Guest Blog

My Experience As A South African Au Pair In America | 5 Tips To Help With Homesickness | Guest Blog Part 1

I’ve been wanting to do a collab with someone else since I started my blog. I’m so happy to share that my best friend in the entire world agreed to answer a few questions of mine. I’m going to take this opportunity to announce that come April 2019, Anje and I will be releasing the first chapter of the book we’re co-writing together. It will be posted weekly on here every Sunday starting April. If you’re as excited as me and wish to check Anje’s writing out, please go show her some love on her Wattpad profile. She just released her new book called Abnormal Roses and I’m obsessed. She also has a traveler Instagram account where she posts about all the places she’s been too. And the girl has traveled the globe. All the links will be down below. Now that everything is out of the way, let’s get started!

Introduction

I’ve reached out to Anje who I felt could share a part of her journey with you, my readers, in hopes that she can help someone out there who have gone through this experience even if it’s just to show that you’re not alone.

  1. Can you tell me a little about yourself? Just a little introduction before we jump into the topic at hand.

Hello everyone, my name is Anje, I am 22 years old and currently living in South Africa. I often find it hard to describe myself other than saying I am a socially awkward introvert who absolutely loves to travel and experience new cultures and people. A bit of a contradiction if you ask me, but true all the same. I am a very heavy reader, my all-time favorite author being Arthur Conan Doyle, and my favorite novels being the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series. My passions in life are writing, archery, and chocolate.

The probing begins…

  1. How was your experience as an au pair in America?

I absolutely loved it! The States completely blew away all my expectations, which honestly surprised me a lot. I think what had helped me a ton was that I had already been an au pair the year before, though I had been in the Netherlands, I still understood that being an au pair wasn’t just all fun and games and some days would be better than others.

Anyways, back to America; when I arrived in New York for a three-day orientation, it was the night before America was to find out who their new president was. Needless to say, it was quite crazy, but nothing could have ruined my time in New York City. It’s insane, loud, and slightly stinky, but it is beyond amazing. As we zipped through the streets, passing yellow taxi cabs and towering skyscrapers, I just thought “wow, I am so lucky to be here right now.” Having to deal with jetlag was annoying, but you got so busy with orientation and training, you barely thought about it. After the three days, I finally hopped on a train and went to what would become my new home; Washington DC. After about a three-hour ride, I stepped off the train and into Union Station, which is arguably one of the most beautiful buildings I had ever seen. My new host family was there, greeting me with welcoming signs and warm hugs, then we hopped into their car and went to their house. They have three children, when I had arrived they were aged 4, 2, and 6 weeks. Needless to say, I knew I had my work cut out for me, but I was beyond excited to start.

The host parents are some of the nicest people I have ever met. Me being a very awkward and shy person, I worried about being able to develop a proper relationship with them. But boy oh boy was I worried for nothing! They welcomed me into their home with such kindness and excitement, there was never a time I felt unwelcome or even uncomfortable about being in a stranger’s house. It wasn’t before long when I became very close to my host mom, we often laughed about how our relationship was closer to that between sisters than of an employee and her boss. They never treated me like “the help,” and always asked my opinion when it came to the kids.

I know that I had hit the jackpot with them, as I believe that a host family can really make or break your experience as an au pair. This is also why I always tell people who are considering being au pairs, that if they are uncomfortable with their host parents based out of actual concerns, for example, they ask you to work overtime but don’t pay you for it, or the kids treat you like dirt and the parents encourage it, then transfer to a different family! I had a friend who was completely miserable, to the point where she even began to hate America, because her host family was horrible to her. This being said, it is also extremely important for the au pair to understand that this job is anything but easy. You are basically helping raise kids, it is going to be exhausting, it is going to be hard, but it is also worth every minute of it. I’ve had au pair friends who became an au pair with the notion that it was going to be a lovely gap year, filled with relaxation and parties, but of course, that is not reality. I found that these friends often struggled the most with adapting to their new environment, generally becoming miserable as they didn’t expect to actually work.

But please don’t be discouraged from ever becoming an au pair, it is an amazingly fulfilling job, where you get to experience a different culture, country and meet new interesting people. Just keep in mind that it isn’t always going to be easy, there will be days where you want to give up, but push through, it is worth it.

