Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2009~ A look back

I would like to take a look back at a wonderful, emotional, intense, life-changing year of 2009. My sister sent me a new calendar for a Christmas present, and I always transfer my birthdays’ and special events to the new and upcoming calendar, while reflecting on the year passed. After taking a look through the past 12 months, I think I am a completely different person from where I was 365 days ago. I know that I am “jumping the gun” in terms of looking back at the previous year (seeing how it is not New Years yet), however, now is the time for reflection, so here I go:

To ring in the New Year of 2009…. I was in Australia with Amy (which I am proud to say we will be spending New Years together AGAIN in Dublin)! Although I had been to London and Paris by myself two summers ago, going to Australia was one of the first trips that I considered “independent” in terms of planning where we were going to stay and what we wanted to see. Going to Australia was definitely a trip of a lifetime, and I will remember it for years to come!

One year ago I was applying for Teach for America, 100% sure that if I was accepted, I was going to do it. It’s crazy how things change.

In February of 2009, it was officially my “last” first day of college. Senior Year. The memorable 2009 brought on a lot of lasts, and a lot of firsts.

In March of 2009, I “quit” RA. Unsuccessfully. However, in the grand scheme of things, I am glad I stuck with it. Even though people in res-life pissed me off to the max, it was my best of friends and cheery residents who kept me smiling. I am still so grateful I was an RA for 2 years, which is how I made some of my best memories!

In March, Benji passed away. I still cannot say his name without crying. He was part of the family, and will be in my heart forever.

In April, I got waitlisted (then accepted) for Teach for America, and simultaneously got a job offer to become an au-pair. You all know how that story ended…

In May of 2009, I graduated. When I walked off that stage, 4 years was over. It is now just one fond memory that I will keep forever.

In May of 2009 I was FINALLY able to live with my roomie: ZACH!!! We had been talking “marshmallow” for 2 years… aka our plan to be roommates, and it actually happened for the summer! He was so gracious to let me live with him!

In May of 2009 I also ran my first 26.2 miles. Running a marathon was on my bucket list, and Tasha was right there by my side for every step. I still defend that moment when saying it was one of the best feelings in the world to cross that finish line.

In May of 2009 I started saying goodbye. Friends were packing up, going to school, getting jobs, getting engaged, and moving on. Emotionally, May was the hardest month I have been through. The friends I made in college will be life-long, I have no doubt, but for now, I just miss everyone so very much.

In May of 2009 I also continued doing research with Dr. Wright, which was a hilarious and fun job, I worked with absolutely amazing people! I got the opportunity to see what it would be like to be a professor, which seems pretty sweet!

In June of 2009 I turned 22. My whole life I thought life after 21 years old just got boring. This was a huge shock for me… everyone (if they are lucky) gets older. That’s just life. I can only imagine one day when I am 40, to look back on this silly blog and wonder why the heck I ever thought 22 was old.

In June of 2009, I bought my first Mac Computer! One word: perfection.

In August of 2009, I moved to Belgium. I got off the plane without any friends in the whole country. Getting adjusted to living here has given me the confidence to put my best foot forward with all things that I do, and provided me with the hope and happiness that things will always work out. I am learning how to be reliable.

In September 2009 I joined a volleyball team and a French Class and took my first trip by myself to Paris. It was lonely, exciting, depressing, scary, thrilling, and wonderful all at the same time.

In October of 2009 I made international friends, and am absolutely thrilled! I love that I now have friends from all over the world! Go au-pairs!!!

In November and December, I missed the holidays with my family, as well as my mom and dads birthday. Some days I forget about being sad, but other days, I just cry and miss home so much. However, I know I will be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams!!! I will be leaving on the night of the 19th from Brussels, and will be traveling to Bratislava to meet up with my couchsurfing host, Petr, then will be going onto Vienna, up to Prague for Christmas with Dani, down to Budapest for a few days before I fly to London to meet up with Amy, then we are going to Dublin for New Years to celebrate 2010. We are then going to hit up Paris before returning back to the land of waffles and beer. I think it will be an eye-opening adventure, as well as a reminder of how much my family means to me and how much I will miss them.

I just enjoyed my first European snow fall today, just another small reminder of the holiday season approaching!

Well, this is my last blog until the new year, so I wish you the happiest of holiday cheer, and hope you have a fantastic December, and welcome in the new year with what matters most: family and friends! Love you and miss you all!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December 1, 2009: Celebrating 100 Days – European Style!

Hi Friends! Well, today I have officially been living in Belgium for 100 days! I can’t believe how the time has flown by! I remember Skyping with my mom and dad the night I arrived, and I was almost in tears because I didn’t know what I was thinking, just picking up and moving away from all family and friends!!!

Well, I am now counting my blessings, and so very thankful that this really worked out! I am very happy here and have made some really fantastic international friends! All 3 children are super, and I am just embracing this opportunity to travel and gain some independence! Throughout these 100 days, I have been able to do some things I have really wanted to focus on, like photography, traveling, reading, trying new sports, and attempting to enjoy the weather and take in this totally new environment!

Here’s a brief look at the past 100 days:

The volleyball season has now ended (and we placed 1st), but my friend Louise and I all joined a rugby team! Its fun, intense, and a totally new experience! Carpe Diem!!!!

Joy has moved up 2 reading levels in school and she is still taking Disco Dance. She is in a school play ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ and I am going to watch her in her final play on December 9th.

Kate has moved up 3 reading levels in school and got 40 out of 40 on her spelling test! She also takes disco dance and is involved in gymnastics, and every boy in school is in love with her!

John is still as energetic and loud as ever, but my gosh he is just as cute as can be! The whole family spoils him, but I can’t blame them, he just is a little angel (when he isn’t yelling or crying at the top of his lungs… hahaha).

Glory and Filip are the host parents, and they are super nice as well. Filip is really into sports and he showed me how to play squash. Glory is also very athletic and we have been to spin class together. Overall, it’s been a great fit so far!

Well, Thanksgiving has already come and gone, and I was not home with my family. I miss making peppermint bark, helping bake pumpkin pies, eating 4 plates of the world’s best turkey, and most importantly, sitting around the table with my mom, dad, and sister.

