Your Questions Answered: Becoming An Au Pair

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I’ve been getting a lot of questions, lately, from various sources about my au pair experience and I thought I would do a kind of “post au pair year” post to answer a few of your questions! So here it is, the good the bad and the ugly.

One of the questions I get the most is whether or not I “liked” my experience. First off, this is a broad question because asking if I “liked” an entire year of my life is about as easy to answer as if you asked a five year old if they liked the last 24 hours of their life – they probably don’t remember, there were probably good and bad things that happened, but they’re still alive so it’s all good.

The thing is, being an au pair is the same as being in any other work profession – there are good days and there are bad days. The thing that is different, is that you don’t get to leave work when you’re having a bad day. You can’t walk away from your boss, you can’t fake sick days (or even take sick days, in general – I knew several au pairs (myself included) who worked through colds, the flu, and even the chicken pox. That’s right – she didn’t get off from work when she had chicken pox). While being romaticized mentally by many, I would say the most accurate/closest portrayal I’ve ever seen is The Nanny Diaries. It’s no piece of cake, that’s for sure.

The best parts of being an au pair would probably be the same as when you’re working as a nanny – you have A LOT of free time. While some families require for you to work in the morning (taking the kids to school) as well as the afternoon, my au pair family only required that I worked after school, meaning I started work every day at about 3pm (NOTE: Except Wednesdays – which, in France, is a no/half school day – depending on the age of your children). Which means I had time during the day to go out and do things, or just stay in my house and work on projects. This also meant that I was able to come back a little bit later from (the many) weekend trips that I made.

This brings up another really great fact and that is: All au pair families are not the same. These differences can include, but are not limited to:

  • Whether you work mornings or just afternoons
  • Whether you have a room in the house or separate
  • Whether your transportation (public transportation card/card/etc) is paid for
  • Whether your communication is paid for – some families will pay for your phone
  • Whether your au pair family will have you babysit on weekends
  • Whether the family will pay you for working additional days/nights (some don’t)
  • Whether your language classes/lessons are paid for
  • How much you get paid and how you get paid (direct deposit/cash each week/monthly)

Most of these things didn’t work in my favor with my au pair situation. While I did have weekend freedom, as well as no need to babysit (generally, since there were older kids who could), I didn’t have any additional resources paid for, which did make living a little bit harder, overall (since actual pay only came to 80 euro/week). This is something to REALLY think about/ask about when you’re finding an au pair family. Look at your own personal finances and make sure that things align with what your  income will be for the next year of living in a foreign country and make sure that you fill in gaps with your own savings, before the move.

My biggest piece of advice, in general, would be for you to check, double check, Skype, phone call, email and talk to your potential family as much as possible. I would also highly suggest talking to past nannies or au pairs that they’ve had. While I wouldn’t recommend the family that I worked with, I have been asked by other au pairs who were thinking about working for them, and I was able to let them know. Communication is key! This is also a great indicator of how you will be able to communicate once you move there – if your au pair family isn’t willing to communicate with you while you’re abroad that might be an indicator of other underlying problems with the position, which will come up once you actually get there.

I would also say make sure you have a really great support system. The only reason I was able to come out sane, after my time in France was because I had such an amazing support system back at home that was encouraging me, sending me snail mail and Skyping me. Asking your au pair family about whether they know other au pair families in their city, s also a really great way to connect with other au pairs.

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When it comes down to it, being in a foreign country is really isolating and can be incredibly lonely (like a whole different level of lonely than I had ever experienced before). Having this support system really CAN make or break your experience. Also – if you know you enjoy living in a city and being active socially don’t take a position in a small town. I know it might seem adventurous, but overall it probably isn’t going to be a good decision. Keep true to yourself, even if the “perfect” family doesn’t come around right away, it’s worth making sure they’re the right family for you, before making the leap.

Maneuvering the realm of being an au pair is an adventure that isn’t for everyone. There are benefits to leaving your comfort zone and striking out in the world, but make sure that you look before you leap. As I always say with any kind of travel, don’t take on something in order to escape something else. Make sure you do your research, and make sure you aren’t settling.

