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Monday, July 6, 2015

Here Goes...

So as expected, the rest of my time in Greece flew by. I have now been back in the States for over a week now. It has been both strange and wonderful.

My last night in my Athens' apartment consisted of Emily and I staying up as late as we could, bringing out trash, recycling, and clothing/item donations to the neighborhood. It came full circle when I walked up and down our street, stopping to pour piles of dry cat food for the neighborhood kitties. The following morning, we had a quick flight from Athens to Istanbul. I was SURE that I was going to cry at the Athens airport or on the plane leaving. I had been in such strong denial about leaving for so long, I figured it was going to catch up to me there. But for some reason, I still don't think it set in. It felt to me like I was just going on another plane to another new place to explore and see. We then had a 10 hour flight from Istanbul to Boston, which was the longest flight I've taken thus far. It topped previous flights between Boston and Paris. Emily and I lucked out by picking aisle seats in the middle section, and having no one choose to sit between us so we were able to take turns laying down and stretching out the best we could on that long flight!

Now I'm back and already throwing myself into a work routine for the summer, but I'm feeling homesick for Greece every day. It has been really strange, as I expected, adjusting back to numerous daily aspects of life back in the States. Driving my car for the first time again (loving it again already though!), using USD for transactions again, and mainly, the pros and cons of small town living.

Overall, things have been good while I'm getting situated back here. I picked up some work dog sitting right away, and I'm working nights at a restaurant. I figured I should get myself into some kind of routine to help pass the time/adjust. It's just equally great and odd being back in my childhood home again. I'm so happy to be with my family again, but with any family, there are times when you just need some space, too. I am loving the beach, but not all the tourists... and in all honesty, the beaches now pale in comparison to the ones I saw abroad. Haha. The humidity is also killing me. I forgot how, even though it got really hot in Athens, the humidity was practically non-existent. So I'm kind of dying back here on Cape, even though it's only in the 70s!

My main problem I am dealing with right now, though, is everyone's opinions about Greece. Everyone who sees me who knows I was there only asks about the economic crisis. Those who don't know me/know I was there react the same exact way once I answer their questions that lead to explaining where I was this past year and why. 

"Oh wow... can't believe what's going on there right now."

"Man, you got out of there just in time."
"So glad you're not there now!"

Those are NOT the statements I want to be hearing right now. You have no idea how much I have to grit my teeth and bite my tongue when people say these things to me.

I've only been home for 10 days now, and I am missing Greece (my second home!) like crazy. I keep looking at all my pictures and thinking about the amazing trips and experiences I had. I miss my apartment, I miss all the stray kitties (especially Fat Midnight), I miss the food (and the open markets), and I miss the people/my friends.

So I am more than happy to tell you all about my experiences and daily life if you'd like to hear about them, but I really don't have much to say about their financial difficulties because I am not in their shoes and truly cannot understand what they are going through. I am thousands of miles away and 7 hours behind, just sending all of my love, hope, and positive thoughts that Greece will find a solution that is best for it's hardworking, wonderful people.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

So this is what they meant...

Ahhhhh, so THIS is what they meant. 10 months ago, shortly before beginning this amazing journey I have been on, people were telling me lots of things that I didn't think too much about at the time. It was lots of things I had already thought about or knew about, such as making the absolute most of everything while here, seeing as much as I can, taking lots of pictures, documenting and blogging as much as I can, etc. 
But there were also things they told me that are now hitting me like a ton of bricks... 

"The time will fly," they said.
"It will be overwhelming at first, but you will adjust faster than you think."
"As hard as you think it is to leave home, it will be much harder to come home."

Sitting here in the apartment I've called home for almost 10 months now, noticing the light change and shift as the sun is slowly sinking in the sky again, I am trying to wrap my head around how to begin to say goodbye to this place, these people, this life.

EVERY TIME I start to think about it, I get too emotional and just push it aside for another time. My mind and heart are both torn because I'm freaking out about leaving because it just feels like it's too soon. This time can't be coming already! At the same time, however, I'm SO excited to see my family and friends back home again. I can't wait to see my cats. I'm looking forward to starting my restaurant and nannying jobs this summer. I'm thrilled to already have plans for trips with (or to go see) friends. And I'm chomping at the bit for a damn Corner Store breakfast burrito and a Dunkin's coffee!!!! Haha.

