Category Archives: Thoughts on pretty much everything

Leerkracht in België

Je kan moeilijk spreken van een verhoogde aantrekkelijkheid van het beroep als leraren in de tweede en derde graad door de gelijkschakeling van de noemers een substantiële werkdrukverhoging ondergaan.
-Christelijke Onderwijscentrale-

Wat. Een. Gezever. Misschien woon ik al te lang in de Verenigde Staten, maar hoe kunnen we in godsnaam spreken over een “substantiële werkdrukverhoging” spreken als het gaat om een of twee uur per week meer voor de klas te staan?
Toen ik in Amerika begon met werken stond ik als leerkracht bijna 25 uur per week voor de klas, en dat vond ik niet veel. Ik had nog genoeg tijd om twee keer per week te gaan lopen en een keer per week naar de Pilates te gaan. En in het weekend was er tijd genoeg om iets te gaan drinken met vrienden. Ik had nooit het gevoel dat ik verdronk in mijn werk of dat er veel druk was. En elke week had ik ook weer toetsen die verbeterd moesten worden en huiswerk of extra werk dat studenten indienden.
Nu werk ik 40 uur per week. Vijftien uur daarvan gaat naar lesgeven, en de andere 25 is verspreid over de activiteiten die ik organiseer en het administratief werk dat daarmee gepaard gaat. (En dat is meer dan je denkt.) Daar zit dus niet de tijd in die ik steek in het voorbereiden van mijn lessen, het verbeteren van huiswerk of het bedenken van leuke projecten die we met de klas kunnen doen. (Deze week: een mini huis ontwerpen.) En met momenten is het zeker niet gemakkelijk en vooral in het begin was het moeilijk, maar ik heb nog nooit het gevoel gehad van enorm veel werkdruk te hebben.
En dat in een land waar nooit iemand ziek is, waar mijn baas dingen zoals een activiteitencomité voor studenten voorstelt en ik dan maar een manier moet vinden om dat te implementeren, ook al ben ik sceptisch of het zal lukken en ik in de zomermaanden geen vakantie krijg omdat dat ons hoogseizoen is in het werk en het dus alle hens aan dek is. En nog steeds vind ik de tijd om te gaan fitnessen en te koken en af te spreken met vrienden.

Meer lesgeven zou net moeten zorgen voor een verhoogde aantrekkelijkheid van het beroep leerkracht, en niet de uren die je vrijaf krijgt.

 

Do what you love, love what you do

It’s been way too long since I’ve posted something, and I’ve been bubbling over with inspiration, so here we go!

Even though 2017 started almost three weeks ago, in my head 2017 didn’t really start until last week Monday, when I went back to work after a two-week vacation. Right off the bat it was incredibly busy at work and at home, and it still is, but it’s a good kind of busy. I’m finding the time to go to the gym, plan activities and preparing my lessons. And all because of one thing: I started cooking again.
There was a time when I cooked my lunch the night before, but when I started working downtown, there were just so many restaurants in the area where I could go grab lunch.
But now that I’m cooking again, I realize I’ve really missed it. Cooking is the perfect way to relax after a long day at work, and it also gives me energy to prepare my classes for the next day as well as research potential new activities for students. Plus, it saves me a ton of money!
Most people that know me see me as a baker, and it’s still something I love to do and am good at, but for the past couple of weeks I’ve been cooking more and trying out some new things and so far I haven’t made any cringeworthy mistakes. (Fingers crossed!) There’s something powerful to turning an idea in your head into a dish and have it taste exactly like you imagined. Carrot-ginger soup, anyone? These types of small successes have given me the life energy I didn’t know I was missing.

The past year was a year of change and finding my way in the world of work. I quit my job as a teacher at LaL and started working full-time at Stafford House. I went from helping out with Student Services, to becoming Housing Supervisor and then in November transitioned to Activities Coordinator/Teacher. On top of that, I moved from Dorchester to Allston to West-Roxbury and became single after 2+ years.
I feel like 2017 is going to be a year of stability. I’m not planning on moving away from West-Roxbury and even though the decision to become the activities coordinator at Stafford House Boston was a hard one, I’m incredibly happy I made it. I was looking at the activities calendar and not only am I going bowling, visiting the aquarium and seeing a Celtics game with our students next week, I’m getting paid to do all these things. At this point, I can’t believe I put up such resistance to becoming activities coordinator. Although it can be quite overwhelming because there is quite some administration that comes with it and I have to teach in the morning as well as work as an RA in the residence twice a week, it is mostly a lot of fun and I keep getting better at it every day. And the more fun I have, the more fun the students have!

