Friday, April 30, 2010

I'm With Stupid

I have done a lot of really, really stupid things in my 23 years. I've cut my own hair (repeatedly), I've had a party when my parents were out of town (sorry about that), I've accidentally cut/scraped/tripped/hurt myself on numerous occasions, I am terribly clumsy (Kristen/Danielle you especially know what I'm talking about) but most of the stupid stuff I've done has been the result of a dare. In kindergarten my friend's cousin told me the phone wasn't plugged in and then dared me to call 911. Well that Mickey Mouse phone was plugged in and I was nervous/embarrassed when they called back (long before the days of called ID) I don't think I saw that girl again until middle school! (And I never saw that cousin again!) A majority of the stupid dares I've done have come from one person, my brother. Usually Jack's dares involve my doing an activity that has some sort of bodily harm involved but there's no one who can egg me on to do stuff than him. Remember when I jumped off the dock in the Outer Banks into the sand and one foot of water (resulting in a semi-sprained ankle)? Or when I ran through our electric fence with the dog's shock collar on? Or the time Jack and I were waiting for our mother once outside of church and he said he didn't think I could jump from the elevated curb to the top of the [closed] dumpster. Sure it looked far away but I wasn't going to lose face in front of him (Note: this event took place within the last 2-3 years). It is, however, a two way street. Jack is susceptible to my dares and taunts. Even in Korea! I dared him to eat a really, really hot pepper and whilst I was still taunting he grabbed the pepper and shoved it into his mouth. But as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words:

Bet these make you proud M&D! Christmas card 2010?

You are probably wondering why you had to read all these anecdotes about when I've done something dumb. You see I was hoping to put it in perspective, that perhaps my latest foray into the realm of stupidity would not be the greatest. Let me explain:

Last night as I was going to bed I wanted to light a candle (you know to keep away the spiders or if they were conversely attracted to the light then perhaps send them to a fire-y death--I'm so loving). It was dark in my room so I brought the match closer to my face to light it. Bringing the match closer to my face also brought the match closer to my hair... Yes, I set my hair on fire. Not a lot of it (thank goodness) but enough to create that "burnt hair smell." I wonder if there's any way to blame this one on Jack too?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Great Expectations

Whenever I get mad and/or sad my mother, wise sage that she is, tells me the real reason I'm upset is because it didn't turn out how I had planned. And though I hate to admit it, she's pretty much always correct and sympathetic, which makes me feel even worse (which, I assure you, is not her desired effect). Whenever something doesn't go as well as I had hoped/expected I am partly mad at the situation and partly mad at myself for assuming something would go exactly as I had hoped. (It should be noted however, that I am extremely fortunate, and am oftentimes pleasantly surprised by how well things turn out, usually even better, than I imagined.) Of course I then feel worse because my loving mother is still sympathetic when she could gloat and say, "I told you so."

Today was one of those days when nothing turned out how I had planned. I had to move babysitting TB up because I had to pick up Boy at the Kinderspitäl (Children's Hospital) and take him back to school. TMoTB said TB was semi-sick so tomorrow might be short, which means I won't be able to take her into Zürich for an afternoon with my friends which was a bummer. After babysitting I was driving into Zürich (something that still puts me on edge) and the Mother called to tell me where they were, and that I couldn't take Boy back to school and she'd explain when I arrived. It was almost instantaneous; my plans to run, shower and maybe even nap that afternoon were out the window and my windows down, car singing-mood was instantly changed. When I got to the hospital (Boy is fine by the way, he just got a sting this summer--explain more later--and he needs this special shirt for the scarring and probably a surgery next year, no big deal or anything) the Mother, who by the way, had to run because she had to catch a flight to Paris for a meeting whilst the Father was in Stockholm and/or Bucharest, told me Boy and I would have to come back in two hours for a follow up appointment.

