A European Adventure

Hello everyone! I know I have been a little MIA since the new year began, but I have been pretty busy enjoying time with my family and also going to Europe! As I mentioned in a post last year I decided to book a trip to Europe with my Gramma for my last two weeks of Christmas break.

On January 8th, my Gramma and I left Detroit, Michigan on a flight for London, England. We spent 3 nights in London followed by 3 nights at one of my old host families homes from when I lived in France, and finally we ended with 3 nights in Paris.

I can’t even begin to describe how much fun I had with my Gramma on this trip so I will give some of my favorite highlights!

For years now I have been obsessed with Les Miserables and I have dreamed about seeing it live. When my Gramma and I found out that there were shows when we were going to be there we booked tickets (IN ROW 5!!) right away and I’ve been excited about it for months. It was by far the best musical I have seen live and I spent 90% of the show with my mouth open in awe. We also went to Kings Cross station to visit Platform 9 and 3/4 and I even got to ride the trolly into the wall to visit the school (*cough* *cough* my next year abroad).

When we left England we took a flight to Paris where my “French grandparents, Mamie and Papi” picked us up. Not only did I get to see Mamie, Papi and their kids but I also got to visit Flore and Laurent (my second host family) which was really nice. It was a little weird going between English and French (because Gramma does not speak French), but Gramma really started getting the hang of it and could even make sentences with a little help.

We finished our trip off in Paris, staying in a tiny tiny hotel room which made it that much more authentic. Both Gramma and I had never been to Versailles so we took a train out to go and tour it. It was so amazing to see it in person after learning so much about it and always seeing it in pictures. It was a little rainy but we did still get to see the beautiful gardens and we’ve decided to go back in warmer weather for a picnic. Because we couldn’t have champagne in the gardens, we decided to splurge and have a glass in the chateau and shut up, it was amazing!

On our last night we decided to go to a restaurant that I have dreamed about since seeing it in 2014. The little restaurant is in Bercy and their speciality is aligot (a mixture of mashed potatoes and cheese). It is seriously the coolest and tastiest food ever and we might even try to recreate it at home.

Our trip was so good we have already started planning where we want to go next, so far Spain and Italy are on the list.

Love always,

Hurricane Issac

Well I know that I said I was going to write about my weekend adventures but I have been super busy prepping for a hurricane and class. Never thought I would say those things in the same sentence, but I just did. Sunday morning, we woke up to notifications saying that Barbados was officially under a hurricane warning and that all necessary emergency supplies should be purchased. Meike and I got this notification on our way to a Southern town called Hastings that I heard had a good breakfast cafe. The Artsplash Center not only has art, but a farmers market and amazing breakfast. I had a smoothie bowl and I honestly can say it was one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life. If anyone comes to visit, I will definitely be bringing you there.

We went grocery shopping on Sunday afternoon and Morning afternoon, mainly because I forgot to get water (which was on the hurricane supply checklist). Also, I bought my first ever pineapple and I can’t believe how sweet and good it was, and why I had never eaten pineapple before?

This week school went by pretty fast, though I did start to freak out a little bit over how many readings that I have to do every week. Most of my tutorial classes started this week and I have to do a presentation in most of them, so I am trying to get those done before November. Why November you ask? Because my Gramma, Aunt Karen and my Gramma’s best friend Karla are coming to see me! It was supposed to be a surprise but I have supersonic hearing and heard my Grampa talking about it in the background!

All week it has been raining or gloomy outside, which means I haven’t been to the beach once and I think I might be going through withdrawals. Wednesday night the hurricane passed us (250km north of the island), so I am well and safe. It is supposed to continue raining for the rest of the weekend, but I really REALLY hope that it doesn’t because I need sand in between my toes again!

Wednesday, I officially booked my flight to come back home and then back to Barbados in January. I can already feel the days slipping away and I haven’t even been here for three whole weeks. I want to do and see so much stuff but at the same time I have to focus on school, which not going to lie, sucks.