I remember when I first got there everything seemed so different and new. The food was bigger, the people greeted me on the streets, and when you pay for your meals at a restaurant the waitress takes your card to the machine. My host mom, who was still on maternity leave, showed me around the city a lot. We drove past the white house, countless museums, and visited her parents in Arlington, Virginia. I honestly didn’t have such a big issue with culture shock, other than having to use a few different words to describe some things (Not the boot, but the trunk, not a costume, but a bathing suit). I think this is because Cape Town, where I grew up, had a lot of American influences. That and we typically watch American shows, meaning I was always exposed to the American culture and kind of had an idea of what to expect.

This doesn’t mean I didn’t have to deal with being homesick. I’ll admit, during my first year I was completely fine, but close to the end of my second year, things got a little tougher. It is, unfortunately, part of the job, but I do have some tips that worked for me, should you ever have to deal with being homesick as an au pair or traveler. Small disclaimer, though these tips did help me cope, it isn’t to say they will work for you. As you live and experience the new city you are in, you will start to realize what you enjoy doing during your free time and what helps you relax, do what makes you happy. But anyways, some things that helped me:

  • Skype with my family, even if it is just for a few minutes. I would catch up to what was happening back home and tell them how things were going with me. I often found that telling them about my day or week was a great stress reliever. It also allowed me to get excited again, especially when I told them about something new I did or saw.
  • Talk to your host family or friends. Finding someone who you can rely on for support is vital, not only for your mental health but your experience as an au pair. It is great when you can talk to your host family, but it is also good to have someone else. With a friend, you can complain and rant about the things that annoyed you about your day and lean on them whenever you feel homesick. I remember after a particularly tough day of work, it was a snow day so all three kids were home, I messaged my friend and she immediately told me to meet her at Union station. We then had a lovely time walking around the snow, taking pictures in front of the capitol building, and grabbing some dinner at a nice restaurant. When I arrived home I felt amazing, talking about my day had taken away so much stress and I felt ready to face the next day of hard work.
  • Go for a walk. This is a wonderful way to help clear your mind and take a step back from everything going on around you. You can listen to some music or just enjoy your surroundings, I found it often calmed me down a lot. This can even include exploring a little, whether it is going to a museum, a mall, or even nearby coffee shop.
  • Self-care. As an au pair, this is extremely important!! You will basically be taking on the role of mom and therefore will be tired and have little time for yourself while you are working. Self-care can be anything from going to bed earlier, taking a relaxing bubble bath, reading your favorite book, or listening to music while stuffing your face with chocolates. Self-care differs for everyone, do what you feel works for you.
  • Be sad. Yes, this sounds absolutely depressing, but part of being human means having feelings and emotions. We would be doing ourselves a disservice by completely ignoring how we feel, invalidating our own feelings can cause us even more distress. I had learned this the hard way, sadly, as my number one coping mechanism is to hide behind “No, I’m fine,” while actually falling apart inside. Then the smallest thing would happen like my favorite tv character would die (RIP Khal Drogo) or I would knock my elbow against the wall, and everything would just come crashing down. One night, after bawling my eyes out over having found a cricket in my bathroom, I had decided to think more about my feelings and to validate my emotions. Now when I am sad or angry, I go through those emotions, I allow myself to feel, no matter how hard it is. But it helps, when I had worked through the emotions they eventually fade away and I am able to move on from whatever had troubled me.

Now back to my time as an au pair. So in my first year, a typical day would be waking up, going upstairs at 8, saying goodbye to the oldest girl when her dad took her to school, and begin making breakfast for the 2-year-old. My morning would be spent entertaining him, while also taking care of the baby. My host mom luckily worked from home, which helped a lot seeing as the baby refused to take the bottle during the first month or so. One day, when my host mom had to go into the office, the baby had a 6-hour hunger strike. I tried everything to get her to drink, but she outright refused. It was also during this time that we were trying to potty train the 2-year-old boy. It was probably one of the most disgusting things I had ever experienced in my life, but luckily we all got through it. The months passed by rather quickly, the boy now 3 and the eldest now 5. Summer break then came, catching me slightly off guard. It was so humid outside we were confined indoors for most of the time. I kept them busy with science experiments, baking, art projects, and dance parties. When summer break was finally over, the 3-year-old also started school, meaning it was just me and the baby from that point on.

