Six Things to Do Instead of Watching TV

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I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately.  Mostly about how I don’t have enough of it.  There are so, so many things that I want to do and I usually cannot find the time to cram them all in.

Which is why it boggles my mind when I hear some people talk about how much TV they watch, and relay tales of binge watching their Saturday away or catching up on the latest scandal on CNN as their evening’s activities.  Don’t get me wrong, I find nothing the matter with watching an occasional movie or couple episodes of Big Bang Theory here or there.  But I. personally, could NEVER make it an actual daily or even weekly practice.

TV is entertaining, no doubt.  And I’m sure if I let myself, I could really get into Game of Thrones, or follow the Orange is the New Black saga with bated breath, or find a couple of new releases to patronize each weekend.  But in all honesty, entertainment, especially mindless entertainment, is not productive.  And when seeking entertainment becomes the main focus of your free time, you are losing out on so many awesome points of life!

But some people have become so accustomed to watching TV that they have no idea that there is a whole entire world beyond their 60″ Plasma, or that they themselves could create the type of life they so envy on the silver screen.

Instead of pressing play, you could:

Go on a walk.  Especially with your significant other, kids, or friend.  The fresh air is addicting, and you can have so many good conversations if you go with the people that you love.  There have been so many great discussions that I’ve had with my friends as we meander the sidewalks or trails, and you come back refreshed and energized rather lethargic and blahhhh.  Not to mention the obvious perk of burning rather than consuming calories.

Read a book.  Even when a novel is entertaining you, it is making your brain process information, put ideas together, and decipher the meaning of new words.  It is the best form of entertainment because it is relaxing yet still mind-expanding, especially if you skip the fiction and go straight for the self-improvement reads.  Some great fiction reads are A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Help, or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.  If you lean toward the non-fiction side (which you should at least every once in a while), I would recommend The Power of Habit, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and You are a Badass.

Join a club of some type.  One thing that I have recently started up in the past year has been beach football.  I have never played an organized sport in my life, but there is a league in my town and I, on a whim, decided to join.  I love it!  Joining something that fits a new or old interest not only keeps your zest for life alive, but it is an amazing avenue for meeting new people.

Learn to play an instrument or learn a new craft.  Making music is an innately human way of expressing emotion.  Even if you are not musically inclined, setting aside time to struggle and eventually master a new skill is not something to be sneezed at.  When the mind is stretched it expands, and the more things you add to your toolbox the more valuable you become.

Create a second (or third, or fourth) stream of income.  Think about it.  You could either spend 1-4 hours a night wasting your time with episodes of Friends you have seen hundreds of times, or you could put your time and effort into something that could actually pay off.  Enjoy crafting?  Start an Etsy shop.  Have a particular set of hard to master skills?  Market them.  Have a business idea?  Actually start it.  If it’s something you actually enjoy doing, the same amount of time will pass while giving you way more options in terms of money and connections.

Call a friend.  How many times have to thought to ourselves “oh, I wonder how so-and-so is doing?  We should catch up!”  and then simply never followed through?  Connections with other people are extremely valuable both for sanity and for creating a vast network of resources from which you can draw whenever necessary-IF you put the time in to create those reserves.

The trouble with the majority of options outside of the black box is that they take a least a minimal amount of effort.  So many people like to think of their hours of diversion after a long day of work as a reward, when the truth is that real rewards come out of real effort.

Constant entertainment is taking the easy way out in life, and it makes you accustomed to the road less bumpy.  Yet there WILL be parts of life that are not entertaining, and if you simply fall into the habit of putting blinders on and ignoring it because your reality muscles are in a state of atrophy, those bumps can prove to be disastrous rather than merely annoying.  The most beautiful waterfalls are at the end of the unbeaten trail, and the best life experiences are best actually lived by you.

So the next time you are tempted to press play, put the remote down and step away from the boob tube into a realm of endless possibilities.  Stop watching other people portray scripted exploits, relationships, and feats of grandeur, and go out and create your own!  Life is meant to be lived, not watched.

The Devil is in the Dirty Work

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Lately I’ve been realizing that I need to do more.  In pretty much every area of my life.  More cardio.  More planning.  More thoughtful gestures.

