Dear January

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Dear January,

You started off like any other January—me alone. This time I actually had an excuse as I had traveled for almost 24 hours straight, was jet lagged, and smelled like all those wonderful travel smells. Flying from St. Louis to Chicago to Dublin to Paris to Argenton is no joke and I promptly fell asleep by 7:30 and then was suddenly wide awake just as the clock struck midnight. There were no fireworks, no banging of pots and pans, just me alone in an empty flat.

You passed rather quickly—much more quickly than I was expecting. It was like I blinked and you were already gone. Dust between my fingertips.

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I cried a couple times this month, mainly because of politics and feeling incredibly frustrated about what’s happening back home. But I also tried switching offline more this month by actually putting my nose in a book and reading. READING. It’s glorious and wonderful and why have I gone so long without sitting down on my couch, feet curled underneath me, and laughing out loud at words written down on a page? I’ve missed it. It was a limb I forgot about and how desperately I needed it to live.

January, you helped me rediscover passions. I started writing again, not a lot, but a little bit here and there. You made me realize the importance of solitude—not loneliness—but also how important it is to have family and friends to miss and rely on.

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This month I booked tickets back to my favorite place on Earth, London, for my big 25th birthday, and booked tickets to Amsterdam, Edinburgh, and Berlin. I’m going to expand my horizons and get more stamps in my passport and remember to live again and not just sit idly in front of Netflix jamming in as much The Good Wife as I can in a day (although that show is fantastic).

You made me realize how much I enjoy teaching English as a foreign language, and how much I’d love to do this again for another year. In the same place. Who would have thought that I’d want to stay in this small town life? Not me. But January, you’ve made me apply for things that I never thought I’d apply for—grad school in London, Winterine in Boston, TEFL in Berlin—I want to live in Europe, at least for a little while longer.

January, thank you. You made me start believing in myself again.

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A Weekend in Brussels

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If you’re living in Europe, one of the best ways (and most fun ways!) to get to Brussels is train. I really like Thaley’s train, as they do something called Tick Up, where you can hop on a train to Brussels for 29. It’s really quite handy and wonderful, if your train is actually on time and not over an hour late and you end up missing your train to Brussels like I did. (Yay, France and your late, late trains.)

Where to Stay

Youth Hostel Van Gogh

This is where my roommate and I stayed. While the rooms weren’t A+, the location and the main areas of the hostel are spectacular. The location is very central to everything you’d want to walk to in Brusselslike Grand Place and delicious, delicious waffles.

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Made in Louise

Literally steps away from Brussels city centre, this hotel is gorgeous and offers anything and everything you need.

Where to Eat

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Image courtesy of Trends Shaker

Maison Dandoy

Yes, you can get waffles on the street for 1€, but Maison Dandoy is worth the extra euros for the ambiance and wonderful views outside of their restaurant windows upstairs. Plus, its hot chocolates are drool worthy.

Elisabeth

Brussels is well known for the delicious chocolate shops on every corner of the city. Elisabeth is my personal favorite chocolate shop and Instagram-worthy shop. With an assortment of chocolates in a variety of flavors, this is the chocolate shop to stop into.

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Café Capitale

While scouring the city for a coffee place that was open, my roommate and I stumbled upon this gorgeous café. Not only does the interior look like it spit out the pages of Kinfolk, the coffee was heavenly and the pain au chocolat est parfait!

What to Do

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Grand Place

Grand Place is a spectacular sight to see. It’s hard to explain how stunning it is to stand in the centre of the Place and turn on the spot to see 360-views of buildings that are older than your country. It’s truly breathtaking.

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Atomium

Definitely a tourist trap, but have you really been to Brussels if you didn’t see the Atom? Probably not. You can head inside the atom structure and see wonderful views of the city.

Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat

Love chocolate? If that’s a no, why are you going to Brussels? This museum is all about chocolate and the history of chocolate in Europe. Plus, you get some tasty treats as you walk through the museum.

