Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chocolate Yoga

While walking through the city this morning, an interesting ad caught my eye. It was on my way home from Trastevere in a crumbling narrow alley that was painted orange and had clean laundry waving from above. The sound of an accordion was playing in the distance, which completed the typical Italian-ness of the scene. There, on a heavy door, was a plain white sheet of paper that read Chocolate Yoga printed at the top. That was enough to immediately make me committed to attending and also curious as to why I've never heard of this before. Was it a new trend or something that I wasn't yet aware of? If there was a new yoga trend, I should know about it - I love yoga! I'm part of the world yoga committee... Sort of. 
I didn't read the rest of the ad because it was fully constructed in Italian, and also because 
Observing the silence of the Chi.
'chocolate yoga' was enough information to make me want to go. It started in just over an hour, so I had plenty of time to go home and put on a pair of spandex pants and a T-shirt. The whole time I was walking home and getting dressed, I kept fantasising about what was going to happen. I imagined myself in all kinds of bendy positions while some man with a lose-knotted silk robe helped me stretch while hand feeding me homemade dark truffles. Was he going to teach me special Italian-themed yoga positions while introducing me to new types of chocolates?
Well, when I arrived back at the studio later that day, I found out. I opened the door with the advertisement and raced up at least four flights of stairs, awaiting to reach my new found love and destination. At the top of the stairs was a doorway with no door and bright sunlight pouring into the room. It was a room with mirrors all over the wall and wooden floors with multi coloured yoga mats scattered about. First of all, it was just a plain old yoga class. Secondly and also most disappointing, there were no tables with any types of treats in sight. And lastly... The yoga instructor was a young woman wearing a matching yellow tank top and capri set. She was also black, which explains why she calls herself... Chocolate Yoga.
Don't get me wrong. The yoga class was definitely fun, and I left feeling more happy and energized than ever. I also left feeling kind of stupid for thinking that someone would actually shove free chocolate in my mouth while in the downward dog position. I guess you can't have everything, can you? Maybe I'll start my own trend. White Chocolate Yoga. Real chocolate included.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cronia Polla

Birthday girl & I.
I have to admit that this blog post is going to be a bit all over the place because I have a few different things that I want to discuss today. In my usual detailed account of what I do here in Rome, let me first tell you that it was recently my friend Lexi's birthday. Lexi is the adorable Greek girl who turned the big 1-9 this past week. A bunch of the other au pairs and I went to this beautiful park in Rome and, by tradition, had a picnic. It wasn't so much a picnic as it was a dessertathon. Micah made this delicious strawberry white chocolate... thing that was so good, I almost went into a coma. And my cool friend Rhianne, the British one who studied art history, made these incredible brownies. We basked in the afternoon sun, drinking and eating and celebrating Lexi's birthday while overlooking a beautiful pond. I wish I was able to spend my birthday in Rome, but sadly, my flight leaves exactly one month prior to my special day. I hinted (ok, announced) that I wanted a surprise birthday/going away party before I leave, which I suppose ruins the element of surprise completely. First of all, I've never had a surprise anything before. And secondly, I promise to act surprised. What
better way to surprise someone for their birthday than by throwing a party when its not even close to the date?! I'm going to forget about my genius idea in hopes of tricking my mind into sincerely being surprised at the blowout 19th birthday bash for MichElle Pressé, aka the girl who has never been surprised with a party before in her life.
Besides that, Kelsey and I went to the Vatican museum this morning. On the last Sunday of every month its free, and we decided to wake up bright and early so that we could beat the lines before 8 am. We joked about getting old because the entire time we were having joint and muscle pain and I kept having to sit down every so often to take a break. I love hanging
out with her because I know that I can say anything on my mind without her thinking that I'm totally crazy. I think only a select few people understand my sense of humour, but then again, a bunch of you people seem to think I'm funny, so I must be doing something right.
Now, to expose a little secret I've been keeping to myself for the past while... One of my goals in life is to write a book. Well, lot's of books. Obviously it isn't a secret that I love to write and want to make a career out of it, but lately I've been thinking that I should go ahead 
and write a book like I've always wanted to. A lot of you reader's have encouraged me to continue pursuing my passion, and there really isn't anything stopping me from doing it. Except that I don't have the money to find a publisher or editor, but its not like I would be able
to finish it anytime soon anyway. In fact, sometimes it takes years in order to complete a book. You have to be patient with yourself with any form of art. 
But here I am in Rome, and am constantly inspired by the people I meet, the places I go and the sights that I see. I take note of everything that is interesting to me, and I have enough time to sit down and write what I want. I don't want to expose too much, but you heard about it here first. I'm writing a book, and I'm actually going to finish it. Eventually. 
I don't know how much I'll tell you throughout the process, I'm just letting you know that its happening. From what I've brainstormed so far, its going to be loosely based on my experience here in Rome, but of course more fabricated. The story is about a young girl who chooses to travel across Europe instead of going straight to university, much to the horror of her friends and family. It will of course be based in Rome, but she will travel throughout the continent and be thrown into situations far crazier than I've been in. Just a little insider, but that's all I'll reveal for now, unless you message me personally. If you have any suggestions or ideas feel free to send them to me and maybe I'll use them!
A few of you reader's have sent me questions which I'm excited to answer, and I have to 
say... I can see you took it very seriously when I said to ask me whatever you felt like. This is what some of you came up with.
Questions & Answers at the University of Life:
lost & confused:
Thank you for this! I want to move out of a small town and cant decide where to go I don't know what to do. Should I go to LA, NY or Florida?
UofL
Dear Lost & Confused,
Next time you ask me a question, can you be a little more specific as to what you're looking for and who you are? If you're retired and have been using anti-wrinkle cream for the past couple decades, I suggest moving to Florida. If you're trying to kick off your career as an actress or professional surfer, than L.A is the obvious place to move. And if you're a cool person who can fend off cold winters and enjoy being packed on a small island with 8 million other people, New York City is the place for you. Hope I helped! xo

skibunny55:
do u miss home?
UofL:
No.

jp:
describe the 'perfect man'.
UofL:
How do I answer this question in moderation? Oh, JP... Give yourself a pat on the back - you just gave me a great idea for my next blog post. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

