Wednesday, December 30, 2009
I really don't like New Year's Eve, maybe it's because I've never had a particularly amazing one, but it has never seemed all that cool. (I mean when don't we stay up until 12 and drink too much?) Although Cait says everyone, "Has more purpose to their party," I'm not a fan. So I guess it was very convenient that my flight(s) back to Switzerland disallow me from going out. What I do love is the New Year and New Year's Resolutions. There is something so cathartic about having a set day to start over. Everyone always says, "Oh I'll start that _____ tomorrow." And there really isn't a better time to start something than January 1.
So here are my New Year's Resolutions:
1. Practice my French more often with more people.
2. Eat less Nutella.
3. Travel more.
4. Spend less money (Number 3 and Number 4 are always in constant conflict...I'll let you know who the winner is).
5. Get a real person job (Or if I can't do that, move to another exotic location and get a job far, far away from children).
6. Try to complain less about my job, and brag more about living abroad.
7. Learn how to pack lightly.
Yeah I threw that last one in there for good measure, I mean I'm 23, if that hasn't happened yet, will it ever?
My last day in the U.S.--worked on my resume with my dad (thanks dad!), shoveled the driveway, and attempted to fit all my clothes in the bag they came in... Wish me luck!
Have a safe and Happy New Year!!
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Bartender: "That will be $12."
Me: "I'm sorry, I missed that. How much again?"
Bartender: "Twelve dollars."
Me: "Are you joking?"
Bartender: "Yeah, nah it's actually $24."
Me: "Oh, okay!"
Bartender: "No, it really is $12."
Me: "Wow! Thank you so much!"
The bartender sort of cocked his head to the side but I didn't explain why I was in such disbelief. Twelve dollars for three beers?! Definitely not Semi-Swiss.
Happy Christmas Eve everyone!
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
My house at home I can flop on any couch, chair, floor, or anywhere really and read a book, or watch t.v. or chat with my parents about something. The same for my friend's house in Chicago where I just was, I am totally comfortable there. My house in Switzerland? Well I feel awkward sitting on the couch unless the family isn't home, so if I'm at the house I am pretty much holed up in my room (which isn't exactly private as Anna has to walk in and out to do laundry in the laundry room...). And you all wondered why I go out so much!
My privacy at Denison was very limited (if there was any at all) and that is how I loved it. Friends in and out of your room at all times was great! But let me tell you it's a different story when it's your employer walking in and out of your room. My house in Switzerland definitely doesn't compare with my home in Minnesota.
A house does not a home make.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
In my home I am notorious for leaving my clothes: in the floor, rolled in a ball. Since I’ve “grown up” (i.e. aged but not matured) I have grown to put my clothes into my closet, rolled in a ball. At least they are off the floor, right?
Well the problem is, when you shove things into a tight space they tend to take on the shape of that space, creating a wrinkled mess. Since I never learned the fine art of ironing (my dad was so disappointed I never took a “Home Ec.” Class) I’ve never been particularly fond of it, nor good at it. I wanted to change my sheets and when I pulled the ball from my closet I realized that these wrinkles were truly out of control. The cleaning lady here irons the sheets (yes, irons the sheets) so well that I have to unfold a sheet to figure out if it is a duvet cover or a bottom sheet (seriously, how can one fold a fitted sheet so well?!). I didn’t even know that work-shirts could be ironed, at my house they are always dry-cleaned—perhaps the dislike of ironing is genetic? Anyway back to my sheets. I don’t know how something that is flat and more or less square could be so difficult to iron. Every time I shifted it over to iron a new section the previous section would become wrinkly once more. I finally just gave up and will have to settle with semi-wrinkled sheets.
Oh also, if the cord of your iron gets stuck on your duvet cover do not, I repeat, do not yank it sending the iron crashing to the floor. My reflexes almost beat my brain as I reached to grab the iron but then I thought better of it. Of course two pieces of the iron broke—so now I’m not sure if I’m ironing on low or high heat (oops) but that sort of thing doesn’t matter, right?
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
In no particular order:
1. My weekend in Milan with Gabri (jealous Ellen?)
2. Any time I ate Nutella and/or a Kebab
3. Kylie’s blog (and Carambars)
4. My trip to Barcelona
5. How tan I was after my trip to Barcelona
6. The week I spent at their house in France (not just because the next week was my holiday and I kept singing Annie’s “Tomorrow”) because it’s full of history & I got to practice my French
7. Our hotel at the Matterhorn (50 CHF! And towels!)
8. Edi’s Weinstube (Thank you for offering the cheapest beer in Zürich)
9. The 4th of July party where I met Allison
10. The Swiss Superbowl
12. Street Parade
13. Coffee Mondays with Kate
14. That Thanksgiving dinner night that ended up in me “swimming” in Lake Zürich (freezing fyi)
15. Seeing old friends in new places
16. Going to new countries on a whim
18. Our trip to Interlaken
20. My Gleis 7
21. The mom of T.B.
22. Fondue, Raclette & Rösti--yumm
23. My gossip sessions with Anna that always go too late
24. No open container laws. (i.e. taking a bottle of wine from one bar to the next with Allison)
25. Kareokee with Laiza (especially hearing her sing!)
26. The au pair meeting
27. In a word: Oktoberfest. I don’t think I could have had a better time sleeping on a Metro Bench with any other people.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Yes, the kids have LICE again. (Insert my mother's audible gasp here. Which, by the way, is the appropriate response. Thank you mom for understanding how much this grosses me out.)
When Mark told me this morning that, "The kids have lice again!" it was along the same lines as hearing:
-"We're adopting a baby and it'll be here January 1! So now you have another to take care of!"
-"We're having a baby and decided you should be the surrogate mother!"
-"We talked to your mom and dad and decided that you are going to be our au pair for another year!"
-"The kids have the week off of school!"
-"The au pair meeting has been canceled indefinitely!"
-"You're not allowed to go out on weeknights anymore!"
Okay so maybe it wasn't that bad, but I've always been a little dramatic.
I think it's time to shave some heads...
Monday, December 14, 2009
In France they kiss on the cheek twice.
In Switzerland they either hug you or shake your hand and kiss you three times, for hello and goodbye.
