Thursday, July 7, 2011

Time's Going by So Quickly!

Well, now that summer's in full swing, it's hard to find time to post! After dinner (which usually ends around 11:30 or midnight), I usually Skype or read a little before hitting the hay and preparing for the next day, so it's difficult to summon the energy to blog! Even on my days off, I usually take a walk to the nearest Starbucks or take the bus to the city, and try to keep my mind off the daily challenges of being an au pair so that I can unwind a little.
Regardless, I can't believe it's already JULY 7th. June seemed like such a long month, because for the first week Brenda and I were desperately awaiting the arrival of our trip, and after that one blissful week of vacation, I was starting a new job in a new home in a foreign country alone. The adjustment process crawled by and it was a really difficult first week or so. However, July seems to be going by so quickly!
I finally have a new appreciation for how difficult it is for parents to keep their kids busy during the summer. Though they often want to watch TV, it always makes them irritable and cranky to be staying still for so long, so it's a real challenge to find something they will agree to leave the TV for. It's also difficult to find activities that both Laura and Danny will enjoy. Not only are they different genders, but they have different personalities and what entertains one bores the other to tears.
Luckily, our next door neighbor's au pair just got in this week, and the two girls that live there are Danny and Laura's best friends, so we've been able to establish some English playdates. The mom next door is an English teacher, so her girls are much more accustomed to speaking English. Sometimes I just speak Spanish to the kids because I know they will understand, and that's something I'm really trying not to do anymore. They hired me to speak English, so I'm really trying to make a conscious effort--even though the vast majority of the time the kids will try to ignore me.
Yesterday, we went to a teacher store and got a few English activities. We got a board game that I think was still a little too difficult for them, and made them more frustrated than anything else, but hopefully it's something they can work up to. We also got a set of go fish cards with animals and two workbooks, which I'd like to start today.
Laura's at work today and tomorrow, and though her husband works from home on those days, it's really just me and the kids all day. It's hard to keep them entertained when I can only play with them around the house and down at the pool, so I'm sure these are going to be long, challenging days!
Also, little Laura's been sick these past few days. She's had a bit of a fever that comes and goes. That's definitely been difficult to keep her calm (and not upset that Danny's playing), while keeping Danny busy. Yesterday, we went and saw Cars 2 (because it came out yesterday in Spain), and that was a good activity for both of them.
However, next week is our last week in Madrid, which means my last week of having to keep them busy on my own, since Laura will be on vacation. We leave for Asturias on July 23rd, which be nice and difficult for a lot of reasons. I'm looking forward to seeing more of Spain, and not having to take care of the kids on my own. And it's only 60-70 degrees there now, so that will be refreshing (especially at night, because it's often so hot here it takes me a while to fall asleep). However, Laura mentioned to me that they don't have internet up there, which will definitely make me last three weeks really hard. Skyping has been a godsend many a night, and while I'm thankful I will still have blackberry messenger, it will still be hard without Skype or Facebook. I want to look into buying one of those mobile wifi jump drives (if anyone knows what they're called, that might make it easier), because I don't want to be miserable and lonely my last few weeks. It will already be hard because Devin leaves on the 20th, and I saw with Brenda how hard goodbye's are. While I know what to expect this time around, and I won't be as scared as I was when she left, I imagine it will still make me really homesick.
But all in all, life is tiring and hard, but really good! I still love Spain and enjoy teaching English, so not much to complain about. Devin comes in exactly 7 days, and I come home in 37! Whew.
Hope all is well back home. Miss you all!

