Friday, August 5, 2016

Random Musings about Europe and Travel

Sitting in Brie's living room and listening to a British solo artist while sipping on coffee. It's a lazy day and my last full day in Europe (unless you count traveling tomorrow which I don't). I've been to Berlin before, so I don't feel that I'm missing out on many of the touristy spots.

Plenty of people have asked me before what it is that I like about being in Europe. It takes me a while to think about "what" b/c I have so many things I love about being over here. For one thing, I don't mind the smell of smoke. I know it's killing us all slowly. But there's something comforting about smelling cigarette smoke and feeling at home. I know this is super odd. And in America it's completely different. But I digress.

It makes me sad that Europe is now seen as "unsafe." I feel like the world in general is unsafe. But we can't live in fear. We can't let this hold us back. Those of us who love travel, we must continue to travel and see the world.

I'm excited to see my family and I'm excited for what is ahead with my new job, but there is a big part of my heart left on this continent and there always will be. I will never be done with Europe or seeing the world.


Sunday, July 31, 2016

European. Traveling.

For the last 13 days, I've been traveling Europe. The first 10 days, I was with a group from OHS. We landed in Ireland and from there went on to Wales, London, and Paris. For someone who has lived overseas three times, it was funny to hear these following statements:

"I miss ice in my drink!" (I never missed ice. In face, I can easily drink a glass of water without ice)
"I miss air conditioning!" (Yeah, me too. But you get used to it. Or maybe I have. Or perhaps I'm just remembering that one sweltering summer in Kandern where we traveled to the Alps to cool off)
"I miss real ketchup!" (I guess the ketchup over here is a bit sweet. To me, it tasted delightful)

The things that were a constant missing need for the students were things I didn't think twice about. Sure, it was hot. Sure, the drinks could be lukewarm. But for me, it made me feel right at home.

I landed in Krakow on Thursday and have been going nonstop since then. My first day in town, I grabbed dinner at a lovely little hole in the wall spot that was filled with locals eating delicious Polish cuisine. I walked around the crowded town square (World Youth Day is also in town) and then headed back to my apartment for an early night.

On Friday, I went to the former Jewish ghetto to tour the Schindler Factory. The display from the inside is something to see. It's a whole exhibition on Jewish life and culture in Krakow pre and post-war. The tour took about 2 hours and when I was finished, it had started to drizzle outside. The streets were a mass of people and walking back towards town, all I could think about was getting coffee and some lunch as it was well after four by then.

I stumbled across this pub just after the Old Town and indulged in a coffee, steak tar tar, and pierogis. For someone who normally enjoys being around people, I have savored these meals that are just me and myself.

Yesterday was probably the most stressful part of this time in Krakow. I wanted to be up bright and early b/c I knew Auschwitz would be super busy due to World Youth Day. It took me an hour to get to the train station b/c of so many people in the streets. By the time I got there, the earliest train I could get was at 10:26, which meant I had a good two hours to spare.  I ended up getting a coffee and taking advantage of free wifi while I waited.

The train journey took exactly two hours. I walked as fast as I could to Auschwitz and was met with a line that was forever long. But since this is the main reason I even came to Krakow in the first place, I got in the back of the line and waited. Standing in front of me, were two people and I heard them speaking English so I asked them how long they had waited. We ended up talking for the rest of the line (a total of an hour and some minutes) and then were put in the same tour group. Simon and Isobel. What gems!

I can't even begin to describe Auschwitz. I had been reading about Auschwitz for as long as I can remember. I've watched documentaries, read personal accounts, and follow their updates on social media. But I was here. I was looking at that famous "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign that you always see in the pictures. I've been to Dachau, but there was nothing that could have prepared me for Auschwitz.

I think the most sobering experience was seeing the pots and kettles that people brought with them. Our guide reiterated to us over and over again that these people had no idea they were stepping into death. They simply thought they were being relocated in the East. So they brought everything with them, including their dishes. Something else that was tragic was seeing the faces of these prisoners who died mere weeks or months upon entering Auschwitz. I took a picture of four women, one of which was just 18 when she died. I know that there were younger victims, but seeing her face and putting faces and names in for these prisoners was humbling.

Some of you might know that Auschwitz is broken up in two parts - Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz II which is Birkenau. We took a bus over to the other camp and it made me gasp at the sheer size of it. It was huge. You always hear that it was huge, but until you see it......wow. I tried to put myself in their place. I tried to imagine being taken away from my family. I cringed to think that little children were separated from their mothers without ever being able to tell them goodbye. I can't imagine being hauled off to an unknown place, told you were taking a shower, and then suffocating to death.

