July Bucket List

Hello. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Carol. For those of you who do, je m’appelle Carol.

This July, I took a big step. More like a leap of faith. At the end of May, after my second Disney attempt, I was contacted by a woman from an au pair agency. She asked if I was interested in becoming an au pair for a French family (wait for it…) in Belgium for (it gets better) a year! Naturally, I said, “I’ll think about it… yes”. After a couple Skype interviews with the family of three and the au pair agent, I had a job within 2 weeks! (Thanks GreatAuPair.com 😉 ) Officially, I will be an au pair in Brussels starting July 2!!

The family I will be staying with this next year is a French family living in Brussels, Belgium. They have an 8-year-old son who loves all things Lego, Star Wars, and airplanes. The father is a businessman and the mother is a dentist/ professional dancer. For the purpose of this blog, I’m concealing their names so they can maintain their privacy. They will now be known as Father, Mother, and Boy (so inventive, I know…) Boy and Father know English because 1) Father works with many offices around the world and 2) Boy went to an American school in Brussels for several years. Mother knows enough English to be conversational, but not a lot. I guess we can learn from each other: I’ll work on my French and she can work on her English.

June became a busy month after that. I had to get together some important documents for my work permit and permanent residence card (I’m going to be a European citizen for a year!! Woot woot!), buy anything that I might need before going abroad, and then wait. A lot of waiting… To pass the time, I visited friends from out of town, practiced packing my luggage a couple times (I had to make sure everything fit! Also, I was too excited to wait until the day before), and spent as much time with my family as I could.

The waiting did nothing for my nerves. I started creating best case and worst case scenarios in my head: is the family is as nice as they seem? Is Boy poorly behaved or not? Do I know enough French to make my way through Belgium? Will I meet some like-minded people and make friends with them? Am I ready to take care of an 8-year-old boy? Am I ready to live on my own? I’ve never been to Belgium before, so there was a lot of uncertainty and fear during the past month. All I really knew of Belgium was that it’s famous for its beer, chocolate, and waffles, it’s 6 hours ahead from Florida (Eastern time), and they speak French and Flemish. I did some research, but I wasn’t learning much. What I did find, though, was that Brussels is the home of several European governments/ agencies like the European Union, the European Council, and NATO. That made me feel a bit safer. They also have their own monarchy!

 

All I’m certain of in the coming year is I’m given two weeks holiday in December and April. During the school year, I’m tasked with picking up Boy from school, feeding him an afternoon snack, helping with homework, playing with him, and occasionally, putting him to bed. The mornings and weekends are up to me. With so much free time, I’m planning on traveling a bit (hopefully), taking some courses on writing and graphic design, and learning French (kind of important if I want to live in Belgium). Maybe I’ll take some fun classes, as well, like dancing or cooking. There are so many options! Don’t worry, I’m putting the family first; their needs come before mine. After all, they’re the reason I’m going to Europe in the first place!

As the day got closer, I began felling more emotions: excitement, nerves, fear, curiosity, sadness. The night before I left, I slept soundly. My room was empty except for two suitcases, but it still didn’t feel like I was going to be moving across the ocean to Europe. I had to keep reminding myself that it was actually happening: I’m REALLY moving to Brussels. I’m living the dream. For some reason, though, I didn’t want to let myself believe it was happening in case it all went wrong somehow. I’d rather expect the worst, but hope for the best.IMG_0925.JPG

I woke up the next morning at 4am for my 7am flight to JFK. In New York City, I spent a couple hours with Evelyn before the long-haul flight to Dublin. Luckily, I was in a row all to myself. First class at coach price. After three flights within two days and a full 24 hours of traveling, I finally landed in Brussels Airport! After spending about half an hour reporting my lost luggage (good news is it was returned with in a couple days!), I was met at the airport by the family, who displayed had a sweet “Welcome Carol” sign that Boy had made. I felt very special. I’ve never had a sign at an airport before, but I’ve always wanted one! When I got through the crowd, they greeted me as if I was already part of the family. My nerves were instantly settled.

The next two days were full of appointments and filling out paperwork for my visa. On the afternoon of the second day, I was whisked away to the French Riviera for a couple days of rest and getting to know Boy and his routines.

It’s going to be one crazy, thrilling year. I can’t wait. Send good vibes my way!

