Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Un Jour Dans La Vie d'Une Jeune Fille Au Pair

E and his friend playing with the quicksand we made.
Since I am writing this blog while I am abroad working as an au pair, I feel it's only right to fill you in on what my day-to-day life is like.

Yesterday was the boys' first day back to school.  It was also E's first day of soccer...sorry football practice with a new team, at a pitch far far away (ok, only about a 20 minute drive).  But let's start from the beginning:

Monday morning I was up at 9am (since I don't have to get E off to school in the morning, I'm allowed to sleep in).  I probably should've been up earlier since the cleaning lady was vacuuming right outside my door at about 8am, but I kind of just chilled out in bed for a bit, and read a few chapters of The Help.  At 9am, I started a load of laundry.

Side Note: to those of you in North America, doing a load of laundry in Switzerland is nowhere near as fast as back home.  Just to wash a dark load (the shortest length of time) takes over 75 minutes.  Then comes the dryer.  To put a load on once through the dryer does not guarantee it will come out dry.  It is usually a warm damp.  I try to hang as much as possible since it's more energy efficient, and sometimes more time efficient.  

Just before 9:30am, I took the dogs (we were watching a neighbour's dog, Buddy) out for a walk in the vines, to avoid getting in the cleaning lady's way.  Getting back around 10:15am, I took some time for myself to shower and get set for the day.  At 11am, I started to prep lunch.  As I've mentioned before, lunch is the biggest meal of the day, so there's some pressure.  I made a shrimp pasta with zucchini, celery and peppers.  It was relatively easy to make and seemed to go over well with everyone.

Since it was the first day of school, E came home with a bunch of paperwork to be signed by his parents and a list of things he needed for school (pens, erasers, rulers, gym clothes, a cup, school shoes, etc).  Luckily his dad, P, was also home for lunch, so he took over finding everything to send back with E.

Once everyone left to go back to school and work around 1:15pm, I continued with the laundry and other tasks left for me to do.  This can be sweeping, ironing, wrapping presents, etc. I also use this time to pick a place to organize.  N (the host mother), suggested cleaning out cabinets of old items and reorganizing if I found I had some down time.  It's an easy task, and the results are always worth it.

At 3:30pm I headed out to the recycling centre down the street.  The Swiss are very big on recycling, and you need to separate all your different recyclables into different containers.  There's even a container for Nespresso cannisters, since that seems to be the only Tassimo/Keurig-like coffeemaker in Geneva.  Probably because it's made by Nestlé in Lausanne, Switzerland.

From the recycling centre, I was off to pick up E from school for 4pm to take him to football practice.  Have I mentioned before that his school kind of looks like a mini Hogwarts?  I'll have to take a picture tomorrow.  It's really unfair.  I want to go to Hogwarts!

E was great about getting out of school and not chatting too much with his friends because I think we were both a little nervous about getting to practice (for him: first practice with a new team, for me: it was far!  And the van's manual!  And it's far!  And did I mention the van's manual???).  So just after 4pm, we loaded up his bike into the van, got him settled with his gouter (snack) and slowly began our adventure to the football pitch.

Now I love to know where I am going.  My mum brought me up to be a girl who can read a map and know exactly where she's going.  It's been ingrained in me to research everywhere I'm going, and know different routes (in case of construction, parades, etc.), and to have said different routes printed out on a variety of differently scaled maps.  Case in point: yesterday, during my down time, I Google Mapped the football pitch and checked the different routes to take.  I also checked out the traffic level around 3pm.  I checked out websites warning about construction in the city, and I double checked that the preloaded location of the pitch was correct in the GPS.  Oh, the GPS*.

Finally I was off.  About 5 minutes in, I missed the turn to get to the highway, and my troubles started.  A little flustered that I missed the turn, I explained it to E.  He answered nonchalantly in between sips of juice, "Don't worry.  We have time!"  That put a smile on my face.  It's amazing what reassurance from a nine-year-old can do for your confidence.  But then I stalled.  And then I stalled again.  And a third time, just for good (?) luck.  My patience was wearing thin.  And then that angelic voice from the back seat: "Oh don't worry.  It happens all the time.  The last few au pairs stalled ALL the time.  My dad even stalls."

What a lifesaver.

We eventually found a parking lot to turn around in, after that magical box (the GPS, if you haven't followed the star (*)yet) recommended I pull a u-turn right in front of some trams (I think NOT!).  We never found the highway again, but did make it to the football pitch, a good 15 minutes early.  E was able to finish his entire gouter before we got there (we did drive around for quite a while), so he was able to quickly change and join his team for practice.  I, on the other hand, got to collapse in a chair and finally take a breath.  It had been a long 20 minutes.

P met us there and took me over to the mall that was across the street.  Since E's practices are an hour and a half long, and run all year long, the mall might be a good option for me.  At the mall, I looked into the train pass I want to get to go to Interlaken on Saturday.  Tomorrow, when I return to the football pitch for another practice (eeks!), I'll go back to the mall and purchase the pass.   This pass gets me all fares for half price, as well as free travel between 7pm and 5am.  I think it's well worth the price, since it will save me a lot of money over the year.

After practice, I navigated us back home, this time finding the highway and gliding safely into the parking spot.  Gosh it felt good to be home!

I then helped to prepare dinner, and I helped P cover E's books for school.  The rest of the evening I spent catching up on emails and making hamburger patties for the next day (which turned out great.  I even hid mushrooms and spinach in them.  Shhh, don't tell E.  He HATES mushrooms).

