Monday, June 29, 2015

Culture Shock 2

I got a culture shock about shoes.
When I went to America's house, I was surprised because American wear shoes in the house. In korea, when I enter in my house, I have ot take off shoes or I can wear indoor slipper. But American can wear shoes in house nevertheless outdoor shoes. I was thought house's floor have to clean because I often laid down and sat everywhere in house. Thus I didn't understand when they are didn't take off shoes in house and I was uncomfortable even though I sat on the chair. Now my feel is more comfortable than before. I wear shoes in my room however I can't wear outdoor shoes. I just wear indoor shoes.

Cultural Shock 1

When I walked everywhere, Americans always say 'Hi' or 'How are you?' I heard first time, I was really embarrassed, because Korea doesn't have this culture. In korea, I have never spoken with stranger. So I thought why are they saying hello? I don't know who is she or he. Also, when I was eye contact with someone, someone smiled me.
For a long time I didn't adapt that culture, so I avoided saying hello and eye contact.
But now I can say 'Hello' and 'How are you?' when I meet stranger on the way or market.

Interesting cultural observation1

When i went to church in Atlanta, i was surprised because one of American culture. It is clapping hands and stand up. I saw a lot of time that if they are moved or heard great sentence. Sometimes I clapped hands but, American people is more than me and they don't shy. I usually be shy if i do something alone. I think, we have different minds so, i felt different things. Perhaps, other students too. If we have same situation in my country, we just seat chair during clap hands and don't shout. It is my Interesting cultural observation.

Culture shock1

I don't know why i pay tip if i eat food in restaurant because we don't have tip culture. So, I felt to begrudged because minimum tip's percentage is 15%. I still don't  understand. I heard why America has tip culture because salary is so cheap and waiter get tip. Before, I think, boss get all tips but, worker get tips. It is interesting but, I don't like that. Maybe, I will be adapted soon. That is my first culture shock.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Cultural Shock 2

Culture Shock 2

 Why does the American prefer a darker skin? In Asia, especially Korea, most people want to get more bright skin than what they have now. So they usually do make up that they looks white.
Asian think a white skin makes them that they looks more pretty and they are more girlish. But American think a darker skin makes them that they are healthy and strong and also attractive. When i went to store such as Sephora in America, i could see they have a lots of different colors of make up items. Before i came here, i prefered to get a white skin. But now i realized i couldn't get a white skin. So i decided to buy more nutural colors of base item.

Culture Shock 1



Culture Shock 1

 When i visited my American friend's house, sometimes i could get a small culture shock. I know that most American raise a pet. But even they raise their pets inside of the house, they don't wash their pets. Of course, they will wash their pets someday. But i have never seen that they wash their pets so far. I think one of the biggest reason is they don't have to take off their shoes when they go in their house. So they care about their pet's cleanness less than Korea. Few months ago, i visited my friend's house. That time i was so uncomfortable because of their pets. Wherever i sat, i could see a lot of fur.
After that, i kept thinking about the culture. Now i totally understand culture is different and sometimes difference is depending on personality.

Paris Round One

Walking into the airport, Rachel pointed to the planes and random objects out the window saying "France". Everything was France. We were in FRANCE. The airport is far outside of the city center, so our first instinct was to leave and go to the city. We bought a metro ticket and got on  line 6. We figured we could get breakfast, walk around, and find a hostel. Like it was that easy. We decided to get off at Notre Dame. We might as well see a huge landmark right away. After we looked at the outside of the Cathedral, we decided we should probably find a hostel.

We walked around the area for an hour or so.
All we found were a few hotels with huge price tags. We were a few streets away from the commercial part of the Notre Dame area, but we didn't know that then. Feeling defeated, we went into a Starbucks to use wifi. It wad painstakingly slow. In fact, my iphone never truly connected to it. Rachel's worked fine, but hostel websites wouldn't let us pay on a phone very well. So, with all of our stuff on a large wooden table in the middle of the coffee shop, we began to unpack my backpack to get to my laptop. We looked rough with our plane hair and we hadn't slept all night (considering that it was the morning in Paris). My laptop was a huge help. The wifi still crept along slower than a turtle, but we found some good options for the nights we would be in Paris. We weren't going to be homeless! We found a pretty cheap hostel called St. Christopher's. It had amazing reviews. So we got back on the metro, got off on the right stop and wandered around the area for another hour. We were on the right street, but after walking up and down it for a while I worried that we would still be homeless, not being able to use wifi to find a new place. We had already paid, so we looked harder. Once we went to the end of the street and kept going, we found Belushi's Bar. St. Christopher's was right above it. Success!


As soon as I entered, I knew we were in the right place. There were plenty of other young travelers and all of the people running the hostel were American or British with a few French speakers. The people were so nice and the rooms had everything we needed. We were in a mixed dorm every night, but we had to switch rooms since we were making our reservations so late. That first night, we ate downstairs in the bar/restaurant. I ate the most American meal my first night in Paris: Burger and Beer. Oh well, I had two months to get some real French food in. Once I got to the room, I locked my stuff up in the lockers under the bunk beds and fell right asleep. I didn't wake up until morning.
The first real day went spent in Paris was mainly made up of a free walking tour that St. Christopher's recommended. We went with a bunch of other people at the hostel. We all rode the metro to the St. Michael fountain where the free tour began. We had a really awesome tour guide who showed us all around Pairs. We saw the Louvre, French Gardens, and the start of the Champs Elysee. After the tour, we went on further. We walked the entire Champs Elysee and made it to the Arc de Triomphe.

