Sunday, December 19, 2010

Walking home, alone, at night in Frankfurt

I would put my gloves and hat on, and button my coat. I'd descend toward the underground light led by a pathway of electrical stairs. Minutes felt like hours, even if I had to wait only about seven minutes. I would dread sitting because the seats were always cold. I would dread it because it would make me feel so impatient. So I'd occupy my mind with songs, give six or seven steps to then turn around, repeating the same imaginary line until my train would come. My humming would echo throughout the tunnel, like that abrasing touch of loneliness and peace.
I did all these things by myself, I went all these places, and my companion was the subway. I would wait patiently for the sound of the train coming. I would hope I'd eventually have someone to wait with. But for now there was no way I could cling to this childish dream. I couldn't get stuck in an uncertain hope or wait for it to be happy or satisfied.
Finally, I'd hear the rails rumbling in the distance, crossing my fingers it would be my train to take and not the one going the opposite direction. On a week night it would usually be empty. I could sit to my choosing. I loved sitting by the window. Once the train was out of the underground I adored looking at the city lights, shining of endless possibilities. It made the night feel enchanted. I wished the train would leave me by the house, because I hated walking back in the cold of night. Oh, if it weren't cold I wouldn't have minded. I would dream and imagine, dreading the moment I would have to get back out into the cold.

When the stop would come, fifteen minutes of walking would be ahead of me. I would stroll by the houses, decorated with cute lights, showing off with a personal touch and unique expression. Friends would ask me if I was afraid to walk back home by myself. I would laugh and say that if I was slightly scared to walk by myself at night back home in Mexico, I was certainly not a tiny bit scared in Germany. And after all, I had never been unprotected, God walked beside me all the way.
First Picture (Entrance of Messe/Fair Station in Frankfurt)
Second Picture
Third Picture

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What do I need to do to become an Au pair?

There is not one cookie-cutter combination that fits all people who want to become an Au pair, but I would suggest these general steps:


1. Read about it

Yes, there is no better way to start your journey than by gathering information. The first thing you need to do is know what being an Au pair is all about. Start with general information, google it, and go beyond googling it! Read about what Au pairs do, look for testimonials, try to answer all the questions you have by searching for them. How much are they paid? What is their job? What do I have to do to become one? Also, if you already think this is something you might be interested in, find out what is required to go to your target country. Each country's regulations are different, so investigate particularly how the visa works between your home country and the place where you want to go (and check if they have a special visa for Au pairs).

2. Talk to people

This is often underestimated. Talking to people who have gone through that experience is incredibly helpful. If you don't know any one who has been an Au pair, you can always contact me and ask me anything you want. Or you can also leave a comment, and I will try to answer as much as I can.

3. Decide if it's the right thing for you

http://images50.fotki.com/v1514/fileMoiE/95d26/5/915865/7577525/Rometrip060.jpgGoing to a foreign country, learning a language, and getting paid for it may sound pretty cool at first, but when you realize being an Au pair is not a game, you might change your mind.  Doing an Au pair year (or more) is an amazing experience, but it isn't for everyone. It requires a lot of determination, perseverance, patience, and most importantly, responsibility. If all you want to do is party everyday and not worry about your duties, you might consider being an exchange student instead... especially since they don't have to nanny!

4. Start looking for a family, and find one!
You can go different ways here. First, you could go through an agency. Some charge both the Au pairs and the families, and others only charge the families. It depends on which country you're coming from, and which country you're going to, so you have to investigate what is available to you in your country. There are also online agencies available. The second option is looking for a family directly. There are websites, like findaupair.com where you can make a profile and pay to see for the contact info of the families. I'm sure there are other free sites that allow you to find families directly. Sometimes finding the right family takes time, so make sure you started your search with plenty of time. I would suggest to start some 6 months ahead.

5. Choose you family carefully - or be chosen!

Once you start contacting different families, or they have contacted you, ask important questions. What do I mean by this? Well, ask what specific benefits you will be receiving, and what specific responsibilities will be expected of you. For example: Will they pay your language course, or part of it? Will they give you a cellphone? How many hours a week will you work? What is the schedule you'll have? Will you need to clean after the kids? Will you need to do laundry, or other house chores? This is important because all of these thing depend on the family. Some require you to do a lot of house chores, where as others want you to focus only on the children. Some will pay for you classes, and others will pay for part of it, or not at all, and so on.  Some families will pay you a little more than the average, or give you a raise in the middle of the year if they really like you. But like I said, each family is different and those deals are separate than what the actual general responsibilities of the Au pair are. Make sure to reflect upon what is asked on you, and try to imagine yourself doing this for the time of your stay. Think about if it's something you'll enjoy - and hopefully learn from!
I strongly recommend skyping with the family, if you don't have skype, you should get one! Try to get the family to let you talk to the children, and if possible, chat with a webcam. Try to develop your relationship with the family way before the time of your trip.
Essential: ask the family to send you a copy of the contract! It is very important to go over it and make sure you understand it well.

6. Start the paperwork

This sometimes takes several months, so that's why I recommend starting to look for a family ahead of time so that you still have enough to get all your paperwork done. In step number one I mentioned it's important to find out about how to get a visa. Very soon, I will be posting specifically on the steps for getting an Au pair visa for Germany (which is how I personally did it). So stay in tune! Once you have confirmed with the family that you'll be going with them, and when your date of arrival will be, buy your ticket. Try to but you plane ticket (if you're flying) a good two months ahead if possible. Tickets are a lot cheaper if you buy them ahead of time, and in case you didn't know, Summer tickets are especially outrageously expensive - so search for flights with time so that you don't have to rush and buy something really expensive. If you search well, you can find pretty good deals!


Rome trip 0447. Pack your things and start the adventure!

There is nothing more exciting than the beginning of a journey (except for maybe the end of it - but that is arguable!) Try not to take so much stuff with you, because you will accumulate along the year. Do take the most essential things: a variety of clothes; from a good thick coat if you're traveling somewhere cold, to a few pairs of shorts if you're going somewhere warm. Try to take a little bit of everything.



And good luck!




Upcoming posts:

Beware of scams my dear Au pairs, sitters, and nannies! More about these kinds of scams...
How to go to Germany as an Au pair: visa, legal paperwork and more...!





Monday, December 6, 2010

The Au pair Dilemma: should I trust an online-Family or go through an agency?

A lot of people have asked me this before. Should I go through an agency, or is an Au pair website safe enough for meeting a family?

I'll start with my experience. When I began the adventure of doing research on Au pair stuff, I made a profile only in two websites:

1. Find Au pair
and
2. Au pair Agency

Now, of course I read information from dozens of pages, but I couldn't make profiles on all of them, since that would have taken a lot of time. The first site requires you to pay a certain amount of money, -back then I think I paid like 15 Euros for a 3-month deal; and they also have a full-year membership. They let you see the profiles of the families, but in order to see their contact info, you have to pay for it. Findaupair.com is not an agency, it is only a tool for meeting families and contacting them directly.

On the other hand, I didn't want to pay for an agency like Mex-Aupair (for Au pairs who are going from Mexico) because that was too expensive for me (the cost of the agency  was 500 dollars then). I looked for an agency that wouldn't charge au pairs when they were looking for a family. That is how I found the second website. Aupair-agency.com is an online agency based in Great Britain. The family looking for an Au pair pays for the service while the Au pair doesn't have to. Anyway, after talking to my former host-family from Germany, they said they were not happy with the online-agency's service. But it if wasn't for that website, I would've never gotten the fabulous family that I did.

How did I do it?