Two of my sorority sisters, Jessica and Vanessa, will be arriving this Friday for the weekend, and I am so excited to see them! It will be WONDERFUL!

Christmas will be rough too, but I officially have my plan for my holiday: Brussels to Bratislava, to Vienna, to Prague, to Budapest, to London, to Dublin, to possibly Paris, then back to Brussels. Of course, the one and only Amy Buchmann will be here to celebrate New Years with me! YAY! I can hardly contain my excitement!!!!!!!!!!!!

Also, congratulations to Nickie for landing a fantastic job as a nurse in a brand new hospital in San Diego for the oncology unit! She is going to be the best nurse in the whole world!

As for the rest of my life here, the Christmas markets are WONDERFUL and I am taking full advantage of all the delicious food! On the whole: I am very happy and learning to just live in the moment.

I hope December greets you all happy and healthy, and I wish you a warm and cheery holiday season!

All my love,


Friday, November 27, 2009

Winter Wonderland

Hello Friends! Happy Day-After Thanksgiving!!

Well, for all of you who know me well, I am not artistic nor poetic, it's just not my nature. I would rather do math problems or read science journals, but I feel this adventure in Europe is about trying new things.... reason #1 I joined a rugby team!! So, in accordance with trying new things, I sat down with a warm cup of tea and decided to write a poem about the holidays. I can't believe I am actually going to post this on my blog, but here it goes :)

Thanks again for taking the time to read it, and again, I hope you all had a marvelous holiday! Much Love!!!

Winter Wonderland
by: Chrissy Pepino

Pumpkin colored leaves gently fall to the ground,

As hot chocolate overflows mismatched holiday mugs.

Pink wool scarves and warm toasty mittens greet

The whistling wind as it welcomes the approaching storms.

Dawn and dusk are encompassed by total darkness, as daylight becomes scarce

While the sleeping sun wraps itself around a quilt of gray clouds.

Glistening frost sits upon the fences and rooftops

And puddles are as abundant as dripping umbrellas.

Chimney smoke signals the comfort of a home

As vibrant flowers and colorful landscape hibernate until spring.

We welcome the holiday season with much cheer,

Because rosy cheeks and bright smiles ignite happiness to warm the winter.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A little bit o' NovemBURRRRRRR

Hello Amigos! I just got back from Spain on Sunday night and had a wonderful and relaxing weekend! Jess and I stayed at a really nice hostel in the heart of Madrid, near Plaza del Sol. Speaking of sol – it was so sunny there! We had great weather and took full advantage of it! The first day we walked all over the city for 7 hours, stopping at all the botanic gardens, parks and fountains. We also discovered some great little markets and got some cute Spanish purses and earrings. We went to the oldest temple in Europe, of course, took lots of Kite pictures to rep Theta! We went out that night until 6am the next morning, and we were also able to practice our Spanish with some locals! We ate LOTS of delicious food, my favorite being chocolate con churros – where we dipped them in thick chocolate, and after finishing with our dessert, they would pour warm milk into the remaining chocolate to make HOT CHOCOLOATE. Pretty much heaven! On the last day we went to the biggest market in Europe, over 300 stalls big. IT WAS HUGE! All the streets were closed off, and there were thousands of people there! That day I went to EL Prado, the very famous art museum, with their most famous piece from Goya. I had to sprint through the museum because I only had 2 hours, but it was definitely worth it! I am now very excited for Jess to come visit me in Belgium in 2 weeks!

I am also finalizing my Christmas vacation plans: Brussels to Bratislava to Vienna to Prague to Budapest to London to Dublin to Paris. WOOT WOOT!!!!! I am going to miss my family more than they will EVER realize, however, this is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have this much time off to backpack around Europe, so here I go! 7 countries should keep me busy enough so I just wont sit in my hostel and feel sorry for myself that I am away from my family for the holidays… but we’ll see!

The holidays are soon approaching and I am missing my friends more than ever, and thank you to Ashley who sent me a lovely letter in the mail! I finallyyyyyyyyyyy sent Craig and Ash letters back ~ sorry again for it taking me so long!

French class may be a hopeless cause; I really can’t speak it yet. I am starting to understand when people talk to me, but have a mental breakdown when I have to form a sentence in my head.

I am still obsessed with my Mac Computer!

Oh, and if anyone needs a reading recommendation, I just finished A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini. I would definitely recommend it. It is just a small reminder of how much we take for granted, and how blessed we really are.

Well, this is somewhat of a short entry because I am now off to ‘Friday club’, where Hannah, Louise, Anna, Henrikka, and I all meet up for coffee and ice cream, and talk about the life of being au-pairs!

Also: 2 quick questions: I am terrible at blogging, because I don’t know how to post pictures with my blog text, and I don’t know how to follow people’s blogs so I have to stalk them on facebook and then go to their website link, does anyone have any tips for me? I need step-by-step blog instructions :) Thanks!

Much love always, and Happy Thanksgiving (soon)!!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Guide to a Happy Life

Hello friends!!

I received this small note card at the Presidential Scholar Luncheon last year, and have kept it in my wallet ever since. I constantly read it, and wanted to share it with others.

A Guide to a Happy Life (Anonymous)

No one will ever get out of this world alive. Resolve therefore, to maintain a core sense of values. Take care of yourself. Good health is everyone's major source of wealth. Without it, happiness is almost impossible. Resolve to be cheerful and helpful. People will repay you in kind. Avoid angry abusive persons. The are generally vengeful. Avoid zealots, they are generally humorless. Resolve to listen more and talk less. No one has ever learned anything from talking. Be careful about giving advice. Wise men don't need it and fools won't heed it. Resolve to be tender with the young and compassionate with the old. Be sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and the wrong. Sometime in your life you will have been all of these. Do not equate money with success. There are many successful money makers who are miserable failures as human beings. What counts the most about success is how a person achieves it.

Success (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

To laugh often and much.
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children.
To earn the appreciation of critics and endure the betrayal of false friends.
To appreciate beauty, weather in a healthy child, a garden path, or a redeemed social condition.
To know even one life has breathed easier because you lived.

This is to have succeeded in life.

