I’m officially home now, not jet-lagged, and readjusting to my schedule [or lack thereof] in America. I’m stuck at home, due to the forced self-quarantine after returning from a European country and I also cannot return to school [well I can but there’s no point since no one’s there] because school has been pushed to online learning for the rest of the semester. This whole coronavirus has absolutely shit on my senior year and I just want it to be over. I’m thankful, of course, that no one I know is sick and that I have adequate food, water, etc. [and toilet paper lol] at my disposal. However, I do wish I were still in Greece, just beginning my final week of teaching.
I miss Greece, I really do. I miss every single part of Thessaloniki, my school, all of it. I miss the everyday sunshine and I miss my balcony which gave me the perfect view of every sunrise and every sunset. I miss taking the bus to school even when it came 15 minutes late. I miss all of my students and I miss teaching them and talking to them about America and home and school and their home countries and literally anything and everything in between. I miss Thessaloniki. The city was my home for over two months and even though my time there was cut short I am so very appreciative of every single thing that it gave me.
I wish I could go back today. I’d hop on the next flight out of Chicago just to do it all again. I want to say goodbye to my students. I’m still heartbroken I didn’t get to. I wish I could drink one more frappe [I bought some coffee grounds to bring home but it’s not the same as from an authentic Greek café]. I wish I could walk along the seaside, smelling the salty air, feeling the wind in my face, while basking in the glory that is Mount Olympus.
Finally, I wish I could live alone again. It sucked while I was doing it, but I learned about myself and how to take care of myself which was more beneficial than anything else on that trip. I loved my cute little studio apartment with the smallest fridge and no washing machine.
Thessaloniki, I’ll be back one day. It might not be soon, unfortunately, but without a doubt, I’ll be back to see the White Tower, the Arch of Galerius, and Aristotelous Square, all while sipping on a frappe with a mediano amount of sugar, and eating Dolmathakias.
While making my way through some new European countries, I was able to make a visit to the Netherlands, specifically Amsterdam. I’ve always loved seeing people go to Amsterdam and share photos of the beautiful architecture, the canals, and more, so I KNEW I had to visit this remarkable city.
I, of course, did the free walking tour of Amsterdam. This two and a half hour walking tour took us all around the canal belt, taking in the sites that Amsterdam has to offer. Through this tour, as always, I found places I wanted to revisit closer, as well as learned a lot. I found out that Amsterdam was built on a marsh and all of the buildings are built on top of 20-50 tree trunks that were pushed 10 meters or so into the ground. That is why a lot of the houses and buildings are basically sinking and some of the facades are leaning in all sorts of directions. In order to get this whole ordeal fixed [the government goes around weekly telling homeowners which homes need new foundations], you have to pay a mere 250,000-500,000 euros and move out of your house for roughly two years while the tree trunks are pulled up and replaced with steel beams. No wonder this country is one of the most expensive to live in. I loved visiting, but I definitely will not be moving here anytime soon.
Of all the things I enjoyed in Amsterdam, the flower market was by far my favorite. There’s something about thousands of beautiful tulips and other flowers that just gets me going. Besides the tulips and tons of other flowers at the market, there’s also bunches of souvenirs available that I had to browse through. I found a few postcards, a tulip bulb in a box, and then a man gave me some fake tulips for free. It was very beautiful and definitely a top recommendation of mine if you do visit Amsterdam.
When planning my trip to Amsterdam something that completely slipped my mind was that the Anne Frank house is in Amsterdam. On the walking tour, we walked right past it and then talked about the history of it and how tickets sell out four months in advance [so obviously I will have to return to the city because I didn’t get to enter the museum or house]. I’ve been a huge fan of the Anne Frank Diary ever since I read it as a child and felt very connected to her as well because we share a birthday, so I’ve always wanted to see the house and learn more about her life. If you are planning on going to Amsterdam and have any interest in going to Anne Frank’s house, make sure you get your ticket in advance and be sure to be respectful of everyone visiting.
The canal belt in Amsterdam is what the city is probably most famous for. Following the canal belt is an easy way to not get lost in the city because if you pick a canal and follow it, they all lead back to the main river, the Amster river. On the river as well, you can see some of Amsterdam’s most famous architecture, tons of houseboats [which cost upwards of 1,000,000 euros just to buy the spot on the water… not even the boat itself], and a hell of a lot of bikers [in the Netherlands, there are roughly 2 bikes for each person and it’s the most common mode of transportation], that yes, will hit you if given the opportunity. I loved walking along the canal belt, seeing all the birds, greenery, families on bikes and walking around, cute dogs, and of course, all the homes that were tilting every which way. I could have spent days walking along all the thousand or so canals in Amsterdam if given the opportunity.