Going back to Belgium for the holidays made me realize that at some point in the last year, Boston has become home for me. I love walking in Boston Common, wandering around the (gigantic!) Museum of Fine Arts and showing the students around “my” city. It also definitely helps that after a year and a half of being here, my friends (and family as well of course) have stopped asking me when I’m coming home and are instead planning on visiting me. I have a good set of friends here that are there for me when I need them and when I need to get away from the craziness for the weekend, I just drive down to Pennsylvania and visit my dad’s AFS family. AFS truly is for life. And as I sit here eating some chocolate from the TAZA chocolate factory from Sommerville that we visited this afternoon, I realize I don’t even need to go to Belgium to find some amazing chocolate.

 

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

‘The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.’
Eleanor Roosevelt

I started writing this entry two years ago. One of my lifelong dreams has been to live in the United States. To go back where it all started, 24 years ago. And three weeks ago, that dream has come true. I’m overwhelmed with feelings. First of all, I’m excited. It’s been 6 years since I’ve been to the US (except for a very long overlay in Miami airport three years ago) and I feel that it’s time to go back. But I’m also afraid. Because I’ve been dreaming about this for such a long time, and what if it’s not everything that I hoped for? When I went abroad to Limerick in my school’s mandatory exchange program, I got a taste of what university in the States is like. Or so I’ve been telling myself. I’m not really sure what university in the USA is like, but movies, television series and just stories in general from fellow Americans have given this impression, and it seems all fairly similar to what I experienced in Ireland. A lot of practical assignments, a student life that revolves mainly around campus, those kind of things. (At any point, anyone who has ever attended college or university in the States, correct me if I’m wrong!) I had these ideas before I got accepted and now that I have, I can feel my imagination expanding. The more research I do into SIT, Brattleboro and the availabilities on campus, the more I can see the pieces of the puzzle falling all into place. And I know I am letting my imagination run away with me, but I allow it, because my imagination is what got me accepted in the first place. And that is exactly what this quote is all about: believing in your dreams is not enough to realize them, but it is the first step in realizing them. So I allow my crazy imagination to run its course, and who knows where it will take me? And if I get disappointed along the way, well, I’ll be one illusion poorer, and that can’t hurt either. It’s all part of growing up, right?

Time to leave now

‘Time to leave now, get out of this room, go somewhere, anywhere, sharpen this feeling of happiness and freedom, stretch your limbs, fill your eyes, be awake, wider awake, vividly awake in every sense and every pore.’
Stefan Zweig