Small Updates on my life:

I just got back from a weekend in Berlin with Dani, and it was wonderful! I took a bus ride there, arrived Saturday morning, and walked all over the city! It was beautiful and full of positive energy! We went to the Eastside Gallery where the remains of the Berlin Wall is still standing, covered in unique paintings and murals of the victory of peace between the East and the West. We then grabbed coffee and people-watched all afternoon. We went to some small "markets" to look at artwork and jewelery, and walked near the TV tower to see the "iconic" symbol of advanced technology. Dani and I also visited Checkpoint Charlie and walked around the rest of the city. That night, we went to a nice birthday dinner for Dani (YAY being 23!!) and retired early! The next morning we went back into the city and walked around, visiting and walking around more museums and historical landmarks. We then grabbed more coffee and walked around the beautiful parks of Berlin!!!!! We got some candy and hot "glow-wine" - mulled red wine - to keep us warm, and parted our separate ways. It was a short but sweet weekend!

Next stop: Madrid!

ALSO: I just found out Amy Buchmann is coming for New Years!! YEAHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Jessica is coming the 4th of December, Amy the 28th of December, and JP the 13th of January! I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO EXCITED!!!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog!

All my love ~ Chrissy

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Breath of Fresh Air!

HELLO NOVEMBER!!!! Well, I guess the statement “time flies when you’re having fun” must be true! I cant believe it is approaching the holiday season already! I have been living in Belgium for 10 weeks and am thoroughly enjoying myself. I have finally found a great network of friends here, and planning trips around Europe is so exciting!

For updates in my life (I try to do bullet points to make it an easier read…)

Brugge – I went to Brugge by myself for just a night to experience the “Venice of the North” and it was absolutely perfect. I got an 8 Euro train ticket (round-trip) and just went up there spontaneously. I didn’t know where I was going to stay, or what I was going to do. I found a great little hostel for cheap, and grabbed dinner and walked all over the city admiring the pretty canals and the autumn leaves. The next morning I woke up early and ordered pancakes by the kilo ( for those of you who are not good with the metric system – which apparently I am not good at either, that is equal to 14 pancakes – it was QUITE a surprise when they arrived at my table), and then biked to the beach. I did some shopping at H&M and then came home. Joy’s 8th Birthday Party was the following day so I was the designated “photographer” for the day. It was absolutely priceless!

Amsterdam – I went to Amsterdam with Hannah and Louise (2 other au-pair girls that are SUPER) for Halloween weekend. We stayed 2 nights and had just a BLAST! We took the bus up, it was a 4 hour ride, stayed at a really nice hostel, and enjoyed the scenery. We took a 4 hour walking tour around Amsterdam looking at all the historic landmarks and learning about the background of the city. We got great hot chocolate at a cute cafĂ©, and then went back to our hostel to get ready for the “Ultimate Party” pub crawl. It was 5 clubs, 8 hours, and 400 people. SO MUCH FUN!!!! The next day we went on a Canal Cruise and then got the bus back home!

Berlin – I am going to Berlin for Dani’s 23rd birthday, and also to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall! I am really excited to see Dani again since we had such a great time at Oktoberfest in Munich, and am looking forward to seeing another part of Germany!

Madrid – In 2 weeks I am going to visit Jessica in Madrid, one of my amazing sorority sisters that is studying abroad there! I have never been to Spain, but am really looking forward to meeting up with her and experiencing new culture, food, and people!

Autumn – The leaves here are all vibrant yellows, oranges, and red. A few weeks ago when the children had “holiday” we went out to the garden and raked up a lot of leaves and jumped in them! Europe in the fall is just breathtaking (but cold)!

Week off of School – When the children had a week break, I helped them carve pumpkins and pick out Halloween costumes. Overall, it was a really nice week! The kids are super funny and they make me feel young again. It is SO refreshing to just be surrounded with children. The best part: you can be 100% yourself, and they don’t judge at all.

Harry potter – I am only reading 15 pages a day so it will last longer….

Volleyball tourney – Tonight my volleyball tournament begins: single elimination, 2 games a night. I am really excited about this! I love my team and it is so fun to be a part of an adult league! And not to brag or anything (haha, well kind-of) but we are still undefeated! WOOT WOOT!

Mail – My mom has sent me 2 packages and my sister has sent me 2 as well, and I just love getting mail!! Craig sent me a 4 page letter which made my day, and overall, it just makes me REALLY excited when the mailman comes to the door! SO… THANK YOU!

Photography – One (of the many) benefits of living here is the opportunity to take photos of such wonderful places. Traveling around has provided some great photos, and being with 3 ADORABLE children makes taking photos so rewarding! I love it here ; )

Rain boots – I finally gave in and bought rain boots.

Thanksgiving and Christmas – For the first time in my life, I will not be home for the 2 greatest holidays of the year. This makes me sad, but it also makes me really happy to look back on all the great years we have had as a family. Being away from home is a good way to remember to be thankful for all the good times!

Nikkies wedding – Nikkie P just got my bridesmaid dress for me! I am really excited for her and her big day, I will be flying back to the states on June 5th to make it in time for her WEDDING! awwwwwwwww

Skype – thank God for Skype. For those of you who I have not skyped with yet, lets set up a time. SERIOUSLY! Skypename: chrissyjopepino

Thailand – I think moving to Belgium was 100% the right decision. First of all, I remember Dani telling me that whatever you choose to do with the year after you graduate, it will set the tone for the rest of your life. I am finding that to be very true! I have gained a lot of confidence by being here, by moving to a new country, learning to get adjusted to the differences, and making new friends. I am strongly considering doing a year-long program in Thailand to teach English. I had a phone interview with the program, and am now working out logistics. I really do want to teach (as previously shown with applying to TFA) and think this may be a good option.

Anyhow, thank you for taking the time to read my blog, and please (as always) provide me with updates on your life! My email is And just a small reminder, you are all welcome to visit AT ANY TIME!

