Rome.. You are my favourite!

GELATO!!! Basically what Ella and I lived off!
Paris, you have quite possibly been replaced as my favourite city in Europe! For my last weekend on placement my friend and I visited the beautiful city of Rome. We were lucky enough to both score an extra day off leaving us with two full days and two half days to explore this beautiful city! This Rome trip was everything I have been craving for quite some time, a beautiful city, a central hostel, amazing food, lovely locals, and it was all relatively affordable (for the euro). We flew WizzAir in to Rome Ciampino airport, which was my first experience with WizzAir. I found that while the flights were okay and were on time, the seats were very uncomfortable and I did not have enough room (this was less of a problem for my friend who is average height!). It was, however, a cheap flight and got me to Rome! We stayed at Four Seasons Hostel which was about 10 minutes from Termini and an easy walk from all the sights we wanted to see! It was a nice hostel, and had comfy beds. There wasn’t really a common room which made it hard to meet other people but the hostel did participate in a pub crawl which seemed like fun (although we didn’t go on it). The only complaint I have is that the showers were always too hot! It seemed that you ran out of cold water in the evenings and the only time I could have a decent shower without getting burnt was in the morning. Overall it was a good place to sleep (so long as you didn’t have certain disrespectful people in your dorm like I did but that’s another story).
One of the adorable streets we came across. Come on with a
Vesper in that prime position did you expect me not to take
the photograph?
On the Saturday we did a free walking tour which started at the Spanish Steps, and took us to many of the major sights, finished up at the Vatican City. The good thing about this tour was that we hadn’t really considered how many sights there were to see and had we explored on our own we probably would have missed a few. Furthermore, our guide was also full of interesting knowledge about all the places we visited. We saw the Pantheon, which is absolutely spectacular especially on the inside, we also saw many different obelisk’s, all of which had different stories to tell and were so intricately detailed. We saw Trajan’s Column, and saw a very real depiction of the ‘living city’ of Rome. Basically, the square with Trajan’s Column is full of buildings built from all different eras, it was so interesting to look at the changes architecturally. We saw heaps more than these few things but I can’t quite remember all the sights so all I’m going to say is do a walking tour!
When we eventually reached the Vatican State. Being the smart little cookies that we are, we had pre-booked tickets for the Vatican museum and had brought clothes to cover our shoulders and knees which meant that we skipped the long line and went straight in with no problems whatsoever. However, just a warning that there are heaps of ‘tour/information guides’ around who will try talk you into taking a tour around the museum rather than doing it yourself. For us, we didn’t need a guided tour and found it incredibly frustrating that we were continually stopped by these people. I would suggest taking the tour if you want in-depth information about the pieces and rooms, but if you aren’t as interested in this just do a self-guided tour!
Yummm Pizza
After the Vatican museum we had heaps of time to explore the small, quaint streets of Rome. We had lunch at a classic tourist-trap restaurant, then strolled around to find a lovely little gelato shop. The gelato in Italy is incredible! It is the real deal, each flavour is actually genuine! I had some of the richest, mouthwatering chocolate gelato that I have ever tried and some of the best lemon gelato that just made everything seem so fresh and alive. I even found a lemon seed in one of them! It is safe to say that we spent the majority of our money on Italian food, especially gelato! We even found ourselves at a beautiful, little, traditional Italian Pizzeria, where no one spoke English and we ordered through hand gestures. By gosh the pizza was incredible, and absolutely nothing like any pizza I had ever eaten before! I can’t even properly explain it so all I’m going to say is if you are in Rome take a stroll out of the tourist area and find restaurants that aren’t designed for tourists! You won’t regret it! On our strolls we also found our way to a number of market squares and  sights, such as the Trevi Fountain (which unfortunately is closed up).
The classic ‘I was at the Colosseum’ photo
#touristobligations
We also visited the Colosseum, Palantine Hill, and the Roman Forum in one epic day trip. Once again we pre-booked tickets but were dismayed to find that we didn’t get to skip the line as much this time. The system at the Colosseum is that first you line up to buy your ticket and then you join a different, longer line to enter the building. In the end we did save some time but if you are there off season or early morning I can’t imaging you’d really need to worry about pre-booking. I would recommend getting there early though as the entrance line may seem long but they probably haven’t reached their maximum capacity yet which means the line moves fairly quickly. We waited 30 minutes tops and it was well worth it! Once again we did a self-guided tour and enjoyed it immensely, however if I were to go again I would definitely do a guided tour just to get that little bit more information about what I was actually looking at. Regarding all three sights, it felt very surreal to be standing in a place where people had been hundreds of years ago, and thinking about all the different events that had occurred there over the years was mind blowing. We spent all day exploring and I had the sunburn                                                                      to prove it!
So this has turned out to be very long and I apologise for that! However, Rome was an incredible experience and is such a beautiful city that no words can really capture. If your dream is to wander through quaint little streets and get a real dose of history, Rome is the place to go! I certainly can’t wait to one day further explore Italy!
Couldn’t think of a better person to travel Rome with!
Thanks for make our last trip so much fun Ella!