I haven’t been in New Zealand for ten days and I can already feel myself changing. I didn’t know it, but back in Belgium, it seems like I was stuck in a rut. Maybe that’s typical for a rut, you don’t know you’re in it until you get out of it, but it was definitely the case for me. Here, halfway around the world, 11 hours ahead of everyone I know and love, I am finding myself once more. I have the energy to get up at eight o’clock and long to go outside and play in the park instead. I am always surprised how fast time flies by during the day. Things are definitely great here in New Zealand.
I started running again, three times a week. It seems like this country was made for running. The scenery is amazing and even though running uphill isn’t easy, I’m getting better at it every time. By the time I get back I’ll hopefully be in a good enough shape to run the 10K at home. Because I’ve been fairly busy these couple of days watching Jasmin, since she has vacation right now, I haven’t made any friends, but I’m seriously enjoying the me-time. After a busy day of playing, visiting Sea Life or going to the movies, it’s nice that I can clear my mind, check the internet for some inspiration of what we can do the next day or just look around on the internet for ways to expand my horizon.
So far I’ve stumbled upon two options for next week, when I’ll be a lot less busy since Jasmin will be going to school again. Even before I got here I wanted to take singing lessons (see my previous post) so in my first week I sent an e-mail to a singing teacher here in Auckland, but unfortunately I haven’t gotten any response. I’ll just wait it out, maybe she’s also on vacation.
The next option is French classes. After what I’ve heard from my friends who are currently looking for a job, I’m convinced that French is a good option if you want to work in Belgium. I’m not sure that I want to work in Belgium, but I might, and knowing anothother language is always a nice thing to add to your resumé. (Look at me being all grown-up and thinking about my resumé :-D) Anyway, so that will keep my busy three nights a week and then there’s also my running schedule for during the day.
These are things I would never do in Belgium. Well, I did go running in Belgium, but never like this, what with the hills and all. I don’t know why it takes moving to another country to start taking singing lessons, but I’m hoping I’ll get a response soon because I’m really excited. About the French lessons, I think the reason I never took them in Belgium was maybe a lack of time, but also a lack of interest. I didn’t really feel the urge to take classes at night when I was already taking classes at University during the day, and also, there was no need since none of my friends spoke French. Now, on the other hand, with my boyfriend’s family being more fluent in French than Dutch, it would be nice to have a conversation with them where I’m not stumbling over my words like I do now. These classes are also going to be a great opportunity for me to make some friends, since running and singing are things I prefer to do by myself.
Looking up at the quote that I put up there, I realize how much it can be applied to me. A couple of hours ago I was outside running in this beautiful park and when I got on the road, it dawned on me that I had no idea whether I should go left or right. I just went right, deciding on the spot, and fortunately I was right, but unfortunately after running about a kilometer, I thought I was wrong. So I turned around and ran back for about a kilometer and a half, and when I saw the shopping mall I knew I was wrong, so I turned around again. In Belgium this would have frustrated me so much, but here, I didn’t care, I just kept on running, enjoying a beautiful full moon and a nice, cold breeze.
Anyway, right now, in this moment, life is amazing, and even though I’m so far away from everyone I know, I definitely wouldn’t want to be anywhere else! And on this happy not I’m going to end this post 🙂

Today is the first day of the rest of your life

‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life’
Abbie Hoffman

In January, more people get a gym membership. It is a signal that people always wait for a specific day to change their habits, whether it be the start of a new year, the start of a month or a personal milestone, like a birthday or the start of a new job. I understand this, but I also think it’s funny, because, like the quote says, any day can be the first day of something. I don’t know why people (myself included) wait for such a milestone to change, but it’s just what we do. And with a personal milestone coming up for myself, I find myself fantasizing of all the things I would do. For those wondering, the personal milestone is my graduation and my possible move abroad. There is a chance that I’ll be moving to Australia or New Zealand to work as an au pair (if only someone would make an offer) and I’ve been thinking of the things I want to do there, and I decided there are two things I want to do while abroad: start singing lessons and start horse back riding again. I’ve never taken singing lessons, but I really like to sing, and it would be nice if other people could enjoy my singing as much as I do, so hence the singing lessons. I have done horse back riding before, right until I left for Paraguay. Why I never got back on the horse again (literally this time) is still a mystery for me, because it is the one thing that I missed (and still miss) the most of all the hobbies I’ve had. But for me, planning things is part of the fun. So looking up riding centers and locations to take singing lessons makes me very excited, and I’m truly enjoying the anticipation. It’s a bit like planning a vacation with friends or family. And even though I’m not really going to New Zealand/Australia on vacation, of all the jobs the one of an au pair is the least busy, so I’ll definitely have some down time to travel and go see the sights. But I’m also trying not to get my hopes up, because I’ve learned from experience that expecting too much can only let you down. I’m slightly aware that I’m failing miserably at that, but hey, at least I’m aware of my expectations and I know what the consequences might be. The good thing about being aware of my expectations is that I can work to fulfill them. The expectations that I have are more about what I want to do when I get there, and not really what I hope my host family will be like or what the scenery will be like. When it comes to that, I have absolutely no idea where I will end up. But making lists of things that I certainly want to do is, in my mind, not a bad thing. If I’m going to New Zealand, I want to visit Hobbiton (where they filmed part of Lord of the Rings), and if I’m going to Australia, I want to go to Cable Beach, the second most beautiful beach in Australia (the most beautiful one is apparently very much overcrowded). For now, that is my list, oh, and visiting a zoo, which is something I try to do in every country that I visit 🙂 But hopefully I’ll be able to do that with the child(ren) I’m watching. Because which six-year-old doesn’t like animals?