All my love ~ Chrissy

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Updates (Attempt #2)

UPDATES IN MY LIFE VIA CATEGORIES: Germany: I am now back from Oktoberfest in Munich, and had just a marvelous time! I met up with Dani, another Psychobiology major from Chapman University, and we just had a freaking AWESOME time! We Couch Surfed with some amazing people and met some fantastic friends! It was overall a very positive experience, and I will be going back to Germany, but this time to Berlin, to celebrate Dani’s 23rd birthday with her! YAY!

Harry Potter: I am now on the 7th and Final Book of Harry Potter, and oh my gosh I don’t want it to end!!! If you have any recommendations on the next series I should read, please let me know. My host family says Twilight, any thoughts?

Fresh Fruit: There are fresh apples and grapes that grow in our yard here. Pretty cool!

Host Family: I have been here almost 2 months and am acclimating quite well. I am getting along with the family, and the children really are wonderful. They all go to school and are very smart, and I am just really proud of them!

Swimming: There is a swimming pool at the Castle Club, and the children LOVE to go swimming. I took them swimming a few weeks ago, and it was probably the funniest experience I have had here. Long story short, we were in the pool for 3 hours, and I was exhausted by the end!!!

Au pair club on Fridays: A few good friends and I meet at a cute little coffee/ice cream parlor on Fridays and visit for a couple hours called Mont Blanc. It is wonderful to meet such a nice variety of people from all over the world, such as Finland, Sweden, and the U.K. Overall, I am very excited to have met these wonderful gals, and am happy to be here!

Volleyball Team: I am so grateful to have met Kerry and Kathleen, they are 2 American girls that live on the estate, and are kick-ass at volleyball. They asked me to join the adult league and the games are so fun! It is just nice to be back on the court and smiling again, even though I am out of shape and cant jump serve to save my life. We had a match vs. a team from Lithuania and WON! Heck yes!

French Class: Updates on that – I am enjoying French, but cant speak a lick of it. Patience I guess.

Parallel parking: Parallel Parking with a Stick Shift Car in EUROPE gives me ulcers. End of story on that one.

Visitors: I am delighted to say that Jessica, who is living in Spain, is coming to visit me the first weekend of December, and JP is also coming to visit me in January before he starts his amazing adventure studying abroad in the Netherlands.

MISSING YOU: I miss my friends and family and get super home-sick sometimes. Thank God for Skype, because it really helps me still feel connected with most of my friends and family. I still have not skyped with a few close friends back in AZ and CA, but it is either because a) they don’t have a good comp, or b) our schedules are way too opposite, but I am not giving up hope!!! However, I know I will (God willing) be reunited with everyone very very soon when I get back to the states! ORRRR, when you come visit me here : )

Teach For America: I was offered another final interview (in person) for TFA, but was actually able to defer my final interview until March since I am considered an international applicant. This is good in a variety of ways, now I can really think more about this decision and commitment, as well as buy a cheaper ticket to New York (or where ever my final interview will be).

Possibly teaching in Thailand: I applied to teach English for 1 year in Thailand. Carpe Diem. Right?

Cake Decorating: I have taken 3 cake decorating classes already, and to be honest, I am terrible. I don’t have patience for that kind of stuff, but it is hilarious and I am enjoying the ‘attempt’. It took me 2 hours to make rose petals out of icing, and another 2 hours to dye them the proper color. I just wanna eat cake, lets be honest. Who cares what it looks like?!?

Future Travels: I would really like to go visit Jessica in Spain, Vanessa in England, JP in the Netherlands, and also take a trip to Ireland, Switzerland, and Greece, but will be saving some of those destinations for when my mom comes to visit, or take a bit longer to explore and do it over Christmas break, not sure yet… Overall, Belgium really is the ultimate location for traveling!

Markets: Here they really support local farms and businesses, and each Friday there are markets in Stockel, Tevuren, and Leuven and you can buy any thing you want! Fresh produce, flowers, cheeses, meats, and of course, baked goods! I love to just go and walk around, it is a nice atmosphere!

Transportation: The Metro here ROCKS! I love well planned out cities! And everyone here walks and ride bikes too! COOL!

Mi Casa: Living on an Estate is pretty nice!! This house is just picture-perfect and I love being surrounded by green grass, big trees, and a little stream full of ducks!

My Comfort Zone- GONE: This whole experience has forced me out of my comfort zone. I am beginning to look at this as an opportunity instead of a hindrance. Life is all what you make of it.

Time for Myself: Time to relax is a change of pace! (I am learning how to do this…. )When the children are at school and the grocery shopping and laundry is done, I can just sit and relax. I read, listen to music, go for walks, go work out, or just sit and mediate. In college, I never had time for myself, so this is a nice change in routine.

Congratulations to the Pepino Family: My mom and dad just got a new dog, Munchkin, a 3 year old boy from the Humane Society, and I am happy that they now have a new companion at home. Of course, no dog will ever replace my best 4-legged friend, Benji, but I am happy that we have a new member of our family. I just wish I could be there to help celebrate in my mom’s happiness. I also really miss my sisser. She can always make me laugh when I am having a not-so-good day.

The Weather: I miss nice weather!!! Belgium is great location in Europe, and I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to live here, but the weather is just a whole different experience that I have never been through. RAIN RAIN RAIN!!! Coming from Arizona then moving to California, I really have no idea what “winter” is, but will be experiencing COLD weather from about November to March. Heating blanket anyone???

I am not trying to sound materialistic but….. I miss having more than 7 outfits to choose from. I only took one big suitcase here full of clothes, then a smaller suitcase full of cosmetics/vitamins. Long story short: living with one suitcase full of clothes for a year is also a new experience, and a humbling one as well!

Pardon???? I miss being able to read road signs/ingredients/maps/instructions etc. Not much English is spoken or written here…..