Last night I was as I was just about to fall asleep a massive centipede crawled on my leg. You see at the time I did not know it was a centipede, I felt something move on my leg so I jumped out of bed in a panic not knowing what type of bug was in my room. I flipped on all of the lights and looked everywhere and finally after pulling out my bed I saw it still on my covers. I was kind of in panic mode after this so I’m not really sure how i got it off of the bed, all I know is that I had to step on it several times and then eventually jump on it before it died. Overall, I did not sleep well last night, though the cleaning lady told me it is a good thing it didn’t bite me otherwise my leg would have swelled up.

I hope everyone has a fabulous Friday and a great weekend. More adventures to be written about soon!

Love,

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I’m Jealous of Myself

Almost every time I talk to someone from back home they’ve said “I am so jealous that you are in Barbados” or “I’m so jealous that you’re living on the beach”. I’ve started responding with “I’m jealous of myself”. I am beyond blessed to have been given the opportunity to live abroad for the second time in my short life. Two weeks ago, I was crying because I didn’t want to leave (mainly because I was nervous and anxious about moving abroad again), and now I keep thinking you were an idiot Libbey. I am living in such a beautiful country and I only have 9 months to live it to the absolute fullest. So that’s exactly what I am doing. The hardest decision I make every day is deciding what bikini I should wear.

Every single person in university should go on exchange. If you have the opportunity and you don’t take it, you honestly don’t know what you are missing out on. 

School started on Monday and so far my classes have been going really good. It is super weird to be back in school though, I really got used to the work/strike life. My French class is probably my favorite and my professor is from the Democratic Republic of Congo which seems like the coolest/craziest thing to me. Tuesday was the first day since I’ve been here that I wasn’t able to go to the beach which was a big bummer, but I will definitely be making up for it this weekend!

Our tutorial classes haven’t started yet so I only had a three-day week which was a good way to start off the school year. School might take a little bit to get used to, the way that classes are taught and the fact that they have 60% exams here, which I am not looking forward to.

I know this was just a quick little post but I just wanted to pop in and say hi! I’m going to be putting out a post early next week on my adventures this weekend!

Love always,

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Hello September!

Is it just me, or has this year flown by? Maybe it’s because I haven’t been in school since March, but I am literally shocked that there are only 4 more months until 2019! September is the start of new beginnings, it marks the end of summer, start of school and a fresh start. I can’t believe that I am starting my third year of university in two days. It feels like just yesterday that I was packing up to move to Glendon for the first time.

I’ve been in Barbados for almost a week and things are going really good. I am starting to get used to the heat at night (my dorm room doesn’t have any AC), so I’ve mostly been sleeping on top of my covers with shorts. I’ve gone to the beach every single day since I’ve been here (except the day I arrived, because I didn’t get to school until 7:00pm), and I’m loving every second of it. I can’t believe how dark my skin has gotten already and I can only imagine what it is going to look like in four months when I come home for Christmas.

On Monday, there was a small lecture for all of the exchange students so I got to meet everyone which was really fun. This year UWI – Cave Hill is hosting 36 exchange students, 4 of which are staying the entire year. Probably 3/4 if not more of the students are here for first semester, so next semester there will only be a few of us. After our lecture we had a Bridgetown tour and the school showed us which grocery stores are nearby and whats more expensive where. I made a friend with another Canadian from Barrie, named Meike (pronounced Meika) and she showed me where the closest beach was to the school.

Tuesday we had another meeting with the exchange students and did a treasure hunt around campus to get to know it better. We played games in the early afternoon and had a pizza lunch during which it started down pouring. Usually, rain only lasts 10 minutes or so before it passes, but this was different. Meike and I had to wait over 30 minutes before we could walk back to residence. We went to the beach in the afternoon, with another exchange student named Grace, and soaked up the sun all afternoon.