You, Me & Yaya

I sincerely feel that someone should be taping a reality TV show about the family I live with. They are all such characters, a couple of which I'm going to further introduce you to today. One of my best friends in the house is a Filipino woman named Veronica. Now remember - there's 10 of us living here. The 6 Italians, 3 Filipino's, and me. There's also this Romanian
Yaya (photo courtesy of Shayna Dwor)
woman, Marcheeka, who comes over twice a week to help with the laundry and ironing. The 3 Filipino's all share a bedroom connected to the kitchen. There's Rio, the driver/errand boy who is always playing funny tricks on me. He's the son of Veronica and her husband, whose name I still don't know. He never speaks, and ignores everyone when they try to speak to him. I guess he's just shy, but this man here is in his 50's. My sister used to be shy, and she got over that once she hit high school. He's always doing odd jobs around the house and vacuuming with his giant scary hands. I imagine they compare to the size of Shrek's hands. Veronica is the wildest thing I have ever seen before in my life. She's always talking about her money problems and how hard life is in the Philippines. The Italian kids call her Yaya and she has five children of her own. Rio lives with us, but she has another named Roldon who also works here in Rome. Rio and Roldon are twins, and her four other children's names also
begin with the letter R. I asked if Roldon was a typical Filipino name and she told me that she named him Roldon because Ronald Reagan was elected as president of the United States that year. I guess she didn't like the name Ronald very much, because she put her own Filipino spin on it. She was forced into an arranged marriage by her grandfather as a teenager, when really she had dreams of becoming a nun. The only reason why I know this is actually because of my friend Shayna. I try to speak slowly and as clearly as possible with Yaya because English is her second language, but sometimes she still doesn't understand my questions. For example, I tried to fish out these details myself by asking, "How did you and your husband meet?" She responded by nodding her head and whispering, "Yeah..." Uh... what? That doesn't answer my question, Yaya. This happens a lot, including when I ask simple things like, "What's for dinner?" 
One morning while eating a banana in the kitchen, she took it upon herself to tell me how her children were born. I don't know what made her want to tell me this, but I sat there and listened to her stories anyway. She didn't have any of her children in the hospital. She popped every single one of them out in the kitchen. Except for her second set of twins. That's right - 4 out of the 6 children she has are TWINS. She stared by telling me it was just after midnight in the Philippines, and that she had to use the bathroom. "I had to urinate," she told me. She called out to her husband because she could feel a baby coming, and that it was coming fast. She gave birth to the first child, but was under the impression that she 
Goodbye, old friend.
was only having one when there was really a second baby up there. WELL... After baby # 1 was born, she held her stomach and looked down at herself and told her husband that she thought there was another on the way. They both started screaming and freaking out because they couldn't afford another. The whole time I was sitting there in silence with my half-eaten banana in my hand, because the image of Yaya giving birth to surprise twins over the toilet obviously ruined my appetite. Forever.
Another little friend of mine in the house is Manfredi. Manfredi is the 12 year old boy here who I adore so so much. He loves watching game shows in the kitchen with Veronica and loves the Montréal-based show Just For Laughs. My favourite thing about Manfredi is that he loves to sing. I can often find him belting out songs
in his bedroom and messing up the lyrics because of his poor English, which of course makes it even more adorable. Just last night I could hear him singing Love Song by Sara Bareilles in the shower. Full-on screaming the song with such passion that I wondered if someone was in the shower with him. His new favourite song is Coldplay's Paradise, and I printed off the lyrics for him to practice. He also is an avid fan of Lady Gaga (all the kids here are) and loves LMFAO's song Sexy And I Know It. If I had a little brother, I would want him to be exactly like Manfredi.
Although this next tidbit of information has nothing to do with anyone in the family, it does have to do with my favourite gelato shop, Fridgidarium. I ventured over there yesterday and thought I went at a good time because there wasn't a line up like there usually is. I came face to face with a closed door and a sign 
Heaven in a cup.
that said, in Italian, "Be open February 15th." I stood there for about five minutes, waiting for the staff members to open the doors and tell me it was a practical joke on their favourite customer, but nothing happened. I really do have to go three weeks without my favourite gelato shop down the street. It wasn't as bad as I thought. In fact, it was great. This one was a lot cheaper than Fridgy and had flavours that they didn't have. I got a sample of the orange and kiwi, but opted for a full cup of strawberry and sour green apple. Yes. I repeat - sour green apple. I went backagain today to get more of this delicious fruity sensation of Italian goodness. It was obviously sour and tasted like green apple, but what I didn't expect was the actual chunks of green apple in it.
Later on yesterday, Lodo's little friend Nina came over, and they wanted to make crepes. Basically, what this meant is that they wanted me to make the crepes while they watched 
Teen Mom at the kitchen table. Which is totally fine, because I love making crepes. They're really similar to pancakes, but were invented in France and much more flat.
Because there wasn't any Nutella in the house (I thought this was an Italian staple?) we melted dark chocolate on the stove and added fruit to it. Speaking of fruit, have you heard of the Sicilian fruit crisis? Apparently its affecting the prices and transportation of fruit all over Italy, and we have to be very careful about what fruit we buy at the grocery store. This doesn't worry me so much, because there is always something going wrong in Italy. I'm sure once the fruit crisis is cleared up, there will be a wine crisis, or maybe even follow in Norway's footsteps and have our very own butter crisis. On another very important note, one of my blog reader's emailed me a fantastic suggestion. Its so good, in fact, that not only am I going to share what it is, but I'm going to take her suggestion and do it. She wrote to me telling me that she loved my latest blog post, that my pictures are great, and asked me timidly, "Are you really as confident in your blog as you seem?" I think she was trying to be polite and ask if I'm really as cocky as I seem. First, to answer her question, absolutely not. When I talk about myself and say things like I want to become a paid muse and all that, I'm totally kidding. Well, it is a dream, but I don't actually think that highly of myself. A lot of the things I say about myself are jokes and hopefully they make you laugh. I don't take myself that seriously. 
Now, to reveal her great idea. She said, "Have you ever considered writing an advice column?" NO! I have not, and I'm kicking myself for not thinking of this first. I'm going to allow you reader's to ask me ANYTHING you want, and when I collect a few I'll post your questions along with my witty and hopefully helpful answer below it. I might not answer the questions
every day, but eventually it will appear at the bottom of my post. Nothing is too taboo or off limits for Q&A. Ask. Me. ANYTHING! You can message me through facebook (MichElle Pressé), e-mail (michelle_presse@hotmail.com) or comment through my blog and I won't reveal your name. If you ask me questions through my facebook or e-mail, obviously I will know who you are, but you can choose a user name or I will protect your identity by making one up myself so that no one knows who asked what. Of course if you decide to ask your questions at the end of a post in the comment section, its totally anonymous and you're more than welcome to do that as well. So, start thinking about what you want to ask me. I can't wait to see what you all have to say! And please don't be shy. Actually ask me question, I want to have fun with this. Got it?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fantasyland