The thing is, in each of the areas of my life I’m sitting at at an OK level.  My body doesn’t look terrible, and I can pull off a tight dress if I want to.  My teaching meets acceptable standards, and I am confident that my students are learning things in my classroom.  My relationships are all fairly solid, and I know that there are few, if any people who would have bad things to say about me.

But come on—this is a scenario that is easily applied to SO many other people, and dammit, I want to be at the TOP.

This is something that I’ve written about before, and sometimes it’s frustrating because I have the personality where if I feel that something needs to get done, than dang it, I’m going to try to get it done NOW.

But I’m slowly starting to realize that transformations like this cannot be accomplished NOW.  They are not a one time thing.  Rather, they are achieved through DAILY dedication and eventual mastery of the habits and mindsets that only the great people have.

Which means that you have to do the dirty work.

Every single day.

It’s one thing to set your alarm for 6am on a Saturday morning and go for a long run and feel accomplished about it all week.  It’s another to consistently get up at 5am and get your cardio in and go to the gym after work for weights and watch what you eat every day not just weekends and do that day in and day out and never. ever. falter.

That shit is HARD.

It isn’t fun AT ALL.

Yet the people who have enviable physiques, lives, and results all do the unenviable on a daily basis.

It all comes down to a decision.  It’s really that simple.  When the moment comes, you can either decide to do the thing that is hard or do the thing that is easy.  And so, so, so many people choose easy.  Hell, I choose easy a lot of the time.  It’s easy to pop in a couple chocolate covered raisins rather than resist.  It’s easy to “forget” to go on the stairmaster. It’s easy to throw together a plan last minute and call it “good enough”.

But every single person that I read about who is winning chooses hard.  Not because they are a masochist or because they think that the more pain they put themselves in the more noble they are, but because they know that that is what it takes.

Most people can’t see past the immediate.  They see the sweat and sacrifice and do an about-face.  But nothing great was every accomplished by retreat, and we need to forge our own warriors mentality with everything that we do.  Battles are not won only on the battlefield, but during every day that leads up to the final epic clash.

So how do you ensure that you will, in fact, be victorious on the battlefield?

Become a leader.  I was listening to a podcast by Andy Frisella on how leadership isn’t about bossing people around but being willing to do the smallest of things every single day.  Essentially, if you are a true leader, you may have someone assigned to do the dirty work but if you see it needs to be done, YOU do it.  Practicing doing what needs to be done on a daily basis, regardless of who is ‘supposed’ to do or when it ‘should’ have been done is a surefire way to ensure self-respect.  And people who have massive amounts of self-respect are unstoppable.

Stop the excuses.  There are so many times I have told myself “It’s Friday…one treat won’t hurt” or “I did a really hard workout today, I don’t need that extra cardio.”  If you want better than normal results, you have to put in more than normal effort.  This is a hard and fast rule that really can’t be bent, broken, or manipulated.  Our excuses are like fast food-convenient in the moment but over time they add up to a shitty lifestyle and a fat ass, neither of which are appealing.

Educate yourself.  If my goal is to be the next female body builder, I could dedicate myself to running and eating low calorie all day long, but I will never achieve the results I want.  I have to be willing to spend money on the best trainers, dedicate time to researching my nutrition and exercise, and constantly be prowling for the best and newest information.  Learning does not stop after we graduate high school or college.  If you want to truly succeed, you must constantly try to learn new things.

Do the dirty work.  I cannot stress this point enough (especially to myself).  I cannot expect to accomplish any of my grand ideals if I don’t grab a shovel and start clearing the hole for a solid foundation.  And once that foundation is made, I need to grab a hammer and nails and start building.  And once the structure is made, the drywall needs to be hung.  And so on and so forth.  The point is, you can image the most beautiful house in the world, but if you don’t actually break a sweat to get it done, it will remain naught but a fantasy.

Everyone in this world has a vision of what they would ideally like their life to be, but there are only a few who actually roll up their sleeves and dig in enough to make it happen.  We have one life.  Why wouldn’t you brave a few cobwebs and dust bunnies to uncover the potential treasure trove that lies beneath?

Grab a shovel, friends.  It’s time to get dirty.