Reverse culture shock is a very scary reality I know I am going to have to face when I get back. I think that is one of the reasons I am nervous about my return. It's that thought in the back of my head saying, "Yeah, all of those things are going to be awesome... but then you're going to realize that things are different. People's lives carried on without you. They have changed. YOU have changed." I know it's going to be a huge adjustment, and I'm worried because I know how hard I can be on myself... I'm going to get frustrated and not give myself enough slack. I will want everything to just fall back into place. But it's not going to be that easy. It's going to be difficult.

In addition to all of these things occupying my thoughts, I got home from work today to realize that it's been 4 years since my Pepere passed away. I know that for some people, they handle it as just another day. What can you do except remember them fondly? But because of my ever-anxious and overactive mind, I recall the day we lost him like it was yesterday. I think about all that I have done that he was not here physically to see. I can only hope that he is looking down on me always, and I am making him proud. It's especially stressful for me this year, however, because my Memere recently fell and injured herself. She's been in the hospital and just had surgery yesterday. It's really upsetting me that I am thousands of miles away and can't be there to see her. My mind always jumps to the "What if?" and thinks about the worst. I can only just hope and pray that she is strong enough to push through this challenge so I can finally come see her. I hope with all of my heart that Pepere is watching over here and taking care of her. Pepere, I know you must miss her like crazy like she misses you, but please convince her to stay at least a little while longer.

Anyways, now that I've probably depressed you all, I should probably get going attempting to organize and pack again. I keep trying to start and don't get very far.
I'm sorry this post isn't very uplifting, but it's all been consuming my brain lately and I wanted to make sure to get it all out and down somewhere. I think it's important for me to remember these feelings and moments, not just all of my awesome trips and experiences.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Random Reflections

           With how insanely fast these 10 months have seemed to have gone, I have been having a hard time with the following general topic of discussion among most of my colleagues and friends: plans for next year/after the school year ends. My response to almost everyone lately has been, “I don’t want to talk about it!” because that is the most straight-forward truth I can give. If someone really wants to know, I explain my plans of returning to Cape Cod this summer and working, as well as my plans for subbing and commuting to college to finish my Masters. Otherwise, I just say that I’m staying for a week after the school year ends and then will be returning home. Most of my emphasis recently, however, has been about thoughts for after I get my Masters this time next year. I have been thinking a lot about how these co-workers and friends are all in their 30s and 40s and are still traveling the world while doing the job they love. I am beginning to consider looking into going back abroad after I receive my Masters next May.
            A friend and fellow American-hire at ACS asked me today, while we were walking the streets of the beautiful Nafplio port on a gorgeous day, if I thought this year/program/experience I have had was worth it, what I expected, or if I would chose it again knowing everything I know now and without hesitation, I said absolutely yes. Without this opportunity, I would most likely have remained completely unaware of the international school communities; I would have stayed in Massachusetts and experienced the worst winter on record; I would have been completely unsure about my future and where I wanted to be. I would not have met the incredible people I have had the opportunity to meet; I would not have had the fascinating discussions about education, history, politics, news, the world, people, and more I have had with some great people. Most importantly, I would not have seen any of the beyond explanation, pictures do not do them justice places I have had the opportunities to visit. I honestly do not think that within the span of my entire life, I would have seen even half of the places I have been to this year had it not been for this experience. My hidden, only touched upon occasionally before this, internal wanderlust has been released. I still have a few trips coming up to look forward to, but I am already thinking about how I would also like to see more of the United States. I am already pondering where I may want to go first and when I could go. In addition, I am also trying to comfort myself with the reminder that so many of the wonderful connections I have made will still be living here in Greece for at least the next year, if not longer. Or they will be living somewhere else abroad. Either way, they allow opportunities for me to get myself back over here as soon as I can. These thoughts are sort of like my safety net right now.
            At the same time, I really am also so excited to be returning home. I can’t wait to see my family and friends again. I am looking forward to spending the summer on the Cape again. I am excited to go back to Boston. I am also starting to mentally keep a running list of food and drinks I can’t wait to have again (DUNKIN DONUTS, Corner Store breakfast burritos and paninis, Panera, Chipotle (although I will miss Ancho), Short ‘n’ Sweet ice cream). The list is getting longer and longer! I am going to need someone’s help to keep me from trying to consume all of these things I have missed so much within the first days of my return. Haha.

