Tag Archives: usa

Never Stop Exploring

2 Apr

Welcome back, dear readers!

So as you know I started this blog before my big move to Prague. It was 2013 & I was nearing my university graduation & had no idea what I wanted to do.

So in the single most important act I have ever done–I bought a one-way ticket & moved to a faraway land all alone for a year of ups & downs.

Fast-forward 3 years later to today, where I can honestly say that I am in such a happy place. While I am now living a lot closer to home, I still have made a point to surround myself with as much travel opportunities as possible.

Whether with family, friends, or solo, I made a pact to myself when I moved back to the U.S.: never stop exploring no matter what. 

No matter what others say & no matter what the news says–just keep going.

Even if you have to save up entire paychecks for plane tickets, take painfully long yet affordable budget buses cross country, or sleep on someone’s lumpy couch for a couple of nights.

It will absolutely always be worth it.

And it always has been.

But sadly while the past few years have been comprised of some of my best vacations abroad, they have also consisted of some of the most tragic world events.

Every day tells of another bombing or shooting or death toll; innocent lives are drastically being wiped out by evil.

It’s unexplainable, it’s incomprehensible…it’s terrifying.

So why would I still want to travel?

Why would I put myself at risk to be another statistic

Well, that’s simple: because travel has always given me so much.

It has given me global perspectives: shattering ethnocentric ideas, expanding cultural knowledge & fully allowing me to experience being “the other”.

(Quite noticeably the only Westerners in Hong Kong’s remote Ngong Ping village, Grampy & I just went with the flow) 

It has given me self confidence: learning to navigate new cities, new languages & unfamiliar customs all on my own.

(Living in a city with minimal English-speaking, I learned the Czech language basics fast. Especially when it came to pivo!)

It has given me my dream job, uniting students & families from all over the world to form life-lasting bonds.

(Wonderful exchange students my company brought to the U.S. & are currently living with volunteer host families)

And of COURSE it has given me all my wonderful friendships with so many extraordinary human beings.

(My Japanese “sisters” in Tokyo)

(My host mother & host brother, Simon, in Paris)

(My TEFL “family” in Prague)

(My friend Meaghan & I spending Xmas 2013 with the family of my French friend, Apolline!)

When I say travel is my passion–I mean it.

And when you are fully invested in a passion, you will let nothing else stand in its way.

And I won’t.

Think about it: some people have “risky” passions like extreme sports. Yes, there is possible danger, however, with proper education & precaution, the dangers minimize drastically.

The same way you wouldn’t get behind the wheel of a race car without proper training, I would never travel to a foreign city without doing proper research.

Of course, any true traveler knows preparation is key. Making sure maps, currency conversions, accommodations & plans are finalized before moving forward. & A heightened sense of common sense can go a long way.

“Traveling smart” has saved me more than a few times abroad. Whether it be using my intuition about bad situations or being prepared should plans go wrong–this is my first rule of going anywhere.

(Though considered a “Second World Country”, Thailand had some of the nicest locals I’ve ever met)

As prepared as I am, every time I announce a new trip abroad, I am still always met by a response of worry & concern.

While sometimes it can seem understandable, I am still so sick of justifying my travels to people who know nothing about the destinations I’m going to.

To people who allow a heightened sense of media-induced paranoia cloud their logic. Reading exaggerated headlines & watching sensationalized videos that teach them that every thing outside their front door is a war zone.

& I’m sorry, but I refuse to buy into this mindset.

Don’t you understand? That is what terrorists want. They want us afraid & divided. They want us hateful & unable to continue our daily routines. They want us to scapegoat & point fingers.

Well, I don’t know about you, dear readers, but there’s no way I will let them succeed.

I will never stop exploring, asking questions & looking for answers.

I refuse to close my mind. I will not stigmatize 1.6 billion people for the horrendous actions of few. I will not panic about going to a city near Brussels when my own city has already had several shootings in 2016. I will not listen to politicians who use racism to further a disgusting agenda of hate. & I will never use blanket statements like “they” or “them” when discussing large groups of people.

(MEPI friends from various countries in the Middle East/North Africa!)

Because every human is different, & I refuse to believe that everyone is inherently bad…& travel keeps re-enforcing this for me. 

I have met with Hurricane Katrina survivors in New Orleans who have an indescribable sense of faith in the wake of so much tragedy.

(Service trip with my High School to New Orleans in 2008)

I have had strangers in Budapest, Prague & Vienna (who spoke zero English) literally take me by the hand to steer me in the right direction when I was lost & afraid & alone.

 

(I only found my way around Austria & Hungary thanks to the kindness of strangers!)

I have had wonderful experiences in Tokyo, Istanbul & Paris that would not have been half as special if it was not for the overwhelming hospitality of local friends.

(Mike is from Chicago but he was the best tour guide in Istanbul! Thanks, brother!)

& I have met extraordinary human beings in every single city I’ve been who have shared delicious meals, informative pub debates, & deep insight into their beautiful cultures with me, an outsider.

