October 2011 archive

19 Days.

Holy shit. I’m in the teens now!

This week has been a drastic improvement over last week. Work didn’t make my brain want to explode, I finally feel like I’m financially ready for the trip, I did a ton of shopping (always a plus for me), and I finally found a dress for my sister’s wedding!

Honestly, that was the thing that was stressing me out the most. I had been looking everywhere for a dress that would flatter me, and didn’t cost a billion dollars. Best thing about this dress? It’s BCBG, regularly $300. I got it on sale for $166. And my shoes were regularly priced at $99, and I got them on sale for $79. And as a bonus, the shoes and the dress will definitely be packed in my backpack as my birthday/party/going out dress. I’d say that I hit the jackpot.

I also hit up H&M for some sweaters, a new black blazer, scarves and socks. I still need to get one more pair of jeans, but I haven’t been able to find the right kind (Levi Bold Curve). My wardrobe currently consists of black, more black, and grey. Neutral colors for the win!

At Sephora, I bought my new all natural deodorant by Lavanilla. Seriously, it’s amazing. I’ve been using regular deodorant/antiperspirant all of my life, and I was noticing that there’s been a slight discoloration underneath my arms. That, and I have no idea what the hell putting all that aluminum on my skin has been doing to my body. So, I decided to switch to the natural side…and I have not been disappointed! I also bought new tinted moisturizer (really the only thing I use, maybe a little bronzer) by Laura Mercier and I finally broke down and bought the Naked eye shadow palette from Urban Decay. I’ve had my eye on it for months now, but it was ALWAYS sold out. It’s the perfect mix of neutral eye shadows, great for day and night. It’s small and thin, and I won’t have to worry about taking all of my little MAC eye shadows separately.

Jack had his visit to the vet and is perfectly healthy and clear to fly to Miami to stay with Johnny’s mom while we’re away. I’m going to miss him terribly. He always sleeps in the bed with me, cuddled right in the crook of my legs. It’ll be so weird not having him around, hearing his little tags clink against his collar, his little yelps while he’s dreaming. I don’t think it’s completely sunk in yet that he’s going to be gone. My little baby will have a great home though.

AND! I finally finished my first TEFL essays and received a 96! Whew. It’s tough taking an online course because you’re not entirely sure what the tutor is looking for. I just sort of had to wing it and hope for the best, but it turned out great. Now, on to the next module.

Slowly, but surely, I’m ticking things off the list. It’s all coming together. I just need a backpack (going today), some boots, another pair of pants, and a pair of chucks (or something similar). Oh..and get rid of my bed. But I don’t think I will have any problems with that.

So..this has been sort of a rambling post. But damnit! I am excited. And nervous. And MORE excited.

19 fucking days!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Breathe.

Life is going at warp speed right about now. I don’t know if it’s because I only have 25 days left before my trip…or if I’ve entered another dimension where everything is going 3857498365 miles an hour.

Except for this week. This week has been a terrible, awful week.

Monday: I spent the day with my little sister in the hospital. She’s 6 months pregnant and fainted at work. And this is the second time she’s fainted. Thankfully, she and baby and doing wonderfully and are officially on bed rest. Despite being the in the ER for 8 hours, it was nice spending time with my sister. Even though seeing her pregnant is making me never want to have a child ever, ever. EVER.

Tuesday: I cursed the gods for making me a woman. And Johnny freaked out.

Wednesday: I was a tad bit more successful in getting shit done. Or…I just bought a silk ombre scarf.

Thursday: I was in the middle of writing an awesome post when my hard drive crashed. One trip to the Apple Genius bar confirmed my worst fear. I immediately went to Best Buy, stopped by my job for a glass of wine (or 3), and then came home, installed and formatted my new hard drive myself. I am amazing.

Of course, all of these things are minor setbacks. I leave in 25 days. TWENTY FIVE. I do not have a backpack. I barely have any winter clothes. I do have a lot of awesome scarves though…does this count for something?

And somehow…. I know that everything is going to work out. I’m strangely calm. It’s so weird. I have SO much to do. Johnny and I haven’t sold our major things (bed, nightstand, bikes, etc.), I’m terribly behind on my TEFL course, I don’t have a dress for my sister’s wedding, I have another 12 hour a day weekend of work coming up, my blog hasn’t been updated in what seems like ages, and my eyebrows are a TRAGEDY. But…I’m okay. For today.

If I don’t sell all of my stuff, then I’ll donate. I’ll find a dress. And my eyebrows will be threaded come Monday.

Life ebbs and flows; it’s always going to be okay.

Right? Everything is always okay.

