Monday, June 20, 2016


As a naive (with a capital N) 18 year old freshman at BYU, I thought that once you went to college you magically got married 1-2 years later. As dumb as it sounds, 20 sounded far away and so old and mature in the fall of my freshman year.

Look at this baby face... no wonder I was so innocent.
I have no idea why I had that weird idea in my head, besides the fact that my parents and most of my aunts and uncles went to BYU and got married at around 21. I think I kind of got that idea at church too. It's just kind of the typical Mormon culture, and that was the story for most of the adults I knew.

I remember in my French 201 class that first semester I made friends with a girl who was a junior. I saw that there was no ring on her hand and I thought it was strange.

A few months into my freshman year, I came to the obvious realization that my friend was only 2 years older than me (duh)  and wow... that really wasn't a long ways away. I realized that I was lightyears away from being ready for that. I was calling my mom twice a day and still crying myself to sleep sometimes because I was so homesick and I hated Utah. Not exactly a mature adult who was mentally ready to leave home for good.

I still assumed I would get married while I was a BYU student, of course. Maybe as a mature 23 year old instead of 20 year old ;)

Obviously, that didn't happen. And here's why I'm so happy that the way my life actually played out was so much better than what I always assumed it would be like...

-I had time to mature and to grow up alone. I'm an (almost) completely different person than I was at 20. I'm so much more confident and independent. I like myself so much more.

-There are COUNTLESS amazing experiences that I would have missed out on if my life had gone the way that freshman Marissa thought it would. To name the most memorable: my Paris study abroad (at 20-21 years old), living in the Foreign Language Housing for my last 3 semesters at BYU (at 22-23), my Jerusalem study abroad (at 23-24), doing an internship in France and traveling all over Europe (at 24), and living in Israel to do my M.A. (at 25-26).

I had the chance to live in France twice and Israel twice. I traveled to over 15 other countries besides the ones I lived in. I got to travel alone and with friends. I learned how to do adult things by myself for the first time- and in a foreign language. I'm comfortable now hopping on a train or metro in any random foreign country where I don't speak the language. Living in the French House, I met my best friends. I never thought or aspired to get a master's degree... but I'm so happy I decided to go for it and stretch myself academically.

All of these amazing experiences will affect the rest of my life. 

-Lastly, I don't think there was anyone remotely right for me to marry at BYU. I'm happy that I was single at the ripe old age of 24 (there are honestly Utahns who think that's old to not be married haha), when I met David. We are similar in so many little ways and I think we make a great couple, if I do say so myself. I'm thankful we were able to travel and date and get to know each other over a 2 year period before getting engaged.

I guess, in conclusion... I'm glad I didn't feel pressured to conform and try to get married in my early 20s before I even graduated college. It wasn't right for me. It's okay to be wired differently. It might be right for some people, just not me. There was a lot that I feel like I was meant to accomplish and experience alone.

I don't want to sound judgmental towards people who do go that route; I just wanted to say that it's not the ONLY route (even if you're Mormon). Also, I've just been thinking about that the way your life actually turns out might be even better than what you could imagine for yourself. You never know! I certainly wasn't expecting to meet someone in France.

When I decided to go to BYU, I always assumed I would probably end up with in-laws from Utah or Idaho. Lol nope, I'll be spending holidays in the Alps in southern France. Okay, now I'm totally just bragging. But yes, my life is so far turning out better than I could have come up with and I'm glad I was wrong about my future. No complaints at the moment, besides that fact that David is in France and I'm bored.

100 days to go until the wedding :)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Perfect Day

It happened on one of my last days in Israel, doing one of the most boring errands in existence: grocery shopping.

In Germantown, WI, you drive in your comfortable car on roads with no traffic to a huge store with no lines and everything you could possibly want to eat. After you buy your food, somebody puts in bags for you, and depending on how much you have you bring it all out in the cart and put it directly in your car to drive home.

It wasn't exactly the same in Israel.

Instead, I would walk up all the stairs in the dorms to the bus stop and wait for the bus. Usually it wasn't a long wait leaving from the university. The bus ride was about 15 minutes. I still remember most of the stops (Shvedya, Beit Biram, Giv'at Downs, Janusz Korczak). Then I'd get off the bus and walk into Mercaz Horev, my typical grocery store. 