I actually don't mind the greeting, I like that it seems to personal. At the end of my first lacrosse practice the girls on the team were doing it to me, and after I went out for drinks with some of the guys lacrosse players they did it too (only to girls I've noticed).
In America when I walked into a room with a bunch of my friends I'd say, "Hey guys!" but here you say, "Hey everyone," and then go and shake everyone's hand, kiss them and say hello. Even the kids on the bus do it. The other day a bunch of 5th-6th graders (I think?) were heading home from school and at each of their respective stops they shook everyone's hand and said bye to them. The same kids that a second before were hitting their friends and playing pranks on them. I like the personal greetings from Switzerland, but for those of you with a personal space bubble (I have none) you might not like it so much.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
At least it snowed (sort of) in Zürich today. It's been raining (what?! It's December!) a lot so the snow was a welcome change.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
So this morning I took my baby (yes I will call an inanimate object a baby and a real baby a "thing") to the Apple store in Zürich and it wouldn't even turn on. You know how when cars have issues and you take it to the shop it no longer has the problem, well my computer had the opposite. Now it had so many problems I didn't know where to start. The wonderful Apple Genius Bar technician got the screen to work and did all these tests and said, "Yeah, I think it is the hard drive. I hope we can recover your stuff, we'll try really hard." So of course I tried not to cry because, of course, I don't have an external hard drive (will obtain one ASAP). I thought of all my papers, all my music, all my pictures down the drain. The only silver lining to this storm cloud was that my computer is under warranty for 19 more days (god bless the three year warranty) so it would be free to replace the hard-drive and 100 CHF if they were able to recover and transfer my files. The lovely Karin said they would probably be done today, and definitely by Monday and that they would call me as soon as it was fixed. I told her, "If you can only save some things, please save the pictures and the music first! The papers are secondary!" Sort of like with sinking ships, "Save the women and children first"--come on three years of pictures is more important to me than a paper I wrote on 18th Century British literature...
I went to breakfast with one of my friends (hard to eat with the nervous/anxious pit filling your stomach) and kept my phone in my lap, just in case the store called. They called at noon. My new hard drive was in and they were able to save my files!!! I nearly cartwheeled across the tables!! I danced back into the Apple store and retrieved my baby. The man just handed it to me and I [stupidly] said, "Don't I need to pay?" But he said the most magical words, "Nope, it is all covered under warranty." I checked to make sure things were working and my iTunes didn't load--so naturally I freaked out a little. Karin said I just needed the updates and it would all be fine. So I did a very un-Swiss but very American thing, I hugged her. I love Apple, because even in another country they fixed my computer in less than three hours for free.
They even managed to save my 18th Century British Literature papers!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
I hate Tuesdays. Seriously. It's not exactly a new thing (Tuesday was one of the only nights we didn't go out at Denison--meaning that you would have to go to the library and/or study, there is nothing good on T.V. on Tuesdays--not that I would know now) my disdain for Tuesdays. My first Tuesday in Switzerland and second day on the job I realized that I didn't like this job (to put in nicely) and told my mom and friend explicitly why. So Tuesdays are just full of I-hate-my-stinking-Swiss-life thoughts. I can't help it. My typical Tuesday goes: get the kids dressed, fed and onto the bus. Hang with T.B. until noon, home to finish my french homework, French lesson from 2-3, and kids get home at 3:45, force Mark to do some homework before swimming (painful), Mark goes to swim and I take Stephanie & French teacher's son to swim lessons (even more painful), come home with two tired, cranky, annoying children, hang up wet stuff while setting table and making dinner and trying to keep my sanity. I don't know how regular parents (i.e. parents without hired "help") do it, let alone single parents.
Yesterday I had this epiphany: there are some things in life that you love and are great at (reading, spending money, talking on the phone and/or text messaging), things in life that you love but aren't so great at (lacrosse and squash, packing for trips), things in life that you are bad at and hate (chemisty) and then things that you hate and a great at (being an au pair).
Okay so hate is a strong word, but hey, it [was] a Tuesday.
And today being Wednesday I'm in a much better mood! Especially since Mark, although he has a "cough", chose to go to school when his mom told him he could stay home (staying home means that I stay home too). Also it's my friend Jack's birthday and since I don't know how to change the picture on my heading (sorry) I thought I'd post this stalker-shot he took when he visited Zürich to appease him. Happy Birthday!
Monday, December 7, 2009
- Babies can have hiccups. Apparently it does not mean they are going to choke, but just digesting.
- They pretty much poop, eat and sleep (not necessarily in that order).
- People don't exactly appreciate it when you refer to babies as things or nuggets (which they are).
- You pretty much don't have to entertain them (especially if you are a baby whisperer).
- They can't talk back.
- It (I mean a baby) will spit up on you when you look your best but not when you're in gym clothes.
- Baby spit-up is disgusting.
- As are dirty diapers.
- You have to be really prepared when taking babies anywhere. We go on walks every day (so she will sleep and I can read the family's collection of Dave Barry books) and I have to take: a blanket, bottle, formula to make a bottle, hot water in a Thermos for the bottle, Evian (what the heck!) for the cold water part of her bottle, change of clothes, diapers, wipes, outside pad to change diaper, cloth to wipe it's spit-up, toy, actual baby, rain-fly, hat, extra socks/shoes, pacifier, sunlight shield and a hazmat suit (you never know).
- All this fits on the stroller which is roughly the same size and weight as a Jeep Wrangler. This stroller could comfortably seat a family of four and cart them over the Alps, I have no doubt.
- I like to be outside so I'm happy to take TB on walks. Her parents insist that she loves to be outside but I wouldn't know because every single day, by the time we get to the end of the driveway, she is asleep.
- Burping babies isn't optional. I guess their stomachs hurt if you don't burp them and they will be especially vomit-y if you don't.
- When you wear dark clothes the baby vomit/spit-up/grossness will be white. However, if you are wearing white, it will be orange or green or the color of the vegetable du jour.
- For every bite of food I put in TB's mouth three bites come out. I think it might be some sort of baby-magic that more food can come out than goes in.