(Like my Japanese sisters, I am also very close with the group of Brazilian students we befriended who were studying at my university in 2014)

So next week I will venture back to Europe alone. I will FINALLY be reunited with the cooler older sister I never had, Gillian, in her new home, The Hague. Then travel by myself to Amsterdam & Copenhagen.

And I have not an ounce of fear.

Because I will do what I always do. I will pack all my travel supplies: my maps, my converters & my clothing layers. I will print out all my itineraries, my plane reservations, & my hostel addresses.

& I will be aware of my surroundings.

Not a panicked hyper-awareness, but not a foolish lack of awareness–just simply aware.

Like I always am when I’m in a new city.

And I will be fine.

I mean, I get to explore two brand new cities! I will see the wold-famous Keukenhof Tulip Gardens & the beautiful seaside Nyhavn canal & get to have some much needed pub talk with one of my best friends!

(See you soon, Gillian!)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over these past few years, dear readers, it is that you cannot allow anything to dictate your happiness. 

No job, no lover, & absolutely no fear.

You must continue to venture on, to explore the unknown even when it can be terrifying. Because you never know what wonderful experiences or people may be waiting just around the corner.

Happy travels!

JG 🙂

 

 

 

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It Was The Best Of Times

14 Nov

Hello, dear readers! Sorry I haven’t written to you in a while, but let me say I have been pretty busy. And no, not busy laying on a couch healing from my dog bite watching my 385th episode of Maury or getting rejected by yet ANOTHER dream job in the final round or body-shaming myself to tears…but busy being happy.

Nice to have a little change, huh?

The root of this happiness is, unsurprisingly, the root of my happiness for over 8 months. The person who I ever-so-romantically approached in the Chapeau Rouge Bar while double-fisting a Gin & Tonic AND Rum & Coke (French Bachelor party men are quite generous!). The boy whose very first exchange with me was:

“Um, do you speak English?”

“Yeah”

“Okay, you’re sitting on my coat.”

My amazing Czech boyfriend, Filip! 🙂

Fifi is the best ever

Although we did not have the dreamiest first meeting, Filip & I hung out a few more times, then began dating in February when I was still living in Prague. I know all relationships are like this at first, but we soon became inseparable. I can only characterize it like this: ya know those first few ‘honeymoon months’ where you laugh at everything, hang out 24/7 & are just completely infatuated? Well, my ENTIRE relationship has felt like this. I’m serious. Even when our honeymoon stage was well over.

This is a boy who has seen me at my absolute WORST: panicking about my crazy boss in Prague, comforting me when I was in the fetal position sobbing about not getting my dream job, & feeding me with his last few dollars when I was dead broke in another country. He even honest-to-God almost flew to USA for a weekend to sit with me in the hospital after my dog bite. Plus he 100% loves me for the quirky, crazy, opinionated, strong woman that I am. We are not luck, we are chemistry. We are compromise & hard work.

Honestly, I was pretty nervous in June when my days left in Prague were numbered. I was worried about the future of our relationship. Here I was, having found the hands down best boyfriend of my six years in the dating world, & now I was going to have to move 3,000+ miles away from him for an indefinite amount of time. Scary.

But we planned Filip’s trip to USA & promised to Skype regularly. I’m not going to lie, a long distance relationship is in no way fun. You miss each other a lot & you miss the little things, things like holding someone’s hand, watching movies together or going out to eat. But then again that’s just the price you pay for this lifestyle. However, Skype & daily message updates are the key to staying in tact. It made me feel like we were still on the same page. 

And after over 4 months of Skype & daily messages, Christmas finally came, Filip came to visit me in America.

fifiandme

(4 months & 1 week apart will make you appreciate your boyfriend 100x more)

I think one of the best things about Filip’s visit was the huge sigh of relief that came along with him: nothing had changed. We were still best friends, laughing at weird Youtube videos, trying strange food combinations & completely crazy about each other like we were in Prague. Our relationship had survived the test of distance & time; now I felt like we were even closer. 

During Filip’s 3 week visit (thank YOU, CZ for your long paid vaycays!) I made sure we stayed busy. Shopping, parties, pumpkin carving, a mock Thanksgiving dinner, & trips to Boston, New York & my beloved college, Roger Williams. We even went trick-or-treating on Halloween in costume since he had never done it before! As Mama G would say, Filip certainly had some F-U-N! And you know what, dear readers? It was about damn time that I did too.

This summer (after returning back home from a summer working with the MEPIs & Japanese girls) was not really the most ideal situation. But when Filip came to visit I was able to laugh harder than I had in forever & it felt great. It really was like I was complete again. It was a nice change of pace.

It was sad to see him go, but I plan on visiting him in Prague next February. It will be our 1 year anniversary! And this time at the airport when we said goodbye, something was different. There were no tears or feelings of uncertainty, it felt like we knew exactly where we stood & these next months apart would be much easier than last time.