The Fat Kid in Me: I miss In N Out and Taco Bell. Yes, this did just make my blog. Don’t judge me.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog, and again, please

PLEASE up date me on your life, you can e-mail me at


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"work to live, dont live to work"


My last blog update was about a week ago, so I would like to take a minute to fill you in on the latest (I enjoy numbering things as part of my OCD – if you cant tell yet):

1) I went to Paris last weekend at the last minute with a family that lives on the estate. Maryse and her family (who are SUPER nice) gave me a lift, because they were going to the south of France to visit friends, so they dropped me off in the city on the way! To be honest, I was a bit scared; because I got dropped off at 10pm Friday night, and had no idea where I was in relation to my hostel, and really cant speak much French. However, with a bit of patience (I got lost on the Metro) and some friendly people, I made it safely to my hostel. Now my hostel is a WHOLE different blog entry (well at least it could be), but long story short, it was a shit hole. I didn’t pay much to stay there, so that was fine, but lets just say I didn’t shower for 2 days because the bathrooms had mice and roaches. I am very glad I brought my own sleep sheet and towel as well because you have to rent them from the ‘front desk’ and they cost as much as one night to sleep!!! Crazy! Anyhow, in no way am I complaining, I think it really added to the whole experience and adventure! The first morning I was there I got a croissant (okay, lets be honest, I got 3) for breakfast, followed by crepes for lunch, and pasta for dinner. I think I consumed my body weight in carbohydrates while I was there, but oh well! I walked around the city and went to all the tourist attractions (i.e. Eiffel Tower, La Seine, Louvre Museum, The Pantheon, Notre Dame, etc) and had a fantastic time! Saturday night I went on my first ever “Pub Crawl” with the other people in the hostel, which was quite an experience. I met a lot of friendly people, literally from ALL over the world, which was incredible, and got to see the “nightlife” side of Paris. On Sunday, I rented a bicycle in the city and just went around to look at some parks and gardens, and read under the Eiffel Tower with some ice cream. Overall, it was a fantastic trip and very “Freeing” to have the independence and confidence to find my way around a huge city. I feel as though traveling by myself has some great benefits, but also some drawbacks. One positive: I heard a quote saying “You never learn anything while you are talking”. Well, there are hours and hours where I just don’t talk, so I just listen. I think it is fascinating to just ‘people watch’ and listen. I now agree that you can learn so much by just observing. To wrap up this ever so long paragraph: I had a really good time in France, and am looking forward to going to Germany this weekend to meet up with Dani.
2) I started my new French class at the CLL and really love it! It is so much better than my last class (taught in Dutch) because now I can actually understand directions and it makes it much easier to follow what is going on! I am just delighted to be back in the school setting, and it is so nice to interact with people with different backgrounds! I met a few very kind girls in my class, one from the Philippines, one from Lithuania, and one from Sweden! I need to practice my French a lot more, so I am trying to speak it with the children!
3) I had my TFA phone interview last night, and will keep you updated as that journey continues.
4) I am finally coming out of my ‘comfort zone’ and making a few new friends. I went to IKEA with a very nice girl (Hannah) and we spent all day together just hanging out and talking about life. She is from the UK and very nice, and we are going to take a shopping trip to Brussels together to load up on winter clothes. I also am joining a volleyball league (our first practice is tonight) with Kerry and Kathleen, which will be SO nice to just play volleyball again! They are American, and super nice! WOOT WOOT
5) I am becoming so domestic, and I really never thought I would say that. I am taking a 4 week cake decorating course and I love it! Crazy! It took me 2 hours just to make the rose buds out of frosting (and then we dye them specific colors), but it is so fun just to relax and get immersed in something creative! This year break has already been good for my ‘creative’ side, and I am still enjoying taking photos and doing crafts : )
6) I cant believe it is almost October! CRAZY! Time is flying!
7) I really enjoy the markets here! On Fridays, they have the Stockel Markets, where all local growers come and sell their fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Also, there are specific ‘stalls’ where you can buy fresh cheese, meats, and jams. I love the atmosphere of the markets, where everyone is smiling and happy and buying local! It’s wonderful!
8) I miss everyone. Sometimes I have my good days and sometimes I have my bad days when I get really lonely. I know those feelings are normal, but it is hard for me to know what I am missing out on back in the states.
9) COME VISIT!!!!!!! The weather is getting colder now, but will begin to warm up again in March, which gives you PLENTY of time to book your flight ; )
10) All my love, and thank you for taking the time to read my blog! I hope you are all doing well, and please provide me with updates as well! Au revior!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

4 Weeks in........

Hello Friends!!!!!

I am currently writing this entry in my word document, then having to quickly copy/paste it into my blog because I have such sporadic internet access until this Tuesday. I have to sit in my car outside the school and log onto random people’s wireless before I get ‘timed out’ of connection. Long story short, I apologize if I have not been in contact with you for a while, having no home telephone and no e-mail access has been incredibly difficult and very frustrating for me. I miss being in contact with everyone!!!

As for a few Belgium updates:

~ I just booked my flight to Munich, Germany from Oct 2 – Oct 5 for OKTOBERFEST! I will be meeting up with my good friend Dani from Chapman, and am counting down the days!!! It will be wonderful to see a new part of Europe with great company!

~ I dropped my French Class (taught in Dutch) and will be enrolling in another ‘immersion’ class soon! YAY! I am dying to get back into the school setting! It was super hard for me to think about not starting school with everyone else at Chapman, to be honest, I am a bit jealous of all those freshmen who are getting the opportunity to embark on 4 great years. I want to do it over again!!!! Hopefully my new class will allow me to meet some great people!

~ I need to become much trendier! Everyone here always asks me where I am from, and explain to me I am obviously a foreigner. It is definitely because of my North Face fleece, along with my white tennis shoes, and camera (and my backpack is probably a dead giveaway too)! Anyhow, I bought some cute black riding boots that are good for a) keeping out the rain b) keeping me warm up to my knees c) making me not look so much like a tourist. Now I just have to hide my backpack and camera….

~ The new house on the estate is lovely, and we are finally settling in. The first month here has been CRAZY, but I am happy to finally get into a routine. The girls are just adorable, and they ask me to French braid their hair every night. They have matching Hello Kitty fuzzy pajamas! Kate and Joy are just adorable kids!!! Kate, the 6 year old girl, moved up in her class already because her reading level improved!!! What a stud! She also is just a bubbly and fantastic. She isn’t into princesses and playing with dolls, and loves collecting bugs and getting dirty outside. I want her as my child!

