How Being in Europe Has Helped With My Confidence

As a precaution, you should know that this is a very transparent post. I have often deferred from such posts since I felt that being transparent with viewers on the internet would be a little odd. First, you have no idea who I am, so that stirred a sense of fear. And second, I wouldn't want to share my personal information with just anyone, never mind people on the web. However, all that seemed not to matter once I got a blog. Or more importantly, once I realized that my blog was my safe writing space (apart from my journal). Nonetheless, these are my thoughts--personal and otherwise--during my 3 month stay in Europe this summer.

As most people I interact with may know, I am spending my summer in Europe, or more specifically, Romania. This does sound rather luxurious, exotic, cultural, and whatever adjective you wish to insert, but I assure you, it's not as glamorous as it appears. It took a very long to adjust to the culture, the way of life, the method of thinking, the way people are, act, and speak, and how the country functions. It was more difficult to adjust simply because this was going to be a long haul. It's not a two week stay, like last year, where we switched on survival mode and got the heck out of there. On the contrary, it was going to be a longer stay in one place, so we better learn how things work around here. That was a very difficult task. Everyone in my family dealt with it differently--some stuffed it, while others vented their frustration more often (i.e. me). Things are done completely different than what I used to back in Canada and even the United States. People are different, the way things are done are entirely different, and the standard for things are different as well. Which brings me to my main point: my confidence suffered rather significantly as a result of this world I was thrusted in. Girls dress quite differently (and I say that as politely as I can), many women are thinner and more petite than I (although it can be argued whether skinny is equated to toned), and receive a lot of attention as a result from their, er, fashion choices. A tainted filter entered my perspective, causing to see myself in a negative light. However, regardless of the struggles I initially faced when I first arrived here, I realized, quite early on actually, that this is a good thing. A very good thing, in fact, and I'll tell you why.

1. I mentioned that the women in Europe in general are more petite and thinner, but that is not the result of a healthy lifestyle. Again, I'm not speaking about every single woman, but rather as a general. Most women drink a lot of coffee and usually smoke, causing their frames to be small and petite in number, but they are immersed in a stressful environment. The smoking and excessive coffee drinking eventually begins to have a toll on the body. So, while they be skinny, they are not fit. I took it upon myself to simply observe the thin women on the street. I will not say all, but a good majority of them are not fit. Meaning, they are not toned, their bodies are not trim, and it shows they do not lead a healthy and active lifestyle. The little meat on their bones jiggles, expressing that they engage in little physical exercise. At first, I was very angry and envious. What do you mean that they barely work out and look like little twigs and here I am, working 3-4 times a week in the gym and I'm still not thin? Then, the little lightbulb in my head flashed. I have to accept that I have a specific body shape that cannot be altered (nor do I want to), but if I want to look the best that I can be, then I should do something about it. I constantly looked at pictures on Pinterest with girls that had a significantly smaller frame than I. I could grumble under my breath how I desired to look like that. However, when I was at the gym, I stuck to cardio, thinking the calories would be burned and the weight would drop. Alas, that didn't prove very successful. Especially with the wave of women that entered my sights and seeing their frames, I was motivated to change things up. However, with no gym and a small apartment proved rather difficult to begin an intense regime. Fortunately, my sister packed the Insanity workout regime. Thus began the journey to push my body as far as it can, knowing that I can be better. I can do better, I can push harder, and I can sweat for longer. I can made tremendous improvements; as encouraging as the progress has been, I still have a little more to go. My goal is losing 15 pounds so I can be truly satisfied with my weight loss. I've made quite a dent, but I will not stop until it's reached. I've noticed that as my tops and pants get looser and looser, I am encouraged by how I look. Moreover, I am falling in love with how I look.

2. As a result of working out hardcore, I can now wear clothes I've always wanted to wear but couldn't. The moment when I put that top on and I fit into (and it's loose!) was a beautiful moment. But it's not merely wearing clothes I've wanted to wear. My confidence grew stronger, prompting me to wear more prints and bold prints. I like the cool, classic, and neutral vide Western Europe has, while Eastern Europe is concerned with bright colors, prints, and flowy details. Wearing more pops of color and purchasing more garments with prints on them tell me that I am secure in my body. But, honestly, it's more about the prints and how it looks on me. Light colors contrast my dark tan and prints fall nicely on my frame. The clothing market sells different pieces that I would never find back home, pushing me to step out of my comfort zone, fashion wise. While I lean towards the classic and cool style, I find that prints are slowly becoming part of my wardrobe.