And, as always: If you ever have questions or comments, or find yourself in an au pair position that just doesn’t seem right email me at morehouseemilee@gmail.com Blog Signature

Pere Lachaise Cemetary

DSC_0774As a sort of “last adventure” I decided to go visit the Pere Lachaise Cemetery yesterday. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the cemetery, it’s absolutely beautiful and known for having the graves of celebrities such as Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Balzac, Moliere and Delacroix. But what really too my breath away were the tombs of people who I had no idea who they were. There were some absolutely beautiful sculptures and a serious lack of weeping angels. But overall I spent a good 3 hours there and it was absolutely beautiful.

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Oscar Wilde

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Top 5 questions I get asked about Paris:

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Living in such a tourist favorite city as Paris, I get a lot of friends who are visiting here and want to know what my perspective on the city is. For the sake of time management, and so I can help out as many people as possible with my faux Parisian opinions, I thought I would put together a post with the answers to some of the questions I get asked most frequently. Ready!? Let’s go!

1. Where should I stay?

There are tons of options for where to stay during your time in Paris! My personal favorites would probably be to either find a hostel to stay in or to find a place on Airbnb because Couchsurfing requests don’t work as often in such a huge city. The hostel that I stayed in the first time I came to Paris (which I would definitely recommend) is the BVJ Champs-Elysées Monceau which is an affordable option for a city where money melts out of your pockets, if you’re not paying attention. This hostel had so many lovely memories for me. It was here that my friend and me met a couple of awesome backpackers who walked the streets of Paris with us, late at night. We had drinks at a café and talked about how different life was in each of our different countries (Brazil, Spain, USA and Romania). It was the quintessential Parisian moment and one of my favorite memories. The hostel itself is also just lovely and looks like a museum from the outside.

2. What should I see?

I think Paris does a great job with their most famous attractions, but if you want some personal suggestions I would say make sure you visit Montmartre and Sacre Coeur church. That’s my favorite area in Paris because it’s where all of the artist stores are. This is also where you can find the “famous” square where you can buy original paintings from Parisian artists! One time I got my silhouette cut out from one a man there and I absolutely love it. 🙂
Another favorite spot is the Gardens at Luxembourg, especially if it’s sunny outside. These gardens are absolutely beautiful and such a great place to sit, have a picnic, walk or sketch. But fair warning, if it’s a sunny and nice day this is a very WELL KNOWN spot for Parisians so you most certainly will not be alone.
My best suggestion is to look up things you love, such as the movie Mulan Rouge, Ernest Hemingway, Victor Hugo, or Midnight in Paris and then go from there. There are just so many amazing settings  for stories that you can visit in real life. It’s amazing!

3. Should I stay away from anywhere in Paris?

I get a lot of questions asking what the “bad” parts of Paris are. The answer, of course, is not quite so simple. There are of course “bad” metro lines ( *cough* 13) that are a bit on the sketch line, but I would say to be aware no matter where you’re traveling in Paris.  1) Keep your valuables in zipped or buttoned pockets so people can’t slip their hands in and pick pocket you. 2) If you’re in a crowded space, and have a bag or purse, hold it over your shoulder and in front of you so it’s not hanging behind being gone through without your knowledge. 3) NEVER leave your bags unaccompanied 4) Don’t walk alone late at night down dark alley ways 5) If you feel like you’re in an area that’s less than serene keep your headphones out of your ears and keep aware of the people around you. The rules are pretty much the same for any big city – don’t be scared, be prepared.

4. How do I get around?

There are actually a few ways to get around, although the main ones that we use are the RER and the metro (sometimes other trains, but not as much for Paris proper). Paris actually has a pretty understandable system when it comes to metros and each line is color coded and numbered. If you ever need help when riding the metro feel free to ask the info places at the entrances to the stops (before you put your ticket in). They’re extremely helpful and have even been known to print directions for lost travelers or first time visitors to the city.