Monday, June 27, 2011

What a LONG Day

I started out today feeling a little under the weather. I don't know if it was something I ate, just being tired, or being overheated (since its 100 degrees all week and we don't have a/c in our house), but I was just not feeling 100%. I was kind of cranky, and I don't think I was the only one because the children had one of those days where they could NOT stop antagonizing one another.
Also, today was my first English lesson, which went pretty well. I bought two Disney reading comprehension books, so we started the first today. I think they enjoyed the activities but don't know how much they actually retained. I hope to get the hang of teaching soon though!
However, I was trying to brace myself for the world's longest day, when the postman delivered a package from home. My family sent me 4 of my favorite DVDs (since Netflix doesn't work here), and an iTunes gift card. Such a nice surprise! Thank you, guys!
After that we went to run some errands, and ended up with lunch at McDonalds. Sugary soda was exactly what I needed to give me a pick-me-up to help me get through the day.
By the time we got home, I was MORE than ready for a siesta. But instead, while Laura was at swim lessons, Danny and I played Wii until Laura returned; then we went right back down to the pool.
We just finished dinner and I'm so excited to shower (I'm always covered in sweat; I thought being an Arizonan would help me withstand the heat, but without a/c I'm powerless!), Skype, and hit the hay. Hopefully I feel better tomorrow!
2 1/2 weeks until Devin gets here, 3 1/2 weeks till we leave for Asturias, and 48 days until I'm back in a kind of heat I can tolerate! Whew.
Take care! Miss you all.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

What a Week!

Sorry I haven't posted in a while! It's been very busy since the kids got out of school on Wednesday. We've been keeping them busy with lots of time at the pool. Also, Thursday was a holiday, so I've had some free time to do some exploring.
Thursday and today, I went back into Madrid. Thursday I went sight-seeing a little, and was thoroughly pleased that I was able to navigate my way through the city. While it definitely was more fun with Brenda, and I had a good day on my own. Today, I went back to the flea market Brenda and I went to (the biggest in Europe) to finish all my souvenir shopping. It was hot and crowded, but I did it!
Laura works one weekend a month, and this was that weekend, so it's just been me, Angel, and the kids this weekend. Next week starts our summer activities. Laura has some museums picked out for us to go to (I'm excited because Brenda and I didn't get a chance to see the Prado, so Laura said we can go there), and I'm going to start doing English lessons in the mornings. I have two little Disney reading comprehension workbooks. I think one's two advanced (I didn't really know the level of English they're at before I came; I actually still don't have that good of an idea because they're so hesitant to speak in English, but I think they know more than they let on), so I'm going to modify the activities a little bit. I hope they enjoy them, though. I want to start doing a "Words of the Day" thing and rewarding them when they use their vocab words.
Yesterday, I officially hit my "7 Weeks till I Come Home" mark. I can't believe I've been in Europe for 20 days! In some ways, I feel like I've been gone for so long, and in others 20 seems like an eternity.
I'm soo excited though because Devin was able to work out a time to come visit me! He wanted to come in August when we are in Asturias (in northern Spain), but travel there is expensive and hotels aren't cheap either, so we'd given up on him being able to. However, he was able to reschedule his trip to Texas to shadow his uncle (who is in the same field of surgery Devin wants to get into), and found a smokin' deal on airfair (better than mine, that brat). So he is coming July 13 for a week and I'm so thrilled! I really wanted him to be able to see Madrid, because I just love it. He's even staying in Las Rozas, so I can see him at night after the kids have gone to bed. I've already planned out the fun tourist things we're going to do, because there are some amazing things here that I can't imagine him missing!
Anyway, I know you're all MELTING back home. Well, I'm in the same boat. It's absolutely swetlering here. Though it's only 95 degrees (only a true Arizonan would say "only" before 95; however, I know you guys are well into the 100's), our house has no A/C and no fans. We just keep the windows and doors open all the time for circulation. At night, it's the worst. I can't sleep with my door open, so even though I keep the window open, there isn't much circulation and I usually wake up several times absolutely drenched.
I'm doing my part to stay hydrated though (I say this for those of you who have seen me faint or become violently ill due to lack of water). In fact, I'm sure Angel and Laura think I'm part camel for how much water I drink. But, I'd rather them think I'm strange for drinking 2 liters of water a day than thinking I'm a freak for fainting in their living room, or, better yet, projectile vomiting all over the kitchen. Such delightful options from your friendly little au pair.
Well, just wanted to give you guys an update! Hope all is well back home. Take care, and see you in 48 days (can't believe I'm in the 40's already!).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Funny Story

Angel and Laura just told me a funny story I wanted to make sure to post before I forgot (sometimes at the end of the day I'm overwhelmed by everything that has happened that I forget some stuff). But this morning when I woke up, I swore I heard someone crying. Sometimes when my bedroom window's open, the voices outside are so loud that I confuse them with the voices inside the house (especially when I'm just waking up!), so I wasn't sure if it was the children or not. Since Angel and Laura were going to the vet right after the school, I wasn't going with them and didn't need to wake up so I just brushed it off. At lunch, Laura told me that there's a fire drill at the school today, and little Laura didn't want to go to school because she thought they were really setting the school on fire, and she was scared. They finally got her to understand it was just a mock exercise, but I thought that was so cute! I had to share. :)

I can't believe I've been an au pair for a week!

