Be Nice to the Au Pair, Santa is Watching

I swear this message has been shared with my host family and the Oma. This last week has been unusually easy going and we’ve all been getting along so well, it’s almost too good to be true. In fact, I wonder if they all read my last blog post…

The week that followed my last blog post (the one in which I explained how crazy my host family is) actually began on an equally chaotic level. On the Monday I was asked to help bring the Oma to an old people’s ‘singing dinner’ event, so to speak, and was then promptly told I would be staying there until the end without any forewarning. I was thus stuck there for three hours without any mobile to distract me from the very enthusiastic, non-stop live singing with the Oma asking me every few minutes to order her Wurst (of which they had none) or asking me what was wrong (which of course could only be answered with, “Nichts, alles gut.”) They even sung “Happy Birsday” (with emphasis on the ‘s’) led by a very sturdy, stout woman who could perhaps be mistaken for a man if it wasn’t for her Drindl. Later on I had about five people help move Oma up the stairs outside of the main eating area and to a secluded table that would accommodate her wheelchair. My ‘Hawaii Toast’ was basically two slices of bread drowning in a plate of cheese with two slices of pineapple, thick chunks of ham and dollops of jam. Very odd but quite tasty none the less. (It’s impossible to eat vegan or vegetarian in an authentic German restaurant unless you order a salad.) M had told me she would fetch us by 6 o’clock, but 6 o’clock came and went and the Oma was getting very anxious. As I had no mobile the staff phoned her several times on my behalf, but as usual M had left her mobile at home and so we waited… Long story short, it was terribly unpleasant for the Oma who is usually in bed by 7pm and I was rather pissed off as I had not been informed of what was going on and was quite sick of the lack of punctuality and excess disorganisation continuing on from the previous week. My German Lehrerinen try to teach us about German culture, including formalities and punctuality, and have asked me before to share with the class (who are not so fortunate to live amongst real German people) about my experience, but I struggle to provide good examples of these.

The rest of the week was relatively messy, with one more unpleasant visit to Oma who cried and fussed and told me I couldn’t do anything; I couldn’t speak German and I couldn’t take her out for a coffee, as I usually do. One evening I stressed out a little trying to cook dinner for everyone before they got home, only to be left waiting on my own with the food going cold and my mood growing colder. M told me she would only be out for an hour, which ended up being about three hours with no explanation or notification. So yes, by this point I was just counting down each and every day, reminding myself I only had a few more months of this and then I would be free. But then this last week happened and it’s been quite amazing.

I didn’t have to see the Oma the whole week until Friday, and when I did, it was rather enjoyable. She was so happy to go out with me to the Christmas market and we got along really well. I managed to keep her calm when she worried, my German was a lot better and we were actually able to have small conversations without me making huge grammatical errors or getting nervous or awkward. I’ve noticed that as soon as my German gets shaky, the Oma gets anxious, which only makes me anxious, and then I make more mistakes and we go downhill from there. So now that I’m better at assuring her that everything’s alright and am able to speak better, things are much more comfortable between us. We spent over an hour walking through the market, drinking coffee and even some Glühwein upon her request. She had several friends stop by to say hello, and now that I understand more, they don’t look at me like a street sweeper or dismiss me as soon as I open my mouth. They compliment me on my hair and have a good laugh, which is a tad more pleasant. I even went with M and X to the neighboring Christmas markets which are much bigger and more extravagant. M took me shopping with her to get my “expert opinion” on things as I am studying fashion, and later we also went to get Glühwein. After the first round X ordered another, and we all went home a bit tipsy. In fact I went straight to bed without having to cook anyone dinner.

The following day X cooked a big, tasty lunch and all I had to do was clean up. We played a game similar to “I Spy” but everyone had to use their mother tongue. M spoke in German, X spoke in French, C spoke in Swiss German and I Spoke in English; it was quite fun! Later their hairdresser and then M’s cousin arrived while M was out and I was home alone. In between trying to welcome them I had the telephone going off non-stop and had no idea what to tell anyone as I am never sure exactly when M will be available. But we all survived and I learned when I can just remove myself from the situation and let M sort it out. That night M asked me to put C to bed, and we ended up reading her new English-Deutsch book together in my room a little longer than we should have. When M came upstairs to give me a candle for my room (how sweet ^_^ ), I quickly went out onto the landing. C hid behind my door while M ironically thanked me for putting C to bed so fast. As soon as she left I ushered C into her room, switched off the light and shut the door. We then read the book one more time, going over how to pronounce “th”. (If your mother tongue is English, you’d probably never have thought how difficult it is for non-English speaking people to pronounce “th”. It’s comparable with the German “ch” in “Eihornchen”.

Yesterday I took the Oma to a “Vorweihnachtsliche Feier” (Pre-Christmas party) for the elderly. We went on a bus, which we had all to ourselves, while the other members of the old age home went in a mini-van. Once we had arrived and secured her a place at the table, I tried to leave, but the Oma asked me to stay. So we sat together and enjoyed some tasty cake and coffee, and were even offered wine. The event consisted of a welcome from the “Oberbürgermeister” (Lord Mayor. The boss of the old age home who was sitting next to us asked me about our Lord Mayor in Brisbane, but I don’t know if we even have one of those??), Christmas carols, a children’s play, a wonderful speech by the town Pastor and concluded with a performance by a brilliant Orchestra. The speech made by the Pastor was basically about how every year is different, and that nothing stays the same. Each Christmas we celebrate with different people; some may have left our lives while others have joined it. However, we always celebrate for the same reason. I had to have a little chuckle, as this probably rang true for me the most. There I was, probably the youngest person in the room, a complete foreigner, sitting amongst strangers, listening to and actually understanding a speech in German.

We left with the same bus, although this time it was packed with nuns. Everywhere the bus went, people stopped and stared, laughing at the sight of us. Today I’ll take Oma to the Christmas markets for lunch (apparently they even have veggie burgers which I’ll have to find). Once that’s done I can catch the train to Switzerland and spend at least one night with my love before another week begins. Let’s hope Santa is still watching and that everyone gets the memo – I’ve come to like it here a lot more since everyone started behaving themselves 😉

 

 

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