~ I am in the process of hanging up all my pictures of friends and family back home, and I stare at the pictures and get super home-sick. I miss everyone so much already, and sometimes I wonder how I am going to make it 8 more months without seeing everyone. This is the absolute hardest part about moving. I am sad to have to miss 2 birthdays this month, Tasha’s and Dan’s. I realize how much I am missing out for these special events, and just have to remind myself that I can celebrate with them as soon as I return!

~ For the first time in 22 years of living, I am lonely. I have never really experienced this feeling for such a long time. Yes, I have been lonely on a weekend or so, but never a whole month. However, on the plus side, it is forcing me to be comfortable with just myself. It is hard to just be alone, and have time to listen to your own thoughts, but I think I am growing as a person, and finally facing things I don’t like about me, and brainstorming how I can improve myself.

~Lets chat about the weather for a second: rain, rain, followed by more rain. I am already busting out my most intense winter gear, while people are still walking around in shorts. I am sure an Arizona girl!!! I am clueless on how to survive winter here, but it is just around the corner!!!

~ I am taking a spinning class at the Castle club, and LOVE IT! It is hilarious, and I am drenched in sweat by the end of it! The instructor is super cute as well, which is a bonus! I promised myself to not miss a class. However, I would think that I would be loosing weight. WRONG. The Belgium Chocolates are keeping me nice and plump.

~ I have met some really nice girls here so far. Maurice, a really sincere lady who lives on the estate, took me to the Belgium Chocolate Factory, and we take spin class together. She is very kind and warm hearted. I also met 2 girls close to my age from Maryland, and play volleyball!!! We will hopefully be planning some trips soon together. I also met up with a girl from the states who works in Brussels, and she was very welcoming and friendly too!

~ I am still studying for the GRE’s for grad school!!!! I am loving the math sections, but hating the verbal section. Overall, I am looking forward to some sort of further schooling when I return. I re-applied for TFA and got to the 2nd round of phone interviews again, so we’ll see if I get invited for attend final interview! Let’s see if its meant to be!

Again, all my love, and thanks for taking the time to read my blog (and please come visit soon if you can)!!!!

Cheers, Chrissy

Friday, September 4, 2009

More Waffles Please!!!

This is my second blog entry since arriving in Belgium, and I am still enjoying myself. It has been incredibly busy since the minute I landed, and I am still adjusting to a variety of differences, however this family suits me well. They are very active, and love to swim, ride bikes, and play futbol (soccer) in the park.

The first week I was here, I was taking care of John, the youngest of the children, who is 3 years old. He is charming, and adorable, but very energetic and will try to climb/throw/run 24 hours a day. We just moved into a new house in a new township (similar to a different city) and that has been a huge change. The house is lovely, it is on an estate, and is part of a castle. I have a huge room; it is painted yellow (my favorite color), and a lovely view. The girls started school on Wednesday, and John starts school this upcoming Monday. Finally, I will be on a schedule and routine, which will be very nice.

I am going into Brussels again this weekend (I cant believe this is only my second weekend here!) to meet up with a new friend I made from Morocco. He wants to learn better English, and I want to learn French, so we are going to help each other. Last Saturday I went into Brussels and had just a fantastic time!!! I took lots of pictures and ate LOTS of waffles and fresh chocolate with pralines, raspberries, and mint. It was nice to go exploring and take photos. If you are reading this and planning to visit, I promise it will be worth your while!!!! It is a fantastic city and a great place to try new things!!

Beginning a new school year for Joy, Kate and John will mean lots of activities, and I am totally going to be the ‘soccer mom’ for the next year. The girls are involved in a variety of extracurricular activities, such as disco dance, and ballet. The girls are just adorable and I love them. They ask me to braid their hair before school, and I put cute pink little clips to hold the braids in. I help them with their homework (honestly my favorite part of the day) and cook the 3 kids dinner. I am basically in a life course of Housewife 101 (but I don’t have to clean the house or iron, they have separate people who do that – yay)!

However, I have been here less than 2 weeks and already realized one thing about myself: I miss learning and going to school and working at interesting jobs (i.e. SCCWRP doing virus and bacteria testing, or working in Dr. Wright’s Lab studying invertebrate marine biology). This is a nice break for me and I think it was the right decision after 4 challenging years in college, but I know for sure that I want to go to graduate school, and get my doctorate or become a veterinarian. I have already gotten through 230 pages of math GRE questions, and I enjoy doing that at night. I get so bored if I am not intellectually stimulated, and I want to take more classes here.

The one class I am currently enrolled in can be considered ”Epic Fail”. My family here signed me up for French; however, they don’t teach French in English, they teach French in Dutch. Soooooo… moral of the story, I don’t understand one single word while I am sitting in class. At night, I try to read French books, listen to French on tape, and ‘immerse’ myself as best as I can. Unfortunately, I am not blessed with the brain to easily ‘pick up’ languages. I am trying, but find it incredibly challenging.

Now onto the differences I have already discovered since living in Belgium: besides the huge language barrier, the driving is also really different here. The streets are very narrow and you have to pull over to the side (behind parked cars randomly on the street) to let other cars pass. They also have the ‘right hand rule’ here where cars coming from the right have priority. This is really scary!

The grocery stores here are much different as well, and they don’t weigh your fruits and vegetables at the cash register. I didn’t know this the first time I went shopping, and held up the line because I had to run back and weigh everything. Another thing: I can’t read any labels in the grocery store, so I just guess what I am buying. It’s a new adventure! Also, you get charged 2 Euro to rent a shopping cart, and it costs 1 Euro per grocery bag (to encourage to bring your own)! Again, it is super environmentally friendly here, they charge per garbage bag here, and there is a compost pile for all remaining food, so it can be used in the garden and not put into a dump somewhere.

Also, lets talk about the weather. When I packed for Europe, I brought all my warmest clothes, however coming from California/Arizona, ‘warm’ does not have the same meaning here as it does there. I am standing in the rain with my coat and NorthFace fleece on, while the kids are running around the yard, in literally just underwear and shoes, saying how nice it is! It rains here every day, and I starting singing ‘rain rain go away, come again another day’, and Kate, the middle child, says ‘Chrissy, don’t sing that to the rain, because it just makes the rain sad and want to cry – and then it will rain more’. Moral of the story, the weather is nothing like I have ever experienced. We are now approaching fall, when all the leaves are changing colors and falling to the ground. It is just beautiful, but extremely cold already.