Something that I knew but had completely slipped my mind until I arrived in Amsterdam, was the amount of marijuana that people smoke there. When the hippies arrived in the 1970s, bringing with them all sorts of drugs ranging from weed to heroine to LSD, the government knew they had to step in. They saw that some of the drugs were killing people and others weren’t, so, they made drugs that were killing people like meth and heroine illegal, and they ignored the drugs that weren’t causing death or addiction such as marijuana. So, while marijuana isn’t legal in Amsterdam, it also isn’t illegal and the police just bat an eye at people smoking, eating, and buying any weed because it’s not causing harm to anyone. “Coffee shops” in Amsterdam are the hot spots to buy marijuana and there are roughly 90 locations that are allowed to sell it. So, if that’s your thing, head to any tourist destination or a coffee shop and enjoy a bit of weed if you have time.
The English reformed church is another place that I would highly recommend visiting. Located by the Begijnhof, the English reformed church is one of the oldest buildings in Amsterdam that hundreds of secular nuns used to live in and that women still live in today. You can walk through the courtyard and admire the statues and greenery while still being considerate of those who are living there.
All in all, Amsterdam was absolutely stunning and didn’t rain at all while I was there, so I lucked out 110%. I can’t wait to go back, buy some flower seeds and a ticket to Anne Frank’s home.
Something I’ve been a stickler about recently are my routines. I’ve perfected my morning and evening routines when I was in Greece and I couldn’t be prouder. One of the biggest routines I’ve made is my skincare routine.
Gone are the days of not taking my makeup off before going to bed and washing my face only when I’m in the shower. I’ve created my foolproof, all-natural, all vegan, and all sensitive skin approved skincare routine that I do twice a day.
The first part of this routine is wash my face. At night I just use a makeup remover and my take the day off washcloth. In the mornings I use the Earth Science Creamy Fruit Oil Cleanser to wash my face. This is a very light, good scented, face wash that makes my skin glow as well as feel incredibly soft and clean. Plus, it’s great for dry and sensitive skin, both of which I have.
I next follow up with a toner. I use witch-hazel for this because it removes any leftover crap on my face as well as lighten up my skin. It keeps irritation on my face at a minimum as well as keeps my skin soft and pimple free.
I continue with rose water. I’ve been using rose water for a long long time and I think it really helps even out my skin tone. I have the reddest face usually, but the rose water keeps it toned down and a normal color. It also smells good and really perks me up in the morning.
Finally, I finish with the Everyone for Every Body Face Nourishing Moisturizer. I love the smell of this and the argan oil keeps my skin smooth and without any dry spots. I have a pretty oily T zone [thank you combination skin] so this keeps my dry skin supple but doesn’t make my oily spots unbearably oily. It’s a win-win.
I have only been using both my lotion and face wash for about a three months but I am having the best results with them both. I always struggle to choose and to maintain a lotion and face wash because my skin gets immune to them and either breaks out or remains dry. I will definitely update if I have the same effects with these but from what I’ve experienced so far, they are both working for me.
What do you use for skincare? Please tell me I love trying new things!!
Two weekends ago, I had the pleasure of traveling to Belgium for the weekend. After I found roundtrip airfare for $70 I knew I had to jump on this opportunity and take a visit. I’d never been to Belgium before, but I had a friend who visited last summer that absolutely adored the place, so I knew I had to visit if given the opportunity.
The first thing I have to say about this place, is, bring a damn umbrella. It didn’t rain on my first day, but it poured BUCKETS [after I had already styled my hair all cute to get a nice picture] so I walked around with a hat, gloves, scarf, raincoat on, but no umbrella, leaving the entire contents of my backpack soaking. Thank goodness it was my last day and I could allow my backpack to dry once I got home later that evening.
I’ve mentioned in other explore posts that I love free tours in big cities. Brussels was no exception. In Brussels, the city is divided into two parts: the upper city and the lower city. Therefore, Brussels has two free tours that run at different times of the day. The lower city is offered in the morning and the upper city is offered in the afternoon. I, of course, did both tours. The two tours combined offered everything I wanted to see in Brussels minus like two things which were kind of outside of the city, so I knew I had to do the tours. The tour guides were great, I learned a lot, and saw so many beautiful sights and got ideas for more places to go, so all in all, some pretty great tours.
