Monday, June 1, 2009

Memorable Experiences...

I arrived in Germany on the first few days of fall in the late 90’s to be an au pair for a family with three small children. I had flown overseas many times before, but never alone. As I left Munich, I had very clear instructions to take the S Bahn to the Munchen Ost Station and where to change platforms in Freilassing. With all of my luggage for the months ahead, I trudged through the train stations trying to make a two minute connection and anxious to meet my awaiting host family.As I stepped out of the Bad Reichenhall Train Station and tried to figure out how to make a phone call using a Deutsch Telecom Phone Card listening to German Prompts, I knew I was already in over my head.Let’s skip the fact that I did not know how to cut vegetables correctly. I’m from the Southern US afterall and aren’t vegetables meant to be fried? I arrived confident in my childcare and housekeeping skills only to find I was aided by the processed market of America. (God Bless the USA!)I didn’t think twice one morning when my host dad said he wanted to me make a pumpkin pie. I’ve done that a hundred times! As I searched for the Libby’s Canned Pumpkin, I wasn’t prepared to be handed the pumpkin gourd that had been growing off a vine on the roof.I was left behind for the day with my schedule and the pumpkin. As I finally tackled the task ahead, I was mostly proud of the results. My family had (thankfully) saved a recipe from an old Libby’s can from their last visit to the states. Whew!As I happily produced the finish product that afternoon, never mind it looked a little light for pumpkin pie. I had accomplished something successfully. We served our freshly baked pie with the afternoon coffee on a cool crisp autumn day. Everything was picture perfect. Well mostly. Then my host dad said, “did you cook the pumpkin first?”“Why would I cook it?!” I responded surprised. “We’ve never cooked the pumpkin first when making a pie.” I wasn’t even flustered. It sounded like a such a ridiculous suggestion. Then my host dad pointed out that canned pumkin comes cooked already. Sure enough, my too light pumpkin pie was stringy and light because it was still raw pumpkin.I could only laugh at my rookie mistake! I can also say that while I’ve become an expert at making soups and cutting vegetables, I’ve never cooked a pumpkin for a pie since.Being an au pair in Germany was one of the most difficult and yet rewarding experiences. It was at first lonely and I had culture shock trying to adjust to a very different way of life. Did I mention it was a very different way of life?As my husband and I have been preparing for a move in the near future, we’ve been sorting through old keepsakes. One of the things I came across was a picture of my host family taken from my place at the breakfast table. All of their smiling faces are looking towards me. It’s the way I remember my host family. While I couldn’t have realized then, their family has become an integrated part of my life. My time in Germany changed my perspective of the world. It changed how I approach every day tasks and my family taught me to live life to the fullest.It’s hard to look forward and anticipate the future in that situation. I never thought I’d see my host family again. As I look back I see how our lives came together during that time to provide a memorable lasting experience. An experience which I’ve continued to learn from in the years that have passed since then. I couldn’t have realized then that I would be there after one of the host children had a life threatening illness or that my host parents would be at my wedding or that I would return with my children years later o explore the alps together with my former host parents and their children who are nearly all grown up and certainly now taller than me.The Bothell/Woodinville AuPairCare au pairs make lasting life experiences. Coming from foreign lands, they are welcomed by host families and host children to a long lasting life time of experiences. While providing excellent childcare, they have the opportunity to experience the American culture in an American home. While there might be difficult moments settling in and adjusting - I’m sure it’s an experience that continues to give back for many years to come.


Anonymous,  June 2, 2009 at 8:55 PM  

What a neat adventure! I probably would've have done the same thing with the pumpkin pie. :o)

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