When I looked at Boy I could see it all over his face: disappointment (he was disappointed that he couldn't go back to school to show his friends the weird shirt--crazy, most kids would be disappointed if they had to go back to school). I realized that this is what I must look like when I'm disappointed, trying not to be upset even though you visibly are and every time he talked to his mom the tears would well up in his eyes (what sort of power do mothers have over us?!). She said we could go to lunch in town if we wanted and for a moment I had a flashback to my preconceived au pair notions. Maybe it was silly of me, but I pictured myself with these two beautiful children, sitting at a café, eating pain au chocolat, sipping espresso (for me of course), them wearing berrets (okay that bit was far fetched, I admit) and us speaking French together. Of course that was, is and never will be the case, but I thought maybe Boy and I could go to one of my favorite lunchtime restaurants and I could fulfill part of the dream. Then the Mother said I could take him to McDonald's and so it was my turn to be disappointed. So there we were, eating McDonald's in the car (because Boy didn't want to sit outside in the sunshine--arg!), just about the total opposite of how I had pictured the lunchtime scene.

After the appointment we had time to run him back to school and as we were walking up we see three kindergarteners and their teacher making a "Go Green" sign in front of the school. Of course one of these tots was Girl who came running up to me to give me a giant hug. As I walked Boy in I heard her say to her teacher, "That's my au pair!!" And when I came out the teacher said, "Ah, Jill. I've heard so much about you this past year!" Mood lifted instantly. (Hey, what can I say, I like being important to people. Even six year old people.)

This afternoon I decided to take my camera out because I realized I do not have a lot of pictures of my kids. So instead of us conversing in French over our favorite Babar book I have videos of them singing along to Ke$ha--the song drives me bonkers but I'll admit there's something a lot more amusing in a six year old singing, "Brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack." (Note: I did NOT let them download this song, they heard it on the bus and The Parents let Boy buy it. I take no responsibility for their poor musical choices, aside from High School Musicals 1-3 and "Lola.")

During dinner however, something unexpected happened. Girl turned to me and said (in French), "If you want, we can speak in French." Holy mother of pearl! She never, and I mean never, wants to speak with me in French. It was amazing. Girl and I sat at the dinner table eating our dessert, cracking jokes, planning out tomorrow (Boy's birthday party) and other things, all in French. She even said, "Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and all the days we can speak in French." Hallelujah!

The dad came back earlier than expected and said, "You look like you're dressed for a night out in Zürich!" (Nope, just wearing a dress today...) He told me that the Mother won't be back from Paris until 4:30 tomorrow (the Father leaves at noon for India) leaving me to start Boy's birthday party festivities, which then changes what I expected to do tomorrow. Once I was dismissed I planned to go for a run whilst it was still light out (which turned into a walk as the yogurt I just ate didn't bode well with running). I explored my town and found a new trail along this ridge parallel to the lake (I love finding new, beautiful places) and I couldn't help but think how everything today hadn't turned out how I had expected or wanted it to and yet, it was still a really great day.

Funny how I wasn't expecting that.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Maturity

Sometimes the things Girl says to me make me pause and think, "How old are you again?"

Once, during a tea party, she rested her chin on her hand, turned to me and said, "So, tell me about your last date." Yesterday during dinner she was dishing out salad and said, "There, I think that should be sufficient." Tell me, what six year old says sufficient? I'm 23 and I don't even say sufficient!

And last night when I was putting her to bed she reaches up to give me a hug and we have the following conversation:
Girl: Jill, I love you.
Me: I love you too, G.
Girl: Even when I'm mad at you, I still love you.
Me: Me too, G.

I think the above conversation sufficiently highlights her maturity.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Many people would have you believe the Christmas season is "the most wonderful time of the year," but I would absolutely disagree. The most wonderful time of the year has finally arrived, and though it doesn't have a definite name (I wouldn't describe it as spring because spring, for some, is only an idea--trust me, I've spent a couple "springs" in Minnesota and there wasn't anything spring-y about them!) there are two defining characteristics for this time of year:

1. You start to hear the lovely sound of footwear going flip-flop (that will persist all they way until September).

2. (This mostly applies to make-up wearers) You don't have any need to wear bronzer. (Note: Bronzer is what girls wear on their face so as not to appear like Casper.) Both The Mother and my French teacher told me today that I have a lot of color on my make-up less face!


Gill & I in Portugal showing off our bronzer-less faces.