If you visit Belgium, prepare to walk. Not only is the city on a damn hill but there is so much to see and it is spread OUT. Unlike some other cities like Sofia and Thessaloniki, which are cities that are in pretty close quarters, Brussels is very much all over the place which made me sure to get about 50,000 steps over the weekend. I definitely recommend gym shoes or at least shoes that you know you can do a lot of walking in. I wore some booties that I wear almost every day to school so I knew they were broken in and wouldn’t get blisters or have tired feet. Also, there are TON of beautiful parks in Brussels that you HAVE to visit. Lots of greenery, statues, fountains, and some very weird and interesting birds make for the perfect break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Belgium is known for its Belgian waffles and let me tell you, I have been so sad that I’m vegan for the sole reason of not being able to try these traditional delicious foods that everyone raves about. However, I managed to find a VEGAN, yes VEGAN, Belgian waffle restaurant and I almost cried. I knew I had to make a visit and ethically try a Belgian waffle in their home of Belgium. If I return to Brussels, I will be making another trip to #VEGANWAF. When I tell you, this was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my entire life, I’m not lying. I got one waffle [more than enough] covered in chocolate sauce. There’s something about a warm waffle and warm chocolate sauce after just coming out of the pouring rain that really just… hits different. Also, the man who worked at the place was such an angel [and thought I was from the UK for some reason] and we chatted about Greece, summer, and Brussels while I enjoyed my delicious waffle.
This is something I’m soo NOT proud of. When I’m abroad I like to eat at traditional food and drink locations and try new things. However, I’ve been missing home, I really have. And sometimes when I’m homesick, I go to Starbucks. There’s something about an after-school Starbucks run with my little sister for a lemonade with no ice and a black tea lemonade that gets me reminiscing on my home and summertime and that’s what Starbucks always makes me think of. There are no Starbucks in Greece. However, I found a Starbucks in the train station in Brussels and an almond milk latte and vegan donut were just what the doctor ordered. I immediately didn’t feel homesick at all and was ready to continue traveling. So, if you’re missing home or American coffee, Brussels has you covered.
All in all, Brussels was beautiful. I would definitely recommend taking a visit, eating as many Belgian waffles as you want, and soaking in all that the city has to offer.
Hi all, It’s my last week here in Greece and I’m feeling two emotions: I’m beyond excited to go home to see my friends, family, dog, and eat good vegan American food. I’m also devastated to leave. I love all of my students and have made great friends while I’ve been here that I don’t want to possibly never see again. However, my time in Greece, for now, is coming to an end. If a Spanish teacher job opens up at Pinewood tomorrow or next year, you know I’ll be the first to apply because these students are just a joy and I love them all very much and will miss them dearly. However, I cannot wait to go home. Living alone in a foreign country has put me through the ringer [although I’m glad to have had the experience] and I wanted to share my experience and a little bit of advice I have to people who will move to a foreign country alone at some time in the near future.
Make friends! The best thing I did while in Greece has been to make friends. Making friends for me has been easy because most of them are at the school I’m teaching at. Meet people from your work or school or whatever you’re doing abroad. If neither of these work, download Bumble and pick the Bumble BFF setting to make new friends in any city you’re living in.
Get out and explore your new home! The biggest mistake I made during my first month and a half was not exploring Thessaloniki. I would come home from school, exhausted, watch Netflix, make dinner and then go to bed. It wasn’t until I realized my time in Greece is coming to an end that I realized I didn’t know the city at all except for a few places I’d been to while meeting up with friends. Even if you just google “fun, free things to do in _______” you can find tons of things to do in your new city.
Take care of yourself. Taking care of myself has been the hardest part about living on my own. Eating a bag of chips and watching Netflix all afternoon may seem like the best idea at the time but it’s really not. Getting up on time, going to bed early, going grocery shopping, doing my dishes, and cooking myself healthy food can be hard at times but it’s important that I do it. Creating routines and putting myself first during my time here has been absolutely important and very beneficial for me as well.