- New baby smell is a lie. I swear it. I know because this baby is still pretty fresh from the oven and only after a bath does she have that "baby smell". So it's a lie. It's clean baby scent that those creepy people that smell babies like.
- I think all babies look alike. Of course the bald (future blonde) ones and the beautiful brunette ones and eye color makes them look different but TB has brown eyes and brown hair and looks like just me when I was a nugget. If they have the same coloring all babies look the same.
- It is near impossible not to use a "baby voice" when dealing with one.
See the brunette baby is having more fun.
And you can tell it apart from those other nuggets.
Lastly TB's mom was telling me a story today and she asked her son if he had fun with me last week. And he said, "Yeah, Jill is really nice and fun. And TB really loves her." So even though I call it a thing TB really does enjoy my company!
Saturday, December 5, 2009
I still don't think I could turn it on.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Wednesday I got up and went upstairs to make the kids' snack for school, and at the top of the stairs was a "Happy Birthday!" sign and some balloons--I loved it because it looks like the one my family puts up every year (except in our house it was for a certain person's 50th birthday so every birthday we tape a piece of paper over with the person's age--Carr family ghetto fabulous). Mark came down (already dressed--yes!) and wished me a happy birthday and gave me a card from the family.
"Happy 23rd Birthday Jill! Best wishes. I hope you have lots of presents!" --Mark
"I weh ywe a happy birthday? Jill (backwards J). Stephanie. (Translation: I wish you a happy birthday Jill)
Very cute and thoughtful and Anna explained that they would really celebrate at our dinner on Friday. As I was helping Stephanie get dressed she started talking about presents. Not presents for me of course, but presents that they thought my dog might like for Christmas (my dog is a big topic of conversation here, both children would like him to come for a visit). After they got on the bus I made myself a lovely breakfast and read through my birthday e-mails--sounds dull but it was seriously great, thank you to everyone by the way. Since it was a Wednesday we had the nanny meeting and I had planned on getting there early (okay well on time) for once to have birthday mimosas. The phone rings at 9:15--its Will. Conversation as follows--my thoughts are in italics:
W: Hi Jill, were you just about to leave?
J: No I'm leaving in about 20 minutes.
W: Perfect, could you send me an e-mail attachment. I guess it didn't work last night.
J: Sure thing. It must be important if he needs it now.
W: Okay just go up and turn on the computer and I'll call back in a minute.
I go up & turn on computer. Finish reading my e-mails. Ten minutes elapse. Shoot I really need to get going, but I'm sure he really needs this. Should I go get ready? I don't want to be downstairs when he calls. I know, I'll go get my stuff and bring it up here, so I'm ready once he calls back. Get dressed, decide not to do my hair (surprise!) because I won't hear the phone ring. Friends at the au pair meeting call/text to see when I'm coming. Put all my stuff by the door so I can run out immediately after.
9:36 realize I won't make the bus. Text Will to see if he still needs e-mail.
9:55 Will calls back, "Sorry got another call." Signs me on to his e-mail and has me attempt to send Mark's Power Point BOOK REPORT. The book report of a 3rd grader? Really? Really?? This is what I waited 40 minutes for? It doesn't work. Will says, "Oh well, thanks for trying. Have a good day." I am now supremely annoyed but I get to the au pair meeting and everyone sings "Happy Birthday" and my wonderful friends even gave me a couple equally wonderful and thoughtful gifts. I go to buy champagne and orange juice (hey I needed a birthday mimosa!) and at the check-out I got carded!!!
Then I realized, wait, you have to be 16 to buy wine/beer in Switzerland. She thought I looked under 16!! Then I thought, is that a good thing or a bad thing?
After the meeting my great friends Kristen & Jen took me to lunch (the Swiss take on Mexican food) which was great. I picked up the kids from French--the wonderful mom of the baby (the turkey lady from last Friday) was surprised and felt terrible that she didn't know it was my birthday--which she made up for by giving me a very generous gift the following day!--and we came home. I got Mark ready for hockey, and Stephanie ready to skate with me and that's when the day started to go downhill. Mark was freaking out because he wanted a hot dog after practice (I know I love hot dogs but a hissy-fit? Over a hot dog?) and Stephanie was just totally wiped and cranky. We skated, had a post-hockey hissy fit because the restaurant was closed so hot dogs weren't even available, and by the time we walked in the door I couldn't wait to get out of there to go meet my friends.
My friends had planned to go out with me and celebrate my birthday and we were going to meet at 8:30--because I figured they'd let me leave at least somewhat early. We walked in and Anna was on her way out to water aerobics class. She said, "I'm sorry you have to work on your birthday." And I smiled and said it was fine because I thought Will would be home momentarily to relieve me so I could leave. Dinner, dishes, shower and pjs and still no Will. I was getting more and more annoyed when the phone finally rings at 8:20. He said Anna would be home around 8:45 (she got home at 9) and his train got in at 9:25 so I could drive the car down and get on the train and he'd drive it up. I couldn't believe it. I didn't think Anna meant "I'm sorry you have to work later than usual, without notice, on your birthday." And to make matters worse Stephanie and Mark were being little shits. I swear that isn't a harsh statement, actually I think it's being rather generous and kind. They were whining and crying, being rude to me and I could not take it. I had already snapped at Mark earlier and told him off for speaking to me like I was stupid and when Stephanie was crying and throwing a hissy fit because she wanted her mom I snapped, "What and I don't want my mom?! At least yours will be home in ten minutes, so BE QUIET."
When you're pissed off on your birthday it's hard to be Susie Sunshine with annoying kids.
I finally got into Zürich at 9:45 and met my friends at the train station. We got a beer and headed to some of our favorite bars. Having au pair friends are great because they don't just listen to you but they can understand and oftentimes tell you a story to make you feel better about your situation. (We also met this very drunk and funny student who studied for two years in Indiana and was a Theta Chi--go dad!) We met up with a friend of one of the girls and his boss but they took us to this great tavern/bar and by the end of the night everyone was speaking French and I was thoroughly enjoying myself (more because of the French, not because of the Swiss wine).
So despite the ups & downs it was a pretty good birthday.