The unfortunate thing about the warmer climate is my location. Unless it is July and nearing 90 degrees the Swiss will be bundled up. They cast judging stares at your bare legs, short sleeves and sometimes, your sunny disposition (just kidding about that last one!). Sure it was in the 70s today but once that elderly lady saw my shorts-clad self she shook her head like I was a lunatic. I was even sweating! Thankfully though, I do not live with a Swiss family and my kids wear shorts and sandals during the appropriate weather. My friend Kristina however, is not so fortunate. I was friends with their previous au pair and she used to tell me stories about that mother chastising her for wearing flip-flops in September when it was still hot out afraid she would catch a cold. Whenever Kristina wants to wear something seasonally appropriate she either has to layer over it, escape when no one is looking or undergo outfit scrutiny and then a lecture about how her bare legs will probably be the cause of her catching pneumonia and then lead to her ultimate demise (well they haven't gone that far yet, but I wouldn't be surprised).
Kristina & I playing in a fountain in Spain--she'd be in big trouble if her employer saw this!

Glad I, at least, have the choice to wear what I like from my [still-organized!] closet. Off to bask in the sun's warm rays in my shorts!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Like Mother, Like Au Pair

Living with The Mother for nearly 10 months, some of her habits (and language) were bound to rub off on me. I just didn't expect it to be ironing.

I've written before about how I loathe the ironing but today I found myself, yet again, re-organizing my closet (closet is perhaps too generous of a phrase, it is really an armoire). But instead of just dumping my clothes onto the floor, folding them and then putting them back I pulled them all out, ironed every single article of clothing, folded them and then put them away. I couldn't bring myself to look at let alone wear these wrinkled articles. Weird, very weird (for me, not for normal people I realize).

While I've never been particularly good at keeping my clothes neat and tidy I've never been as bad as I've been here. I realized that it's partly storage capacity, partly me and partly time constraints. Often if I want to go out in the evening I had approximately twelve minutes to change and dash to the bus, so I get to my room and rip clothes out of my closet and end up throwing the rejects back in. And I literally mean I throw them into my closet. Perhaps if I put a little more thought into my outfits beforehand I could keep my stuff more organized. I'll let you know how it goes...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Climb Every Mountain

There's something about hiking that really turns my friends against me. It started in Cinque Terre with Molly and Brittney during our semester abroad. Apparently my "This isn't so bad!"/"Come on it is just a bit further!"/"The faster we do it the faster it's over!"/"We'll never make it with that bad-itude!" sentiments were not shared by two of my best friends. What saved our dying (of dehydration) friendship was an amazing pesto pizza, a large scoop of gelato and a beautiful sunset over the Mediterranean (not to mention the end of the hike). Having a friend visit I thought what better way to test our friendship than to hike!?

Today, at the crack of noon, Kristina, Gabri and I set off for Uetliberg. I hadn't done the hike yet but had heard it wasn't too terrible. I think we accidentally took the more difficult trail, which resulted in a longer more arduous hike. However instead of my typical cheers, I decided to sing "Climb Every Mountain." Well, at least Kristina found it funny! Gabri was close to knocking me out (had she had the energy) but once we finally summited, er made it to the top, the celebratory beer made it at least somewhat more enjoyable. We did, however, take the train home. There's only so much strain one can put on a friendship!
Gabri enjoying the view or plotting my demise?

Gabri and Kristina enjoying the view from the top.

Also, on a totally different note: When I got home tonight there was a THIRD enormous spider on my wall. I swear, this sucker (please don't R.I.P. demon spider) was so large that I could hear it breathing. It is time to move out of the lair, and if you don't believe me I took photographic evidence:
Try to tell me you didn't have an involuntary shudder when you saw this guy...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Unnecessary Roughness

Although Jack and I used to get into pretty physical fights (for fun and exercise as a child) real violence is something I'm not okay with. I remember watching "America's Funniest Home Videos" with my family as a kid and my mom cringing at the videos where some one was injured while my dad, brother and I laughed. Now I find myself in the same situation. My kids are currently watching Home Alone 2, Lost in New York and I can't help but cringe at the needless violence. I get that it is just supposed to be funny, but still. Boy is howling when the bad guys get hit in the face with bricks and I just feel a little sick. Oh well, needless violence for this kid, is not okay.


A New Perspective

This weekend one of my friends, the one who lives in Milan, is visiting.

And you are probably wondering, why then, with a friend visiting, I am writing in my blog. Well, my dear readers, it is because I am an au pair.

The Family asked me to babysit (asked/told, the same thing in au pair-land) on Saturday night and I informed them that I had a friend coming so they asked the neighbor who was busy. I guess it is nice that they tried but, when that didn't work my plans were decided for me.

