Monday, February 6, 2012

Wait, I’m getting fatter...this isn’t supposed to happen!

January 23, 2012
I came to Europe for multiple reasons. One of my big motivations was to once again lose weight, like I did over the summer in Spain. I figured Europeans tend to be smaller, therefore Europe, in general, must offer an overall healthier lifestyle. No one told me that Belgium was the absolute WRONG country to move to if weight loss was one of my goals. Not only are they known for their WAFFLES and CHOCOLATE, but they are also huge in the industry of BEER and FRENCH FRIES. That is the worst four-some of culinary delightfulness a country could offer, in terms of weight loss. And I have fully been enjoying them in the few weeks I have been here. 
Therefore, beginning this week, I have decided to reign myself back in and start focusing on health. I don’t really have anywhere to work out yet, since there are always people in the house and I am not a fan of having an audience while I awkwardly sweat my way through a workout DVD. Hopefully my “au pair suite” will be completed soon, and I can begin then. Until then, I guess I have to give up the wonderful waffles, chocolate, beer, and fries.....or get over my pride and work out even with people in the house. Hm, I wonder which side of that choice will actually win this war? 

Feb. 6
Since writing this post (which I am just now publishing, because I am a slacker), I have fallen ill. I mean REALLY ill. I spent this past wednesday (Feb. 1) vomiting and being feverish. That on top of the cold I have been nurturing since I arrived sent my poor body over the edge. Thanks to the magical stomach shrinking effects of vomiting combined with the horrible side effects of Augmentin antibiotics, I think I have lost a few pounds! Sure, it wasn't done the right way or the healthy way, but I definitely didn't do this to myself. So I think I'll take the weight loss and build on it! Work outs just might commence tomorrow. Or my fast from waffles, chocolate, and beer. (Come on, if you know me, you know that telling me to avoid potatoes is like telling the Pope to not read the Bible...NOT going to happen). 

Friday, oh Friday, wherefore art thou Friday?

January 22, 2012
The weekends cannot get here fast enough! Don’t get me wrong, I love the family I am working for, and spending time with the kids throughout the week is great, albeit tiring. But, in the weekends I get to explore! I am loving it! I haven’t been too many places yet, since I haven’t been here very long, but I had the great pleasure two weekends ago to travel to Brugge, a very old city in Flanders (the Flemish region). Vince had class that day, so his mom took me on a wonderful tour of this lovely old city, which is completely protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. More on that in another post later. 
This past weekend I was with Vince in Koekolare, a small Flemish town. He had a wrestling event, and it was the first time I have been able to see him wrestle live and in person. Actually, it was my first EVER time attending a wrestling event of any kind. I’ve never much been in to the whole wrestling thing. I would even say that I disliked wrestling the most of all sports. The theatrics of the WWE never did appeal to me and I found them quite ridiculous. I mean really, its a bunch of grown men in outfits that are way too tight throwing each other around inside of a ring (which is actually square and not round like the name would suggest). What’s the awesomeness in that? The outfits alone sometimes are enough to make the cringe. But people apparently love it.

So, of course, I would meet and fall in love with one of the VERY few Belgians who actually participate in the sport. It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, though! Dare I say, I actually enjoyed it. I went early to watch them warm up and prepare for the big event, and seeing everything come together in the ring was kinda neat, in a weird way. After seeing all of the behind the scenes happenings and getting some inside knowledge on how it all works, I have a bit more respect for the technical aspects of the sport. A lot goes into it, actually. Don’t judge me for somewhat-liking wrestling. I guess I can’t complain, it does keep my man happy and looking fit ;-) So of course I support him in it! 
I can actually see myself really getting into helping and supporting him in his wrestling. Sadly, I have already begun playing around with ideas for a logo for him to use for his character, Vinny Fuego. Who knows? Maybe I’ll find myself ring-side one day. But, for now, I’ll stay in the crowd, cheering loudly and proudly ;-) But, if you would like to help me in supporting Vince in his wrestling, find him on Facebook- Vinny Fuego. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Update #2!