When school started it felt quite weird having only one kid, but I wasn’t complaining one bit. I took her for walks in the stroller, taught her some Afrikaans words, and helped her learn how to walk. It was around October, a day or so before my birthday, that my host parents decided to move to a different house. It was only a few blocks from the old one, but a lot bigger. It was also during this time that a particularly nasty stomach bug was slowly making its way through the whole family. As luck would have it, on moving day, the day before my birthday, I got sick. I was confined to my bed for almost three days, not even able to eat my own birthday cake. My host mom, however, decided that this was unacceptable and said that my birthday would move to that weekend, when I am healthy again. That Saturday morning the whole family sang me a happy birthday, bringing a cupcake with a candle. It warmed my heart, as I had told her it was a tradition of my family to do that on someone’s birthday. That day my host mom, her mom, the 5-year-old girl and I went out to get our hair done and have lunch at a huge mall. It was a great day, we did some shopping and had a lot of fun bonding.

Halloween then came around and let me tell you, it was amazing!!!  Back home in South Africa, we do not celebrate Halloween, save for a few house parties some people throw, but we definitely do not go trick or treating. So walking down the street with the kids all dressed up, watching them fill their bags full of chocolate and candy, was probably a highlight of my year. That and the fact that I ate my bodyweight in chocolate that night.

Thanksgiving was also beyond amazing, we went to my host dad’s family in Rochester New York and his mom is a genius in the kitchen! She had like 4 types of pies!!! The amazing food aside it was also a great experience to be part of that holiday, especially when we sat around the table and said what we are grateful for. About a month after that it was Christmas, a holiday I thought I would be prepared for seeing as we celebrate it back home as well. But, boy was I wrong. America does Christmas like I have never seen Christmas being done before. I always said that America’s motto is “go big or go home.” Giant Christmas trees around every corner, beautiful Christmas lights wrapped around every building, green wreaths on every door, it was a kaleidoscope of color and cheer. It was beautiful and really makes you excited for Christmas. The day itself wasn’t at all different than how we celebrate it back in South Africa. The kids will open their presents that morning, the family will come over that evening for a delicious Christmas meal. It was strange being away from my family, but I skyped with them the whole morning and everyone at the Christmas dinner was so friendly, it made it so much easier.

So then New Years rolled around and 2018 marked my second year as an Au Pair. I had decided to extend with the same family, but that is a decision that depends on so many variables. For one thing, you have spent an entire year building a bond with these kids and their parents, you have a stable routine, you know how everything works, and you are comfortable with your surroundings. But on the other hand, there is a new adventure that awaits, a new State to explore, and new people to meet. I think it all depends on you as the au pair, if you feel that you want to experience a new family and city, then go for it, if you don’t, then stay. Just never feel as though you are obligated to stay in the same place, even if you don’t want to.

I think I also need to talk about traveling, definitely my all-time favorite topic in life. So when I was in the Netherlands I would only travel by train and use Couchsurfing. I traveled to so many places, I got to walk through the Colosseum in Rome, fell asleep on a beach in France, bought fresh fruit in Barcelona, and went up on the Eiffel Tower with my best friend. But I quickly learned that it isn’t that easy in America, obviously the US is a lot bigger and you need to use different ways of getting around. So my main form of traveling came in the shape of road trips. My friend and I would rent a car and go wherever we wanted. Keep in mind that if you are under the age of 24 you might have trouble renting a car or would have to pay a lot more. Also always get insurance, it might be a little more expensive, but trust me it’s worth it! We were also quite lucky being only a few hours drive from New York, but for that, we decided to take the bus. There are a lot of cheap busses in America, it might take you longer to get to your destination, but let me put it like this: A 3-hour train ride from DC to NY was around $60, while a 5-hour bus was around $15. I am a full-time student so saving money was important, which meant I was on the bus, rather than the train.

The best way of finding the cheapest ways to travel is by doing a lot of research! Go on different websites, use Hostels instead of Hotels, compare the prices of everything! It does take some time, but when you are on a budget it helps a lot. My all-time favorite website was Wanderu. Basically, you type in where you are and where you want to go and it gives you hundreds of options for busses and trains. It compares prices from a bunch of different travel services so you know you are getting the best deal.

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In part two we will talk about how Anje balanced being a full-time au pair in America while studying. Part two will go up on Monday, so stay tuned. Please show her some love on her Instagram or in the comments down below. I will send it all through to her.

Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a click!