Plus, little did I know, my usually awful (& in the past months straight up terrible) luck was about to do a complete 180.

ef

(This building officially opened like LAST WEEK)

Since before my dog bite I had been desperately & quite aggressively trying to find a job. Unfortunately I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do. I liked helping people, I was quite good at talking to people…& oh ya, here’s the kicker, I wanted to travel for free. I started my attack plan with colleges first, thinking working on a cute, well-manicured campus like Rog would prevent me from wanting to kill myself every day. I applied to every school in New England basically & got nothing. I decided to think more outside the box…& it hit me. I remembered while working with the Japanese girls my awesome supervisor, Christine, had praised my skills & said I would do wonderful at a tour company. I took the idea & ran with it.

Well, ran as far as you can with a heavy limp because this was around the time I was attacked by that stupid dog. The bad part was that I was basically immobile for almost a month, not even being able to attend an interview had I scheduled one. The good news was that all this free time allowed me to dig into Christine’s broad suggestion of ‘tour company’. I scoured the internet & eventually stumbled across EF Tours.

The name sounded familiar, then I realized it was the company I had traveled with my very first time abroad to Paris & London in high school! The trip that inspired me to study abroad in college, which gave me the courage to move to Prague. Through a series of ripple effect events this company had basically changed my life. My passion for travel was discovered on my trip with EF Tours.

sillycaro

(This stoic moment in France brought to you by EF Tours)

This was cool! But I mean that was like almost 7 years ago! Surely, EF is some boring little company with cubicles & draining customer service telephone jobs right? Wrong, wrong, WRONG. EF Tours is this huge awesome Swedish company with 5 international headquarters, one of them just happening to be in Boston! Oh my God, is this a sign? Destiny? It must be because for your first year of work you get THREE WEEKS of paid vacation & FOUR for the second year (take THAT, Czech Republic!). More than that the Boston office is that awesome building in the photo above that was designed to have breath-taking panoramic views of the city, sits right at the majestic Charles River & was just built like a month ago! I actually trembled browsing the website–I belonged at EF.

I ended up applying to two positions & heard back from both, however, interviews were delayed due to my immobility issue. As the weeks went by I found myself making it to the first, then second, then third round for an extremely competitive sales position at the company. When Filip was here I made sure to always keep my phone near, jumping every time I received an e-mail, cursing every time it was a Groupon promo. After 3 whole days after the company said they would contact me with their final decision I mustered up every ounce of courage & called them. The phone call was about 2 minutes long & by the end Filip saw me at my worst again because I was sobbing in the fetal position. It wasn’t fair. I was crushed.

Crushed for an entire day, then I got angry, then I got motivated. I applied to three other jobs with travel agencies trying to shake off the immense sense of hurt I felt.

stonehill

(Stonehill: I am forever haunted by ‘what could have been’)

Sidenote: so not sure if you have noticed by reading my posts, but I can get pretty dramatic at times (I mean I DID do plays all through high school…). I also love a good metaphor & some personification. A prime example of this would be my college search. After almost a year of hunting, I applied to 5 different schools but all that mattered were the top 2, Stonehill College & Roger Williams University. Now, from my posts you may think I was a die hard RWU Hawk from day 1, but that’s not true. Nope, fall semester senior year I was 100% infatuated with Stonehill. I was obsessed with the school. I stalked the website, forced my mom to take me to 2 open houses, I even shadowed a class. I loved that school. So much that I opted for the ‘Early Action’ application option which meant applying to the school earlier than required in order to find out if I was accepted earlier than others.

I did the same thing for my RWU application because I loved that school as well, but not as much as I loved Stonehill. I can remember waiting every day for that letter. Running to my mailbox like a mad woman. Finally, it came, & the envelope was tiny. Inside my worst fears were realized. I was ‘deferred’ which meant I was not accepted with the first group so my application was put with the rest & I would have to wait until spring to find out if I was accepted.

To anyone else this would have been sucky but not completely awful–but not to me. It was over. This was personal. A few days later I received not just a giant envelope but a personal phone call from RWU accepting me into their university. & My mind was made up. Stonehill, if you didn’t want me now, then I don’t want you ever. (Stonehill did eventually try to ‘win me back’ by calling me up with a bouquet of apology flowers in the form of a theatre scholarship/scouting opportunity when they accepted me in April…too late, I was already Rog’s girl!)

rog

(In the end, Rog was obviously the right choice)

My point with this tangent? I take things like rejection quite personal. If you don’t want me, I don’t want you & I will never want you & we’re done! So, EF, sorry, but we’re THROUGH.

But then I realized I was 23-years-old & this was a company that was just trying to run a business, not some guy who lead me on. Plus, I really did want EF. So bad. So, I got back on that horse. I went right back on the ‘careers’ section of the website & started from square one. Why? Because I knew I belonged there & I was not going to give up or let something like pride get in the way. I applied to one more position while holding my breath.

Fast-forward to the next week & Filip is getting ready to leave but I can’t be completely sad because I’m too busy being excited about the travel agency company that is rapidly on the fast track to hiring me. Within a few days I had completed a phone interview & online business test, by the time they’re background checking me, I know things look good. Then, out of the blue, fate steps in: EF wants an in-person interview…the same day as my final in-store-assessment interview with the travel company! Taaaalk about adrenalin!