Until next time,

Carol B

June Bucket List

Hello. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Carol. For those who do, I went Surfin’ Safari.

It’s summer in Florida. When you think of Florida summer, you instantly think of crowded theme parks, 100% humidity, intense rainstorms, and hurricanes. Oh! and the beach… of course. I like going to the beach, but I’m the kind of person who doesn’t go in the water. I like being on shore, reading a book, soaking up the sun, and relaxing. In Florida, there are things in the water that can kill you. Last year, there was a flesh-eating bacteria. More recently, there have been sharks spotted of the coast of my regular beach. Gators aren’t beach-dwellers, but they also live in the water and are a very real threat. Understandably, I don’t go in the water much. This time, I decided to change that.

I’ve never gone surfing before. It always looked cool and exciting, but also REALLY difficult. How do surfers stay on their board? How do they stay balanced and not fall off? What happens if a giant wave comes crashing down on me? What about sharks? These are very real questions I had about surfing, but not anymore!

EZride_surf_school_Logo

I did some research into surfing schools in Florida and found one called EZride Surf School. They are a Florida company that travels to just about anywhere down the Southeastern coast of Florida, between Miami Beach and Cocoa Beach. They have summer surf camps, private lessons, professional coaching, and group lessons. I gave them a call and scheduled a 2-hour lesson for Molly and me in early June.

When the day came, we got ourselves ready, drove down to the beach, and met our instructor, Marcello. Marcello is originally from Brazil and was once a professional surfer. After a couple years with the pros, he decided to retire from professional surfing and began teaching. He’s incredibly nice and easy to talk to. Unfortunately, the Florida weather was not going to be kind to us. It began storming and thundering not long after we arrived. Marcello said it would be great surfing weather if there was no lightning, but we didn’t want to take any chances. Plus, it was Molly’s and my first time surfing. If those waves were any taller than 3 feet, we would not have been comfortable. We decided to reschedule for another day when the weather was better. I had a whole month to plan this lesson, so there was plenty of time to spare. Marcello was very understanding, and we were able to find another date in the last week of June that would work for all of us.

The day came and the weather was perfect. It was sunny, warm, and just a couple of clouds. Yet again, Molly and I assembled our beach gear, applied quite a bit of sunscreen, prepared our lunches, and set out toward the beach. We met Marcello at the beach around 10:30. He provided the surfboards (9 ft soft surfboards, if anyone cares to know. They are best for the beginners, so I’m told) and swim shirts/ rash guards. We just brought ourselves, water bottles, towels, and anything else we needed for a beach trip. Molly and I were planning to stay on the beach after the lesson was over and veg out, so we brought beach chairs and an umbrella.

The first 30 minutes of the lesson was mostly safety and a science lesson on weather and oceanic physics. It was really technical, but interesting all the same. For example:

  • Winter is the best time of year to surf, even though I think of surfing as a summertime sport.
  • The sweet spot in the water where waves just begin to form is called a line-up. That’s where surfers wait for their waves.
  • Waves are formed when energy from the wind propels the water toward shore. When that water hits a sand bar, the energy is deflected up and forms a wave.
  • A surfboard is only stable and balanced when in motion. Don’t try to stand on it in still water. (I tried. It doesn’t work.)
  • The way you stand on the board is very important to balance. You have to bend your knees to keep your center of gravity low, and keep your arms down! Stiff arms might help to keep balance on land, but in the water, it moves your center of gravity up, which affects your balance.

The key to surfing is to relax and be confident in what you are doing. The easy part is learning to stand on a board. The rest comes with time and experience. Now on to the wipe outs.

Molly, Marcello, and I got onto the beach, put our boards down, and practiced standing up on the board before going out. We practiced this once, then Marcello said, “Looks good. Let’s go!” Well alright, eager beaver. This is my first time doing this. Could we practice a little bit more? But I didn’t argue. I just went along with it. That might have been a mistake.

