Berlin

My bus arrived late that night, so my friend I made in Prague, picked me up late and took me to see the Brandenburg Gate, which was illuminated with a warm glow against the dark night. It was raining but since we were the only ones there, it felt a bit magical.

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Saturday I saw the majority of East End Gallery, walking along tons of graffiti and wall art. Alt-j was blasting through my headphones and I felt like I was walking on clouds. Decided to take the forty minute walk to the Berlin Cathedral since it was nice and sunny out, so I walked along the river. On the way I saw many statues, beautiful architecture, and walked along a cute little cobblestone road that had many shops and restaurants.

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The Berlin cathedral was beautiful from afar, but exquisite up close. The sun came out just as I sat down to eat my snack, and the gold in the building reflected brilliantly from the sun. I fed the little birds my leftover bread. I named one Tom, who came so close to me he was practically eating out of my hand. (Miss you, Tom.) They’re much cuter than the pigeons in Prague, and about the size of my hand, hopping around to fight for the crumbs of bread. My green jacket served as my blanket, and I tossed my pens out of my bag and drawing pad so I could sketch the cathedral. It wasn’t easy, as the front was under construction and I had to improvise. Nonetheless I still enjoyed myself, and an older gentleman even came over to compliment me and said he enjoyed my style and could tell I draw from the heart. It was a beautiful compliment.

Luckily for me, there was the Berlin Art Market going on just behind me; so naturally I spent a good half an hour walking around. I supported a local artist, whose style was so distinct and the piece I bought instantly drew me in, due to the reminder of the yellow fields I saw on my ride to Berlin.

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Met up with my friend again for his football (soccer) tournament, where I met more kind-hearted people. We cheered for the “Gatos” and it made me laugh that there was also a “beer cup” going on. Whoever’s team has the most tally’s per beer, wins. Then we went to a Korean restaurant, where one of the girls had to translate the menu for me. They all talked in English, which I found really nice that they were consciously including me in the conversation, when they could’ve been speaking German or Spanish.

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Next day I wandered around aimlessly again, starting with the streets of Victoria. Little coffee shops, thrift stores, and restaurants decorated the streets along with greenery and florals. Since it was Sunday everything was mostly closed, but still nice to roam around with no destination and nowhere to be. Time seemed slow and I didn’t have any objectives or deadlines on my mind.
Overall Berlin was a nice quick weekend trip! It was more relaxed and I was so grateful to just drink German beer and laugh with new friends while watching soccer.

Those are the moments I’ll treasure forever,

xx Shelby

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Amsterdam

It’s only in front of the easel while painting that I feel a little of life
— Vincent Van Gogh
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I left Amsterdam with a new appreciation for artists and writers—specifically, Anne Frank and Vincent Van Gogh, whom I owe my inspiration to this past weekend. If you haven’t been yet to Amsterdam, here are the four #basic touristy things I did, yet loved and treasured every second.

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  1. Cruise Canal

    This is where I learned that about 60,000 bikes are stolen each year in Amsterdam, and saw the white bridge that was used in the James Bond movie, “Diamonds Are Forever.” There’s about 250 bridges in Amsterdam, and many, many, many bikes. The houses that lined the streets had gables and pulleys at the top, which were used for the residents in the top floor to move their bulky furniture. I instantly imagined a sofa and a washing machine being hoisted to the top

    We passed a quaint park on our canal cruise. Lush green grass and puffy coated doggies were sitting with their owners casually next to a cement statue. The sunlight danced on the tip of the water, while bikes above the canal waited patiently for their owners.

  2. The Heineken Experience

    For someone who doesn’t like beer, I thoroughly enjoyed the interactive exhibits. Not to mention the vibrant and energizing bar at the end. You get two free beers with your tour, with interactions through the entire museum, if that’s what I can call it, and lots of great picture moments. For me personally, I was more intrigued by the Van Gogh & Anne Frank House, yet my friend Kenzee said she loved the Heineken Experience more. She enjoys beer and learning about the history so she was fascinated by the entirety of the tour. So all in all, it really depends what your interests are but nonetheless I enjoyed myself.

