Thursday, October 13, 2011

A day in the life of an au pair

     For starters, I apologize for AGAIN not updating for way too long. There's no excuse. I know things are getting bad when my dear mother, who has been known to chide me about not updating TOO frequently ("Don't you have better things to be doing, Laura?") asks me when I'm going to write another blog. Oops.

     Instead of my usual mishmash of things I've been doing (that will come at the end, so don't fret now!), today I'll give you more of a specific run-down of how I spend my day: this idea inspired by occasional such entries in my baby book. I should probably just dedicate this whole entry to my mother. Hi, Gecko!

     So here goes. Times are in German format. Don't whine.

Thursday, 13.10.11

06.50: My alarm isn't set to go off until 7.50, but on days when I have to get up "early" (I hear my parents laughing at me. And everyone else that actually works for a living. I'm 22. Shh.), I leave my earplugs out so I wake up more gradually, usually from the dulcet tones wafting down into my cellar room of children screaming and hollering. Good morning, Germany.

06.50-07.40: My slow wake-up process has served me well. Ten minutes early, I start my day officially by checking my email and my Facebook. Yes, I am a child of the 21st century.

07.50: Alarm goes off. Norah Jones' "Don't Know Why," because it's the most innocuous thing I could find on my phone to use as an alarm. I check the weather (again) and put on the clothes I had laid out the night before: jeans, turtleneck, sweater, scarf, and knee-high boots. (It's pouring outside, if you couldn't tell by the outfit. The Indian Summer of my last entry is long gone and it's officially fall. And freaking freezing (almost literally) to prove it.) Throw on a teensy bit of makeup and quickly braid my hair, gather my notebook/papers/textbook, and upstairs. Breakfast is, as usual when I'm in a hurry (and quite often when I'm not) is a slice of bread with a piece of cheese on it.
      Bread in Germany is not the packaged slices you'd find at any typical American home. It's a loaf of hearty bread, baked at a bakery, usually with pumpkin or sunflower seeds in it, and you slice a piece off with a monstrous knife. My jaw gets sore from chewing this bread, it's that hearty. (And there's no way for that to be a viable that's-what-she-said, so please don't even try.) The cheese, in the same vein, is...I don't even know what cheese it is. It's called Scheibenkäse, and it's cheese. Cheese-flavored cheese. I can't explain it any further.

08.10: While chewing my bread and cheese, I quickly (and sloppily) put the morning's dishes in the dishwasher. My only every-day chore is to clean up the breakfast mess: rinse and put dishes in dishwasher, wipe off counters, sweep floor of breakfast-y debris. Thursday the Putzfrau (cleaning lady) comes, so all I have to do is put dishes away.

08.18: Throw on my coat and rush out the door to catch my bus, realizing as I dash off that it's pouring rain and my umbrella has disappeared from its spot on the front step. Crap. Bus comes at 8.23 though, so I'm doing well.

08.21: While waiting for the signal to change, I see the bus coming. When buses are early and I'm on them it's one thing, but when I'm on the wrong side of the street it's another. I wade nervously through across the traffic-y street (illegally, I might add, but missing that bus makes me 15 minutes late for class).

08.29: Bus arrives at Neuperlach Zentrum, the nearest U-Bahn (subway train) station to my house. (Only seven stops away--quite convenient). The bus was packed as it always is in the rain. I was out of change too, but fortunately had a ticket from a couple of days ago I'd forgotten to validate, so used that instead. Not that I ever get checked, anyway. I head into the train station with masses of other people, almost falling on the slippery moving sidewalk (I was wondering why everyone was taking the stairs...).

08.33: The U-5 train comes in and I grab a seat and doze most of the way into the city. The stop for my class is Karlsplatz Stachus, eight stops from where I got on. The U-Bahn is packed as well and I avoid looking at anyone too long for fear an old person will yell at me for not giving up my seat. (I know this is courtesy, but it scares me. What if they're not actually old? What if they get mad for my assuming their infirmity?)