3. In conjunction with my burgeoning wardrobe and working out, I am more excited to wear them on the streets. I need to pause right here and point that the men in Romania stare. I can gotten more angry and furious at the incessant staring than anything else in this country. I'd be walking in shorts, maxi skirt, or a dress, and yet, they still feel that I am a piece of meat. It really bothered me at first, but at this point, my perspective is if they're going to look (since it is inevitable), I should feel flattered that they are glancing at something dressed in appropriate clothing, flatters my shape, and shows that classy doesn't mean outdated. The girls here expose a lot of skin and in contrast, I do not like expose an excessive amount of skin (as that is my personal preference). So the difference of clothing choices also inevitably sets me apart, and I have accepted that. But at the same time, that also says something flattering regarding how I look, my shape, and how I'm dressed, and as much as I find the attention annoying, I take it as a complement (most of the time).


Hello, I am a Dreamer

With the summer gradually coming to a close and the new school year approaching, I am painfully aware of how fragile time is. In theory, any allotted time seems to be longer than it is, until it's over. Then, it merely becomes memories. As a result, I do not want to live solely on past memories, stories and tales that happened once upon a time ago. A lifetime should not be simply past tales and experiences, but rather something that a person continually experiences. Could that be a factor why it is encouraged to travel often? Traveling is not only an opportunity to see new things, try different and foreign foods, and lay eyes on unprecedented sights. Rather, it is adjusting to a different way of life, indulge in classic foods that is quintessential for the geographical location, and meet new people that make that experience that much more rich. I am very a dreamer. I dream about the things I aspire to accomplish, the places I aspire to see, and the people I will eventually meet that will leave a lasting impression on my life. A mark that truly cannot be erased. At the same time, I am also extremely pragmatic; I am very much a list person. I prioritize by making lists and feeling the immense satisfaction by crossing the line.

This precious time I have spent in Europe has not only taught extremely valuable lessons, but also has shown me the impact a location can have on a person. The geographical locations prompts people to shift perspectives in such a way that it would have otherwise not occurred in a more comfortable and familiar setting. Seeing places is not for the sole purpose of perceiving new sights, but rather how the place and life in that location can change you for the better. With this new mindset in full motion, I have contemplated my aspirations, my goals, and whatnot, but ultimately, the places I wish to visit. I eventually want to visit the four corners of the world, but there are particular places that have a special place in my heart. Planning ahead seems to work well for me, so, with this list being published, I am essentially saying I am working to make this dream come alive. I want to be able to say that I have truly lived and done the things I wanted to do. I have been the places I wanted to see. Without further ado, these 5 locations are the top of my list of places to see. Now, before I go on, I must mention that I have made a-list-of-places-I-want-to-travel post. However, this was done after a traveling high and an incessant need to buy traveling books without rationing my thoughts beforehand. In succinct prose, I was merely expressing my desire in an unorganized, jumbled fashion. I have this dream to see these places, and by God's provision, they will happen.

1. Paris

If there is one place that I want to visit, Paris is it. The culture, the way of life, the joie de vivre, the cafes, the music, the sights, just everything. I plan on wearing my beret, sipping coffee in a quaint French cafe, indulge in French cuisine, parle Francais, take outrageously tourist-y photos of the Eiffel Tower, visit the Louvre, walk down the Seine, ride a bike while buying a baguette, and listen to the deliciously sensuous French conversations. I plan on being cliche French-y in the City of Lights.

2. Italy

Ciao Bella! Italy has always been a country I've loved visiting, with seeing Venice last year, I've just been fascinated. Starting in Florence and making my way to Rome, then hit the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre, and Capri. Go all out and see Tuscany too, the Italian winery. Eat baked focaccia bread with olive oil and fresh mozzarella cheese with a small glass of red wine. 

3. Zakynthos, Greece 

A good friend of mine visited Zakynthos for a much needed vacation and after lusting over her pictures, I told myself that I would eventually go there myself. The crystal blue waters, the lavish scenery, the fact that I am in Greece and taking in the Greek culture. The magnificent turquoise, cobalt, and azure hues, and pearlescent whites, and the minty green infused with the bright blues. This is definitely a dream location for me, since it appears to one of those places that many people desire to go. 