The WiFi’s down here, so I’m writing this entry from my word processor (so I apologize if the formatting turns out to be weird!).

Today’s my second day being home alone. Yesterday, both Laura and Angel had to go to work, and the children are both in school still, so I was at the house alone until the afternoon when Angel came home to pick the children up from school and take Laura to swim lessons. It was a nice relaxing day for me. I slept in late (after waking up early to Skype Devin because our schedules have been so conflicting lately we hadn’t been able to talk much), and then made myself a Hailey-sized breakfast. I had two pieces of toast and a glass of milk. Every meal here is delicious, but they consist of so many parts it’s overwhelming (and scary, because I’m afraid I’m going to pack on 50 lbs here!), so it was nice to have something small and simple. Then, the housekeeper gave me an exterior key, so I was able to go for a walk down to Starbucks where I enjoyed a chai latte (though the venti’s here are smaller--I don’t know how they measure them since venti stands for 20 ounces and they don’t use ounces here--and cost more) and read a little. Then I walked back home, made myself lunch (some smoked salmon on bread) and watched a movie on my computer. When Danny got home, we made a house out of an old cardboard box, and he told me all the parts in Spanish. Then we went down to the pool with this nerf rocket launcher he had and we played down there until Laura got home. The evening ended with Danny shooting the rocket into someone’s backyard, which he was very upset about it, but no one was home. We went upstairs, had dinner, and watched some cartoons before we showered and went to bed.

Laura got home last night, and right now she and Angel are at the vet with their dog, Tripi. I am so sad for them today because I know they’re having a very hard time. I hope I am not an additional stress on them, and that I can help them. I’m not sure if they’ve told the kids yet, but I’m sure it’s going to be rough.

This morning I went for my first run in what felt like an eon. There are a lot of good hills around here that made for a really challenging workout. I wish I could get into an exercise routine, but I know after Wednesday, when the children’s vacation begins, that’s going to be near to impossible. It still felt good to get out and do something though.

Today also marks my first week here! I feel like I’ve been here much longer, but that just shows how fast you can adapt to stuff when you’re surrounded by it. This is also my complete second week of being in Europe. Our vacation seems an eternity ago as well.

Well, my mom’s out of town so I don’t think I will be getting to Skype with her this week. But she’s in New York so she’s halfway to Madrid if she’s interested. Love you all and miss you. Take care!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