The other night my mom sent me an e-mail which sparked a great idea for this new blog post. First she told me how cold it is at home (duh, its January in Canada) and then went on to tell me how excited her and my dad are to come to Italy to visit me. They're arriving on February 26th and its their first time ever in Europe. I don't know what I'm more excited to see - my parents, or their reactions to Italy. To the people, the food, the fashion, the art, the 
history, the traffic, the yelling. I made a joke to my friends that I'm going to set them loose in the city without a map and spy on them to see who breaks down first. I realize that I just compared my parents to something similar of an experiment that a 10 year old would perform by setting his hamster loose in a messy bedroom, but still... That's what my parents in Italy will be like.
I asked my mom if her and father dearest still would have visited me if I decided to live in Switzerland, which was a second option I was exploring, and she said yes. She told me that they're coming to Europe because they want to see me, and that the fact I live in Rome is just icing on top of the cake. Which defeated her point, because icing is the best part of cake. Moving on... She also asked where I plan on working this summer, which led me to a series of fantasies about the perfect summer job.
Like I've mentioned before, I'm hoping to go to school in Nova Scotia, which means dropping a lot of money on tuition, living expenses, and flights. This requires me working for the summer, which is fine, because I'm going to need a distraction from the fact that I'll be residing in the Niagara region come June. The thought of going home to Port Colborne for the summer puts me in a deep depression, and I push that ugly, lifeless fact aside and to the back of my brain. It would be nice to get a job at a cool store like American Eagle or Costa Blanca, where I can
Hard at work
root through beautiful clothes and boss people around by telling them what looks good on them and what doesn't. I already know I'm good at that. 
But in my opinion, the ultimate summer job would consist of being paid an excessive amount of money to read magazines and tan underneath the hot summer sun beside a pool. Sometimes I will swim in it. My work uniform wardrobe will be made up of bikinis from designers like Ralph Lauren in creamsicle colours of hot pinks, lime greens, and electric blues. I would like to be a muse, but a muse who is allowed to sleep and tan and listen to music while thinking about how fabulous I am for being accepted to my dream school in Nova Scotia. I will occasionally snack on cubes of fresh fruit and update my Facebook status as to how difficult my job is, but that we all must
make money somehow. As a muse, I will obviously have to get up off my poka dot beach towel every once in a while to try on cool outfits while talking about the meaning of life in front of a camera, while my boss will be inspired and take photos of me. He will throw fancy cocktail parties with DJs, candles floating in the pool, people dressed in elegant dresses, and uptight waiters carrying around plates of champagne, tiny sandwiches and olives. He will introduce me to his friends as his muse, and tell them how hard it was to design the purple silk dress covering my newly tanned body. He will twirl me around while tucking a fat wad of cash into my diamond encrusted clutch hanging from my delicate wrist.
Does anyone know where I can apply?
Also, what will this title be to put on my resume? Supermuse? Fashionista genius? Cool-girl extraordinaire? I want to lead an interesting life this summer, even if it does take place on 
My brand new office.
Ontario soil. I had this teacher once named Mr. Van Ruyven who had the most bizarre life over anyone else I know. He was in his 50's or 60's and was more serious than Miley Cyrus' mission to destroy her squeaky clean image. He was unintentionally interesting by telling his students stories with absurd beginnings like, "This reminds me of the time I was rowing in Antarctica... This is a lot like when I saved my friend from a knife fight in Amsterdam... This one time, when I was competing in the Olympics... This one time, when I was a firefighter..." All of the things I just listed are actual things he's done, and I know this, because I googled him to see if he was telling the truth. He was.
I don't plan on competing in the Olympics or rowing through the Antarctica this summer, but the thought of having an interesting summer is appealing, although I'm not sure how its going
to go over in... Port Colborne. Which brings me to another point that one of my reader's recently asked me. He asked, "When you return to Canada, will you continue writing your blog?" I stared blankly at the screen for about five minutes because it was a really good question. It was a stumper. (Side note: is stumper a real word?) Anyway, I haven't thought about it until he asked me. And the truth is that... Well, I don't know. Should I continue my blog after I kiss Italy goodbye? I'm not sure. I mean, what will I have to say once I'm in Canada? Today I woke up and drove to Tim Hortons. I got a cherry danish and then drove to St. Catharines to visit my grandparents. There was no traffic. I almost ran over a squirrel, but luckily he was a fast runner. Nana was watching The Young And The Restless while papa went for a swim in the pool. Nana made lunch. It was good. I drove back home and spent the rest of my night twidling my thumbs and crying about my life in Port Colborne. Repeat for the next three months.
The reason why I started this blog was because I wanted to use it as an open diary to detail my adventures in Europe. Life is exciting here. I'm doing and seeing things that most people
Great party, guys...
my age don't get to do. I'm experiencing life changing wine and food. I'm evolving as a person and find myself meeting interesting people and getting stuck in funny situations. That is, after all, what makes my life interesting. So. Do I continue writing a blog once I go back to Canada? Obviously I will have plenty of spare time on my hands, but I don't want to disappoint my readers... I'll have to start a new blog, because this one, The University of Life, is obviously about my adventures in Italy. If I do write another blog in June, what will I call it? Chasing Tumbeweeds? Adventures in God's Waiting Room (my city's nickname due to the elderly population)? There's Nothing Better To Do In Port Colborne So I'm Just Going To Write In This Blog 24/7? Guys. I don't know. Where will I go on the weekends?! There's no cool bars within a half hour radius. In fact, my city only has two actual bars. What will my dating life be like? No interesting men wtih sexy accents or tans for me. Nope. Just a few boys who's idea of a good time is swimming in the green canal and then going to McDonald's for dinner. I've just about gone through every good looking guy there is in my city, and that's not to saying much, since there isn't many.
To blog, or not to blog? That is the question... I'll probably leave it in your hands, so write to me and tell me if you want me to continue blogging after Italy.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Ugly Truth