 

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Where did five months go…

So today was my last day and I realise that over the past 5 months’ worth of teaching I have learnt so much and shared so little on this blog! In fact this blog became much more of a travel blog than intended (but I guess this is a good thing as it means I did travel a fair bit!) so I have decided to do a post on what my working/volunteering life has been like. I started out with few responsibilities other than turn up to school and go to the classes I was scheduled to attend. After about a month I was asked to start preparing my own lessons. Here are some things that I really enjoyed, hated, worried about, remember etc about being a teacher (yes I’m putting them in dot points): 

  • Being told to teach a bunch of kids would have been scary enough for me when I was in Australia, especially considering my teaching experience is limited to a one week intensive TEFL course, so being in a country where I don’t speak the language or really understand their curriculum or know how to teach the language I’ve been speaking all my life, was actually terrifying.
  • The good news is that I got more confident as time went by, yesterday I even taught a bunch of energetic eight year olds about Kookuburras WITHOUT having a polish speaking teacher in the room!
  • I found that teaching by myself, without a supervising teacher, to be much easier than with a teacher in the room. When I was by myself I felt more confident in my abilities and authority over the class, and I think the kids also viewed me more like a teacher at these times too. All the teachers I worked with were amazing at engaging students and it was easy to feel intimidated by them!
  • Consequently, I tended to feel happier about the lessons I did on my own than while supervised.
  • Sometimes lessons would crash and burn, and essentially leave me wondering why I came to Poland in the first place. I remember have some classes where the students just wouldn’t listen to me, or I just wasn’t prepared enough to cope.
  • IMPROVISATION is your best friend as a teacher. The amount of times I turned up only to be told I was subbing, or to find out that the kids already knew about the topic I was teaching, has taught me how to come up with at least some form of game to pass the remaining ten minutes of class, or  with an entirely new lesson plan.
  • Teachers do have favourite students and classes. I often found myself dreading some classes while getting excited about others. I also had a 4-5 favourite students who always made sure the rest of the class behaved and would greet me in the halls.
  • Sometimes all it takes to make your day is when a 7 year old little Polish girl who barely understands English runs up to you and says ‘Hello Samantha, how are you?” and patiently waits for a response even though she doesn’t understand a word you say.
  • One of the scariest things I encounter was being headbutted by a 6 year old in 0 class as she launched at me screaming ‘I love you!’
  • I now am confident enough to manage a group of 6 year old girls who are dubbed the most troublesome class in the school.
  • 16 year old girls do not change from country to country, and still manage to be intimidating. The best course of action is to our sarcasm them, which in this case was harder than one might think.
  • I can officially navigate Microsoft word in Polish (mainly because I know all the shortcuts and they are the same in Polish as English).
  • Sometimes it’s best not to ask what you are eating until AFTER you finish it or not at all, especially when it comes to a school cafeteria.
  • Pasta and strawberry yoghurt, potato cakes covered in sugar, and crepes with sweet cheese are seen as acceptable lunch meals for children.
  • I refuse to ever eat cabbage or beetroot ever again (okay this may be more of a Poland lesson in general).
  • Most of all though, the thing about being a teacher was learning to both always and never be prepared for anything and everything.
  • And lastly, if in doubt, play hot seat (or have a music lesson where the kids show you all different versions of ‘Let it Go’ on youtube, I mean what I never did that…)

So there are some of my notes on what my life was like at school. I decided to end it there (though I could go on forever) because I think those are the most important things. I absolutely loved my time at this school, the students and staff where incredible. And I did learn that it is a good thing that I never intended on being a teacher, because while I love kids teaching really isn’t for me! 
I will miss these crazy people so much! Thank you so much to
students, to Jon my awesome placement partner, and to
Michelle, Melanie, Mirabelle, Zosia, and Lucja my
amazing host sisters. And of course to Izabel, Joanna and
Alek my host parents and the teachers at my school. 

I’m in love with Paris

 

French Salad- yummmm
Yep, I know its cliché but I am honestly in love with Paris. A week ago I was lucky enough to be able to visit Paris, not only this but also visit my dad in Paris which also meant I didn’t have to stay in a room with 12 other people but rather got my own room and sofa bed in his apartment! I had heard mixed opinions of Paris, some people such as my mum and dad, love Paris, where as others thought it over priced and dirty. I am definitely one of those who love it. I was lucky enough to spend 3 days in central Paris, and together with my dad I saw many of the sights of Paris both tourist and makeshift-Parisian (my dad has been to Paris every year for about 25 years and hence knows his way around pretty well!). I arrived on Thursday afternoon not sure what to expect and feeling a bit unlucky after having some problems with check in and flights, but after about 5 minutes of walking through the streets I felt relaxed and at home! I was also lucky enough to have lovely weather (~20 degrees) all weekend, which undoubtedly made both the city more beautiful and myself able to appreciate it more.