            It is because of all of these reasons mentioned above, and even more I think of each day, that I am having a difficult time starting to mentally prepare for my final month here in Greece. It’s like I am starting to split myself into two; one half is begging to stay and the other half is ready to go home! I know I will have some challenges to face when it comes to actually saying goodbyes to people and places here, and I also know I will have challenges upon my return when I go through reverse culture shock, so I am really trying to think about those things in advance now. But not too hard because I am also constantly reminding myself to live in the moment!

Just thought I'd include/end with a few pictures from my recent trip to Rhodes. :)

Until next time,

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The One with Too Many Pictures to Post

Hey everyone!

Sorry it's been a little while again since I last posted. I can't believe another month has already gone by... May 1st is just days away and that is both exciting and very upsetting. May brings us another month closer to June, and by the end of June I will be returning home to the States. I'm going to try not to go too much more into it than this or else I am going to start getting emotional. As of lately, I have been avoiding talking and thinking about it; trying to pretend it's not happening so soon has become a daily effort. It's so difficult because everyone here is starting to ask about my plans and it forces me to talk about it and continue to deal with the realization that my (almost) year abroad is quickly winding down.

Anyways, this is going to be my quick post about my wonderful spring break adventures! It is going to be much too short but that is because it is getting late (and because I don't have the energy to dig up all of the tickets and specifics for all of the cool places I went) so I am going to briefly generalize for now.

ACS's spring break was from April 3rd until the 14th, but I was getting into that mindset earlier because my friend from college, Becca, arrived to Athens the week before! I got to spend my weekend and evenings (and one day I took off) showing her all around the city I've been calling home for the past 8 months. It was such a cool feeling to be living somewhere a friend had never been before, and being so familiar and comfortable with it. :)

Once my break started, Becca and I did a quick visit to the beautiful Greek island of Hydra. It is a very small island not far from Athens, and it has such beautiful sights and views. Becca and I spent most of our time just walking around outside, stopping for a leisurely bite to eat, or sitting in the sun just relaxing and taking it all in. Plus, we rode donkeys! (Side note: I didn't realize the plural of donkey was spelled with just the "s" and not the "ies" change until this post corrected me just now!) This was very exciting for me because before even coming to Greece, I had a goal and was hoping I would be able to ride a donkey on a Greek island.

Next, Becca and I began our Italian adventures! We flew into Rome and spent Easter Sunday to Tuesday there. Thankfully, it wasn't as crazy packed as we thought it would be, and more was open than online led us to believe so that was nice, too. The first day was rainy and gross, so after we found our awesome B&B, we took the metro to the Colosseum and wandered around there. It was only there and the wait to go inside St. Paul's Cathedral that were the really busy spots. The area around the Colosseum was a sea of ponchos and umbrellas. (Mainly because every step you took, someone was asking you if you wanted to buy either of those items. Haha.) The rest of our time there was spent eating lots of pizza, pasta, and gelato... and seeing St. Paul's and the Vatican from the outside (I saw them my first time), as well as the beautiful old Castel Sant'Angelo and the Ponte Sant'Angelo. We also ended up in the Trevi Fountain area, got some delicious gelato from San Crispino (I learned about them my first time in Rome!) and the Trevi was more covered up on the sides, but also more visible in the center! So even though it wasn't completely uncovered, I got to see it a little differently this time.