5. Do you have any favorite spots I should know about?

Honestly, my favorite thing to do in Paris is to just walk up and down the Seine river. It’s the closest thing we have to an ocean, and I miss Puget Sound so very much. I also love that it will take you along many of the major attractions. The gardens of Paris are also just simply magnificent. If there’s one thing the French excel at it’s making things beautiful and elaborate, and their gardens are no exception – if you have the opportunity to step into one with a book to read – do it. The atmosphere is lovely and oh so French.

Rome, Italy: Day 2

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Day two of Italy was such a beautiful whirlwind. I started out with breakfast (REAL DOUGHNUT) at the hostel and then headed out to find the metro. I was so happy to figure out that in Rome the metro consists of two lines, and each goes in two directions. That’s really all there is. Hallelujah. There was a direct route from where I was staying, so I hopped on the metro and headed to my first location: The Vatican.

While I was riding the metro I was reminded of how terrified I was of the tube when I made my first ever backpacking trip. I wouldn’t take it. I took buses around London for an entire week. And if you’ve ever been to London, you’ll know how incredibly insane that is. But here I was, sitting on the metro in Rome, Italy thinking, “Well this is easy.” Paris has changed me in a lot of ways. I had to smile when I thought about how “young” I seemed on my first trip, even though it was only a couple years ago. So much can change in two years.

The Vatican was as crazy as you can imagine. Going on Easter weekend was an absolute dream in most regards, to be honest. There were so many more benefits than negatives. But when it came to The Vatican, there was the single negative; it seemed like the entirety of Italy (and maybe everywhere else, too) was there. The line was wrapping around the entire piazza and everyone was buzzing with excitement. It was a pretty amazing experience. EVERYONE was there – from the elderly to tours filled with children. I didn’t wait in the line, because I knew that I had limited time to see the whole city, but I did take some awesome pictures of the surrounding area. So fresh, so clean. I love Roman architecture.

My next stop was the Castel Sant Angelo, which was amazing and absolutely enormous. I kind of wish I had gone in, but there was just so much to see and I was on a time crunch. I loved walking along the “Fiume Tevere”. The water seemed so clear in comparison to The Seine and since the sun was out and shining all day it was the best place to be.

Like I said, I really think I went at the best time that I could have. I had all the street vendors to myself and picked up some amazing “Roman Holiday” (Audrey Hepburn) prints, which I’m definitely going to get framed when I get back to the US. The Piazza Cavour was one of the most beautiful sights you could ever imagine. I’m so used to the (sorry France) gaudy Parisian architecture that it was refreshing to see the clean, but nonetheless ornate and beautiful, architecture of Rome.

My next stop was the Piazza Navona, where I bought some gelato and simply laid in the sun next to a fountain as a jazz band played next to where I was sitting. Sounds perfect, right? It was.
I stopped in on quite a few churches while I was in Rome. I loved how simplistic they looked on the exterior, but how ornate they were on the inside. I spent a lot of time just sitting and mediating in one of the smaller chapels next to the Piazza. Such beauty.
At this point I decided that I needed to see at least one actual museum so I jumped in the one that was nearest to me. Of course (because I can never escape France) it was the Napoleon museum, which was actually amazing and beautiful and I loved it. When I walked in, though, I walked straight up to the huge Napoleon painting and said “Well, I didn’t expect to see you here.” I’m pretty sure the security guards thought I was insane. Oh, well.

My next stop was the Pantheon, which was an absolute madhouse (in all the best ways). There were just SO MANY PEOPLE THERE. I loved being able to walk around amidst the beehive of people inside, though. The ceiling was one of those moments that seems like a cut from a movie montage. You just stand there and turn around and around. How did people build this so long ago? How is it still here? Why do I get to come here?

After the Pantheon I picked up some postcards and walked up along the Tiber River. I headed up to Piazza del Popolo where there was the coolest obelisk. That was another favorite thing about Rome, since I’ve always been in love with ancient Egypt (I dressed up as Cleopatra probably 5 Halloweens in my childhood). I loved being able to see these massive obelisks engraved with hieroglyphics. I mean, come on. At this point I was just thinking – what even is this life that I’m living?

NOTE: This whole trip I had to keep pinching myself. How was it real that I was there? How was I there? How was it real?

