Friday, September 2, 2011

On childcare, public transportation, and general observations

I can't believe I've only been here three days (less, really, if you're counting hourly). Today was the most time I've had alone with the kids. Yesterday my host dad took the day off work and we went to the supermarket and the park with the kids so I could get familiar with the area. On Fridays my host mom works from home, but she shuts herself in the office in the cellar to get work done, so I had the kids from 9 AM to about 1:30 PM.

They really are the cutest kids. They're generally very easy to entertain, and they play together very well. They love reading stories, though storytime usually results in a squabble over whose book to read and who gets to sit on my lap whilst reading. Today consisted of a lot of Shel Silverstein, Horrid Henry's Big Bad Book, and several repetitions of Rainbow Rob the Black-and-White Penguin. Cliona was pulling for A Child's First Book of Irish, but I managed to distract her by making animal noises instead--my Gaelic is about as close to non-existent as one can get.

Kilian always refers to Cliona as "My Sister" (you can see the capital letters when he says it), as in "My Sister needs her chair pushed in," or "My Sister doesn't like red sauce on her pasta." His English is just about perfect (though we encountered a bit of a stumble when he asked me what one's "spirit" was...I didn't have a very good answer, I'm afraid). He adores his little sister but loves pestering her (a common command from his parents is Kilian, nicht √§rgern! (don't be annoying)). His greatest setback today was when he couldn't successfully braid my hair. Too difficult.

Cliona is about six weeks shy of three, but she really does keep up with Kilian very well. I dread the demands of "Ich auch!" (Me too!) whenever Kilian does something daring like slide down a pole or jump his bike off a little hill. I usually understand her pretty well, but as Kilian's informed me, she speaks "Denglish" more than anything else, so fortunately my German is good enough to get most of her requests. She's definitely at the age of independence: most things she tries are qualified with "Ich mach's alleine!" (I do it alone!) She's very good-natured but when she starts getting hungry (about every two hours), she turns into something of a devil child. Fortunately it's very easily remedied.

They love riding their bikes to the park to play. Kilian has a big-boy bike, and Cliona is incredibly fast on her junior bike (just a bike without pedals that she pushes with her feet). They're excellent at waiting for me to cross streets and are altogether very well-mannered. The biggest frustration of today was that Mama was just downstairs working! They snuck down to see her several times when I was distracted, but they managed to hold out pretty well.

Most of the spoken mistakes I made are not in German but in English. Kilian has no qualms about instantly correcting me, so I catch on well. Yesterday I made the mistake of referring to his jeans as "pants" instead of "trousers"; in Irish-English, which they speak, pants are underwear. Bell peppers are called paprika, which I can never remember. Kilian also does not appreciate the abbreviation of 'kay for okay or tomatoes with a long a.

Last night I ventured into downtown Munich on my own to meet my family's previous au pair and her friends. The journey was entirely successful; not even a turnstile to get stuck in. I have a monthly transportation pass, but having it or not is really just on the honor system (I suppose they must occasionally check, but I've yet to experience it). I am proud to say my first purchase in Germany was a beer, as should be. For 1,50 you can purchase a large bottle of beer from kiosks in the train stations. And not only can you drink in public, people actually come up and collect your empty beer bottles! It's fairly incredible.

And to finish this post, some general things I've noticed so far:

  • Germans are obsessive about trash. There are five bins in our house: paper recyclables, soiled paper recyclables, food trash, glass recycling, and general trash.
  • No one locks up their bikes.
  • The rain is not an inconvenience; people walk their babies anyway, usually with a huge plastic shield over the stroller. 
  • Hygiene is not an issue. I don't know about how often showers are taken, but my host family have all worn the same outfit multiple days in the row (with the exception of Cliona, whose clothing is usually rather chocolate-y or tomato sauce-y by the end of the day, but she has made up for it by wearing the same underwear three days in a row). 
  • To get a shopping cart in the store, you have to insert a Euro into a slot on the cart, which unchains it from the other carts. Incentive not to steal, I suppose, though if you really wanted a shopping cart I'm sure you'd lose the Euro for it.
  • Dinner is a very unimportant meal. In my family, it's referred to as tea (though there's no tea involved in it), and has consisted thus far of bread, cheese, and smoked salmon/ham.  
My natural politeness with people I don't know very well has never really been a bad thing, but it's gotten me into a bit of trouble here. I naturally decline when offered to have food bought for me or asked if I'm hungry, so yesterday I consumed maybe 800 calories total (400 of which were beer). I think I learned my lesson at least a bit from that. Food is important. 

I know there's more, but I can't remember just now. Tragedy! Off to have my lunch and enjoy my afternoon off. Kilian's friend Ben is here playing, so nothing for me to do. They have the sweetest friendship: they both shout with delight when one comes over and both cry when it's time to leave. It's adorable.  


  1. Thanks for another descriptive and entertaining post! Wonderful observations about every day life--love the part about the trash, the hygiene, and the descriptions of the kids. They really sound wonderful!

  2. I'm glad you're enjoying your adventure. :) I nearly died when you said Kilian was correcting your English. I guess it doesn't really count though. :P

    I miss you terribly, by the way.

  3. I miss you too!! I just got in trouble again for saying 'cause. I'll have to step up my game, apparently..

  4. Dad here: Keep the language observations coming; they're classic! I, and the "spirit" of Mary Bess, love it. Way to carpe the Deutsch diem! (from Dad on Mom's facebook page)