in perfectly with his class. His mom, who was a sweetheart, would always whisper to him at snack time in Czech to offer me a piece of the chocolate he was eating. That’s one way to definitely get on my good side!

Ivan, 5, 

One of my all-time favorites, I can remember Ivan all the way back from the open house in September when I played board games with him & his little mini-me brother, Boris. His family soon became one of my favorites as well, with his mom always asking me about me & gifting me with an amazing (expensive!) box of chocolates on Christmas. Ivan loved spiderman & dinosaurs & we just completely formed a bond. He would always sit next to me at snack time & even when he got a little fresh mid-way through the year, all I had to do was give him a look. He was one of the few kids who felt bad about misbehaving because he knew it upset me. I will miss him very much & will always save the slightly lopsided self-portrait he drew for me.

Dori, 8, & Tobi, 6,

A sister & brother with SO MUCH energy. Whenever my 3 hour Friday class was quiet you knew it was because these two were absent. But as much as Dori would get upset & cry sometimes or Tobi would throw a temper tantrum & hit another student, they were such sweet children. Dori loved to act like a big sister to all the other kids in the class & Tobi was OBSESSED with playing Plants Vs. Zombies on my computer. Their mother is blind & they would always come & go from class linking arms with her on both sides. Even when Gillian was still teaching at the school, she loved these two, & when she quit they were the only 2 kids who asked about her. Dori would give me a big hug & kiss on the cheek when she would leave & Tobi would always want to hug me & sit on my lap while we watched videos (all completely normal/allowed student-teacher behavior here). Often if I was leaving the school the same time they were we would walk to the tram together & they would hold my hands. These children genuinely loved me & their parents said they would not be able to sleep on Thursdays because they were so excited for English class.

See, I really do love my students & some of them I will never forget. As much as I completely dreaded coming to work somedays because of my crazy boss or unpredictable parents, my students made it all worth it. They made me laugh & smile. I would chase them around the room, we would have tickle fights & then they would amaze me & make me so proud with their English. 

When I quit I wanted to make sure that the parents knew that.

It is unfortunate that my working situation was so awful–but I wanted the parents to know that I wasn’t leaving because of their children. So I sent out an e-mail to all the parents from my school e-mail address saying what a pleasure it was teaching their children. I wished them all luck on their future with the English language & said how proud I was of all of them. And its true. I can remember from all my years as a student some of the great teachers that I had. They inspired me & I will never forget them.

& I just hope that at least one of those kids remembers that blonde American teacher from some weird place called ‘Massachusetts’ who loved to draw horses & sing about monkeys.

🙂

-JG 

Learning To Hold Your Own

10 May

So, it’s 4am right now on a Friday night in the Czech Republic & I just cannot sleep. It’s not because I just got in from a crazy European party, it’s not because I am currently AT a crazy European party, & it’s not because I am about to go to one. I am awake right now at 4am on a Friday because I just woke up from a nightmare about my real-life nightmare: my job. 

Based on some of my past posts about teaching, you probably think I hate it. Wrong, I actually love it. I realized children are awesome, I am DEFINITELY a ‘kids person’ (those totally exist & you either are or aren’t one), & I really just enjoy the job of passing on my language knowledge to these little ones. Don’t tell anyone but I totally have some students who are my favs. They amaze me with their wit, make me laugh with their antics & some have also really impressed me with their improvements with English. I look forward to seeing them each week & the time we spend together.

Someone I definitely DO NOT look forward to seeing each week? My boss.

I don’t really know how to describe her fully without completely breaking my blog’s ‘PG-13’ rating, so I will let your imaginations run wild, dear readers. 

Let’s just say this woman opened a flashy language school with misspelled signs on the wall, breakable props hanging from the ceiling & a wifi box resting in a bed of wires when all she really cares about is not the students –but their parent’s money.