So here it goes:

I am kind of adventurous, so I tried meeting a family online. I found a family (or actually the family found me) through aupair-agency.com. The good thing is I got to talk to them on the phone, and we exchanged pictures, and shared stuff about ourselves before I went over to Germany. Many people asked me if I was scared something would go wrong, or that the family wouldn't be nice, that I'd be stuck somewhere in a foreign country, or someone would kidnap me. And no, I wasn't scared... but maybe I should've been.

There are so many things that could go wrong with being an Au pair. But in the cases I've seen, sometimes even going through an agency doesn't guarantee that you'll get a nice family to work with. When I was living in Frankfurt, I met some Latin American girls who had come through an agency called Montoya. I heard so many stories about nightmare families as well as about irresponsible Au pairs... Many of the girls changed families very often because they weren't happy with the family they got - or the family didn't like them. Even speaking with other Au pairs, from the Ukraine and Russia, for example, I discovered that having an intermediary helps, but it doesn't guarantee that the relationship with your host-family will be great.

Stay tuned for more info about Au pairs, how to find a family, and what the best choices for you are!  Feel free to subscribe!

Take care!

+Notes: Picture




Monday, November 29, 2010

You don’t need a lot of money to travel

I know what you’re thinking: Yeah right!

But it’s true! Let me explain why. Although traveling does require a certain amount of money, it shouldn’t necessarily be a monstrous cipher. If you want to be treated as a queen and stay in luxurious hotels, yes, it will be expensive. If what you really want is to see the world, to experience adventure in the most unimaginable ways, and have some crazy fun while meeting new people and new places, money will not stop you from traveling.


I was talking to a girl in my Intercultural Communications class (back in March), and she told me she grew up in a modest home, without fancy clothes or sophisticated furniture. She was used to that, and didn’t crave a sophisticated living, but she said she had always wanted to travel. She saved money during high school, and upon graduating went on a trip to Europe and Asia. She later found a job in a travel agency. She said people asked her how she could afford to travel so much (she had visited more than 30 countries). The answer is simple, she explained, “I look at the other people and ask: ‘how can you afford the clothes you’re wearing?’” While some people spend their money on nice furniture, decorations, and brand-name clothes, this girl would rather spend her money on life experiences and traveling.

It makes sense to me because I am the same way. I saved some money to pay for my flight to Germany (which was like 500 US dollars), and took an extra 300 for other expenses. I was actually working as an Aupair, so I did have some income every month. Oh, did I use that money. Some of my fellow Aupair friends would send money back to their families, whereas I spent all the money I earned. It sounds bad, and maybe selfish from my part, but the way I thought is: if I’m in Germany I should take advantage of it and travel! It’s a lifetime chance; I didn’t come to save money, but to spend it on experiencing new places. The truth is I didn’t really travel all over Europe or all over the world, but I did get to see some of the most amazing places. Other than traveling in Germany, I visited Paris, Rome, and the Austrian Alps. It wasn’t so easy to travel while having a job, because I could only travel weekends (and one-week vacations). I couldn’t really see much in one weekend, and it would be very fast-paced so that I could be back to work on time. Most times I didn’t even have anyone to go with.

But it didn’t stop me from looking for adventure and traveling.


If it’s your dream to travel, pursue it. I’m sure you’ll find a way. I have a few suggestions, but you can always come up with great ideas according to your circumstances and what you like. You can save some money and do a mini-trip to anywhere you want. Nowadays there are many economic packages that include flight and hotel, some even itinerary. Even if the place is far, you can find pretty good deals. For example, I’ve seen flights from New York to Paris that are cheaper than New York to Texas. You just have to look. Other suggestions are looking for internships, volunteer work, and/or Aupair programs. From these three, you won’t have the freedom of going wherever you want, whenever you want to. Yet I can assure you, that you will get amazing life experiences from them, while being abroad and learning about  a different culture. My last, but not least suggestion is to travel as an exchange student. You don’t need to pay for a hotel, because you will live with a family, but your real family at home has to agree on receiving another student in your place.


So don’t let money stop you from going after your dream! Go for the adventure!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How I almost missed my flight home from Germany