It's incomprehensible and one of those sites that you really can't describe unless you go. So. I'll leave it at that.

This morning, I woke up and was beyond exhausted. My feet hurt, my back hurt, everything hurt! This was another reason I was glad to be by myself. There was no rush. In fact, I went out and grabbed a coffee from the grocery across the street, then came back and read and piddled around before going out for lunch (I found salad praise the baby!).

I'm still pretty worn out and since I'm here for yet another week, I've decided to take it easy and not really venture out until later this evening. Not to mention, once I get back to the States, I won't have any time to relax as I start work on the 8th!

This trip has been wonderful. I forgot how much I love traveling alone. It gives you a sense of who you are, it makes you appreciate the small things, and it shows you that you can do more than you think on your own.




Wednesday, June 22, 2016

There

Wow, twice in a month is rare for me to blog. But I had some extra time on my hands so I figured, why not?

In less than a month, I'll be one of three leaders on a trip to Europe. We're going to Ireland, Wales, England, and France for a total of eleven days. If that wasn't already awesome enough, I decided to extend my trip by 9 days and visit Kraków, Poland for 5 and see Brie in Berlin for 4.

Because of the math test looming over my head, it's been hard for me to get excited about anything. But sometimes, when I allow myself to think and ponder, I get almost giddy inside thinking of being in Europe for three weeks. I think that as excited as I am about traveling with some of my kiddos and friends, is getting to explore Kraków.  I've even made a Pinterest board about places I want to go and see.

A lot of people have been like, "Poland? Really?" Yeah, I know. Most people if given the chance would probably pick a more exotic location like Capri or Malaga, but I've always been fascinated with this country, particularly the city that holds so much of the history of the Holocaust and World War II. And I'm also excited to explore by myself and rediscover the nomad within.

Some of you know that I have a goal of 40 countries by the time I turn 40. That leaves me a little less than 2 1/2 years (oh. my. gosh.) to get to 9 more countries. Here's what's on my list:

-Iceland
-Sweden
-Finland
-Estonia
-Latvia
-Russia
-China
-S. Korea
-Australia
-New Zealand
-Brazil
-Argentina
-Chile

There's definitely more I could list, but these countries are the top places I would like to hit before my 40th. Or at least have 9 of them knocked out.

Any travel buddies to accompany me?






Wednesday, June 15, 2016

peace.

I only lived in Orlando about a total of six weeks. My time there was pretty rough, as most of you know. However, after the events of this week, I cannot imagine how people living there must be feeling right now after the tragedies that happened this week.

I wasn't really a fan of Christina Grimmie. I knew who she was because of The Voice, but I didn't really follow her or listen to her music. Yet when I heard of her tragic passing, I was in shock. The news reports said that there wasn't heightened security because of the audience she attracted. I'll be the first to admit that had I been younger, I totally would have been a fan and perhaps had gone to her concert there. You guys know I love pop music and the concerts I've attended in the past were very much like the one she did. I can't imagine having to witness that.

And then of course the shooting at Pulse. Many of my friends and students are in the LGBTQ community. As much as this tragedy shook our country and our world, my friends were shaken even more. I had friends of friends who lost someone. I had a sweet conversation with a friend and his husband who told me they hugged their family a little tighter that day. My heart breaks and every morning I have woken up with these victims' families on my mind. All I can do is pray that our sweet Heavenly Father will comfort them and they will feel the presence of the Almighty.

But this morning, I woke up to news that a little boy had been tragically attacked by an alligator at Disney World. Next to Germany, Disney is my favorite place on earth. My niece is almost 2, the same age of the little boy. I don't want to even imagine what that would be like. That poor family. It's just too much to even bear.

In each of these situations, I want to do something. But I'm helpless and the only thing I can do is sit and pray and wait. I don't know if our world will ever get better. If I rely on people and politicians to make it a better place, I know I will be very disappointed because a person cannot change an entire system. So I rely on Jesus. I rely on the Holy Spirit. I rely on the Heavenly Father. If I rely on anyone else, I'll be devastated.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

It's Been a Year and Four Months

...since I left Kandern. And I think about those kids all the time. If you're following me on Facebook, you know that I am enjoying my job and have found a whole new brood of students to call "my kiddos." But those loved ones at BFA are always on my heart and mind.