08.47: Train arrives at Karlsplatz. I head the right direction this time (the whole station is a huge underground web and by going the right way I come up from underground about two meters from where my class is. Last week I went the wrong way. Much longer walk.). Pause for about 45 seconds in front of the bakery, pondering a cappuccino. Realize the line will take probably five minutes and by this point it's 08.56, and my class starts at 9.

08.59: Walk into my class. Never say I don't know how to be punctual. (I just occasionally choose not to be.)

09.00: German class, officially from 9-12:15, is a lot of talking about homework, discussing various topics, doing some group work, typical stuff like that. Today we threw around a ball for a while from person to person as a verb practice exercise: ball comes to you, you name the präterium and partizip (perfect form and participle). Talked a lot about differing ideas of poverty in different countries. I learned the the Ukraine is apparently the poorest country in Europe and that it's only in the US when not having a car means you're poor. I pride myself on having the best accent in the class (which, not to brag, I do), but was sufficiently humbled when the Ukrainian girl I was sitting with told me that German is her fifth language: she's basically fluent in Russian, Ukrainian, English, and Spanish as well. At least I have something going for me. There is something so wrong in the way the US treats foreign language study.

10.40-11.00: Our kaffeepause (coffee break). I head downstairs to the bakery next door and buy a cappuccino and a chocolate muffin and talk with a Romanian girl in the class about how her au pair family makes her clean their toilets.

11.00: Continue with our language class. Read a short version of "Der Rattenfänger aus Hameln," of which I was surprisingly the only one who knew it. (The American version is known as "The Pied Piper of Hamelin." The Ukrainian group has to be frequently chided for speaking in Russian, but the rest of us, not sharing a common language, do pretty well.

12.15: Head back down into the Stachus passagen to catch my train back home.  Karlzplatz is just a short walk from Marienplatz, the city center, and I contemplate going in to at least go to the bookstore or something, but I have stuff to do at home, so off I go.

12.52: Get back to the house. The house cleaner is there, so I head into my room in the cellar to stay out of her way and do my ironing. I had some shirts returned yesterday because I didn't do them well enough (uh-oh...), so I really set my mind to the task today. Fortunately Nate was online, so we Skyped until about 2:30, which made my ironing much more enjoyable than it would have otherwise been.

Woodsy walk back from the bus stop. Picture doesn't do justice to how cold and wet it was.
14.33: Almost dash out the door, realize I'm starving and I've forgotten Kilian's violin, so I slice myself another piece of bread-with-cheese, grab the violin, and take off. Kilian's lesson is at 3, it takes just over 15 minutes to walk to the kindergarten, so I'm running a tad behind, but I figure I'll just walk quickly.

14.52: Get to kindergarten. When the kids are playing outside it's really hard to just get Kilian to come. Somehow all the kids know who I am and when they see me they yell to Kilian and Cliona. Last week Cliona saw me and was heartbroken when I told her she had to stay at the kindergarten while we went to violin. It was traumatic. Seriously. Luckily they were inside today due to the weather, so it was fine.

14.55: Chide Kilian for the fifth time to put on his shoes. He's crawling around on the floor next to them talking to his friend. Fortunately the music school is just across the street.

15.00-15.30: Read my book while sitting in on Kilian's violin lesson. Much to my disappointment, they've decided not to continue with violin after this four-week trial period. He likes it, but I think is disappointed he isn't playing like Little Amadeus yet, so hopefully they'll try again in a year?

15.30: Head back over to the kindergarten to collect Cliona. I have to convince Kilian not to take his shoes back off and start playing again. Bundle Cliona into her pram and head out. Kilian's whining about not having his bike, so I tell him we'll take the bus. Unfortunately for both of us, the walk to the bus station is about equal to walking halfway home, and it takes us a good 20 minutes. It takes a lot of encouraging to get Kilian to keep walking, but we finally make it. Cliona throws a mini-temper tantrum on the bus because she doesn't get to sit next to the window. I'm sure the rest of the riders were sick of hearing her scream "Fenster, fenster (Window, window)!" over and over again, but fortunately it's only two stops.