I sit here and think: “has it been a dream?” It could have been… I will not touch, see, or feel these things again any time soon. Not the way I did.
The goodbyes cling to my mind as pieces of something that I never grasped, and just left hanging in the air. My body believes it, my eyes convince me, but my mind is having some trouble telling me that I really am back home. I’m back, but I’m not entirely back. A piece of me got left behind. It was not meant to be this way… I was so happy before coming. My friends could almost swear I had a half-face smile when saying I was going back home, especially after one tough year.
Now that I’m here, everything is like a big illusion. I’m the one out of place; things are not how they are supposed to be. What’s wrong with me? I’m supposed to be so happy. So much I can’t handle it. But for all the sadness I couldn’t feel or show in my pre-return to home, I got to feel it now that I am truly back.
As it happens with most things, it strikes me a little bit later. “Laugh with others, and cry alone” Suat had said. In presence of others I smiled because I was so happy just thinking I was going home. Once in the airplane, and with no looking back, I cried. I cried alone, hoping no one would ask, no one would care. I cried because it was serious now, the fact I wouldn’t see many of these people again, or at least, not any time soon; but most of all, I cried because I didn’t get to have a real good-bye.
It started with a party the night before my flight. We watched a movie, ate pizza, drank a bit (of course we couldn’t get drunk the night before my flight!!) We danced so much, we laughed, took pictures, and had a lot of fun. When everyone left, I did the rest of my packing, last few things I needed to get in my suitcase. Also, I needed to fit the presents: a few kilos of books and chocolate. It took me forever. I couldn’t concentrate. I was too slow. I hadn’t slept, and I didn’t sleep. It was 8 am before I was ready. I had to leave many things behind and throw away a great deal. I was supposed to meet Suat and the guys at 7:30 at the metro stop, but they didn’t wait for me. By the time Juliana, the new Aupair for the Jaecker family and my companion in my last week in Frankfurt, and I got to the stop, there was no one there, and I didn’t have my cellphone. We got to the airport at 9 a.m., and the flight was at 10:40 a.m. Juliana helped me with my luggage; without her I wouldn’t have made it to the airport. I tried to check in and the machine wouldn’t read my ticket. A Lufthansa lady tried to help us with the machine. Then she directed us to another counter. We went to the service counter and the lady there said my ticket was invalid. She told me to go to another counter, to see if they could help me, because she couldn’t do anything to help me. As I hurried to the counter the lady had directed, I saw Suat, with Daniel, Vanessa, Wadan, Sirak, and Carola. Suat came with me to the counter. The man there said I couldn’t fly with the ticket, it was impossible. My ticket was a round trip: Dallas-Frankfurt, Frankfurt-Dallas. What happens is, when you don’t take the first flight, the second one is automatically cancelled. I hadn’t taken the first flight, because I was already there… He said:
-          “I don’t know why so many people do that! It is not allowed. No airline accepts that. You can’t fly with this ticket, it is invalid and I can’t do anything with it.”
I only stared. I couldn’t believe it. I pictured Chrisi, my host-mother, who a few days before joked with me about not losing my flight. I couldn’t speak, I didn’t want to. I knew a one-way flight would cost a fortune. Suat noticed and spoke up.
-          “And how much does it cost one-way?”
The man couldn’t believe Suat was asking. He gave him a “are you crazy?” look and said
-          “It’s really expensive”.
-          “Well, how much?” – Suat repeated.
-         ” Three thousand and bla bla …” -  I stopped listening
I didn’t want to know how much it really was. I started crying. Not in a dramatic loud way. I just let the tears fall to the sides of my cheeks.
-          “Is it possible to pay the difference?” Suat asked
The man looked at Suat in disbelief, like saying “you are not the kind of person who could pay the price for this flight”. Seeing the desperation in our faces he finally answered.
-     “Yes, but it would be two thousand bla bla… It is really expensive.” – He looked at us as if we were hopeless.
My imagination was playing with me. I wouldn’t go home now. I could see me going back to my one-year home, with my 3 suitcases. Hating myself, hating the house for being it, and not my home what would stand before my eyes.
I could hear the voice of the man in the background. I saw his lips moving and I understood what he said but I didn’t want it to be true. In his expression I could tell he believed I wasn’t flying anymore. Not today. I could read a big sign on his forehead that said “I feel so sorry for you guys”. I thought of my mom, waiting on the other side of the world. I thought of calling her, saying “Mom, I don’t know how much longer I have to stay in Germany, maybe until I can afford a ticket back”.
I snapped away for a moment when the man asked:
-          “Who’s idea was this? How did it occur to you?”
-          “My parents” – I replied in a low voice, but I couldn’t bring myself to speak anymore than what was asked. I couldn’t even ask for a little mercy.
I was so relieved that Suat was there, otherwise I would have stood there like an idiot in silence. My head spun. I wanted to close my eyes, go to sleep. I wished to wake up in reality, not in this nightmare. “What should I do now?” I thought to myself. Last week, it took forever to get a form from the German Department of Foreign Affairs that allowed me to stay in Germany until August 7th (it was August 6th). It gave me a headache to think I had to go back and say “Emmm… I couldn’t fly home, can I get some more days in Germany?” – Then I would probably get a juicy fine, because my visa was already expired. It had been for four days… that is why I needed the letter saying I still had the chance to be there until a couple more days.
-          “Is there another option?” – Suat demanded. The guy thought about it for a moment. Then he finally said:
-          “I could check in last-minute flights” – He dialed a number and couldn’t get through. Then he said they were always busy and was hard to get a connection with them.
-          “Thanks for the hope”, I thought… He finally got through the line with someone and told us:
-          “You guys are lucky, there is a flight for 377 Euros. Go to this counter at the end of the hall, give them this paper, tell them I sent you. They will be waiting for you.”
-          “Thank you, thank you so much” – I thought I said, or maybe it was Suat who said it. Maybe I just said it in my mind. I was so out of it.
-          “Guys, run! You have to hurry!” – and the man sent us away.
There was a lady waiting for us at the counter. She looked at us as children who’ve just missed a punishment from their parents.
-          “You are lucky. Are you paying in cash?” –  My eyes widened. My heart sank. I had no money. Not even an account I could balance as soon as I got to the U.S. I had nothing. He saved me once again, Suat suggested:
-          “Can we pay with a credit card?”
-          “NO…” – I almost passed out. There was no way my friends would gather that much cash with what they had there. – “Unless it’s from Germany” – I heard myself sigh. I stared at Suat, he said “Don’t worry” with his eyes. Then he turned to Wadan, our friend from Afhanistan. Wadan handed out his credit card. The lady demanded an ID, but Wadan didn’t have one. Suat offered his.
-          “I’ll pay you back” – I said.
-          “If you want to catch your flight, you need to run. NOW! You must leave your card and ID here, but I need you two guys to come back and fill all the paperwork” – and she looked at Suat and Wadan with a menacing look. – “Now GO!!   Straight ahead! Check-in in the shortest line you see. HURRY!!”
Vanessa, Sirak, Daniel, and Carola were taking care of my luggage. I barely looked at them, I was passing out. I was still crying, nervous. I wanted to die. I wanted to wake up.
My hands were trembling before the check-in machine, and it wouldn’t read my ticket again. The same lady who had helped me with the machine minutes before, and had sent me to the “Lufthansa Service Counter” was there. She recognized me, and I tried to explain the story to her (she couldn’t understand why I was trying to check-in again when I should have done it at the service counter, about an hour ago!). She pressed whatever special code was given in my new ticket and finally reached me the boarding pass. I still needed to check my baggage in. I read the last-minute baggage policy and saw that it was 10 kg less than for a normal ticket. I started worrying even more and my headache just grew stronger. I took out a two kilo book and gave it to Juliana. I told her to put it with the other stuff I had left behind, that I was hoping I would get back some day. I could only pray the luggage wouldn’t be a problem. Thank God! The lady didn’t pay much attention to the weight of my suitcase. I saw her make a call to someone from the airplane saying she still had two bags for Dallas. I felt just a tiny bit relieved. She looked at something on her computer screen and after hanging up the phone she said:
-          Oh, one more thing: there is another flight to Dallas with a scale in Boston. It’s a couple hours later, but if you offer to take it instead, you get 600 Euros from Lufthansa. You just have to clear it up at The Gate. But you do need to ask about it, because you are on stand-by, and you don’t have a seat.
Sure, I wouldn’t mind flying a bit later. I would only need to call Mom and say: “Hey, I’ll be there a couple hours later”.
But my head was still spinning. I was still crying. I had put my sunglasses earlier because I didn’t want the others to see me cry. I couldn’t even look at them in the eyes. I could hardly even lift my head up, even now when  it seemed as if everything would be fine, that I would have a little more time, and that I didn’t have to run to catch my plane. All I had to do was just take the next one, and be rewarded for it. I would have the time to say good-bye and thank-you to my friends properly, in peace, calmly. I would hug each one for one last time. I would feel the one year that passed with a different story, by hugging each special friend.
I knew something would go wrong. I knew in my heart it wasn’t going to turn out like I wanted to. Even with the Our Fathers and Hail Marys I kept praying in my head.
Suat was happy, he said:
-          “See, they will reward you for departing later. There is a Muslim saying “There is always a good reward for people who are good”. You see, everything will be OK.
I still wasn’t speaking much. In my head, I said to myself “this is not over yet, we can’t sing victory”. But I didn’t feel like saying it out loud. Wadan carried my carry-on bag at my side.
Once at the gate, we asked about the offer. The man there didn’t know, he said we needed to clear it up with Lufthansa “there” at the counter, which made it sound near. I went through the gate, not taking my bag. I was thinking “I’ll ask quick and come back and get it”. My friends called. Oh yes, my bag. I hardly looked at them, and just grabbed the bag from them. I still had my glasses on. They couldn’t even see my eyes. Those eyes which minutes before had told Suat I couldn’t take my glasses off because I hadn’t done my make-up that morning.
They stood there at the gate, waiting. And I… I left thinking I would have two more hours to say good-bye.
Once through the gate I asked the first person I saw about the offer. She said to ask at any counter. I went through control, fearing I might not be able to go back. But even then, I didn’t dare look to where my friends stood. It didn’t even occur to me. My head was a mess. I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t think. At the counter they sent me to the end of the hall, the very end (where the gate to my plane was). As it seemed, it wasn’t true about “any counter”. It had to be “the counter”, and it was really far away. Or so it seemed. The hall appeared to be infinite to me. As straight as it was, it was a maze before my eyes. Colors and shapes were blurry. I didn’t want to do this, to be there. Most of all, I didn’t want to feel this. I felt like play-dough. Someone was messing with me, or messing me up! I was being shaped in so many ways; so many different shapes, maybe to see what I could handle. And I couldn’t put resistance, just accept the pressure coming from all sides. I felt so fragile, but I wasn’t braking. I was whole. Yes sir, I was all there, but being deformed until I couldn’t take it anymore; perhaps until nothing of me would me left, nothing but an unrecognizable shape. I imagined my head being squeezed between two big fingers. They pressed so hard, like waiting for me to give up. My head was about to explode.
It was 10:30 a.m., and my plane was leaving at 10:40. I reached the counter and blurted out the thing about the offer… The lady said it had been taken already. Shit! I had to board now. The picture of my friends popped into my mind, and flooded me with a streak of sadness. But I had known it somehow, and for a few seconds I thought I didn’t care, as long as I got into that airplane. I showed my ticket and my passport. As the lady studied it, the phone at her desk rang. She answered it and said “Yes, she’s in front of me”, and took a quick glance at me. She handed me the phone. For a moment, I thought it might be Suat, asking if I was alright, if I would be able to board.
A female voice was my great disappointment.
-          “Where are your friends? No one came back to pay. You can’t do that! You can’t just fly and not pay for your ticket!” – it took me a minute to react… it was the lady with the credit card and the ID.
-          “They’re at the gate”
-          “At what gate?”
I had forgotten all my German. I didn’t know how to explain it to her… which words to use…
-          “The gate. They were waiting for me. I think they’re still there, waiting…”
-          “Well, they need to come. Give me their numbers.”
-          “I don’t have them.”
-         ” They’re your friends and you don’t have their phone numbers? I don’t believe that.  What kind of friends are th…”
-          “I left my cell phone. I had all my numbers there. I don’t know them by heart.”
-          “How convenient. It’s too weird you don’t have their numbers. Do you know at least your home phone?”
-          “No…” I said. I tried to explain – “I left my cell phone ” -  (and all the numbers with it, and it went kaputt a couple days ago, by-the-way, which was too long of a story and too coincidental…) -  “because I’m flying back home and I don’t need it anymore. I’m not coming back.”
-          “Well you’re not even going to be able to board without a number. I trusted you, I let you go catch your plane and you are not even paying for it…” – She sighed, and then continued -”OK. Hold on. Did you say you lived in Frankfurt?”
-          “Yes, one year…?”
-          “Give me your address”
That was the one thing I knew by heart. I told her.
-          “But if your friends don’t come back, I’m calling the police. I trusted you.”
-          “They will be there. They’ll come back. If you can, please call at the gate, they will see a group of about 6 young people.”
Still, the lady did not sound very happy and told me to hand the phone to the lady at the desk. I did as told and noticed the lady on the line still said something. The desk lady just stared at my clueless face.
Not sure whether I would be home that day, I looked toward the empty tunnel leading to the airplane. Everyone had boarded except for me. I stared back, as if asking “Will everything be OK? Will you let me board?”
The lady finally signaled me to go through. I showed my passport and ticket. They gave me a seat. I was really going through the tunnel, and it was exaclty 10:40 a.m. My seat was already taken, but I didn’t care. I was in the airplane. A flight attendant guided me to another seat, one in the middle.
I sat. I took a breath… and cried uncontrollably. I hoped no one would notice or stare. I didn’t want anybody to care or ask. I feared a flight attendant would come and ask me if I was sick. But I cried in silence and no one noticed. I cried for not saying good-bye,  because I didn’t have a last glance of my true friends, because I didn’t even talk to them that day for being absolutely knocked out of my feet. I cried because they waited there, hoping I would come back to say good-bye. I had stood them up. A voice told me they would understand. Yet still, I couldn’t forgive myself for being so stupid, and so na├»ve. How did I think that once through the gate I would come back? I knew I couldn’t… I knew I wouldn’t…
I cried for the year gone by, for all I didn’t cry before…
My return to home was something I had pictured as exciting, fun, and unforgettable. The only thing I was right about was the unforgettable part. The fun part I even threw away, when I discarded the joke I wanted to play my mother, in which I would wear a blue wig when arriving to Dallas. I would have a laugh while looking at my mother’s confused and surprised expression.
What an excitement…  I sunk in my tears for an eternal moment… until my eyes didn’t sink into tears anymore, but into sleep. I woke up an hour and a half before landing. My mom picked me up at the airport. Everything was still blurry… in my head.
I felt numb. I told my mom the “adventure” and burst out crying again.
The feeling of home did not reach me, but an indescribable numbness came instead, as if nothing had flavor… as if nothing had color. I couldn’t stop thinking about the friends I left behind. I was grateful I was home, don’t get me wrong. I was simply restless. The worse thing about the whole matter is that nothing had really happened to me. I got there. Everything was fine. Everything was normal. I caught my flight.
But something about me had changed and I knew it. This feeling took over me, a feeling that the dream had been over. As if this year in Germany had not passed. Yet I knew in my heart, that nothing would ever be the same again…