Anyway, having a non au pair friend here its made me realize just how weird au pairing is. It has become second nature to me here but to view it from an outsider's point of view I realized just how odd it is. This, for all intents and purposes, is my home. But like I've written before, a house does not a home make. Asking permission to have a friend over, feeling awkward when you wake up because you don't want to go upstairs to use the bathroom or even shower to avoid seeing them (especially after a night out) things that, if I had an apartment, would be a non-issue. Realizing it again has just highlighted how, despite having lived here since July, this isn't really my home. I've certainly gotten used to it, and even when I return from trips I feel like I am "home," but I am looking forward to the days when I have a place to call my own.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Grrrreat!

Like I said earlier, I've taught Boy, Girl and T.B. some useful life skills.

I can now add another thing to T.B.'s growing repertoire of activities: I have taught her to growl. No joke, whenever I grrrowl at her she responds in an equally if not more so, demonic, guttural noise. I'm going to try and video tape it because it is really funny.

What can I say, I inspire kids and babies alike to reach for the stars.

What's in a Name?

Last week I had lunch with my married friend (I pretty much only have the one) who is also pregnant. (Also only a year older than me--it's weird that we can be so close in age, and enjoy one another's company whilst being in two completely different life phases.) After lunch we went to the English bookstore so I could get T.B.'s Baptism gift. We sat down and started looking up baby names and their meanings (she's looking at pretty names like Ava while I suggested the funny like Gert, Mavis and Myrtle). Naturally I looked up my family's name (apparently it is a Swedish boys' name) and it means "outdoorsy," which is very fitting for my parents. Though my parents hadn't really planned on naming me Jill people always tell me that Jill fits me. I had a lacrosse coach who told me, "You even look like a Jill. You couldn't have any other name." Apparently Jill means "energetic & youthful" so I guess that's a pretty accurate description.

Some of the other names ranged from pretty to borderline crazy. I think the worst we saw was "Crispy." I kid you not, the name "Crispy" was there. Under the origin it said "invented"--if anyone has named their child Crispy, please, please let me know.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's a Small World After All

Saturday was a really great day and here's why:

I woke up, ran, showered (a big feat for a Saturday morning), dressed like a human and had two French women tell me I looked chic and went to TB's baptism. When we arrived at the church I realized what a small party it was and I felt really flattered to have been invited. I suppose I do spend the most time with TB outside of her immediate family on a regular basis, but it was still a thoughtful gesture. I walked in the TFoTB greeted me with a hug and the three-kiss Swiss greeting (which was awkward seeing as how we don't touch regularly and I assumed with most of the non-American guests being of French origin that it would be two kisses, resulting in an awkward head-dodging third). Despite the initial awkwardness the ceremony was really nice in German, French and English. I said my "wish" for TB (and was later told that it was everyone's favorite--booyah!) and the brevity of the service added to the pleasant factor. Halfway through The Mother leans over and whispers "I think the priest is wearing a toupée." Thankfully TMoTB had already pre-warned me of the bad hair stylings so I had been carefully studying it throughout the proceedings.

After the ceremony we all went back to the house of TB and had a luncheon/party. Bottles of Veuve Cliquot were flowing (mostly into my glass becuase as TFoTB said, "You're not working today! You're here to enjoy yourself!") and the Lebanese food was delicious. The God-parents of TB had flown in from Washington, D.C. and had brought their college-aged daughter who was studying abroad in Paris for the semester. Long story short: the daughter went to a rival high school of mine in D.C., her father went to the same law school as my dad, I found out that TFoTB went to the same graduate school as my mom AND that they God-father's best friend and his wife are both professors at Denison. That's a small world.

After the party I came home to chat with the new au pair via Skype--she was really great and easy to talk to (there is some visa drama at the moment, I'll keep you posted) so I hope she is able to come! The Mother said it was really cute how TB kept trying to come to me and wanting me to play with her. Both Girl and TB seemed to be fighting for my attention (if only cute, available men did the same).

I changed from my chic clothes (just had to add that again for emphasis) and headed into Zürich where a bunch of au pairs were having a cookout. If there is a more winning combination than sunshine, beer and hot dogs I don't even want to know about it. A beautiful evening on the lake with a lot of fun people. At one point, during a soccer game, I saw a boy on the opposition wearing a Moosejaw sweatshirt. Now my friend Jess (miss you!) had one in every color of the rainbow in college so I knew this kid had to be from Michigan. I asked during our halftime break and he said he was from there and when I said I was from Minnesota he informed me that he had lived on Grand Avenue (maybe one of my favorite streets in Minnesota, and not just for the J.Crew) for six years and his wife was a Minnesota native.