After the Piazza I made my way along the Via del Corso, which is pretty much just a huge extension of shop after shop after shop. I did buy a wallet, because I figured that going to Italy and not buying something made out of Italian leather would have been a crime.
Another thing I really enjoyed about Rome was that, even though it’s such a massive city, there are still live street musicians and artists. There were some absolutely incredible chalk artists on the streets there, and I could not believe how well they were replicating famous works of art.

The next stop on my adventure were the Spanish stairs – and I really don’t have much to say about them because my little introvert self saw that many people sitting in that one place, and ran for the hills.

Or rather, Trevi Fountain, which was under construction (the saddest thing ever) but was still lovely. Hopefully someday, when I go back, I’ll be able to see it with actual water in it. Wouldn’t that be nice?

The Quirinale was my next stop, and I arrived just in time to see the Italian version of the changing of the guards. The whole ceremony was pretty awesome, but I don’t think it’s publicized because there weren’t a whole ton of people there. Those of us who were there, though, loved every moment.

Phew. I’m getting tired just writing all of this out (and you’re probably getting tired of reading it) but just image that this was 12 hours straight of walking. Fun times.

On my way back to my hostel I found an old church (like all the churches in Rome are old, so I don’t know why I needed to add that), and wrote out the postcards I needed to send out – all while being surrounded by gold and renaissance style paintings. Think angels with outstretched fingers. That.

Piazza Republica was my next stop on my way back to my hostel, where I dropped off my postcards, and went back to the hostel to collapse. Unfortunately, it was then that I realized I had forgotten to get Spaghetti (I had checked off Panini and gelato already during the day) somewhere, so I dragged myself back out of bed and across the street for a plate. I will say this about that meal: I don’t think I’ll ever be able to enjoy bread anywhere, ever again, now that I’ve lived in France.

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Rome, Italy : Day 1

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(Written last week, but I didn’t have time to edit it – oops!)

Day one of Rome started with me flying into the airport, missing buses because of the enormous demand (due to Easter) and then ultimately getting into the city! When we drove in, the bus went past some of the southern monuments, including the Colosseum. My first thought, honestly, when arriving there was “Whoa. That looks just like the Colosseum.” Sleep deprivation does things to you, and I don’t think my mind had quite figured out I wasn’t in France anymore.

Obviously, I figured it out a split second later, and whipped out my phone to snap some pictures as we sped by. The bus took me pretty close to my hostel, which was so nice! The name of the hostel where I was staying was called The Freedom Traveler Hostel and I really really enjoyed my time there. The staff was just so extremely helpful and so incredibly nice. When I checked in, the staff woman pulled out a map that showed Rome and circled all the “must see” places. Basically it was every highlighted attraction. Which meant I needed to get started right away, despite being barely able to walk straight due to my 4am wake up time.

So I dropped my stuff off and headed straight back out the door. The thing to remember about Rome is that there are only two subway lines and neither goes near anything you’ll want to see, with the exception of The Vatican. The reason, as you can probably guess, is because it would endanger so many of the ruins and monuments to have tunnels running underground near them. But it does make transportation (other than by bus) a little more tricky. The good thing is, a lot of things are clustered together, and there are beautiful structures to see that aren’t even on the maps for your walk to in between places.

Day one I decided to head back down south of where I was staying, BACK to the Colosseum. The great thing about traveling on Easter weekend was a lot of monuments were FREE! The bad thing was that there seemed to be the whole of Europe there to visit.

When I walked up to the Colosseum the line was impressively long stretching out farther than I could really see. It was at this moment that for some weird reason the movie Big Hero 6 came to mind, and I started looking at the insanity in a different way. I started walking around the building and found another line to the side that apparently no one knew existed except for the 10 people in front of me – so I got into the building in about 15 minutes (in comparison to waiting hours). Getting in so quickly, and not having to pay made the experience all that much better and I got to savor the guided tours that I joined up inside. I honestly spent so much time in there just in awe and wonder at the magnitude and history that made up the Colosseum. Absolutely crazy.