Monday, November 15, 2010

The First Kiss of Loneliness

 Written sometime in December 2008

It’s kind of hard to know what to write anymore. I feel like I’m stuck in a dream. Like I’m going on an endless trip, as if I was driving on a highway and not being able to stop. Like I’m looking at the window and I all I see is that I keep moving forward, faster and faster. So many things have happened, I feel I could never tell everything I’ve felt, thought and experienced. My head spins and thoughts keep going back and forth. So many things I just wish I could write them all.

It all goes back literally from the very beginning of this journey. At the start of this adventure from the moment I was on my own. It seems now like it happened so long ago, although it’s been only 6 months. I was in Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina. I had just gotten off the airplane coming from Dallas, where my parents had dropped me off and said good-bye for at least a good year. I still had to wait a few hours until my next plane so a nice cup of coffee sounded great to relax and wait. To prepare myself for what was ahead of me. To give myself into thought. So there I was at one of the many Starbucks in the airport, enjoying that one cup of coffee so much. It had a delicious strong flavor and it was really hot: like I like it. So hot I even burnt my tongue with it, but at that moment I couldn't care less.

I remember thinking about how I couldn’t cry when I said good-bye. I replayed the moment when I was hugging my parents for the last time at the airport, over and over in my head. It had been only a couple hours ago. I had been so close to crying, but I stopped myself. Why? I didn’t know at the moment, but I just couldn’t cry. Maybe I was afraid of crying, or of being sensitive or weak. The truth is, for me it wasn’t something sad the fact that I wasn’t going to see my family in a while. For me it was something new, something great, something exciting. The way I saw it, it was an experience that would teach me invaluable lessons, and being far from my family was part of this experience. It would make me stronger and value my family much more. Oh boy, did I ever know what I was really getting into. This was for real, there was no turning back, it wasn’t just a kid’s game anymore. I was feeling so brave at that moment, so fearless. So ready for everything and anything. So full of energy, hope and dreams. Yet I had no idea of how it was going to be, how I was going to become a better person, or find all the answers I was looking for, or even fulfill some of my dreams.
I can almost imagine me now, with that little sparkle in the corner of my eyes, head up high, with a fire in my heart and a desire to taste a new piece of life.

It seemed like time was going so slowly, because I sat sipping that cup of coffee for a long time. There I was for the first time, truly alone… Coffee and heart in hand. And although I was feeling really excited, I felt such a peace inside me. But I didn’t really know what was coming… I never imagined, that about 5 months from then, I would be sitting in a Dunkin' Donuts, on the other side of the world (this time having a cup of tea), but having the same feeling I had felt that one afternoon at the airport. The difference though, was that this time the loneliness I felt was absolutely real. It wasn’t a dream, and it wasn’t fun nor exciting.

It was quietly painful.

 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why become an Au pair?

Are you between 18 and 26 years old? Do you want to travel? Do you want to immerse yourself in a different culture, learn a foreign language, travel to new places? And at the same time earn a little money?
Sure, I think A LOT of people want to do that! There is one way of doing this I want to talk to you about, but it isn’t for everyone. If you answered YES, sweet!! But the next questions are also important:
Do you love children?
Are you willing to work, and live with a foreign family? Are you willing to adapt, and learn quick? And… are you patient?

If you still answered YES, then perhaps becoming an Aupair could be a way to achieve  your goals.
What is an Aupair?
Aupair is often used as synonymous of Nanny, although it isn’t 100% the same. Usually, an Aupair is a foreign assistant who works for a family as caregiver. It is mostly common for an Aupair to live with the host family, but there are cases where the family will pay for a room or an apartment for the Aupair. An Aupair is given responsibilities such as childcare and house chores, in exchange for pocket money (a small monetary allowance for personal use), room, and board.