I later met his adorable wife and we start chatting about Minnesota. She suddenly looks at me and says, "Wait, do you have a blog?" I affirm this and she asks where I went to school and when I reply Denison she said she had read my blog! A stranger!
(I was definitely smiling to my ears because I felt pretty big-headed at that point.) She mentioned that she had read my posts (even the one about what was in my Longchamp--I think that is the one people remember most) but hadn't seen it in a while. Not only was she pretty, funny and smart but clearly she has excellent taste in blogs (kidding-ish). We had fun chatting all the way from the picnic to the bar about places in Minnesota and life in Switzerland. She said, "I had a feeling I would meet you."

Small world, even smaller country.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Let's Get Ready to Rumble!

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love TMoTB.

Tomorrow is TB's baptism and TMoTB and TFoTB invited me (which, I think, is a really lovely gesture). When she invited me TMoTB said, "Well The Mother, Boy & Girl will be in coming, and our friend asked The Mother if her two boys could stay with her that weekend (and The Father is out of town) so I can understand if you won't want to come. TFoTB and I want you to come as a guest, not to work. And we know all the kids love you [true] but we want don't want you to feel obligated to work. Since The Mother is pregnant I'm afraid she'll just say that she's tired and you should take care of the kids." And when I told TMoTB that I would be in attendance she was really excited (which, of course, has made The Mother start to plan for Boy's First Communion in June--yipee).

I wrote before how TMoTB and The Mother seem to have this little source of contention over who has possession over me (I think that would be my parents, after so many thousands of dollars spent on education I think they might own me forever). They always like to take little digs at one another, usually regarding the amount and the type of work I do for the other, so I'm wondering how tomorrow will be at the baptism.

TMoTB told me that the priest baptizing TB has asked each person there to come forward, light a candle and say (out loud!) a wish for TB. Weird, I know. I'm hoping that Girl will just be the spokesperson for our group, but if I have to go up I think I'll say, "TB, I wish you a lifetime of happiness and health, and I hope that you always recognize how lucky you are to have such a loving and supportive family in your life."

Like I said, I really love TMoTB.

JC

There are a lot of J.C.'s in my family (I guess we aren't too creative with the names) but there is one JC I'd like to say a huge thank you to:

My uncle Joe.

Not only does he read my blog but he also leaves comments that make me laugh and never cease to bring a smile to my face. So Uncle Joe, thank you so much for reading this, it really means a lot to me. I miss you, and of course, you and Aunt La are more than welcome to come to Australia.

P.S. I just read a book where the main character was from Collingswood, New Jersey--small world right?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Near Death Experience, Part 2

So as some of you may know I had a near death experience a while back (remember the HUGE SPIDER?)

Well tonight, it happened again. I got home from an evening out and was checking my e-mail before bed (it's an addiction, okay?) when, from the glow of my computer screen I see a creepy shadow making it's way across the wall towards my bed. I quickly switch on my desk lamp and am horrified to see the sister/mother/child/scorned lover of the spider that hid in my laundry basket (Not RIP). I had to get my involuntary shudders under control whilst I grabbed my handy J.Crew slipper. I didn't have time to take a picture of this disgusting beast but know that it was huge, creepy and obviously trying to seek revenge for the spider I killed ages ago.

I have a feeling I'm going to have a hard time sleeping knowing that more of these creatures are lurking in my bedroom. Now where's that vacuum??

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sentimental Guy

I will get to the rest of Spain and Portugal at some point. I hope...

But in the meantime:

I'm not very sentimental. Emotional yes, sentimental, not particularly. Mushy crud makes me feel awkward and uncomfortable (most of my friends are acutely aware to my aversion/allergy to public displays of affection) and I usually don't like it. (Except when you're parents are supposed to write all sorts of lovely things about you to your sorority but instead write that your childhood nickname of "Pinky" was actually from a Baltimore-based stripper... Now that I'm removed from the situation [re: I was really mad at the time] I can laugh, because it's really funny, and it proves that my parents really do know me and my aversion to all things gushy.) The other night however I was playing with Girl and I thought, "Will she remember me?" Sure I remember stuff from when I was in kindergarten but will she remember the times we danced around the kitchen to ABBA/Michael Jackson with wooden spoons as our microphones? Will she remember all the funny things she did? Or I did? It's weird to think about, that we are such a large part of each other's life for an entire year and then poof! it's all gone. And, what if she likes the next au pair more than me? (By the way, I've G-chatted with the next au pair and I like her a lot more than the last one who scared me!)