After the Colosseum it was pretty late for museums, due to the fact that I didn’t get into the city until almost 3pm and they closed at 6pm. So I walked across the street to the Roman Forum where there are just ruins for as far as the eye can see. I also discovered, while walking around, that Italy has doughnuts – which was one of the best moment I’ve had in months. I don’t even know why, but I’ve been craving doughnuts for months and to finally get a real fried doughnut (France has them, but they’re baked – gross) was just heaven.

Even though it rained the first day, the overall mood of the city was on fire. Everyone was having such a good time and you could tell. That’s something I really miss from Paris. As weird as it sounds, happy people are not in an abundance there and it starts to rub off on you after a while.

Italians are loud and expressive and sarcastic and fun. Italian couples, not matter what age, were my favorite to people to watch because they are hilarious – so much teasing but in a I’m going-to-play slap-you-and-then-kiss-you romantic way. It actually really reminded me of Ireland and the Irish sense of humor. Which is saying a lot, because Ireland is my absolute favorite place ever.

After all the walking I went back to my hostel and got to chat with my hostel roommates – Pat and Kat. Which is just awesome that those were their names. One was a student from The Philippines, who was studying in Denmark and the other was a single mom from Hawaii who just decided to go to Rome on a whim. They both were just so incredible.

That really is so much of the experience of travel. Yes the sights and the ruins are amazing. I love museums and paintings and castles and churches. But what really makes a trip a good one is the people you meet. I absolutely love bing able to hang out with other travelers and swap stories and ideas – they really are my favorite kind of people.

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Day In Paris: Musée du Luxembourg And L’atelier Du Pied De Fouet

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Every Friday I try my best to push myself into the busy city and go see something wonderful and beautiful that Paris has to offer (hopefully dragging along some of my friends). Sometimes it’s a museum, sometimes’s it’s a garden, sometimes it’s a home of a famous person. But regardless of what it is, we try to make Friday our “fun day.”

Looking back I’m really glad we started doing this pretty much right off the bat of moving to Paris because Paris is one of those multi-layered cities where you think there are just a few things to see (Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower) but there are actually hundreds of places you’ll be sad if you miss.

So, every Friday we have an outing. And I really love them (especially since we have some sunshine, now!) A couple weeks ago we got to go see a really awesome exhibit at the Musee du Luxembourg and it was all portraits and history around the Tudor family and I just realized that I never wrote up a blog post about it – which is a shame.

I went through a pretty large part of my childhood OBSESSED with everything about the Tudor lineage, so I loved being able to see all of the beautiful original paintings! I did get to see a few of them when I was in London a couple of years ago, but the overall exhibit was a lot more extensive than anything else I’ve ever seen.

Afterwards we went to this swanky literal hole in the wall restaurant called Atelier Pied De Fouet and had the most magical burgers and fries. I don’t know why, but I seem to eat so many more burgers since living outside the U.S. But, you have to understand, when I say “burgers” I’m not talking about McDonalds. I mean juicy French burgers that drip goodness and savory sauces out the back as you try to fit their massivity somehow in your mouth for a bite. That kind.

The overall atmosphere of the restaurant was really relaxed when we got there, although it got crowded pretty quickly as the lunch rush began. The space is extremely small, so if you go visit I would suggest you do so during a non-rush hour period. The place did have Wifi (but you have to ask for the password and they print you one out). But overall I was just really reminded of Seattle by the vintage hipster feel of the restaurant and the tattooed staff. Sigh. I miss my home city so much. But if you’re in Paris and want a taste of Seattle culture, this is your place to go! (P.s. This place is kind of pricey – for a burger and fries it was 14 euro, which is a lot more than we would usually pay. The burger was worth it, and HUGE, but I want to make sure you know what you’re walking into) Cheers! 5star1

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If I were Queen Elizabeth I…

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5 Things I’m Happy I Paid Extra For

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If you like to travel smart, like I do (aka with basically no money) then you probably want to be smart about the little “extras” you buy when you travel. It can be really hard to know what you should pay the additional price for when you’re out traveling the world, so I thought I would let you all in on some of the little somethings that I paid extra for, and that I didn’t regret! Ok, ready? Let’s go!