Of course, before you walk in they search your bags because it's Israel :)

I've never seen an "American-sized" grocery store in Europe or Israel. Building a store with aisles big enough for both a person and a cart to pass by each other hasn't crossed their minds. It was always crowded, and bizarrely, I always seemed to go shopping at senior citizen hour when everyone was taking leisurely strolls through the tiny aisles and stopping to greet and have in-depth conversations with everyone they came across.

It was also usually touch and go whether or not they would have the things in stock I wanted. They always had the basics (delicious bread, falafel, and hummus), but they didn't always have the less-Israeli items I wanted. 

Sampling of the bread I'd usually buy

Israel is great at a lot of things but cheese is not one of them, so it always made my day when they occasionally had imported French cheese in stock.

Even more exciting was when they had these beautiful pretzels, which was the perfect snack to munch on in between learning about the Holocaust. (that was a joke, sort of)

But seriously, these are an explosion of deliciousness in your mouth, especially when you're living in an essentially cheese-less country and you are from freaking Wisconsin.

The worst part of grocery shopping in Israel was waiting in line. I started a habit of timing how long it took. A lot of times it was around 20 minutes. Not because there were a lot of people in line, but because the cashiers wanted to know about everything that was going on in the life of every customer. They also discussed every item before they scanned it. "Oh, that's a good price. Oh, this is overpriced. What a shame. Oh, my nephew loves these. What a nice color. I should buy some. Are you sure you want these? You can find better." And so on.

And then there's Marissa waiting there sandwiched between 2 Jewish grandmas scolding her for not dressing warmly enough for the frigid 60 degree weather (that happened a lot).

When I was finally able to check out, it was time to throw everything into my huge Ikea bags and haul them down the street to the bus stop. Despite living in Haifa for a year I never came close to mastering the bus schedule. Sometimes it would work out and I could hop on a bus right away to get back to campus, but usually there was a wait. Sometimes buses on the schedule just wouldn't come and I'd wait for 40 minutes before stuffing myself and my food onto a bus that was so full that I didn't need to hold onto anything because all of the bodies around me would hold me up. Sometimes I'd give up and haul everything back down the street to Mercaz Horev where I could catch a taxi (for around 60 shekels instead of 6 for the bus).

So that was the typical shopping experience. I mean, there are worse things in the world than an inconvenient grocery shopping experience, but it was tiring to do that every week. Which is why I'll always remember when it all worked out perfectly.

Near the end of January, when I only had about a week and a half left in Israel before moving home, I set out after class to shop for food for the last time there. A bus conveniently pulled up right as I got to stop outside the dorms. Then, it made me smile to see that not only was a seat open, my favorite seat was open. The seat that was right by the back door so it was easy to get off AND it was a single seat so you didn't have to sit by anyone.

When I got to Horev, it wasn't crowded. That had never happened before in all the months I'd shopped there. I happily filled up my basket with the usual food and miraculously, after a 2 month long drought period of no pretzels in stock... they had returned. I bought 2 bags- 1 for my Jerusalem road trip that weekend, and 1 for the plane ride home. (Spoiler alert: they did not come close to lasting for the plane ride home).

The biggest miracle of all happened when I got to the check out and there was no line of grandmas having social hour with the cashier. My check-out lasted 2 minutes. By that point, I was in such a good mood that I didn't care about having to wait for the bus.

But wait. The perfect shopping experience wasn't over. As soon as I got to the bus stop, the trusty #37 bus pulled up. And not only did it have perfect timing, but it wasn't crowded. And my favorite seat was open once again.

At that point, I knew that it couldn't be a coincidence. It had to be Israel's parting gift to me.

Toda raba, Israel. Toda. Raba.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Last months in America

After the craziness of getting engaged and me starting my new job (the verdict on how my job turned out here), it was starting to dawn on us that David had to leave America pretty soon! He arrived in the US in May of 2015, and had gotten to see a lot... but of course there was still more to see and do before he left. Every weekend we usually tried to get out and see something new. Here are the results.

On a Saturday in April, we drove about 30 minutes north of Germantown to visit Belgium and Port Washington. Sadly, not the real Belgium. It's a tiny town with not much to do except to take a picture by the sign that says you're in Belgium, and to try their delicious locally made cheese. They have a gourmet grilled cheese restaurant where they take about 10 years to make your order but it tastes really good. David was too afraid to try the cheese because he was having traumatic flashbacks to French locally made cheese. But that didn't stop me from enjoying mine!