Classic French icon Brigitte Bardot.
This is a fairy tale about the ugly truth.
I can't help but reveal what I've learned about French and Italian women that makes them so different from Canadians and how men react to them. If it wasn't so sad it would be funny to describe the bewildering differences between us. Americans (and Canadians, just to throw out name out there) claim that perfection is achieved by having long hair, a deep tan, a small waist, cartoon sized breasts, and enhancing your facial features (i.e eyes, lips) in order to be beautiful. In France, the women have that certain je ne sais quoi that makes them so irresistible and immediately sexy. A French woman is considered the perfect beauty if she is tall with a chic short hair cut, wide eyes, as little makeup as possible, and a thin frame. It is very important for a French woman to be thin. The Italians are quite similar to the French in the sense that being waifer thin is important, but there are some major differences here as well. While the French women try to look as effortlessly beautiful and timeless in tight black clothes, the Italians aren't ashamed to wear things that make them stand out - expensive furs, bright colours, and even speaking loudly with passion sprinkled with a series of hand gestures, even if she is only explaining what she ate for breakfast.
The French and Italians believe that smoking is sexy and that having an elegantly thin tube between their lips draws attention to their mouth and that it gives them that come-hither look, where as I personally start coughing and obsessing over my sensitive skin when someone blows smoke in my face. I could go on and on about how to identify the different beauty beliefs between myself, the French, and the Italians. But you can just as easily see for yourself on google images or by picking up the latest edition of Vogue. We all know that a lot
Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?
of European women smoke and are thin. We know they're appealing to men back home because they're foreign and have interesting accents. So I'm not going to waste any more time telling you things you already know, and instead focus on something more underground and definitely more fascinating.
We have a problem in Canada with how women view other women that doesn't exist over here. Its only natural to observe and even compare ourselves to the girl on the towel next to us on the beach, or the exotic looking woman in line in front of you at the grocery store. Its human nature to observe the behaviour and detail of other human beings. But how many time have you seen a girl in a low cut top or a tight bandage dress and thought to yourself or even said to your friend, "What a slut?" How many
"Sluts?" Nope. Just looks like a
couple of friends at the beach.
times have you seen a girl hanging out with a group of guys laughing and joking thinking, once again, "What a slut?" And how many of you have seen a girl tagged in a photo on facebook in bikini on the beach and thought, "What a slut?" Umm... What? Don't lie, jealous little girls. I know you're out there.
I have to admit that there's the exception when a girl is uploading pictures of herself in the bathroom mirror every single day in a stupid belly top and underwear-sized shorts while making a duck face. You're probably just asking for negative attention that has absolutely nothing to do with anything other than accumulating as many 'likes' as you can get. Oh, but men, you're guilty, too! The same thing goes for the guys out there who take pictures of themselves shirtless while flexing their muscles in the dusty bathroom mirror while starring coldly in their lifeless reflection. You, too, are probably asking to be called a douche. Douche.
I have to admit that even I've labeled people by this (the stupid bathroom pictures - not the other stuff), but living in Europe really changes ones perspective on what its appropriate for a women to dress like. Scratch that. In my opinion, nothing should be deemed appropriate or inappropriate in the first place. Why? you ask. Because the female body has been over sexualized for generations. Please don't think I'm trying to lecture you all on feminism, because I'm not. So if you're reading this thinking that this post is going to say that I believe
that women shouldn't shave and that we should all run around naked, I'm not. I shave, and I'm certainly not against running around naked. Keep reading, and I promise you won't be disappointed.
As I was saying, the female body has been oversexualized for so long. It was, after all, Marilyn Monroe's large breasts and bottle blonde hair that got her fame. Not her talent, because let's face it - the girl couldn't act any better than Ashlee Simpson could sing. 
I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with having big boobs or that dying your hair
means that you're 'oversexualized'. That would be ridiculous. In fact, I actually admire Miss. Norma Jeane (Marilyn Monroe's real name) for introducing the "big is beautiful" fad. If you're sitting at your computer wondering why a size one like myself would be applauding someone for being plus sized, let me just say that it isn't realistic for everyone to be a size one. There are some chosen people in the world who have good genes, a high metabolism, are competitive athletes, and have been vegetarians for five and a half years. I'm not naming names, I'm just saying. Anyway, Marilyn's big girl image continued until this elegant and impossibly flawless British model Kate Moss came along in the 1990's when she began the "heroin chic" and "anti supermodel" look in the industry. Did you read that correctly? Kate Moss was the anti supermodel in contrast to those such as Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell who were recognized for their curvacious figures. Moss turned the fashion tables and sold her image on being dangerously thin and flat chested. The media ate it up, and so did Calvin Klein.
Much like fashion, the "ideal beauty" changes over time. But the most noteworthy ideal beauty comes from the Barbie industry which began in 1959. As a child, my sister and I often spent our afternoons playing with the dozens of Barbies my parents had collected for us and made games out of it. We would dress them, create lives for them, and in our older years, 
Oh... So that's
how it works...
give them haircuts with our Crayola scissors. Even as a child, I wondered why Barbies all looked exactly the same except for their hair colour and why accessories were permanently glued to their bodies. Now that I'm older, I think that Barbies are probably the most harmful present you can give to a little girl. You see, Barbie's best friend, Midge, was a doll created to 'teach girls about the reproductive cycle' by being a pregnant doll... I guess. The funny thing about this doll is that her stomach isn't swollen like a pregnant woman's should be. In fact, the baby just sits there inside her Pilate's-loving tummy and can be taken out through the stomach. There is also a wedding ring painted on her finger, because of course none of us would ever want to consider sex before marriage and get the wrong idea about dear Midge.
Then there was the "Math Class Is Tough" Barbie invented in 1992 which is my personal favourite reason on why Barbies are the seed of the devil. Math Class Is Tough Barbie features a blonde Barbie equipped with a pink party dress and a permanent smile on her face. In the commercial that promoted the doll, the doll can be seen "talking" with another Barbie saying things like, "Math class is tough! Party dresses are fun! Do 
you have a crush on anyone?" If you think I'm making this up, I'm not. According to a study done by The Daily Collegian, if Barbie were human, her proportions would make her stand at six feet tall, have an 18-inch waist and cause her to not have enough body mass to support basic organ functions. How does this promote a realistic and healthy body imagine to young girls? It doesn't.
I understand that its not just the women who feel pressure to be a certain way and that there were also male sex symbols like Mick Jagger, Elvis Presley, and James Dean. But quite frankly, men do not face the same kind of pressures that women face in order to be 'beautiful', so I'm just going to skip this subject completely. Male readers, if you have a problem with this or want to share your own personal story, you're more than welcome to start your own blog and write about it. 
What I'm trying to say is... Well, a lot of things. Women are pressured to look a certain way, and once they achieve it, they're deemed as 'sluts' and 'whores'. If a woman's body is 'perfect' to society, she is a slut for putting it on display. Meanwhile, someone who is heavier or with smaller boobs could wear the same outfit as a woman who is thin and with large boobs, and it would be more tolerable and acceptable to other women. Jealousy at its finest? Yes. Logical? Nope.
I remember when I was working out in the weight room at my strict Catholic high school with a friend of mine. We had a dress code which required us to wear uniforms, but when working out, you could wear workout gear. Obviously a plaid kilt, starched polo shirt and sweater vest wasn't exactly the same thing as Under Armour gear. Anyway, we went to the weight room
together to spin. Because the weight room is hot and we knew we would be sweating, we wore short shorts. This isn't a problem, and was quite accepted when working out. But the tops we wore had to have the sleeve at a certain length and weren't allowed to show off our breasts. However, some of the guys in the weight room were working out topless, revealing - gasp! - their upper bodies. Quelle horreur! I decided to take my T shirt off (insert image of me parading around a Catholic high school aux seins nus - just kidding!) and just wearing the spaghetti-strap tank top that was underneath it since it was apparently acceptable not to follow the rules about what to wear in the weight room. Surprise, surprise! The teacher who was on duty supervising the weight room told me to "cover up and put some clothes on". I refused, because it was unfair for me to be told to dress a certain way if the boys didn't have to follow the same rules. The teacher then explained to me that our bodies were different and therefore, require different articles of clothing. 
So let me get this straight. Because God (if you believe in this kind of thing) created my body this way and that women's breasts are biologically built differently than those of a man, I should cover it up? Absolutely not. The same rules should apply to men, and I pointed out that one of the football players who was there with his shirt off had even bigger boobs than I did. That line was enough for me to win the argument, but unfortunately, the battle goes far beyond working out in a gym.
Sadly, I don't think things will change in Canada anytime soon. Everyone knows that the European founders of North America were all prudes. Its a fact. And there is no greater proof of this than the difference in what's suitable to wear to the beaches in Europe vs. the
beaches in Canada. In Canada, men are free to wear swimming trunks and the woman can wear whatever she wants, as long as she's wearing something. In Europe, the beaches are notoriously laissez-faire. A lot of men wear speedos or sometimes nothing at all. Same goes for the women, and in fact, the majority of women don't wear tops at all when compared to women who do. Oh, but its not just the Europeans... I mean, how else am I supposed to get a proper tan? As much as I hate the harassment of Roman men on the streets, I have the freedom to be topless on 
the beach without people taking pictures on their cell phones and posting it to facebook with captions like, "SLUT" or "Yeahhh bro check dis outtt." 
The problem for me is that the way I dress is not an invitation to be labeled as a whore and is certainly not a cry for attention. There was a really big issue in Toronto about a year ago over a police officer who provided female students at York University with ludicrous advice on how to avoid sexual harassment. He told the female students, "Don't dress like a slut." OH. I guess I missed the information session telling predators that what I wear is an open invitation on whether or not I can be harassed. Last April, action took place against the police officer's advice when thousands of people (both men and women) marched through the streets of Toronto and called it the 'SlutWalk'. People carried signs with messages like, "Don't tell me how to dress - tell them not to rape" and, "I was wearing pants and a sweater - was it my fault too?" Stuff like this makes me think. And also makes me sad that in my home country, what I wear defines me as a person.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