We paddled to the line-up point, sat on our boards, and looked toward the beach. It was very crowded. It’s what you’d expect from summers in Florida. There was nowhere to hide from the sunbathing audience. I accepted quickly that they didn’t matter. I was a beginner, after all! Who cares if they saw me fall off my board a couple times? (At the start, I was very confident that I wouldn’t fall too much. Boy, was I wrong…)

Then the moment of truth came. Marcello found my first wave. I got into position and was instructed to paddle. I started paddling toward shore with all the strength I had. As I felt the wave come up from underneath me, I heard “STAND UP!” coming from behind me. Oh crap, here I go. I pushed myself up, found my footing, stood up for a couple seconds, then fell over into the ocean. OMG I DID IT! I SURFED! What an amazing feeling! I just glided over the water like a freakin’ GODDESS! I found the surface, and instantly went back to try it again.

The next couple waves I began to overthink everything. My mental checklist was getting longer and longer with each wave. 1. Push up 2. Jump toward the center of the board 3. Feet point toward the side 4. Stand up THEN release hands 5. Relax. I had issues with not jumping far enough, not going quick enough, moving my hands to early and losing my balance, etc. With every pointer from Marcello, I was relaxing less and less, but I was still having fun! It was my first time surfing, after all, and I was doing this for fun. I’m not planning on going pro anytime soon. I managed to ride a wave once, maybe twice. Molly, on the other hand, did really well! She was determined to stand up on the board and she did. She rode her way to shore a couple of times! As I saw Molly improve more and more, I was getting a little frustrated with myself. The next one is going to be the one!

I was kidding about that. THIS one is going to be the one!

Maybe this one?

Ok, new goal: don’t swallow too much sea water!

Aced it.

I didn’t get the perfect wave, but that just means there is room for improvement! Now that I have an understanding of the basics and what I need to work on, I can practice whenever I want. Again, I’m not looking to become the next big surfer; it’s just fun to do. With that being said, I would DEFINITELY go surfing again. I’ll also mention that I did NOT die from a rogue shark or disgruntled jellyfish. That’s a victory.

If you are ever in South Florida and want to learn how to surf, go to the EZride Surf School website or call 954.803.7988 and schedule a lesson. If you can, ask for Marcello Loureiro. He was a great teacher, incredibly supportive, and he really knows what’s up. Happy Surfing!

Aloha,

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Carol B

May Bucket List

Hello. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Carol. For those of you who do, I’m the Flash. The Lead-Up to the 5K In the week leading up to the 5K, I made two mistakes: Completed a strength training … Continue reading

February Bucket List: Part 7

Hello. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Carol. For those who do, I’m so close to eating ice cream again, I can taste it (not yet… not tasting it yet…*sniffle*).

For the last day of Vegan Week, our menu consisted of: leftovers… Today was mostly a leftover day. Typical Saturday in my house. Getting rid of the leftovers to make way for more MEAT! I’m not obsessed with meat, but I do enjoy the freedom to eat whatever I want without having to read every label.

Breakfast:
Coffee, berries, and Longest-title-in-the-world Vegan Scones.

Lunch/Dinner:
Leftovers… I forgot to take a picture of lunch (or did I? I didn’t think you’d want to see another leftover photo). Oh… what’s that? Cupcakes!? HELL YES!!

I made celebratory Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes for the final day of Vegan Week. Because we deserve a treat now and then (Treat yo’self!). Yes, they were delicious. Honestly couldn’t tell the difference between regular and vegan cupcakes, they were that good! My dad, who doesn’t eat sweets, loved them because they were dark chocolate and not too sweet. He said he preferred the vegan frosting over buttercream! I’m definitely keeping that recipe.
You’ll be surprised with the secret ingredient in the cupcake. Don’t worry, you can’t taste it. I don’t know why it’s in there, but it’s still really tasty. I’m not telling you what it is. You’ll have to click the link below to find out. ^_^

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes
Vegan Chocolate Ganache Frosting

And that’s that. I successfully finished February’s Bucket List. I might not ever go Vegan again, but now I know that vegan food can be just as delicious as non-vegan food. It forced me to eat a lot of vegetables which is good for my health, but also a lot of carbs (not so good). It was fun while it lasted, but tomorrow, breakfast is going to consist of Scrapple, a cheese omelette, and coffee with half and half. I’m hoping my stomach doesn’t get upset with the reintroduction of dairy…

Thank you for following me in my journey through Vegan Week. I’ll see you next month for another installation of my 2017 Bucket List.

Thank God that’s over,

Carol B