Arc de Triomphe Day 2 in Paris
Then, after miles and miles of walking, we headed back to our hostel. After checking back into the hostel and retrieving our luggage from the lockers in the basement, we left our stuff in our new room and headed back out again! This time we went closer to the Siene River and bought a boat tour through Paris. Our hostel gave us a good deal on it and it was worth every Euro. Before we boarded the boat, we bought chicken and cheese paninis and I also got a strawberry and Nutella crepe. The boat was very nice and the weather was perfect. I ate dinner as we passed the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, and the most beautiful bridges I had ever seen. The lights from the city reflected over the water and made the atmosphere so beautiful. Seeing Paris from the river (as well as finally being able to sit down) was extraordinary. We left around 9 pm (21:00) when the sun was low in the sky.

When our boat turned around just before arriving at the modern buildings of Paris, the sky lit up.
The Eiffel Tower at night seen from the boat tour at the end of Day 2
Every color was visible in the sky thanks to the ever-present clouds over Paris, and the Eiffel Tower had just begun to sparkle (every hour or so, extra lights lit up the tower for people to enjoy at night). The tower also had a rotating light at the top that mimicked a lighthouse.

I suggested grabbing a bottle of wine and sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower to watch the lights up close. The field in front of the tower was full of Parisians and tourists who had the exact same idea. Everything was perfect that night expect for the street "merchants" who came up to everyone on the lawn trying to sell beer, wine, or champagne. This would have been tolerable if they weren't so frequent, persistent, and loud! Overall, though, the Eiffel Tower at night was a great experience. The next morning we were off to the Catacombs.




Cuckoo in Triberg...7 Days Left in Dortmund

yep thats right, i only have a week left in Dortmund!  then its off to Finland for a week, traveling with my mom for a ladies week, then ending our tour of Europe with a family trip.  everyone told me it would go by really fast, but of course you never listen.  this has been the fastest 5 months of my life!  i have seen so much, learned a ton, gained experiences i will never forget, and grown so much.

i am sad, but happy for what i have done, but ill save the sappy stuff for a later post!

recently my school in Essen went on a field trip to Barcelona and so i got a week off i was not planning on having!  I started it off by going to Dresden to see Milky Chance in concert... it was totally worth it! i had a blast and collected/found enough beer cups afterward to pay for a shirt ;) thank goodness for that euro back idea!
this night i slept happily on a bench in the train station and eventually got home 10 hours later with five different trains...ehh it was still worth it!

after a day or two of rest, i was off to Heidelberg then Triberg in the Black Forest.  In Heidelberg i did the main things in a days work.  It was so small and very touristy.  So many americans!  i also ran into Mario Kissel who studied abroad at Maryville College at the Heidelberg Castle!! Such a small world!

next morning: on the train to Triberg!
Triberg has Germany's highest waterfalls (which you expect to be huge........) hiking trails, cuckoo clocks, gnomes, and more cuckoo clocks.  I spent the day hiking all around in the forest, and for once i felt at home and in my element. i saw the waterfalls, The House of 1000 Cuckoo Clocks, and the world's largest Cuckoo Clock.  I literally have never seen so many dang awesome clocks!!

It was great to explore Germany more!  Now im off to pack up my room :(  ughh ill write soon!

The Start


Rachel and I decided to fly to France a few days early. We were already going to be in Paris on our way to Chambery, so we left three days before we had to be at school. Unfortunately, the Friday before our travel day (Monday) I got sick. I had chills, a headache, and a cough. The entire way to Atlanta to catch the plane I was bundled up in the car sleeping the whole way. When we arrived in ATL we went to Ikea for dinner and because Rachel had never been. We shopped around and ended up making a huge purchase totaling $0.99 for a reusable shopping bag. This simple bag actually ended up  helping me in countless scenarios.

In France, grocery stores do not offer bags. Well, they really do, but they cost money. After Ikea we headed straight to our hotel. We were situated next to the airport so it was very convenient for the morning. Before I passed out on the bed, I had to pack. I know. I waited until the night before I left for Europe to pack my final bag. Not to mention, I was only bringing a carry-on which means that much more thought had to go into the decision making process since I was limited to a 9in X 14in X 22in backpack and a small purse. I spent the next hour and a half narrowing my clothing choices down from 7 dresses to 3, 15 shirts to 9, 5 skirts to 3 and so on. My clothes were the only problem I had with space. I finally put everything in my backpacking backpack and pulled the tightening straps as hard as I could. My bag had fat rolls all over, but after all my work, it was exactly the right size. Honestly, I have no idea what I would have done if it was too big.

After I had my things all ready to go (complete with a giant Ikea bag of clothes to bring back home), I fell right asleep. My mom, Rachel, and I woke up early the next morning, went to breakfast at the hotel, and then my mom drove us over to the airport. Even now, it had not hit me that I was going to spend my summer in Europe. We arrived at the train that takes travelers into the actual airport. Atlanta, after all, is an enormous international airport with separate buildings for international/domestic traveling. I did not know this at the time. My mom said goodbye at the base of the stairs to the train platform. She was about to get emotional, but held it together. I was feeling too sick to think about anything but my queen sized bed at home with all the fluffy pillows I could ask for. All I wanted to do was lay down.

