Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Humpday Confessions

* I realized that I'm insanely afraid of mice.  The little things gross me out, and I just think of all the germs they have.  I really don't like how they dart across rooms or can squeeze under doors, either.  My friends and I were out at Menchie's and there was a mouse running back and forth in the parking lot, which was freaking me out just watching it.  Of course, my friend thought this was funny and said, "You're scared of a little mouse?"  Then he went outside and tried to catch the mouse, acted like it was in his hands, came back into Menchie's and pretended to throw it on me.  I knew that he probably didn't catch it, but that didn't stop me from screaming at the top of my lungs while he threw air at me.

* Every week I look forward to admiring my growing collection of Essie polish and deciding which color my nails should be for the week.

* The only Easter candy I had was a couple of Reese's eggs, and I'm not even sorry about those. :)

* I don't "get" health insurance. Every time I think that I'm scheduling an appointment and it will just be a $15 co-pay, I get a huge bill in the mail!!  I mean, right on my card it says, "Three office visits-$15, then deductible and 10% co-insurance."  Unfortunately, I finally had my Aetna health insurance figured out, but because of the healthcare reform, my insurance got canceled and I had to sign up with another company.  I called my new insurance company and they told me that in order for it to be $15 it has to be with my primary care giver...which I guess I don't have one now because my former doctor took Aetna, but he does not take my new insurance.  On the bright side, the insurance company did file a claim as an out of network one when it should have been in network, so that will really lower my bill.  I just feel a general shadiness when dealing with health insurance companies, though... I'm really glad I called and questioned the charge instead of just paying it.

* I'm mad at my boss for getting me sick with bronchitis!  I realize that it's not his fault, but I'm still annoyed with him for making me and another co-worker feel awful, which makes me sound childish.  I'll get over it when I start to feel better.

* I'm VERY excited for summer to arrive.  My friend and I have already started to make some fun plans.

* Whenever I ask other teachers about the class that I'll be subbing long term, I get answers I don't like.  One teacher laughed at me and said, "Good luck with them."  Then, another teacher who has them a couple of times a week for music said that there were a lot of behavior problems.  I'm hoping it won't be as bad as they are making it out to be... Oh well, it's only for 3 weeks.

* I'm thinking about changing my blog name...eventually.  I like this one, but I feel like I'm outgrowing it.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Traveling Tips for Longer Trips

After I wrapped up my third year of teaching in Korea, I went on a five month long trip to various countries in Oceania, Asia, and Europe before I eventually returned back to Ohio.  Today I'd like to share my advice on what worked well for me during this trip.  I'll also be bringing up some mistakes I made and what I would have done differently.

*Give yourself some extra days that you don't plan anything for.  If your schedule is too rigid and you don't give yourself extra time, you might not get to see everything you planned because stuff comes up.  The weather might be terrible, the whole city might shut down because of a strike (yes, that happened!), or your bus might break down.  The point is, you never know what might occur and unexpected delays may waste valuable time.  If you give yourself a few free days to use whenever you'd like, you don't have to miss touring a city that you've been dying to see because of an unforeseen circumstance.  Also, if you end up falling in love with a place, you could use those extra days and stay longer instead of having to be rushed away.

*Have multiple ways to access cash.  Bring a credit card, a debit card (or two), and have a stash of money to use in case of an emergency.  Before I left Korea and headed out on this adventure, I thought I was so prepared.  I brought my Chase Bank Card from the U.S., my Korean Hana Bank debit card, and an American credit card.  When I arrived in Australia and tried to withdraw cash with my Korean debit card, it kept saying that I had typed in an invalid pin number, which was really frustrating to me because I had gone into the bank and set one up months ago.  Plus, I had been using that pin # with no problems in Korea.  To make a long story short, that card wouldn't work and all of the money in that account had to get transferred to my American bank account, so there went one way I had to access money.  I just decided I would go ahead and use my Chase bank debit card from then on to withdraw cash at ATM's.  That worked out just fine until one day I was shopping in China and I put my debit card back into my wallet, only my wallet was broken!  I had noticed that it was broken a few days prior and thought I had better get a new one, only I never did.  Two slots in my wallet where I kept my cards were not actually holding the cards in properly.  When I put a card in, it would just slide out... Forgetting that, what did I do but put my Chase card right into the broken slot?  When I opened my wallet to pay for a taxi to the airport, I found that my debit card had slid right out and was nowhere to be found.  I was in a state of panic because I had hardly any cash at all!  At that point in my trip I was traveling alone, so it's not like I could have just asked a friend to borrow some money.  I took my flight into Chengdu, and got a taxi to a guesthouse where I had stayed at before.  Thank goodness the workers at the guesthouse remembered me because when I explained the situation, they told me that I could stay there until I got my money situation sorted out.  The way I had to get money was to use my credit card to get a cash advance until a new debit card could be sent.  The closest bank that was able to do this was miles away and because I had no cash for a cab, I had to walk it.  I was so, so relieved to finally get cash!  I didn't get my new Chase debit card until a good month later when I was in Nepal, so now when I travel I make sure I have a good wallet, extra debit cards, and an emergency fund!!