I walked in to two buildings on Monday & was then somehow miraculously offered two of my dream jobs on Tuesday. And you know exactly which one I accepted. I did more than get back on the horse after I fell off. I knocked on every single door I could, & then, when one was opened only to be slammed in my face–I broke that mother f**ker down. 

EF-Tours

It is a strange, strange thing looking at your life through hindsight. To look back & try to remember the pain of the setbacks, the sting of countless defeat, the endless waiting for something to finally happen. And then suddenly, that day comes & you are on the top again.

4 months & 1 day has shrunk down to nothing…only for it to start a new countdown all over again until the next big reunion. And waiting at the top of that damn roller coaster for as long as I did seems like nothing, because now I am finally moving & the ride as the newest regional manager for EF High School Exchange Year has finally begun.

JG 🙂

How Outraged Will You Be After Reading This?

16 Oct

So, if you have been following this blog for quite some time, you will see that I try to equally balance my posts between tales of my daily adventures & discussion of any political/social problem currently going on in the world. One thing I can definitely credit living abroad for teaching me is to wake the hell up. I am 23-years-old, I have friends all over the world & would consider myself fairly ‘well-traveled’, therefore it’s time to drastically widen my horizons beyond social media & reality tv. And this is what I am trying to do.

Past posts have tackled everything from women’s rights & slut-shaming (remember my most viewed blog post ever?), the blatant Islamophobia in USA & just plain lack of information about the rest of the world ( remember when I first met the MEPIs?) & who could ever forget my initial seething letter to my homeland? Oh yes, I have written some wonderful rants which sometimes sparked wonderful dialogue which is the whole point! 

I am not on any sort of agenda here. I am not trying to argue with you or make you share my beliefs. I am just using my first amendment right to tell you that the world absolutely DOES NOT revolve around this country. As much as we act like it does.

ugh

ugh2

ugh3

ugh4

How safe do you really feel these days? #FirstWorldProblems, right? 

I just pray that at least one of my posts has made you think ‘Hmm, maybe Feminism IS a real thing”, or “Wait, I can totally see how white privilege exists”, or “Wow, that football player/celebrity only got fined for beating his girlfriend?”, or maybe even, “I met this wonderful person from a Third World Country, whoa, they’re just like me!” 

We like to fall into this pattern of thinking things like ‘it doesn’t affect me, so it’s not that big of a deal’…well, guess what, things like Global Warming, Ebola & ISIS were considered ‘international crises’ long before they became a direct threat to the American people. It’s just that your bubble of privilege kept you distracted.

So how long will you stay distracted?

The whole point of this post & what I have been dissecting all along is the idea illustrated in this well-written list :

American Privilege  (it was written 4 years ago, but I still hear people say things like this every day)

How many of these things do you see/hear/feel every day? Who says it: family, friends, adults, children, the media, the government? Now, what are you going to do to stop it?

Outraged yet?

-JG

The Highest Peak of the Roller Coaster

13 Oct

Sorry, I’ve been M.I.A. yet again, dear readers. I’d like to say I have some amazing excuse. That something like new jobs, new adventures, or new experiences have been keeping me from writing in this blog to you. However, that is just a boldfaced lie.

Since I wrote to you last I haven’t been country-hopping & exploring like my old life in Prague. I have been sitting on the couch mostly (remember when I told you all about that awful dog bite? Yeah, that’s not completely healed yet). However, an exciting breakthrough came about two weeks ago: I began walking & exercising again!

I vowed at the end of summer to get my life back together with exercise & healthy eating & now that I am mobile again it’s time to get back to work! I have since taken up a new interest in stir frying every veggie I can get my hands on, & I regularly take 8-9mile walks surrounded by picturesque fall landscape, on top of going to the gym. I think this is exciting, the rest of the world–not so much.

yum

(Sorry, but do you think someone with a 9-5 could just WHIP UP a chicken veggie stir fry over musroom sage quinoa?! No.)

It’s actually cringe-worthy to run into an old family friend or acquaintance, because you know what people ask you at this age:

Them: “So what are you doing these days?”

Hint: they’re not asking me about my new-found love for sweet peppers or how I burned over 500 calories on a walk that day…

Me: “Um, nothing right now.”

Do you know how pathetic I feel having these conversations? Because then their face falls, secretly wondering if I developed an awful crack habit since they saw me last which would prevent even The Olive Garden from hiring me, so I fill in words..

Me: “But yeah…I was injured for a while…and I’m really applying to a few places…”

They then give a thin smile & the conversation is over. But it IS true. What job gives you 2 weeks off for surgery, 2 overnights in the ER & then 2 days off each week afterwards to visit a ‘wound surgeon’. Yeah, maybe not having a job then was best. But now I’m through.

have a really great amazing job potentially lined up. However, what I found out with my luck–sometimes things really are too good to be true. But as of right now, I made it to the second interview (which I didn’t even knew existed?) & will find out the end of this week (hopefully) if I got the job.