So in this sentimental, Billie Jean-singing, kitchen dancing mood I asked her, "G, will you miss me? And what if you like the new au pair more than me?" Her response? "I miss you all the times when you're not here Jill! [Note: This is true. She got home from a friends' house today and said "Bonjour maman." But when she saw me she ran up the stairs and tried to jump into my arms shouting, "JiiiiiiiilllL!"] "And, I will never like another au pair more than you." And then do you know what she did, it should be noted that I was carrying her at the time, just when it was getting a little overly sentimental?

She farted.

Man, I'm going to miss Girl.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

We Need to Leave Here. Immediately.

Traveling has taught me a number of things two of which are realizing that you've made a cultural faux-pas (in other words a jackass) and quickly exiting the scene so as to avoid further embarrassment and jackass-ery. Whilst (whath up Iced-Tea!?) traversing across Spain, Kristina and I found ourselves in a number of semi-embarrassing situations that resulted in the creation of a new favorite phrase: "We need to leave here. Immediately."

1: Arrival in Madrid, found the bus (tried to attempt Spanish, painful at best) to the next bus station, bought our tickets to Granada and since we had an hour or so to kill decided to explore this part of Madrid. As we emerged from the station we thought, "Hmm, Madrid is pretty dead for a Saturday afternoon." And then it hit us, afternoon. Siesta. (Which then caused us to panic because we needed beer for the bus ride!) After finding some road sodas we decided we were hungry and walked into a little bar/restaurant (they are all bar/restaurants in Spain) which advertised pictures of sandwiches out front. We stared at the menu. We stared at the food they had under the counters. The worker and patrons stared at us. We decided it would be best to back out of there and go somewhere else.

2: Later that same night, we went out for tapas in Granada. We find a seafood-y tapas bar, order some sangria and toast to our cleverness in finding our way around Spain. The girl brings out our tapas (which are free in Granada!)--a plate of some sort of salad-y thing and what appear to be fried sardines. (I still argue they were headless while Kristina thinks they were full bodied...) Not wanting to be rude or expose ourselves as the tapas-newbs that we were we just at the whole thing. Later, once we were on our second sangria and second plate of tapas I looked at the table next to us. The clearly superior tapas-eating Spaniard had eaten the fish but cleanly removed the spinal cord and bones that we had just consumed. So naturally we asked for the bill, cut up some of the leftover anchovies and uttered the words, "We need to leave here. Immediately."

3: The following day, post Kristina getting a terrible sunburn (and being accosted by Spanish ladies in the train station bathroom crying "Dios mio!!! Ay ay ay!") we had some time to kill between trains in Dos Hermanas. After drinking a bottle of wine on the way there (like I said, it is important to travel with one who shares the same values as you) we were starving and the only thing that would suffice was a kebab. We walked to the town square where they were having a Palm Sunday festival of some sort and began to panic when we couldn't find any food. With only 18 minutes until our train desperate times called for desperate measures. Kristina asked, "Donde esta the kebabs?!?!" And a kindly group of kids told us where to go. Sprinting through (with a full backpack) the streets and celebration we did find the kebab place but something told us we should leave Dos Hermanas, immediately.

4: Our second night in Càdiz we were on the hunt for churros. We thought, "Hey, wouldn't it be fun to get into a cab and just ask the driver where the best churro in town is?" So we did. Unfortunately the cab driver thought we were asking if he made churros. So finally he asked if we wanted to go the playa (beach) and we said si--we realized we needed to get out of that cab, immediately. [After a few minutes we realized that we had gone waaaay far away and just hopped out at some intersection. The bar across the street advertised churros so we went in. No churros to be had but god-almighty! They had Amstell! (I'll get into the depths of hell that is Spanish beer some other time). So we ordered to Amstells but unfortunately they turned out to be disgusting Cruz Campo wearing an Amstell tap. No churros achieved. ]