4. Australia 

Again, one of those locations that will be worth mentioning to people once it's actually happening, but until then, dream and aspire to visit Sydney, the Gold Coast, Surfer's Paradise, Melbourne, and other marvellous locations worth exploring. A truly exotic experience, it will be (once it happens and it will) one of the tales that I will enjoy sharing. The culture, the foods, the way of life. It will be completely unlike any other place I will visit. 

5. Spain

I would elaborate to explain the reason to visit Spain, but I feel that would be redundant. Spain is a land where culture is infused with the way of life and it clearly shows with its vibrant, bold colors. It is enchanting, full of life, and exotic. All of these adjectives have been used all without even stepping foot in the country. I can only imagine the extensive use of adjectives once I see Espana. 

All in all, I realize that these dreams to visit such places requires work, effort, and dedication. At the same times, the dreams and aspirations that require hard work are often the most meaningful and fulfilling. I cannot wait until I explore these aforementioned locations and look back on the moment when I first conceived to start planning for it. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but work and exploration makes for a fulfilling life. 


A Transpiring Between Two Lovers, Part VI

6. Mamihlapinatapai 
The look shared by two people desiring to initiate something, but both are reluctant to start. Glassy eyes exchanging a willing yet timid look. Both wanting the same thing yet neither are willing to make the first step. You sit and wait and ponder whether the other person is thinking about you, whether the person is interested in you, and whether the individual will even say something. It is a common feeling yet it is one that is tied with so memories, experiences, and tales. But there is nothing as lovely as looking back when things took flight. 

Does he even like me? Does he think about me? I try to ask myself this as unbiased as possible, and I always come to the same answer: I just don't know anymore. I keep replaying the same scene over and over and over again, attempting to decipher any hidden emotions or meaning behind his words. I keep remember the time we met, how he smiled at me, how he laughed, how his eyes flicked, and the kind way he spoke to me. The memory is as vivid as though it was occurring at the present time. It was at a school event, in December, and I recall seeing him from the corner of my eye. There wasn't anything particularly eye-catching about him except for the fact that I remember his face from running into him a couple of times on campus. I recognize his face and I can recall his voice instantly. The energetic pitch he uses when he explains something he is passionate about, the kind and compassionate tone he has when he is talking and listening to someone, and the overall jubilant voice he has that is pleasant to the ears. I have begun to memorize his features, so to speak, for some particular reason. I would recall certain things about him that I wouldn't have otherwise thought important. Suddenly, I would remember seeing him on campus and being happy for the rest of the day. I didn't even realize the road I was going on until my roommate mentioned my habit of mentioning his name. When she coyly teased me about my affection towards him. On that particular December night, though, I can remember how my heart began racing at the very sight of him, when my cheeks began to fluster when I saw him coming in my direction, and inherently appearing approachable. He continued walking in my direction and I coyly gauged his eyesight, my heart nearly beating out of my chest, wondering if he was ever going to notice me. When he finally looked at me, his eyes locked on my frame, his shoulders perking at the sight of me. A slow smile crawled on his lips as I recognized his deliberate slowing down of pace while walking in my direction. He continued in my direction, my eyes refusing to falter. When he was within close eye sight, I saw his anxiety rising, slightly frightened and slightly elated, and the mixture of expressions in his eyes. I believe at this time I began to grin, although I cannot recall accurately since I was focused on the fact that he was walking towards me, hopefully wanting to talk to me. (Although, I've been told that I couldn't stop beaming.) He finally stopped walking and with his pearlescent teeth beaming at me with a low husky, "Hi." I tossed him an equally flirtatious greeting. I wish I could remember what we discussed; the main thing that I remember is that we talked for a good while. I can easily recall how he smiled warmly at me whenever I spoke, how he laughed heartily whenever I mentioning anything remotely funny, and how his eyes would remain on me the entire time we were together. His eyes never left mine and there was such a security in that; in knowing that he was fully paying attention. When the night came to a close and it was time to bid each other adieu, my stomach dropped and I could sense myself growing weary of his departure. He gave me such a warm and assuring smile that I immediately melted. He told me that this would certainly not be the first and only time we would see each other. I secretly hoped that would turn out to be true. I continued replaying this scene in my mind, searching for clues that would indicate whether or not he harbored any affection towards me. I kept asking myself why he would act so warm, so intentional, so interested if he wasn't. I rattled my brain for any other possibility that could explain his behavior towards me. More than that, I wanted to know if he liked me, if he knew just how much I wanted to be with him. Leaving myself with these thoughts for an extended period of time, I scolded myself for going down such avenues. It is possible that his behavior is linked to many things, none of them including affection and interest towards me. Slightly defeated and sad, I decided to take my mind of things with a film. Just as I was about to pick a cheesy romantic comedy, I heard the doorbell ring. That's strange, I thought, I wasn't expecting anyone and my roommate is out of town. I opened to the door and to my astonishment, he was standing in front of me, his face flustered. He seemed to be out of breath and appeared to be excited and anxious in a perplexing mixture. He gazed directly at me, his eyes piercing my soul. I attempted to think of all reasons as to why he was standing at the door, but none could prepare what he was about to say. "I like you. I really like you. I haven't stopped thinking about you since I met you. You haven't escaped my thoughts at all. If I'm awake or asleep, you're in mind and I'm asking you to rid me of this. Will you be my girlfriend?" My automatic response was yes. Finally. This is what I have been waiting for. 