 

 

 

Be Careful What You Wish For

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This weekend is the very last weekend of the summer *stifles sobs*.  On Monday, I will be greeted with 150 smiling faces in rotation, all filled with as much trepidation and anticipation as mine will be.

This year, it’s going to be different for me because I chose to move schools after the whole being laid off thing got taken back just as quick as a toddler grabs back a toy he’s offered to someone else after he’s changed his mind.  I had the choice to go back to my old school, but instead of sticking somewhere where I was well-known and had built my reputation as a good teacher, I decided to branch out and move to a high school a) because I’ve always wanted to teach high school and b) I felt like I had already reached the peak (or close enough to it) at my old school and I was ready for a new challenge.

Oofda.  Did I ever get a challenge.  Firstly, I discovered that I would be teaching 7th and 8th grade (not quite the high school experience I was envisioning) along with some 9th grade classes.  That’s right.  Three preps.  Considering that last year I taught 8th across the board, that in and of itself was enough to make me think that perhaps I should opted for comfort over novelty.

Secondly, not only will I have three preps, but the middle school classes are designed to prepare the students to enter the IB Diploma Programme in 11th and 12th grade that has just started at this high school, which means that they need to have TOP-NOTCH instruction in an inquiry based setting.

Now, in my previous schools, if you were able to get the kids to behave and respect you and also learn something along the way, that was enough to get you through (not to mention middle school is less rigorous than high school).  I have my relationship building tools with my kids down pat, but I have not yet had a chance to really test my actual TEACHING capabilities with kids who are, shocker, eager to learn.

Of course, I wouldn’t be teaching if I thought that my kids didn’t learn from me.  But my focus has always been on more of the social-emotional piece for my kids, because that’s where I saw the most need.  Now, on top of preparing for three different classes each day, I need to make sure that my lessons are interesting, high-level, and relevant.

ON TOP OF the academic side, there is the reality that I have no real support system at this school.  I chose this school specifically because my old principal worked there as well as several old coworkers who moved there during the last couple years, and because of the IB programme; being trained in that will be invaluable for my own skill set and my ability to move anywhere should I chose to ever leave California (doubtful, but possible).

However, all of my old coworkers have since formed new bonds or tighter bonds with their fellow middle school cohorts, and I left our first day of meetings feeling a bit adrift in the sea of it all.

Now, at this point, I could either curl up in a ball and wish my hardest to turn back time and go back to comfort and familiarity, OR I could narrow my eyes, set my shoulders, and prepare to knock this shit out of the park.

When it comes down to it, challenges are the spice of life.  Think about it.  Every single thing that is good is challenging at first.  Learning to walk?  There’s a reason diapers are so fluffy.  Marriage?  There’s a reason counselors make bank.  Parenting?  It’s a wonder that we’re still alive as a species.

Challenges make you grow.  They make you question things.  They make you stretch yourself in ways that you never thought possible and then stretch a little more.  You may chose your challenges or have your challenges thrust upon you, but the outcome is still the same: you get better.

An unchallenged life is truly an unlived life.  Think back on all the times you have grown and changed as a person.  Usually, it was the direct result of a challenge to your security, belief system, or familiarity with something, and when you look back you wouldn’t have it any other way.

The thing is, you WILL get what you ask for if the Universe knows you are ready (and sometimes even if it knows you’re not).  Most of the time we have no idea what we’re really asking for until it comes to us and then we realize that we have called something into reality that we aren’t quite sure we actually want, but by that time it’s too late.

Most of the time, however, these unexpected manifestations help us hone what we really want, and build up strength to get through the tough times of life.  I wanted nothing more than to get married young, and boy, did I get what I wished for even though it was quite possibly the worst decision of my entire life.

Yet, I’m thankful for this challenge that I overcame, because there have been so many times I’m able to share my experience with someone who is going through almost the exact same thing, and it is so gratifying to be able to see them relax and know that I truly understand what they’re going through.

If your life is on autopilot, choose a challenge for yourself or open yourself up to the Universe providing one for you.  While the temptation to stay in the cocoon is quite strong, remember that no one looks twice at a brown lump hanging from a twig, yet a butterfly can capture the attention of even the most hardened of hearts.  You are that butterfly.  All you have to do is narrow your eyes, set your teeth, and never stop pushing until your wings are free.