5. Perhaps the situation we wanted to leave the most was our disgusting "hostel" in Càdiz. When we booked them, we thought, let's splurge (2 Euro more) for our hostel there since we'll have been on the beach all day, plus the reviews said it was really fun. Well "fun" is definitely subjective. When we arrived the guy giving us the tour kept reiterating how they won't clean up after us and blah blah (alluding to the fact that because we had on clean clothes we were snooty and going to leave the place a mess). The characters we met there thought Spanish beer was delicious, wanted to live on communes in Northern California for the rest of their lives and asked why we wanted to go out at night when there were "such good jam sessions every night." Not only were the clientele creepy (Kristina and I decided it was in our best interest to sleep in the same bed, for safety reasons) but the hostel itself was gross. Now I'm no beacon of cleanliness but even I had some standards. You weren't allowed to flush your toilet paper(!), you felt dirty whilst you were showering and there was MOLD on the walls (allergy central). Needless to say Casa Carocol was not the highlight of our trip. We wanted to leave there, immediately.

I guess that's the beauty of traveling though, you learn things about new cultures so next time you'll know how to avoid looking like a cultural idiot. But really, how were we to know to take out the spinal cord, the whole thing was fried!!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Spain (Part 1 of a Few)

The Itinerary:
Saturday: Fly from Basel to Madrid, take bus (cheaper) from Madrid to Granada
Sunday: All day in Granada, train in the evening to Càdiz
Monday: Càdiz
Tuesday: Supposed to stay in Càdiz all day (but unfortunately the weather and the company at our "hostel" were sub par so we left earlier). And then head in the evening to Madrid, instead we left in the morning and went to Seville for the afternoon and then bussed to Madrid
Wednesday: Kristina leaves, Jill in Madrid
Thursday: Gill (a Denison friend, I saw her back in November in Geneva) arrives and we take the night train to Lisbon, Portugal
Friday: Arrive in Lagos, Portugal
Saturday: Lagos
Sunday: (Early!!!) Bus back to Cordoba where Gill lives
Monday: Catch flight back to Basel in the morning, train to Zürich

So already this was a lot of traveling, Kristina and I thought, we'd be saving money going through Madrid since it was cheaper than flying directly to the south of Spain. Unfortunately trains are incredibly expensive (except my overnight train from Madrid to Portugal--go figure) in Spain so we took more buses which resulted in our seeing a lot of Spain via bus.

I did a lot of circles around southern Spain, but like the saying goes, "Hindsight is 20/20." If I had thought my trip through more I would have gone from Càdiz to Lagos and saved some time, money and breath (literally that kid in Madrid smelled something terrible) but coulda, woulda shoulda. On the whole I really enjoyed my trip. Kristina was about as fabulous a travel-buddy as I could have asked for. We have similar interests, tastes, travel styles (meaning we like to see the sights but we know when it is time to call it a day and have a beer and some tapas) and perhaps most importantly for this trip: the same sense of humor. More on that to come...

Also Kristina blogs too! It is well written and a good read (plus she has already outlined the days we traveled together on her blog so if you are feeling impatient you can read up on our trip there): Click here to read her blog!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Replaced

Sorry for the delayed updates on Spain/Portugal--I swear they are coming. With pictures! Boy & Girl are still on spring break so I haven't had the time to get it all together, soon though!

I've been replaced (starting in August).

The Family has made an offer to their next au pair! I know it will be weird when I finally do leave The Family, not seeing people you've seen almost every day for a year might be a little odd at first, but I'm sure we'll all survive. That being said I'm happy that they've found some one new. Like with me, The Family offered up previous au pairs as references to give a little insight into the job/living with The Family/Boy & Girl/et cetera. Maybe I was just naïve or maybe just dumb but they way these girls made it sound it sounded like I was coming into the "dream job." (I had talked with a bunch of au pairs who had received similar stories from their previous au pairs--I think maybe au pairs are worried that if they don't say only fabulous, fun, kind things they might scare away the next au pair and thus never have a replacement and their family will make them stay with them forever...) As I found out, it isn't exactly the case, so I wanted to be a little more honest and open with NAP, just to paint a clearer picture. Since I've been thinking about this e-mail for about six months (daydreaming/thinking, same thing, right?) I was pretty excited to lay it all out. I told my mom I was going to be more honest and forward and she worried that I was going to do some karma-rearing, 10 months of frustration, expletive e-mail detailing every bad moment (and there were some days when that is what I wanted to write) but here's how it actually came out:

Hi NAP,

Sorry for the delayed response! I think maybe the best order to answer your questions is in reverse (and I tend to drone on so feel free to skim!)