If you have ever had a bad work experience with a boss, then you know how terrible this is. Let me tell you, if the root of your awful boss experience was their obsession with money then that is the most terrible of all. Some bosses just want you to do crazy things like come in to work with a 100degree fever, or risk your life driving through a blizzard or miss out on holidays, birthdays & general priceless memories just so they can make a little more profit at your expense. 

And it is absolutely disgusting.

Some people are just like that & as long as you’re working for them it will remain that way. Because bosses like this will never change. No matter how many extra hours you work, no matter how many shifts you cover, no matter how many times you compliment them on their tie or ask about their vacations they will never remember it. But do you know what they will remember? A time you called out sick, a time you showed up late or a time they caught you slacking off. Yup, they never forget that.

So you are then faced a choice: should I stay or should I go?

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You may want to stay because of the job. It’s secure, it’s well-paying, you worked so hard to earn it that you just don’t want to throw it all away. You think you can handle your boss. You think you can ignore them, or not take their cruelness so personally. Because you will have to deal with people like that in life, right? Wrong.

You don’t have to do anything. And personally, I feel like working even your dream job can be completely ruined by having a bad boss. Trust me, it happened to me. Because you can ignore them but you really can’t. They will be calling you in on weekends, piling more stacks of work on your desk & just generally giving you a constant feeling like you are not one bit appreciated. If you want to spend your life like this, be my guest. 

But just so you know there are great bosses out there too. Bosses who appreciate their employees, bosses who take your side of the story & bosses who don’t take 3-4days to give you your paycheck & then gyp you out of some of it anyway (yup). 

So if you decide you no longer want to stay, then it’s time to go. 

One thing you should think about before quitting is how this will affect your lives. Both you & your boss’s. In some cases, you really are just a number that can be easily replaced, but in certain situations, you actually have much more power than your boss will ever give you credit for. How do you have power you ask?

By doing a damn good job at your job. 

If you are an asset to your company/store/work team then when you finally decide to leave it will cause a gap. Even if you don’t think so. Especially if you have a good relationship with co-workers. People remember & miss ex-employees who were good leaders, reliable & hard-working. Why? Because not everyone is one. Not everyone is a leader or has a high level of skill in their profession, so when those people walk away the entire dynamic changes.

Another plus of these types of people choosing to leave their job is that it sends a pretty powerful message. You may not think so but anyone who finally stops complaining about their unhappiness & actually does something about it is quite brave.

I can remember when I first met my boyfriend, Filip, & he was working in a laptop factory. He hated the job but hated his boss even more. After dealing with it for a long time, the final straw was when his boss became extremely unethical to other employees & demanded he work not only 7-5 five days a week but weekends too. And he just basically said ‘F**k you’ & just quit. 

I don’t think I have ever admired someone so much. (After a month he found a GREAT new job fixing the Prague trams & is now happy) He did something I had fantasized about doing for so long but was reluctant to do. Why? Not because I was afraid I wouldn’t find a new teaching job, no, those are easy to get here, but because I didn’t want to rock the boat. I didn’t want to start over somewhere new when I was all settled. I didn’t want to leave my students. I thought it would get better.

But you know why I really think I settled for late paychecks, crazy schedule changes & the passive aggression for so long, dear readers? It’s because I thought I deserved it.

Yes, it sounds awful. I thought I was young, inexperienced, foreign & I had to settle for this job. I thought recent college graduates had to go through all this mistreatment because we’re the bottom of the totem pole. We know nothing about ‘the real world’ or the work place or life. 

Writing that right now just made me realize how completely stupid it sounds. Because no one deserves that. 

If you show up to work on time, prepare things ahead of time, do your job & especially if you go the extra mile–you should not be treated like a slacker. The more & more people put me down inside or outside the classroom simply because of my age the more I realize this stigma is complete B.S. 

Age means nothing. I know people in their 20s who have done more than people in 40s. Age is not synonymous with maturity. And I am so COMPLETELY fed up with my entire generation being put down like this. Yes, there are always the idiots who perpetuate every awful stereotype, but then there are those 22-year-olds who move alone across the world.