And then, friends….you are free to FLY.

 

What I Learned From Three Weeks Abroad

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This summer I went on my first ever trip abroad; a travesty, really, because I’m almost thirty (*sob*).  Not only did this trip show me a wide variety of awesomeness in regards to architecture and planetary beauty, it also taught me several valuable lessons of which all persons should be aware.

People are awesome.

The whole reason for the trip to begin with was the fact that (long and windy story short), my student’s mother offered me her place to stay in Grenoble, France whenever I wanted.  That, in and of itself, is a testament that there are still amazing people left in the world even if everyone likes to focus on the assholes.  She also took the time to put me in contact with several different people that she knew both in Paris and in Grenoble so that I wouldn’t be thrust into the thick of things alone.  As much as I like to think that I am high and mighty and could have done just as well on my own, the truth is she saved me valuable time and money and went above and beyond what I even imagined when she first offered up her place.

In addition to being hooked up right from the start, I did not meet one person that was not awesome in one way or another throughout the trip (Minus the person who stole my phone, of course.  They belong in the asshole category).  My hosts took the time to show me around to all the hotspots of Grenoble and Paris, and the people that I met in my hostel in Barcelona were full of amazing stories and immediately made me feel like one of them.  Overall, this trip has shown me that the best face of humanity is still alive and well in the world, and it is all we can do to strive to be one of them.

 The world is huge.

In just the three short weeks that I was traveling, I met people from over 15 different countries: Turkey, Australia, France, Denmark, Czech Republic…the list goes on.  All of those people represented corners of the world that I have not yet explored, and it was made fully real to me the sheer expanse of our planet and how many things we are privileged to be able to experience.  You could spend three lifetimes traveling the world, and still be in need of a fourth and fifth to fully take it in.

The fact that the world is so incredibly expansive made me ashamed that I have experienced such a tiny portion thus far.  There are SO MANY different ways of doing things and SO MANY areas that take your breath away with their beauty.  I think it should be mandatory to have a semester abroad in every high school—extreme, yes, but think of how many relationships would be built, how many minds would be expanded, and how many soon-to-be adults would come back and make a positive impact on our society.

No, you do NOT need that thing.

XL Airways, my carrier of price, er, choice for the trip, gave me the standard two carryons AND a free checked bag.  Because I was given so much space, I merrily stuffed each of the three bags with pretty much my entire wardrobe—and spent the entire trip regretting it.  I wore probably ¼ of the things that I brought, and it was nothing short of torture hauling my ginormous and h.e.a.v.y bags around the metro and from place to place.  Next time, I will definitely be packing much, MUCH lighter.

Traveling really prompts you to embrace a minimalist mentality.  Do you need a cute outfit in case you do something where you need to look nice?  Absolutely.  Do you need 10 of them?  Hell to the no.  Most of your time traveling (unless you specifically book a party trip for whatever reason) is spent walking, which is most comfortably done in a good pair of tennis shoes and yoga pants.  Travel is amazing because of the experiences you will have, and you will have those same experiences if you are wearing a new combination every day or re-wearing an outfit for the 10th time.

Travel is necessary.

When I was in France, I didn’t speak a lick of French.  Everywhere I went, I was surrounded by a sea of words foreign to my ears and an array of indecipherable colorful signs.  While that obviously sucked, it gave me a new appreciation for how it feels to be surrounded by the unknown.  It was a terrifying yet exhilarating feeling.  It also opened my eyes to how important and cool it is to know several languages.  I have had zero desire to learn any other languages in the past, and my trip has definitely sparked an interest to develop the rudimentary Spanish that I possess into full-fledged fluency.

Aside from the whole language thing, travel is a catalyst for mind expansion in its fullest capacity.  You become aware of your priorities, take time to soak up the beauty of the physical universe, and come into contact with so many people who either cause you to solidify your values or mull them over in your mind to possibly be reshaped.  Without travel, we have no contact with something different, so we always remain the same.  And an unchanged life, to me, is the saddest life of all.