Also happening the end of this week? Filip visits USA!

filip

After over 4 LONG months apart, my favorite Czech is coming to spend 3 whole weeks with me ❤ In the meantime, I am freaking out about the job, trying to find a potential apartment IF I get the job, & plans for Filip’s visit around the fact that I might have to work 9-5 while he’s here. Talk about stress.

Because I am a visual person & writer, I can only think of one scenario right now to explain my current state. I am on a roller coaster, sitting in the very front seat. I am all strapped in, eager for the ride of my life. The car (& dog bite wound) has been cleared & it slowly begins to move forward. Then it moves up & up & up. Slowly, but steadily, it keeps getting higher & higher. I am nervous of course, but at that moment realize I cannot turn back now. So we keep ascending. Roller coaster tracks snake all around below, a lot of loops, turns & twists lie ahead of me on this ride. But I’m excited, I love the rush. Finally, I am at the top of the highest peak, that first initial drop that gives the ride enough momentum to continue. I can hear the click, click, click, underneath me & can see everything exciting that awaits below. The ride pauses for a moment…

roller

And I am waiting there. After a month & a half of doctors visits, pain, cancelled plans, living at home, limping & just being miserable–I am just waiting for the ride of my life to start. I don’t know where it will go, or what will happen–I just know that I am a thrill seeker & I am ready for the next great adventure of my life to begin!

…And you BETTER BELIEVE I am taking you all with me!

-JG 🙂

American Outcast

2 Aug

Yesterday was a bittersweet day. It was the one year anniversary (Prague-iversarry) of the day I moved to Prague. And while a few of my fellow TEFL classmates celebrated this day cheers-ing pivo in Old Town, & a few spent the day looking back on the time they resided in Europe instead of China/Turkey/UAE, I spent it right here in the good old USA.

I spent it reflecting & saying things like ‘On this day one year ago I left’, instead of ‘Wow, I have lived here for a year’. & I don’t like that. 

I have currently been back in the USA for almost 2 months. And while I have watched other friends gracefully transition back into this lifestyle, with their new city apartments & impressive jobs, I just can’t. 

I am well aware I am going through what is called ‘reverse culture shock’. When you travel/move somewhere foreign, you feel first excitement, then sadness/frustration, then eventually content when adaptation comes full circle. And the same pattern happens when you return back to your homeland. In theory. 

Well, if we’re being completely honest right now, dear readers I should have never moved back home. I should have spent 2 weeks visiting family & friends, living on that initial excitement stage & then headed right back to Prague. Because Prague & I, while we suffered through some rough times, were finally beginning to establish that sense of content. My acculturation was well on it’s way.

But then I moved.

& Now it’s too late. Now I’m trapped. Trapped in this sad/angry stage because my time abroad changed me, so much in fact that I realized I do not want to live the American lifestyle right now. So I am fighting so hard against my reverse culture shock hoping that I never reach the final stage where I am more concerned with a Wifi signal than current world events.

This new attitude doesn’t always sit well with others & I have watched again & again how uncomfortable they become around me when I start to bring up things that matter.

Were you always like this?

Or was it just always easier to debate whether Kim Kardashian’s ass was real or not instead of the current situation in Gaza?

I guess our American society just plays it out that way.

Coming from countries where discussing political events ranged from chatting about the flaws of Australia’s Prime Minister over wine, to heatedly explaining the crumbling American school system in bars, to being forced to defend my ‘Americaness’ in front of a firing squad of questions–I experienced it all abroad.

I can remember when I studied in Paris & went out with these guys who mocked American’s shameful geographical knowledge of the rest of the world. I defended & defended, taking offense to the conversation. Then 10 minutes later they casually talked about sports & I was shocked.

“Oh, you Americans,” they said, “always so sensitive!”

& Then it hit me–I was being sensitive. They were simply doing what the French love to do, debate, & I was taking it as a personal attack. They were just making conversation, as heated as it got, but then it was on to the next topic. Yet I was still fuming.

In America, they say to never talk about politics or religion on the first date, or better yet, it any conversational setting.

Why?

usa

Is it because you might have an idea someone else doesn’t share? You may believe in something someone else doesn’t? And in the USA, the land of diversity & opportunity, apparently that just doesn’t sit well. Because what would happen if your pretty little dinner party was ruined because a conservative & a liberal started discussing Obama? Would they sit & listen to each other’s points or would someone have to storm off? 

Why can’t we just TALK?! Not yell, not insult, not ruin the entire evening, but just exchange ideas.

Personally I think we have blanketed everyone so much with ‘acceptance’ ‘political correctness’ that we cover up the fact that deep down we don’t accept each other at all. Instead actors go on homophobic rants & CEOs fling racial slurs & everyone is so shocked. 

There is no medium.

We are so busy trying not to ‘offend’ anyone, because God forbid my opinion should differ from yours! & If it does, then what? We can’t be friends? I automatically hate you forever?

Please do not sell the idea of ‘diversity’ if you will not allow it, or if you cannot handle it. Diversity & a difference of perspective is a good thing. It’s productive! Talking (& actually listening) to someone who has opinions so different from your own forces you to challenge your own beliefs.

Maybe you will even see something in a different light, who knows!