As soon as my mom left, it finally hit me. I was going to be all alone in Europe. I had never traveled this far without an adult. I have been to big cities, other countries, and even Europe before. But at that moment, my past experience didn't seem to matter. It felt inapplicable to the challenges that were right in front of me. If I felt this way in Atlanta, how did I plan to tackle Paris? I couldn't believe my study abroad adviser, my parents, and my friends thought I was ready to travel all around Europe on my own...with one bag of stuff! How could they let me do this? These were the first thoughts of panic I had. Of course, I knew that these thoughts were mostly irrational so I put one foot in front of the other headed towards the airport. We went up the stairs and met the first challenge of the metro even though we were only using the airport transportation. We had to figure out which train went the direction we needed to go and also what stop to get off on. When we got on the train, I remember holding onto the pole in the center of the train with just my backpack and a my purse feeling like I was homeless. Afterwards, I realized this was probably because I was going to Paris three days early with no hostel booked. I was homeless, essentially. At least for the first three days. And, if for some reason we didn't make it to Chambery before 8 pm the first night of the program, no one would be available to pick us up and show us to our apartment. I tried to put all of those thoughts out of my head and focus on navigating the airport. As I said before, it was huge. We followed the signs and were able to check in easily using a kiosk. Next to the kiosk was the carry-on bag size example. I nervously took off my backpack and tried to place it into the compartment. At first the angle was off, so I just sat on top of the metal bars. An instant wave of panic and fear shot through my body. I lifted it up and tried again. It fit perfectly, straps and all. I may have had an inch in each direction to spare. I was so grateful for the paper measuring tape I found at Ikea as well as my backpack's tightening straps.

Next challenge: security. The line was pretty short. Then we got up to the conveyor belt and saw the sign: all laptops must be taken out.  Even though I had actually looked up the laptop rules, TSA decided not to follow them. My laptop was in a an approved case and was supposed to be able to stay in my bag. So, I spent
a flustered 5 minutes (which is a long time to struggle in line at security) opening my carefully packed backpack to free my laptop. Rachel had to come back and hold the backpack while I pulled up on the case. I felt so stupid for not putting my laptop in my purse where it could be easily removed. Besides that little inconvenience, security was a breeze. I even got away with bringing an extra bottle or two of shampoo outside of my single quart sized bag of liquids. We meandered through the airport until we found our gate. Then we sat down and charged our phones. My back hurt from the weight of my stuff. I know that it didn't weigh very much, but it was more than my school backpack weighed and I wasn't used to it.

Rachel and I used Buddy passes through Delta for our airplane tickets. This essentially means that they are deeply discounted, but we were on stand-by for a flight. We didn't know if we would get on the first plane, or the second, or even any flight at all (although this outcome was very unlikely given that we had three days extra just in case). The first flight started to board right on time. Within ten minutes of the announcement to begin the boarding process, my name was called, then Rachel's. We were surprised. When we got to the desk the flight attendant said there were three spots left and one was in business class. She offered that seat to seat one of us. We looked at each other for an uncomfortable moment, but then immediately proceeded to play rock-paper-scissors for the seat, best 2/3. We attracted some attention from nearby travelers and even got some laughs. Rachel won. Oh, well. I was happy to  be on the first flight! Unlucky for Rachel, though, the attendant realized that another stand-by traveler would get the business class seat over us for whatever reason --maybe he was a frequent flyer or some other reason.

The good news was that  we were able to sit together. We boarded the plane after they printed our boarding passes right at the desk. Our seats were in the middle "column" of the plane and in the very back. The only issue I had was that we could not see a single window. But that didn't matter because I ended up watching the rest of season 4 of  Downton Abbey the whole way. Delta has such a nice plane. They had tv screens on the back of every chair that were loaded with all of these brand new movies, music, tv shows, and games. I couldn't believe it. Where were the days of straining your neck to see a cut off screen three seats in front of you? And we had options to choose from. The movie wasn't determined ahead of time for all passengers. I guess I haven't flown overseas for a while. I enjoyed all these upgrades. The flight was also the first time I heard French spoken (as a secondary language, though). I tried to sleep on the plane, but it didn't work. By hour 5 I was getting uncomfortable and cold even with the little red Delta blanket. The rest of the flight was uncomfortable because I could't sleep. It really messed with my jet lag even more. Finally, at 6 am we arrived at CDG.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

You Gotta Hold On or It's Gonna Slip, Slip, Slip Through Your Hands

I reconnected with an old friend this last week.

It's funny that it took an ocean between us to remind me how much they meant to me.

It's opened my eyes. A lot. On what really matters, what rage and resentment do to you when you let them fuel you for so long, what forgiveness really is. Reconnecting with them has helped me to let go of so much anger I didn't know I had been holding on to. Not just towards them, but towards a lot of people in my life.

Everyone tells you forgiveness isn't for them, it's for yourself. Turns out that's the damn truth.

The Woman in Red
That's been one of the best parts of my week, since I've spent the last seven days miserably sick. Just as the Prague Quadrennial festival began, I had to go and catch a stupid bug. BUT I have still gone to the festival as much as I can and I have seen the most amazing, ridiculous things.

Of all the performances I've seen for the PQ, the one I loved the most was a walking tour at 7:00 am. We all wore headphones and listened to ominous music while following a man, a young boy carrying a bag of water, a woman in a white tattered wedding dress and a woman in a long, flowing red dress. We followed them across the Charles Bridge, down the river, across another bridge to a small island in the middle of the Vltava River. We occasionally stopped and watched them dance or fight with one another. When we reached the edge of the island, the woman in red took my arm in hers and led me to the little boy. This whole time I hadn't realized his bag of water had a fish in it. He released the tiny fish into the river and we all looked out at the sunrise on the river. It was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever experienced.

The PQ has not been this phenomenal the entire time. Some performances have left me feeling confused and bizarre. But I have learned something from every single show I've seen, whether it's a new lighting technique or an innovative set design. Watching theatre isn't just fun for me. I'm taking notes and learning with every single cast and crew.