Overall, I’m actually grateful that I took the initiative to travel alone.  Traveling puts you in some hairy situations, and you learn how much you can actually rely on yourself.  Getting to know yourself and having the opportunity again and again to authentically be yourself with each new person that you meet is a gift, and one that should be fully taken advantage of.  As much as I would prefer to share the experiences with someone, there were actually relatively few things that I did completely alone-the rest of the time I was with the connections that I had made just a few hours before, which is a beautiful thing in and of itself.

So, friends, where have you traveled lately?  If the answer is to the kitchen and back, I strongly encourage you to book a trip somewhere you’ve never been before.  If there is no one who will accompany you, who cares?  Go alone.  Either way, it will definitely give you amazing memories to look back on and awesome connections to cherish.  And what is life if not a colorful collection of shared and solo moments?

Paris Days 2-3: I Befriend an Irishman, See Amazing Art, and Have my Faith in Humanity Restored

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Wednesday had me feeling like a giant blob of carbs, so after I woke up I decided to go on a run.  What better way to acquaint myself with the streets of Paris, right?  After a quick bite of almond butter (the last of my airport snacks), I laced up my Nikes and hit the streets.

I chose one of the few roads in Paris that seemed to go in a straight line for more than two blocks, and proceeded with an easy jog that allowed me to take in the sights while still covering quite a bit of ground.  It was amazing to me how many of the same stores there were: bakeries, hairdressers, pharmacies…it seemed like the streets would repeat themselves over and over, which made me wonder how they all managed to stay in business!

After turning around (I opted against venturing down any side streets so I wouldn’t get lost), I stopped at a park to do some lunges, squats, and tricep pushups.  I’m pretty sure that the other park patrons were slightly mystified by the tall blonde who was sweating all over the bench, but I felt amazing when it was all done.  If you are used to working out on a regular basis, going without for a while is torture.

After returning back to my hostel and showering (thank god for dry shampoo, as the hostel had no more toiletries to sell me), I ventured out on the metro to a random station to do some more exploring.  Wandering the streets of Paris may not seem like the most productive use of touristic time, but for me it was one of my favorite parts: everything was so similar yet so different than the US.  The romantic cobblestones of the side streets didn’t hurt either.

It was in the midst of my wanderings that I received a message from the Irish bartender from my hostel wondering if I wanted to stop by Montemartre and indulge in an adult beverage or two.  Even though I’d already been, I always enjoy hanging out with new people, so I hopped on the metro once again and proceeded to wile away the afternoon with glasses of Leffe and hilarious conversation.

Drinks of the amber variety tend to awaken the appetite, and that day was no exception.  Barney* knew of a great restaurant close to my hostel, and introduced me to the host before leaving to run some errands.  Several baguettes and forkfuls of salad later, I happily waddled back to my hostel to pack up my things and head to my next destination.

The student I had met on Tuesday through Caroline* (my student’s mother) had offered to host me for a couple more days in Paris so I could stay and experience Bastille day.  This is a true testament to the amazing hospitality of Turkish folk, as I was a complete stranger to him before our meeting on Tuesday.  I arrived at Peter’s* place around 10:30 at night after several metro and bus changes, and immediately felt welcomed in his tiny studio apartment.  The makeshift bed on the floor was sufficient, and I immediately passed out after showering the day away, thus ending my second full day in Paris.

20170712_084344.jpgI woke up the next morning fairly early by vacation standards, and was greeted by a delicious Mediterranean style homemade breakfast consisting of cheese, lettuce, and various veggies (and a croissant per request since it WAS still France, after all).  I savored every bite.

 

 

 

 

 

Sated, we packed up for the day and headed into the city to meet up with one of his friends at the Musee de Lourve.  This was one of the places I was really looking forward to seeing, and it did not disappoint!

The first thing I had to get over was seeing everything.  It would realistically take a 20170712_110841month to see every piece the museum had to offer, so we selected only a few spots to visit.  My favorite part was all of the sculptures; I cannot fathom hand carving such intricate details with such spectacular results.  Another highlight was, of course, the Mona Lisa, which was surprisingly smaller than I had imagined it.  Overall, I absolutely loved soaking in the history and artistry that permeated the entire building.