  3. The Van Gogh Museum

    Standing in the presence of Van Gogh’s, Boulevard de Clichy, I was able to feel and see his brushstrokes up close. It’s if I could see the movements of his wrist, gripping his brushes, twisting and turning with each brisk stoke. His color palette of dull pastels in this specific piece, were a mixture of dull blues, purples, burnt orange, and some greens. His complementary colors were in full effect. Written on the wall in one of the rooms, “People say that it’s difficult to know oneself - but it’s not easy to paint oneself either,” quoted by Van Gogh, and i stood absorbing his words for a minute. Based on his paintings, it was intriguing to see his progression of his mental illness in his work. His paintings would get more darker through his years, with the exception of his cherry blossoms that he painted for his newborn nephew.

    Sitting in the middle of the room, there was a group of little students with their teacher and a Van Gogh puppet. It was easy to infer she was teaching the work of this great artist. My smile grew, as they spoke in another language, absorbing information about an artist and culture that is still alive and breathing—and handed down to another generation after 100 years.

    I stood in the middle of many renowned works of art with utmost respect for a man who created such depth with his art for people to enjoy, not just himself. He used his art as an outlet for his personal trials and each painting takes us on his journey through life. Through his mental breakdowns, not to mention slicing off his own ear, he reverts back to art no matter the circumstance. Until his last breath, he was pursuing what he adorned, and I have nothing but admirable respect for that. My only wish is that he would’ve been able to know the impact he would have on many artists years later, including myself. My eyes glossed over a bit and I slowly walked from painting to painting, with chills running down my spine, pondering life as we know it without Vincent’s renowned paintings.

    Last but not least:

  4. The Anne Frank House

    My brain doesn’t have the capacity to fathom the entirety of our universe. Just as it is hard to fathom the millions of lives that were taken during the holocaust. I saved this for last as it was the most thought provoking experience. As I stood in Anne Frank’s room, where scribbled her life on paper, breathed, and hid for more than two years in the secret annex, it was difficult for me to resonate the significance of that moment. One really can’t describe being in the presence of historical building that held such hope, life, despair, and loss.

    As we were walking through their bathroom, which the members of the secret annex weren’t allowed to use during the day due to the running water that would give them away, I caught a glance in the mirror. The same mirror a 14 year old Jew looked into. A Jew who didn’t get to grow up to be 21, my current age.

    While Anne died in a concentration camp, she wasn’t the only Jew with dreams and aspirations and hopes of freedom. It makes me wonder, how many girls wrote their stories as well, but we’re never given the chance to share their voice as it was stripped away. At the end of the museum, there was a display of the books that were translated in 60 languages. The display held physical books, but also displayed the profound impact her words had; her boldness, frankness, and courage. In the gift shop there were tiny little diaries. They were for people to write their own stories. It hit me again just like Van Gogh—Anne didn’t know the impact she would have. She left this earth unknowing of her courage and influence to upcoming generations.

    I walked out of the museum to fresh air and a beautiful scene, lights reflecting on the water with the boats silently rocking. I sat on the curb reflecting and absorbing and giving those lives lost the respect they deserve. I realized I so easily entered and left that house but Anne frank and her family didn’t have that luxury and we’re not given that simple privilege of sunlight or fresh air.

My heart was heavy, leaving the museum, but I left with a newfound purpose to instill in others, the same encouragement and passion both artists had instilled in me. Just as Van Gogh and Frank used their passions as their outlets to the hardships of the world, I hope this reminds you to use your passions as well.

PS: Janine and I stumbled upon a restaurant named, Rakang. A local was having a smoke outside and tells us, “best tai I’ve ever had.” To which we respond, “down” and head inside for the best chicken pad Thai I’ve ever had. If you ever find yourself in Amsterdam, I highly recommend. Cheers!

Alex & Fredrick

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A light pale green door with dim lighting & good company to start off the night. Nestled in the back corner, Janine and I made friends with our waiter. He happened to be the owner, holding a friendly demeanor and witty humor. He let us try two wines, and we chose the later, named Pavlova, which was sweeter to the taste.
We asked if we can have the cheese platter and immediately he resorts, “You go to back and make the cheese?” It took us a few seconds to realize it was a joke through his thick French accent. But we laughed and he prepared the cheese platter for us and explained the details of how old, where, and the classification of each cheese. One was Parmesan, another blue cheese, and the other two I frankly can’t recall as they were my least favorite. A small dish of juicy pineapple and fresh bite size slices of bread were placed next to the platter. We drank, nibbled, laughed and planned our upcoming adventures.