16.00: Home, thank goodness. Men are supposed to come at 4:30 to install the mirror in my bathroom, so I'm glad we make it home for that.  Kilian immediately starts crying because Cliona took the "best" toy (a little green Hot Wheels car) and there was nothing else to play with. Right. Ever the compromiser, Kilian explains to Cliona his view of the situation: "Cliona, either Kilian and Cliona play together with the toy, or only Kilian plays with the toy." Yes, he does refer to himself in the third person.  I briefly suggest the idea of sharing but let it go. I'm too tired. We play (mostly) peaceably with a new game in the living room for about half an hour. Cliona's third birthday was yesterday so the house is filled with new toys to play with. Kilian has a brief moment of anger when Cliona dares to sing along with him, "Meine Tasche, meine Tasche (my bag, my bag)." Not a real song, he was playing. For some reason her involvement infuriates him and he starts screaming at her that she doesn't have a bag. I try to explain she's playing and he needs to not be mean about it. "But Laura she doesn't have a bag!!!!" Oi.

17.20: Get dinner for the kids. I'm lazy tonight, so dinner is leftover Spätzle and Soße from last night (basically egg noodles with beef bouillon sauce, a Bavarian specialty).  For once both kids finish all their food without (much) whining. Men with the mirror finally show up during dinner and they head downstairs to install.

17.45: Back to the living room. Cliona's pretty fussy by this time, but we play around a little, and then settle down to read a story. Kilian preemptively calls his spot on my lap, causing Cliona to burst into howls and sobs, but she settles down after a few minutes and we read the ever-so-thrilling narrative about a ship, Mein Freund, er ist Kapitän (My Friend is a Captain). Cliona takes to wandering around the living room calling, "Mama, Mama"(does that ever work?). I distract them for awhile with the Photobooth feature on my computer.

18.20: Anne arrives home. Cliona starts wailing immediately at the top of her lungs and won't stop. Anne rushes her to bed forty minutes early without teeth-brushing or a story; I'm not sure what's causing her hysteria but it's quite frustrating. Kilian, Anne and I eat leftover chocolate cake from Cliona's birthday. Kilian heads off into the living room to watch Tom and Jerry cartoons. I heat up some leftover pasta and pesto and eat with orange juice. What a carb-y day.

19.00: Head downstairs to my room. Finish the ironing I should've done earlier, as well as ironing my own clothes. Contemplate heading to the weekly Thursday drinks night with the English speaking group, but decide against it. And here I am, writing you a blog!

Cozy little room
That took a lot longer than I anticipated. I probably go into way too much detail, don't I. Don't answer that.

I won't say a whole lot more, but I'll summarize two items of interest since I last posted.

Die Prinzen concert:
    For those who don't know them, Die Prinzen is a German pop-rock group with some limited popularity in America (by limited popularity I mean only people who've ever taken a German class in public education), most famous for songs like Deutschland and Millionär. They're in their mid-late 40s by now, but just came out with their 20-year anniversary CD, and are touring to promote it.  The group is based around four guys who sang in the Thomanerchor together as children, a very famous boys' choir at the St. Thomas Kirche in Leipzig. Much of their music is based off of a capella four-part harmony kind of singing.
      Anyway, their concert in Munich was last Friday night. I'd seen a poster for it and looked up the tour on a whim, but the tickets were more than I'd want to pay so I didn't do anything about it. Until I mentioned to my parents they were playing and they VERY kindly told me they'd pay for me ticket! So off I went into the cold Friday night to see this concert, all by my lonesome.
      The concert was in a sort of sketchy clubbing district behind the east train station, but I found it with little trouble, getting in the door about two minutes before the music started. I checked my coat and scarf, bought a 3,50 beer, and spent the next two hours rocking out to some Die Prinzen. It was really a ton of fun. I knew 75% of the songs, understood 90% of the banter, and knew 0% of the people there--and it was perfect. I danced around, snuck up close to see them (it was a standing-room only venue), sang loudly and waved my arms around, and enjoyed the fact no one there knew who I was.