But this will never happen until we learn how to actually debate like the educated, open-minded individuals we are.

Since I have been home I have time & time again tried to debate ideas ranging from gun control, to immigration, to woman’s rights, to Ukraine, to Gaza & I have come across mostly 3 types of people:

1) ‘MERICA, F**K YEAH

“America is the greatest country in the world, everyone wants to be like us because we are the best & most powerful country. You don’t like it here? Get out. We have so many freedoms no where else has! For saying those things about our government (your First Amendment Constitutional right!) you could be killed in some places! [Goes on to regurgitate facts from one news source]”

These people are patriotic to the point of being in dangerously ignorant denial. I am not being anti-American, I am just challenging the system. They are closed off to believing there is a more effective solution than one the USA has adopted. They also don’t understand the idea that media is biased & instead just quote one source. 

I feel like these people think that there is only a spectrum of America on one end & repressed corrupt countries are on the other end. No medium exists. & Nothing higher than America exists. Um, hi have you ever heard of the life quality in Sweden?!

twinkie

(Above: Priorities.) 

2) F**K AMERICA

“I hate this stupid country. I hate the government. I hate the rich, they cause all my problems. I hate the poor, they cause all my problems. I hate my life here. Everything is so corrupt & unfair here. I hate the media, it is brainwashing us. Other countries are so much better than America.”

The complete opposite of type 1, these people have a more anarchist leaning than anything. They see the problems in America & notice the corruption & damage within our countries. They are completely against the government & all it stands for. But to this I ask: WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?! They whine about things but still continue the problem. Worried about pollution? Become more eco-friendly! Worried about your child’s health? Stop feeding them processed food! Concerned about international wars? STOP BUYING PRODUCTS THAT PROVIDE WEAPONS TO THE ENEMY!

These people are all talk & no walk. If you really care so deeply about an issue, educate yourself & see what you can personally do to prevent it!

3) WHY THE F**K ARE YOU ASKING ME THIS?

“Well, I don’t know, I mean there’s two sides to every story. & You don’t really know what’s going on behind the scenes. Both sides are at fault, really. Can we change the subject, now?”

These people infuriate me the most. They have NO OPINION AT ALL. Or just choose not to voice it. Instead they remain neutral & polite. They play devil’s advocate in a half-hearted way that is just sickening. Silence is acceptance! 

Sadly, I feel like most Americans are type 3. They are the ones who just want their dinner parties to run smoothly & not rustle any feathers. They don’t feel the need to question elected officials or media because they just don’t care enough. & In a society with as many freedoms as ours, it becomes a dangerous situation when the general public doesn’t care enough to challenge (or even EDUCATE themselves) about the powers who govern them. That sounds like a recipe for corruption.

news

(Above: Uh oh! Hard news!)

This is what I’m currently dealing with here. I feel like all of this worldly knowledge & perspective I gained from traveling is slowly slipping away. So I am fighting to keep it. & To also, educate others. However, not everyone wants to hear these things.

Because all I keep hearing is a disturbing us vs. them mantra.

“We could have free health care, but they abuse it!”

“We could have more maternity leave but they ruin it!”

“I work so hard to pay for them.”

“Why would they work? The government hands them everything for free!”

“We could have a better quality of life but think of the taxes!”

All I keep hearing is it’s your problem, not my problem, well isn’t it really becoming our problem? And not even in a nationalistic sense, but regarding humanity?

Global warming, poverty, racism, mass shootings, immigration, & even those starving children in Africa who cause us to quickly change the channel is everyone’s problem. How long can you turn a blind eye before your completely forget you have a heart?

I may seem anti-American, radical or crazy for talking like this. I certainly feel like an outcast at times when I voice my opinions. Hell, I may even be on some sort of government watch list just for writing this post.

But until I am able to travel again & gain more perspective, I will continue to be the voice for those who are either to afraid to use theirs or have none at all. I will continue to talk about the things that truly matter while my society is shushing me with celebrity baby news.

And if you don’t like, please stop reading my blog.

Wake up, it is time to get out of our bubble of comfort, time to question things that just don’t sit right, time to tackle the injustice we see going on everyday.

Sorry, USA, but I am calling you out.

-JG

 

The Age of (Mis)Information

14 Jul

Oh hey there, dear readers! Sorry, I haven’t posted in a while, but don’t fret because the Czech It Out Blog is far from dead.

I have been so busy these days because immediately after moving back home to USA from Prague, I landed a new job. I am currently working as a program assistant for the government-funded U.S. Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). Basically I get to move back into my university & live with 16 awesome, intelligent students from the Middle East & North Africa for the summer! Epic win!

While the job presented a great opportunity for my resume, I was especially excited to meet the students. Hailing from over 14 different countries, I was very interested to gain some new perspectives about lifestyles that are so different from my own.

While I went into the program with an extremely open mind (which is mostly thanks to my adventures living abroad), I was pretty shocked at the questions/comments I received leading up to the job.

“They are going to LOVE USA, it’s going to be so DIFFERENT for them.”
“Are you allowed to shake their hands or hug them?”
“Those poor kids, they’re so LUCKY to take a trip like this.”
“Have they ever seen an ocean before?”