Now to the sappy part (which will be in every single blog), I miss my family and friends a lot already. It finally sank in that this is my new place of residence and an actual job, and not just a vacation, and that has been hard for me. I have made a few friends here, but nothing can compare to the friends back in the US. I know I need to give it time, but it is just hard being here and not having anyone to share in all the excitement of traveling and exploring. I have not had Internet access since we moved into the new house, so I have been missing my Skype dates and daily e-mails from my family. Again, with time, this will get easier, but for now, it is my biggest challenge.

Now for my last little paragraph, I realized I am here for 9 full months: September to June. I am going to challenge myself to visit one new country each month. I will keep you posted on each destination, and am putting it in writing so I stick to it. For my first month, it will be Belgium. I have already gone to Brussels, and will be exploring Bruges and Ghent. Many more pictures to come……

Much love, and thank you for taking the time to read my blog. If you have a blog/e-mail updates about your life, please please please send it to me!!! My email address is Much love Always.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My ABC's for Belgium

A is for Adventure. I really had no idea what to expect when I decided to choose this job, but so far, I am enjoying myself. Thank you to all who were supportive and encouraging!
B is for British Airways. For those of you know know me well, I really dislike flying. I hold the hand of the person next to me, and of course, cry. But, through and through, I made it here safely. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.
C is for Cars. The people who drive cars here are a bit nuts. The roads are super small and they drive really fast. I have a stick shift car here, and that makes me even more nervous. I am going to be the "grandma" on the road here.
D is for Daylight. I stays light here really late, until about 9pm, however I was informed that during the winter it begins to get dark at 5pm. This will be a huge adjustment.
E is for Environmentally Friendly. Here, you get charged per bag of garbage. It is one Euro per bag. The recycling bags are much cheaper, so it encourages people to cut back on waste and increase recycling. Also, here they have 2 flush buttons, one for pee and one for poo. Saving water one flush at a time....
F is for Friends and Family. I actually tear up when I think of them because I miss them so very much. This is the one thing I can't stand about being here, is that I am away from YOU. I love getting emails, facebook wall posts, and skype messages. THAT MAKES MY DAY!
G is for GREEN. Everything here is so green, I cant believe it!!!!!! It is beautiful!
H is for Humidity. It rains here a lot! I enjoy the rain, and because of it, everything is green. (But it makes my hair so so so frizzy).
I is for intelligent. The kids I watch are super smart! Sometimes John, (3 yrs old) starts speaking to me in Swedish. Enough said.
J is for John. I got him a glove and ball, and he loves to play catch. He also loves to play with bubbles. Being around a 3 yr old really brings out the kid in me. It is fun to jump on the trampoline, play with chalk, and go down slides. Maybe it says something about my maturity level.....
K is for Kate (and Joy). These are the two adorable girls that I watch, however they are both older and are doing summer camp right now. They are well behaved, and love to bead. They made me a cute bracelet that I like to wear. Also, side note, their accents are precious!!!
L is for Language barrier. A few examples: on the flight from london to brussels, I asked the guy next to me if I could hold his hand. He didnt understand (or at least he looked more confused than usual). Awkward. Also, a man came by the house today to give an estimate for how much it would cost to clean the house after we move in 7 days, and he did not speak English. We exchanged nationalities, and he said he was Turkish. I just used a lot of hand gestures, and we got along well! One more thing, I was out running at the park and heard a lady speaking French to her dogs. It never dawned on me that a dog could understand French, and I can't.
M is for Math. I am already beginning to study for the GRE, and I love doing the math sections.
N is for Nice. The family I am working/living with is really nice, and I don't think I could have gotten a better family to stay with for 9 months!!!
O is for Oxygen. There are SO many trees here, and I love it!
P is for Photography. I have taken about 200 photos already, but need to post them and will let you know when I do. It is breathtaking here. I love all the green trees, plants, native flowers, grass, and rolling hills.
Q is for Questions. Sometimes I question myself about my job/life/future/potential etc. Then I go outside and play, and just say to myself 'enjoy the moment'. I am working on that. A lot.
R is for Reading. I have been reading about the neighboring countries, and cant wait to start exploring!!!!!!!! Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. COOL!
S is for School. YAY. All 3 children start school on Sept 2, and I think I start French class on Sept 7.... I am really excited to be in the school environment!
T is for TFA. I submitted my application again, lets see if it is meant to be! Hopefully they dont hold grudges because I did not accept the first time.
U is for Unique. Brussels is like no place I have ever seen before, which is a good thing. Overall, it looks as though this will be a once-in-a-lifetime.
V is for Vossem. This is the township (similar to a city) where I live.
W is for White. Kate asked me, since I was from Arizona, why I was not brown. hahahahahahahaha
X is for ... I don't know.
Y is for Young. I realize 22 is just a number. I don't have to act my age.
Z is for ZZZZZZZ's. I haven't gotten much sleep b/c of the time change, and also the rain is just so soothing and nice, I try to stay awake to listen to it on the roof.

~ Thank you all so much for taking the time to read my blog, miss and love you all ~

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Bucket List

Hello Friends!

I am writing one last blog before I begin my new adventure in Belgium on August 22. Two nights ago, my mom and I watched Bucket List (for the 5th time), and I decided that I would post my own “Bucket List” on my blog. I have kept a ‘list of things I want to accomplish’ since 2004 (my senior year in high school) and have been adding goals ever since I began. I remember once hearing that people who write down their goals and review them every year are 10 times more likely to pursue them. So, here it goes (in no particular order)……

1) Graduate college with honors
2) Plant a garden
3) Open my own photography shop
4) Go skydiving
5) Become a teacher
6) Run a marathon
7) Get a tattoo
8) Go in a hot air balloon
9) Hike the Grand Canyon
10) Become a doctor
11) Live in a different country
12) Go scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef
13) Play a varsity sport in college
14) Become proficient in a new language
15) Complete a triathlon
16) Go on a cruise
17) Get published
18) Become a volleyball coach
19) Get my motorcycle license
20) Read the Bible cover to cover
21) Become a tutor
22) Begin a “Women in Science” Scholarship Fund
23) Donate my hair to Locks of Love
24) Start my own non-profit organization
25) Rescue dogs
26) Go White Water River rafting
27) Climb Mt Kilimanjaro
28) Work at Sea World
29) Learn how to tap dance
30) Build my own telescope
31) Be an organ donor

I have accomplished 8 of my goals, (soon to be 9 when I move to Belgium) and am excited to keep working at them.