This is perhaps the first time that we've actually starting travelling and exploring the nearby countries and cities. It was decided on a whim that we should go out and get out of the country. Being in one place for a particular time usually leaves a frustrating effect on me, especially after knowing that so many beautiful cities are within reach and we were doing absolutely nothing about it. So, a little bit before eating lunch, I casually asked whether or not I could propose a proposition. I requested if we could go somewhere for the weekend. In Europe, it is vastly popular to go somewhere for the weekend, especially with the distances relatively small. The questions came rolling: Where can we go? How will Esther (my youngest sister) handle it? And so on and so forth. Can we go to Budapest? ("No, it's too early to go".) Can we go somewhere in Austria? ("No, the drive is a little far and we want to stay relatively close".) Do you want to go somewhere in Romania? The response was infinitely unanimous: "NO! WE WANT TO GO SOMEWHERE THAT IS NOT IN ROMANIA!" The truth was that we wanted to see something that was not in Romania (as that was the point of the trip). It was not that we don't enjoy Romania; we simply wanted to see different sights. 

Thus, the next couple of hours, we began packing and the next morning, we were on the road en route for Prague. Being in a car for 8 hours straight has become somewhat the norm for us, since we have been on the road since we've come to Europe, whether driving there or here. With small breaks in Hungary and Slovakia (since we had to past through Bratislava), it was interesting seeing how utterly different the scenery, the people, and the progression appeared in Romania, Hungary, and now Czech Republic. Driving through 3 different countries and observing 3 different cultures and a way of life. It was mind boggling yet particularly fascinating all at the same time. For more reasons that I am at liberty to say, this weekend getaway was truly a much needed breath of fresh air. When we arrived at the apartment we were staying at, the only thing we wanted to do was stretch our legs after a long haul in the car with a small child and limited space. Relaxing and letting our feet breath before a long day of walking through Prague. 

We first started walking towards Rock Castle, or Vysehrad, strolling along the long fortress and enjoying a scenic view of one of the many faces of Prague. With lush colors and vibrant buildings, it was truly a sight to behold. Anywhere you looked, bright pops of colors on the buildings, rivers, and bridges became ubiquitous in addition to being a staple of the city. Once we strolled the entire line of the fortress, we came across a lovely cathedral with beautiful ornate detailing and opulent Gothic architecture, permitting us a perfect opportunity to stop and take a breather. However, it was at this time that Esther, my youngest sister, wanted an ice cream (one of many). Thus, we relaxed while she ate to her heart's content. It just so happened that the cafe vis-a-vis of the cathedral had the best latte I have ever tasted in my entire life. Segafredo, you are the coffee empire I will devote to. It was so foamy, and tasty, and aromatic, and all in all, very flavored. I have also realized, in this slight tangent, that I have become a coffee drinker due to the fact that the coffee here tastes delicious. I simply may just continue drinking as much coffee as I can while I remain in Europe before I return to bland, overly flavored coffee that has no taste (no offence...). It was also in that moment that I was drinking my latte that I realized the vast differences between North American and European culture. But that may be a different post for a later time...