Tonight they took me for dinner (fondue, yumm!) to actually celebrate my birthday. It was up a mountain so we had an incredible view of Lake Zürich and all the Zürich suburbs--it was totally gorgeous. Right as we sat down we had a champagne toast and the fondue was incredible. After we finished eating the lights went down and this Swiss-German song came on and I looked around at Will & Anna who looked very guilty. Although we couldn't understand it when I heard the word "Geburstag" (birthday) I knew this hooplah was for me. They brought out a flaming dessert and the family gave me birthday gifts. The first thing Anna gave me were the cards from my parents, which she said had just arrived today (she said she wasn't hiding them from me). And Stephanie bought me a pair of Swiss flag slippers which she picked out on her own (re: tacky and great). She said, "I wanted you to remember living in Switzerland and remember me too." Makes you forget that only two nights earlier you wanted to throw her out the window. Will & Anna gave me a beautiful pearl bracelet (real I know, thanks to the trick my dad taught me) with a Swiss edelweiss charm on it. And lastly Mark gave me (wait for it dad) a Swiss Army knife!! So now that can go into my purse so it will be complete.
The dinner was great and it was nice to celebrate my birthday but I still don't think it compares to the pizza party in the library last year, or the Absynthe shots on my 21st. I realized that birthdays, no matter how many presents, are only really special when you get to celebrate them with people you really care about.
So my last evening as a 22 year old (Tuesday) I went to the Grade Two & Three Christmas concert at Mark & Stephanie's school. We were pulling out of the driveway and Mark asks Stephanie, " Stephanie, who do you like better, Jill or Daddy?" She immediately points to me and I tense up and shake my head. Mark not noticing her response asks it again. "Jill," she says aloud this time. Awkward. I tell Mark that that isn't a nice question to ask (though internally I was thinking, "Well duh.") and pretend like that didn't just happen. Oops.
Now the concert was only about 30 minutes but I made some observations there: I think elementary school music teachers are either bound for saint-hood, or partially crazy. (Plus I believe they all have the same green and red plaid blazer). This woman asks these kids to make more noise than they already do, and maintains a cheery disposition. I think my mom taught music for a while, so she's gotta be on track for saint-hood, but this lady? Definitely crazy. The kids also sang weird holiday songs--what happened to Dradle, Dradle, Dradle, or Silent Night? S.A.N.T.A. (apparently a disco-esque song complete with disco balls...) was not what I was expecting but it was pretty funny. After the concert the parents were all talking and the dad of Mark's best friend came up and said, "Wasn't that just wonderful? I think it's really special when kids sing." "Uhh yeah, especially painful," I thought. Makes me appreciate my dad for sitting through all our church choir performances because I can only imagine how bad they must have been!
I promise to write about my birthday soon (I feel like the day is a perfect example of how my mood swings as an au pair) but first: The Swine Flu. The Swine Flu (H1N1, or as I like to call it "La Cochon Grippe"--everything sounds better in French) finally came to Switzerland. People were freaking out, parents were nervous, but the Swiss being the Swiss were prepared. Many doctors were offering the vaccination and last week Anna called me and said the dreaded words, "Jill, can I talk to you for a minute?" Now those words, I think, are about the last anyone wants to hear (not from a teacher, not from an employer, not from anyone) and when she said, "Well I just wanted to let you now we are going to get the Swine Flu shot. Now you can get it if you want, it is a personal decision, but if you want it it's available and of course we'll pay for it." I don't think I've ever been so relieved to hear I might get pricked with a needle! (Will also called later that day and said the same sentence, but he was only asking if the family could take me out to dinner for my birthday--which we are doing tonight). I decided to get the shot, why not I guess, and yesterday I walked in to this clinic at the main train station, filled out a form, told them I had health insurance (they didn't even look at my card) and they stuck me with a needle. Probably took about 12 minutes in total. As I walked out I asked where I should pay and they said, "Nope, you don't pay." Man, I love Switzerland. Anna had hers on Saturday and she had a really bad reaction to it, I am feeling very flu-ish but not too swine-y... yet.
Thanks for all the birthday cards & e-mails! Ellen--yours was too funny. I tried to tell my friends later about the practical joke one and I couldn't even explain it because I was laughing too hard at the thought of it. You can make up for the fact that you sent Gabri a package by coming to visit me!
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
It's weird because a year ago if some one had asked me where I'd be on my 23 birthday my answer would have been sub-Saharan Africa with the Peace Corps, not ice skating with a five year old in Switzerland (and my last evening as a 22 year old wouldn't have been spent going to a Christmas concert of an eight year old). It just goes to show you how things can change in a year! Since I love a good list I thought I'd compile one of
- Graduated from college
- Made it through senior week alive
- Managed to get a job in a foreign country
- Managed to get a Visa
- Moved to a new country
- Traveled to a couple new countries
- Learned some French (did well on my test today by the way!)
- Got health insurance on my own (which is hard anywhere but harder in a foreign country)
- Didn't become a social hermit (aka I made friends) in the new country
- Got people to read my blog (gotcha!)
- Re-kindled my love affair with Nutella
- Learned how to pack lightly (Just kidding! I wouldn't want to go too overboard)
- Become fluent in French
- Travel more (Korea here I come)
- Save money (kind of hard with the above goal)
- Get a "real job"
- Get a "real job" in a foreign country
Also I'd like to say thanks to all the people who read this, I really do appreciate it (and of course, the people who comment!). And thanks to Jess because 1. her e-mail made my Thanksgiving 2. she threw me a birthday pizza party in the library last year (which was impressive because she got pizzas delivered to the library and kicked someone out of study room so we could take a break from the pre-finals workload!) I love & miss you Jess!
Monday, November 30, 2009
There are two daily staples to what I wear (aside from the running clothes every morning): my hair in a ponytail (it's either sleep or do my hair in the morning--clearly the choise is obvious) and a Longchamp.
A Le Pliage Longchamp is a type of purse that can also be classified as Mary Poppins' Bag Part 3 (Part 1 being the actual Mary Poppins bag and Part 2 being that damn Vera Bradley duffel bag). These bags can hold anything and everything. On any given day I will usually be dragging my large red one or the small grey one. I love them (the grey one too much--time to let that bad boy go) because they hold so much.
Here's a sample of my daily purse contents:
-1/2 filled water bottle (with water fountains all over Zürich who needs to fill it all the way up?!)