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Abnormal Roses — https://www.wattpad.com/story/170208404-abnormal-roses

Anje’s Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/anje_tait/

 

#dutch, Dutch, Story Time

One Year Immigrant Anniversary

Oh boy I’m writing my first blog after two months of incredibly hard work. I have so much I want to share and not all of it is related to the house for those who couldn’t care less about the renovations, fret not I have other content heading your way. We just need to build our office desk so I can just sit and pump out work left and right. That came out wrong. Did it? Am I just over sensitive because I have to relearn how I write blogs? But anyway you’ve seen the title so you know what this blog is about but let me do the introduction and build myself up to it. Seriously how did I write blogs before?

The second of June has been a special day to me these last few years. The man of my dreams, my husband, birthday is on that day. So back in May 2017, we received my VISA. After getting the acceptance letter we had to wait two weeks as my approval didn’t show up in the system and we couldn’t get the stamp in my passport before it finally showed up. My big goal was to arrive before Onno’s birthday as the perfect birthday present because let’s face it his future wife being there for his birthday without ever having to leave again is a pretty good present. Things managed to work out and I landed on his birthday last year. So it’s safe to say that on Saturday we had a lot to celebrate. Added to the list of things to celebrate we had our first week in the house which still feels unreal. I worked incredibly hard this last week to unpack almost everything so the house could feel more like the home by Saturday.

We woke up bright and early to Speculoos running into the bedroom and jumping on the bed with his packet of treats. Treats he jumped up on the bookcase to get to. Treats that if he eats to much of he gets the runs. Hence why I put it in high places I thought he wouldn’t be able to reach. After Onno chased Speculoos down the stairs to get his treats, while he was downstairs he made me cup of tea because he is just that great. I do need to add I sang happy birthday to him six times. I’m incredibly tone deaf so it borderlines on torture. While we had our breakfast in bed my dad called and sang happy birthday in the same tone deaf brilliance that I inherited from him.  After the phone call Onno and I went downstairs to bake the milktart (a South African delight that Onno loves) before attempting to work on some small things around the house. After about an hour a nap was in order to restore the balance in the universe. A few hours later we resurfaced to get back to work. I once again sang to Onno till he left the bedroom to escape my brilliance. We very slowly got to work on the small things left to do in the house, mainly putting up a storage space on top of the washing machine and putting up the last bit of handles in the kitchen (a hole needed to be drilled in before we could put the handles on). While I started preparing the pork roast Onno finished the mini bookcase in the office. We stopped there for the day well it’s his birthday we can’t work the entire day. It was a nice day. We got some work done around the house, we relaxed and watched our favorite series together on the couch like the good old times and then enjoyed an incredibly delicious pork roast meal followed by dessert. We ended our night with a bubble bath, boy oh boy our bath in the new house is magical.

Honestly it still blows my mind that I’m living in the Netherlands now permanently. I’ve never been here for one year straight without going back to South Africa. Onno and I never had one uninterrupted year together. This last year was a crazy whirlwind of emotions, 2018 being the roughest emotional roller coaster ride I’ve ever been on, but I’m so incredibly happy to be with him. I’ve said incredibly a lot in this blog post. No idea where that is coming from. But anyway back to the blog; a year ago I never would’ve imagined where we are today and I’m just so excited to see what the next year will bring us. I have no idea where I’m going with this. I’m mainly just so happy, overwhelmed, emotionally unstable, tired, blessed and so much more.

A quick little side note before I end the blog (I really need to get back to work. We’re building our office desk today.) I failed the speaking part of my Dutch as a second language test AGAIN. It’s so incredibly frustrating. This time I failed with 9 points. Come on man throw a girl a bone! Anyway I will attempt another round later this year as well as starting to prepare for my immigration test (I have another two years to do that but who knows how easy that will go down). I’m also going to start the process of getting my driver’s license. Unfortunately my South African drivers license doesn’t mean shit here so I have to redo the entire process (yes I’m still butt hurt about this fact). We really needed me being allowed to drive when we moved and now that we live in a smaller ‘city’ further away from everything, we really need a car. Onno is going to do most of the driving but who knows, I might want to use it every now and again. I haven’t looked into it too much but hopefully I can scratch it of the list this year.