My last piece of advice about my time living in Greece is just to make the most the most of your time. It’s not every day or every lifetime that you can say you lived in a foreign country, even if just for a few months. Soak in every moment, try every new experience, eat new foods, and just enjoy all the moments, good or bad, because one day you’ll be back in your home country, wishing you were still living abroad.
Hi everyone. I’m sat in a cute café in Thessaloniki overlooking the water with Mount Olympus as my view. It doesn’t get much better than this. In Greece, cafes aren’t used in the same way that they are in the US. In America, you sit down, grab a cup of coffee, and grind on any and all of the work you have for that day. In Greece, you hardly ever see someone alone with a laptop in a café. Cafes are for social gatherings after shopping, catching up with old friends, etc. So, despite the fact that I’m currently alone, I figured I would pretend I was having a chat with you all. So, grab a frappe [traditional Greek coffee], hot or iced, and let me tell you about my current life.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you I’ve submitted my edTPA. The most daunting thing for an education student, the edTPA basically determines how fit you are to be a teacher. I still have to wait for my results of course, but having it completed is definitely a HUGE weight off my shoulders.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’ve completed my application to teach in Spain next year. I’ve selected Madrid or Galicia as places where I would like to live. I’m waiting to hear back on this as well but, at least this is also completed.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you I’m being sent home from Greece. Amidst the coronavirus, my school was closed for two weeks, followed by many emails from my university and they ended up canceling all study abroad trips for the semester. I have until next Friday to head home. I am absolutely devastated. I’m actually going to miss Greece. I was very hesitant about this country when I first arrived, but I’ve come to love and appreciate everything it has to offer. I’m also going to miss all my students dearly. I want to bring them all back to America with me but I can’t and I won’t even have the opportunity to say goodbye which absolutely breaks my heart.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’m thinking about getting another tattoo. Getting tattoos in Europe is super cheap [and Greece is one of the cheapest countries to do anything in right now] and I really want to get something related to Peru, Spain, and Greece. I lived in all three of these countries during college and I think they’ve had quite an impact on me as a person. I’m not sure what I want or where, but I think that getting something to remember the fun times and things I’ve learned in each place is something I want to do. I’m thinking of having my sister draw a hand holding three flowers: a pink cantuta, a red carnation, and bears breech. These three flowers are the national flowers of the three countries that have really had a major impact on my college time.
When I first arrived in Thessaloniki, the first place I was told to visit was Sofia, Bulgaria. Just a five-hour bus ride from Thessaloniki which runs about nine times every day, Sofia is the perfect spot for a close and cheap, weekend getaway.
I will be honest, I don’t think I’d ever heard of Bulgaria before coming to Greece and if I had, I had no idea where it was on a map. This once communist country turned capitalist less than 50 years ago and hasn’t looked back since. Filled with history of the Ottoman empire, Roman empire, Turkish, Jewish, Muslim, Communist times, and more, there is enough history in this city to keep you there for weeks. Unfortunately, I only had roughly 48 hours to soak it all in.
I stayed on the outskirts of the city center which in many cities can mean long walks to any location you want to go to. In Sofia, on the other hand, it means anything in the city center you want to see is 15 or less minutes walking.
My first recommendation is to take the Free Sofia Walking Tour. This tour runs 3 times a day [4 in the summer] and hits over 20 of Sofia’s hottest spots. I did this walking tour on Sunday morning at 11am. I would have done the 6pm tour the night before but I wanted to see everything in daylight. Whenever I go to a new city I always check to see if they have a walking tour and try to do it the first day I arrive. This gives me the chance to see all the big sites, get to know my way around, and make a list of everything I still want to do on my trip.
Before I arrived in Sofia, I looked up all of the must-see sights when I visited. Only 3 of the sights I wanted to see weren’t on the walking tour, so I checked those out when I arrived on Saturday. I took a stroll down Vitosha Blvd [called this because you can see Vitosha mountain when walking on it] which is filled with restaurants, high-end shops, and more. I refrained from buying anything other than a snack because I wanted to save my money for the next day if I stumbled upon anything before during or after my walking tour that I had to have that wasn’t some designer piece I could [if I had the money haha] buy anywhere.
The sun set at about 5:45 so I made it back to my Airbnb at around 6pm to avoid getting lost in the dark. I made myself some pasta for dinner, wrote a bit, and then watched the one English channel on the TV. It was called Fine Living which turned out to mix of HGTV and TLC but from the mid 2000s. Still, I enjoyed a bit of TV in a foreign country as well as relaxing after my long day of travel and walking around.