Are there things you want to do when you pass a milestone? Let me know in the comments!

 

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone’
Neale Donald Walsch

The idea for this new entry came to me while having a conversation with a friend. We were talking about how he sometimes (okay, most times) didn’t really get the subtle hints people gave him (hey, what else can you expect from men) and that this misunderstanding sometimes pushed people out of their comfort zone, because they weren’t used to saying what they wanted out loud and were “forced” into a situation that was outside of their comfort zone. I didn’t really get the problem, though, because I think being pushed outside your comfort zone is a good thing, and if it’s really too much, you’ll speak up.

Anyhow, it got me thinking about my comfort zone. I have to admit, I thought about it a lot, and I still don’t know where my comfort zone is and where it isn’t. I know I definitely have one, I just don’t know where it ends. I rarely find myself in situations where I think to myself: “Wow, this is strange, I don’t really like this”, in fact, ever since I came back from Paraguay, if I find myself in a situation where I’m not sure what is happening, I vocalize my thoughts and in most cases, that takes the awkwardness right out of the situation.
I think my comfort zone ends where certainties fall away. Not even two minutes ago, my boyfriend asked me (on a whim, of course) if we could go to Pakistan, and without hesitation my answer was “no”, because I don’t know anything about the Middle East, I don’t know what traveling with him is like and the idea is just so surreal, us going to Pakistan. But that is the good thing about him, he takes me outside of my comfort zone. He’s an avid hitchhiker, and has hitchhiked his way through Europe, while I have never sat in a car with a complete stranger for five minutes, let alone five hours. So you could say hitchhiking is definitely outside my comfort zone. Nevertheless, there’s a good chance that the both of us will hitchhike to France, and I have to admit, I’m getting pretty excited about it.

The good thing about myself, is that I’m a pretty impulsive person, and there have been plenty of times this made me push myself out of my comfort zone. About two months ago, a friend of mine launched a request for a friend of her brother on Facebook: they were searching for someone who wanted to play a leopard in a movie, and I jumped at the chance. I had never met the friend’s brother, or his friend for that matter, but I didn’t think and just went for it. It wasn’t until I met everyone, that I realized, I don’t know any of these people and I have no idea what I have to do. But in the end it was a lot of fun, and I just saw the result and it looks great! (If you want to see, here’s the link: )

Anyway, back to what I was saying earlier. I suddenly realized that “outside of my comfort zone” means “outside of the things I know” and writing it down like that I feel really stupid, because isn’t that what your comfort zone is all about, the things you know? I think the more important question is: how do I get out of my comfort zone? It’s hard to say. I think other people are the best way to get out of your own comfort zone, because everyone has a different comfort zone, or at least, a different size of comfort zone, and other people are rarely aware of someone else’s comfort zone, so if they have a bigger comfort zone, they’ll almost automatically make you get out of your comfort zone.

Anyhow, getting out of your comfort zone to me, is a good thing, and according to the internet, there are plenty of people who agree with me. The reason why I think people should get out of their comfort zone is because sometimes it forces people to change their preconceptions they have of what is outside their comfort zone. Take me for example. I think hitchhiking is dangerous and really difficult, but hearing stories from my boyfriend, it changes my perspective. I still think it’s dangerous for girls to go alone, but I’m really amazed at how helpful and kind people are, even Belgians. And although I would never hitchhike by myself, the idea of hitchhiking doesn’t scare me anymore.

Well, this is about it, feel free to tell me why you think getting out of your comfort zone is good, or, in case you disagree, why not.

