Au pair life – 3 month anniversary

A couple of days ago marked 3 months since I packed my life in a suitcase and exchanged my beloved England for stunning countryside views in Switzerland. It’s weird, but good, looking back at everything and realizing that I am indeed starting to grow up. The last 3 months have taught me an incredible amount of things, things that you don’t learn in schools, things that make you happy in a very different way. I finally have my laptop, thanks to my super cool best friend, so I’ve started typing all the nonsense I’ve been scribling on tens of papers mixed up on my desk. My life in Switzerland is different, but the best kind of different. I left England with a lot of unanswered questions like “So you’ve finished university and you’re going to be looking after children? Good for you, I guess” or “When are you gonna settle and find a real job?” or “Don’t you want a car or a house of your own?”. The truth is I’m not going to choose a job purely to please society or my friends or my family. I chose to get away from “a real job” in order to learn some life skills, as clichee as that might sound. And boy, am I learning!

I live in some sort of attic in a pretty country house. My room is very similar to a cabin and beside the very creepy Charlie Chaplin poster on the door (think life size Charlie Chaplin poster!) I am utterly in love with my little huge room. I often wake up and become this disgustingly romantic person, staring for a good 10 minutes at  mountain views, cows (Switzerland must be cow’s heaven) and a hell of a lot of green. There’s a smell of coffee and croissants coming from the restaurant (the house has 3 floors: restaurant, the main part of the house and my floor) and a permanent feeling of “Life is as beautiful as you make it!”

My au pair life (the childminding part) includes dealing with 50 shades of poop, taking dominoes out of a plastic bottle (that’s a skill I should write in my CV as proof of patience), learning French from Prune (2yo) who’s always teaching me new words from her books, trying (!!) to read stories, singing and dancing and all sorts of activities who would keep the little ones occupied. Sometimes we have very deep conversations on the meaning of life – Tobias (7months) is the best listener ever and Prune is already very opinionated. We also have dancing competitions. There’s always two teams – Tobias and I (to whoever invented the BJÖRN  baby carrier – thank you!) and Prune with her “baby” doll. Needless to say, Tobias is a total gentleman and he’s always letting me lead, though Prune has some wicked moves so she’s always winning (she dances better than 80% of the adults I know).
I would lie if I would say it’s always easy. To whoever looked after children and says this – You’re either deaf or there’s something seriously wrong with you. There’s times when I have the impression there are two fire alarms ringing in my ears and I don’t know which one to switch off first. There’s a lot of crying (teething period is not pretty), litres of reflux (mainly on my clothes), a lot of NO’s, there’s hair pulling and baby food pretty much everywhere. I’ve learned to pee in 20 seconds top (washing my hands included), feed a baby and entertain a toddler at the same time and I’ve become a professional nappy changer (another very useful skill) Having said that, I would not change a single thing. People who know me very well are familiar with how much I want a family and how important it is for me to be a good mother someday. This experience is giving me the really close insight to how that would be and, regardless of the difficult times, at the end of the day, Prune tells me she loves me, the cute and innocent way only a child could say and Tobias falls asleep on my chest and in that moment I feel I could stay like that until he wakes up (Yes, my biological clock started ticking since I was about 22).

Apart from this, I have started my French course and there’s progress. Slow, but steady progress. It does get frustrating when I’m unable to express myself and to talk to the parents properly (with very few exceptions, we speak French in the house) and I am looking forward to a better communication. Also I have met a couple of au pairs living in this region and we have been going out for coffee, visiting cities nearby and hiking (a hiking adventure post to follow).

Last, but definitely not least, one of the best things happening to me while in Switzerland is that I have become an apprentice cook or at least I like to call myself that cause it just sounds so Jamie Oliver. The French chefs are teaching me a lot of amazing recipes and I get to cook meals that’s on the restaurant menu and actually served to customers. Being in the kitchen and learning how to use the insane number of utensils that I have no idea what they’re called in English (or even Romanian!!!) is one of the best feelings I have ever experienced. Cooking all sorts of puddings, croissants, soups and putting into practice many tips and secrets from Caroline and Luic is incredible and though it might not sound like a big deal, it means a lot to me.

In a couple of weeks I am going to visit my partner in crime, Erasmus flatmate and good friend, Dino in Italy and I am very looking forward to enjoy good coffee, gelato, long talks in the early morning, drinking vodka for breakfast and writing about yet another Erasmus reunion.