Releasing his fish into the river
I have also just started my third theatre gig in Prague. That's right, THIRD! This is an outside company renting Prague Shakespeare Company's space. This one is not for internship hours (since it's not PSC). I'm doing this for experience and my resume. I'm actually not stage managing. I walked into this show with the intention of helping the lighting designer hang/focus lights. What I've done so far has included rearrange ALL the seating, hang/focus lights, (watched someone else) figure out the sound board, plug in and secure electrical props, but mostly I've just watched and learned from the lighting designer. He's the same person that directed my first production Shiner. He has taught me some pretty kickass ways to manipulate lights (like what to do when you don't have a gobo and need your light to mimic a cell window or how to create your own barn door).

In my internship class, I had to give a presentation on my internship. I talked about PSC, their mission and the work they do. I also talked about what I've done for my internship and how I've gotten theatre gigs since. My teacher was incredibly impressed (which made me feel great). He asked me, "So are you staying longer for these jobs?" I told him all these gigs are temporary and being completed in the time I'm here.

Then he asked, "If your internship offered you a full-time job, would you stay?"

What a question! I didn't know how to answer. I stumbled on my words and said, "I don't know. I mean, of course, yes! It's Prague, and I have jobs here, and I love it here! But relocating and visas and money..." And friends and family and the degree I still haven't finished yet...
Sweet Tea and Pecan Pie in the works
It's terrifying and exhilarating thinking about the potential Prague has for me if I ever relocated here. I don't know what I want to do for my career anymore, let alone with the rest of my life!

I love theatre, I love Prague. But I'm homesick. I made sweet tea and a pecan pie yesterday I was so homesick.

Wish Upon a Moon
And I'm not a spontaneous person.

Well, I wasn't until I got here. I've been incredibly spontaneous since I've come to Prague. In fact, last week I got a tattoo. It's a red moon behind my ear (as a reference to my first show here Shiner).

So I suppose no matter what I do, or where I go, I'll always have a bit of Prague with me right behind my ear.




Saturday, June 20, 2015

Every Ending Is a New Beginning



 I haven't written in a few weeks and I kinda of regret it. I guess I just got so caught up in the madness that was finals, Maddie's arrival and saying goodbye to some of the most amazing people that I have ever had the honor to meet. Everyone talks about studying abroad as a life changing experience, blah blah blah. I chose MC and even my major with the knowledge and excitement to study abroad. It has been something that I have been looking forward to since I was young, but as I sit here trying to sum it up, I am at a loss for words.

I can't recount the number of nights that we have sat in the park, or in a piso in the last weeks, grasping at the moments that we knew were our last together. Despedidas in la ciudadela, final juevinxos, fiestas to thank our mentors who became our friends, and nights that turned into mornings being silly, and being together.  My last month of memories are some of the ones that I will hold closest to my heart when I reflect on this semester in the years to come.

I spent a lot of the last month being sentimental and crying (is anyone really surprised?) because I honestly can't describe how unfair it all seems. To some people I talked about how it's un-fathomable at the start of an experience like this to think that in a few short months you can make friends who change and shape you and who you know you will meet again some day. I think the worst part is knowing that nothing will ever be the same as this experience.

When you leave home for college, your home, your parents, and even many of your friends will always be in that place. Next year when I graduate MC, I am confident that there will be homecomings, reunions, and times when many of us will gather in the foothills of Chilhowee and even if only for a short time, it will be like old times. But I have now left Pamplona, and at any given time in the rest of my life, the entire group that became my family, that took me in, and that loved me, will never be in the same place at once  and a city that I have loved will feel slightly empty and a little wrong without all of "my people".


My last night in pamplona I remember laying in bed and thinking "there is a kind of permanence in this moment, the end is not near, it is here".  Even if this is the end though, I know that every ending creates new beginnings and that's what I'm doing now. As I sit here, on a train en route to Amsterdam with one of my best friends in the world, I am nothing short of thrilled for the month and a half ahead of me. Our travel itinerary is extensive and will make this summer one of the best of my entire life. I can't wait to see new parts of the world and to explore so many new cities with Maddie and what's even better is now we have people all over to visit and to meet up with.

Our journeys will take us North, East, and South before we finally head west over "the pond" but even the idea of that is exciting. I can't wait for the year ahead and to meet up with all of my friends and family. It's a bittersweet feeling, but I know that all parts of life really are part of a circle and my circle and my heart just continue to grow. I have learned that your heart is never full, that there is always room for new people, but that no matter where or who you leave, part of them is always with you. I may have come to the end of #mividaenpamplona but be certain that I am loving #livinlavidaeuropea and that next year I will take on being a senior with full force, a new mindset, and greater passion for life.

