Dienstag, 23. Dezember 2014

Thoughts on spending Christmas over the clouds and about the annual increase of madness towards the end of the year

Hi there, I just wanted to write this post now because I probably won't be writing another post in 2014 and I just wanted to thank you for sticking with me this year as well and to wish you all a merry Christmas (and since we won't be back until the 16th of January I might as well just wish you an enchanting New Year and a Kickass way to start your 2015 - in the good meaning, of course!).

Since we're off to "La Habana", the city of columns, or simply Havana, Cuba, on the 25th of December; we'll spend our Christmas over the clouds(Luckily we celebrate Christmas Eve rather than the actual Christmas Day in Switzerland). It's been an eventful year and we've been trough a lot, so my mother and I both need our holidays and are looking forward to our trip like little children. A nice side-effect is that we'll be escaping the annual festive marathon/massacre towards the end of the year, better known as Christmas and New Year, this way. No misunderstandings - just like every other child, I used to love Christmas and the Advent time was my favourite time to go window-shopping in the city. And I still don't exactly dislike Christmas. In fact, I still kind of like it.
I just hate the fact, that Christmas for most is a compulsory act and plainly said empty. All the artificial, superficial and absolutely unnecessary trouble around it, all the kind words said, the warm gestures made and the "presents made from heart", when you exactly are in knowledge of the fact that the donor doesn't even have such a thing as a heart. One of my favourite cites is "A woman's smile is her most elegant way to bare her teeth" ; and especially around towards Christmas I once more realise how true it is. If you spend an extended amount of time in another country in which they don't speak your language and you don't speak their's(yet), you will inevitably, amongst other things, get one great gift: The gift of observation. I love it to sit around a table and to get what's going on but playing along nevertheless. You all of a sudden discover who really cares and who's just nice to you because they are sticking to the rules made up by society.
I am no exception  - There are people I'd go miles for, even to the end of this world or another; and there is the rest. And let's face it, as much as we'd like to just spit straight into certain people's faces, most of the time we have to stick to the rules of society and all we can do is nicely cultivated snarling, or how we civilized beings better like to call it, smiling. The slight, subtle but important difference is in being aware of that fact. By being aware that you are part of the whole circus show, you are able to choose which role you want to play. Me for my part, I like being the audience best as I know I can't be the director (yet). And should that not be possible I love my veteran role as mad hatter who joins the tea party of madness, the jester or the crazy clown, for fools are the only ones able to speak the truth and unmask the ones putting up a brave front without being cast out from the round; because they made the decision not to be part of it in first place.

So while all this normal madness is going on underneath us, we will be flying somewhere over the ocean; over the clouds. And rather than being annoyed that we can't be sitting together in the plane as my mum booked way before me, I am looking forward to the little promenades through the plane to visit each other in case our neighbours are unwilling to swap seats(or we); and who those neighbours will be. I mean, six hours are a long time to talk, to observe and to do all kinds of things you feel like doing; and that's exactly why I love long-haul flights. Knowing me and my luck, it's bound to become an interesting flight - one way or another. I am sure there will be all kinds of stereotypes gathered in one plane, like the neurotic banker cancelling his family time (or fleeing from his dear relatives) for a meeting, the ubiquitous archetype of a tourist - preferably overweight and ready to get sunburnt, the "OMG, THE PLANE IS GOING TO FALL AND WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!" maniac, the IT-fashion dolly with too much money who's Champaign is bond to be "not cold enough" and all the others we have grown accustomed to over the time.
But whatever I'll experience in the plane or on the island, you'll be sure to read it here sooner or later!;)

May you all have a wonderful Christmas (hopefully rather not as described above) and a splendid New Year, and hopefully see you in 2015!:)




Samstag, 20. Dezember 2014

Being an Au-Pair in London in a nutshell

Hi there

Are you all getting ready for the annual Christmas-Madness?
Personally, I feel very relaxed as my mum and I are going to Cuba over Christmas/New Year and I just escaped from the madhouse aka my working place and host family in London. Yes that's right, my experience as an Au-Pair in London was altogether a complete disaster and just one of the most terrible and stressful times in my life so far.