Alright that’s it for the blog. I’m sorry that I’m all over the place. I wish there was more I could say about my one year as an immigrant anniversary (boy that’s an uncomfortable mouthful) but honestly we just ate, slept and worked on the house all day. Nothing special. I’m sorry for being absent so long, I really tried my utmost best to avoid it from happening but the renovations was full of surprises and I just couldn’t keep up with everything. It also didn’t help that throughout these last two months I’ve had some big dentist appointments (read actual torture) but I have three more appointments to go before I’m almost done for the year. And by almost done I mean I have to get two teeth implanted and that’s going to take another few months before the gums are healed enough. Hopefully it will go into next year because honey I’m so drained. So much pain. So tired. Anyway I’m going of track. I will be back to my regular updates moving forward with a lot of exciting things coming up. I will start sharing some house related DIY projects soon, but other than that…I’M BACK!

Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a click!

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PS. For those who is reading The Girl Writing In The Train, a new chapter will only be up near the end of June or beginning of July. I want to catch up with my blogs before I return to my creative writing. I can’t get into the flow of things when I feel like I’m behind on the blog aspect of my website if that even makes sense. I hope you will understand.

Dutch

My Attempt At Being A Tour Guide In Amsterdam

If there is only one thing you should know about me is that I’m very much in tune with my sense of direction…in South Africa. In the Netherlands, well let’s just say it’s takes me some time before I figure out what direction is what. I’m not kidding. What I think is the right way is NEVER the actual way. Here is a prime example of my brilliant sense of direction in the small and flat country.

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Here is the full caption that I posted with the picture. The sun is shining here in the Netherlands and I decided to somehow find my way to one of my favorite parks I always go to with Onno. Yeah it didn’t exactly go according to plan, swipe right and you will see my attempt. The fact that I tripped over my laces on my way out of the apartment should’ve been a foresight but it doesn’t end there. Oh no my foot slipped on the petals (three times) and the first time (because the seat was still too high) I lost my balance and gracefully fell over. In front of the central station, in the middle of the day…in the holiday period. Yeah people saw. Someone even asked me if I’m okay. I just felt the need to reassure them and myself that I’m not a complete amateur and I know how to bicycle. And as I was trying to find the road to the park I somehow circled back to the station twice till I found the Museum park which wasn’t even that pleasant because it’s packed with screaming kids and I’m an old fart that likes to read in parks. I’m back home, licking my wounds and playing with Speculoos (I then proceeded to tag my cat’s Instagram page. Cringe.)

What is your point women? Well basically I don’t know where the hell I’m going in this country most of the time (well I’m quite good in Rotterdam because I lived here for long enough but take me off my route and I’m lost) so picturing me as a tour guide is laughable. Where are you going with this? Well give me some time. I’m writing a blog for the first time in over a month. Like how do I open a word document? Where is J on the keyboard? Does auto correct still work? Does the internet on my laptop even still work? Is my blog still a thing?

Jokes aside, let me just get to the point. It’s 10pm and I’ve worked on the house the entire day and my brain is losing its ability to put words into functional sentences. I’m not even sure if I’m writing English right now. Oh lord imagine future Cassy trying to edit this blog tomorrow so it can go up on Monday and be like what the fuck?

GFJHDFGFJDGJHGjfbgjhgjh fbrwjgubvgyugkjabfyutwhjfsbdj hvfeywgfbf gfhjbchgqeyfvcm vyffghcbluilerhbcdzhjzgvcfeygfsd yugeyufweguy gfeyuwfyfuryufryrfguf yyuyreauywoie uriroturwkhckjbvyuegvhbr fgeuhfihi8whfbvjsdhgufgewugf

Wait what? What the hell past Cassy?

Okay enough fooling around. For real now. My father’s girlfriend did a European cruise through Italy, Spain, England, Portugal (maybe France?) and the cruise ship made a little pit stop in Amsterdam for the day. I’ve heard so much of her these last few months and was dying to meet her so I took the day off from renovations and went through to meet her and her family. We exchanged gifts and her family members met us at the cruise terminal soon after I arrived. Oh wait you need to know this story. I will get to my day as a tour guide through Amsterdam soon.

So South Africans are known to have a really hard time with going to England. I’m not even kidding. The travel agency told all the South Africans going on this trip that they wouldn’t have to apply for the British VISA as they won’t be leaving the ship on the day it’s stationed there. As this would save a lot of money and time they obviously took the agency’s word for it…Well they flew to the start of the cruise and was denied access to the boat because of this and over 30 South Africans were abandoned. This obviously ruined a lot of holidays for a lot of people. It’s disgusting really. Some of these people have saved for years to do this trip and because of the agency they get abandoned in a foreign country? Unfortunately my father’s girlfriend, Althea not Anthea (my dad got her name wrong and kept calling her Anthea and now it’s a funny joke) family was one of them. Three adults and one child were stranded. They managed to make a bad situation into a good one by still exploring some of the other European countries and met up with us in Amsterdam as they could join the cruise from there.