Follow Friday: An Interview with Oneika the Traveller

Oneika is also a featured blogger from the Clutch Magazine article, 11 Black Women Inspiring Us to Travel. A passionate aspiring polygot, Oneika just finished up a solo trip to South America, and is currently moving to London (where we already have a coffee date set up!). Oneika grew up in Toronto, Canada and has traveled to over 40 countries. She’s also taught school in Nice, Monterrey and Hong Kong. There’s basically nothing this girl can’t do! Travel isn’t just a hobby for Oneika, it’s a lifestyle.  She writes about all of her amazing adventures at Oneika the Traveller.
Who or What inspired you to begin a life of travel?

I grew up in Toronto, Canada, which is a very cosmopolitan and international place, so I guess you could say that from birth I had the world on my doorstep.  Growing up with so many different races, colours, and creeds around me ignited my interest in international travel.  My family is also from the Caribbean, so I started getting on planes to visit relatives for a very early age!  However, I wasn’t completely bitten by the travel bug until my third year of university, where I had the opportunity to do a year-long study abroad program in France.  Living and travelling in Europe during that year away got me hooked!  I realized that I wanted to make my life abroad, and subsequently spent a second year in France, then a year in Mexico, then two years in Hong Kong.

Solo or couple travel? Do you have a significant other? Does he approve of your travel lifestyle?

This question is timely as I JUST finished up six weeks of travelling in Latin America: two of which I spent with my boyfriend, and the rest of which I spent rolling solo! I love both types of travel for different reasons, so it’s difficult to say which I prefer more.  I adore travelling solo because of the sheer freedom that comes with it: you can do what you want, go where you want, eat what you want- all on your own schedule. Making all the decisions yourself can be liberating. It is also very easy to meet people when travelling alone; travellers seem to gravitate towards one another. Just last week I was in Chile by myself and made friends with a bunch of American and German tourists in the airport!

On the other hand, I love travelling with my significant other.  It is great to have a partner to share your travel experiences with, and they can be a real source of emotional support, which is important because travelling (especially long term) can be mentally and physically exhausting.  However, I think that travelling with a partner requires a lot a patience and open communication, in order to ensure that both parties (travel) needs/desires are met.  I especially love travelling with my boyfriend because he shares the same enthusiasm for travel that I do and we often have an interest in seeing and doing the same things when we are on the road.  It also helps that he is an organizational wizard who always dreams up the best itineraries!  Because my boyfriend also has a passion for travelling, and has also lived and worked in a number of places around the world, he is completely supportive of my travel lifestyle and it often right there with me on the plane! We’ve been together for two years and in that time we’ve been to 15 different countries together! Wild!

Favorite destination? Dream Destination?
This is a very hard question! I’ve been to about 45 countries, and the more places I see in the world, the harder it becomes to decide.  However, that being said, I think I have to say that one of my favourite countries in the world is France.  I love the food, the people, the culture, and the fashion in places like Paris.  Then again, I lived there for two years, so I am probably biased. :-)

As for dream destinations, I have a number of places in mind that I am dying to see.  However, I think that the place that I most want to visit in the world right now would be the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia.  Have you seen the photos?  If not, check them out and you’ll see what I’m talking about!

What’s the hardest part about being away from home?

I think that the hardest part of being abroad would definitely have to be missing important life events at home, like weddings, births, and the like.  Losing touch with family and friends back home is also very difficult for me.

Three things you can’t travel without?

My camera:  I LIVE to take pretty photos!
A good pair of walking shoes: I like to cover a lot of ground by foot so it is imperative that I have comfortable shoes on while sightseeing.
My guidebook:  Buying those Lonely Planet type guidebooks has become an invaluable resource for me. They often have maps and sample itineraries inside- so useful for a traveller on the go!
Honourable mention:  My ipod.  Perfect for those long train/plane/bus rides!

You can catch Oneika at her blog Oneika the Traveller, On Twitter, and on Facebook!

On Travel and Body Image

Americans are fat.

The French are skinny.

As I read blogs about life in France, Korea, or anywhere other than America for that matter, one topic seems to keep coming up. Women and body image. “How do the French stay so skinny?!” “Why are Americans so overweight?”. It makes me sad. Because according to stereotypical standards, I, at 5’0 and 140lbs, am practically obese.

This post has been on my mind for weeks now. I just didn’t know how to approach it…or how to write about such a sensitive subject. But at some point I just had to make the plunge.

Most people wouldn’t guess that I weigh 140lbs (this is attributed to too much junk in the trunk). But every time I step on the scale at the gym, that number haunts me. What are all of those Parisian girls going to think of me? Will they snicker? Will I even fit into anything in Europe? Then starts the wave of guilt, the shame of gaining over 40lbs in the course of a few months.

When I was in college, I was confidence personified. I knew I was the baddest bitch. I got into clubs for free, one bat of the eyelashes and free drinks were sent my way. I could wear anything I wanted. I knew I was smart, funny, and fabulous. The world was mine. What’s the difference now?