Here's one of their most well-known songs for you: Deutschland.  A satirical yet loving song making fun of Germany, it's really a lot of fun, and was actually the final non-encore song they played (introduced by the lead singer as "a sweet love ballad for you").  Here's a verse, to give you the idea:

Wir lieben unsere Autos mehr als unsere Frauen               We love our cars more than our wives
Denn deutschen Autos können wir vertrauen                         Because German cars we can trust
Gott hat die Erde nur einmal geküsst                                               God kissed the earth only one time
Genau an dieser Stelle wo jetzt Deutschland ist                       Exactly in the place where Germany is now
Wir sind überall die besten, natürlich auch im Bett             We are overall the best, naturally also in bed
Und zu Hunden und Katzen besonders nett.                              And we are especially nice to dogs and cats.

Das alles ist Deutschland - das alles sind wir                                    All that is Germany - all that we are
Das gibt es nirgendwo anders - nur hier, nur hier                     That is nowhere else - only here, only here
Das alles ist Deutschland - das alles sind wir                                     All that is Germany - all that we are
Wir leben und wir sterben hier                                                               We live and we die here

     Yeah. So basically, it was freaking awesome. There were probably only about 300 people there, and it was a great experience. Made it home safely without being accosted by any drunken crazies, and all was a successful night.

The one picture I managed of the concert

Palestrina Choir
      I finally found a choir to sing in! I met a girl who graduated from Manhattan School of Music last week at a bar (sounds so sketchy, right?) and she told me about this group she sings with and gave me the info, so I emailed the director and he invited me to come sing with him and attend rehearsal last night.    I showed up pretty nervous at the time he'd told me: not because of the singing, but what if I didn't understand anything he said? Vice versa? Seemingly simple interactions suddenly seem really hard in a different language. But all went well. The director, Herr Venanz Schubert, is a nice, very genteel fellow of probably around 70, and I spoke almost perfect German to him (the only hairy moment was when he told me he was glad I'd found it okay and I responded with "You too." I was expecting a nice to meet you, I think).  I sang for him in the chapel where rehearsal was, a small tiled room with so much reverb it was impossible not to sound angelic, and he welcomed me to the choir! Don't worry, voice people, yes it's a lot of straight tone Renaissance style, but I'm singing alto, so breathe easy. We worked for the two hours on a Gabrieli mass and Palestrina's Sicut lilium inter spinas and wow, it was so nice to sing choral music again! There are three people on a part and it really was just a lot of fun.  It was also my first experience with a choral rehearsal entirely in German, and I did fine. Honestly, choral directors all speak the same language as far as what they're looking for, so it wasn't a problem really at all.
       After the rehearsal ended, I expected people to go their separate ways, but Herr Schubert looked at me when I hesitated and said, "Kommen Sie, wir trinken! (Come on, we're drinking!) The choir, as a whole, headed downstairs to a small cafeteria/social area and pulled tons of beer out of the fridge, which everyone took, and we toasted as a whole to music! It was almost like the rehearsal was three hours long and the third hour was beer social hour. Choir would be so much more popular in the US if this happened there as well. Maybe I'll bring it back with me.

     That's about all of note right now! Tomorrow I head back to the Ausländerbehörde (Immigration office) to (hopefully) pick up my Visa, and then it's the weekend! Lows in the high 20s and low 30s, but it's supposed to be sunny, so I imagine 'twill be nice. Happy almost-weekend, everyone!

     Also, a special shoutout to whoever reads my blog in Russia. Blogger has a statistics section where you can see the countries of your readers, and Russia is my third highest country of the month. Do I know anyone in Russia? Whatever. You're cool. Thanks for reading!

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