*Bring waterproof shoes and apparel.  You don't know how many times I was out for the day and the weather seemed nice, but then all of a sudden it started pouring rain.  Sometimes I had no choice but to go out in it, which resulted in soaking wet feet and clothes.  I actually got sick from this in South Africa, and when you're traveling that is the last thing you'll want!  If I had only been wearing a rain coat, I probably would have been just fine.

*Pack lightly.  Remember that everything you bring, you must also carry.  You don't want to burden yourself with carrying extra weight when you don't need to.  You'll also want to leave room in case you pick up a few souvenirs.

*Limit your shopping.  If you buy items of value, you'll have to worry about them the rest of the trip.  I bought some nice pashmina scarves that got stolen out of my suitcase in one of the guesthouses I stayed in.  Too many items will also add on extra weight.  If an item is too bulky to carry or you've gone overboard, consider mailing the extra souvenirs home.

*Arrive very early to the airport, especially during peak seasons.  My friend and I arrived to the Manila airport in the Philippines two hours early for a domestic flight, which we thought was plenty of time.  It wasn't.  We couldn't even enter the airport until we got our bags X-rayed and the line for that was ridiculously long.  By the time we got inside the airport, it was almost time to board.  The airline overbooked our flight and since my friend and I were late, our seats got given away!  We were told that we would be standby for the next flight, but that there was no guarantee we would even get on the next plane.  It was a bit of a disaster and we ended up having to buy a whole other flight (from a competitor) to ensure that we got to our destination.

*If you're traveling with someone else, there's no need to bring two of everything when you can share one thing.  When I traveled with a friend, he carried the medicine, toilet paper, and alarm clock and I carried the body wash, guidebook, and sunscreen.  This helped a lot with keeping the weight of our bags down.

*Invest in a quality backpack or suitcase for your trip.  The mini suitcase I brought with me broke in China, so I bought a new one, and then that one broke.  The wheels were busted, the handle broke off, and the zippers were defective--what a pain!

*Ask the rate per minute BEFORE you use the phone to make international calls.  I made the mistake of not asking before I called my mom from my hotel room in Nepal and when we went to check out, I was appalled to see that I owed over $100 for a single phone call that was under an hour long!

*Wear comfortable shoes, even when you don't think you'll be doing a lot of walking.  My friend and I went out to a club in Dublin, and she bought these adorable sandals with a huge heel.  She thought it would be fine, but we were only halfway back and she was in tears from the pain.  It didn't help that we made a wrong turn and walked longer than we thought we would have to.

*Have extra water with you because you just never know... When our bus unexpectedly broke down for 8 hours, I was really glad that I had some water!!

*Bring an extra camera if you can.  Yes, I know I said to pack light, but in my experience having an extra camera was worth it.  Before I started my trip, I packed two cameras and good thing I did because one of my cameras that was less than a year old just stopped working for no apparent reason.  Later on my trip, my friend was taking a picture of me, and when he tried to hand my camera back it fell to the ground and got busted.  We were about to go on a camel safari in the Indian desert, and the town I was in had one camera store that was open with only ONE digital camera for sale, so I had to buy that one.  Geez, with my luck, maybe I'd better start bringing three cameras!  No, but other friends I have traveled with only had one camera with them and freaked when it broke out of nowhere, so an extra camera is always a good idea.

*Check the bedding for bed bugs when you first enter the room.  A tell tale sign of bed bugs is if the sheets have reddish/rusty colored stains all over them!  If you must know, I learned that the hard way from a bad experience in India.

*Bring reading material in your native language if you're visiting countries that speak other languages.  My friend and I each brought two books with us and then swapped books with each other when we were done reading what we had brought.

*Don't expect to live by first world standards in developing countries.  Hot showers and always having electricity and drinkable water in your room are luxuries!

*Check the Visa requirements when planning.  You do NOT want to overstay your visit or be stuck in another country because you are unable to get the Visa to the country you want to visit in a timely manner.

*If something bad does happen, try not to focus on the negative and let it ruin your trip.  Odds are, something WILL happen that is less than ideal, but try to stay calm and assess the situation.  My whole losing my debit card thing was a terrible fiasco, but I didn't mope about it for a month until my new one came.  Sure, I was worried, but if I fixated on that I wouldn't have been able to enjoy sights like this:

What advice do you have for longer trips around the world?