Suffering from depression and emotional eating caused a weight gain that not only affected my physical weight, but my mental one as well. My confidence plummeted. I was no longer the girl who could light up the room. I traded my heels and skirts for sweats and baggy shirts. I didn’t feel good about myself at all. After going to a therapist and finally getting my life in order, I started to work out again. I lost 12lbs and regained some of my confidence back. Then I booked my ticket to Europe, and the pressure to be thin was bigger than ever. It was about being thin for Paris, being thin for London, not wanting to be thought of as the “fat American”.

As a woman who has been trying to lose weight for almost the past year, I’ve realized that I’ve been going about the process completely wrong. I’ve been focusing on how I’ll be perceived in other countries, what people will think about me. I haven’t been trying to lose the weight for ME. It’s not about the stereotypes, or the preconceived notions of what French women look like, or what they will think of me as an American.

Women, in all countries, cities, provinces, towns, islands, come in different shapes and sizes. There is no country where every single woman is a perfect, long legged, size 2. And there never will be. Women have short legs, long torsos, big feet, small waists, big hips, round bellies, skinny legs, and everything in between. All sizes are beautiful, despite what the media wants us to believe. One of the hottest models out right now is the GORGEOUS Tara Lynn. In the April 2010 French Elle magazine, she was not only given her own 20 page spread of French Elle, but the cover as well. It’s sort of sad that’s so groundbreaking in this day and age, but at least there are magazines willing to put non-stereotypical models on the cover.

So yes, I do still have a weight loss goal. And yes, I do still work out daily and eat balanced meals. But I’m doing it for me and my health. In reality, my BMI is too high, and I do want to be the healthiest me possible. Plus working out and eating right just make me feel great.

Be confident. Travel and be bold. Make eye contact and flip your hair. And do it for you.

You, and I, owe it to ourselves.

photos via Elle France

I’m Going To Teach Abroad (and hopefully eat lots of kimchi)

Last week, I signed up for a 100 hour, online TEFL course.

That’s right ladies and gents, I’m going to teach abroad!

Johnny and I have been wondering what to do after we go to Europe. We teased with the idea of going to Thailand, but in the end, the prospect of teaching abroad won out. We’ve actually already started our E-2 visa process for South Korea (more on this in a second). Yes, South Korea!

So, why S. Korea?

Well, 3 of my friends from college and 2 of my friends from high school are all currently teaching in Korea and can’t stop talking to me about it. Every time I sign on to Skype, I’m bombarded with “When are you coming Sheryll? Why haven’t you started your application? I love it here!” The idea of making money from something I actually like doing sounds awesome, Korean fashion = amazing, and my friend showed me a picture of an entire Hello Kitty grocery store, so I’m pretty much sold. Johnny is excited to brush up on his Tae Kwon Do and possibly test for his 2nd degree Black Belt, in addition to learning Korean Judo. He’s in heaven.

I’ve always loved the idea being a teacher. Teaching is one of my most rewarding jobs on the planet, in my opinion. And after a long deliberation with Johnny, we decided it was the best thing to do. We did some research, and the next day we signed up to get our TEFL certifications. The deadline for EPIK (English Program in Korea) is in December, so we had to get the ball rolling on our E-2 visa checklist, which includes:
1. Copy of university degree with apostille
2. 2 letters of reference, notarized
3. FBI Criminal Background Check (CBC) with apostille
4. Heath Statement
5. 3 sealed, official transcripts
6. 6 to 8 passport photos
7. Signed employment contract
8. TEFL/TESL/CELTA certificate (you don’t need a TEFL certification, but you will get paid more if you have one)

I’m trying to get as much done as possible before we leave for Europe, since if we were to get a job we’d have to leave the US again by the end of February. I already have my degree, we started the CBC process, requested transcripts, and we’re getting our passport photos done tomorrow. It’s a lot to do, but Johnny and I have never been so excited about this new chapter in our lives. We both signed up for our 100 hour online TEFL certifications through TEFLonline.com. They came highly recommended by a few of my friends, plus a quick google search shows they are the real deal. According to their site, “TEFLOnline.com was developed by Bridge, an accredited institution and the largest provider of TEFL courses in the United States.” The 100 hour online course is $346.50; not too bad in my opinion.

I’m really pumped about possibly living somewhere new, being an expat, and experiencing a different culture. S. Korea will be unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. I’m not expecting it to be rainbows and roses, but that’s also the most exciting thing about it. And besides, it’s only for a year (or maybe longer. Most of my friends love it so much they plan on renewing their contracts).

So not only will I be blogging about my European adventures, but also about the TEFL course, the Korean E-2 visa process, the process of getting a job, and all the other insane stuff happening in my life….like my little sister’s wedding in a MONTH.

I have so much on my plate. At times, I’m completely overwhelmed. But this is all a million times better than my life last year. It’s scary and exhilarating all at the same time. And trust me, I’m ready for something new. I’m ready to meet new people and get the hell out of Los Angeles.

Have any of you taught English abroad? How was your experience?

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