So no, I don’t regret not getting a “proper” job after graduation.

 

The randoms

– I must have watched Aladdin 50 times. I could probably tell what line comes next with no problem. In French.

– I still haven’t learned to swim. Boooo.

– I’ve ditched the milk in my coffee. Never thought this would happen, but I’ve turned into a black coffee drinker. Very proud of myself. (Don’t know exactly why)

– I’ve started to do some cleaning/ironing for another family in the village to save up some money for my future travels and for Christmas presents 😀

– I’ve included some new Yoga poses into my routine and I’m loving it (Prune loves to copy me and she’s hilarious). Dear Yoga, please help me do the split!

– The rrrr is still annoying. What the hell, French?

– I’ve met my Erasmus flatmate Weronika in Zurich a while ago and it was such a beautiful day! Too many Erasmus memories.

– I have also met my Portuguese chick Filipa who has moved to Switzerland (very close to where I live) a month ago! ❤

– I paid 140 CHF to pick up my laptop and winter clothes, that Larisa sent me, from the post office. Not impressed.

– Public transport is what I spend the most of my money on. Woooo.

– F.R.I.E.N.D.S. are my best friends.

– I found Sangria Don Simon in my local shop. My evenings are sorted. Erasmus!!!!!

– It’s getting cold. Like boogies-freezing-under-your-nose cold.

– I’m looking for flights to Marrackesh, Amsterdam or Barcelona for the Christmas holiday. I bet Father Christmas has never ridden a camel before.

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France: Bordeaux – Bretagne

     I’m sat on a comfy sofa in an overwhelming country house in Bretagne, France. It’s early and everyone else is sleeping. Outside it’s raining, but somehow, it feels good.  (No, cycling in heavy rain to work was definitely not my favourite thing in the world).
     We left Bordeaux Saturday morning and few hours later, Bretagne welcomed us with breathtaking views, dream country houses and beautiful weather. We’re in St. Gildas de Rhuys, a quiet, yet charming village by the Atlantic and walking down its streets probably makes me look like I’m on something as I’m in continuous awe, grinning and giggling and dreaming.
8 am yesterday morning, we left to the Sunday market (happening every week in the village) and I didn’t want to leave the place. I got lost in the multitude of people buying fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, cheese, seafood, cakes, crepes, all local produce. Apart from the endless mouth watering food choice, which was the main ‘attraction’ of the market, one could also buy hippie jewelery, clothes, bags and all sorts of little things from cheap watches to the highly annoying loom bands.
Overlooking the market, a very busy coffee shop was hosting curious looks and warm smiles – locals, tourists, half asleep backpackers getting their daily drug dose to wake their eyes to the beauty around them. People on bikes with baskets overflowing of bread, cheese and flowers, super friendly (yet not annoying) local traders, lots of ‘Bonjour!’ and ‘Bonne journèe! ‘, all under the warmth of an ambitious sun trying to make its way through the clouds. After a relaxing week and a half in the Bordeaux region with my first ratatouille, sinful, delicious homemade wine, Dune do Pyla and Mami’s famous ‘soup’ (that actually gets you drunk), we ended the day by the ocean where the water was so calm. I stood there for a while and (beware! Cheesy, lame part coming) I felt truly happy. I forgot for a moment about everything else and just lost myself in the view. I’m living my dream and i’m extremely pleased that I get to see all these interesting places in the company of locals who would share funny childhood stories and tips and secrets about the food, the people or the best places to visit that haven’t been discovered yet by the many tourists. Learning so much about myself, trying to always escape my comfort zone (big girl here – went on adults rides in a water parc), I’m easily building the lifestyle that keeps me happy, with less worries, less drama, more smiling and being more grateful for everything I have.
Slight change of the subject, as a leaving present, my lovely GO family gave me a beautiful leather-bound notebook to write in about my adventures and because I haven’t got as much time to develop the millions of things in my head, the notebook is a massive list with pieces of my heart. In the same principle, my posts will sometimes include some random sentences at the end, stuff that I would like to write more about or just silly things I want to look back to in years time and make fun of my silly self.