Okay back to my tour guide story. We started off at the central station and walked through the city center, making a pit stop at Primark because hello it’s Primark, before walking further into the bustling city on the hot day. We headed to the Museum park before taking a break at a small café on the side of a canal. We ended our day with a hour long canal cruise. That’s it folks. Hey I never said I was a good tour guide and there really wasn’t a lot of time to go far and show more of Amsterdam. Wait we did stop to buy cheese and take a picture of a flower decorated bicycle. Oh and we did stop at a little church in a side street. That’s about it. Nothing super fancy. Well that was unsatisfactory.

I had a great day though. I met my father’s soul mate and I can take great comfort in the fact that Althea truly loves and cares for my father. Yeah that’s about it. I’m sorry this blog isn’t that exciting but it’s now 10:30pm and I really can’t think of a fun way to milk out this tour. Maybe, it’s a miracle I didn’t burst into flames in the church? Well that’s a bad and untactful joke. Let me think of something else…we nearly got killed by a hot dog truck? Well not really. The guy came up to us and asked us to get out of the way while his buddy drove into the little area to park the truck. Heck when I say drive, he barely moved forward. Okay so that’s not anything juicy. Let me think…Okay there is honestly nothing. It was just a nice day out, getting to know each other and just walking through the city.

Before I go, here is a link to a proper website about tourist attractions in Amsterdam — http://www.netherlands-tourism.com/things-amsterdam-ultimate-top-50/ —

Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a click!

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PS. I apologize for the lack of updates these last few blog days. Some things at the house took longer than what we thought so there honestly wasn’t any time to write. I will make up for it by basically low key, well not even low key, spamming you all with everything renovations related once we’re moved in. I also have a lot of great ideas that’s not related to the fact that we bought a house. I’m so excited to write them all. If I wasn’t struggling to keep my eyes open I would be writing them now.

Celiac Disease, General Life Tips, Nutrition Tips

Traveling With Celiac Disease | How To Stay Gluten Free On Your Travels

So the one thing I hate about traveling is trying to figure out how I’m going to eat without getting sick. It’s not always easy and the fact that I can’t go out and try all the native meals which really sucks but there is no use crying over spilt milk. You just have to clean it and go on with your day. That’s all I can really say. Sometimes it can really suck to have celiac disease. Now I don’t travel a lot and when I do travel I have to think about quite a few things before I do so like what am I going to eat and how am I going to eat? Pretty standard if you ask me. Here is my tips on the matter.

  1. A Place With A Kitchen

First things first you need to stay at a place where you have access to a kitchen to cook your own meals. I know that doesn’t scream oh I’m on holiday but it’s better than being in so much pain and unable to enjoy your holiday because you got gluten in your system. I learned this one the hard way.

  1. Bring The Basics With

This one is pretty hand in hand with number one but I felt like I should milk this at least have enough to write for five tips. It’s super important to bring the basics with you on your trip. Shelf foods if you catch my drift. Pastas, rice, bread, sauce and etc. It’s no guarantee that the closest supermarket will have any gluten free foods so it’s better to be prepared. Here is an example of what I packed in when we went to Greece. I packed in enough food for the two of us as most holiday places to stay at kitchen is pretty basic so there isn’t an option of cooking pasta’s separate and etc. So it looked like a lot but it did come in handy and whatever is left you can always bring back home.

Sorry that this picture is so shit in quality. I had to screenshot from my Instagram. The original picture is long deleted.

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  1. Do your research

Doing your research before going on your trip can really save the day. See what restaurants you can find close to your hotel and how many of them have gluten free options. Now don’t expect a long list heck you will feel lucky to find one but you can contact them before going on the trip and ask if they can help you. There is still foods that’s naturally gluten free and if prepared right then you have no problems. I can’t promise that there will be something for you but it’s worth to look into. Unfortunately it’s just one of those things.

