Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Great weather, great food, great company!

Hi everyone,

The last two weeks of working as an au pair have been spent trying to get into a routine with the girls. We try to do at least half an hour of "homework" (either reading, writing or English) every day, followed by an activity. The elder daughter Lucia and I have come up with some games to play, crafts to make, recipes to cook, things to do at the park and activities for the garden, which so far are doing well at keeping everyone entertained! Here are a few pictures from our lessons and activities:

Maeva learning some words in English
Leana doing a reading comprehension in Spanish
We made an apple crumble!
I went back to my childhood making Hama beads with the girls 
We went on a trip to the park to collect materials... 
...to make miniature gardens!
We do have some challenges. Sometimes the girls refuse to eat, or don't want to work, or generally are just in a bickering mood, which I find tough as I can't really express myself well enough in Spanish to deal with things as I would at home. So some days are difficult, but others are fantastic fun! I was invited to a dance show they put on in their parents' bedroom with handmade programmes, we've been to the cinema to see 'Finding Dory', the girls are making a lot of progress with English and they're always excited to find out what activity we will be doing each day.

I'm getting to know the girls a lot better now. Lucia is quite quiet, but likes to speak English with me, and often will sit with me while I'm planning lessons or help me plan activities. Leana loves to talk, and sometimes I haven't a clue what she's saying, but it means there's never a dull moment! And Maeva is very sweet, although also quite sensitive, and loves to play and watch Peppa Pig at any opportunity!

My English lessons with Lucia, Dario and Marie Jose are going well, and I'm realising how much I enjoy tutoring as opposed to teaching. Being one on one with someone is very rewarding and means you can focus your lessons to them. I'm also really appreciating having the one on one time with Marie Jose to learn Spanish.

And my Spanish is definitely improving. I am completely immersed in Spanish - the only time I speak English is during the lessons or with family over the phone. It's tiring but really rewarding and my understanding is significantly better than three weeks ago. However the weekends are my own, and I've been lucky enough to spend time with some wonderful people in Madrid over the last few weeks, and speak English!

I met up with Brooke and some friends of hers to watch the Gay Pride festival in Madrid:

And my friend Beth was visiting Madrid so I met up with her for a couple of days this weekend:

We visited the Botanical Gardens
We watched the beautiful sunset in Parque de Retiro by the boating lake
We went on a cable car ride over Madrid and the view was incredible 
The view of the palace, cathedral and river from the cable car
We ate the 'best churros in Madrid' - and they were pretty great!
The weather is great - between 30 to 40 degrees every day! But during the night it's a little too warm, although I enjoy being able to swim in the pool and sit outside until 12am if I want. We went to a late night outdoor cinema with the girls on Sunday to see 'Big Hero 6' which was great fun. I will definitely miss the beautiful sunshine and the relaxed way of life in Spain.

So overall, although au pairing can be tough, I have a very generous and kind family here and I am thoroughly enjoying working with the girls. It's all fun and games, and there will be a lot more fun and games to come in the final three weeks of my time here!

Thanks for reading :)


Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Au Pairing in Spain - the first two weeks

Hi everyone!

Somehow I've been in Spain two weeks already. The time has flown by, but I do feel very settled in the family. I'm working in a village south of Madrid for a family with three girls: Lucia (11), Leana (6) and Maeva (3). The mum (Silvia) is French, learnt Spanish at university and has been married to her Spanish husband (Angel) for thirteen years, so her Spanish is excellent! But it's really nice to have the opportunity to speak French with her, and her family, who live nearby. It was especially helpful at the beginning when I was finding Spanish very challenging.

For the first week and a half the girls were still at school, so I spent my mornings getting used to the house, reading, preparing English lessons and of course making the most of the sunshine and the pool!

In the afternoons I would collect the girls from school, and we'd play some games and go in the pool once the parents got back from work.

I've been accepted as part of the family and I feel so lucky for that! I've been for dinner with the family at the grandparents house, I've been to friends' birthday parties and I've been on days out with the family, for example at the weekend we went to the river with two other families...

And I was invited to see Leana graduate from primary school too...

Now the the girls have finished school, I have a routine for the week. In the mornings we get up (the girls around 10/11am now!) and have breakfast together. Then I do about an hour of English with them, depending on how we're feeling. Then we have a choice of activities; playing games, watching a film, going to the park, cooking etc. I'm going to try and get into a routine of a certain activity on each day as well to make things easier and have a variety. On Tuesday and Thursday evenings I go to zumba, and on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings I do an English-Spanish exchange with a lady in the town. One hour in each language practising reading, writing, speaking and grammar. It's very helpful! I'm also going to be giving extra English lessons to Lucia and Dario, the son of the lady I'm doing the exchange with.