The randoms

– Mami is 88 years old and one of the coolest grandmothers I have ever met. Also she dresses impeccably and makes the famous ‘soup’, aka the best cocktail ever. The recipe was a family secret.
– My new family is actually French. They moved to Switzerland a while ago and started their family and business there. Asked what they miss the most about France they replied: “Salted butter, pastry shops and markets”. No wonder they have a restaurant. It’s all about food with French people.
– I’m learning to knit. Friends and family, prepare yourselves!
– Tried learning to swim. Failed.
– Uncle Glen, (thanks for reading my blog) I saw two pretty campervans. None were as cool as the ‘Slug’.
– For those interested (English people in particular as I know house pricing in England is a bit of a joke, especially in the South), with £100k you can easily buy a 3 bed country house, decent garden, by the ocean. 😉
– It’s no myth: French people are very well dressed. Simple, yet very chic.
– I have started doing yoga and I love it. (Thank you, Bina!)
– I’m getting a little bit obsessed with herbal/fruity teas and oats.
– Nowadays, my name is ‘Aina’ or ‘iiiidhdbdbsbdhdgsbv’, as the little ones like to call me.
– I’m rocking the baby carrier. Dancing with a 5 month old has never been easier.

Hope you are as happy as I am!

Bisous!

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#swissdream

Or how I decided to go for what makes me happy. The last 2 months have been a beautiful chaos. There’s too much to say and little words to explain how pleased I am with how things turned out. My mum has finally visited me in England and witnessed receiving my Modern Languages degree, Larisa and I moved out and the biggest change of all is that I’m writing this post on my phone from a beautiful, small village in Switzerland where I decided to move to to be an au pair for a year. Without a doubt, it’s the most sudden, yet second best decision I have ever made. My feet have always screamed to step on new places and my heart is in a continuous party at the thought of it. I was going through a weird, comfortable phase in which I didn’t quite know where I’m heading to. The phase didn’t last long though and after getting tired of looking back in the past, waiting for people to make that extra effort and hoping that good things will just fall from sky, I decided to leave England. The process was (far too) quick, painless and exciting, to say the least. One evening after work, I decided I want to become an au pair for a while. The same evening I made a profile on one of the recruiting websites and the next morning I was reading applications from families in Norway, Austria, Sweden, France and Switzerland. I went for Switzerland (the French side) as I wanted to learn yet another Latin language and I was and still am very hyped at the idea of skiing, hiking, camping and (!!!!!!!!) doing via ferrata in the Alps. I couldn’t be happier with my choice. And the family I’m living with are making this experience 10 times better. After reading horrifying au pair stories online, I cannot stop but think again “What a lucky girl I am!”. I know it’s early to say this,  but have you ever met some people and you thought to yourself “Yes, I like these ones. They can definitely stay in my life.”?
   Today is the National day of Switzerland and last night the council organised this big overnight party for the whole community with plenty of food, drinks, music, a massive fire, balloons and fireworks, to top it all off. I was stood there in awe and I was enjoying every single minute of it with a silly happy grin on my face.
    It’s the 4th country I live in, after Romania, England and Portugal and I’m sure that, as with the rest, Switzerland will give me great memories, will help me grow up and will give me the life experience i’m looking for. The real expectation from my Swiss story is to learn, through good and bad, as many skills as possible, be it feeding a 5 month old baby while making sure his toddler sister doesn’t play with the plugs, speaking French, cooking better (have I mentioned the parents own a restaurant?) or doing via ferrata and ski.
    Looking back now, I wouldn’t want to change a thing. (Well, maybe that 3 hour delay on my London-Geneva flight)

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What now?