After several hours wandering the giant halls, I parted with my companions so they could get some work done, and took off to visit several different places including Notre Dame, the famous Arc de Triumphe and its accompanying street of swanky stores, and Luxembourg Garden.  And it was then I heard some welcome news-my phone, previously thought to have been lost to the seedy underbelly of Paris where the Parisian pickpockets ruled the roost, had been found!  The girl had picked it up in her courtyard, texted my friend (who was one of the contacts on my medical card accessible without the passcode), and within hours we had arranged to meet at 8pm that night so I could get it back.  Talk about serendipitous!

That amazing news prompting an even better mood, I proceeded on to my stops for the 20170712_160131day.  Notre Dame lived up to its reputation from the outside, but I voted against standing for three hours in the lines that snaked up and around the courtyard in front of the doors.  The Arc was great to see, and it was even greater to see the different people walking the street.  The highlight of the three, however, was Luxembourg.  It was HUGE, and it had an amazing chateau that was the main focal point behind a small pond where children floated small boats for a couple euros.  It was awesomely calm and peaceful, and I sat there for almost two hours just drinking in the nature in the middle of the giant City of Love.

Seeing that I still had some time to kill, I hopped on the metro after my peaceful reverie ended and headed to the Red Light district to see the famous Moulin Rouge.  Even though it was daytime and therefore not really the experience one would get if visiting at night, it was still fun to see the seedy streets and the different bars and sex shops that lined up one after another, enticing street travelers into their dark world.

20170712_192924After having a beer at one of the bars to while away even more time, I ran into a bachelor party where the garishly dressed participants enticed me with French candy and then (after I took the obviously required picture of them and then myself with the groom), they asked me to ring the bachelor’s bell-an apparatus made to look like a cock and balls pinned to the outside of his underwear.  Carefully grabbing nothing but the rope, I obliged while laughing hysterically, and they happily made their way down the street.

After this interesting encounter, I eagerly made my way by metro yet again to the Montmartre area for the 3rd time in three days.  Peter* met me at the station, and we went to the address we had been given.  The exchange went off without a hitch, and the Parisian girl refused my offer of compensation, insisting that “it’s the karma”.  All in all, it restored my faith in humanity and was a great experience to add to my memories of Paris!

Still with all the excitement, our night was not yet done.  Peter and I stopped by a sandwich stop and grabbed some beer along the way to the canal.  Here, we sat and enjoyed the food along with several other Parisian natives, as this is apparently quite a popular pastime.  A nearby bar was playing music loud enough to reach us, and the people watching was quite delightful.

After the beer and sandwiches, we decided to check out a nearby fireman’s ball (which I will explain in more detail in my next post).  Since it wasn’t that exciting, and we were both tired, AND it started raining, we decided to call it a night and headed home, thus ending my most packed yet most fulfilling day in Paris.

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Rainy selfie

Whew.  That was a lot!

Lessons learned? A) There are bad people in the world, but there are also some AMAZING ones!  Focus on the good ones-they will pop up when you need them.  B) Turkish people are amazing hosts, and I mean above and beyond.  Such a small act of opening up your home, no matter how humble, is an amazing gesture that speaks volumes.  C) Take time to appreciate beauty, in all of its forms.  People can create amazing works, and nature is beautiful simply by being nature.  It’s all enriching if you take the time to really soak it in!

Paris Day 1: Wherein My Phone Disappears

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After a forced bedtime of 2:30AM, I awoke on Tuesday around 9:30am (Apparently France makes me super lazy).  I googled my metro map to the area of Montemarte, and proceeded to take the (at the time) harrowing trek down into the bowels of the earth where the majority of Parisian public transportation lies.

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My love

I had yet to eat breakfast, so I stopped at a café with a gorgeous view of the church up on top of the mountain (which was the main attraction, I was to learn later).  I had a cheese crepe and a croissant, which was the BOMB.COM.  I think if I could marry French carbs, I would.  After consuming the culinary delight way too fast, I made my way up the 1,245,693,000 stairs and took in the view from the top.