So here it goes. As a personal experience, I would definitely recommend being an Aupair. But I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. While doing an Aupair year (or several) can be a life-changing experience, it could also become the worst year of your life if your goals don’t match an Au pair’s lifestyle.

HERE ARE 7 REASONS WHY TO BECOME AN AU PAIR:

1.        Learning the language:
If you’re learning a foreign language and are trying to figure out the best way to learn it fluently, living with a native family is an effective way to achieve this. Children are often good teachers. They point at what they want, repeat it, and help you learn a lot of vocabulary in a short period of time, especially if they only speak the language you’re trying to learn.


2.      Immersing into a different culture:
Being an Aupair is definitely a cultural experience. Getting to live with a native family is also something very special. Between sharing meals, learning the family and cultural values, and experiencing a foreign every-day life, you can get a fascinating and first-hand sense of the culture.


 












3.       Constant Income:
Being an Aupair is definitely not a money-maker, but it makes a huge difference if you’re receiving some money each month. I remember seeing some exchange students, who partied and had fun, and of course, didn’t have to work. In a way I envied them, but in another I was glad I could pay for my own partying (even if it wasn’t as much as theirs!), and not have to ask my parents for money. That was another thing, my parents couldn’t pay for me to live abroad, so working and taking a language courses at the same time worked perfectly for me.

4. Having a second family in a foreign country:
This is one of the most important and life-changing experiences you can have. Apart from the cultural and educational side of it, becoming part of a new family is something unforgettable. I knew German families were a little colder than Latin American ones, so I was not expecting too much warmth from my host family. Instead, I was surprised to find that the kids would come to me, and hug me! They wanted to talk to me, engage, and I felt very loved by them. One of the girls I was taking care of cried when I left Germany. But it’s important to keep in contact once you leave, because a bond like this can last a lifetime if you want it to, and if you make it happen. Having a second home in another part of the world is priceless.


5.     Traveling:
The places you travel to will depend on the place you’re living, the money you save or have for it, and your organizational and planning skills. Honestly, I’m terrible at planning stuff, beside the fact that I despise it. But even then, I did get to visit a few places once I was in Germany. Now, I didn’t travel around the world or anything like that, but whether you go to Australia or France, there are always ways you can move around to discover places that are new to you.

 












6.      Growing up:
This one goes in hand with earning money while you’re abroad. I was an Aupair when I was 18. Now that’s not precisely young, but it isn’t like one is completely mature at that age. So the fact that you’re alone, in charge of your own money, and have a lot of responsibilities on you (the children, your school!), does make you grow up, at least a little! And then you’re stuck in another country, it’s not like your parents can fish you out of a problem (unless it’s financial and they’re able to help you), and extreme experiences will stretch you in ways you can’t even imagine. It sounds a little scary, I know, but it’s fun and definitely a thousand times worth it.


7.      Opening other opportunities:
Being abroad will help you know people, and perhaps discover other interests that you didn’t know you had. It can also open the doors for future jobs, or for attending university there. It can help you meet people from different countries, and maybe even develop friendships deep enough for people to receive you in their homes when you come back. Then it’s like having a home in different countries!! Some people (especially girls) use their Aupair year to look for a boyfriend (or husband!!). Anyway, I won’t comment on that, but only state that that’s not what I did =P (Well, once you have a boyfriend, you close your doors to meet or flirt with other cute guys, right?)

So whether you think being an Aupair is right for you or not, please do you homework and read a lot about it. It helps a lot to be informed, and know what other people say about it, what it implies, and what it requires. That will hopefully help you decide if becoming an Aupair is something for you, and something you would enjoy.

Have an awesome day!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I'm one of those nannies, babysitters, Au pairs...

I remember when I first heard about being an Au pair. It was the answer to my prayers. It was a way for me to learn a new language, to travel, to meet wonderful people, and experience a new culture. I googled the word and everything. I found sites for families, others for Aupairs, others with agencies. I didn't know how to start but there I was gathering all the info I could.
Summer 09 088
This blog is starting with a new concept. It will now be meant for nannies, babysitters, Au pairs, or just anyone who wants to hear some fun stuff about being a caregiver. This is especially directed to Aupairs. Being an Au pair myself, I know I had a lot of questions, like: how can I be an Au pair? Should I go through an agency or look for a family through the internet? Is it safe? Is it worth it? What are the benefits? What are the disadvantages? What experiences have people had in the past? Looking back at my own personal desire to find out more and find help in someone else with experience, I came up with the idea of making a blog about it.

Any person who has offered child-care is more than welcomed to share their experience, either in the "comments" section or as a guest writer (you can simply e-mail me with your story and I will publish it!). I'm really looking forward to people sharing their experiences, especially as Au pairs, so that anyone interested in being one can have a better picture of what it's like. I'm sure we'll find some pretty fun, as well as frustrating stories, but hopefully it will be to help us all. After all, I'm just one person, and all I can share with others is my experience; but I know each one of us has a different story to tell.

So please share!

To all nannies, babysitter, Aupairs, and caregivers in the world! Cheers!



Annie the Nanny


Friday, June 25, 2010

anayosten.com is NOT working again!!

Hello my dear friends,

I don't know who all have noticed, but

anayosten.com

is not working... I was changing some settings and stuff on the website the other day, and I tried to update my template. Normally nothing happens when I update things. This time though, it really messed something up. I have no clue on how to fix it, but I'm hoping my brother will help me out and save my life.

Sorry that I have not been posting lately, my brain's been kind of dry, adding to the stydying I had to do last week for my finals (and the technical problems with the website).... I sort of had to catch up with all the homework and studying I hadn't done throughout the quarter.

Anyway, I'll tell you about my last adventure. Yesterday, I was meeting the family I nanny for at a beach club. I got there before they did, and was waiting in my car. When I saw them coming I got out of the car and locked the door. As soon as I shut the door I thought about the keys, and sure enough: I had left them in the ignition!! I was so embarrased to tell my boss because I was supposed to take the kids home in my car, but I had no other option. She gave us a ride home and was late for her appointment. I got my brother out of work too, so that he could bring me his key to the car. I was actually pretty lucky that neither my boss nor by brother got mad at me for being so dumb (or maybe it was just empathy because it happened to them before too). It's probably one of those things that have to happen to people at least once in life. Fortunately, this was only my first, and hopefully the last.  To end the work day with more adventure, one of the kids I was taking care of was sick and threw up... pretty exciting.  At the end of the day I got to go to the circus with some friends, and that was the perfect conclusion for the evening.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer, wherever you are! Enjoy the sun if it comes out (except if you're in Tampico, because you might fry - careful when going under the sun!). Hopefully you'll achieve what you have in store for summer, if it's summer school, or working, or just having a wonderful vacation!

God bless!! Take care!

Annie

P.S. I'll try to fix anayosten.com as soon as possible!








Thursday, March 25, 2010

anayosten.com is working again!

Hellooooo

I've been trying to transfer my blog to my own domain this month. These last couple of weeks I've been having some trouble, but finally my brother Rafa helped me get it straightened out again.

Sooo please visit

My blog in anayosten.com

Take care everyone and God bless!

Annie




Tuesday, March 23, 2010

When you don't know where to go

Perhaps you have felt sometimes like you’re lost, like you don’t belong, or like you don’t know where to go. As confident as I may seem most of the time, I have to confess this is how I feel quite often. This loss of sense of direction can have three degrees: you know exactly where you want to go but you don’t know exactly how to get there; you have an idea of where you want to go; or in the worse case, you have no clue where you are headed.