-Earlier in the year it was a jacket and/or scarf--now it's gloves and a hat
-Smaller Vera Bradley wristlet thing (yes Moll I know you hate them) filled with "emergency stuff": chapstick, matches (?!), eyedrops, Redskins pin (!?), allergy medicine, Neosporin, and a CPR breathing face-shield (never can be too prepared)
-Wallet & Public Transit Pass
-2-3 things of chapstick rolling around in the bottom
-Pens & Mechanical Pencil
-Small notebook to make my ever present To Do lists
-My Planner (everyone at the au pair meeting knows how attached I am to it)
-Map of Europe (Thanks Dad)
-Book and/or iPod
-1 toy/hair clip/accessory for a child
-Anywhere between 4 and 27 bobby pins & a safety pin or two
If I have my French lesson or French homework I have my books in the bag.
Or magazines to bring to the au pair meeting.
And if I go out at night I will undoubtedly stick my flats to wear after the 20 minutes of wearing heels--I don't even know why I own heels because I hate them so.
I know all this stuff isn't necessary to carry around all the time but I swear if I ever forget my First Aid supplies my eyes will get itchy (stupid cats) and/or I will cut myself and need the Neosporin.
Sorry for the lame post--Promise to be more interesting soon but I've got to go study for my French test demain!
Saturday, November 28, 2009
The kids have another winter break in February and their grandmother has offered to take them skiing. Anna apologized because the resort where they're staying doesn't have single rooms and they would feel bad if I stayed in the suite with the family, plus the kids love being with their grandma so they might not have a lot for me to do (aside from ski) et cetera et cetera... She feels bad when they't take me on a trip but really, it doesn't bother me. Why? Because it means VACATION!
And my vacation from February 13-21? Visiting my brother in South Korea!
I'm going to Korea!
And the flight was only $650!!
And I'm going to see my brother! In Korea!
Sorry for the overuse of exclamation marks, I couldn't help it. I'm too excited!
Friday, November 27, 2009
The baby is a typical baby but the mom is a real gem. She's one of Anna's friends (Turkish but spent most of her life in Paris, married to an American) and Anna said she can be really intense. She expects a lot out of her nine year old son and she warned me that she might be the same way (re: intense) with me. To my surprise and happiness, the mom (we will call her Michelle) is the bomb. She's appreciative, warm, funny and just great to be around. Sometimes I can't help but think, "Man I wish I were her au pair." (And not just because they have a great guest bedroom with a bathroom downstairs...).
I knew I would like Michelle the first time we met. She was talking about her baby and she said, "I mean, she's alright... For a baby." Knowing that your child isn't god's gift to humanity? You're alright in my book Michelle. Also in her directions for care of the six month old thing (whoops, I knew it would slip out!) she said, "Well she mostly just plays on her mat. Sometimes she rolls over and can't get back, so mostly I need you to roll her back." Dear Michelle, I love you.
Spending most of her life in France Michelle clearly speaks French and she is happy and willing to help me in my linguistic pursuits. The first week I was there she bought me a book from an afternoon trip to France (when you live in Switzerland you can just take an afternoon trip to France/Italy/Liechtenstein/Germany--neat huh?) to help me practice. She speaks to me in French which always helps (even if my response is a lot of nodding and "d'accord"). And she plays French nursery rhymes so I can practice my pronunciation. She even lent me Friends DVDs (in French with English subtitles) so I could watch something I understood.
Michelle is also really helpful in terms of jobs. Prior to the baby she worked full time (even when her nine year old was an infant) as a financial analyst. She went to one of the best business schools in Paris and is incredibly intelligent. When I said I was starting the Swiss job search she said she'd be happy to look over my Swiss CV (different than a US resumé) and have interview practice with me. Have I mentioned I love you?
Perhaps the best part about Michelle though is that I feel really comfortable around her. Sure we have a mutual love of Patagonia but it is more than that. Today we talked about my brother and his past girlfriends... Well one in particular. (She-who-shall-not-be-named--Jack & M & Howie you know who I'm talking about. And I swear Jack, if you marry her...) Anyway! We can just chat and laugh at ourselves, I think she's happy to have the company of some one other than a baby and I'm just always happy to have company! Also today: her family is going to another American family's house for a Thanksgiving dinner tonight (Friday night so their kids could stay up later on a non-school night). When she called and asked the woman what she could bring the woman gave her the turkey! So this French woman, who has never cooked a turkey before, had this fifteen pound bird on the counter today. She had made the stuffing earlier (with lots & lots of Cognac-- a "French twist" she called it) and was trying to figure out where to stuff the stuffing. When I walked into the kitchen she was examining the bird with rubber medical gloves on. It's a good thing she has a good sense of humor because I could not stop laughing at her. The hole to stuff the stuffing was really small (I told her we, i.e. my mom, just cooks it outside of the bird) and she was wondering how she could get it in there. She was standing the bird up on the counter when I suggested just cutting some of the skin to make the hole bigger. She had called a friend earlier to ask where to stuff it exactly and when the friend advised to not stuff it in the head hole Michelle replied, "What? I'm not an idiot! I didn't put it in the head hole." And of course, she had. They called back and told her to sew up the turkey after stuffing it (say what?) so we had to take it out of the oven and she sewed the turkey back up. But she didn't have the correct thread so she used silk. We were like an Amelia Bedilia book of Thanksgiving disasters...
I hope the turkey came out well enough and I can't wait to return on Monday and ask Michelle how it went.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Since it's Thanksgiving I composed a little list of what I am thankful for.
I'm Thankful For:
- Nutella (AND Carambars! I still love both Kylie)
- Not having student loans (Thanks M&D)
- Public transportation (even though I was not thankful that my bus smelled like a combination of urine and vomit this afternoon)
- Thanksgiving dinner with Kate!
- That the family remembered a) my birthday next week (Note to M&D: My birthday=next Wednesday, in case you forgot) and b) Thanksgiving today
- My friends & family home & abroad
- To be living in Switzerland!