 

 

Amazing.  The entire city of Paris was spread out before me.  Rooftops spread out as far as the eye could see, and you could feel both your immense insignificance and an expansive sense of wonder.  I took several long moments to soak in the view.  It was well worth the extra cardio.IMG_7072

After the requisite pictures and an attempted selfie, I headed into the church, but not before being denied entrance because of my spaghetti strap dress.  They gave me a piece of cloth to wrap around my shoulders, and I wore the cape of shame as I strolled through the grandiose hall.  The air was ripe with ancient respect and hallowed thoughts, and the ceilings were incredibly detailed and rich.  It was very cool to see, but quite honestly I’d probably skip the tour next time-if you’ve seen one old church, you’ve seen them all.

What interested me more was the streets.  Obviously, because that’s where all the delicious food was (I mean, that’s a given), but I also wanted to just soak in the wonder of a different culture.  I proceeded to wander around the streets aimlessly, looking at all of the different stores and building architectures and people.  It was a great way to acquaint myself with the real Paris.

The real Paris, it turns out, can be kind of a bitch sometimes.  After several attempts to find a restroom that I could use (turns out some restaurants are quite possessive of their toilettes), I got lucky with a nice, albeit reluctant, bartender.  The bathroom situation in and of itself was quite annoying, especially if you’re someone like me who enjoys copious amounts of water and therefore needs readily accessible facilities for the side effects of such hydration.

But wait, it gets better.  Twenty minutes and several blocks of wandering later, bladder deflated, I reached into my purse to grab my phone to check the time.  My hand grabbed air.  I paused, then opened the side pocket where the pink-clad mobile should have been resting to see if I had somehow managed to miss it.  Nothing but black cloth.  I unzipped the main compartment, feeling silly that I had misplaced such an important item.  Wallet, metro pass….no phone.  I checked both pockets again about 5 more times before accepting the fact that my phone was indeed not in my possession.

Thus began the frantic retracing of steps through the slanted streets of Montmarte.  The cobblestones that had led me so whimsically just 1 hour before now offered nothing but challenge and confusion.  No pink Iphone greeted me in the streets, and the only two spots I had stopped at both shook their heads.  My phone had vanished into thin air.

The acceptance of this fact led to the hunt for and purchase of a fancy (aka the cheapest) smart phone from the nearest mobile store.  Thankfully, you have the option just purchase network and load it on a sim card rather than have to commit to a contract, which was great for being able to get online right away.  One hour and 155 Euro’s later (4 E off for patience, whoot!), I was the proud owner of a cheapo Samsung and a new French number.

The afternoon of Day 1 therefore consisted of ordering a new phone for home (I have insurance, apparently, which was awesome!) and cancelling all service to the lost/stolen device.  Needless to say, I did not feel like exploring much more at all, but I did have an appointment with my contact in Paris to meet up later that night, so I was forced to shake it off and keep moving.

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FALAFEL!

My contact, Peter*, was a former Turkish renter of my student’s mother (who was kind enough to set up

 

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Wine ❤

communication between myself and several people over here in France).  We met at a Starbucks close to one of the Metro stations, and he proceeded to show me several different hot spots in Paris, including a DELICIOUS falafel stand on a random street, a cute garden enclosed in a courtyard where we enjoyed said falafel, the riverside where we started a bottle of wine, and finally ending the night in the Lourve garden with an amazing view of the Eiffel tower.  It was magical.

 

For someone who just up and flew across the Atlantic Ocean with little to no planning (which is 100% not my usual style), I got SO lucky to be put into contact with people who knew the city and were kind enough to show me around.  Looking back, I wouldn’t have had half the amazing experiences that I did if I didn’t have that advantage.

Lessons learned? A) Be aware of what is going on around you, and KEEP AN EYE AND HAND AND LOCK on your stuff at all times!  You may think you’re being vigilant…but trust me, you can be even more careful. B) Patience and being nice pays off.  I could have easily shown my frustration at the lady selling me my phone since it took FOREVER to figure out and set up, but I chose to smile and wait, and it paid off with a discount and good relations.  It’s so tempting to get frustrated when you’re traveling, especially when something happens that SUCKS and is expensive, but being kind is ALWAYS the right choice. C) Always, always, bring more money than you think you’ll need.  I thought I had more than enough Euros, but then I had to pay for my hostel AND new phone in cash, which took a giant chunk out of my stash.  You can always bring back money, but if you spend your last cent and you need more, it’s harder AND more expensive to get money when you are in a different country.