Sunday morning, I watched the sunrise from my Airbnb, packed my bag up and was out the door for my walking tour. I left earlier than I needed to so that I had the chance to walk around Vitosha again and grab breakfast. I found this cute place called Vitamin C. they had a variety of [vegan!!!] smoothies, juices, homemade health bars, etc. I opted for this sunflower seed and peanut butter bar which was delicious as well as the Raspberry bomb smoothie which had the obvious of raspberries paired with lime, avocado, mango, spinach, and coconut milk. My only critique you may ask: NO ICE. I don’t know what it is about Europeans having such a stick up their ass about ice cubes, but they do. Still, my room temperature smoothie was delicious, and I’d definitely go again. After this, I stumbled upon a souvenir shop where I bought a few postcards and some rose soap [something Bulgaria is known for] before continuing my stroll to the Palace of Justice, where the tour commenced.
For roughly two and a half hours, I walked around Sofia with a group of 20 or so other foreigners and Dino, our tour guide. He took us to all of Sofia’s historic sites and enlightened us on the grand history of Sofia and all of Bulgaria. He gave us recommendations on food, sites, museums, and more, as well as a good time during the tour. I got to see every aspect of Sofia that I’d wanted to and by the end of the tour could maneuver the city like a pro. After the tour, I had a few hours before my bus left for Thessaloniki, so I grabbed a cup of coffee from Costa coffee, a Bulgarian favorite, and continued my walk through the various parks and monuments that I wanted to revisit or didn’t get as close to as I’d wanted during the tour.
All in all, Sofia stole my heart. Every other building is yellow [including the palace turned history museum, the Starbucks, and every other building I took a photo of], I lucked out with a beautiful weekend of sunshine and 60 degree weather [in FEBRUARY], and I enjoyed the best tap water I’ve ever had while embracing a 7000 year-old city and all it had to offer.
Have you ever been to a Balkan country? Which one?
Eep! I’ve officially been in Greece for two months! It’s crazy to me that I have one month more and then I head home and then I’ll head back to school for graduation. Honestly, I can’t wait to go home. Greece has kicked my ass and honestly, all I want is to be home, eating Chipotle and drinking Gatorade while cuddling my dog.
I got the flu [the entire school and I believe it was actually coronavirus that we all had because it was more similar with that than the flu so… I survived the coronavirus 😉 ] and kept my fever and cough for about a week and a half after. I completely lost my appetite which meant I was eating one meal a day which left me absolutely exhausted and going to bed at 6pm each night [and still waking up at 6:30 the next day just as exhausted as the day before]. Greece sucks when it comes to having comfort flu food. All I wanted [needed] was an orange popsicle and a yellow Gatorade and honestly, I think I would have been cured [my grandma always gave me popsicles and my dad gave me Gatorade when I was little and sick, and they worked like a charm]. Alas, Greece has neither [at least the nearest grocery store to me doesn’t which is the only place I could walk to when I was dying] so I had to settle for blue Powerade and quite possibly the worst strawberry popsicle smoothie thing that I’ve ever eaten.
My computer crapped out on me. My sweet MacBook is almost five years old and I knew she was on her last leg. Every time I turn my laptop on I do a small little prayer in my head that all is well and that she lives to see another day. A few weeks ago [right in the middle of my edTPA mind you] I turned my laptop on, and my keyboard and trackpad did not work. Only the power button worked. I turned it on and off countless times before shedding a tear that half my life and my entire edTPA was on that computer. Somehow, three days later, I turned the computer on again, and it worked. It’s been hit or miss each day but most days but usually, after shutting it off and turning it back on five or so times, I have a fully functioning computer and can get some work done. I would go try to get this checked out, but, with the lack of Greek I’ve acquired, I without a doubt could not manage in an electronic repair shop.
Finally, school is just hard. I love all of my students [they are the only reason I wouldn’t want to leave Greece if I’m being honest] and they love me as a teacher which is the sweetest thing but I’m having trouble with a few adults at the school that I’d really prefer not to mention specifically just in case somehow someone from my school sees it. Working with adults is harder than working with children and I’ve decided that department meetings will be harder than actually teaching in my future because adults are just so damn stubborn and close-minded and NOT open to change.
I’m currently focusing all of my energy on getting through the next month unscathed and unstressed.