Age means nothing. Experience means everything. Work ethic means everything. Because work ethic grows & builds. Without a good work ethic, I don’t care how old you are you’re not going to hold on to that job very long. 

So if you know you’re a good worker, act like it.

Stand up for yourself. Don’t let your passion for your job or your skills be wasted on someone who doesn’t appreciate them, or even worse, forces you to hate your job! Chalk it up to a growing experience, but know when it’s time to walk.

And now is my time.

So dear readers, after 9 months of being denied vacations, being bad-mouthed to parents, being provided no supplies, & an overall complete lack of guidance it’s time for me to stop talking the talk & to start walking the walk.

Next week, I am going to quit my job.

-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 

Six Months Strong

1 Feb

Well I did it. I made it more than halfway. Today officially marks 6 months living in Prague, Czech Republic. 

I can remember July 31, 2013 like it was yesterday. It was a sunny & warm summer day. The kind of day you wait forever for in New England. It was the perfect day for the biggest adventure of my life.

 I lugged two giant suitcases & two overstuffed carry-ons to the car. I double-checked my passport, plane tickets, license & money. I sent out a mass text to all my friends, telling them to keep in contact with me on Facebook since my Blackberry would not be making the trip with me. I took one last look at my room, gave Misty, my dog, one more pat & Lexie Pearl, my cat, one last hug. They lingered nearby, sensing a change. 

I gave Adam & Sean, my little brothers, big hugs, knowing that the next time I’d see them they would tower over my 5’5″ frame even more. Then Mama G & I were off to go pick up Grammy & Grampy. I didn’t talk much on the drive. What do you say during times like that? My mom told me to get a good look around Sutton because it would be a long time before I was there again. I knew she was right. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to afford a trip home for the holidays, so I tried to take it all in. I tried to commit it all to memory. The place I had lived for the past 22 years of my life. How much would it change while I was gone?

We picked up Grammy & Grampy then headed to the airport. Traffic was a breeze & soon we were at Logan Airport in Boston. I can remember being in Boston weeks before to go on a booze cruise with my best friend, Courtney. As the boat sailed into the harbor, airplanes were visible overhead. It was a bittersweet feeling. I knew that the next time I would be in Boston would be to leave. I would be one of the nervous passengers buckled in tightly in a tiny speck flying overhead. Well, that day had finally come.

I had spent the night before wide awake. I memorized my travel plan: five hour flight from Boston to Iceland, one hour layover, three hour flight from Iceland to Sweden, five hour layover, one hour flight from Sweden to Prague. It made me exhausted just thinking about it. I promised myself I would sleep on the plane, but I knew that was a lie. I knew I would have way too many thoughts running through my mind. I knew I would be exhausted & feel gross but I just couldn’t do it.

We parked the car in a drop-off parking space at the airport. This was it. How do you say goodbye to three of the most important people in your life? What if something happens to them while you’re gone? What if something changes? Was I selfish for leaving? But then they re-assured me, with tears in their eyes, that this adventure was more than necessary it was inevitable. Some people are comfortable living all their life in one place–not me. I knew a day like this would come & I knew it was something I had to do.

I gave Mama G & Grammy the biggest hugs while Grampy unloaded my suitcases & helped me wheel them inside the airport. We brought them inside & tried to stall. I tried to think of anything to say. At moments like this you want to say something profound & meaningful. You want to stay strong & hold it together. You want to say something that will fill your absence until you meet again. But no words come to mind. No grand farewell speeches take place. Because 5 minute airport drop-off parking exists. 

Mama G beeped the horn, signaling our time was up & the car had to be moved. We were rushed. I looked at my Grampy, my favorite person in the world, my hero, my role model, the man I used to write every single paper about when I was little who still warmed my heart like no one else in the world. How do you say goodbye to someone like that? You don’t. So we didn’t. He told me to have a safe trip & e-mail as soon as possible. I promised I would. Then I walked towards check-in. I turned around & saw him wiping away tears as he got in the backseat of the car. They drove out of view. & I was officially alone in the world.