Paris Day 0.5: I Play Beer Pong with Children

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I had a student this year who was born in France.  She is an amazingly talented and hardworking girl, and she happened to invite me to several of her dance competitions outside of school.  I took her up a couple of her offers, and met her mother, Caroline*.  During several of our conversations, Caroline informed me that Sharyl* loved me and that I was doing an awesome job as her teacher (which is always great to hear, and one of the main reasons for why I love my job so much).

In the midst of conversation after hearing that I was considering teaching overseas, she immediately perked up and started extolling the virtues of France.  In the end, she offered her place for my use whenever I wanted, which was completely unexpected and completely amazing.  After a couple weeks went by, I took her up on the offer, booked a ticket for the next week, and am currently writing this sitting on the train headed to Grenoble after 5 days in Paris.  What is my life!?

I experienced SO much and packed so many things into the 5 days-It was AWESOME.  I’m sure that I’m going to forget so many things, but I’ll try my best to relay all the juiciest details.

So, let me start from the beginning.

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My first view of France!

I arrived in Paris at 7 at night after a 10+ hour flight that felt like nothing because I slept the entire time.  Great for time travel, terrible for 9 hour time changes.  After disembarking, we waited for over an hour to get our passports checked and stamped, which was terrible and made me thankful I had peed on the plane right before (if you don’t know me, I have the bladder of a mouse).  I did make some cool friends in line though, and I hope they are having fun on their own European adventures!

After figuring out the whole metro pass system (which consisted of losing money to a broken photo machine and promptly using the next one to take probably the WORST picture of me in my entire life to proudly display on my card all week), I went below ground to take my first of many metro rides in the direction of my hostel.  Thankfully, this ride did not require a train change, and I arrived safely, albeit slightly more dirty than when I arrived.

I hauled my 60 lbs of lugguage across the way (note to self: PACK LIGHTER NEXT TIME) and checked into my hostel located near Gare du Nord Metro station.  The hostel was actually super nice as far as what I was imagining sharing a room with 7 other strangers would be, and the girls in my room kept to themselves but in a friendly sort of way.

All settled, I set out to explore the small chunk of Paris that I had landed in, and went out in search of food.  Since it was going to be my first real meal in the city, I wanted it to be a good one, so I checked out several different menus

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before settling on one that I deemed worthy.  Trying to be good, I ordered a salad and water (after an appetizer of cheese, obviously), but was sabotaged with my first of many (and I mean MANY) baskets of oh-so-delicious French baguettes.  I gleefully stuffed my face with doughy delicious carbs, and had to force myself to finish my salad when it came (which looked ‘off’ since it was topped with cooked green beans and carrots, but which turned out to be surprisingly delicious).

 

 

 

 

Full and still not being tired even though it was almost 11:30pm (thanks to my ‘morning’ wakeup of 6pm Paris time), I decided to check out the bar below the rooms to try to conjure up a beer-induced sleepiness.

 

I had been sitting with my beer for maybe 5 minutes when I was approached by a fellow male traveler from Mexico.  We sat and chatted for quite a while, and eventually made friends with the (literal) children sitting across the table from us.  They challenged us to a game of beer pong, and I squelched my teacher instincts to lecture them on the dangers of alcohol to take them up on it.  Being bested by a pair of Canadian 18 years olds (albeit by one cup) is not my proudest moment, but it definitely made my first night in Paris memorable.

At 2am in the morning, I decided that 5pm California time be damned, I needed to wake up at a decent hour the next morning.  So, I forced myself up into the top bunk bed I had been assigned, and eventually fell asleep, thus ending my first half-day in a foreign country.

Lessons learned? 1)  If you’re going to sleep on your flight, anticipate the consequences and take advantage of the messed up sleep schedule to check out different cool places (not just your sad hostel bar).  2) 18 year olds are surprisingly good at beer pong (or I’m just unsurprisingly terrible).  3) Even the most random vegetables, when mixed together, make a pretty great salad. 4) Everyone has a story; if you ask, they will tell you, and it’s almost always interesting.

PS-this is my first attempt at travel blogging, so please don’t hesitate to give feedback!  I have sporadic internet access and zero time, so my updates will be slow but they WILL come. :o)