And the Weekend Comes to an End

Today was a great day in the life of Hailey. I slept late, despite the fact that the children got up about an hour and a half before me. That's a phenomenal skill, to be able to sleep through the pitter patter of feet and the clamor of kids at play! Whew! After I got up and had some juice, Angel decided to take the children skating and since the weekends are technically my free time (they always give me the option of joining them, however), but I opted out and decided to go for a walk in search of the Starbucks I'd been told about. Laura has offered to buy me coffee several times, but I'm happy to ween myself off of my caffeine-dependency. Once or twice a week as a present to myself will certainly suffice! I was so proud of myself for actually finding it, because Angel gave me directions in Spanish and the street signs are opposite of ours back home (and of course because I get lost everywhere.) It was relaxing to just enjoy a coffee and read a little, and I'm looking forward to doing that during the weekend. The Starbucks was in the local mall, which was very pretty but extremely ritzy, so I don't anticipate doing much shopping (which is probably for the best!).
Angel and Laura picked me up from the mall because I don't have an exterior key and because we were off to lunch with Laura's family after that. We went to this amazing sea food restaurant where we ate sooo much. There were at least 6 or 7 plates on the table to start and we all just shared. I was thinking, "Finally, an appropriately-sized meal." We had octopus, shrimp, paella, patte, salad and bread. Then they brought out the entrees, and I had to eat an entire fish and more salad. When the waiter came with the entrees I turned to Laura and asked, "Hay mas?! (There's more!?) and her family thought that was absolutely hilarious. By the time we came to dessert, I thought I'd never be able to eat again. I don't know if my body is just in the habit of putting things in my stomach now or if I'm acquiring a Spanish appetite, but I even have a serious case of the munchies right now, which I cannot understand (and I'm trying to resist!).
Laura left for work at about 9 tonight. She works 24-hour shifts for the airforce and only works 2-3 shifts a week. This is her first since I've been here. So tomorrow Angel will take the children to school on his way to work, and I will be home alone until Danny gets home (Laura has swim lessons, so she won't be home till 7 or so), and then Angel gets home around 8 and mom-Laura around 11. Laura meant to leave me her exterior key so I could go for a walk if I wanted, but I think she forgot so I will just enjoy a day of leisure at the house!
I'm not sure if I've mentioned that their dog is sick, but Laura told me this afternoon he has to be put down. I know how rough that is, and I'm so sad they have to go through it. She's still so worried about making me at home that I told her to please not worry about me and I'm happy to do anything extra I can. I am very sad for them, and hope the children take it okay.
But it's been a nice weekend overall, aside from that unfortunate news. I'm really started to enjoy life here! I loved Spain from the very beginning, and now that I'm adjusting to things in Las Rozas, I'm very happy. I'm planning to go back into Madrid on Sunday afternoon to visit the flea market and relax a little. I'd like to either visit Segovia or Toledo one weekend before we leave for Asturias at the end of July; hopefully the other au pair I met is also interested!
I'm sad to be missing Father's Day, but I hope my dad's having a fabulous day! Miss you all, and looove you! :)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ay, Sabado.

Well today was my first weekend with the family, and boy was it an exhausting day! We started off with the children's graduation from their current school, which was very cute. Last night, Danny told me that they were singing a song in English and they did a performance of "If I Could Build the World a Home" which was darling. Then after graduation, the school provided a brunch spread of DELICIOUS snacks. They had lox and all sorts of munchies that I just couldn't believe. Heaven!
After that, we went to a BBQ at one of the other parent's house and enjoyed the sun and had some pollo asado. All the parents are very nice and eager to help me with my Spanish (and feed me; I can't tell you how often I'm asked if I want more food!), so it was a very pleasant afternoon.
After THAT, we went to the new school the children will be going to next year, because they were having a sports exhibition and a kind of festival. We watched Danny do Judo and the children played in bouncing castles. Then, they had a machine spray foam and bubbles everywhere, which the children had a blast with.
Of course, they fell asleep on the way home. Haha, it was a productive day! I had tons of fun with them, and Danny even spoke English to me without me asking! We were getting ready to go to the BBQ and he told me "Gonzalo (the child whose house we were going to) is my friend." Such a proud au pair moment!
But yes, we are finally getting a rhythm. I still feel like I'm not doing very much. Laura is always so surprised and thankful whenever I help the children change clothes or carry one of their bags, but I think that's pretty standard. And she's always fussing about how much I eat. I'm starting to feel more at home and beginning to help myself to stuff, so I'm surprised she still worries about about it so much.
Nevertheless, life is good here! Not much to complain about. I found out today that Blackberry Messaging, which I've been using to keep in touch with my parents and boyfriend, is not free abroad like we thought, which is SOOO upsetting. It's seriously been a major crutch for me because, while I am doing better, it still is pretty lonely. My mom and Devin are both looking into alternatives because I don't know if I can do 2 months without being able to keep in touch like that! If you have any suggestions, please let me know!
Well, miss you all! Thanks for checking in here! See you in about 55 days! :)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Almost the Weekend