I checked in, praying my massive suitcases wouldn’t exceed the weight limit. They narrowly missed. I walked towards my gate & killed time in an airplane coffee shop while I waited. And thought. I was so excited. I was so sad. I was so nervous. I was so ready. So ready to adventure out into the unknown again. There’s a certain rush you get from being out of your comfort zone. I was just hoping I could handle it.

My flights were fine, I got off in Iceland & immediately found my gate. Soon it was time to head to Stockholm, Sweden. I was overwhelmed upon landing. Never have I felt so average. Everyone around me was blonde. I am not joking. I actually played a game sitting at an airport cafe of counting every brunette I saw. Once I got over the shock of the herds of blonde/tall/beautiful people, I realized Sweden had its own currency & didn’t accept USD or CZK, the two currencies I had. I also realized Sweden doesn’t have free wifi. I hit my first wall on the trip. I was starving thanks to not being fed on my planes & was frustrated I couldn’t message my mom telling her I got this far. I felt so alone. Some random exhausted American sitting alone at a table, weighed down by two bulging carry-ons, hungry & nervous surrounded by seas of families & couples & friends chattering away in Swedish. This is traveling. 

Then my first miracle happened. I heard English. My ears perked up immediately, & I thought I was hallucinating. I instantly turned in all directions determined to find the source of my mother tongue. I found it in two boys around my age sitting a few tables away. I immediately approached them. 

“Um, sorry, but are you guys speaking English?”

“Yeah, we are.”

“OH MY GOD! THANK GOD!”

Instant friends. I told them about my hunger & internet connection problems. They bought me a snack at the cafe & let me use the internet on their computer. Destiny. Another theme I have learned from traveling–at times you feel so incredibly lonely & alone, like no cares about you in the world…but then there are those times when something crazy happens & you feel so at home. The kindness of strangers is real, dear readers. My new friends helped me pass the layover time, talking to me about everything from fashion to politics for 3 whole hours. Then they were on their way to Switzerland & I was alone again.

I found my final gate & sat down hoping the last 2 hours of waiting would fly by. I tried to rest my eyes for a little while. Suddenly, I heard a voice ask:

“I’m sorry, but are you Jessi?”

Once again I thought the jet lag was forcing me to hallucinate. But no, it was a fellow member of my TEFL group, Courtney! We were somehow on the same final flight to Prague! A big believer in fate, I felt this was a sign. I felt like everything was telling me that I was doing the right thing & more than that it would be okay. 

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Fast-forward to six months later & it has been okay. I realized I love my life here. It is not a luxurious life of endless partying, spending & wild nights (although there have been QUITE a few) but I am not miserable either. I am so content & for me content = happiness. I have my routine. I have learned to find pleasure in simple things like quite tram rides home, watching rambunctious dogs fetch in the neighborhood square, & my wonderful students draw me awesome pictures. 

This is my life now.

The past six months have been full of meeting new friends, then visiting & being visited by old friends. Exploring my new city & re-visiting my favorite places in my old city. Feeling homesick that I couldn’t spend my favorite holiday at home with family, but instead spending Christmas & feeling so at home with a new temporary family. Not to mention turning 23 in my ultimate happy place! There have been the obstacles of bills & visa problems & work drama but then there is that constant triumph of walking to Old Town Square or gazing out across the Vltava River to the castle & thinking I live here. 

Every day, every week, every month is so unexpected. I look at how much I’ve been through since arriving here August 1, 2013. How much I’ve changed. & Then I think about the 5ish or so months lying ahead. They both excite & terrify me. What lies just ahead? I really cannot sum up my time here. But it has been one HECK of an experience!

Six months is a long time. Half a year. And I’m still alive.

Here’s to the next few months 🙂

-JG 

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. 

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(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