From there, we were off to Siena for a very quick visit. We had some trouble trying to get from the Siena train station to our B&B because no one seemed to have the right answer and the bus drivers were less than helpful... but we finally made it! We stayed right near Il Campo and it was beautiful. We enjoyed an amazing dinner at a very small restaurant that handmade the pasta, as well as your entire dinner, right in front of you. Best Italian I had ever had, hands down. We, of course, saved some room for gelato afterwards! So we walked around with our dessert, sat in Il Campo to take it all in, then retired to our nice little apartment for the night. The next day was a very busy day with lots of climbing things up and down. We climbed the tower in Il Campo, then walked our way to the Duomo. We walked around the inside of that, then went to the museum that had original artifacts from the cathedral, and then climbed our way up the Duomo, too! Our delicious lunch and dinners that day were very well deserved!

Our next stop was Pisa, and it took a bit longer than expected to get there. Our brief evening train ride turned into us not arriving to our B&B until nearly 3 in the morning because of a miscommunication with the station workers... we ended up on a train going the wrong way. But the place was so accommodating, understanding, and nice! Our breakfast the next morning was so fantastic, and the husband and wife couple were very helpful. Becca and I walked the short walk to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Field of Miracles. The walk there was so nice and picturesque. We window shopped most of the way there! We tried to make our bodies forget all the climbing we had done the day before (and the late night we had), and we climbed the Tower! It was such a gorgeous day and the views were incredible. I couldn't resist being a tourist and taking the pictures posing with the tower, but it was really exciting seeing it in person! We ended our afternoon with more gelato, and off to Florence we went!

The longest stay we had of the whole trip was in Florence and I'm so glad it was. The B&B we stayed at here was the best of them all! The room was so spacious and the owner was so friendly and helpful. We went out to walk around and find a place to eat for dinner our first night. We found this awesome bar/restaurant where for 8 euros, you got a cocktail of your choice and could eat from their very well-stocked dinner buffet! Now here is where some of the sequence of details may get mixed up, but the rest of our time in Florence was spent hitting as many of the well-known (and local secrets, thanks to Becca's time abroad there) sites as we could. The weather was perfect for walking around and sitting outside for some more amazing food and gelato. We went to the Ponte Vecchio bridge (walked across it, too so we could see Becca's old neighborhood and get Gusta Pizza!), the Uffizi, Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza del Duomo, the Florence Cathedral, and the original spot where the famous "David" once stood.

We also squeezed in a day trip to Chianti out in the rolling hills of Tuscany for an organized hike and wine tasting tour! It was so cool to be in such a rural area compared to Athens and all these cities we were going to. It was very peaceful. It was also so interesting to hear about and see the detailed process that vineyards go through to make the perfect wine.

Finally, Becca and I said ciao to Florence and set out for Venice, the last stop of our trip! We got quite lost trying to find the place we were staying at (which was extra challenging because we had all our bags/things, and were wandering around the small, challenging streets and bridges of Venice. Once we finally made it, we rewarded ourselves to a delicious lunch where I finally got to try some real, Italian zuppa! Gelato obviously followed. Then we took the vaporetto over to the Rialto bridge. The vaporetto was much more affordable than a gondola, so we stuck with that. I was sad not to be able to do a gondola ride, but when I saw the 80 euro cost for half an hour (and the crowded water ways), I got over it! Haha.

The Rialto (and all of Venice) had absolutely gorgeous Murano glass in every shape and form you can imagine, as well as intricate, beautiful Venetian masks. I didn't have much money to spend (with it being the end of the trip) but I could have easily spent it all on those amazing items!

We also made it over to the Piazza San Marco and Saint Mark's Basillica which were incredible to see. It was also at this point in the trip that I was so sick of being asked to buy a stupid selfie-stick that I was thiiiiiis close to taking one and hitting one of the guys with it! Haha. We crossed over the Grand Canal on the walk back to our place just after the sun had set and it was absolutely beautiful. It was the perfect end to an incredible adventure. :)

Because there are wayyyy too many pictures to add them individually here, I am going to post the link to my Facebook album here: Brittany's Spring Break Album

And that's still not even all of the pictures I took!

Well, I still need to write about my weekend in Rhodes this past weekend... but my fingers need a break and I need to go make something for dinner!