Well it's Friday! Not quite the end of my first week here (I can't believe it's only been 4 days; the days are SOOOO long here! We get going around 8:30 and aren't putting the children to bed until around 11. I have no idea how Laura does it!) but almost the weekend. Tomorrow is the children's graduation from their current grade, and Sunday we are supposed to go to lunch with their grandfather. I don't know if I will usually get the weekends off, or how my free time is going to work. I've had lots of free time because they were in school, so perhaps once summer begins the weekends will be mine. I hope to figure it out soon!
I met another American au pair yesterday at the pool, and it turns out she is from Arizona as well and we have a handful of mutual friends. What are the odds? We exchanged information so hopefully I will now have a friend! Haha, I feel like an elementary school student again, desperately searching for friends. When we first moved to Arizona, I posted flyers around our neighborhood looking for friends; funny how some things barely change!
Today after school we are going to the river with some of Danny and Laura's classmates. We've gone to the pool everyday, which is fine, but it will be nice to have something new to do.
I also bought some colored paper and tape, and am making labels for their bedroom so they can learn English words for household things like "door," "bed," and "closet." I haven't been really teaching them much (an occasional word here and there) because they are still in school and they want to play afterwards, and I don't want to over-whelm them, but Laura, the mother, has asked about it and I want to make sure I'm doing a good job.
It's hard to tell a lot though, because there are a lot of miscommunications. She told me she thought the children like me, which is a relief. I know it's frustrating for them sometimes because I don't always understand what they're saying (I'm understanding more and more Spanish, but understanding children who speak in English can even be difficult, so I often struggle with what they're saying) and we are usually with their mother, who they obviously prefer. However, I feel like they are warming up to me and talking to me more, so hopefully that will continue!
It's also hard for me to organize activities because it's challenging for me to communicate with them clearly. I don't know how to do the things I usually do when I'm babysitting, or say the usual jokes I make.
Anyway, I'm starting to get used to life here. It is definitely different, and I miss the people at home often, but things are fine here. Skype certainly helps, though it often makes me miss you guys even more! Would love to hear from you all! Hasta luego!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Getting Accustomed!

These first few days here in Las Rozas have been challenging for me, to say the least! It's exhausting becoming accustomed to a new way of life, and I think it's really taken a toll on me--especially since I am here alone. But, things are getting easier! I'm starting to get a sense of rhythm (although I do spend some time being unsure!) The children are still in school, so I have a fair amount of free time until Wednesday (which is why I am able to write this now!). Laura, the mother, has been very nice and has been letting me follow her everywhere to help keep me busy. Yesterday, however, I slept a lot and caught up from my vacation. I took 3 separate naps and slept for like 4 hours. They don't siesta this far north, so I'm sure it seemed a little strange, but I think they understood I am still tired from traveling.
Today, I went with Laura to get her hair cut in the mall, and I walked around for a little bit. She took me for a cup of coffee before, which was very nice of her and very much appreciated. I've broken my caffeine addiction, which is extremely exciting, but I still enjoy coffee of course. She also told me where a Starbucks is, which will be a nice treat for me, though I can't buy many because they're extremely expensive (A grande is 4 Euros, about 6 dollars). Most of the stores at the mall were still closed, so I just sat outside and read a little. A man asked me for directions, and I was shocked he didn't realize I was American because usually it can be spotted from miles away (I used to wonder how, but now I understand; I don't know how to explain it, but you can tell when a person is American). I had to tell him I wasn't from here (although, those of you who know me well, know I probably couldn't have given him reliable directions even if I'd lived there for 30 years).
After that, we went to what I think was a Spanish Target (They combine strange stores here, so it's hard to tell. It was either that, or a mall of some sort). I like going to the grocery store because I'm excited by all the food that I don't recognize. They think I don't eat a lot here, but I've really enjoyed everything I've eaten. I'm even starting to like some things I absolutely detested back home, like orange juice and ham. My mom was shocked to hear that!
Yesterday the children and I went back down to the pool, and it was fun. I'm still getting the hang of things (I forgot two of the towels and accidentally set our stuff in an ant hill!) but they are understanding.
They're also beginning to remember the words I teach them. We were playing Wii, and Laura (the daughter is also named Laura) went to give me a high 5 and I told her that's what it was called, so now she says "Toca 5!" instead of cinco. That was very exciting for me.
Anyway, I just wanted to let everyone know that all is well here. I know I've seemed blue on Skype, but it makes me sad to see everyone I miss sometimes. Especially with the time difference, I feel lonely because everyone at home is sleeping during the day so it's hard to communicate. I miss you all very much and will be so happy to be home in August, but life is going well here!
I love you all!
PS, Mom. I think I fixed the settings so you can comment if you like!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