“Their country is letting them leave?!”

Then the questions I received once I began working with the MEPIs…

“Why do they wear those clothes? Aren’t they hot? They know this is USA, right?”
“They’re fasting? Why? Just eat.”
“Have people said anything mean to them?”

While all these questions disturbed me in one way or another, the worst of all was:
“What are they like?”
Um, they are just like any other 20 something!

I know these questions were all asked out of curiosity & may have even been innocent, but they just didn’t sit well with me. Because they were such stupid questions. They were ignorant & uninformed. They were questions that presented a troubling ‘Us vs. Them’ model.

It’s no secret that ever since 9/11 Muslims (or anyone who appeared in any way to be from a Middle Eastern country) were not the most welcome in USA.

This was because the media & politics all pointed the blame there. It was Osama Bin Laden, it was Saddam Hussein, it was Al Qaeda, it was the Taliban. It was anyone with tan skin or a mustache. That was the profile of the enemy.

That’s what President Bush told me. That’s what the news told me. That’s what everyone around was in a panic about. So now my friends from India & South America get patted down significantly in airports & anyone with an Arabic last name gets side-eyed glances.

& It’s bullshit

Because now it’s almost 13 years later & Saddam is dead, Osama is dead & we have ‘eliminated’ suspect after suspect, so what are we all still so afraid of?

We should feel safe, right? We have one of the highest military budgets in the world & a 2nd amendment that allows us to all be legally armed with as many guns as we want. 

Yet today security is almost as high as the fear instilled in all of us. Fear that leads to assumptions & a widespread no-so-subtle racism that would cause my fairly educated friends & family members to ask those questions.

But can you really fully blame them?

These are the same people who religiously tune in to nightly newscasts that blanket how many drones their elected leader dropped on innocents that day…because a black man raped a white woman somewhere or cracked out teen parents abused their bi-racial newborn. & We all shake our heads at the tv.

Those are the people who are wrong with America, we say.

Well, did you ever think that maybe it’s US TOO?

It’s the people who sit on their couch in an air conditioned room munching on potato chips & sit down for a 6pm brainwashing. The people who have never left their town & only get news from one source, yet feel the need to lecture all those around them.

You are what’s wrong with America

If there’s one thing I learned while getting my Journalism degree it’s just how terrifyingly biased media is. It’s re-written & angled & edited & scripted & shifted & twisted so much that you barely get any real facts in the outcome.

Perspectives are cut out, buzz words are repeated, sponsors manipulate information. And let’s not forget that thing called a political agenda.

Any smart person would not only watch one newscast about a story, but read an article or two as well from some other sources. You think that would happen. But unfortunately, during my time traveling I realized just how little Americans do this.

idiot(Above: You all remember this handy little map, right? Thanks for the geography lesson MSNBC!)

I can remember being asked again & again about ‘Czechoslovakia’, about living in a Communist country & just plain dumb questions. I was getting lectured on a country I was living in by people who had never stepped foot on Czech soil.

And that bothered me.

Then I can recall getting lectured about Russia & Ukraine…from people in the U.S. who were simply regurgitating information from the newscast they had just watched.

I became extremely concerned when I checked Facebook & updates from people ACTUALLY LIVING IN THOSE COUNTRIES & their words were nothing like the U.S. newscast.

It was misinformation, & the spread of misinformation leads to some very dangerous ideas. 

Ideas that, at the lower level, are ignorant Americans asking me if the male MEPIs look down on me because I’m female, & but at a more alarming level is the news coverage discussing the current events taking place between Israel & Palestine. 

Having two MEPI members from this area, it is nice to hear what is actually taking place not what the news says is taking place. It’s refreshing to do something that top media rarely does–especially when talking about one of those poor unfortunate 3rd world countries we’re supposed to care about–put an actual human face to the story. 

To hear a real person’s story & opinions & heartache over the matter. Instead of just a dehumanizing play-by-play body count that once again makes it feel like we’re talking about some far off alien race. 

And this play-by-play IS RARELY ACCURATE. Exhibit A would be ABC News (one of the top news stations in the world) airing pictures from Palestine but captioning them as taking place in Israel. After over 50,000 angry phone calls & uproar, Diane Sawyer apologized for this ‘mistake’. (You can watch the video below).

Diane Sawyer ‘apologizes’

Personally, I don’t want to watch any station that knowingly makes such big ‘mistakes’ that suspiciously look like they’re on a very suspicious agenda. But hey, that’s just me!

Bottom Line: There’s always two sides to every story, or three or four. There’s rarely just one. So whether you’re commenting on a news story, or a whole cultural group of people, please, please, please make sure you have the facts. Because misinformation not only makes you sound like an idiot, but makes you miss out on a lot of cool friendships too!