  1. Accept your fate

This sounds pretty horrible and even if you really try there is still a chance that you will get glutened. The best way to avoid it is to cook all of your meals and bring enough basics with so you only have to rely on vegetables and meat. But it can still slip through so be prepared for that. Take what normally helps ease the pain, I have a hot water sack that I hold against my belly when the stomach pain is really bad. It’s the only thing I have to ease the pain but maybe you have other things that helps you.

  1. Another tip that I can’t think off

Damn I really want five tips but I honestly can’t think of another tip sooooo let’s just act like I have another tip to share. Wait I have a tip! Just try to enjoy your trip and don’t be too hard on yourself. Although you didn’t need me to tell you that.

I hope this was helpful to someone. Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a click!

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Story Time

A Really Detailed Brussels Travel Blog | Part Two

Okay this time around I won’t have a super long introduction mostly because I literally just wrote the last word in part one so I still have the journal close to hand although I’m getting hungry and want to get up and eat breakfast slash lunch soon. I also need to go to the shops but let’s see how far I can get with rewriting this next part before I need a break. THE CRINGE IS PHYSICALLY PAINFUL.

Alright you already know the date and all that jazz so here goes. We’re just going to jump straight into the good stuff. Oh lord give me strength.

Around 9pm we set out for a pasta meal because well cravings. The Italian restaurant where the staff spoke French was beautiful and the meal was, insert some fancy word for delicious, exquisite – yes I googled it. Over our meal and a very tasty red wine we talked about a subject that was an obvious tension bringer, Dana, or what’s her face, decided she wants to get a tattoo and Onno said he will go with her. Okay that sounds innocent and yes I’m being unreasonable (At least I knew!) but hear me out okay! I talked about getting my tattoo dedicated for my dad way before Dana even knew she wanted a tattoo. Onno actually gave me the idea! It’s our thing! Onno is the only person that really knows about my fears about my dad leaving me in that one way that he keeps coming close to. (My dad has had a lot of strokes. Ever since I could remember he had strokes. Some were quite serious and we didn’t think he would bounce back from but be always somehow does. It’s really scary every time. He had a stroke in August in my au pair year so a month before this journal entry so it was still very fresh.) And the thing is that Onno and I have experienced a lot of things before we met each other so there isn’t a lot of things that is a first…ironically it was my first weekend away with my loved one and my first time staying in a hotel and my first time bathing with a guy…(No tickled each other’s toes here. We took a bath together. It was cramped and really uncomfortable. I eventually kicked Onno out and relaxed in the bath on my own.) It was just important to me and still is. Onno is my boyfriend (I just smiled thinking back to Onno as my boyfriend. It was truly such a wonderful time but I must say Onno as my husband is ten times better.) and I want him to be with me when I get my tattoo for my dad. It just makes it so much better that it’s his first time ever being in that environment. I just feel like that moment will be so special and I will probably get emotional.

Alright let’s take a short break to talk about all of that. I feel like it’s needed. Looking back onto that fight now nearly two years later I can’t help but think how silly it is. In a way I can kind of see where my past self was going. She wanted to share this super special moment with her boyfriend with him still new to everything. I get it but why did we fight about something so silly? Why did I make it into such a big deal? Thinking back to it now I feel like I was just self conscious and worried. When Onno and I met he had two girl best friends that was attractive and very well out there. I didn’t want to be beaten by them and I wanted to be ‘the only girl’ in his eyes. It’s a little silly considering that Onno doesn’t even talk to these girls anymore and we’re married now but hey you feel what you feel. Sometimes as a couple some damn fights will come up but it’s important to sit down and talk it all out till you reach the root of the problem. Onno and I did that and where that fight could’ve ruined the entire weekend, we came back from it. That’s the one thing I always enjoyed about Onno and I’s relationship. We always talk it out till we find a place where we’re both happy. We never go to bed angry and we never go a day without saying we love each other. We start our day with a good morning kiss and end our day with a good night kiss. Okay let’s return to the journal entry.

After our dinner we originally planned to go out in the town but after finishing most of the wine I was feeling more than tipsy and it didn’t matter to me where we ended up but I have to admit, just being alone with Onno is always the most flattering idea! (Insert future Cassandra cringing her ass off! Please make it stop!) Onno which was also a bit under the influence

What the hell Cassandra? Under the influence. What? I can’t deal with my past self right now. I need a break. Also Speculoos just dropped onto my journal so I can’t read the next part. And now I also can’t move because my cat chose to cuddle against me.