Travel Tuesday

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Weekly Wrap Up

This week I had to work every day except for my birthday because schools were out on spring break, so the theater was a busy place.  On Wednesday, a co-worker brought in some Funfetti cupcakes for me for my birthday!  So sweet!  Later that night, I headed over to my parents' house to celebrate with more cake and ice cream.  I stayed later and just chatted with my mom for awhile.

On the day of my actual birthday, my friend Dre stopped by my house and picked me up so that we could drive down to Columbus.  Our first stop was to go to First Watch to have some brunch.  I used to go there for brunch all the time during my senior year of college, but haven't been in forever because there are none around me.  Well, the main reason I went there was to cash in my birthday coupon that they sent me, which was for a free entree.  I opted for an omelet with home fries and an English muffin. Not too shabby of a birthday freebie, if you ask me and Dre had never been to First Watch before, but she liked it.  Afterwards, we headed over to the mall to stop in Charlotte & Russe because they were having a $5 scarf sale.  Unfortunately, none of the scarves appealed to us and we could see why they were only $5.  I did stop by Sephora and pick up my free birthday gift, which was a mini mascara and neutral lipstick by Make Up For Ever.  Next, we stopped at DSW to go shoe shopping.  I got the cutest pair of peep toe wedges.  They're red and the wedges are not too tall at all!  When I was trying them on, they were really comfortable, and to top it off, I had a coupon for $20 off a $49 purchase, so how could I refuse them? :)

Our next stop was to go to the Columbus Zoo...I hadn't been to Columbus Zoo in more than 10 years, so I wanted to go back and figured why not do it on my birthday?

I had a good time checking out all the animals--my personal fave was the Arctic fox.  God, those things were adorable!!  My least favorite was the binturong.  We walked into this building that housed a bunch of animals, and inside it smelled like corn chips or popcorn, which I didn't mind at first because I thought some kids were eating a snack in there.  When I stopped by the binturong, I read that the smell was actually that animal!!  Dre says I'm crazy and weird for this, but that grossed me out so much that I started physically gagging and made her rush away from there.  Still when I think about that animal smelling like popcorn, I get really sick to my stomach...Maybe it's because I have to smell popcorn all day at work??  I don't know, but I was glad to get away from that animal!!  I also liked the polar bear exhibit because there's water for the bear to swim in, but it's set up aquarium style, so that you can watch the bear swim through the glass.

Even though it snowed earlier in the week, and schools were on 2 hour delays, the weather warmed up and I enjoyed some NICE weather on my birthday.  It was the first time I was able to walk around with no spring jacket on, and the skies were blue and not overcast!  

After the zoo, Dre and I went to BD's Mongolian BBQ for dinner.  She laughed at me because the only time I had ever been there was in Mongolia.  BD's Mongolian BBQ was the first American chain restaurant that was allowed into Mongolia, sorry McDonald's.  Even though we were starving from walking at the zoo all day, we got stuffed after heading up to the grill twice.  I love the cards they provide you with because I ended up following their "recipe" and had pad thai.  The best part is that my  meal was like $2 something guessed it...I used a birthday coupon!  Hahaha... if you think I'm obnoxious with this, I totally am!  

Finally, we headed to Rita's so that we could get some custard and laughed over one of the toppings which just said "wet nuts."  Dre is the one that pointed it out giggling and asked me if I knew what wet nuts were, but I also never heard of that ice cream topping.  She texted her friend who owns a Rita's in North Carolina and he said it was walnuts and caramel, although when I googled it, I saw it was walnuts in maple syrup.  

All in all, I had a great day!!  It was so awesome to hang out with Dre the whole time, and we both really enjoyed ourselves!

How was your week??  Link up with us below and share!

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1) Follow your hosts Rachael @ The Rachael Way and Lisa @ Ameliorer la Vie.
2) Share what you have been up to this past week and link your post up with us every Monday.
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5) Have fun reading about how other bloggers spent their week!

Ameliorer la Vie

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Friday, April 18, 2014

My Pet Peeves

I'm feeling a little snarky today, so I thought it would be appropriate to get some of the things that annoy me off of my chest!

* People who talk during movies.  I get it if you must whisper something a couple of times, but people that talk consistently throughout the flick without even trying to be quiet just enrage me!  It distracts me from the movie and wrecks the experience!  I just don't understand why people would want to pay those high prices for a movie ticket just to talk through it themselves...I mean, if you want to have a full out convo with whomever you're with, go somewhere else.  How is that not obvious?!  This pet peeve is especially annoying to me since I am a manager at a theater and also get yelled at by customers who have had their movie ruined by people talking.

* When those in the food industry wear really strong perfume...  For example, my friend and I were at Olive Garden and the waitress had on some stinky smelling perfume.  We were trying to order off of the menu and were gagging because she stunk so very appetizing.  While we were eating, she would stop by to ask how we were doing, and the smell would return and make us sick to our stomachs--gross!