No panic, I won't bore you with the details of all the little and big no-no's and beastliness I experienced with my host family, but for everyone considering to do an Au-Pair job I highly advise you to inform yourself thoroughly about your rights and actual duties as an Au-Pair; as most of the host families in London (at least what I and several other Au-Pairs could detect from our and other families) try to make use of you - or simply are misinformed about the duties of an Au-Pair, leading to you becoming the housemaid, servant or even slave of the family if you don't stand up for yourself. I did inform myself but it kind of got in that direction anyway. The thing is that the kids grew up around Au-Pairs rather than a stable Nanny while the parents both were working full-time, resulting in the children having no stable attachment figure. No wonder therefore, that the 7 years old daughter went berserk and tried everything to get me, the seemingly root of evil that stood between her and her beloved mummy and daddy, out of their house. And I mean EVERYTHING.

At first I ignored her wicked little games and her snottiness, as I am very well aware of the fact that children always will test you and see how you deal with them over a longer period before they grow to respect you. And I tried really hard to get her to like me. I know I am really good with kids and they usually like me a lot, since I can empathize with them easily and always try to see the world through their eyes. And in fact, she did like me; she even said so and showed it as well through her actions when she had a good moment. The problem wasn't a personal matter, but the fact that she just didn't want to have an Au-Pair in her family at any cost. And I just happened to be the unlucky guy who drew the short straw and got the position while she had (and presumably still has) her worst phase so far. She even went as far as lying about being hit and pushed down the stairs by me. That was the point where it was enough and I quit. That weren't little, innocent, childish games anymore. That was a serious matter that could have hurt my reputation and that could have jeopardized my future if the parents would have believed her (which they luckily didn't - turns out she used the same lie with previous Au-Pairs as well...Little, spoiled, pitiful brat!). I told them in advance so that they could find a new Au-Pair and they agreed that I could stay with them until after my Proficiency test, as it would benefit all of us and as it would be great if I could work in the new Au-Pair. Two weeks after they kindly requested me to leave the house as they had already found another Au-Pair and changed their mind after all. Nothing personal. Only that I now had the stress to find a new place to stay. I found a small, really cheap 1-room flat in Acton which I would have gotten, but the guy suddenly didn't respond anymore to my mails and calls which I thought of as really strange. In the meantime the host mother asked me whether I wouldn't like to stay with them until Christmas after all - Turned out the next Au-pair's references weren't that fab after all. Since it was more convenient for me that way as well, I agreed. But as nice they treated me when I first arrived, as cold and uninterested they were now. Shortly said, the last couple of days were just hell and sheer madness.

To sum it up, Au-pair can be either one of the most lovely or one of the most hellish jobs at all. And I think it highly depends on where you are - On the countryside I think families are more likely to treat you as part of the family as in the capital; especially London, since there are a lot of empty, snobbish and posh people and excellent examples of the sharp elbowed middle classes. It's a 50/50 thing, really. But as far as I can judge, it doesn't really matter wether you go with an agency or on your own, for my friend went with an agency, had exactly the same problems as I and also left early, with the difference that she spent 2500€ and her agency made the very helpful comment that they "would totally understand her decision" - of course she won't get back her money for the time she paid but didn't spend over there. Biggest joke of it all is that the agency assured her that they would take the family out of their list; only for her to hear from the family one week later that the agency already had found 30 new candidates for the Au-Pair job in their family...

But nevertheless the last couple of months were an experience I am grateful for, as I could learn a lot about myself and were I still have to work on. My mother always uses to say "be grateful for everything life throws at you, as shitty as it may be; as everything will teach you something, makes you grow and surpass your former self ". Or in short: What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. And I share her belief.

See you soon,

Kindly,

your cheeky devil