It’s day 19 [or is it 91…?] of quarantine [since I’ve gotten home from Greece] and much like everyone else, I’m bored out of my mind. 24 hours in a day. I could have [should have] picked up a new hobby, a few new skills, written pages and pages, worked out every day and tons more. What have I done? Sat on my couch and played Mario Kart. I have to admit, I’ve walked my dog a time or two each day, written a bit, applied to jobs, gone through literally everything I own to discard, donate and keep, as well as worked on my last two classes that I have work for. I still feel unfulfilled. I want to accomplish the world in these next few weeks, but I also have no motivation to do anything. I have, however, been working on a few ways to keep myself away from screens [excluding blank word documents hehe] and doing things that are in fact actually productive. Are they always working? Of course not, so I’d love to hear what you’re doing in this mess to keep your spirits high and your productivity up.
Maintaining a sleep schedule- After finally adjusting back to Central time, I knew I had to get into a sleep routine. I aim to go to bed at around 9:30 and wake up around 6:30-7. On weekends I sleep in and go to bed a bit later, but that’s the same as what I would do during work/school.
Eating at the same time each day – When I first got home, I was eating breakfast some days at 7am, some at 11am. Lunch would be at noon or 4pm. And dinner might be at 5pm or 9pm. I can’t really control dinner since everyone in my family eats at the same time. However, I can control when I eat my other two meals. I try to eat around 9am and 1:30pm and dinner is usually around 6pm. This keeps my schedule the same every day which is nice to have.
DO something creative every day- Whether it be writing, journaling, coloring a mandala, doing something creative gets me actually doing something and keeps me focused. You won’t catch me coloring outside of the lines now or anytime soon.
Moving my body – Whether I’m doing yoga, running, going for a walk, or doing an early morning HIIT workout, doing anything to get my body moving even for 15 minutes if a good day. I’m taking my dog for a few walks each day so no matter what, I’m getting myself up and at ‘em.
Getting OUTSIDE – Being in quarantine is no fun. Normally right now, I’d be wearing short sleeves walking to class, hammocking with my friends, and having coffee on the porch of my favorite coffee shop. However, I’m inside… CONSTANTLY. My walks with my dog [we get it! You have a dog] and even just taking the garbage out to the dumpster makes me remember that it’s SPRINGTIME and even if that means sitting in my backyard doing basically nothing, I still deserve to enjoy that nice springtime breeze and sunshine.
What are you doing to make these abnormal times seem a little bit more… normal?
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!!
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.
As smoothly as my mornings go, I try to keep my evenings the same. However, depending on my level of exhaustion at the end of the long school day, it makes a HUGE difference in how my evening will play out. Unlike my mornings, I don’t have set times for everything I do. Some nights I eat dinner at 4:30pm [yes I’m 85 years old] and other days I don’t eat until 8:00. It really depends on the day, what work I have, afterschool activities, etc.
Despite these time differences day to day, I do however try to do the exact same things every evening at some point no matter what time they get accomplished. For example, I get home from school and the first thing I do is hang my coat and put my bag in its place. I take my laptop out of my bag and I plug it in because most days I use at least 1/2 of the battery and I always need to come to school with it fully charged. I spend 30-45 minutes relaxing. I lay on my couch, sometimes have a little snack, watch Netflix, play on my phone, etc. Being gone for 9 hours really takes it out of you and I deserve a little time to myself just to do absolutely nothing of importance.
Every night I cook dinner, obviously [I wish I could do the same thing at home]. I aim to eat around 5:30 or 6:00 but as I said, it depends on the day. While I’m cooking, I check my planner to see what schoolwork I have to get done this evening and make a list of it or start the work while I eat.
After dinner, I do all my dishes from the day. I clean the coffee pot and get it ready for the next morning, my breakfast dishes, lunch box, dinner dishes, etc. It’s always nice to begin and end a day with a cupboard full of clean dishes and an empty sink.
Once my dishes are done I tidy up my apartment. Random shirts and pairs of shoes that I tried on that morning and didn’t want to wear are put back in their place and random tissues and pieces of plastic are thrown away.
After that, I have a nice-looking apartment that is ready for work. I sit either on my couch or at my table [or balcony when it’s not too cold] and do whatever work I have to do. Some nights I have nothing and other nights I have a bit more. On nights that I have nothing, I get to enjoy a little more Netflix, take a walk outside, or progress on my edTPA. I love walking around my city because I always find something new [and remember some sort of food that I don’t have at home and need to pick up] to see or do and it’s nice to be able to call this city my home.
At 8:30 usually, I begin getting ready for bed. I brush my teeth, take my makeup off, do my skincare routine, some nights I do a face mask, etc. I put my clean dishes away, put pajamas on, and lay in bed. I watch a bit more TV, listen to music, read, write, etc. before ideally being asleep by 9:30 so that I’m ready to wake up the next morning.
With my morning routine as well as this one, my days go a lot more smoothly. Who would have thought it would have taken me 22 years to be able to come up with something as easy as this to get me through the days?
I’ve been in Greece for 5 weeks now and the biggest thing I told myself I had to do was create a daily routine. I’m exhausted every morning before I drink my pot [yes…pot] of coffee so creating and maintaining a morning routine for my groggy half-awake self is of dire importance. I’ve got the hang of my routine and can get ready for school each day quicker and quicker and I wanted to share my routine with all of you struggling with your own routines.
5:30: My first alarm goes off. I set roughly four alarms each day [5:30, 5:40, 5:50, and 6:00] in hopes that I wake up to one of the first two and then lie awake until the 3rd one and on some days [Tuesdays and Thursdays for some reason I’m even more tired than usual] I lie in bed until 6:00.
The first thing I do after getting out of bed is turn on my coffee pot. I’ve started getting it ready the night before so that I just have to hit the power button in the morning.
Once I hear coffee dripping, I hop into the shower and get nice and warm. My apartment and Greece as a whole make no sense when it comes to temperature. I keep my apartment at 19.0 degrees [Celsius] when I sleep and 20.0 degrees when I’m awake and moving around. At night, this temperature is fine. However, in the morning, I am an icicle without warm pants, long sleeves, and socks. So, I run into that shower and enjoy a nice seven or so minutes of warmth before having to reenter the cold that is my apartment.
When I’m done showering I do my skincare routine, brush my hair, etc. so that it’s out of the way. I put clean sweatpants on [I don’t put my teaching clothes on until later in case I spill coffee and because I just want to be comfortable as I lounge around].
At around 6:30/6:40 I eat breakfast and enjoy my first cup of coffee. I turn the TV on to give me a bit of company and open the door to my balcony so I can see the sun begin rising.
7:00 Once I’ve finished breakfast as well as cup number two of coffee I prepare my lunch. My typical lunch consists of a banana, a sandwich, some crackers, and an extra piece of fruit // veggie that I eat during a break if I’m hungry. I also fill a water bottle and throw them both into my bag,
By the time 7:10 rolls around I’m usually done or almost done with my 3rd/4th cup of coffee so now it’s time to brush my teeth, put some makeup on [my eyebrows and a bit of concealer on days when my skin hates me], turn the TV off, double and triple-check that I have everything and then finally, I’m out the door and on my way to the bus stop by 7:20 to be picked up at 7:25.