For Carlie

I hope you don't think I'm a huge creep
for stealing this from your facebook.
I have this friend named Carlie who I've probably mentioned on several occasions in my blog. I decided to contribute a piece for her because soon she will be following in my footsteps. Sort of, but I'll get to that in a minute.
Carlie and I met in high school, and she was always known as the happy-go-lucky party girl. She's sarcastic, fun loving, and always looking to have a good time. But on top of that, she's also a great friend. She was always the one to organize limos and tables for school dances and threw parties at every holiday, Super Bowl Sunday, or whenever else her parents left for vacation. The reason why Carlie is so special to me is because she has a lot of the same passions and interests that I do. Her parents are also professional chefs and Carlie also has a knack for cooking, which is probably another reason on why I was so attracted to being her friend. Also, we both experienced the same misfortunes due to our lack of interest in band.
When I was 16 years old, I went on a student exchange to France, and Carlie did an exchange as well in Spain. And now, here we are, both 18 years old, and still passionate about Europe. After graduating high school, she worked vigorously to save up money so that she could move back to Europe and work in England. After months of waiting, she is finally leaving on February 3rd to work and live at a holiday resort in the English countryside. The reason why
she makes me so proud is because I know it takes a lot of hard work and courage to move overseas alone. But if I can do it, I know Carlie can as well, and she's hoping to come to Rome to visit me, and possibly travel to London at the same time that I go in May. She's planning on staying for 2 years and immersing herself in the world of hospitality and tourism.
She has a blog of her own that I suggest you
all read, because I have a feeling its about to get very interesting.
http://werehereforagoodtime.blogspot.com/ 
She's witty, she's wise, and she's one of my closest friends. Everyone please wish her a very safe flight on February 3rd and pray that she has smooth sailing (or flying) over the pond. I have a letter that I'm going to write to Carlie, and instead of sending it personally, I'm going to
send it here so that everyone knows how much I appreciate having a friend like her in my life:
Carlie Rosa (please don't kill me for the middle name),
Words cannot even begin to express how proud I am of you and how excited I am that you are finally going off to live your dreams. You are in for the greatest adventure and wildest ride of your life, and I'm thankful that you'll be sharing every detail of it with me. You will make a great ambassador for Canada and I know that you will make us all look good (and drunk) over there. A lot of people regret not taking risks and pursuing their dreams in fear of failing. You are not one of those people, which is why I look up to you and think so highly of you. From playing beer pong, dirty dancing together at semi, and partying in hot tubs together, you have become one of my closest friends and greatest companions. 
We experienced a lot of the same problems in high school due to the misfortune of our lack of interest in band, but as you always say, "No big deal. Whatever, baby girl." I miss your unwavering sense of humour
High school graduation!
and tendency to make sarcastic comments towards every living and non living thing on the face of the planet. Throughout the time that we've known each other you have always been there for me from the very silly to the very significant. I miss so many things about you and am really glad that we went out for breakfast the day before I left for Italy at Sambo's. Hopefully we can go back there together when we both return to Canada and catch up over pancakes, fresh fruit and orange juice. 
The funny thing is that even though I miss you so much, you will actually be so much closer to me in distance than you are now. And I refuse to go home in June without seeing you at least once over here. I can't wait for you to live your dreams and enjoy yourself in England. Your parents, grandparents, siblings and fellow sandwich artist's are going to miss you so much as well. No one could ever forget about you and I'm so happy that I will be seeing you sooner than later. Carlie horse, Carlie Davidson, Carlifornia, Larry Moe and Carlie, Carlie fries, Carlie and the Chocolate Factory - have a safe flight and know that I'm on the other side waiting for you.
Love,
MichElle (no cool nicknames provided)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mighty Dollar