First Au Pair Post

Well, I'm finally an au pair! I've been so busy traveling before this that I haven't been able to post. Brenda and I toured Lisbon and Madrid for a week and seriously had the best week imaginable. The only down-point of our trip was a less-than-delicious calamares sandwich, so we consider the entire vacation a massive success!
However, she left for Arizona this morning which was much sadder than I could've anticipated. We've been attached for 8 days (almost literally; we even went to the bathroom at the same time most of the time!), so watching her leave was really sad. Plus, it's scary to be in a foreign country alone, and I really underestimated that. We met a lot of backpackers traveling through Europe alone for like 8 weeks, and I can't imagine doing that. At least here I'm with a family, although I'm sure I will still get lonely.
Anyway, Brenda's flight was at 7am, so she had to get a taxi at 4:30am. That's usually what time we were getting home from the clubs because things go so late here, so we decided to just stay up. Besides, the hostel we were staying in didn't have any windows in the dorms so it was SO easy to sleep late every day and we were nervous we'd over sleep. However, the hostel had so many rules about where you're allowed to be late at night, so we had to hide in hallways and bathrooms until it was time for her to go, since there were people sleeping in our room.
Laura, my au pair mom, was set to pick me up from the hostel at 10:30, so I took a quick nap, and got up and had some coffee and tried to Skype some people from home. I was way too nervous to eat anything. At 10, I checked out of my room and brought my luggage down and was waiting in the lobby. But, as 11 rolled around I started to panic and think she wasn't coming. I was wondering what kind of scam this was to ask an au pair to come and then never get her, and I was wondering how much it was going to cost to go home tomorrow, and beginning to feel very stupid. I was Blackberry Messaging Devin at the time (because it's the only free way to communicate here with my phone), telling him I might need him to call my mom and wake her up so she could get on Skype and help me figure out what to do. I was so scared! Then, at 11:05, Laura came in and said there had been so much traffic and our street was closed off so she'd gotten lost. She'd called the hostel to tell them, but I had never received the message even though I was sitting three feet from the desk look petrified and holding back tears. :P
So, sorry Mom for all the frenzied BBMs from this morning!
She picked me up and brought me to their house in Las Rozas, which is about 15-20 min outside of the city center. It's a really pretty area, and the house is nice. I'm so happy to have my own room and bed after a week of hostels!
The children are at school until 4:30, and Laura and her husband took the day off on my behalf, and because their dog Tripi is at the vet. I'm sure it's been very stressful for them preparing for my arrival and taking care of the dog's health issues.
I unpacked my bags, Skyped Devin so he could see me not in tears (I was so nervous this morning I couldn't stop crying!), and took a nap since I only slept three hours last night. Brenda and I also have done so much this week, that it finally occurred to me that I'm so tired! I can't wait to go to sleep tonight and get the first good night's sleep in so long. Hostels are nice for a sense of community, but sharing the room with strangers with different plans who come and go at all hours is not the easiest.
I'm still a little nervous, even though the house is very nice and Laura and Angel are both extremely nice. I'm excited to meet the kids this afternoon. There's just still so much unknown and so much to adjust to (and I just found out my Netflix account doesn't work here, which is a bummer because I was looking forward to watching a movie at night). Devin was planning on visiting at the end of my stay, in the beginning of August, but I think I will be traveling with the family to Northern Spain during that time, so now we aren't sure if he will be able to. Saying goodbye is so hard, it's almost better, but I really wanted to show Devin Spain because I like it so much here. Plus, I miss him very much.
It's definitely nerve-racking having so much unknown ahead of me, but I'm extremely excited for the next two months of my life!
I'm still a little too sad to post about the adventures of me and Brenda because I already miss her, but I will try to recount them soon, and post often!
Take care, and miss you all back home!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hola, Lisboa!