I keep getting asked what’s happening now that I’ve finished university and I have a degree in languages. The answer is: I’m living. And well. There are some plans after summer that I won’t talk about now as it’s too early, but for the moment I am taking it easy.
It’s been 4 long years which, in all honesty, I didn’t enjoy that much, beside my year abroad in Portugal. Long, tiring commuting, going to work straight after or before lectures, barely any new uni friends wasn’t necessarily what people have in mind when thinking of uni life. But it’s all gone and I have no regrets whatsoever. I’m fully aware society wants us to get a full time job and get stuck in an office just because “you know, you have a degree now, you spent so much money on it”. I went to uni for myself. If I never get to use my degree I’m not going to cry though I’m sure I will be able to put my collection of foreign languages in practice with what I have in mind for the future.
At the moment, I’m still enjoying my time at Go Outdoors, trying to save up as much as possible. Between working,  looking for other summer jobs and planning for what comes after summer, I’m just living my life well and happily. I finally get to see friends and go out. Larisa and I wake up really early and go for morning walks in the big park next to our house or for proper sunset fun (icecream, cider, board games etc.), we get to play tennis more often, go through that big list of films that we have to watch still and I finally cook more for her, which feels great. Soon enough I’ll go visit my baby cousin/goddaughter Sofia and her beautiful sister Chloe, hoping we can spend some quality time together and my mum is coming soon for my graduation which it will make this summer 3 times more awesome than any other summer.
And there’s so much more stuff I have planned for the months coming. List freak, here you go:
– read more;
– start doing yoga; (yeah, I laughed too when I decided this, but I will give everything a try)
– go camping
– go to Brighton pride. Eeeeek.
– go to the beach. One of the sandy ones around. Or Isle of Wight.
– make elderflower lemonade. My mum used to make this for me when I was younger and it’s literally the best thing ever. Beside the cherry vodka that she makes.
– go to Brighton Breeze, the VW campervan festival on Brighton pier and another classic car show anywhere in Hampshire.
– go for long walks in the woods (one thing I don’t like about the UK is that you can’t free camp in the woods, just like that, which in Scandinavia, for example, is very common. Naughty UK)
– go roller disco. 😀
– dance, dance, dance. Club, streets, my room in my knickers.
– go see Lucy Spraggan ♡
– hopefully go away for a weekend with Larisa to someplace new.
– write more nonsense on this blog.
– go to car boot sales and search for my beautiful old red suitcase.
– be happy and enjoy the most stupid little thing ever that makes me smile.

What are you doing this summer?

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The piano

She sits on the 30-year-old stool in front of the piano. Its 5.05 a.m. She thinks she’s crazy for a second. Then she realizes she actually is: she’s crazy in love with life at the moment. She smiles to herself: “There it is, getting senile at such young age!”

And she starts playing this beautiful old piano she found at a Sunday market. Best money she’s ever spent, she thought. Ludovico Einaudi – Una mattina, her obsession for the last few weeks. Then another song and another one and 20 minutes later she finds herself back to the bed she’s always wanted which is just a king-sized mattress on the floor, in the middle of the room. She wraps herself in the fresh white cotton sheets and the scent of the soul next to her. She kisses her shoulder softly, trying not to wake her up. “Morning person” was definitely not invented for her. 

They’ve been living together for 2 years now in a decent sized studio in Mona Vale and even though they’ve always thought they’d kill each other within a couple of days, things have turned out better than expected. The room is filled with stacks of books and home magazines, there’s 2 bikes hung on one of the walls, a huge dvd rack, a little table with a typing machine, a laptop and lots of wild flowers and lavender in a ceramic pot next to it. There are a couple of empty cans of beer next to the mattress and some popcorn left in a huge bowl, probably from the film, last night.

She wakes up again, this time too late for a Saturday, with the smell of fresh croissants and coffee and the image of a beautiful naked body under an oversized checked shirt, tip-toeing around the room, setting up the small table in the balcony over-looking the ocean.

-You’ve overslept. Again. You might need a jumper for this; it’s bloody windy out there. But you wanted breakfast on the balcony at least once a week, so you must suffer the consequences now.

Confused and sleepy, she covers herself in the white bed throw and goes on the balcony. A small table with elderflower lemonade, coffee, croissants and fruits were all waiting for her. They both sat down in quiet, not knowing what to start with. Sipping from the large mug of black coffee she stares at the two big brown eyes in front of her and without a word she tells her “I love you!”

-I know. Now tell me, what person in their right mind plays piano at 5 o’clock in the morning?

Puzzle

The memories that you sometimes want to forget, the stupid giggles, the ugly crying, the disappointments, the 3 a.m. calls, the heavy breathing after making love, the long drives after sunrise, listening to cheesy songs and holding hands, looking at each other and thinking how fucking lucky you are to be living something like this, the moment you find out those lips kissed that new special “her” after they’ve just whispered “I love you!” in your ear. Good or bad, these are few of the million pieces that put together a beautiful, but insanely complicated puzzle: YOU. And some amazing stories end, but they all stay part of that puzzle, turning into strength. And some will begin soon after you let go. Learning to do that is difficult and frustrating and tiring. But once you start, you know that’s what you should have done a long time ago.