After our brief coffee, ice cream, and sparkling beverage break, we set out towards Prague Castle, one of the famous sights and attractions of the city. While making our way towards the Castle, we crossed one of the bridges, which strangely reminded me of the Seine, in Paris (a city I have not visited, yet). With the Danube flowing through Prague, it was fascinating crossing from one area of the city into the old city. After crossing the bridge, we came across a small park while stumbling into the Before I Die... wall, where visitors, tourists, and residents alike can write their bucket list, their ultimate wish they aspire to accomplish before they die. I decided to add a wish to the long list of aspirations on the wall. The feeling of writing something that people all over the world have written is a special feeling. It is akin to participating in something much bigger than myself, including myself in the large scheme of things. And, all in all, it felt pretty darn cool. Afterwards, we ventured towards Old Prague Square, part of the old town section of town. It was also at this particular time that we stumbled into hoards and hoards of tourists. They were nowhere near the other places we've been to up to this point. It was like they just sprung out of nowhere. All of a sudden, Americans, English, and Asian tourists decided to overwhelm the old Prague Square, letting everyone know with their flip-flops and Nikon cameras slung around their neck that they are most definitely tourists. I mean, I am a tourist, but I like to think of these moments as a WWAHD? What would Audrey Hepburn wear? What would she wear whilst she is exploring and touring Prague? Before this point, it was relatively quiet, with the exception of the impromptu concert on the bridge, with citizens of Prague going about their day. The moment we hit Old Prague Square, there was a sudden burst of energy, volume, and people. After getting over the sudden wave of people, I resumed admiring the city and location. It was lovely, with its antiquated architecture, bright yet muted colors, and long lines of cobble streets. We walked a bit around the square, before realizing that the famous castle was over yonder. Trudging up the steep hill, the narrow streets, and stone walls, we arrived at the top of the hill with a spectacular view. Spanning into a beautiful panorama, the sensation was akin to being a movie, with the lens panning on me and then fading out into the background, capturing the picturesque background. Another cool thing is that a couple recently got married and the bride and groom decided to take their wedding photography at the Prague Castle. Needless to say, they will have very enviable wedding pictures. Entering the castle leads to St. Vitus Cathedral, an old Gothic style cathedral that bears great resemblance to Notre Dame in Paris. Love, beautifully old and opulent, and profound detail makes it so grand and old yet remarkably gorgeous.

At this point during the day, we have probably walked near 8 km and have been on our feet for 6 hours walking throughout the city and on hills. Once we finished exploring Prague Castle and crossed over the famous and renowned Charles Bridge, we had stepped into Prague Square, where it consisted of many outside terraces, cafes, and excitement. There was movement everywhere; people were constantly moving, there were citizens playing some sort of instrument (electronic piano, cello, jazz bass, and some sort of banjo), and hippies blowing bubbles with small children (yes, you read that right). We also saw the Astronomical Clock, an attraction in Prague without even realizing it. I was taking a picture of a cool tower and building after realizing that the brochure I read in the morning mentioned the Astronomical Clock. The city square is phenomenal; there is so much energy and life to this city. However, with intense pain in our feet in addition to my father holstering my youngest sister on his shoulder since lunchtime, we were all tired. But we were on a mission: to get to C&A (a popular chain department store in Europe). Venturing through the streets grumpy and in pain, we finally reached our destination, after inquiring many retail workers who did not speak English and we didn't speak Czech. Unbeknownst to us, we happened to enter a massive mall in the middle of Prague, called Palladium. Even though we were in tremendous pain from walking, we still managed to go shopping. Women. After grabbing a couple (or a couple of more) fashion pieces from Prague, it was imperative, nay, necessary, that we should sit down and relax. That moment when you sit down after a long day of walking...sigh. We sprinted to nearest cafe to sit down. Fortunately (or is this everywhere in Europe), we sat at a delicious patisserie, with yummy tortes, cakes, and pastries. Munching on a scrumptious lemon tort and drink a 7Up, I realized that I must have been living through a movie. Spending the whole day exploring the city and the sights and attractions then afterward doing a little shopping and taking a little pastry and beverage break seemed like the perfect day. In addition to seeing beautiful sights, it was absolutely spectacular. Prague is an absolutely remarkable and beautiful city that compels me to feel guilty for having excessive uses of the word beautiful, but really, there are not many words that fully capture the essence of the city other than beautiful, energetic, and lovely. I would visit Prague again over and over and over again.