Well, we got into Lisbon yesterday! It was a long 20-some hours of travel--especially being stuck in Miami airport for 9 hrs. We flew TAP Portugal from Miami to Portugal--which was the airline's inaugural flight from Miami. It made it rather confusing since no one at the airport knew where their ticketing counter was, which was alarming. When we finally found someone who had heard of the airline, we saw all sorts of photographers and men in suits at their counter and found out it was the first time they were flying from Miami. There was a huge celebration at the gate with press and a ceremonial ribbon cutting and a bunch of free snacks. Of course, Brenda and I chowed down. When we boarded, they gave us a free gift set which was really cute. The plane was really nice, and they fed us twice, which of course we loved too.
We landed in Lisbon at noon, and got to our hostel at about one. We were confused at the hostel, because we couldn't find the front desk and the directions had said that it was on the first floor. When we used the page button, I remembered in Europe the ground floor is floor 0 and the second floor is floor 1. Oh, the things you learn in Spanish class!
We checked in, and found out we're the only people in our 12 person room, which is nice. There is a construction site right outsie our room, which is annoying, but it's not too bad. We explored all day yesterday, walking around the streets and poked into a church. We ended up at this cute bar where we enjoyed a pitcher of sangria and some local munchies (like these little fruits and snails!). We got a little turned around (and it doesn't help that we don't speak Portuguese) but we found our way back and accidentally fell asleep. Then we just ended up staying in for the night and Skyping.
We're planning on going to the beach and Belem today, and going to a discoteca with the only other guest who's staying here!
Wish us luck! Miss you all!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Want to Au Pair too?

I get asked a lot how I found this amazing opportunity to work in Spain this summer. While it does often take a lot of time (I started my search in November, and didn't secure something until around February!), it is pretty easy! The best way to get started is to register on a website like,, or It's usually free to make a profile; however, you only have limited contact information. Usually, free users can only send pre-written messages, and can't access family's e-mails or phone numbers, so you have to rely on family's with paid memberships to contact you. I made free profiles on each of these, and picked my favorite site to purchase a membership on.
After that, you just monitor the website as much as you'd like for postings that interest you! I tried to keep an open mind, and was at one point talking to families in Hungary and Turkey about spending my summers there.
It's important to be aware that there ARE scammers out there. You should never have to pay the family, or give them any credit information. And be wary of sending out your passport number. Identity theft is a prime motive for scammers, and your passport number is a quick way to do that.
I was also skeptical of anyone unwilling to Skype with me. Video chatting with a stranger can be awkward, but it is reassuring to put a face to the name and verify they're a real person.
Other ways I verified potential families was by google mapping their houses to make sure they were real locations.
One common scam email I got was from families in the United Kingdom (This was a tip-off because most families seeking an English-speaking au pair come from non-English speaking countries. The advantage of having an au pair from another country is improving their children's fluency in another language), offering me thousands of dollars pay per month as long as I send them my passport number. Pretty easy to spot. General rule: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Most au pair jobs are for longer amounts of time, so if you want to do a summer portion like I am, give yourself plenty of time to find one. That was definitely the most challenging part of my search since my availability was so limited because of school.
If you are looking to do something like this, feel free to e-mail me or facebook me. It's kind of a unique process, so it can be helpful to talk to someone who's done it before (One of my professors gave me the e-mail of a former student who had worked as an au pair, and I found her advice extremely useful!).
Good luck!

9 Days & Counting!

I can't believe my last week in Arizona is next week! I keep thinking of all the little things I have to do (and of course, taking care of the little ones like making this blog), and I know next week is going to be crazy! Here is a list of everything I need to get finished before June 6!

1. Clean my room & get all my things packed so I'm ready to move back into the dorms as soon as I get back.
2. Wash my car.
3. Buy a journal.
4. Buy a plug adaptor & voltage convertor.
5. Get my traveler's insurance all squared away.
6. Attend Devin's Mom's bridal shower on Friday.
7. Attend my going-away BBQ next Sunday.
8. Do laundry & pack.
9. Buy all my toiletries & snacks.
10. Have a garage sale tomorrow morning so I can make a few extra bucks & get rid of a few things I don't need.
11. Purchase a new vacation outfit or two.
12. Plot out mine & Brenda's tourist itinerary in Lisbon & Madrid.
13. Spend as much time with family & friends as possible.
14. Work 8-5 Tuesday & Wednesday.
15. Pick up & deposit my paycheck on Friday.
16. Call my bank and inform them of my travel plans so they don't put a hold on my cards.

Whew! Good thing I'm an avid coffee drinker..