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Walking Tour, Berlin: 

This was the highlight of my Berlin trip. Since I was traveling in an off season it was just me, one other girl and our Australian tour guide, who was amazing. The tour I took was about the Nazzi regime in Berlin, and was fascinating. I don’t know how my tour guide remembered all of the 3 HOURS worth of information, but he did. He also was the one who clued me in on the football match happening the next day, for which I am forever grateful. I just never would have known the history around the city without taking this tour, and I’m so happy I decided to do it! Oh, and the tour was FREE! (But, of course, you can tip your tour guide) Look for the blue umbrella!

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Headset, Van Gogh & Ruks Museum, Amsterdam: 

I normally don’t pay the additional 5 or 10 euro to pay for the headsets at museums, but I decided to “splurge” while I was in Amsterdam, and I paid for them in 2 museums. I was SO happy I did. Mainly because when you’re in a museum like the Van Gogh Museum you really need (I think) to know the stories behind many of his paintings. I feel like I know Van Gogh so much more, now, having heard about the inspiration behind his works and the beautiful paintings that he created.

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CitySightSeeing, Ride around London, London

The first day I was in London I was handed a pamphlet from the “Original Sightseeing Company.” I didn’t think much of it, but then I read that they were having a sale so I decided to buy a weekend (3 day) pass. SUCH A GOOD IDEA. The buses were hop-on-hop-off so I could catch them all over the city, meaning I used them for sightseeing and for regular transportation, too. I learned so much more about the city, and it was a great way to still be around people, while traveling alone. (It also came with a river tour ride – all for 25 pounds!)

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Sail and Rail Pass, N. Ireland, Ireland, Scotland, England: 

Rather than just fly from place to place I like to see if I can find trains or boats, or other modes of transportation that allow me to see the countries I’m traveling through. Sail and Rail is a great option when going around the UK/Ireland because for one ticket you get all the different modes of transportation covered (whether that’s bus, train or ferry). Also the ferries from N. Ireland to Scotland are beautiful.

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French lessons before moving to France: 

This is a little different from the others, but I still really think it’s important to put on here. I DO NOT know what I would have done without my French tutor before coming to France. I probably would have died. I had a really great teacher, so make sure you find the right one, but it was invaluable to pay for lessons before moving here. While I had taken years of French lessons, I hadn’t said a word in French for so long that it was really important to be able to work with someone who was French and brush up.

Oceans

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Galway, Ireland

On the way back from school today, I was walking with my two youngest boys, and we came to a crosswalk. We stopped, looked both ways, and I stepped out first with them following. While they happily scampered across the street a car came speeding down the road, slamming on its brakes last minute when it saw me there, standing in the center of the crosswalk waiting for my kids to get across. I eyed the driver defiantly; because do or die, I was not moving until my kids were safe.

This isn’t the first, or the last, time that something like this has/will happened. As an au pair it’s my job to protect and take care of my kids and that’s what I do, even if it means risking my own safety in the effort. First and foremost it’s my job to make sure they come home safe and sound at the end of the day.

But, you know what? They don’t know that. In fact, I would go as far to say they don’t have a clue.
Sure they know I feed them, and pick them up from school, and that I take them to the park. But while they’re happily crossing streets, they have no idea there are cars narrowly missing them. And that’s okay. They’re kids and being oblivious to adult responsibilities is part of the package deal.

Today, though, I started thinking about how I cross my own streets in life, all the time, with God standing guard. I am the kid walking across with little to no idea of the protective measures going on around me.

The only difference is that my crosswalks are life choices – things that might seem scary or unknown, or downright insane. The other side of the road doesn’t always look like a nice and visible place to be. I get distracted by the fact that I can’t see what’s on the other side, or that I’m crossing alone and no one else seems to be walking in the same direction; I get nervous because I don’t have a plan after I cross, I don’t know who or what I will become when I reach that point – and that is terrifying. All I can think about is the other side of the street, but if only I would take the time to see the protecting guidance of my Father I would know better than to fear.