- And last, but certainly not least, this afternoon as I was Christmas shopping (also thankful that I'm halfway done!) in Zürich I tripped up the sidewalk--the sidewalk went up and I did not--(hey, it happens) and I ripped my jeans. And not on the knees where I fell, it was back upper thigh area, leaving me embarrassed, and slightly chilly, and I'll bet you're wondering why I'm thankful for this. I'm just thankful that it wasn't my favorite pair of jeans!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Now as a very punctual person (like I said last time, my dad instilled that quality in me from an early age) I hate to be late. It give me anxiety and nerves when I feel late, so I try to avoid that as often as possible. Now that I live in perhaps the most punctual country in the world, I am constantly late. Especially for public transportation. (Oh the irony)
I have two options for buses in my town--one that takes me seven minutes to the train station or one that takes me 20 minutes directly into Zürich, both come twice per hour. The annoying thing is they come 14 and 17 (and 44, 47) respectively--so if I miss one, I usually miss the other. In Switzerland, at least on the buses, if no one is waiting at the stop or if no one on the bus wants to get off the bus, the bus will just drive by the stop. Fortunately for me, both of my buses are the last (or first, depending on how you look at it) stop on the line, so it has to wait until the designated departure time.
The bus drivers for the bus in my town are pretty familiar with me. Because at about Xhour 13 minutes and 47 seconds I, without fail, come tearing around the corner and run like a bat out of hell to my stop. Usually they smile and open the door for me. This is not exactly the case with the Zürich direct bus. Lately, as I've been running to the bus, it's driven off without me. I'm so close but I don't make it. Of course I will not wait around for a half hour so I do the only logical thing: I cut it off. No, I do not run into the street and force myself on, but this bus takes a longer route and from my runs to Zürich I know a shortcut. So I turn around and run (like a bat out of hell again) down this hill (Cait you know how I hate to sprint downhill) and cut it off. I have four minutes to make it and I always do. Of course I'm always sweating and out of breath, but hey, I make it!
It happened again today, and when I got on the bus the driver said (in Swiss German), "Was that you at the top?"
Bus Driver: "Why didn't you wave your arms? We could have stopped!"
Me: "Oh. Well, the running is good for me."
Bus Driver: "You usually run in dresses?"
Well no, but I didn't want to be late.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Now I haven't learned to love fly fishing like my dad (sorry dad, I don't see it happening in the near future) but my need to be on time definitely stems from him. How many times did I hear, "If you're not early, you're late" on our way somewhere? Much to my mother's dismay I learned the motto "It's about looking good, not feeling good." (I think the first time I heard this was when he took me to my first NFL game Giants vs. Redskins & I didn't want to wear the 30+ layers my mother probably wanted). I also developed the need to schedule all my classes at college in the morning (he did it so he could do his homework in the afternoon and go out at night, I did it so I could go play squash with Howie and then go out at night--so not totally similar). I get my tendency to boss people around from my father (those who are directly related to him can attest to that characteristic of his...)--but I swear, those people need my directions! One trait that I definitely acquired from my father is an uncanny ability to handle babies.
Now for those of you who know my father when you look at him you're first thought probably isn't "Man, I bet he's good with babies." It's probably more along the lines of, "Who is that man casting with a fishing rod on his front lawn?" But my dad loves babies. If there's one in the room he can be found making faces at him/her and goofing off with him/her. He'd rather sit and play with a baby during a big holiday meal than eat the meal--madness.
But my dad doesn't just like babies, he's got a secret baby-power. You've heard of The Horse Whisperer? Well my dad is the Baby Whisperer. My mom said when when Jack was younger and fussy/screaming/crying (I don't include myself in this because from what I can recall I was a perfect baby) my dad would arrive home from work, she would hand him the screaming baby and in minutes Jack would be fast asleep. My dad calls it, "the sleeper hold," (wrestling pun intended) and I've never seen it not work. Now he puts the sleeper hold on the grandchildren of his friends. There is a lot of speculation as to how he does this, his friends joke that he must just tell the babies his fishing tales (sure to put them right to sleep!) but I know it's something more. I've been so fortunate as to inherit this trait as well. Like I said, I've been seeing this baby a bunch, and she always falls asleep when she's around me. I took her out in Zürich last week and from the moment we got to the end of the driveway to the moment we were going back up the driveway, two and a half hours later, the baby slept like a rock. Sometimes it's hard for her to fall asleep, but all I have to do is pretend to close my eyes and poof! she's out. Her mom said the other day, "I don't know how you do it, she never, ever sleeps when she's around me. The second you come she sleeps for hours."
I didn't mention that my father and I are just natural baby whisperers.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
It did make me think that perhaps I am living in the wrong part of Switzerland to be learning French... My problem is (aside from the paralyzing fear that my native English-speaking ways will be exposed and I will be an outcast in Geneva) that whenever I don't know the word in French I always know it in German and vice-versa. When I'm forming a sentence in French and cannot remember a word, all I can think of is the German word, it clouds my brain and I just start to mumble "Uhh, umm," as if that will let the person know that I'm really trying to remember this word and that I know it, or at least I did at one point! I think if we combined German and French I might be halfway fluent in another language!
So seven hours later I meet Gill & Casey at the airport. Tangent: (Thought people might get sick of my constant tangents so feel free to skip ahead) I have been so fortunate with the friends I've made and the people I've met during my tenure here. They are great, fabulous, fun, funny: all the things you'd want in group(s) of friends, but there is something to be said for old friends. They're like you're favorite shirt, or a security blanket/stuffed animal (which, by the way, I never had. The forgotten youngest child... Jack had a blanket and animal) so comfortable to come back to and you can put them on wherever and instantly feel at ease. Seeing friends from school reminded me that I am not just an au pair--it was comforting and comfortable and a blast.