*Since I'm on the topic of smells, I'm just going to go ahead and say that another one of my pet peeves is people who don't wash and who have B.O.  Unless you're homeless and don't have access to a shower, you shouldn't constantly reek.  It is not that hard to take a shower or put on some deodorant.  The worst is when people come into work stinking.  I always want to tell them that everyone complains about them and makes fun of them behind their back so they might want to do something about it, but my boss tells me to simmer down and that someone stinking is "a sensitive issue."  

* Everyone laughs at me for this one, but I can't stand the sound of styrofoam rubbing together.  It just makes that awful squeaky sound, and I'd prefer having to listen to nails on a chalk board any day!  Those stupid packaging peanuts are my worst nightmare.

* People who spoil shows, movies, and books also irritate me!  A couple of my Facebook friends post about what happens on The Walking Dead as it is happening, and two major events were ruined for me.  The worst is when they wait a little bit to do it, but they KNOW that they're doing it and then say, "Well, I don't feel bad because it happened last week and you should have had time to catch up on the show by now."

* Having to suffer through an automated phone service because it won't let you talk to a representative right away.  Some of those customer service numbers are so tricky and make it almost impossible to talk to a real person!  I get so frustrated when my problem is not in any of the categories listed and when pressing 0 does not get me a representative.   

* When baristas forget the whipped cream... This last one may sound a little psycho, but when I see a picture of one of those iced coffee drinks that has whipped cream all over it, I expect that the drink I order should also have whipped cream on top.  On several occasions, I order the drink, and the barista does not ask if I want whipped cream and then they'll just give me the drink without it!  One time I almost drove back through the drive through to make them add it, but I finally decided that it wasn't worth it.  That's a lie.  The whipped cream would have totally been worth it--I guess I just chickened out, but now I always make sure to say, "Don't forget the whipped cream."

What are some of your pet peeves?

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why studying abroad was one of the best years of my life...

You know the expression, "Living the dream?" I feel like there was one year of my life that I actually did get to live the dream, and that was the year I studied abroad in France.  I know I will never have it that good or easy again, so I'm going to re-live some of my favorite moments of my study abroad experience by sharing them with you!

So, why was it so great?

* I was immersed in the French language, which is something every French major wants or should want!  One of the best ways to learn a language is to jump right in and try to speak it with the natives, which is something I could rarely do in Ohio.  It was daunting at first and I'm sure I made a lot of mistakes, but the important thing was that I learned from them.  I picked up so many phrases and new words that I wouldn't have learned in a regular classroom setting at my university.

* I got to live in the dorms just like many French college students did.  Residing in the dorms helped my American pals and I make so many friends from all over the world.  Because of our experience, I became friends with Italians, Tunisians, Germans, and even a few French people. Talking with them broadened my horizons and changed my views of the world.  On top of that, since my school was an international one, my classmates were also from all over the globe, too!

* The friendships I made from that year were ones that were long lasting.  I am still in contact with many of the people I met while I was overseas.  I actually met up with some of my Japanese friends in Tokyo a few years later and got to meet my Singaporean friend in her home country and in New Zealand.  My OSU friends and I are still in touch, too.  A few months back we started a Facebook thread and reminisced about old times.  I really made some friends for life.

* My friend Mandi and I used France as our base to explore many other places in Europe.    It was so easy just to hop on a train and be in a new city or even a different country in sometimes as little as a few hours.  One weekend we'd be in Italy, and the next weekend we'd be in Belgium.

* I got to try so many new kinds of food!  Before France I never even had fondue!!  After my trip I came away with a love of creperies, Comte cheese, Monacos, St. Emilion wine, and peche melba, to name a few.

* So many things got crossed off my bucket list that year it's not even funny!  I'm so grateful and amazed that I even got to do all of these things in such a short span of time.

I rode in a gondola in Venice.

Mandi and I went to Munich to celebrate Oktoberfest.

We also signed up to go to wine tastings in Bordeaux.

We kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland.

We went up an Alp in Switzerland.

We traveled to Eastern Europe.

We got to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.

We visited Stonehenge.

We spent New Year's in Paris.

We toured the Colosseum and Vatican.

* I left Europe having had a full set of adventures and in many ways I grew up a lot that year.  I became more independent than I ever was at home because in France I was challenged to communicate in another language.  Having this opportunity and being immersed in the French culture helped me to learn more about my own culture and background.  The whole experience made me a lot more open minded, and I came back to the States with a deeper understanding of global issues because I learned about others' perspectives as well.

* Even though my trip happened over a decade ago, I continue to find myself hysterically laughing at a memory that will randomly pop into my head from my time in Europe.  Thanks to my studying aboad, I am still very passionate about traveling and having experiences abroad even today.

Studying abroad was hands down the best decision I ever made!

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