Besos y hasta Sanfermin,

Brittany

Monday, June 15, 2015

Spring Break Pt. 5: Corfu, Greece

The three of us with a dinner of local
feta cheese, bread, olive oil and wine.
My last stop for spring break and the place that I was most excited for was Corfu, Greece. My roommates, Julie and Sophie, and I had rented a house along with four other Americans from our school for nine whole days. The place was a five minute walk down a hill to the beach, and we had the best view of the whole town and the stars from our huge back patio. The moment we arrived that evening, Sophie and I hurried to the patio to soak in the stars, which we hadn’t seen in months. I had no idea who much I missed seeing them every night. The instant I sat back to take them in, I felt like my soul was being cleansed.
I went to bed super excited to explore the town but woke up a lot less excited. Because the temperature was so beautiful and we were right on the ocean, we decided to open all the windows to fall asleep to the crashing waves.  During the night a buncha mosquitoes got in through the screen cracks and found us while we were sleeping. Everyone was mostly just itchy in the morning, but I woke to discover I was unfortunately allergic to these specific mosquitoes.  I had giant bumps the on my arms, hands, and face. My forehead was so swollen and I couldn’t bend a few of my fingers where the bugs had got me.  It was pretty painful and I looked like Quasimodo, but I didn’t let it get me down.
Sweet Bobby and I
Thank god these glasses were big
enough to cover my wonky eye
Corfu town
The neat-ass ship wreck
Our first days were spent walking around Corfu and making friends with a local dog we called Bobby. He followed us everywhere and made everything better.  The water was a still a bit cold so we spent a good amount of time drinking wine in the sand during the day. We rented cars and drove to the most beautiful cove where the water was crystal clear. This was my favorite day. It’s strange how you come to miss normal things like riding in cars when you’re away from home for so long. We took a bus into Corfu town and ate some delicious moussaka followed by authentic baklava. Sophie and I went exploring and found an old ship wreck with Bobby, then climbed our way up a mountain by an overgrown eerie path. We ate a ton of gyros. My roommate got sun poisoning. We spend a night painting ocean rocks at a quirky local bar called Robin's Nest owned by a Chicago native. I got bitten by a mosquito near my eye and swelled up like Quasimodo then got bitten on my lip a few nights later and looked like I participated in the Kylie Jenner challenge. It felt so good to be in warm weather I spent a lot of days just sitting outside coloring in a cool as hell coloring book I got in Belgium.
Besides not having a worry in the world for nine days, one of my favorite things about Corfu (probably Greece in general) was how incredibly welcoming the people are. The first morning, we walked to one of the local grocery stores for breakfast. As we chatted to the owner/cashier she handed all three of us handmade olive oil soap right off the shelf as a kind gesture for our stay. That night we went out to buy a few bottles of wine and also had a nice conversation with the owner/cashier at a different store. As we were checking out he walked over an aisle, grabbed a big bag of peanuts, and handed them to us. He said, “I have a daughter your age and if she were drinking I would want her to eat these too.” The world would be a better place if it took a clue from the people of Corfu.            

This last stop for spring break was the perfect relaxing end to a hectic three weeks of country hopping. 

Spring Break Pt. 4: Stockholm

Oh, Swedish candy, how I miss thee
After a quick plane and train ride from Belgium, the four of us arrive in Stockholm, Sweden. The weather is unfortunately cold and cloudy (I don’t know why I expected anything else from Sweden), so we plop down in the station to wait for Mama’s son, Hans, to pick us up. While waiting, we transfer our money into Kroner (a strange switch, as $1 is equivalent to around 7 kroner) then discover my favorite thing about Sweden, the candy. So much weird candy and in all different shapes and sizes and colors. There are so many to pick from and because I have an insatiable sweet tooth, I blindly fill my arms and head to the register. Apparently salted licorice flavored candy is a big thing over there (gag me), but my favorite uniquely Swedish candy I discovered were little, chewy marshmallow bits covered in sour sugar.

Hans arrived shortly and we headed out. We only had two full days in the city, so our time was spent frantically exploring as much as we could. We hadn’t packed clothes warm enough for the weather and for a day and a half it was pouring rain. We were freezing, wet, and exhausted, but at least we saw as much of the city as possible. We went to the Vasa Museum and Skansen open-air museum, passed the ABBA museum, saw the Parliament House and the Royal Palace, and wandered through the old city. It was beautiful and historical, but it was here that I realized I’m not super interested in visiting big cities from around the world (or maybe it was just the blistering cold), either way, the country side is where it’s at. I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience a tiny bit of Swedish culture, but I’m even gladder I got to eat a ton of Swedish candy.



Spring Break Pt 3: Amsterdam

Amsterdam poster children
Early Wednesday morning the four of us said bye to Mama and hopped on a train for a short ride from Herentals, Belgium to Amsterdam, Holland. The trip only took around 4 hours and because the train gave us a wonderful view of the Netherland’s country side, I didn’t mind a bit of it. When we arrived around 12, there was no kind of passport check or security stop from country to country, which was a strange concept to me though made traveling a breeze. We lugged our backpacks on and after an interesting 45 minute walk through the bike infested streets and canals of the city center, we made it to our marijuana scented youth hostel. The name of the place is the Flying Pig Uptown (which is conveniently located right next to the beautiful Vondelpark). This establishment is easily one of the coolest places I have ever been in my life. There are abstract murals all over the walls depicting different musical legends, the bar downstairs serves White Russians by the pitcher, mellow electronic music pulses through the lobby, and the host, sporting waist-length dreadlocks, comes to greet us from the smoking room.

Smart shops errryyy where
I absolutely loved the leaning houses
 surrounding the canals.
 I had been in Amsterdam for about an hour now and it was already one of my favorite places in the world. The city is clean and historic, the canals are beautiful, everyone rides bikes everywhere, “coffee shops” are a-plenty, the weather is mild and the people are happy. We spent the next 3 days visiting the Van Gough museum (which was pricy, but amazing), dodging traffic on rented bikes, exploring Vondlepark, chillin’ in coffeeshops, sightseeing on a canal tour, hitting up the sex museum, and hanging out with other travelers from our hostel. It was a bit of change of pace going from quiet dinners with 80-something year old Mama, to nights out in the “Fun Capitol of the World.” Amsterdam was for sure a trip I will not soon forget.
gotta get that canal pic


Spring Break Pt. 2: Belgium

All of us with Mama
We arrived late Wednesday night after a trying day of traveling to a warm, home-cooked meal by Sophie’s “Mama.” (Back in the day, Sophie’s mother studied abroad in Belgium during high school and Marieke was her host mom. Since then everyone’s affectionately called her Mama. She was so gracious as to host us for a week while we traveled around the little country.) We scarfed down the delicious spaghetti then had one of the best night’s sleep.
Antwerp train station
For our week in Belgium, we made it a point to explore a different city every day. With only short train rides, we made it to Gent, Antwerp, Brussels, and Bruges.  I had breakfasts of Belgium beer and waffles and lunches of world famous frites and Belgium chocolate. We saw Manneken Pis, the red light district, the Museum of Modern Art, the Delirium Lounge Café, and an old castle that is home to Gent’s torture museum. I watched world famous Belgian lace being hand made, and we took a canal tour through the old town of Gent. All the Belgian cities had a wonderful relaxed feel and beautiful architecture. It was amazing to be able to explore so much of what this country had to offer in such a short amount of time (something a bit more difficult to do in such a huge country like the US.)