Alright back to Geneva: We went back in to Geneva and that's when I realized that we didn't have a place to stay. I felt bad because I could have easily found somewhere that day but naturally, I didn't even think about it. We went into a couple of hotels (out of the price range) and eventually found the Geneva Youth Hostel which was awesome. The accommodations were great, the price (including breakfast & public transportation pass!), everything. The woman at the front desk asked if we minded sharing a room with a loud snorer--we all said no, and really, how bad could it be? After dropping our stuff we decided to go out in search for dinner. We found a restaurant serving up typical Swiss fare: fondue and rösti (essentially hash browns & whatever else you want in it) and it wasn't too expensive! We finished around 12:30, found a sketchy shop to sell us two bottles of wine and headed back to the hostel (we thought we might be able to make some new friends--nope) had a bottle and fell into bed around 2 am. We were wondering about the snorer but when we opened the door the room was silent. We all climbed to our top bunks, settled into our beds when we heard it. The loud, guttural snore of what I think has to be the love-child of a black bear and lumberjack. Of course, we started laughing (which did not wake the beast, I mean woman--who also was about 65. Why are you still in the Youth Hostel buddy?) She was also, of course, sleeping directly under me, so I tried to jostle the bed a bit to no avail. It wasn't even one of those snores that you could get used to, it changed pitch, tempo, volume--and after a bottle of wine it seemed even funnier. Eventually we all did fall asleep and woke early Sunday to get started on our Geneva day. Despite the rain we visited the United Nations Headquarters and the Red Cross/ Red Crescent Museum. The RC/RC Museum was terribly interesting and horrifying at the same time. All the services and aid that they provide--pretty incredible (go donate blood/time/money!)--and it makes one want to work for the Red Cross. After that we headed back into the main part of Geneva to look at what all the tourist attractions called this great clock made of flowers. Well we were less than impressed with the clock and more than soaked from the rain so we went back to the hostel got my stuff, grabbed lunch and I made it to my two pm train back to Zürich (I had to babysit tonight).
It was a great weekend and always good to see familiar faces in unfamiliar places!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
That is awesome.
There are some other awesome things (though maybe none as exciting as realizing I can read French!):
- The other day I was grabbing money from my secret stash to go with Stephanie to buy a birthday present (don't worry mom, I was reimbursed. And also why is: a) Hello! Kitty so popular still? b) Why is it so expensive?! Thirteen francs for a pen?! Oh yeah... it's Switzerland) and I realized that I had one more 100 CHF bill than I thought! It was like when you find a $20 in your jacket pocket... but five times better.
- My friend Kylie's blog. It is clever, well written, creative and definitely funnier than mine. (Plus she loves Nutella too).
- SuperSaver Tickets. You can look up & buy cheaper train tickets. Saving money? Always awesome.
- I am seeing friends from Denison this weekend in Geneva! Traveling=awesome. Traveling to meet up with Denisonians=even better.
- The au pair meeting on Wednesdays.
- Family members reading your blog (Hi Uncle Joe & Aunt La & Uncle Jerry!)
- Hearing American teenagers. I know this sounds weird, because teenagers are pretty annoying (I know, I was one) but I heard a bunch of them on the bus this evening and it's nice to know that even though these kids are living in Switzerland, teenagers are still teenagers, no matter the country.
- Wednesday after the au pair meeting I was walking around town with my friend Kate. It was a beautiful "downright balmy" (as Kate put it) November day, we were walking around a gorgeous European city--and this is our "job." That's awesome. And to make it even better? We decided, at 2:30 in the afternoon, to enjoy Zürich a little more with a beer. No open container rule? Not to be redundant, but that's awesome.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Many of you might remember my friend Allison from my first posts about Switzerland. She was my very first friend (and a Minnesotan at that!) here in Switzerland and was the reason I had so much fun those first few weeks (well her and the football team that we went out with!). Unfortunately Allison has left the country for a couple of months while the Swiss government approves her work visa. Apparently when you want to start a company you have to comply with all the rules and regulations--like not being an illegal alien. She will be back (no option Allison, we are getting that apartment your family thinks we already have) but I am definitely bummed that she won't be here until January/February. All you Minnesotans--watch out! She's back!
So here a few extremely valuable things that Allison taught me: (wow this sounds so sappy)
- When people tell you it's okay for you to come along, they mean it. (And in the case of her and Kevin not make you feel like a 3rd wheel. Actually it was Kevin that was usually the 3rd wheel when we were together...)
- That drinks are incredibly expensive in Switzerland--and it's okay to bitch about it.
- The Zuschlag (or however you spell it)--This is the 5 CHF supplement to your ticket that you have to buy when you take the night train. If you don't have this it's a large fine. She & Kevin taught me this on our first night out in Switzerland... I also wouldn't have been out in Zürich that night if I hadn't met her.
- That age doesn't matter. Unless its six und zwanzig! Kidding!
- That it is okay to live abroad and still like America.
- She was the first person that told me she read my blog on her own accord (so this excludes the people required to read this--M&D) and that she thought it was good & a little funny. (Probably because she was in all of my first posts but that's okay!)
- Some cool pilates moves.
- Girlfriends and girls' nights are a necessity.
- Starbucks isn't so bad (did I just say that?!)
- That baked goods are dangerous but really thoughtful.
- That a Swiss resumé is different than one from the States.
- That it is really fun to talk to some one about your home and have them know exactly where and what you are describing.
- That you do feel better after running up and down hills. (I said after not during)
- She's the kind of friend that can convince you to go out, stay out later than you planned and have a better time than you thought you could!
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
The childcare industry necessitates a lot of flexibility. One day the child goes to the doctor and the next day he's got a gluten allergy--I get it. But, with that being said, the parents need to provide the childcare-giver some information.
So here is my inconclusive list of things au pairs (and other care givers) should know:
-allergies (food, medication, seasonal and otherwise)
-any allergy that requires one to stick a needle into him/her to keep child alive
-health issues: prone to ear infections/pink eye/et cetera? Let me know!
-LICE. LICE. LICE. Please don't let your au pair find out from the eight year old while he is RUBBING HIS HEAD AGAINST YOUR SHIRT.
In third grade there was a lice epidemic (yes epidemic) in my class. Now as a self-proclaimed "dirty kid" (I hate to shower. Seriously it's too much work for too little payoff) even I took great pains to avoid it. Just my luck to stay lice-free it in a classroom filled with lice-y children only to be struck down at the age of 22! Sure I don't know if I have it or not (I will shave Mark's head myself if I do) but I'm already feeling itchy....
(And don't pretend like you wouldn't be dramatic about it either. I have an au pair friend who used rubber gloves to bathe one of her lice-infected children... I think I might wear them all the time!)