Birthday girl!
Finally, I can update you all about ROME again, because my university essay-application-portfolio business is taken care of. For the most part, at least, which means that once again, I am stress free. Wednesday was my best friend Kelsey's birthday who turned 19, and I met up with her at Piazza del Popolo to celebrate. One of the new girls Lexi joined us who comes from Thessaloniki, Greece, but speaks flawless English thanks to her British-born mother. The three of us went out for lunch and walked around the city together. When we were out for lunch I decided that I wanted to try something new and be spontaneous by getting these olives that were breaded. Sadly, when I bit into my little olive thing, it was also wrapped with some kind of meat, causing me to spit it out onto my plate and completely ruining my appetite. Oh, the troubles of being a vegetarian in Italy...
Today we met up again with the two American au pair guys, Micah and Taylor. The five of us met in Villa Borghese and went to the contemporary art museum where we spent a few hours walking around and appreciating the art. At least we were trying to. The thing is that I really like art, and love going to museums whether its modern, Renaissance, Italian, American, whatever.
Its interesting to me. But I have to admit that I don't understand it. Neither does Micah, who kept making up stories behind the art, causing me to laugh and disturb the annoyed guard from his tough job of sitting in the corner reading a book. I really do try so hard to understand it, but all I can do is stare and appreciate it to the best of my ability. 
The great thing about the museum was that when we were in the Greek mythological Gods and Goddesses, Lexi was able to tell us who everyone was and what the stories behind them are. I love having a Greek friend. One of the most interesting parts of the museum was the floor made entirely of broken glass. When you walked on top of the mirror, you could see your reflection broken and it almost felt that you could just fall through it. But there was a thick glass plate over top of it so that you couldn't actually crush the mirror into even tinier pieces.
Mirror pictures like this are acceptable.
Through the midst of all this, I'm attempting to figure out some future travel plans before I return to Canada. When my parents arrive in Rome at the end of January, we're going to do some traveling through Venice, Florence, Pisa and Lucca. I was attempting to stitch together a plan to visit my friend Taylor who lives in France and a mere 10 minute drive to the Swiss, but unfortunately, I can't find any cheap flights and am starting to figure out where I can actually afford to go while I'm here. 
My friend Glen and sister Nicole are both coming in May and we're planning a trip to spend a few days in London, and then making our way over to Amsterdam, which means that I really have to budget my expenses as best as I can. I've already looked into flights and hostels, and even the prices of specific museums and attractions I want to visit. But Glen reminded me that we will also have to pay for food. How could I, the greatest lover and mistress of food, possibly forget about that large expense? With university (hopefully) next fall, I know that I have to save up for tuition and residence or off campus housing, and of
course food, transit, spending money and the large expense of transporting back and forth between the Buffalo and Halifax airport. I want to kick whoever said "money makes the world go round" and plant myself a money tree. Now would be a really great time to win the lottery. Or if you'd like to make a donation to my cause, I'd be more than happy to provide you will my address via e-mail.
Because the past week or two was spent working on university related business, I decided that I already did my time in the stress cell and that I would spend this rainy Friday at home. In the morning I took a long, hot bubble bath while reading the pile of magazines my mom sent me in my last care package, and got pizza from Forno's for lunch. Its not like I've been having a bad day, but if I was, there would be no better cure than a hot bath, girly magazines, and pizza from the best pizzeria in Rome.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Great Big Hill Of Hope

I feel as though the subject of my blog is transforming from my adventures in Rome to my adventures and stressfulness of applying to university. I hope you aren't disappointed with me for the less eccentric updates, but right now, applying to university and worrying about what my life will be like next fall is my life, and that's really what my blog is about. I'm hoping that by the end of this coming week I will be done everything there is on my "To Do" list, although its really quite extensive. I kind of feel like I already am in university, because I'm trying to manage "studying" (aka my admissions essay and all the other write ups I have to do), working part time, having a social life, and getting a proper amount of sleep.
I'm in trouble, guys.
I have to admit that I've completely neglected my "getting a proper amount of sleep", and have been doing silly things to keep myself awake when all I really feel like doing is throwing my laptop on the ground and getting some zzz's. I've splashed cold water on my face, made an upbeat music playlist, and drank a lifetime supply of tea, which brings me to the age old question... Does tea make you sleepy, or wake you up? I mean, it is caffeine, which is of course energizing. But all it does is make me feel relaxed and warm. That question led me to google to search for answers, which led me to reading cool articles that have nothing to do with either my applications or the subject of tea.
As for my social life? Its great, but has been overwhelming for the last while. On Friday, the other au pairs and myself had a picnic that consisted of story telling, bonding, and red wine 
Where's Waldo?
at 11 am. There's a new batch of au pairs that just arrived after the New Year, so there were plenty of new faces and friends to make. After the picnic I had to go home and work, which left no room for working on anything university related. But I enjoyed the sunshine, red wine and of course meeting new people, so the applications could wait until another day. On Saturday, I did manage to check a few things off my To Do list, but there's still so much more... Later that night I met up with a bunch of people in Campo dei Fiori to drink wine before heading over to Scholar's. It was so busy and I was happy because I ran into Stephen again. Stephen and I never make plans to see each other, but Scholar's is his second home, so I see him almost every time I'm there. I got really drunk, but it wasn't my fault. Its hard not to get seriously intoxicated upon hearing that lovely pop of the cork on expensive bottles of wine and champagne. Since I've met so many new au pairs, my circle of international friends has greatly expanded.
Now here I am on Sunday night, feeling guilty because I haven't updated my blog in several days, but now feeling even more guilty since I should be working on things for university. Earlier in the day I met up with this new girl from Germany, who I've been in touch with for a 
while over facebook. We met up at Piazza di Spanga and spent the day walking around Rome and I showed her some of my favourite pizza and gelato shops. As busy as I am with my work for university, I'm still trying to get out of the house every day, get some fresh air, and meet up with friends. So if you think my life here in Rome is a complete fairytale, don't be too jealous. It isn't all the time.
Today is the 14th birthday of Clementina, the eldest girl in the family I work for. She is so sweet and artistic and beautiful. I hope that if I ever have a daughter, she turns out like Clemi. At least two dozen of her glamorous friends came over to celebrate. Now, I don't mean to sound like a cougar, but... Italian boys grow up nicely. They know how to go through puberty the right way. One boy marched straight up to me and cooed "bella", and he reached for my hand. Not to shake it, but to gently kiss it and then wink at me through those dark brown Italian eyes. Oh, hun... If I was five years younger and five inches shorter, I definitely would've flirted with you over msn until 9:30 pm.
Earlier in the day I met up with this girl Melissa from Germany, who I've been in touch with for a while over facebook. We met up at Piazza di Spanga and spent the day walking around Rome and I showed her some of my favourite pizza and gelato shops. As busy as I am with my work for university, I'm still trying to get out of the house every day, get some fresh air, and meet up with friends. So if you think my life here in Rome is a complete fairytale, don't be too jealous. It isn't all of the time.