Manneken Pis street art
Sophie reppin' that Belgian lyf
This trip was busy and exhausting. I enjoyed the train rides and amazing food, but my favorite part of Belgium, by far, was being able to come home to a home cooked meal by Mama. Mama is a widow and her kids have long grown up and moved off to start families of their own, so she’s been on her own for years now. She enjoyed having her house filled with us kids as much as we appreciated spending time with her, listening to her stories of growing up in Belgium in the 1940s and 50s while feasting on delicious traditional meals like brats with spinach mash. Her generosity, cooking, quirky personality, and stories are what made this trip.
The satisfied look after our first official Belgian waffle 





So Many Places to Call Home

"It's not that we want to go anywhere. We're all just trying to get away from somewhere we don't want to be anymore."

SCENE ONE:

My roommate left. Without a word. I came home one night and she was already asleep. When I woke up there was a note explaining that one of her loved ones wasn't doing well and she was returning to the states. I went to her room and  two Koruna on the floor were all that was left.

It was an eye opener to me, truly, to have her leave. I realized how scary this is, that I'm here, thousands of miles away from my loved ones. I just found out that two of my dearest friends have set their wedding date to July, before I get home. I suppose in a lot of ways I forgot that life keeps going, even when I'm not there to watch it happen.


SCENE TWO:

I have officially stage managed two shows now. The first one was for my internship, Prague Shakespeare Company. I stage managed the play Shiner. I met some of the best people I'll ever meet through that show, including the playwright who flew from Los Angeles to see it. The play is about two thirteen year olds dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts, finding solace in music. The show connected with me on so many levels. I think it did with most of the audience.

A prop (pre-paint) I built for Shiner. Lugging this lumber through
Old Town was a sight to be seen

There's a quote in the show at one point that I'll never forget.

Jake screams at Margot, "Where did you go?!"

She tells him, "I got scared."

I've been trying to deal with losing people in my life a lot recently. So many times I've wanted to ask, "where did you go?" I think the answer is the same every time, no matter the circumstance. They got scared.

I got scared too. Of a lot of things. Of where my life was going back home. So I jumped on a plane and flew to Europe!

I don't think anyone actually wants to go anywhere. They just don't want to be where they once were.

Set of "A Moment of Silence"

SCENE THREE:

As soon as I finished stage managing Shiner, I instantly began stage managing a student's thesis at DAMU (a theatre graduate school in Prague). This was completely voluntary, not for my internship or for pay. All for experience and making connections. And, oh my god, have I made some connections! I've been asked to meet the head of the Scenography department and discuss my potential for attending grad school at DAMU in scene design. I've already got a pretty good looking portfolio.

The DAMU show is called, "A Moment of Silence". It's actually a play within a play about Iran and the 1979 transition into the Islamic Republic. I've been an active member in the Feminist movement over the last few years and I've been researching women's rights in the Middle East for over five years now. The director, an Iranian woman, and I instantly clicked when we realized how much this show meant to both of us.

We've had two performances so far. Tomorrow is our closing night.

Everything I need for the Prague Quadrennial Theatre Festival

SCENE FOUR:

Next is the Prague Quadrennial. It's an eleven day theatre festival with workshops, lectures, plays, and more! It begins the day after "A Moment of Silence" closes. I went and bought my eleven day pass today. I don't know what hours I'll be working for my internship, but I plan on going to every single event that I can.
It's funny. Summer is technically a "dead season" for theatre in Prague. But theatre hasn't stopped for me since I got here. I've also been going to shows anytime I can. I saw a modern dance show with one of my new theatre friends last week, and I should be seeing an opera with my roommate in a few weeks.

SCENE FIVE:

I've been telling people my "ten-year plan" spill forever about climbing the corporate ladder before doing the business side of non-profits, specifically theatre. But I look at my resume and it's filled with theatre! Not the kind of theatre that gets you a job in the business side of it. Technical theatre. Stage managing. Everything but business. It's like I can't walk away from it. I watched a movie the other day and looked through the credits and thought, "I could do that! And that too! I could be scenic designer, or welding crew, or rigger, or lighting crew!" I've been pursuing a business path in school but I'm starting to ask myself, "why?" I know it's partially about money and I don't want to be a starving artist, but I honestly can NOT get away from theatre. One day I will try to enter the corporate world, hand them my resume, and have them laugh and point me towards the nearest theatre.

I don't know what I'm doing for my future anymore. What I do know is I've been inside a theatre every single day for the last fifteen days. Who knows where I'm going with this?



I live in a Disney movie

In the meantime I'm putting on damn good shows, and that's what matters to me right now.

First Thoughts

I've completed about two weeks of class now. It's harder than I was expecting. My one semester of French has not helped that much, and most people in my class are ahead of me even though it's the lowest level. Immersion is difficult because I'll ask what a word means and the teacher can only describe it using other French words that I also do not know. Even though it's hard, I have been learning. It's intimidating to try and talk to people, even the cashiers at the store, but I'm getting better at it.

Sometimes I feel like I should be studying more, but I also want to go out and experience France. There is so much to do here, and hopefully I'll be able to come back some day, but you never know.