So ciao for now, and I will try to update again as soon as I can!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

London (Part II): A post about new adventures and personal growth

I know, I know... You are probably laughing at my cheesy title, but that is really how I am feeling about my day I just had. I am back in London this weekend, visiting Alice again and attending a huge All Time Low show! (They are my absolute favorite band, for those of you reading who don't know me well enough yet... you learn this fact rather quickly once you get to know me!)

So anyways, I am now writing this half way through my trip. It is 3:15 am here in London, and I just spent the beautiful day wandering around the city by myself. That was not the original plan, but Alice had a lot of work she had to do for her studies. So she gave me a tube map and some suggestions, and off I went!

Now for those that do know me well, you are probably thinking how was I possibly okay with this? I have a big problem with over-thinking and worrying. But I prepared myself ahead of time as best I could, by reviewing train times and maps, and I actually have a really enjoyable day!

I took the train into London, then took the tube to Westminster to see Big Ben and those beautiful sights again! I walked along the Thames and then went to Covent Garden because I loved it last time. I got delicious Shake Shack for lunch, then went off to check out some place new: Camden Town! It was such a cool, unique place. So funky and punk. There were tattoo and piercing places everywhere! (So I was tempted over and over, but I resisted! Haha.) The markets were all very nice to check out, filled with everything you could possibly imagine!


Then came the best part of the day: All Time Low!

I traveled to the venue and queued by myself. I got there pretty close to the time doors were opening because I wasn't intending on going far into the crowd... I sometimes got too anxious/claustrophobic being so swished in, and it gets so hot and sweaty that I worry about passing out. But once I was on the floor, I realized just how close I could still get without really going too far in the crowd! So I found a spot right near the overhead camera set up, and watched the opening bands. Tall people kept getting in front of me, so I started inching my way to the left and right around them, and I realized I somehow got myself in the actual crowd! It wasn't as awful as I remembered, and I was less than 10 rows from the barricade for the start of All Time Low's set. I was SO close! Much closer than I thought I'd get to be.

Half way through, after Alex (the lead singer) went to the light and sound booth to perform two acoustic songs, and he was joined by Cassadee Pope! She was the lead singer of one of my favorite bands, Hey Monday, in middle and high school. Then she went on the Voice and WON! She is dating the drummer of All Time Low, so she'll sometimes come out to shows to support/sing when her schedule works. I am such a big fan of hers, I think she is so beautiful, talented, and genuinely sweet. Plus she and Rian are so damn cute together.

So ANWAYS, once I had had enough of being in the crazy crowd, I left and went back to the bar and guzzled some water. I found a nice spot with lots of space and a pretty good view right by the lighting and sound booth! The band's lighting designer is from Boston so I thought it was cool to watch him do his thing for a while. He had an amazing set up and design for this show. Hundreds of lighting fixtures, 3 confetti cues, and something like 20-ish pyrotechnic cues! It was incredible.

What was also incredible was looking over and seeing Cassadee standing right in there, sipping a beer and watching the show! It took me a solid 20 minutes of convincing myself to say hi and ask for a picture, but I finally found what I thought was a good moment to do it and did it! I said hi, told her I was a big fan, (and name dropped someone I know I knew she'd know), and explained that I am from the States but over in Europe for a year for my Masters, etc. She offered to sign my ticket for me, and wished me luck with all I was doing. :)

The show was absolutely amazing, and I found it to be such an interesting experience/instance of personal growth for myself. First, I went to a city I do not know well and explored it alone (something I never thought my anxiety would let me do). Then, I went to the biggest concert I have ever been to by myself. I went much further into the crowd than I thought I'd be comfortable with, and completely enjoyed myself. I let go and let myself live in the moment of the amazing music and performance. I pushed myself to get over my nervousness to say hi to Cassadee so I wouldn't regret not doing it later. The picture I got with her, and her signature on my ticket (and the memory of talking with her), still make me so happy a week later (as I am now finishing this blog entry). The entire night is one that I will never forget.

Can you tell I was just a little excited??
Then the next day, and my final day in London for I'm not sure how long, Alice tried to help me see everything we could possibly fit in. Despite being tired and sore as hell from the concert, we walked around, exploring all day. We first went to St. Paul's Cathedral, and it was SO beautiful. I lit a candle, as I always do, at every church, cathedral, monastery, etc I go to, for my loved ones who are no longer with us. Alice and I then began the LONG, exhausting climb to the VERY top of the dome of the cathedral. It was so worth it though! Even on a cloudy day, the views were amazing!