When our wine was a quarter full, Janine asked our kind waiter to pronounce her name since he seemed French, as her last name derived from France. Alex, our friendly waiter, happily positioned a chair in our direction, sat down, and perched his glasses on top of his nose. I wrote down “Janine LaGarenne” on paper so he could read. He pronounced it with a thick accent. Janine attempted to repeat. “No,” he said, “LaaaaGareenee,” and nodded with a smile. He then motioned to his chair and asked if he could sit a while to chat with us. Of course we responded yes. We then sat and chatted with this nice older man for 45 more minutes.

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He talked about one of his favorite comedians, his home town, how he went to the airport once and got quizzical looks from the security. They saw he was Czech, French, and some other ethnicity and they just waved him through. At the end of our chat, he ended up getting our favorite wine out again and poured a little bit more of the sweet juicy wine on the house. As we were checking out with the bill, (not check because of czech. . . punny) Alex then introduced us to his friend Fredrick who was the only other person left sitting at the bar. It was well past closing time but we all were enjoying each others company. Fredrick taught me how to say, “na shledanou” which translates to goodbye in czech. Janine and I then walked a couple steps back to our apartment, grins across our faces, happy to have had such genuine company for the evening.

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It’s been almost three weeks now in Prague and as I’m taking in all the little things. Learning more about the atmosphere, social customs, and how to navigate the grocery store and checkout, allows me to adore this country more and more. The metro system is now easy breezy. Although the system is in another language, ionically enough, I find it easier to navigate than an American one. There’s only 3 lines, A, B, and C and I already have my stops memorized, where my University is and where my apartment is. Through it all, as I stood tonight in the cobblestone streets looking down at the buildings, I couldn’t help but think how grateful I was and counting each blessing as it comes. As Janine simply put, “How can you not wake up happy when there’s yellow and pink buildings out the window?”

Will update more soon, but wishing you the best week. If it’s a tough one ahead, remember to count the blessings in your life and not the curses.

Cheers to counting our blessings, wine nights and good company. Here’s a sweet picture of Alex below, being his goofy self to brighten your day.

xx,

Shelby

Alex when I asked if I could take a picture of him. He chose this pose.

Alex when I asked if I could take a picture of him. He chose this pose.

Snow Day

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Transitioned from sand angels in Florida, to snow angels in Prague. Waking up to the light streaming in with snow lightly blanketing the tops of buildings was indescribable. I wasn’t cold but chills rushed through my limbs with excitement. Placing my cute little pom pom hat that my best friend gave me from home on my head, I grabbed my winter coat and brand new Sperry’s (because when do I ever wear snow boots in Florida), and dashed out to the streets.

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My first reaction was laughter. How could something so simple, be so beautiful? The streets weren’t coated in the a beautiful white blanket, as it was still somewhat new and fresh. Clumps of snow were “crunched” under my feet, as I jumped on each and every one. The cars lining the streets were decorated with light snow. Same for the roofs of buildings, rails, churches—everything. I even saw a dog at one point, and yellow snow. I chuckled again. It was surreal. My camera was tucked away but as soon as we found a cute little café to recover, I pulled it out.

Through the assortment, the mini macaroon on top of the larger macaroon caught my eye. Raspberries were tucked away in the icing and I realized I would be returning to the café quite frequently. Luckily, it is only a few blocks from my apartment. Not that the day could get any better, (but it did) there was a little library tucked away in the back of the cafe, as you duck under the bricks. We got our warm coffees to heat up our frozen hands, and hop on the metro to Mustek, where we did some shopping. I got black boots, and then us typical Americans ended up at McDonalds. We were in a tourist area so I let it slide. Any other day, I’d be highly disappointed in myself for not immersing myself in the Prague cuisine.

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As soon as Lana and I headed out, I stopped in my tracks and started laughing with giddiness all over again—it was truly snowing. Falling from the sky. Drifting so gracefully down to the ground. I can’t recall if I’ve ever seen that sight, or if I had, it was when I was around three or four years old in Tennessee. Either way, I was in awe. As happy as I was experiencing it, I felt remorse for the people who are so accustomed to snow that they forget the beauty of it. To the locals around me, it was just a typical annoying snow day where they can’t get into their cars. For me? Like a child seeing Disney World for the first time.

We ended with a snowball fight in our backyard/courtyard, where no footprints had yet gone. Lana grabbed my camera and pushed me into the snow first, letting me soak up the feeling of fresh snow.

I’m cozied up in a white blanket as I type this, nestled next to the heater. My chair is facing the window to watch the soft snow fall, illuminated by the street light. My roommate is napping next to me on the couch and we have our little lamp lightly illuminating the room for a little warmth. Cozy, warm, peaceful and lovely.