January 17,2012
May 2012 be blessed and filled with many wonderful memories for you :-) <That is, if anyone is out there reading this...before 2013....if there is going to be a 2013? Hmm... ;-)  >
So, here I am in Grez Doiceau, Belgium, two weeks into my crazy European Adventure-part 2. Actually, I’m 18 days into it, but who’s counting? It stills feels like a surreal dream. Something that began back in October, when I got the Facebook message from Jeanna, has now been my reality for almost three weeks. 
Boy has a lot happened since that day. I have a diploma! A Bachelor’s of Arts in Foreign Language with a concentration in Spanish, to be exact. Its sitting at home in my room in Georgia in its lovely ASU diploma frame. 5.5 years of torture, tears, and breakdowns for a piece of paper. I hope it proves worth it someday when I get a real job. But for now, it’s just nice to know I have it, and that it signals the END of the torture. At least, for now. 
So, what does a college graduate with a degree in Spanish Language do after graduation? Well, the normal thing would be to find a job in translation or working for the Man somewhere in a multinational corporation. Nope, not me. Two weeks after graduation I moved to the FRENCH speaking region of Belgium to be an Au Pair for a lovely family. Not much Spanish is spoken here, unless you count the Tapas bar I went to with Vince and his good friend Josafin the other night, where we did proceed to converse only in Spanish. But, other than that, I couldn’t be further from using my Spanish. No, instead of doing the normal thing, this Spanish major has decided to be a language snob and add a third language, French, to my repertoire. And possibly a fourth and fifth, Dutch and German respectfully, just because I am in Belgium, and why not? We shall see how my Language adventures go...stay tuned! More to come later! 

Update! After 7 months....

**Quick note...I tend to write my blog entries in mac pages, and then copy and paste them when they are finished. So, some of these entries might have been written well before they were actually posted. Like this one, which was written a month ago........I'm a slacker, what can I say? It's a busy life!**

So, I realize that I never did post anything while I was actually studying in Salamanca. I guess I fail as a blogger! So, I guess this post will be an update on the past six months, which have been VERY eventful, to say the least. 
To update on the weight-loss thing....I ended up losing about 25 lbs last year in 2011. Unfortunately, due to a turbulent semester and the holidays, I have gained a bit of it back. BUT, 2012 is a new year and I’m planning to whip myself back into shape! 
Spain was an absolute BLAST! I wish I was still there. I fell in love with Salamanca (and maybe a boy....but that is for later). I stayed in an apartment with four other students. Two were from my group, Tonya (my incredibly awesome roomie!) and Kristin (another awesome apartment mate!). The other two were not from our group, but were from Belgium. The girl, Aranea, was only with us for the first two weeks, the other Belgian, a guy I like to call “mi amor” (aka Vincent), was with us the whole time. He ended up stealing my heart. Once again, more of that later. 
Our Spanish seƱora was named Isabel, and we absolutely fell in love with her and her husband Agustin. They were the best Spanish parents EVER and treated us like we were truly their own children. We had a cool set up too, with our own apartment. Isabel and Agustin had their own elsewhere in the city.  They also had an awesome house out in the pueblo, which we got to spend a day at before we left. Isabel is the BEST cook. We had homemade lunch and dinner every day and it was a miracle I actually lost weight instead of gaining it! Now more about the city...
Salamanca is an awesome city! At the heart of it is the Plaza Mayor, which is arguably my favorite hang out spot in the world. I love how it is lit up in a golden light every night at sunset. It is full of many wonderful cafes and the night life is amazing :-) Such a fun city. 
I will keep this post short since I have a habit of rambling on and on.  If you want to know more details (and there are so many more!), ask and I will gladly give you the rest of them!  July was one of the best months of my life. I learned so much Spanish! And I made wonderful friends for life, as well as meeting a great guy ;-) 
Since I returned home from Spain, I have survived a crazy awful semester and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Foreign Language from Augusta State University. I decided that I like Europe so much, I wanted to go back and see the Northern part. I am leaving this coming Thursday, December 29, to move to Belgium for a year or so to be an Au Pair. Who knows what the next year has in store?!? Stay tuned to find out ;-) 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Own That Ponytail, Work That Up-do!