-JG 🙂

ps: Supporting Palestine? Then you should probably stop drinking Starbucks & eating McDonalds! Here is are just some of the big companies with investments in Israel (aka: giving them money to build weapons to bomb innocent people/the families of my friends)

 

 

My First Week Back Home

19 Jun

So, it has been officially one week since I moved from beautiful, exciting Prague, Czech Republic back to boring old Sutton, Massachusetts. Much like when you first move abroad, when you move back home after being away for a while you experience a form of culture shock. ‘Reverse Culture Shock’ to be more precise. So, how have my adjustments been so far? Well, read on to find out!

1. Food is so sad tasting & hurts my stomach all the time

All my life I have had an extremely sensitive stomach. I was diagnosed as Lactose Intolerant at a young age & doctor’s always suspected I had some Gluten & Thyroid issues. Although my Lactose Intolerance eventually subsided, usually at home I had to be careful of what I ate or tummy aches were sure to ensue. 

Not in Europe. In Europe I found I could eat almost anything (even extreme no-nos like ice cream or the whipped cream atop my beloved Svichkova) & be perfectly fine. I think my entire time in Prague, my stomach didn’t hurt once after eating like it does at home. Even when my friend Alex, who is on a strict no-dairy no-gluten diet, came to visit, she drank beer & ate dumplings. & She was fine. 

It’s no secret that most food in America is pumped with chemicals, fillers & preservatives. Things that are actually banned in the rest of the world. So I’m not surprised that my stomach has been hurting since I came back. Food just tastes so bland to me now. Most of what I’m eating comes from a box or was frozen. & Food at restaurants taste generic. Like it was just sitting back there in the kitchen waiting to be ordered. I really miss how fresh food tasted in Europe. & How it didn’t kill my stomach every time I ate it 😦 

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2. Being Broke: Works in Europe not In USA

As of right now I have $5 to my name on a credit card. Yup, that’s it. And I have no idea when I will be getting money next. In Prague, this was such a normal occurrence, I wouldn’t even bat an eyelash. $5 is actually a lot of money in Prague. If you know how to use it. You can still go out to get a few beers, buy a few groceries & have a good night. 

In Sutton $5 will do nothing. It will barely put a gallon of gas in my poor car that is sitting in the driveway with its gaslight on ‘E’. $5 will barely get my a sandwich at Panera Bread or whatever place my friends want to meet up & talk. $5 Means I have no social life right now. So if you want to hang out with me, sorry, you’re going to have to come to me. 

& Unlike Prague there’s no cool parks for us to walk to & drink a few beers.

3. Job Hunting Is Not That Scary

I’m sure it really would have been 1 year ago when I was fresh out of college. Because I had none of this coveted ‘experience’ that most job applications request. However, upon coming home I realized just how much of an asset I would be to ANY company. I have certainly been through a lot my past year in Prague, maybe even more than applicants much older than me, & in an interview I’m not afraid to tell you that.

So far I have applied to 7 jobs or so. And I really had to hunt around. Because I do not want something that will make me completely unhappy, bored or unfulfilled. If you recall older posts were I firmly fight for the belief that I can choose happiness over money or, both. I firmly believe I am qualified for everything I’m applying for & trying to articulate that my age is not synonymous with inexperienced.

(ps: I have a phone interview with one position in 1hr & should hear back from another one later today!)

4. No One Has Changed

When you think about it, it really has only been 1 year & people usually don’t change much in that amount of time. So yup, as expected, everyone is still doing what they were doing a year ago & probably what they will still be doing in one year.

Everyone’s on a different path, I guess. 

5. Except Me

While I am much more worldly, calmer & open-minded after living in Prague, I have to admit I am most proud of myself for how low maintenance I’ve become. 

I barely wear makeup, have not done anything with my hair, & really only dress up when I have somewhere to go. Plus I have no phone, no iPod & didn’t freak out when I had no computer for a few days. This shows personal growth. I am a lot less self-conscious of my appearance & could really care less if I have a phone at all. I love being disconnected. It’s like going to live in the woods or something, I feel free. 

I am not like everyone else in my generation with my eyes permanently glued to my phone. I would much rather look at what is around me. I don’t want to text or call people, I would rather speak to them in person. 

Currently conflicted between my ‘New Jessi’ hippie self with grown out dark roots & getting my hair highlighted & trimmed to go back to ‘Old Jessi’…we will see. 

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6. I Am Not In A State Of Constant Depression…Yet

The first stage of culture shock is excitement. You are excited to go to the new place & this lasts about 2 weeks. But my reverse culture shock hasn’t really been typical. I experienced no jet lag (I know right!), & was never really super excited to come back.

Yeah, it’s been cool seeing everyone, it’s been nice sleeping in a comfy bed & swimming in the pool. But I mean, I think I would have been perfectly fine staying in Prague. 

Because I didn’t have any huge exciting expectations for my return home, I guess I haven’t been too disappointed with sitting at home doing nothing for the past week. Although, I know how I am. I crave routine.

So, in order to prevent a post move depression I will throw myself into my job (once I get hired) & also, the gym, a healthy & constructive way to channel all this emotion. I got this covered. 

So that’s what’s been happening in my life these days. Sadly not as exciting of a read as previous posts. But I’m sure as time goes on & I find my place here, you will hear some more of my crazy adventures!

JG 🙂