I have always envied the first. It’s as if they had their destiny embedded in their blood or tattooed on their skin. They just know what they want to do; either they have always known, or at some early point in their life they have a revelation and suddenly know their destination. They don’t change their mind after that. They decide one day they want to be a doctor or an astronaut, and that’s what they become. They know what they have to do to get to where they want to go. They know how to become what they want to become. Sometimes they just don’t know the way completely. Sometimes it might take them a couple wrong turns until they finally find their path. There are times I wish I could be like these people, because even if they don’t know every single turn, they always know exactly where they are headed. It would be so much easier if I knew, but I am not in this category. I am probably between knowing the direction and not knowing at all where I want to go. Assuming I do know the direction, there are so many possible paths to take. Nowadays we have so many opportunities. So many, indeed, that it has become harder to choose because all paths sound good and exciting, and it is hard to decide one thing and close all other doors completely. In a way, we still want to have the other choices available in case we don’t like what we’ve chosen. It is important to choose something, to go somewhere, even if you end up in an undesired destination. Going somewhere is better than going nowhere. The journey doesn’t end if you arrive at the wrong place. The journey ends when you decide to stop going. Here I would like to add a story.

It had been one of those nights, the kind of night with an air of nostalgia. I don’t remember what had happened but I remember feeling miserable and lonely. I had nothing to do, no one to be with, and nowhere to go, so I decided to go downtown by myself. It was getting dark and I rode my bike forty five minutes to downtown Frankfurt. I sat by the river, and prayed and cried.  A strange man came by and started talking to me. He had had a throat surgery, he explained, so he spoke awkwardly. In half-German, half-English, with a foreign accent, he told me about his wife and daughter. I think he was Arab because of his accent and the close distance he tried to keep between us. He showed me a picture of his wife, a woman who was covered in a full burka*. I didn’t know what to say, I told him she was beautiful. He kept asking me for advice and I had no words, for I felt the most lost person in the world. I must’ve looked lost from his words and miserable, because after talking for a long while, he read my face. He apologized and left. It was late when I started riding back home, and it started raining. I thought to myself I deserved it. As I rode, I noticed a familiar street which I thought would be a shortcut; but I was wrong. At that moment I knew where I wanted to go. I wanted to go home. I just didn’t know how. The rain blinded my eyes, the water thickened by my own tears. With a swollen heart and eyes, I could hardly see the path before me. I tried guessing the direction, but each turn brought me deeper into the darkness of back alleys. I looked up to the black sky, hoping to hear a voice telling me where to go. I grew desperate of trying without success, of taking the wrong path, of riding the bike uphill (literally) and never getting to the top, of being lost in all possible senses.

Deep into the night, I finally started recognizing some buildings. When I knew where I was, I felt disappointed. I had been riding for so long and I wasn’t even halfway. In the midst of the rain, I stopped my bike. I started crying. Another man on a bike stopped and asked me if I was alright. I said I was fine, that I had been lost but now I knew where I was, and wasn’t happy about it. He thought I was drunk, and he didn’t just think it, he asked me too (you know, Germans can be pretty direct). I said no, but he didn’t believe me, I saw it on his face. He thought I was crazy, drunk, maybe something worse. He suggested I take the train. But that wasn’t the point. I wanted to get home by my own means. I was already soaking wet anyway, and getting home by train would take me just as long. I gathered my scattered pride and continued pedaling all the way home. As awkward and discouraging as the night had been, at least now I knew where I was going and how I was getting there. That’s what it took me to learn, to understand, and to purge myself. It was a night I will never forget.

This is what happens in life sometimes. Some paths take you somewhere you don’t want to go. Sometimes they seem familiar, like the right choice, or like a shortcut, but finally they lead you to the wrong places or end up getting you lost. If you know where you are going, just keep pedaling in that direction. Sooner or later you will either hit the right road or find someone who can direct you to it.

What if you have no idea where to go? Start walking: somewhere, anywhere. I know sometimes I myself feel too afraid to start walking because I fear I will end up in the wrong place, or taking the wrong path. I’m scared I will find myself in a place where I feel unhappy, or taking a path that is too hard. The truth is, there isn’t a perfect path, and our destination depends on us. Even if you don’t know where you want to go, do not stay standing. Life is too short to live static. If you start your journey not knowing where it will lead you, at least you have the chance to discover yourself and the things you like. Somewhere along the way you might find the path you were seeking, and had you not started walking, had you never known it was there. You might also find people who will guide you. As all of us do at some point in our lives, you will get lost sometimes, or make mistakes, but we all need to take those wrong turns. It is all part of the journey, part of its beauty. They help us remember where we do not want to go, and teach us life is not about getting somewhere as fast as possible. It’s about getting lost and found in a labyrinth. It’s about walking forward even in the most confusing, challenging, and lost stages of our lives; because all we need to do is keep walking. Somewhere. Anywhere. Life will take us where we need to go. If you stay motionless, you will never know where you were supposed to go, or the wonderful people and places you would have discovered.

Walk, keep walking, and live.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

If you knew someone in the subway would change your life forever, would you randomly start talking to people?

I was taking the subway back home that night. I was by myself, as usual. It was maybe the end of August, or beginning of September. I looked around at the people; I saw depressed faces, tired, and indifferent. There was something about the subway, something about it that always made me feel sad; and yet, I never imagined there would be something very special there that night. I was thinking that I had just made a friend, and he had just fled back to England. It hadn’t been easy, it really hadn’t. I couldn’t make friends at school, everyone was so busy; we’d get to class and as soon as it was over everyone raced back to where they had to go. No one had time to make friends. Time was so precious in Germany, sometimes even more than friends. And then the only friend I’d made was already gone. Two months I had been there, and I didn’t have anyone close. During the summer, I tried talking to people on the streets, one time I sat by a German student outside of a Burger King. All the tables were full, and I could’ve taken my coffee to the river and drunk it there. But I needed to talk to someone, even if it was a stranger, and this was a good excuse. So I asked him if I could sit by him, and he said it was ok. We talked some, and when he finished his burger, he parted. Another time, an instrumental band was playing downtown. As soon as they were finished I started talking to them in Spanish (they were Latin American) and was really excited to meet them. Although we went out a couple times, it never really developed into a friendship; they were always traveling; they didn’t have time either.

So there I was, sitting… thinking how nice it would be not to feel so lonely. The truth is, I didn’t want to share my pities with anyone. I hadn’t told my host family how bad I really felt, because I didn’t want them to worry. My stop was the last so I knew it would be a while, and I observed the people get on and off... I noticed a guy in a suit got on and sat across from me. He looked tired. There was something about him, he just looked so… sad, too. His blue eyes were staring out the window and it seemed as if he was thinking about something really serious. I wanted to talk to him but at the same time I was tired of trying, trying for no reason, with no success. I wish a friend would just rain down on me… But ok… those things don’t literally happen. He never got off, and I still wondered: “should I say something? Maybe I’ll disturb him, he is listening to music”. The closer I got to home the more I thought in my head whether I should say something or not. There was one more stop to go. The music was so loud I could hear it. I asked:  “What are you listening to?” He looked at me and said something like “fast music”, I don’t really remember because he said it in German and it was kind of long, and I didn’t know what kind of music it was anyway. He said “do you want to listen to it?” and I said “sure”. So he let me listen from one of the earphones. I told him he looked tired and sad, and asked him why. He just said he didn’t like his job so much, and he had had a rough and long day. He asked me what I did, and told him I was an Aupair. And then it was my stop. I got up, said thanks and went out. To my surprise, he went out too. When we got off, we introduced each other (we hadn’t said our names before), said where we came from, and exchanged phone numbers (it wasn’t anything romantic), because if you ever wanted to meet a person again, you had to have some way to contact them. I was happy that we had the same metro stop, because that meant he lived close by, and I had a better chance of making a friend if I could actually reach him or her.