Don’t count the miles, count the “I love you” ‘s

‘Don’t count the miles, count the “I love you” ’s.’
Cristina Perri

I had a long-distance relationship when I was 18 years while I was in Paraguay, and although we were still together when I got back, I decided long-distance wasn’t really “my thing”. Boy, was I an idiot thinking I could rationalize something like that. When it comes to love and relationships, whether they are long-distance or not, you don’t really get to choose if it’s your thing or not. I learned that not so long ago. With all of my plans of going abroad I wasn’t really looking for a boyfriend, but when I met Bertrand, we just clicked, and after going out with him a couple of times, I fell head over heels in love. Luckily he felt the same, and things have been going great. But just like last time, I’m not going to cancel my plans of going abroad just to stay with him, because that’s not who I am and it would also make him very uncomfortable. Both Bertrand and I are adventurers and that is why we love each other, and if either one of us would deny the other to go on an adventure alone, we would be denying each other to be ourselves. (Can everybody follow?) It doesn’t make things easier, that’s true, but a wise man once told me the easiest path isn’t always the best path. And if you truly love each other, you find a way to make it work. And even though Bertrand and I are not yet at that point, I do believe that we can make it work. We’ll miss each other, of course, and I know from experience that there will be times when I wish I had stayed, but I also know that I can do it, I’ve done it before, and I know it will be worth it.
Personally I think that what you need to succeed in a long-distance relationship is the same as in a normal relationship, you just need more of it. Obviously, you need to love each other. You also need to trust each other and love yourself. Especially in a long-distance relationship self-love is important if you want to succeed. Luckily after three years of being single, I have had plenty of time to learn to love myself. The reason why you should love yourself is so important in a long-distance relationship, is because your partner is not around to show his/her love for you to you. Of course there is Facebook and Skype and Whatsapp to keep in contact, and are there few things more romantic than a handwritten love letter, you can bet your hat you won’t be receiving those every day.

Something else that makes every relationship a success is the ability to communicate, whether it be over the phone, in an email or face to face. In a long-distance relationship this is even more so. It was drilled into my head when I was preparing to go abroad to Paraguay and it’s still one of the best lessons I learned there: good communication can go a very long way. With a lack of communication, small misunderstandings can explode in no time, and it is highly likely that with two partners in two different countries, there will be some misunderstandings. Luckily this is one of the things I’m good at. I’m not afraid to ask questions and I already know Bertrand is infinitely smarter than me, so I’m not really afraid to look stupid either :-P.

When it comes to trust, I tend to trust people fairly quickly. It’s true I can be quite possessive over someone I love, but I’m not really the jealous type. This may sound strange, but the reason I’m possessive is not because I’m afraid he’ll do something with someone else, but because I want to spend as much time with that person as possible. Luckily for me are Bertrand and I on the same level, when it comes to spending time together, so no problems there.
I’m noticing that I’m starting to deviate from the subject, so I’ll leave it at this; if you have any thoughts or objections, don’t hesitate to comment and I’ll be glad to respond!

Five million copies sold

‘Five million copies of “Fifty Shades” trilogy sold in first half of 2013’
article on http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat

Fifty Shades of Grey and its two successors are a huge success, but no one seems to know why exactly. I’ve read all three books and I have to say it: it’s definitely not literature. It’s not very well written, the storyline isn’t realistic at all, and the sex scenes are definitely over the top. However, there is certainly an appeal to it, and I believe it’s this appeal that makes it so successful. After I had read the books, it took me a while to figure out why I liked them so much, but then it dawned on me. I was really fascinated by Anastasia, the main character. She’s a young girl, very innocent for her age, but still very determined. She knows what she wants and she isn’t afraid to go for it. But then she meets Christian (a.k.a Mr Grey) and he turns her whole world upside down, which is expected, him being the rich, famous and very eligible bachelor who is too handsome to be real. But then E.L. James throws you a curveball, and suddenly, it’s Ana turning Christian’s whole world upside down. By the end of the first book Ana has him on his knees, and let’s face it, which woman wouldn’t want a rich, single and handsome, albeit damaged man willing to do anything for her? Ana has the power to change Christian, to “cure”  him from all his issues, such as his abandonment issues, his fear of being touched (which is real, the scientific term is haphephobia) and the fact that he is a major control freak. And that is exactly why, in my opinion, the books are so popular. The love between Christian and Ana is the kind of fairytale love, a love that can move mountains, a love that never fades, just grows stronger, a love that hits you right in your core. A love that, when returned, results in the typical happy ever after, which is indeed the case for Ana and Christian.
It’s not very realistic, but it is realistic enough for people to be able to relate to their story. Each character has it’s own personal problems, and there are a few times in the books where it actually looks like Ana and Christian are not going to make it, where it seems that love doesn’t conquer all. It makes you want to keep reading, and to me, that is what makes it so popular. That, and the sex scenes, of course 😛

This was it for today, it’s not as “deep” as my other posts, but it was just something I’ve been thinking about, and I think that I’m not the only one who wonders why Fifty Shades is popular. If you don’t agree, feel free to leave a reaction, everyone can have their own opinion and thoughts and I’m curious to know what you think!