Monday, November 16, 2009
So since we all know I go out, and when I go out I have a "cold adult beverage" or two, and sometimes that results in not feeling your best the next morning. Well let me tell you, Switzerland is a pretty great country to have a hangover in. 1. Everyone's quiet on public transportation. They even have quiet cars in the trains for people who want to be really, really quiet. 2. Free water! All the fountains in Switzerland (unless otherwise labeled) are flowing clean, cold water. All you have to do is bring your own bottle and you've got water! (Although, my friend Aubree pointed out that yes the water is free, but they make you pay for public toilets!--Which is true, but there are a couple of free bathrooms, all of which I have made a mental note of). 3. Nothing is open on Sundays... Except the junkie food restaurants/stores! Too much to drink and no food at home? Well since you can't go to the market and get stuff for a salad you have to eat a kebab! No guilt there, because you physically can't get to the good food!
So not that this happens to me a lot, but Switzerland is definitely a good place to suffer through a hangover. (Got that Howie? Now come visit me!)
Saturday, November 14, 2009
There are a couple things that no au pair should have to endure (but does). These things go along the lines of ironing the boxers of an eight year old...
1. The "sneak attack" babysitting. Like, for instance, having "weekends free," in your contract, but the family may ask you to babysit on an occasional weekend night. Occasional I can do, I am happy to do even. Not at least once a weekend for eight consecutive weekends... Oh and that trip you, the au pair, wanted to take in December to Vienna? You know how you, the au pair, said it could either be the first or second weekend in December and that you'd be willing to work around the parents' schedule (meaning her sister's birthday party in Paris that the kids can't go to because they can't miss Catechism again) to fit her trip in... Only to find out (from your French teacher) that the following weekend they have RSVPed to a party Friday night thus cancelling your trip? That sort of sneak attack babysitting.
2. Summer homework. As I have already lamented about summer homework I won't go into it. But making your au pair make your children do homework in the summer time is just cruel and unusual punishment.
3. Speaking of cruel and unusual punishment... I've been thinking of them a lot, because if/when I meet Mark's music teacher there will be a world of hurt coming towards her. I'm sorry what music teacher gives a 3rd grader A RECORDER?? (Only the world's most annoying instrument next to the kazoo). I remember getting a recorder in the 5th grade, sure it was still annoying but I'm not sure we got to take them home. (And if we did then I apologize to my mom & dad. Certainly taking the instrument home is a way of punishing parents/au pairs--it's so exciting and new that all the child wants to do is play it over and over. Cruel.
4. Extra curricular activities. Actually I kind of like them. I get to hang out for an hour or so while some one else is in charge of the child's learning/well being/life. The downside? The preparation and post-activity work required. Sure swim classes are great, especially great for the parent because you can make the au pair: prepare the swimming bag(s), take the two five year olds, get them out of many layers of winter clothes, into swimsuits, to their class, out of the pool, into the shower, dry their hair, into the layers of clothes, into the car (with a snack because they'll be dying of hunger) to their respective houses, pick up the elder at his respective swim lesson, get them home, unpack their wet clothes, hang them to dry (while making dinner, making sure they do the homework that is due the next day, and practicing the piano), have them eat dinner, change into their pj's, brush their teeeth (while you clean the kitchen) and be reading to them when the parents get home from work. See, extra curriculars are easy.
4.a. Extra curricular: Hockey. Now I know I come from "The State of Hockey" (Minnesota). But I am not originally from there so my athletic allegiance doesn't lie with hockey. And now it never will. Mark plays hockey. Great, good for him. Mark this year decided to try goalie. Definitely brave of him (no one is going to shoot hardened rubber disks as at me thank you). Hockey was on Monday's so Anna would ask me to come home earlier so I could watch Stephanie while she took Mark to hockey. Fine, no problem. Except now there's a goalie practice on Wednesdays so I have to take Mark and Stephanie to hockey. And not just take him to hockey like drop him off out of the car with his back and stick. I have to dress him. And let me tell you, getting an eight year old into full hockey goalie equipment sucks. Yes, it sucks. I don't know why parents do this to their children in Minnesota. Sure athletics are beneficial to children but by the time he's gotten all his pads on I've had a full body workout. So not worth it.
I think all au pairs can empathize with this generalization: We are there to help out parents, absolutely. But au pairs are also expected to do what the parents won't. I'm there to stay with Stephanie when Anna takes Mark to X, but when Anna can't be there guess who has to take both to X? And make sure they are clean? And start dinner? And clean up from dinner? The au pair.
It just makes you appreciate all the hard working parents that do it on their own, day in and day out. And yes, I had a babysitter (I guess the right word have been nanny--she didn't live with us but she was there a lot in the afternoons). So my parents had a little extra help, its true. We had my beloved babysitter R. for what a couple years? Not for that long, and I loved her, Jack loved her, my parents loved her (we're still in touch so clearly Jack & I weren't too terrible). I remember her picking me up from my half-day preschool, eating fried rice & watching The Price is Right with her, making cookies. But all those formative memories? Carving pumpkins, Trick-Or-Treating, dyeing Easter eggs, even bathtimes and getting dressed in the morning? Those were all my mom & dad. So thanks M&D. Love you. (Oh and thanks for not taking advantage of R!)
Friday, November 13, 2009
I got the perfect cheer-me-up idea! Nutella! Yes, I bought a jar of Nutella. And guess what? Although it is delicious it is not what I wanted--bored of Nutella! Something must be wrong. Then I got the ennui-reducing news: lacrosse practice! Friday practices have been resumed and we have some winter play dates on Sundays (this Sunday being one). I made it to practice and the first thing we had to do: run five laps (around the tennis courts we now practice on--because they have lights & perhaps because they make us run a bit faster after those ground balls). I was definitely regretting the last spoonful of Nutella as I ran around the courts but I was grateful to be moving! Practice was great (even the part where I intercepted a ball [yes!] then turned to run and wiped out... completely). Plus the team was excited to see me and to help me practice my German.
So lesson learned: Nutella is (surprisingly) not the answer to every problem.
Also I really do like when people comment so keep 'em coming! Maybe I should post a question at the end so it will compel people to comment...