 

Stainglass windows at Sainte- Chapelle
It’s safe to say that I made to most of the opportunity we left the house by 9am and returned after 10pm every day. We walked so much that my feet hurt for the week afterwards, and we saw so many different sights that neither of us can remember everything we did. We visited the Sainte-Chapelle and Conciergerie (which my ISIC card got me into for free). The stainglass windows in the Sainte-Chapelle were incredible, I did not expect them to be of such as scale and beauty nor have I ever seen anything quite like it before. The Conciergerie, an old prison where Marie Antoinette was held for two months before her execution, was also very interesting from a historical point of view.
Dad and I at the top of the Eiffel Tower!
We visited the Notre Dame and I found it was quite amazing how quiet it was, even with about 200 tourists wondering around. The Arch De Triumphe was incredible, and I was able to observe one of the scariest roundabouts in Paris (there are no lines and you give way to people coming onto it….). The Catacombs, not entirely sure how to describe them aside from completely unexpected and completely worth it.  Musee d’Orsay and L’Orangerie, the former was worth it just to see inside the building, a converted train station, and the latter houses Monet’s Waterlillies which are just stunning! I could have spent all day staring at them if it weren’t for all the annoying tourists! Of course we also did the Eiffel Tower, one of the highlights of the trip was climbing all 669 steps to the second floor before taking the lift to the top! The view was incredible, and my dad was able to point out places all over the city. We saw the Madeline, Opera, and walked down Champs Elysees (and shopped…), ate at cute French cafés and simply wandered through the streets and parks of Paris.

 

Notre Dame from a bridge
The highlight of the entire trip has got to be my last night in Paris when dad took me to some restaurant that overlooked the Eiffel tower. We ate dinner and drank French wine while watching how the Eiffel tower changed at sunset before heading over to join the tourists at 10pm for the hourly light show! I had such a wonderful time, and it was definitely the best weekend I have had so far!  It is safe to say that I will be back, and hopefully before the end of this trip.

 

Just some pictures of me with Squirrels…

 A week ago I ventured out to Lazienki Park for the first time. The park is known for the ‘Palace on the water’ which is essentially a beautiful palace which looks like it is floating on water. Anyway the high light of the day for me was seeing squirrels for the first time! So cute, and so brave these little rodents were everywhere and keen to interact if you pretended to have food! Warsaw is beautiful in spring!

Co to jest? (what is it)

Dzień dobry! Good morning/afternoon! This is pretty much the extent of my Polish at the current point in time. Poland is so beautiful, I am loving pretty much every aspect that I have experienced so far. Yes, I am even enjoying the cold. The atmosphere becomes almost romantic the minute it starts to snow. And waking up to see the sun streaming in (although very rare so far) through snow covered trees is an incredible sight. The winter fashion is also a plus. Rather than write up a long post about everything I have done so far, I thought I would just write out some key points about what I have learnt, loved, found strange, and so on.

  1. Stating the obvious… IT IS SO BLOODY COLD. I love and hate this fact. I love it because there is snow and I get to wear awesome clothes. But I hate it because it is so cold. It also gets frustrating having to constantly dress and undress every time I go outside or inside. I have already lost my beanie because of this.
  2. Everything is so cheap. We worked out that 10PNL is roughly $3AUD. Putting it in perspective I bought a winter coat for 120 PNL which equals about $40… I would have paid $100 easily for it easily in Australia. #feelingrich
  3. Polish people really do love to drink. It’s true. VODKA VODKA VODKA. I haven’t had as much cabbage though. They also have good ciders and beer (yes mum I have started drinking some beer…).
  4. Polish people are scary drivers. I have never been so scared in my life. It is normal to go 30kms over the limit… Enough said
  5. There is free WiFi everywhere which is amazing. Like seriously, Australia needs to catch up.
  6. THE GUYS ARE FREAKING GORGEOUS. Ignore every person who ever tells you that Polish guys are unattractive. They have this awesome Slavic look going and its just gorgeous. The rumours that Polish women are gorgeous are true.
  7. The Pole’s have really good food. The chocolate croissants are to die for, as is the chocolate. Perogi is also super delicious

 So basically I am really enjoying it so far. Yes there have been some moments of homesickness, and ‘why the hell am I here’. But its still pretty cool. (no pun intended)