It's a different world I teach in now. Just yesterday a student left my classroom excited to tell me that her doctor wasn't going to let her carry her baby full term and she would be delivering soon. I smiled and told her I would come visit her in the hospital if time allowed. When she left, I stared at the door and started to think about my kids at BFA and how their issues were totally opposite of the ones I hear of now. I've thought about Abby and Phoebe and Hudson - the students who would be my new stars now in shows. I've thought about Liz and Abby and how when I would finish a long rehearsal on a Monday night going to their house to watch "Amazing Race" with their family. Of course I've thought of my mentor, Jen, and having spiced tea on her couch while the world passed us by outside. And the Martin family, who always "adopted" more kids and made their kitchen a safe haven for those of us who just needed to vent.

I've thought about my little green house I shared with Justina and then Christine. I've thought about the lazy Saturdays spent watching movies or endless television shows with them. I've thought about the walks to and from the grocery store and running into students or colleagues while I had on no make-up and had literally just rolled out of bed and needed to get to the store to stock up before it closed.

I've thought about Tuesday nights my first year and watching episodes of "The Bachelor" with so many people who, like me, aren't even there anymore. I've thought about road trips to Switzerland, Italy, Austria, and eastern Germany. Planning trips to countries I'd only dreamed of seeing but were then so much a part of my reality.

BFA will always be where a big part of my heart lies. I am content now, here, in Jacksonville. But so many days I wake up and wonder what's going on over there. Recent pictures make my heart smile but also I twinge a bit with jealousy because I'm not there and my life is on a completely different path now than it was in Germany.

I'm excited for everything that is happening in the future here. I do love what I do and the students I teach. But that little town nestled in the Black Forest holds so many precious people and memories that it will be hard to ever replace it.







Thursday, January 14, 2016

New Years Post...a few weeks late

Normally, I post a New Years blog a day or so after or before the New Year. It seems like everything else took a backseat (i.e. I just took my Christmas Tree down today) because the day after Christmas, I went to Kandern for a week and when I got back, jet lag and school took over my life.

How should I describe 2015? So many words come to mind. I think of the anticipation of last year starting and what I was expecting. I think of the disappointment, the heartbreak, the sadness, of what really came to be only six weeks after returning to the States. I think of the redemption and the freedom that came a few months after all of that happened. I made new friends, I became more confident in who I was as a person, and I still got to teach what I'm passionate about.

This year had more lows than highs, but looking back, the lows were overshadowed by the sweet friendships made during that time.

I love where I live now. It's a brand new apartment in a great part of Jacksonville. I can walk to the grocery store, which I love because it reminds me of living in Europe.

I miss Europe. I miss it a lot. I don't know if I'll ever get to live there again. But it holds my heart in a way nothing else does. But I know that God gives us what we need when we need it and I needed to grow up over there to flourish over here. That's kind of my thinking, anyway.

2016 I hope is a year of more growth, of more depth and understanding of my journey, and a continual realization of who I am becoming as I walk in it.

Life is nothing that I expected a year ago and I say that a lot but only because it's true. But life is never what we expect, is it?


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Eve Eve 2015

A year ago today I landed in America. A year ago today I had an excitement of something I thought was going to be my forever. I look back on that day and I used to think it was perfect. But it wasn't. There was so much uncertainty. So much forced. Nothing was real. As much as I wanted it to be real, it wasn't.

These last ten months have been the hardest I've had to endure. There are days when I wake up and forget who it was that I was in a relationship with for eleven months. Other days I wake up and my heart is so heavy and hurt that I can't help but think about it.

Last week, I was out to dinner with Taylor, Nicole, and Sammy. We were eating at Burrito Gallery, one of my favorite places here, and in the middle of a conversation. All of the sudden a song came on that was on a playlist my ex made for me when we first got together. I hadn't cried about him in a while and then out of nowhere, the tears began to flow. My friends were great in reminding me of what I'd come through and how strong I'd been and that it was OK to cry. I think that's been my biggest issue - it's OK to cry because what I went through was painful and it hurt and crying is a good thing.

You may read this and think, "Geez, you're still not over that guy?" Let me assure you - I am over him. I'm not over what he represented in my life. For eleven months I thought he was IT. I was made to believe we were on the same page until shortly before the end.

Breakups are painful. Change is painful. Transition is painful. And I went through all of those things. Being allowed to mourn shouldn't have a timeline stamped on it. It takes as long as it will take.

Today as I sit on my couch and reflect on the last year, I am so thankful for the friends I've made here in Jacksonville. They have encouraged me, believed in me, prayed for me, laughed with me, and allowed me to cry and be myself.

Happy Christmas Eve Eve