I had a little trouble remembering his name, for me it was hard: Suat. Finally, I decided it sounded like SWAT except the tonic syllable was on the “u”, and got it in my head. We stayed in touch; I would go out with him and his friends, and I made more friends thanks to him.

I met lots of people that year in Germany: interesting people, cool people, and not so cool- more freaky-like people. But friends, true friends, were rare. The friend I met in the subway changed my life. It sounds exaggerating, but it’s true. I’ve thought about it: my year in Germany would have totally sucked if it weren’t for him. He almost became my psychologist; he was like my brother. He listened and he cared, and made me go out when I didn’t feel like it cuz it was freezing cold outside. He had patience with me, and taught me German, both slang and formal. He had enough patience to explain a lot of things to me. So I’m glad I took the impulse that night, as sick as I was of trying, to talk to him. Now I think about it, and I know a few seconds on the train made a difference in my life. If I would have decided not to say anything, which would have been easier (don’t think just because I talk to people on the streets it means it is easy for me, it takes courage and strength!) I would have a few less friends today. And probably the following winter months would have been miserable. It was always funny when they asked us how we’d met. It sounded very silly and almost embarrassing: “We met in the subway, when I randomly started talking to him”.




So you never know… try it sometime!





Tuesday, March 2, 2010

When a young mind starts reflecting


 
Since I’ve been having blank spaces of free time I’ve had the opportunity to ponder about many more things than before. The problem is, I am normally too lazy of a person to write them. Here it goes...

I often look back at what I’ve done, but I am a pretty exigent person and I expect a lot from myself. I  know  it isn’t good to look back, but I have the need to evaluate myself to see whether I did the right thing with my time. I hate to realize I’ve wasted it. It is when I don’t get what I want when I realize I didn’t prepare myself well enough. Life is full of challenges, problems and failures. But is also full of victories, rewards and in some cases, happiness... and many of these things depend on the decisions you make.

Oh, it is easy as a child, you don’t need to make any decisions - oh well, maybe you have to decide what flavor of ice cream you want or if you will do the homework or not-  but those won't ruin you- even if you would choose wrong. Most of the decisions are made by your parents. 99% of the time without your consent. As a child it may feel like injustice or even as a pest, like when your parents decide you have to eat the broccoli to be healthy, but as a kid you don’t realize that THAT is a relief!!

As you grow older you discover you have to make your own decisions. And the older you get, the harder the questions in the test are going to be. Sorry, that’s life! When you think that when you’re finally through one of the stages of life, like adolescence, high school, or college  for example, you find out that life only gets harder. There are no breaks and it never gets easier, just face it. What is really depressing is to know it in your heart. When you’re about 18 (that is when most people are just out of high school), one of the big decisions in life comes: what you want to study, where you want to go, and it can even pretend to aim for the question “what are you going to do for the rest of your life?”

But you can’t know that. You can’t know what you’re going to do for the rest of your days being 18 years old. You can be conscious that the decision you make will affect your future, but you can’t decide the end of the story before it’s over. As a young immature person that you are at that age (and believe me, most people are very immature at 18) you have many expectations from the world and from life. You have hopes and dreams. You want something big and nice and something that will make you happy. Somewhere along the road they stuck into our heads that we want to be successful, but choosing the right career might not be what will make you happy or rich or successful. Yet because that’s what we’ve been told, it makes this decision ever more complicated than it should be.

There’s another thing: the world is full of lies and full of shit. If you buy it you will end up eating crap all your life: trying to find the flavor of the piece of cardboard that you’re biting on. Money doesn’t make you happy, nor do things nor do people. God makes you happy, but only if you let Him. You can experience Him through people, because He is in the hearts of those who open their hearts to Him.

If you are feeling like me, with this fierce desire to know what you are supposed to do with your life (or at least with your youth)… with this energy, this spirit of hope and ambition… and you want to go out into the world and give yourself to it, with mind and soul… and you want to grasp the world in your hands… Don’t expect the world to give you the answers you need… because the world is cruel and deceives. Put yourself in the hands of God first, that you may have the strength you need to grab a hold of the world. Make the world yours and don’t let it possess you, not that you become from the world.

If you are my age, and are able to grasp what I just wrote: Good luck, because not everybody at this age is able to understand what is coming. Not everyone is able to be conscious that what they have lived is almost nothing, and that the real life is actually ahead of them. That the problems from adolescence are nothing compared to the ones of life. You don’t get to make a drama like a teenager, or have an excuse to do it. You will have to make your own decisions now… you are your own responsibility. Prepare yourself. Be ready to live you life, to fight and choose with love. Know that you are not alone. The world is at hand. Be ready to realize that the adventure has just begun.


Written sometime last year, perhaps june?

Friday, February 26, 2010

One person makes the difference

I was waiting for the bus at school last week, and I saw a lady with a stroller trying to get in the bus. As fifteen students or more stared at her, she struggled to lift the stroller up. What shocked me the most, is that everyone was watching and no one was helping. Not even the bus driver. I was at the end of the line to get in the bus, so I went to the front and helped the lady lift the stroller up. I was disappointed that no one else came up. Three other guys and I got in the same bus. I went to the very back, and watched, once more, that when the lady was going to get out, no one stood up to help her. So I did the same thing I did at first, I helped her to carry the stroller. I almost wanted to tell the other three guys something. What was wrong with them?? I mean, they were three strong, men students! Not one was even gentlemen enough to help.

Anyway, it made me think about my psychology class, when there was a chapter in the book about responsibility. I don't remember the author of this certain responsibility theory, but it stated that the more people present in a situation, the less responsibility each one of them felt. So probably everyone at the bus stop and in the bus was thinking: "someone else will help, there are so many people to do it". Because of this, I should not misjudge them. But I still have something to say: If you are in a situation like this, it doesn't have to be an accident or something caotic, just every day things, stand up. Do something. Because one person makes the difference.

One of the best things about helping (but shouldn't be the only reason why you do so) is when the person you helped says thank you. It really makes you feel better. Even if the person does not say thank you, you still feel like you've done something right. I assure you, with one little action, you can change a person's life. You can change a person's day. I wonder if the lady, after leaving the bus thought to herself: "I'm glad this person helped me", because I know, when I was a nanny in Germany, that I felt the same way when someone helped me carry the stroller up the bus. And that person would make my day.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tiger Woods Apologizes


I remember when Tiger Woods started getting famous when I was a kid, because my sisters would always buy magazines with the famous golfer on the cover.


I don’t know if you are all aware of the rumors that have infested the media these last months, about his infidelity and personal problems. The rumors are that he cheated on his wife, and that there had been an incident between the two in November. Woods crashed his SUV into a tree outside of this house and there were rumors that he had been in fight with his wife and she ran after him or something crazy like that. The truth is, we don’t really know what actually happened. A lot of people are disappointed of him; even brands like AT&T ended their contracts with him.

It happens all the time with famous people:  when they make a mistake, everyone shouts the news. Then it becomes worse, because it isn’t enough to divulge their wrong doing, so the media starts adding crap that isn’t true to make it more interesting.

 It must feel awful for the stars, to hear and read all the things people are saying about them. Is it just because they’re famous that they’re not allowed to make mistakes? How would we feel if everyone talked about our bad decisions? I don’t agree with that. It’s true, unlike other people, they have more responsibility to be role models, because they have so many followers. But let us not fool ourselves, they’re not God and they’re not perfect. So let’s just give them a break, they’re human like each one of us. It isn’t fair to criticize them as if we were perfect or something.