It was REALLY cold and windy up there.
Alice "Always Has Her Eyes Closed" Romano
The first 1/3 of the way back down.

We continued our exploring by going to Tower Bridge, which I only got to see at night last time and wasn't able to go up on it. We did that, and the glass floor experience/exhibition they have now and it was really cool. :) We ended the night/my trip by seeing "Shakespeare in Love" at the Noel Coward theater. It was SO entertaining, funny, and great!

Alice brought me to this park to show me the heated bench, and it was worth it. Haha.

Alice being artsy.

As I said, it was a very short, but very profound trip for me. So many of the experiences I had are ones I never, ever imagined being able to do one day. I am so grateful for yet another amazing opportunity I have been able to have while abroad this year. I had no idea it was going to be such a crucial trip for my personal growth!

And now, even though I am miserably sick while finishing this blog entry (that has taken me all day because I've been getting up from it and doing other things), I can say that it was absolutely worth it.
Even more exciting still, my friend Becca will be getting here in about 18 hours!!!! I will be showing her around Athens this week while finishing up a few days of work before our spring break here, and then Becca and I will be off to Italy to see Rome, Siena, Pisa, Florence, and Venice! :)

Thanks for still reading if you made it all the way to the end of this post! Haha.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The "I don't know where to begin or what to say" post

Hey everyone,

Sorry again about how long it has been since I properly updated. I could list almost all of the excuses in the book, but I know that is a waste of energy and time! While I still need to create posts for my Santorini and Parthenon visits with mom and Kim from when they were here almost a month ago now (oops!) and from my trip to Rome (which I WILL eventually make posts for), this post is going to be more about my thoughts as of lately. I think it will turn out being more of a post for me to have to come back to after I have returned to the States than it will be an fun, update post... so sorry about that!

Let's see, where to begin?

Well, I think I'll want to remember the time it went from this...


          .........and this......... a matter of DAYS. The constant joke/s are that:
1) Us Wheelock/New England ladies brought this cold and snow upon Athens (because they haven't seen a winter like this in years)
and 2) that it's especially my fault for taking and posting the taunting pictures about the good weather we WERE having. Haha.

But the temperatures are on the climb again, and I keep reminding myself that I am thankfully not in Boston this winter... because 7+ feet of snow and negative temperatures/wind chills do not sound very fun to me. Hang in there everyone!!

So anyways, my thoughts as of lately have very much been on thinking about my plans for the upcoming year/my life. Haha. I kid you not, I have changed my mind about staying, returning, Master's programs, schools, location, and more at least a good 30 times now. No joke.

As stressful and overwhelming as it has been, it has really made me think about where I see myself going and what will make me happy. This planning has made me realize that some options are just not possible right now, and that what I may not necessarily want to do is what I need to do for the time being in order to do what's best for me. But more importantly, it has reminded me (through major help from some amazing friends who listened to me stress out and talk myself in circles) that I should be thankful and grateful for the simple fact that I even have so many different options. 

I mean, I have been living in Athens for almost 6 months now and that astounds me. First, because I can't believe it's already almost been half a year. And second, because just over a year ago, I hadn't even heard of this opportunity and amazing experience. Living in Greece, doing what I'm doing, going where I'm going, and seeing what I'm seeing were absolutely no where in my future plans for after graduation.

So it just makes me think that there just might be another something out there for me that I'm just not seeing right now.

I can tell you one thing... I have not traveled nearly enough or seen nearly as many places as I'd like to see while I'm abroad. Being so much closer to so many amazing destinations has made me realize that there is so much more I want to see that I had never thought about before. So, even if I do need to come back to Boston or the Cape to finish my Masters, live at home, and save up some money, I'm going to always remind myself that I can get back out there and go abroad to teach again. Whether it be back at ACS or somewhere entirely different, I am not ready to say goodbye to traveling, exploring, and learning more about the world and myself.