My favorite thing so far has been traveling. When I flew into Paris, I got to spend a few days hanging around in the city and going sightseeing. I did most of the touristy stuff and took lots of pictures. Most of the tourist sights are pretty close together, which I did not know. I got to see the Notre Dame, the outside of the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the catacombs, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Champs-Elysee. All of the old architecture is gorgeous.

Rome was wonderful as well. It was more about the food than the sights. Italian gelato really is pretty life changing. So is the pasta. The pizza is decent but not quite as amazing. I did go see some things. The Vatican Museums were nice, but the wait, the crowds, and the annoying masses of people selling skip the line tickets almost made it not worthwhile. I tried to see the Trevi Fountain, but it was under construction and looks like it will be for a while. My absolute favorite part was the Coliseum. The hostel I stayed in was only about a mile away, so I walked there the first night. It's oddly peaceful for a place that was centered around fighting and death. The engineering involved is incredible. It probably took forever to build and tons of planning. It's pretty amazing what the ancient Romans could achieve with so little technology available to them.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Home, except my Mind, heart, and soul are still 31, 000 feet in the air…..

Well my journey home was something to go down into the crazy book. It started with an early morning taxi ride to the train station then a train ride to the airport.  While juggling my 3 suitcases and personal bag.  It was a struggle.  I also bumped into a fellow UCSC international student that was on the same plane as me back to New Jersey/New York airport.  We finally made it through the bag check in section and were headed to the gates where we ran into another UCSC international student heading to the same area we were.  We decided to find a café since we were a tad bit early to even think about waiting at the gate. We sat in a café and decide to spend the last of our euros on some breakfast treats and snacks. We sat down and ate and talked about coming home and
 
reminisced about the semester abroad.  It was a good way to keep ourselves from crying or not going home.  When it came close to our time to go me and my flight buddy went to wait at our gate so we could begin our long journey home.  After boarding the plane with little hope of sleeping on the approximately 9 hour flight I sat out to watch movies and stare out the window when we were over land.  About halfway into the flight they served lunch I guess you would say since we were used to the other time zone.  Surprisingly it was actually quite good.  We had chicken with risotto and greens. It was quite tasty. After a while they brought out desert which was ice cream and was delicious and so needed.  After another 4 hours we were nearing the U.S. and I was more than ready to be off the cramped plane. After meeting up with my friend who was a row and a few seats away we walked out to go thru customs and then to get our bags and recheck them. Why hasn’t there been a device that can scan and then send the bags to the connecting flight if needed for passengers? Seriously we need this. After rechecking our bags and finding a bathroom we set out to find our next gates since we would part ways at this airport to go
our separate ways. We decided to go ahead and switch terminals so we would be semi close to our gates. After taking the terminal train to terminal “A” we went to find snacks and food.  We settled on Dunkin’ Donuts which we found out it was National Free doughnut day! Who doesn’t like free doughnuts? We ate and sat for a while before heading back thru security to reach our gates. Once we made it through we went to find a place to sit and people watch and wait for our flights.  Which mine plane would come into gate first, though arriving late.  Which irked me because I was tired and ready to get home.  Even though we left approximately 35 minutes late our pilot booked it because
we arrived only 3 minutes after our original arrival time.  After getting off the plane and working our way around the gates and down to where people were waiting. Which my family was there with my second favorite flowers, a sign, and a cherry vanilla Dr. Pepper from Sonic. I love my family sometimes! After our hug fest and 5 million questions we headed to Baggage claim so I could get my luggage and get home.   We finally got my luggage which I did not have to carry any of it out to the car (thank God)! We decided to stop at Wendy’s (one of my favorite fast food places) for a snack before going home.  I missed frosties.  After a little more time to visit we left with my sister returning home to Kentucky and me home to Rockwood.  So much has changed too.  Saturday brought me to going to get my nails and toes done and pampering myself in the morning and unpacking and cleaning in the afternoon.  It is crazy how much stuff I actually brought back and how much I actually still had here. Oh well, it will be a fun time to organize it all
again soon.  Plus my Granny brought me my favorite pie (Sweet potato) homemade too. I missed her desserts so much.  Now Sunday brings me up and spending time with my dog this morning (he laid on my foot so I couldn’t leave and a family picnic in a few hours with half of my family. It all seems like a great and fun time, but somehow I’m not that excited or ready for it. I am not ready for all the questions “How was it, How was Italy, What was your favorite part, Are you glad to be back, Where all did you go, etc.” I don’t want to answer these questions, I don’t want to be asked questions I just want to be alone. I just want to sleep and not be in this world yet. Everything is so different and I can’t handle it all yet.  I’m not ready to jump. On the outside I look fine, but on the inside I am a swirling mass of emotions and struggles with coming home and leaving. I hope I can pull through and be me again.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

One Last Go Around.......