Wednesday, the school planned a Safari Tour for all exchange students who wanted to participate. I am so happy I went because it was so much fun, plus I got to see the East side of the island and the Atlantic Ocean. (My school is on the West side of the island and the water is the Caribbean Sea.) Afterwards, Grace, Meike, and I walked to Jordan’s Supermarket which was a pretty long walk in 100 degree weather. I honestly thought that I was going to spend more on groceries, but I think as long as you try new things instead of buying all American products you can really save a lot of money.

Thursday, I had to enroll in my courses and I am happy to say that I still have Friday’s off! I got my picture taken for my student id card and I didn’t realize until later in the day that instead of saying Social Sciences as my program it says Humanities and Education (which Mom thinks sounds a lot fancier LOL).

Yesterday, Grace, Meike and I decided to have a beach day and it was probably the hottest day since I’ve been here. All of the beaches in Barbados are public so we decided to walk down the coast a little bit and try a different beach. We ended up at Ranger beach which is right beside a very fancy hotel, which was pretty cool. It was fun to people watch all the hotel stayers, doing water sports and lounging. We walked back to school for lunch and then met up again at 3pm to go to our regular beach. As soon as we got there it started to rain, so once it passed we walked back to school. There is a little grocery/ convenience store on campus so we popped in to grab an ice cream. I had a coconut ice cream bar and it was amazing, it reminded my of the coconut ice cream in Mexico.

Today we are off exploring again and we are going to take the bus to Speightstown. We are going out for lunch and going to spend some time on some fancy beaches in the area! I hope everyone is well and has a good labour day weekend! For everyone going back to school at the end of this week, good luck and have fun!

If you have any questions or want me to talk about something on my blog, shoot me an email or a direct message!

Love always,

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Our regular beach (10 minute walk from school)

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Grace and Meike

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East Coast Barbados – Atlantic Ocean

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From Chicago to Cambodia

Sometimes you meet people when you’re little, you stay friends with them for a few years and then move on with your lives. Well that is not the case with Bella or any other member of our girls group. About 15 years ago a group of us got together and we became friends for life. Today, some of us are living in Canada, the others in the U.S and Bella all the way in Cambodia. But we still try to see each other at least once a year. No matter how long we are separated we always pick up the conversation right where we left off, and that my friends is a great friendship. I am delighted to have this beautiful woman on my blog today and I hope that you enjoy reading a glimpse into her Cambodian life. 

Love, Libbey 

Two years ago I unexpectedly found myself living in Cambodia-home to the historical burdens of a genocide and communism, Cambodia is located in Southeast Asia and shares a border with Thailand and Vietnam.

Being brought to Cambodia by a job opportunity, the original plan was to stay here for 2 months. 2 months easily turned into 2 years as more of my energy was invested into a counter-trafficking project and the Cambodian communities.

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Many of my co-workers call me “Khmer” (Cambodian people are commonly referred to as being Khmer).

I laugh because although I eat the street food, speak a basic level of the language, ride a motorcycle and have taken on many mannerisms of my community etc.- I will never be Khmer, nor should I strive to be.

I am an American. Growing up in this nation is embedded into me in both conscious and unconscious ways. Wherever I go, I bring with me the foundational beliefs and values of our nation. To deny the American in me would be to deny a core of my being.

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Although I have made a home in Cambodia for an extended period of time, I am a guest. As a guest in Cambodia, I can kick my shoes off and relax, but must do so respectfully with a full understanding of my place in the Cambodian community. In doing so, my ability to take a continuous learner’s perspective comes naturally.

Although it has been two years striving to understand Cambodia- the behaviors of its people, the possibilities for growth and burdens of the country, I am always finding that any conclusion or insight I find always has a deeper layer to it.

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The reasons for traveling or living internationally can be broken down into 2 motivations. Either an individual is 1) running away from something 2) running towards something. Whether you fit into either of this motivations, the perspective you take on as a traveler will determine your ability to benefit from your traveling.

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These pictures serve as a tribute to those people who have helped me understand my role as a guest.