The snow angel may fade but the memories of my first snow angel will always be left in that courtyard in Prague.

Here’s to the little things that make us remember how magical average things can be.

Xoxo,

Shelby

Ahoj Prague

Prague is by far the most beautiful place I have ever laid eyes upon. I’m scared I’m going to wake up from this dream any minute now.
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Roommate for the Semester : Elana!   Nickname : Lana   Major : History   Fun Fact : Loves to eat cheese. Has already had about 5 blocks this whole week.

Roommate for the Semester: Elana!

Nickname: Lana

Major: History

Fun Fact: Loves to eat cheese. Has already had about 5 blocks this whole week.

For those who have flown internationally with boujee plane service, please bear with me as I explain our flight overseas. With classical music melodically playing in the background, Janine and I’s eyes grew five times as big as we stepped on the massive plane. We had to contain our laughter as they handed us warm hand towels, toothbrushes, food, circulation socks, headphones, peas and cracker packages, and more food. We were bursting with laughter at the seams when the flight attendants did their rounds, gliding down the aisles with our next “gift” during the flight. It was like Christmas on a plane. We watched Bohemian Rhapsody, ate ice cream, and I sipped white wine as we reclined, watching the clouds pass by and the sun wake up.

Before boarding the plane overseas, I flew to New Jersey to get acquainted with the cold weather and hang with Janine. My time in NJ was nothing short of incredible. I met Janine’s hysterical family, who had me doubled over in belly laughs half the time. Our day in NYC was filled with color, more laughs, and dainty bites. I finally got to eat Patti’s famous French Onion Soup with fresh bread and melted cheese. Video at the end of our time at the Color Factory as well!

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As for Prague... I am speechless. As soon as I stepped foot in the Town Center, my mouth was agape. The vibrant color, melodic music, and bubbles floating in the air was just magical. I feel as though I don’t have enough profound and sophisticated words to describe the beauty. The architecture is surreal. The buildings have such character, touched with age that creates an illusion of sophistication. I keep telling my family: Prague is by far the most beautiful place I have ever laid eyes upon. I’m scared I’m going to wake up from this dream any minute now. Living in this fairytale land is truly a dream and I’m so eager to further explore this culture, cuisine, and language. It’s only been a little over a week but I already have many journal entries, doodles, and pictures and eager to share them all with you. Cheers to the next four months!

No looking back, only forward.
— Freddy Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody

Xoxo,

Shelby

My view of the Prague Castle on the way to class

My view of the Prague Castle on the way to class

Little Miracle

Meet Arabella—my beautiful, petite, bundle of joy cousin, who is a little miracle.  She has two blue eyes, two arms and legs, and also a little hole in her heart. 

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Arabella  

a little miracle

When Arabella was in the womb, the doctors told my Aunt & Uncle the news about her development and were uncertain if she would make it. 

But this strong little girl persevered.

She was born with a redirected heart path, as well as two holes in her heart. This past year, she had a Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE)  procedure done, stating that she was cleared, as the larger hole closed at 3 and 1/2 years. Although she is still a beautiful, normal, strong little girl, she has to be watched more closely than others, in case any complications come up. When she gets a little sick—it's more dangerous than our common cold. Even the the Gatlinburg wildfires caused many problems for her. Without Children's Miracle Network hospitals, she wouldn't have been able to get the ultrasounds, appointments, and tests necessary for her health. 

Getting an EKG at one of her appointments.

Getting an EKG at one of her appointments.

As a true little miracle, the tissue grew by itself closing around one of the holes. This was her saving grace, as her redirected pathway does not allow for a heart catheterization and device procedure. She still has one hole, and interesting enough 25% of people who have it, don't know they do.

I share this personal story of my family in hopes that you'll consider donating to my local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, to help save children like Arabella. I truly can't imagine a world without that blonde-haired, dimpled-cheeks, beautiful bundle of joy in our family. She’s one of the many reasons I am standing For the Kids on April 7th, 2018, and the reason I will always be fighting for children like her.

Arabella was treated at a CMN hospital, and I find it incredibly unique that I'm able to raise money for a hospital that treats children just like her. If you aren't able to donate, please share this in hopes that it will get the word out of the impact Children's Miracle Network Hospitals have on their patients, and hopefully impact other people as well.

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A big thank you to my Aunt Joni and Uncle Matt for letting me share her story and for raising such a beautiful family, while always giving Arabella the best care, prayers and love possible. 

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