Well after an early taxi ride, train ride and a short wait at the airport, I was off to Germany. The flight was short but good and not bad for a cheap airline. After arriving a few minutes late and then the airport bus was late, which set if the chain reaction if my day. After arriving at the bus station that I needed in Munich I was three minutes late and watched the bus pull out as I was coming in. The people at the help desk were nice about the issues and helped me get my ticket switched to the next bus. Well the struggle continued there, the bus left late, got lost (how do you get lost in your own country and in the route you take multiple times?), then there was traffic and lots of it. After some very interesting conversations, about everything and anything with the German Guys that sat near me (they were drinking beer). It was a very interesting experience! Though I
finally made it to Heidelberg, Germany. Upon my arrival I found my hostel and got settled in my room before going to get some food and wait for it a margarita (you thought I was gonna say beer didn't you?). Then I walked around a bit dodging the pregaming teens going to the club and such (I'm still not use to see teens drink legally). Any way I paneled out what sights I want and should see before I leave tomorrow afternoon to head off to the next location on my trip. I will have to stop at a store and pick up some water for my next bus trip it is a long one which today's turned out to be longer than it was suppose to be. Wifi will be my friend for that journey as well as my unlimited supply of books on my kindle who has been my saving grace while traveling and while abroad. Hopefully tomorrow's trip will be better than today's. I have now experiences almost every mode of transport in Europe I believe  (metro, bus, train, plane, taxi, and
car, I'm missing Vespa). Maybe one day... After a night of good sleep I was up with the sun and off to see the sights or at least I thought so... Which the lady gave me the wrong bus number so I got lost. But I got there eventually and had an amazing time walking around the university square and to the closer sights. I found some cute souvenirs and ate some wonderful pretzels. Oh and I love Germany because they have Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper. I was having withdraws. After spending a few
hours wondering around I headed back to get my things ready to catch the bus to the next city. I got the bus and started out fine. but slowly started to wear me out though it is wearing on me. It is a very long bus ride, but worth the price compared to train and other modes of transportation. Second thing about this ride I have noticed that wind turbines and everywhere in Germany. Seriously it's like Starbucks and McDonald's in the U.S.. The countdown still continues too 5 days and counting until I am home (from Saturday). Ready to continue my last adventure though  as well as to go home. Dresden the city of crazy trams Germany. I cannot tell you how many times I got lost on the tram system in Dresden. Too many for anyone with a almost finished college education and a map that is for sure. My host was lovely and very helpful and had great advice for me. I managed to get free maps from the public transportation company and it was marvelous  (college kids love free). I managed to find and reach the one of the main centers and home to so many buildings worthy of multiple glances. After many surprise performances and funny gestures I made my way around and found the best bakery thanks to a Czech local and had an amazing breakfast/brunch treat. After a few more hours of walking I headed
back to take a nap before catching my next bus. Well after my nap and getting lost again and again I made it to the bus station and found a place to eat and sit (since I was still a little early). Then I walked around and.picked up a few things I needed (travel shampoo, etc.) and found the right bus stop side (international side). Of course I was there early and the bus was late and by late I mean 35 minutes late, but finally it arrived and I was off to Prague. Which it is a way shorter trip than imagined. I arrived to the Prague station and got some Czech money out and met my host at the station. Where she proceeded to show me the ways of the Czech metro and public transport system. We made it to her house and I met her dog and her boyfriend who are both nice and friendly. They showed me my room and then she explained the map and gave me some information to read about Prague and it was very helpful. Then it was bed time and time to be ready to explore Prague.




I woke up before my alarm (boo) and decided to just get up instead of fighting the sun and trying to sleep. So I was up and ready to explore Prague alone. Which I started with the castle and it's grounds (which I got a student discount yay!). Then it was on to Charles Bridge and the John Lennon wall. (which is amazing). After which I made my way through Old town square by when I was tired so I
headed back to my host's house to rest before dinner.One thing I learned is you do as the locals do... So I have drank Czech beer now and it's quite good as well are the local dishes and sweets. Next stop another bus to Berlin. The morning brought a trip to the new square full of shops in Prague. With the clouds and a storm rolling in I decided to stop and grab some lunch before heading to the bus station. I ate a small lunch at a tram cafe. It was good food and even better view. Then it was time to head to the bus station. On the way there I stopped in this store and found a special surprise for my biggest supporter and probably the happiest person to see me on Friday (my momma). Then it was time to head to the station. Where while waiting I met three Canadians that are on the same bus with me and we got the front seats on the top of the bus. We are front row viewers of the beauty that is the Czech Republic and Germany. So as we ride a sense of peace crosses me because the scenery reminds me of home and those Tennessee hills and valleys. 3 days left until I can be home and see my family. No matter where you go, remember where
you came from. My new life moto and quote. Life can always change your current life situation and location, but it can never change where you were raised and the values instilled by your family. Berlin baby! Home to many historical moments in time. Too many to see in the one day I had. Well I started my day by taking a "free" walking tour and it was great the guide was very entertaining and adapted his humor to fit the mostly younger group. He knew a lot about the sights and the city. After the 2.5 hours tour I was off to explore more on my own. Which wasn't that bad once you get the hang
of the U and S bahn systems. It was quite a long and interesting day. It was crazy to see some of the places that the darkest part of the world's history took places and rhe monuments recognizing the victims of those dark moments in time. Besides that we saw the last standing Nazi building, and Check Point Charlie. There is so much to see and do in Berlin that at least 3 days or more is needed. Besides the historical stuff, I got to see the place where the soccer (futbol) tournament is happening in Berlin this weekend. It is crazy to see double of everything in Berlin because of the division after WWII. As well as seeing all the old architecture mixed with the new and modern architecture lthat is everywhere in Berlin and in Germany in general.  Well now I'm on the plane back to Milan and I can say I will miss Europe, but I am ready to be home and back in the U.S. even with all of her faults and scars, it's still home
and always will be. On that note I  also want to think those you serve in our servicemen in our armed forces (past, present and future) for fighting for my ability to travel the world and have a save and free country to return too. Also because I thanks them for what they give up when they join and serve the country. I have nothing, but respect for those men and women, because I have barely been able to be away from my family and I had probably more access to talk to them, so I couldn't imagine how hard it is for them. So thank you from me and I am sure all other travelers for your service and the ability we have to return home to a free country. 1 day left by the time you read this. U.S. see you soon! Thank you to those who have kept up with my travels throughout my experience abroad as well. I might have one or two more in me after this one (about returning home).



Ciao for now!

See you soon!

I'm coming home!


Home to Tennessee!



















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