~ Bella McKay

A European Adventure

Hi everyone! Today I am super excited to introduce one of my childhood best friends Jessie to The Blonde Traveler. Jessie is here to tell you about some of her adventures from her cross Europe tour she took in May!

Love, Libbey

Oh hey there readers of Libbey’s blog. I’m Jessie and I went to Europe for the month of May! I have previously done the “backpacking thing” and didn’t want to go through the whole planning process again so one my best friends and I decided to do a Contiki tour and then a couple countries on our own afterwards. The tour was great! It took care of all the transportation and accommodations and I met some absolutely amazing people! 

My trip began in London and then I travelled to Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Krakow, Budapest, Ljubljana, Venice, Rome, Paris and Brussels. I covered a lot of ground during the three weeks I was in Europe, so I’ll just mention some of my favourites.   

Numero uno: Elan Café in London. One of my favourite things we did while in London was going to the Elan Café. Not only did they have fabulous desserts, but its décor made for some totally insta-worthy pictures. The one we went to was within walking distance of Hyde Park so we spent the day there and then headed over to the café for dessert and tea.

2) Edam. During our stay in Amsterdam, we took a short drive to this little town that’s known for their cheese. We all got to ride granny bikes and see how beautiful this place was and then we made our way to a clog- making demonstration with a cheese and wine tasting. This is where I also discovered my love for stroopwaffels- they’re flattened waffles with a delicious syrup in the middle.

3) In Prague we took a guided bike tour of the city. It lasted about three hours and it was amazing how much we got to see during that time. The architecture in Prague is beautiful and it was just nice to walk around and explore. Some of my favourite things included their chimney cones (basically a donut cone stuffed with ice cream) and beer garden which had a beautiful view of the city. It was also fun getting to write on the John Lennon wall. 

4) A Mozart and Strauss concert and Prater park in Vienna. My tour group went to a concert in the Grand Opera Hall in Vienna. We all got to dress up and listen to some beautiful music and opera and then later on we went to Vienna’s amusement park, Prater park, and spent the night on roller coasters.

5) Perogies in Krakow. I have had perogies before, if you count the kind that comes frozen from the grocery store, but they are nothing like true polish perogies. While in Krakow, they had a market set up with tons of little booths and vendors, some of which sold perogies, some fried, some not, both delicious. I also tried dessert perogies stuffed with raspberry jam and they were also super good.

6) Architecture and food in Brussels. I love my fries and I’ve heard that the ones in Belgium are wonderful so for that reason, Brussels made it onto my list of countries to travel to this summer. I’m pleased to say that I was not disappointed, the frites came in a huge cone and they were super yummy. I was also a fan of their waffles, my fav were the Liege ones because they were super sweet. The architecture in the Grand Place was gorgeous during the day and at night it was fun just walking around the city. My inner science nerd also loved going to The Atomium.

I had an incredible trip with incredible people and I can’t wait until my next adventure. It truly was the trip of a lifetime and an experience I’ll never forget.

I also would like to shout out Romana Gelateria for having theeee BEST gelato and Libbey- it was an honour to make a guest appearance on your blog!

Xoxo,

Jessie (a brunette traveller)

The Traveling Girls

I have some pretty amazing friends that do amazing things on a daily basis. I’ve been friends with some of these girls since I was five and some I met on my first day of university. Almost all of my girlfriends are older than me, so once they left for university and other adventures we made a pact to get together at least once a year, even if it is only for a few hours. This summer more than a few of my girlfriends are going on adventures of a lifetime; some are off visiting new countries and others are working around the globe. My beautiful girlfriends have agreed to share their experiences with you and I could not be more excited to be able to feature this segment on my blog which I will be calling The Traveling Girls! Once a week starting in June, I will be featuring one of my friends adventures on the blog! I am beyond grateful to have met each and one of these beautiful women and the fact that I get to live vicariously through them is even more special.

I hope that each and every one of their words inspires you as they inspire me on a daily basis.

Love always,

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