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Let’s try that again…

Onno which was also a bit under the influence made the choice of how the rest of the evening was going to go and steered us back towards the hotel. There we basically climbed back in bed and talked about everything and nothing at the same time. I remember that night. My memory is a bit foggy but we talked about how tiring it is for the partner in their favorite… (Oh you got to be kidding me. Yeah I can’t write that and put it on the internet.) Let’s just skip forward till when it gets safe for work again. We fell asleep shortly afterwards. The both of us woke up at around the same time the next day, perfectly fine and hungry. We decided that after such a busy last two days and the fact that we did see most of what there is to see already that we could take things slow and relax in bed for the most of the day. So after eating a nice portion of breakfast again we cuddled up in bed and actually watched a cooking show before we tickled each other’s toes. Finally around 3pm we needed some fresh air and off we were. I took the last minute photos, we made another Starbucks stop and I couldn’t let us to leave without getting Belgium chocolate. After getting everything we needed we headed back to the hotel with a plan in mind. First we will check out and get the car and then we will head to the Atomiom where we will relax for a bit before heading home. Not everything went according to plan. On our way to the Atomiom we stopped at the church where we made a quick stop to explore and take some pictures. After our a small detour we were back on the road towards the Atomiom by following the signs. Now if only the signs were clear. It literally took us on such a round and about ride that we passed the actual thing twice and then it send us on the highway. We were so close to giving in but Onno was determined to get us there. When we finally found a spot, we had to pay for the parking ticket and then walk more than 20 minutes to the actual building. Rage!

We finally found the place and after our long walk we relaxed on the grass for a bit and talked. The subject of money came up once again. I honestly feel so guilty about how much money Onno spend on our weekend away and I wasn’t helping with the expenses. Although I did pay him back for most of the things he bought for me, almost 80 Euros in total but it wasn’t close to what he spend. It was our first weekend away so now we know to be more careful with money next time and where we could change a few things.

A little add in from future Cassandra. That trip we went all out with spending and shopping and etc. We were basically throwing money at everything. We definitely could’ve been smarter with our money but we definitely learned from our mistakes. Our second trip together was to Greece nearly a year later. There we were careful and smart. I think in the end it was the same cost. Brussels was a weekend and Greece was 7 days if memory serves me correctly.

 It was around 7pm when we drove out of Brussels. On the road we talked about the financial aspect of next year (Remember I went back to South Africa January 2016. Three months later I flew back for three months on the tourist visa. It was our test to see if we wanted a long term relationship so to basically get me here in the Netherlands.) and we decided that the both of us will work out a budget and see how much money we can afford to spend each month and etc. I was happy we talked about it. (Being open about your finances with your partner is honestly so important. Sometimes sacrifices and changes needs to be made and you can only figure that out by talking about it…) We also talked about Onno coming to South Africa in the August holiday to meet my family. I’m absolutely in love with that idea! (Onno came to South Africa in January 2017. Around my birthday. It was also around this time we had our pre-wedding.)

On the border of Belgium and the Netherlands we stopped for our dinner. McDonalds! And surprisingly I ate more than Onno, three chicken nuggets more but still more. (Past Cassandra why the hell did you feel compel to brag about this? Just why?) There was a lot of laughing involved and the occasional farting and no it’s almost never Onno. (We ate in the car and also I fart a lot. Gasp. A girl farts. Back then I was really sensitive to lactose and after a weekend of cheesy foods, ice cream, milky drinks and chocolate my stomach wasn’t loving me at all.) It’s the ice cream and cheese! (How lovely. I even made excuses for myself in the journal. Hilarious.) I’m the guy in the relationship and I take my job seriously. (Not really but I was a bit rough around the edges. Onno ‘manned’ up over the years.) After one more detour where Onno took a wrong turn on a highway. We arrived at my place around 9pm or in that area. Our first weekend came to an end and it was amazing to spend quality time with Onno without any distractions. We said goodbyes and with one last kiss Onno was off. That’s the worst part, saying goodbye and watching Onno leave.

FINALLY! I somehow survived this blog. There was cringe, tears and just overall pain. I’m so happy that I finished it. But before I end this blog I should actually give some travel tips (or tip) for Brussels.

The thing we used the most was a map from this website — https://visit.brussels/en — If you’re going to Brussels definitely give this website a look. They have everything you might need.

Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a click!

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