And then, there you are! You let go of bad memories, arguments and pain. You let go of people who belittle you and tell you that “life sucks!” and that people are horrible in one way or another, people that make fun of your happy self, thinking it’s stupid and pointless to be happy all the time. You give up pleasing everybody and you start living for yourself, not your mother, not other relatives, not your friends. You stop apologizing for being lame or believing in good people and true love. You let them laugh while you go to sleep smiling that today was a good day and tomorrow’s going to be an even better one. You let go of unimportant things and focus on having an extraordinary life. And the moment you will do all this, you will decide involuntarily the path you want to follow further on. That’s called growing up.

Her name is Lilou II

Part I

It all began that Monday morning that she’ll never forget. It was only 6.30 am and she was sat naked on her living room floor having her daily smoothie that she secretly hated, reading The Chronicles of Narnia (she has decided a while back that she wants to read all those books she had in the unpacked boxes stood in the corner of the room for months- it was her idea of doing something useful with her life). She knew she has to get going as she started work at 8 and she needed to avoid the traffic. She was used waking up quite early and doing something nice just for herself: her nails, read a book, cook a proper lunch or even watch porn and please herself.  She could finally walk around the house naked, sing and dance and eat ice cream and have a cheeky glass of wine at 7 am in the morning, just because she wanted to. She finally felt happy and free and she didn’t need to hide from anyone. It was her very own little heaven. She put on her sophisticated grey suit and the very same simple make-up she’s been using for years and left the house.

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 In the car, listening to The Pogues (again) and munching on some Skittles which she 

thought of as part of her super-hero breakfast, Nora was enjoying the morning sunshine which was very rare in Dublin. She felt like that day was going to be great, but then again she had the same feeling every morning. Suddenly her phone rang while she was driving her little old polo she had since she was about 20, but she decided to just ignore it. It was her mother. She was hoping it was nothing bad, but she promised herself she’ll give her a ring once she gets to work which she quickly arrived to after 10 minutes. She was working as an estate agent, something she would have never thought of after getting that bloody master degree in English a while back. It’s been 2 years and many things have happened since. 

“Mum, hello! I literally have 5 minutes before I start work. What’s happened?”

“Nora, darling, nothing bad. I’m the happiest mother today. Your sister Cara is pregnant!! I’m going to be a grandmother; my very first grandchild.”

“Oh, wow! Well, congrats, I suppose! Woo..” She knew what’s coming.

“Nora, darling, now that your sister is having a baby, maybe you want to try settling too. You’re the older one, you know, you should be having someone at least and plan your future together. The clock is ticking, tick-tock, tick-tock”, she said with a laugh which Nora knew it was as fake as her workmate’s boobs. She stopped listening to her mum and quickly cut her off with a work “excuse”.

“Well THAT ruined my day, thank you very much”, she thought. Not the fact that her sister was going to have a sprog, but that her mum kept reminding her how alone she is. She felt sick for a bit while her entire past for the last 5 years came back to her head:  the great memories, the amazing plans on a festival type wedding in her very own garden and having a family, the traveling they had planned and which they have never gotten around to actually do, the disappointment, the tears. She needed to go away for a while and be happy on her own without relying on anyone or without listening to her family asking her on and on and on if she’s depressed or if she’s a lesbian.

She was impatient now and her job felt today like a prison. After what seemed like ages, it was time to go home. She needed to make a decision about her life. She couldn’t settle now just for the sake of it. She knew there’s many, many things to explore and too many adventures to go on. Her little brain came up with what felt like the craziest idea she has ever had and for a moment she knew it will never happen. She needed a change though so she decided to go for it. She was going to sell her flat which was left as present from her grandparents, her poor little Polo and pretty much all her belongings and she will go away for a while.  She didn’t know where and how the hell she will manage not to freak out the moment she’ll sat her sexy bum in a plane, but she was going to do it. That night she had a restless sleep, her heart was beating so fast she thought she’s gonna wet herself of so much excitement. She hasn’t thought how she’d break the news to her family yet, but that was the last one of her worries in the ocean of adventures she was throwing herself into.

Three weeks have gone past and there she was, right where she never dreamed to be at 25: driving the green camper van she always wished for, with her whole life packed in an old red suitcase, on her way to France. She was going to visit her best friend Ave, her person. Ave was having the time of her life in France after having traveled pretty much everywhere and Nora needed her and her non-soppy personality. Ave will fix her.

She named her camper van Joy.