If you have any recommendations, feel free to share J, and thank you for taking the time to read my blog. ~ Much love, Chrissy ~

Monday, August 10, 2009

Thoughts while being back in Arizona.........

1) I love my family. It is so nice to be home for a while, and just spend time hanging out with my mom and dad. My mom has been teaching me how to cook, and we have been having "Date night" together when we just sit in the study room and read and eat popcorn. I love it. I also have enjoyed seeing my dad, we got haircuts together, and I was able to drive up to Flagstaff to see his new make-shift office in his house. In 7 days, I get to see my sister 1 last time before I move to Europe, and I am just delighted. I am glad she gets a few days off work so she can come play with me!!!
2) I miss my friends so much!!!! I realize that I really do enjoy AZ, but my heart is in California. I never realized how much my friends complete me, and now being home, it feels like a part of me is missing. I just wrote many 'goodbye' letters today, which I feel is a good form of showing gratitude. I don't think it's ever possible to say enough times that I appreciate and love my friends.
3) The night skies here are BEAUTIFUL!!!!!! I love the stars here :)
4) This is the first time I have been home since December, meaning this is the first time I have been home since Benji passed away. It breaks my heart. I come home and expect to see him, look for him at dinner to give him a treat, and feel like a part of my bed should be taken up by his cute, furry, little body. I still think about him everyday. He will always have a place in my heart.
5) I thought California was hot.............. I was wrong. Enough said.
6) I was under the impression that I didn't have many possessions. I sold just about everything on Craigslist, and gave the rest away. again. WRONG. I am now trying to pack, and realize just how much crap I really do have. I think I may just close my eyes and start throwing stuff into a suitcase. We'll see....
7) I leave in just 12 days. For me, this is really exciting, scary, and un-real. To sum it up, I am not ready to leave, but SO excited to go. It will be an adventure!
8) I miss work. I don't do well when I have a lot of time on my hands. I start to second guess myself and my life goals....
9) I applied to Teach for America again! Granted, this is only the first round, but I am already excited. Hopefully, if it is meant to be, I will be accepted into the program again.
10) Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. ~ much love ~

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The End of One Chapter, and Beginning of Another

Well,I decided to write my first "Real" blog.

This summer is coming to a close, and it just breaks my heart. I have loved every second of being here at Chapman for 4 years, and it is so hard to say goodbye. It has been a whirlwind since graduation, but lets be honest, it all began first day freshmen year. I really owe my 100% positive experience to my friends. Day 1 of Chapman, joining the volleyball team was the best decision I made. After long tryouts, and a not-so-nice coach, I didn't think I would finish the season, but I have made lifelong friends because of that sport, and I am forever grateful. Also, one of my fondest memories is meeting the girls of "207.5". They too, will also remain forever friends. Sophomore year was a bit more challenging (because of Organic Chemistry that consumed every second of my time), but overall it was a good year as well. My Junior year at Chappy Chap was also one of my fondest times as well, when I became an RA. I loved my staff, my boss, and most of all my incredible residents. I will never forget them. I also joined Kappa Alpha Theta, and met phenomenal women, and incredible sisters. I also made other RA friends who made such a wonderful impression on my college years. Senior year was another blessing because I made friends (and became a stalker) of the house of 352. This was my second home, and the people inside it gave me the "warm fuzzy feeling" like I belonged.

Thank you to all my friends. You make my life joyful, entertaining, and fulfilling.

I am currently wrapping up a summer of invertebrate marine biology research with the best crew in the world. I love my job with all my heart, and really do get excited about science! I am going to miss my lab friends so much.

As for my Senior year.............. If 6 months ago someone told me that I would be moving to a different continent where I dont understand the first language of the country, I would have told them to get lost. I was sold on the idea of Teach for America, and after a 4 month, 3 interview, intensive process, I got accepted. THENNNNN a good friend of mine, Dani, told me about au-pairing in any country I wanted, and getting paid to travel. I still remember how I was saying how jealous I was and she simply said "If you want to do it, you can too". So, I am. And could not be more thrilled!!! (Backstory), I went to Australia for the month of January with Amy and just had the time of our lives. When I came back home, my mom specifically told me that I finally got "bit by the traveling bug" and I think I did. When I travel, I am so very happy, and in my element. I am extremely nervous for Belgium, but am also incredibly pumped!! I will probably re-apply for Teach for America since my 1 year acceptance was not able to be deferred, however I realize that the quote "life happens while you are busy making plans" really is true.

Now for the sad part. Goodbyes. I have never been good at it. Ever since I had to say goodbye to Ashley after graduation, it has just been a lingering fear in the back of my mind. The next goodbye was to Craig, followed by Dan. Just these 3 alone have been heart wrenching and difficult, and when I say my final "farewells" to all the other amazing people in my life, I just have to remember that it is only a "See you later". I am so very thankful to have such amazing people in my life, and this is what makes it so hard to leave. Yes, I do love Chapman, and yes I do love Orange County, but the only reason is because of the smiles and hugs that fill it.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, and more to come later.

Kram (that is Swedish for Hugs)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My Departure Date

Hello Friends!

I just received an email today from my family in Belgium, and they officially booked my flight!

I am leaving August 22nd at 19:20 to Heathrow (London) and then continue onto Brussels!!! And I could not be more excited!

Work right now is going well, I love the people in my lab, but am just getting anxious and excited!


More to come later!

Friday, June 5, 2009

My First Blog

Hello Friends!

Many people suggested I start blogging when I move to Europe so that people can see pictures/get updates about a new chapter in my life.

So I am now beginning so I get practice before I depart....

We'll see how it goes!

Love you all :)