Goodbye 2016

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Well, it’s here. Another year has gone by much too quickly and I get a little bit panicky thinking that this year I’ll be 25 and I still don’t have everything figured out … if anything at all. I often wonder if that’s how it’s always going to be. I believe it is and I’m learning to be okay with that and that everyone is on their own path. Some want to start the family thing young and others, like me, want to see everything first before figuring all the other things out later.

Currently, I’m sitting in the St. Louis airport waiting to board my first flight of three before landing in Paris to take a train to hang out with Eleonore and her family for the New Year. I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen in 2017, I don’t know what’s going to happen past May—Where I’ll be living, where I’ll be going, what I’ll be doing—and I’m trying to be okay with that realization. I’ve always been an over-planner, an anxious being trying to get everything in order for the next big step. The next big thing. And thats what I’ll be focusing on during the first couple months of the year—figuring out what my next move is: grad school? Teaching English again? Portland? Seattle? Back to MO? Travel the world?

Who knows? All I do know is that I’m ready for the adventure and I’m sure as hell ready for 2016 to be over. Buh-bye!

The days are long, and the nights short.

Tomorrow I start working as a Teaching Assistant for the first time. I’ve gone a whole month without working (besides the occasional freelance gigs I have) and it’s going to be nice to get back into the swing of things.

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To say I’m nervous would be an understatement—I’m a bit terrified, to be honest. I’ve never taught before and I only hope that the kids aren’t like the people I went to high school with. However, I met up with the professors I’ll be helping for the year, and they were all incredibly nice and supportive. I have my school schedule and the only thing that I can hope is that I don’t make a complete ass of myself.

How the French school system works is that they have A and B weeks. On opposite weeks, you have different sets of classes to attend. Both my weeks are pretty light—hey, I’m only working 12 hours a week—and I will be tutoring a student for his SAT, trying to start an English club (the professors said this may or may not work), and working with a few professors on their English, while they help me with my French.

I’m starting to get into the groove of this life a little bit. The first week was a major struggle adjusting and wanting to go back home or to London ASAP, but maybe I can get on board with the quiet side of life. Waking up with a rooster at 6am is not my favorite thing though.

Next weekend, Alyssa and I will be heading to Paris for the day to get a different SIM card for our phones (bigger data plan) and to museum hop since with a visa, you can get into French museums for free.

We’re hoping that this week we can find someone to take us to the laundromat (we really need to wash our clothes somewhere besides the sink!), find out where we collect our mail, and get things prepped for our trip to London in 17 days (yes, I’m already headed back!).

I can’t wait to start making money again and stop seeing my bank account slowly dwindle without anything going in. France, so far, has been an experience and I can already tell it’s only going to get better.

So This Is France

Right now, I am toggling on some pretty shifty wifi in the desperate hopes to make contact with the outside world. But, I am finally here—France. So far things have been easy going. I understand at least half (if not less) of what people are saying, and tend to nod a lot and fake laugh acting like I know what’s going on. I know I will catch up. It’s just that I have been out of the French-speaking game for over a year now.

Argenton-sur-creuse is a very small town. I’m currently living in a flat above the boarding school that I will be teaching. The flat is huge with hardly any furniture and I’ve never seen ceilings so tall in my whole life. I feel like I am constantly echoing.

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View from my bedroom

The town is going to take some getting used to. There are only three movies that play at the local cinema a week—all very French. The shops don’t open until 10, sometimes 11, and they close for lunch. Yes, shops close for lunch. The students at the school I am teaching all seem to smoke and have the typical cool French thing down that I won’t ever have. My cheeks fire red when they glance over at me, wondering who I am and why I keep sneaking past them with a carton of Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough ice cream (the only Ben and Jerry’s the local grocery store carries!).

I have to keep reminding myself that this is my home for the next eight months. This echoing flat. The strange blue bathroom. The kitchen with no oven. But, you can’t forget about the view. The school sits on top of the town, overlooking passersby, and the incredible sunsets this place seems to have. Yes, you may have to, literally, hike a mile to get to the school, but it’s completely worth it. Plus, I can justify the ice cream because of all the walking I’ve been doing.

France is definitely a culture shock that I hope to get used to … as soon as the wifi starts to work.