The town of Port Washington is pretty close by. It's a nice town to walk around that's right on Lake Michigan. Wa walked for a while along the lake. A ton of people were out fishing even though it was freezing. I took off my winter coat and then quickly put it back on afterwards to take this picture. It's always colder by the lake. #wisconsinprobs

The next weekend, David came along with me and my parents on the best road trip of all time. PUPPY ROAD TRIP!!!!! Our house had felt so empty without a dog and we'd been anticipating this for a while. We all drove down to southern Missouri to bring home 9 week old Buttercup. We actually brought home 2 puppies, because we know the family from church who was adopting Buttercup's sister Hattie. It was a magical and crazy 8 hours in the car with these babies. We kept stopping for them to go potty, but when we went outside they would be too excited and preferred to do things like eat dandelions, bite their leashes, and play with each other. Thankfully, there weren't any accidents... until we got home and went inside :)

A few weeks later, we realized that David has never been to downtown Cedarburg, one of my favorite little towns! Of course, the main draw for me are the cute shops, but it's also fun to just walk around. We went to go see the covered bridge, a famous landmark from the 1800s.

One of the major things on the wedding checklist that we had to accomplish before David left was to take engagement pictures. We decided to do the photo shoot in downtown Milwaukee, and went one Saturday to scout out some locations. Of course, the day we went it was barely 40 degrees and there was a windchill. It was May 14th, might I add haha. 

I love downtown Milwaukee! I don't think people from other states understand that it's a cool city. We visited St. Josaphat's Basilica, which I'd never been to... an impressive church built by Polish immigrants, and then walked around in the Third Ward and along the River Walk. We took the actual pictures 2 weeks later... thankfully on a much nicer, actual spring day. We supposedly finally get to see the engagement pictures today- can't wait to see how they turned out!

For my birthday on May 21st, we went on a date to the Milwaukee Zoo. It's a pretty place with a lot of happy memories from my childhood. I had it pre-arranged that it would be perfect weather for my birthday, so naturally it was. It was a little crowded with half of Milwaukee happily enjoying one of the first nice days outside, but still fun.

David's birthday was just 6 days later, so we had a joint party with family and family friends. Happy 27th and 24th year to us!

Memorial Day was his 2nd last weekend in America. For the most patriotic not-yet American citizen that has possibly ever existed, we of course had to celebrate. After church we stopped by Memorial Park in Brookfield that puts up flags every year. A cemetery is probably a slightly inappropriate place to take selfies. Sorry dead people! The next day we went to the parade downtown- another first for me. It was pretty good compared to the last parade we went to together (Chicago's St. Patrick's Day was really lame).

It's been a fun last few months being engaged and seeing new places together. I don't really know what I'm going to do with myself now. Exhibit A: it's past 11 and I haven't gotten dressed yet. I'm working on it.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Verdict on Teaching

I've only been teaching for 3 months, but excuse me while I go sleep for next 6 months to recover.

Friday was officially the last day of school!! I successfully survived my first real teaching job. I taught 5 classes at 3 different schools. 4 of the classes were different, which means I had to prepare 4 different lesson plans. Also, I was trying to start planning a wedding on the side. And trying to hang out with David without falling asleep. Most days, I would wake up early enough to work for at least an hour before I got ready, teach, and then work for at least 5 hours after I got home from school.

It's been a crazy, sleep-deprived whirlwind. I learned a lot, started to get the hang of teaching, really enjoyed (most of) my students, and also enjoyed coming up with fun and interesting ways to teach French. Of course, it was also not without stress and feeling like I needed a lot more hours in the day.

The verdict: I can do it, but it's definitely a hard job. I'm happy to have time to recharge, but I am planning to look for a teaching job again when I come back from France. Even though I'm very excited for my life next year, part of me is sad that I won't be back in the fall.

I don't know if my next job will end up being this busy, but it's kind of the nature of being a French teacher. Most schools have pretty small French programs, which means a lot of times they only have 1 French teacher who has to teach every level. In contrast, most other teachers I know only have maybe 2 different preps. 

The sad irony is now that I'm done and I have free time... David had to go back to France :(  His visa was up, and he had to go back last Monday. School ended later that week. So close yet so far. 

I'm planning on visiting in August. Right now he's trying to find a job, so I guess that will affect where I get to visit! We'll probably try to travel somewhere too. I'll be spending my summer teaching dance once a week, wedding planning, video chatting, writing grad school papers, playing with the puppy, and sleeping in.

Happy summer vacation!

And goodbye to my home of the last 3 months!

I decided to be super mature on the last day of school and experiment with projecting myself on the wall with the docucam. It worked. haha