That’s how it is

‘I would rather have it differently
But that’s how it is
What if
And if I had only
And what if we this and would it now
That may be but
It doesn’t help
That’s how it is’
Guillaume Van der Stighelen

Despite the amount of beautiful quotes on death I found on the internet, none of them was really fitting for what I want to say. Until recently, I hadn’t really come into close contact with death. That was, until that dreaded phone call my dad got from  his oldest friend on the morning of July 17th. Their son had been taken from them in a stupid accident and there was nothing anyone could do about it. It came as a shock to everyone. He was a talented, good-looking, funny and overall an amazing guy who had just finish his studies to become an engineer and was (sometimes overly) obsessed with the environment. No one deserves to die, but least of all him, that is what everyone said. The days that followed were really hard on me, and sometimes that made me feel like an idiot, because even though I knew him, it had been a long time since we had seen each other for the last time and I’m sad to admit that I didn’t know him as well as I’d like to. Our families travelled a lot together when we were younger since we were all around the same age and our parents shared a mutual interest in the United States.
But even though he was no longer a part of my daily life, he was my friend, and I will always cherish the many memories we have together.
After a couple of days I realized that even though him dying was hard on me, the fact that made me so sad was thinking about his family. He had a brother and a sister, and he got along really well with his sister, who is two years younger than him. Just like him, I am the middle child, and even though I don’t get along with my younger sister as well as he did, the thought of her (or my older sister for that matter) dying, makes me incredibly sad. Dying is a sad thing, but the worst part about it is the effect is has on other people’s lives. His brother, sister and parents have to try to make the best of their lives without him there, and it’s that which probably saddens me the most. And I know he didn’t commit suicide, and that there could have been plenty before him to have that kind of accident, but sometimes, that also makes me mad at him, because he left his family behind to deal with that kind of loss and that kind of sadness. But, like my title says, that’s how it is, and there’s nothing I can do about it except be there for his family in the best way I can and help them in any way to recover from this horrible event. And of course, honor who we was and what he already had accomplished in his short period of time on earth and try to accomplish his dream for him, just in case he is watching down upon us.

He’ll always be in my heart and I am truly grateful that I got the chance to know him.

Roots before branches

‘I gotta have roots before branches
To know who I am before I know who I wanna be’
Room For Two

This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a long time, but for some reason I didn’t really know how to. However, I’ve been through a lot since I came back from Ireland and that has given me plenty of thoughts to write about. The new semester had barely started when I met a guy. We hit it off almost right away and it wasn’t before long we shared our first kiss. We both fell head in heels over love, but unfortunately, that didn’t last. After one moth of pure bliss and one month of struggling, we broke up. He believed our problem was that we had never been friends, we just dove right in, head first. I was not a fan of taking a step back, especially because I was really in love with him, but looking back, I now realize we did ourselves a great favor. We’re taking it easy, just talking on Facebook and making jokes. We’re planting our roots firmly in the ground before we start growing branches.
There is the possibility that we’re never gonna get back together, and that scares me a little bit because although I’m not madly in love with him anymore, I still like him and I have the feeling that there is a certain connection. Some people say that if it’s ment to be, we’ll be together, but I don’t really believe in that kind of stuff. Maybe it’s true for falling in love, but falling in love and being in a relationship are two different things. My parents have been married for 28 years and even though they love each other, they still have to work at their marriage.
Also, I’ve realized that I’m kind of a control freak, and because I don’t know how he feels, I don’t know where this is headed. But our feelings evolve and it’s very likely that he doesn’t even know how he feels. We still have to get accustomed to being friends, and the last thing I want to do is push him or push myself. So I just have to let go, let this run its course and even if we don’t end up together, I’ll at least have gained a good friend and some more experience.
This whole situation has also given me some insight into who I am. I thought I was pretty sure I had myself figured out, and I think I know for 98% who I am, the other 2% is left for someone else to discover. And on this note I’m going to finish this post.