Please bear with me here as I go through this unenjoyable time in my life where I have to collect my best pieces of Journalism for my portfolio, write two essay's regarding why I deserve a scholarship to the University of King's College in Halifax, and collect three 
reference letter's. Do you remember me mentioning this in my last blog post? You will never guess who agreed to be my third reference. His name is Eddie, and he's a Journalist at the local newspaper in my city. I've been in touch with him recently because he's been mentoring me on life as a Journalist. He's given me a lot of advice and guidance through what I should expect in this life that I'm choosing. Eddie went to Ryerson University, and he told me that 15,000 students applied to the Journalism program, and only 1,500 were accepted. Then, out of 1,500 students, only 50 of them actually graduated. Only a dozen of those people currently have a job in Journalism.
Do these facts scare me? Am I choosing a career path that is a very difficult and competitive road to be on? Am I worried that I'm going to have a difficult time finding a job, and one that actually pays well? Am I worried that I will be one of those people who don't make it? Yes. Yes, I am terrified of all of these things. But these questions and the unsettling facts make me want to do it even more. I know that what I'm doing isn't easy, but nothing in life that is easy is rewarding. I know that Journalism is a competitive field, but that's ok. I'm driven, and 
A Journalist's yearly paycheck.
I'm the competitive person that others should be watching out for. I will be one of those people who make it into the field, because I'm hardworking and passionate about everything that I do. And the pay? Not all Journalists earn small paychecks. But like Oprah Winfrey said, "Don't worry so much about the number on the check. If you let your passion drive your profession, every check will just be a bonus for doing something that you love." And I do love it. Its like my own personal baby, and no matter how many times it pulls my hair and screams and doesn't allow me to sleep at night, I don't care. I love it.
Since I already introduced you to Eddie, allow me to explain how thankful I am to have him in my life. When I e-mailed him one week ago, I attached a copy of an article I wrote and told him my story. I told him that we met before but I'm not sure if he would remember me, that I'm an aspiring Journalist, and that I need to send a portfolio to the school to show them my work. He e-mailed me back that very same night and said that of course he remembered me, and that he read my article and was very impressed. He passed it along to the city editor and now its going to be published. He also agreed to write me a letter of reference, and without my asking, gave me tips and advice on life as a Journalist. We've been e-mailing back and forth for over a week now, and our conversations bounce between professional to personal. When you really put yourself out there, not only do you seek help from someone who can do great things from you, but you can also gain a friend. Eddie's letter of reference was so touching that I decided to share it here with you all. With a letter like this from a professional Journalist, I don't see why I have any reason to not be admitted to the University of King's College.
To Whom It May Concern:
"There is nothing better than a curious mind. It should be the number one trait of every Journalist out there.
MichElle Pressé is an individual who doesn't lack curiosity. She has plenty of it. Whether she's exploring the beautiful world to find out what opportunities there are or reading the daily newspaper, there is an unquenchable thirst that resides in her always inquiring mind. There's no doubt in my mind that MichElle would make a superb Journalist one day.
I first met MichElle when she was still a student at Lakeshore Catholic High School. As a reported for the local newspaper, The Welland Tribune, I visited the school one day to interview MichElle about her involvement in the school's Fair Trade Club. MichElle was well spoken, articulate, and knowledgeable when I interviewed her for my story. In turn, MichElle
That's right. I knew how to rock the sweater vest.
turned the tables and asked a few questions of her own. We started talking about my profession and what it entails. Calculated while conversational, MichElle had the ability to engage in discussion while asking the five Ws that any reporter is trained to do.
A great passion for Journalism resides within MichElle. I could tell with each conversation I had with her.
I encouraged her to write a piece for the InPort News, a local weekly newspaper published in the City of Port Colborne. The story revolved around her experiences of traveling abroad. The story was well written and engaging to the reader. Impressed with her work, I 
encouraged her to continue with her writing aspirations. 
Every aspiring Journalist needs a place where he or she can learn the skills of the trade. There is no doubt in my mind that MichElle has what it takes to be an exceptional Journalist one day. That is why I believe she is a perfect candidate for your institution."
Even though there are stressful things happening in my life right now, its kind words like Eddie's that make each day worth while. Or something small, like getting a perfect score on Cosmopolitan's Guess The Celebrity Six-Pack game. Which I'm amazing at, in case you were wondering. And then there's the surprising moments that turn a bad day into a great day, like when your mom sends you a big package filled with magazines, candy, makeup and other goodies. 
If you're interested in reading the article Eddie wrote about the work I did for Lakeshore's Fair Trade Club, please click the link below:
http://www.niagarathisweek.com/niagarathisweek/article/183584