Overall, I love my job.  There can be some stressful times, and some amazing times.  I still can't believe I'm here!  Next post, I'll let you know about my epic, and I mean epic, weekend.

Until then, thanks for checking in.  And welcome to the life of une jeune fille au pair!

*When I arrived in Geneva on the 13th, the first stop the family made was to the local electronics store to buy a GPS for the van.  At first, I thought they had taken one look at me and assumed I couldn't read a map (which I would have taken offence to, in light of my upbringing and all).  But it has turned out to be a godsend.  For some strange reason, possibly relating to how old the city is in comparison to the invention of the automobile, roads here are very difficult to maneuver, and are not on a grid system (geez!).  So unless you know Geneva like the back of your hand (my goal before I leave), a GPS is mandatory for a newcomer to navigate the city.  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

More Things I've Noticed About La Suisse

And now to continue my list of things that are different (and as I've realized, not necessarily strange) about Switzerland.  You can check out the first 5 here.

6.  Roosters sleep in here.  There’s one that cock-a-doodle-doos at 10am every morning.  

7.  In most of the villages around me, it’s much faster to bicycle through than to drive.  And drivers here are patient with cyclists.  There’s not honking, there’s no bird flipping, and most importantly, they rarely hit the bikes.  How thoughtful.

8.  I never realized how much Canada has copied Switzerland and the rest of Europe.  Paying for shopping carts? Coop.  Store brand products? Migros.  Really cool walk all the way through tram cars? TPG.

9.  Stop signs are pretty much non-existent.  I guess this is handy when everyone drives stick.  If an intersection doesn’t have traffic lights then its usually a yield and/or a round-about.  Since I hate starting from stop and am more prone to stalling, I like the idea of no stop signs.

10. There is this wonderful yellow light before the traffic light turns from red to green.  Amazing.  Gives you the warning to get in gear and start moving.  The Swiss are so smart.

11.  Murses, as in men’s purses, are everywhere.  I know they are all the rage in Europe, but when I see one I’m still thrown off.  No matter how “manly” the guy is, I can guarantee there will be a purse on to his shoulder.

12.  Fountains.  They are everywhere.  It’s amazing.  Parched from a long walk through the Old City?  Take a drink from a fountain.  Is your dog hot after taking it for a walk in 35 degree weather?  Let it jump in the fountain.  And they are all so beautiful.  Some have intricate designs, some a basic, but all amazing.  I’m going to try to find as many as I can in Geneva.  I’ll post pictures as I find them.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Rest in Peace

A few months ago, I mentioned the political race for the top spot in Canada, Prime Minister.  Although he didn't win, Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party, made history by overpowering the Liberals to be become the party of the opposition.  Then on July 25th, 2011, Jack Layton stepped down as leader to battle against a second form of cancer.

Unfortunately, today Jack Layton lost his battle.  May he forever be remembered as the one to empower the youth of Canada and bring change to our nation.

Rest in Peace

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Self Guided Walking Tour of Geneva...on a Sunday

I stress that my walking adventure was on a Sunday...therefore everything was closed.  Other than a few cafes, there were no stores open, so I just window shopped (not that my shopping habits would change much once they allow me in the store...it's expensive!).  And to all those wondering if Rolex is any cheaper here, the answer is no.  It is not cheap.  It is ridiculously expensive!

Anyway, back to my story.  So this afternoon, I hopped on the bus and just decided to let my instincts decide where I would go.  The transit system (TPG) here is great.  There's no metro, but the buses and street cars get you everywhere you need to go.  And the best thing: it's very easy to figure out!  I had no trouble transferring from bus to street car to get down to the lake.  And what a lake!  The weather here continues to be scorching, with clear skies and a slight breeze.  Not necessarily the best weather for wandering around the city, but thanks to the many parks, I was able to take breaks to cool down in the shade.

I started at the jet d'eau, then headed over to the jardin anglais to see the Flower Clock.  The pier was full of tourists, so I didn't look too out of place.  I checked out some tourist shops, and had my jaw drop to the floor when I saw the prices.  Hopefully I can find a cheaper option a bit further away from the main tourist traps.  Anyone know anywhere?

From the gardens, I went into the old town and onto the campus of the University of Geneva.  I found a spot in the gardens overlooking the reformation wall and read my book for a while.  It was a very pleasant afternoon, despite the constant pestering from gypsies for money and food.

I look forward to continuing to explore Geneva this week, especially once the stores open again.  I also can't wait to check out the museums, which are free!

Here are some of the pictures I snapped while out on my walk.  I really need to start bringing my "good" camera, so sorry with the poor quality.

Went for a ride...

Today it was absolutely beautiful in Geneva.  Cloudless skies, a slight breeze, and hovered around 33 degrees (Celsius).  I chatted with my family back home in the early afternoon, then headed out for a quick bike ride.  I remembered to bring my camera and snapped some pictures and a video.  The video is my first attempt at using iMovie, so don't expect anything good.  I've reposted a better version, but not that much better, haha.

Tomorrow I'm planning on hoping on a bus and seeing where I end up.  Best way to get to know my way around, right?  If you happen to be wandering the streets of Geneva tomorrow and see me wandering up and down the same street, please kindly point me towards the jet d'eau or the jardins anglais.  Thanks!