Saturdays and Sundays I have off, but it is difficult to have time to myself unless I go out of the house. Silvia has been very kind in organising activities for me on Saturdays. The first weekend I did a bike tour of Madrid (of course, being me with my awful balance and apparently rusty cycling skills, I managed to fall off right in the city centre!) and this weekend I went to the Palacio Real for a tour and visited the cathedral and some gardens in the surrounding area. Here are some pictures of my time in Madrid:

The Temple of Debod 
La Plaza de España
La Plaza Mayor 
The Crystal Palace
A beautiful rose garden in one of the many parks of Madrid 
The royal palace - el Palacio Real
The cathedral
There have been a few challenges, of course. The language being the main one. I learnt two years of accelerated Spanish at university, but forgot a lot of it during my time in Austria, so especially at the beginning it was tough. I feel like I'm not at a point where I understand a fair bit, but producing the language is still hard sometimes, which makes giving instructions and disciplining the girls tough. I don't have to discipline too much, but Leana is very headstrong, and sometimes makes a massive fuss out of small things, so that can be challenging. But overall, I feel very comfortable here and I think this is the best au pair experience I could have hoped for :)

Thanks for reading!


Friday, 17 June 2016

Surprising Mum for her birthday!

This surprise had been a long time in the making. In February, I'd decided that instead of doing the trip I had planned, in which I spent the first two weeks of June travelling along the south of France, I would fly home and surprise my Mum for her birthday. Naturally I had to get some people on board to help me out (thank you to Rachel and Nanny for being my accomplices, I very much appreciate it!) and I decided to continue planning my France trip to use as a cover story for Mum.

By the week before I came home, Mum wanted to know everything about my trip, where I was going and staying, what I was doing...and I managed to put it off as long as possible and be as vague as possible, but I worried she was getting suspicious.

Luckily though, she wasn't. So on 2nd June I flew home and Rachel came and picked me up, having made an excuse to borrow the car that left Mum thinking she was going to pick up a cat she'd bought for Mum's birthday! Thankfully Mum wasn't too disappointed when it was me and not a cat who came through the door :P

I had a wonderful week at home, it was so nice to be back and see some friends and family. Here are a few pictures from my time in Devon:

I spent time with my friend James, and walking on Dartmoor, which I have really missed!
Mum and I got all dressed up for the theatre...
I took Mum and Nanny to see 'Guys and Dolls' in Plymouth for Mum's birthday and it was brilliant - we even had second row seats!
We spent Sunday afternoon at the steam fair

My best bud came to stay for a couple of days and we went to see 'Me Before You' which we sobbed our way through
And I got to catch up with lots of other people who I have missed dearly.

Thank you to everyone for a lovely week at home. It was great to be back, and now I'm off on my next adventure. I am currently in Cubas de la Sagra, just south of Madrid, where I am working as an Au Pair until the end of July. The family are lovely and have made me feel very welcome. I am struggling with the Spanish a bit having spoken only German or English for the last year, but being completely immersed in a language you improve quickly so I'm sure I'll be OK! More updates on my time in Spain to come.

Thanks for reading!

Laura :)

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Saying goodbye to Austria

I've spent just over eight months in Austria and I honestly don't know where that time has gone. It feels like just yesterday that I was boarding my first solo flight, nervous and excited, and worried that I wasn't going to settle in. I've done so much this year, I've made so many wonderful friends who will never be forgotten, and the experiences I've had this year are incredible. Here are a few pictures from my final two weeks in Austria:

1. I went on the teachers' outing for my other school to Bavaria and yet again we had a tour of a brewery. It was lovely to spend time with the French assistant and to get to know the teachers even better.

2. Charlotte, Markus and I went to a zoo in the Mühlviertel called Altenfelden where we saw a falconry display and got to feed lots of animals. It was the hottest day of my time in Austria - 30 degrees!

3. My wonderful students and colleagues were very generous in giving me wonderful goodbye gifts - lots of traditional Austrian food! And Niki the cat was very helpful while I was packing...

4. My lovely friend and colleague Susi invited me over for a BBQ at her new house, and it was lovely to spend more time with her before I left.

5. A group of us went to see some fireworks over the Danube river in Linz.

6. Another friend and colleague Ines invited me to her house for the afternoon and we went for a lovely country walk with her family and stopped at a Gasthaus halfway for traditional cider and snacks.

7. We had a goodbye meal with a few of the assistants at a Polish restaurant in Linz - and it was very nice :)

8. I made a traditional steak pie for my housemates Charlotte and Michael, Markus and Susi.

Now time for the soppy part...
Over the past year I have gained confidence, language skills, experiences and friends and I am so pleased that I made the most of my time abroad. And it's not over yet! I am off to Spain to work as an aupair this summer and I am determined that after my degree I will be jetting off somewhere else, having enjoyed this year so much. Thank you to everyone, both in Austria and at home, who has helped to make this year so great. I love you all!

Thanks for reading!