Monte Carlo, Monaco 6-22-11

"Own that ponytail, work that up-do!" 
"Grace Kelly, Grace Kelly...."
We woke up this morning and left for Monaco, the little tiny country inside of France. The early 20th century actress Grace Kelly was once the princess of Monaco. If you don’t get the title of this blog, look up on youtube the “Can I have your number?” Mad TV skit. Hilarious. Anyways, the drive from Lucca to Monaco took about four hours, give or take a bit of time. 
Once we got to Monaco, we could not find anywhere to park. It was extremely frustrating, so after driving around for about an hour, we decided to move on. We got a lovely driving tour of Monaco, but didn’t get out and walk around or anything. The same happened in Marseille, France. We couldn’t find a single parking garage or parking spot, so we got frustrated and left. We have decided that we don’t like France, well, at least the south of France. The only thing here is the beach. We could have stopped and stayed at the beach for a bit, but we decided to drive on as far as we could before stopping for the night. So, in other words, today we were in the car for a loooooong time. Now we will have extra time in Spain, and wont have to rush our time in Barcelona, Valencia, and Madrid, which will be great. I can’t wait for Spain! Somewhere that I can finally speak the language! 

The City of the Leaning Tower

Pisa 6-21-11
So, that whole crud thing, yeah, it got worse overnight. I woke up in the middle of the night with killer pain in my throat. So bad, in fact, that it invaded my dreams before waking me up. I usually only get sick once or twice a year at most, and I love that my body chose the time that I’m in Europe to use one of its sick turns. It is NOT fun being sick thousands of miles away from home (and my momma). You know, no matter how old you get, you mom is always the first thing you want when you get sick.  
After a trip to a pharmacy near our hotel in Florence, I loaded up on some medicine that I’m hoping will do the trick. We will see. We left Florence around 11am and headed to Pisa so see that famous leaning tower. At first we were going to attempt to take backroads, but that didn’t end up working out well. What we were able to see of the Italian countryside was very lovely! It seemed that every house had their own garden and vineyard. What a way to live, eh? I wonder if the Italians even realize how beautiful their surroundings are, or is it them? 
Pisa was relatively close to Florence, so we got there pretty quickly. It was a quick tour stop for us, because there is only one thing to see in Pisa really, and I hope you know already know what it is. If not, then here is a hint. It leans, and is a tower. The tower itself was pretty nifty, and we spent a few minutes taking the traditional cheesy leaning tower photos; you know the ones....where you look like you are either holding the tower up or pushing it over. It was quite hilarious to see everyone holding their arms in awkward positions all over the square. So, once we were done with that, we decided we didn’t feel like paying to go inside the tower (EVERYTHING costs money over here...good grief I don’t think I will ever complain again about how we do things in the states. At least we don’t have to pay to use the toilet!). We walked back to our car, making a short stop for some gelato (which felt great on my sore throat) and then headed for our hotel in the city of Lucca. 
Once we got to our hotel in Lucca, we realized that we had to wait a few hours for check in, so we got our bathing suits and towels and hit the beach!  The water was freezing cold, so I didn’t spend much time in it, but it was wonderful to lay out and nap and do nothing for a few hours. The beach in Italy was gorgeous. In the background were mountains. So, I was able to look at snow capped mountains while laying out under the hot sun at the beach. Such a neat thing! We don’t get that very many places if any in the U.S. We stayed at the beach for probably two hours or so, and then headed back to our hotel to check in. After checking in and lugging our suitcases up a flight of stairs, we set out to get some dinner.  This was no easy task...apparently everything in this little town closes around 8pm, so everything was closed! We finally found a little Turkish kebab restaurant and decided to take a break from Italian food and try this place. It was actually really good! The kebab was make from some sort of shaved meat, I got mine in  pita bread, as a sandwich, and they had several toppings and sauces you could put on it as well. The meat was very fresh; they shaved it right off of a huge hunk of meat that was slow cooking in a weird vertical grill thing. It was a lot of food; I couldn’t finish it all. Back at the hotel we chilled and watched a few shows that Iva had downloaded on her laptop, including Big Bang Theory and Wizards on Deck with Hannah Montana. Don’t judge us for liking Disney shows. Now, time for sleep. I’m hoping that this sore throat will go away tomorrow, because it is really beginning to get ANNOYING! 
Tomorrow, arrivaderchi Italia, bonjour Monaco and France! 