5 Afternoon Teas To Try in London

Oh, London. If you haven’t already guessed by my many posts about the city, it’s definitely my favorite one in the world. My friends and family are sick of me talking about how I will live there one day (look out, London! I’m coming for you). One of my favorite things about London is its selection of teas—especially Afternoon Tea. There are so many places where you can go and have a wonderful afternoon of eating scones (pronounced SC-on) and a wide array of different tasting teas. If you’re wondering where to go, look no further. Here are five of my favorite places to get your afternoon tea on in London.

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Photo courtesy of sketch

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Afternoon Tea, £45 per person; Champagne Afternoon Tea, £57 per person
If you haven’t heard of sketch, I fear you may have been living under a rock for some time. My Instagram feed is constantly filled with images of its pink velvet room and cute (and snarky!) cutlery. Take the afternoon off with some friends and head here for a wonderful champagne afternoon tea, or go for the more traditional and dive into those buttery scones and those delicious cakes. You definitely won’t be disappointed. Also, be sure to head to the toilets for an out-of-this-world egg-sperience. (You’ll see what I mean when you’re there.) Be sure to book asap, as sketch is always booked up.

The Ampersand Hotel
£32.50 per person or £45.50 per person with a glass of Champagne
Head to South Kensington for an afternoon tea based around science. The Ampersand Hotel hosts a wonderful tea with gorgeous raspberry cakes shaped as planets with a white chocolate ring, chocolate volcanos, dinosaurs, and cocktails served in a beaker. Yes, a beaker.

OXO Tower
£26 per person
The OXO Tower is one of my favorite spots in London. The building has some of the best views of London and the best part? You can spend an afternoon drinking tea and overlooking St. Paul’s Cathedral. Once you order, your server will carefully explain every part of the tea and then you can dig right in.

The Sanderson Hotel
£46-65 per person
This is definitely on the pricier side, but completely worth the extra ££. If you’re a lover of all things “Alice in Wonderland,” you’ll want to head to The Sanderson Hotel for the Mad Hatter Afternoon Tea. Enjoy wonderful drinks served in “drink me” glass bottles, menus in vintage books, delicious treats all locked behind bird cages, and so much more. Be sure to book in advance as the restaurant gets booked up quickly.

Afternoon Tea Bus Tour
£48 for lower deck, per person; £58 for top deck, per person
Experience the Central London on a vintage London bus whilst enjoying afternoon tea. Your bus driver will tour you around The London Eye, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and more. While there is no tour guide giving commentary on the bus, your server is more than happy to provide any information you may have questions about. Be sure to book in advance as seats go very quickly.

Getting Ready For Something New

Last night was the first night I started to get a bit emotional about my upcoming move. My mom keeps reminding me that if anything happens, it’ll take her at least a day to get to me, and that is a sobering fact for someone who is as clumsy as I am.

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Photo courtesy of Unsplash

As she was outside hanging out with friends, I sat inside listening to her laughing while rummaging through my closet deciding which items I’m going to be packing into my carry on and suitcase for the next year of my life. “You’re not going to take more than one suitcase with you?” she keeps asking. “Maybe you should take another one with you. I’ll pay for the second bag.” But, I keep insisting that I don’t need that much. I don’t need the ten sweaters I laid out last night, nor do I need all six of the dresses and ten pairs of shoes because anyone who knows me knows that my first stop when I touchdown in Europe is Topshop.

As I placed items on the floor to decide which would stay and which would go, I started to tear up at the fact that in three short weeks, I’ll be in a new bedroom, in a new city, starting a new job, with all new people. Nothing will be familiar. Nothing will be routine. Nothing will be the same.

However, I feel pretty lucky for already receiving all of my paperwork before a lot of the other assistants in the program. I feel lucky that I’ve connected with a fair amount of people who will be in the same region and even have started talking with a girl who will be in the same small village.

I’m so ready for this next journey and to see where this path in life with take me. I hope you come along with me. I hope you hold my hand through the anxieties, the laughter, the adventures, and (I’m sure!) the breakdowns.