-I'm originally from Washington, D.C. but my parents moved to Minnesota when I was in high school. I went to college in Ohio and after graduation last May I moved here. I studied abroad during my junior year of college and really loved my experience living in Europe which is why I became an au pair.

-Overall my experience as an au pair has been positive but it's not always wonderful. I guess what I wish I had known before is that it won't always be loads of fun, however I can assure you it is a worthwhile experience. I will tell you that it is really difficult to live with your employer, but The Family is a great family to work for/live with. The living situation kind of sucks (not having your own bathroom) but it is better to have a great family and a not-so-great room than the other way around. It is hard to live with a family that isn't your own, but they really try to make you feel at home and comfortable. The kids are typically good, but can be really frustrating at times. After talking to the previous au pairs we realized that we all came in thinking we would be living with the "dream kids," but kids are kids and sometimes they can have attitudes/bad days et cetera. I'm not trying to scare you, I just wish I had had a little more realistic viewpoint coming in! I'm not sure how the job will change with the new baby on its way, but compared with a lot of my au pair friends, I work the least (which is nice!). All in all though, The Family is a good family to work for.

-Switzerland is a great place to live, it is incredibly safe, clean and gorgeous. (It is, however, a very expensive country. Expect to pay 2-3 times more for something, coffee cocktail et cetera, than you would in the States/Canada.) Traveling is really easy from such a centrally located country and The Family encourages you to travel and will try to accommodate you as best they can. You get a bunch of holiday time with the job--one of the best parts of being an au pair.

-Zürich is a fabulous place to be an au pair because it is a really international community so there are tons of ex-pats around to do stuff with (which could be a bad thing if you want a more European experience) and a lot of au pairs. You can get involved in sports here easily as well--if you're interested. There is a meeting every Wednesday morning where a bunch of au pairs meet and I've made some wonderful friends there to travel and/or go out with. Making friends here was a big concern of mine before I came but it has all worked out really well.

If you have any more questions at all, please feel free to e-mail me! Last year The Family's au pair called me before I came to answer any lingering questions, so if you want I'd be happy to talk to you. I leave Saturday for Spain/Portugal for ten days (like I said, the holiday time is wonderful!) so let me know if you'd like to chat and we can arrange a time.

Take care!
jill

When it finally came down to it, I couldn't just let it all out. I will still be around Switzerland when she comes so maybe I'll take her out for a drink, tell her that when the day comes, she's more than welcome to send me an e-mail complaining about they job. I'll be all ears.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Of Course

So when I was at my utmost level of freaking out, Gill called. Apparently I had been texting and calling the WRONG number (super).

But I found her, had a fabulous afternoon in Madrid, and now am in the most beautiful place, perhaps that I have ever been.

Like I said, it all works out.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

¿Glamorous? ¡I don´t think so!

This is what I wrote on my friend and travel buddy (who sadly left me yesterday)´s Facebook today. Just to show you all that maybe life and travels in Europe aren´t always so glamorous

Current location: Some sketched out internet cafe in Madrid, printing out my tickets to Portugal. Status: Smells of chorizo (though theres a good chance that that smell is coming from me), wishing I had germ blaster (the apple kind) to make me feel better once I leave here. Also noteworthy: I am avoiding really touristy... places because I am afraid of Jake-- the smelly long nailed (which I noticied was only on ONE HAND) aussie that I spent the evening with. Also noteworthy, he avoided places where cute American boys were speaking English (chinosssssss!), smelled (AGH), kept ordering beers for me instead of letting me choose (ass), thought Cruz Campo wasn't so bad (means he is certifiable) and, perhaps most importantly, he didn't think my Cruzcampo jokes were funny.

Also noteworthy, I cannot get into contact with my friend that I should be on my way to Portugal with tonight... So there is a good chance I might be on this overnight train alone (don't worry Mom, I'll be safe!)

This is when I just have to reiterate my motto: It's all going to work out.

Don't worry, I will update you all upon my return to Switzerland, that is if I make it out of Portugal alive (kidding Mom!).