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Why I Took The Road Untraveled

Something unbelievable happened to me last night. It was as though the clouds themselves parted, and God struck me with a bolt of lightening, shattering every doubt I ever had about my plans for next fall. This is what happened... I went onto www.fmylife.com for my daily fit of giggles and the first two posts really hit me. Not in a ha-ha kind of way, but in a life changing kind of way. Because one post was from someone living in Lazio, Italy, the region that Rome is in. And the one after that was a post from someone living in Nova Scotia, Canada. That has to mean something, right? That the area I'm currently living in came right after the area I'm thinking about living in next fall? Is this completely bizarre, or is it just a coincidence? I'm kind of surprised that God would choose to send me this significant sign through a website titled "Fuck My Life", but then again, God does work in mysterious ways...
The more I think about it, the more I see myself living in Halifax. I can see myself at school wearing a Hello, my name is name tag and sitting in a lecture hall while some brilliant professor shares his or her knowledge with me. I can see myself listening to Great Big Sea while riding a bike through the hills with a view of the Atlantic ocean and lighthouses. I can see myself taking a trip to Prince Edward Island to visit the house of Anne of Green Gables and laughing about how silly it was of me to ever live in Ontario.
But I seriously think I have a shot at getting into this school. I have above the average percentage that I need to get in, but there's a lot more to the process than just sending in my
Please let me in.
application. For example, I need to collect 3 reference letter's from people in my life who believe that I would make a good Journalist. I already contacted two of my favourite teacher's and think that it might be a good idea for one of my reader's to help me out! So I'm asking for a favour from someone who is a fan of my blog to please write me a letter of reference addressed to "To Whom It May Concern". You don't have to know me personally, but since my blog is an example of my Journalism skills, I thought it would be a great idea for one of you to write a letter on why you think I'm a good writer and why I would make a good Journalist. Guys - I actually need your help here. Its for a good cause, and obviously if you thought I suck at writing, you wouldn't be visiting my page every time I update my adventures. So please, please, please send me an e-mail with a potential letter of reference. It would really stand out from all the other applicants who just 
Lighthouses and coast lines - I could live here.
have coaches, teachers and family friends writing letter's like, "I think John Smith would make a great because he is very academic and is ambitious." No. I really need someone to spice it up and say something like, "I know that MichElle Pressé would make a fantastic addition to your school because she has the skills and abilities required to be a Journalist. Over the past several months, I have been following her blog titled University of Life. Her whimsical writing and hilarious stories always keep me coming back for more, and she continues to top each post and impress me with her witty writing style." I don't think I ask you guys for much, but I am asking you now to help me out. How cool would it be to include a letter of reference from someone who is considered a fan of my blog? Please e-mail me at michelle_presse@hotmail.com if you wish to make me a very happy person.
But I also need to send them a resume and write a 1,000 word autobiographical sketch about myself. They want to know about my academic strengths and weaknesses, general interests, any Journalism-related work I may have done, and anything else that would contribute to a 
well-rounded story about myself. The only difficulty I have with this is that I don't think 1,000 words is enough to describe myself. But every good Journalist must learn to downsize and say as much as possible with as little words as he or she can... Besides that, I need to create a portfolio which will include a maximum of 5 published pieces of work that I have. Its the same thing if I were apply to art school - I would need to include copies of my paintings and/or drawings to prove that I already have some skill in the field that I want to work in. I wrote an article in grade 8 about the childhood obesity epidemic which was my first ever published piece, so I plan on including that. I also plan on 
adding a few of my most treasured blog posts, and I'm currently in touch with the local newspaper from Port Colborne who might the story that I wrote about my experience on "Why I Took The Road Untraveled". There's this reporter who I know named Eddie who interviewed me a couple of times in high school for my work with Fair Trade, and I still hung on to his e-mail. As a budding writer, you really have to put yourself out there and do as much legwork as possible to get recognition. So, I e-mailed him, and it went a little something like this...
I introduced myself and told him that he may not remember me, but that I remember him and his work through The Tribune. I told him that I have hopes of becoming a Journalist and then went on to tell him my story and how I ended up in Italy. I mentioned how I wanted to get my degree in Journalism in Nova Scotia, and how I needed to submit a portfolio of published work. Then came the big question: Will you please consider publishing the article I wrote about my experience in the local paper so that I can increase my chances of being admitted into the school of my dreams? 
The very next day, I had an unread message in my inbox from him. I was expecting him to say that no, he did not remember me, and that perhaps if I sent it to him he would eventually read it and decide whether or not he would publish it. Basically, I was expecting the worst, as most writer's are rejected dozens and even hundreds of times before any of their work is publicised. But instead, he began the letter by saying that of course he remembers me and
that he would definitely be interested in reading "Why I Took The Road Untraveled". He told me that running it as a feature article wasn't out of the question and that I should send it his way so that he can look over it with the city editor. At the end of his e-mail he wrote, "Good luck on the road to journalism. It's not an easy one to travel, but I'm sure you'll be one of the exceptions!"
I reread the e-mail just to make sure I wasn't dreaming. He remembered me. He's going to read my article. He's going to show it to the city editor. Today Kelsey came over for a little workout session, and she was kind enough to look over and criticise my article. She loved it, and once she left, I sent it directly to Eddie. So its sent, sitting in his inbox waiting to be read. I don't know what he's going to say. On the one hand, he could read it and fall in love with it and tell the city editor that "we absolutely must feature 
this story in the paper. It will sell millions of copies and it would be a shame to let such talent go to waste". But on the other hand, he might say, "Dear MichElle... Thank you for submitting your article. Too bad it sucked".
Maybe it does suck. I don't know. He's the professional, and he'll be the one to decide whether or not its worthy of landing on the doorsteps of every home in Port Colborne. Rejection is part of the process, and I have to prepare myself if and when that happens. And if it does, will I be upset? Yes. Will that stop me from revising my work and resubmitting something, anything, until I get something in print? No. Because it isn't the world's fault I wanted to be an artist. So I have to quit my complaining and get back to work. 

On a side note, everyone, would you please do me a favour and become an official 'follower' on my blog? All you do is go to the right side of my blog page under the list of my post titles. Under there, you will see my current followers and click on the blue 'Join This Site' button. Its very simple to do and would mean a lot to me as I'm trying to get more official followers. Thank you!