Lately I’ve had a lot of people ask me what it’s like to be an au pair. People have sent me messages saying they’ve thought about doing it, and they want to know if I think they should. I’ve been really careful replying to these messages, because I know giving “advice” on life altering decisions is very serious. And being an au pair IS a life altering decision. You will not come back the same.

And I don’t mean that solely in a, “you’ll have such a larger perspective of the world” way. Yes, you will gain amazing skills such as viewing people different from yourself, new friends and experiences and most likely have a more open mind. BUT you will also have battle scars and wounds from your time abroad. You will have situations that you wish you could have avoided, and problems you never thought you would overcome.

You’ll probably spend time crying – a LOT of time crying. You’ll wonder what the hell you’re doing there. You’ll feel like you’re wasting valuable time in your life, and that you could be doing something more significant. You’ll feel like you’re suffocating, like if you missed places and people any more your heart would implode.

That. That is what it means to be an au pair. And I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking that you won’t feel like giving up on a regular basis. Because the reality is, it’s an extremely “unnatural” feeling to be living in a stranger’s house in a strange land with strange surroundings and nothing and no one familiar in immediate reach during your rough moments.
You don’t get to go home and vent after work – your home is your work. You don’t get sick days to stay home and marathon Netflix, you go to work every day, regardless of your state of health. Your schedule is not your own, you get woken up by screaming children and have to be quiet at night so you don’t wake them. Sometimes you’ll wonder if it’s worth it – or whether you should crank your music so loud the walls shake just so you’ll remember that you are there. And you are. Even though sometimes it feels like you’ve melted into an emotional pot the family has forgotten to stir – some kind of strange substance floating on the surface.

Let’s face it, sometimes a lot of the time you will want to give up. A lot of time I want to give up.

But I was raised to keep running a race until I reached the finish line. Whether I have to run, walk, limp or crawl there – I will cross it, and hold my head high.

Being an au pair is hard; it has stretched me in ways that I never knew I could be stretched. It has emboldened me in ways I never thought possible, and it has cut into my heart, replacing pieces I never wanted to admit were rotting. I’ve overcome things that I never would wish for anyone else to experience, stories I’ll never tell to anyone but those who are closest to me.

It has been painful and difficult and crazy and confusing.

But every now and then I’ll catch a glimmer. A faint light shining amidst the chaos that this life brings, and I’ll remember; the life I was called to, to run a good race, to push forward even when absolutely everything is pushing me back. I’ll remember that even the darkest rainstorms result in beautiful color pallets painting the skies.

And maybe that’s what this season is about. It’s a season of stretching. A season of building the muscles that will carry me across steeper roads, higher mountains and deeper canyons.

It’s not easy. Not one day since I’ve been here has been easy. But there have been times when I’ve smiled more genuinely than I think I ever have before. And I guess that is what truly marks a great adventure. Not that it’s a leisurely stroll. But that it’s a trek that leaves you scratched up, worn out and ready to drop at the end – but with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.

We did it.

None of us leave this life unscathed or unaltered. The real question is whether the wounds we acquire have stories that are worth telling for generations.

hobbit

French Cookinspiration

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This week seems to be the week of food, here. I’ve baked my first dessert, started putting together salads and dressings…and I’ve BEGAN to find my way around the French supermarket by my house. It’s not easy, because things aren’t arranged the same was as in the US…but slowly I’m starting to love my little adventures to the store.

This week I’ve been inspired by lots, but I thought I would share my food inspirations specifically.

1. Julia Child: Another American who spent time navigating the world of French living, I spent a good 30 minutes learning how to make a perfect omelet, today.

2. The Little Mermaid: My brother and I had a potentially unhealthy obsession with this song growing up, and I definitely had it in mind while I was cooking this week. In fact, mid ingredients I definitely said “Zut, Alors! I have missed one!”

3. Ebay: Ebay has been my friend pretty hard core for cooking ingredients (who knew!?) and cooking supplies. Measuring spoons/cups aren’t really a thing in France, so I haven’t been able to find any in the stores near me. While I was looking for some, I found these beauties, though, and I think I’m going to save up for them!

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