Florence, Italy

Firenze, Italy 6-20-11
Our hotel here in Florence is FANTASTIC!  It is an apartment style room, with a living room and even a small kitchenette, a bedroom with a desk and king size (not so comfortable) bed, and a great bathroom. For only 60 Euro for one night (including 10 Euro for parking in their private parking lot), I’d say not too shabby, especially since its normally 260 Euro per night! 
The drive up to Florence from Rome was very lovely. I saw my first Tuscan sunflower field! Now, if you know me well enough, you will know that my favorite movie is Under the Tuscan Sun with Diane Lane. There are sunflower fields in that movie, and since the first time I saw it, I’ve wanted to go to a sunflower field in Tuscany and take pictures. We haven’t gotten to the picture taking part yet, but that will come tomorrow I do believe. 
Also along the way to Florence, we made a short stop in a little village called Orvieto. The hotel manager at Hotel Villa Spada in Rome suggested we stop there and eat. We didn’t get to eat, and we weren’t able to stay long, but it is the neatest little ancient city built up on a hill. From the bottom of the hill it looks like it may have been an old fortress. So cute, and it was surrounded by little valleys covered with vineyards and olive groves. I was able to get some great pictures from the car, and we pulled over a couple of times to get pictures as well. 
After leaving Orvieto we finished our drive over to the lovely city of Firenze (Florence). Firenze is a great city, with a thriving downtown that mixes the old architecture and the modern amenities quite nicely. The Cathedral in the middle of the city is absolutely breathtaking, but even more amazing is the main bridge in town. There are HOUSES/stores ON THE BRIDGE! It is incredible. Il Ponte Vacchio is what its called (I think...) and it is one heck of a bridge! Every storefront displayed gorgeous jewelry and glittery things. Very ADD-tastic. 
As we were making our way back to the bus stop to catch the bus back to the hotel, we were stopped by a parade of men in renaissance uniforms. Coming from somewhere behind them was the sound of drums. It slightly reminded me of marching band for a second. Since our way was blocked, we stood and watched this spectacle as it unfolded. After the drums and piccolos passed by we saw a group of “important looking” men in suits, and directly after them were teams preceded by their country’s flag. At this point we were trying to figure out what the heck was going on. Apparently the Men’s Water Polo World Super Finals is beginning in Florence tomorrow. So, we enjoyed the sights as these very nice looking men from all over the world were paraded by. As team USA went passed I cheered, of course. The opening ceremony was apparently taking place in the Piazza where we were, so we decided to stay and watch for a quick second. The band that was set up on one of the monuments played each teams national anthem, and when the American national anthem began, it was moving. The men on team USA sang along to every word, very loudly, as did all the rest of us Americans in the crowd, followed afterward by a loud cheer. I felt for a moment that I was not alone, and my homesickness subsided for a while. It literally sent chills up and down my whole body. It was, to say the least, incredible. 
Once the American national anthem was over, we went ahead and left to go to the bus stop. Got some gelato on the way, and once we got back to the hotel, I attempted to contact Alex Lozano to see about hanging out, and that was a communication fail, big time. All for the best, though, because I am not quite feeling well. Hopefully this crud will be gone by tomorrow. 
Side Note: Congratulations to my cousin Kyle Jones and his wife Elizabeth Brewington Jones on the birth of their first child, a boy named Levi Matthew. So excited for them! I can’t believe there is a new generation in our family now! Can’t wait to meet him in the fall!