When I first read about the rumors, I didn’t know if to believe them or not, but I felt kind of sad about him, because I thought he was a really good guy. How would I know, right? I’ve never met him. Today I was surfing through the net, and I found an article about him apologizing. Something about Tiger Woods really impressed me. Unlike other stars, he acknowledged what he had done wrong. Imagine that: confessing for thousands, or even millions, of people, admitting he was wrong, promising to be better. I don’t think I ever remember Michael Jackson admitting he molested children and was sorry for it (I know it’s a different case, you don’t go to jail for cheating, but still). It amazes me too, that he admits he had fallen away from this faith, he recognizes that it was a mistake to forget about his faith and his family. So, hurray for Tiger Woods who was brave enough to defy millions of people with his confession; to fight to keep his family together, even as hard and painful as it would be; to swallow the pride and be willing to start over. For the people who love him. For the people who admire him.

Here is the article and the video where he confesses. The video is amazing, it must have been really hard for him to do this. Imagine yourself doing that.


http://msn.foxsports.com/golf/story/Tiger-Woods-apology-021910?GT1=39002

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Birthday Aaronini!

Happy Birthday to youuuu

Habby birthday to yooooooo

haby birdday deer Aaroooooooooni

habe a birdday todaaaay


I hope you have a great Birthday Aaron!! Have fun and take care!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Go for your dreams, even if they are far, like Germany

Ten minutes before my flight I was racing across a terminal in the Frankfurt Airport. I ran in a straight line, but the hallway seemed like a labyrinth before my eyes. My heart thundered, scared that I would not get home after being exactly one year, one month and one week in Europe. Memories about this adventurous, enriching and long year went through my mind. I hear the clock ticking in my head. I felt like play-dough, as if I was being shaped in so many ways, feeling my head was being squeezed between a thumb and an index. I had this one last test to pass before going home. Did I make it? First, I will begin with how I got there.


I started learning German when I was 15. It was a small class, taught by a lady from Northern Germany who transmitted her love toward her Fatherland. I soon fell in love with the country, with an organized an specifically structured language, a breathtaking history, an amazing landscape, a modern infraestructure, a unique culture, and incredibly disciplined people. Aside from the private German classes, I was taking French at school, and although this made it more challenging, I always thought an exta language could do no harm. Of the two, German was the hardest and if I ever wanted to be fluent, I had to learn it firsthand.

My dream has always been to travel. When I turned 16, I discovered it was not impossible if I had the necessary tools. Knowing that my parents would not be able to pay for my trip, I worked every summer to finance my adventure. I did some research and found out I could go as an Au-pair, or nanny. This way, I could learn German in the mornings and work in the afternoons. At the same time, I would immerse myself in the culture by living with a native family.

Germany gave me the opportunity to rediscover myself. I was too busy during high school, that I had left my hobbies behind. In Frankfurt, I went back to writing poems and short stories, and to reading books for the pleasure of it, something I had not done since junior high. The year went by much slower than my high school years altogether. It was worse than I expected, yet better than I could have ever imagined. Worse, because I experienced loneliness the way I never thought I would. I missed my family and friends even when I said I would not waste my time doing it. Better because each day was so unforgettaby vivid. Everything was beautiful. The friendship and love I experienced were so real, they were incomparable. Both good and bad experiences struck me intensely, and at the end of the year I realized loneliness and people were the two things that taught me the most.

I remember trying to learn how to ski in the Austrian Alps; drinking coffee at a Dunkin Donuts, the most familiar place to me in the city of Duesseldorf; walking by the port of Hamburg, which reminded me of my home port city; gazing at Berlin's museums, seeing through my own eyes these things of which I had only seen pictures in my history books. All of these things I did alone. For some reason or another, the friends I made could not make it to any of these trips. I spent weeks surrounded by people, yet having no one to talk to. Nevertheless, this gave me strength and peace, and made me think about my future and my dreams. I learned loneliness is precious and inspiring; it made creative and allowed me to listen to my heart.

Germany was a dream come true, full of great surprises as well as unpleasant ones, like missing trains and flights, or being trapped in a subway on a New Years Eve in Paris. Each day was an adventure, and the last adventure was coming back home. So did I catch my flight? I made it exaclty on time, after having to buy a new ticket. How? This is where the people I met made an impacting difference in my life. There is an old saying that says you should count your friends with your fingers, meaning that there are only a few people throughout your whole life that will be your true friends. My friends took me to the airport that day, and they paid for my ticket when I was told my original one was invalid. They were at my side during my last adventure and if it were not because of them, I would not have made it.

I am an adventurer and a dreamer. I dream about traveling, learning languages and understanding cultures. Even when others do not believe my dreams will come true, I have to believe in myself. Many did not believe me when I said I was going to Germany, but I was determined to make it, as unreachable as the dream seemed to be.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What to give on Valentine's

One of my five brothers, the oldest one, just started dating someone. I think it's his first, so he asked me if he was supposed to do something on Valentine's. The answer is: Yes! The real two questions are what to give and what to do. Here are my tips:

Don't Overdo.
Doing something "special" or "original" is great, as long as you know the other person well enough to know they will like it. Something too extravagant (like covering your Valentine's room with rose petals, or serenading them) might be just a little too cheesy for some people. You might want to ask your Valentine what they find romantic before doing something that could make him or her feel uncomfortable.

Go for the classics.
Chocolate, flowers and cards are the way to go. Unless the person is trying to be on a diet, chocolate is a good Valentine's choice. There are only a few people on this planet that don't like chocolate. Flowers only for girls, please! I've asked guys if they like to receive flowers, and no, they prefer something they can eat. What are they supposed to do with flowers? Decorate their room? I don't think so. The most classic Valentine flower is the rose. Everyone likes them , so no one will get mad or disappointed if you give them a rose. Cards are important too, especially from a guy. Girls love to receive letters. It's great if you TELL them you love them, but nothing compares to how special it is to see your guy's handwriting expressing romantic words. Girls like to go back and read their letters later over and over again. It's breathtaking.

What to do is not so important.
The important thing is to show the other person that you love them. This may sound like a cliche, but it's true! I don't mean it's not awesome to go see a romantic movie or dine at a fine restaurant. But it will be packed, because that's what most people do. You might not really get a chance to spend quality time with your date or might not be so comfortable crowded with everyone else. Try something like making a romantic candle dinner at home, go for a nice scenic walk (if it's not too cold), or watch movies together. Another good idea is to talk about how you met or why you love each other. This will be much more personal, unique, romantic, and not so expensive.

Candy is allowed, but it's OK if you're NOT that SWEET.
I always get a bunch of candy and I don't eat a twentieth of it. If I can't get rid of it by giving it to someone else (they probably don't want it either) I'll end up throwing it away most of the times. Personally, I prefer 100 times better to receive a card. When I'm through reading it, I can choose to recycle it or keep it. And if you want to be greener or not spend money on cards, there are always e-cards available.

What if you don't have a date?
Just hang out with your friends! Do something you like in common and remember to keep away from restaurants and cinemas. Something as simple as playing video games or board games works. Even if you don't actually buy your friends something, remember to give them a letter, card, or e-mail saying how much their friendship means to you. Appreciation and sincerity is far better than too much sugar.

Have fun and Happy Valentine's!

First Day! Valentine's!!!

Hello Everybody!

I'm so excited, this is my very first post!! I don't know what to write about right now, so all I'm gonna say is :

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!!

I hope you guys are enjoying today and having lots of fun with your dear ones.

Special greetings to my family, and to my 12 very best friends: Aaron, Michelle, Jerry, Pepe, Hana, Jacqueline, Christine, Chiara, Suat, Diego, Liz, and Nilo.

All my love to you


OXXO


(Hugs and Kisses)