The Curse of Shaun T’s Insanity…

I’ve been hexed.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not really “in to” exercise – you only get an arse like this from sitting on it – but believe it or not I used to dance…

…competitively.

Yep.

I stopped before my last year of school because of my A Levels and not being able to have the time off to go to competitions, and instead taught and choreographed at my local youth stage school. Aside from that I’ve done no exercise at all for the past 12 months.

On a day to day basis, I could pass as the human embodiment of a sloth, but when it comes to getting fit I’m an all in kind of person. It’s a side effect of being on top form for the first 16 years of your life.

So of course I chose Insanity, which if you didn’t know is a hardcore exercise DVD which features Shaun T, a renowned fitness trainer.

I have never made it past the first 2 weeks.

The first time I started getting insanely (he he) lethargic and ended up in bed for 10 days with flu.

The second time my stomach started hurting. I thought it was from the exercise…

…I had my appendix out a week later.

The third time I got shin splints in both legs and irritated my eight times dislocated patella so much I could barely walk.

I think it’s a sign. My life is destined to be me sitting on the internet and eating crisps.

Maybe I shouldn’t have signed up for those university cheerleading sessions…

P.S. It was the before and after pictures that sucked me in…apparently you have to exercise for 2 months for those…no chance. I’m more of a *does exercise* *sleeps* *wakes up* *am I thin yet?* kinda gal.

Overpacked is jam packed…

Into a mini…

…with all her university stuff…

So I probably should have posted this before the “I’m at uni” post but you know #YOLO and all that…

Turns out actually getting to uni was going to be much harder than I originally thought.

I packed everything into boxes and suitcases and put them out into the hall ready to be put into the car and it was only then I realised I deserved to have my own segment on “Hoarders”.

I just have so much stuff.

My mum came home from work and blew her top when she saw how much we had to fit in the car, but that only fueled the burning fire in my stomach…I was determined that I’d fit it all in…mainly so she wouldn’t be right…*cough cough*

It was like a giant game of Tetris where I packed each box in with scientific precision based on volume and weight…

Yeah right…actually turns out that I’ve inherited a particularly potent version of the “bunger” gene, which runs through the female line of my family. (See below)

bunger1 [bun-ger] adjective, verb: to bung
Person with uncanny ability to shove lots of crap into a small space where it otherwise wouldn’t fit
Origin:
1830–2013;  origin uncertain

I managed to “bung” my entire life, plus kitchen essentials, into the back seat and boot of an ’03 Mini Cooper.

Like a boss.

Seriously though, I don’t think I’ve ever been so uncomfortable, it was the longest six hours of my life.

I’m still in the process of regaining sensation in my butt.

I’m at university…

I was absolutely bloody convinced I was not going to get into university this year. I’d filled my mum in with plans A, B, C, D, E and F and I’d prepared a note on my iPad with all the possible clearing vacancies and numbers.

Turns out I did get in.

Now I’m at university, like actually full on moved in at uni.

First impressions?

Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

I feel like I’ve been whipped up in a tornado and dropped into an Oz where people say “man” unironically like 70s hippies, have feminist debates over the dinner table, drink excessively (and I mean excessively) and have sex…like a lot…and publicly.

I’m guessing that my friendship group really was quite tame at secondary school as I never really felt particularly conservative until now. Especially as the people I’m living with are proper party animals.

My nineteenth birthday night consisted of mixer-less pre-drinks, dancing at clubs with themes of blackout, foam, cheesy music and UV, respectively, more alcohol, and carrying my flat mate home.

…Oh and feeling like shit the next morning.

Cohabitation…

So to (sort of) round off all of my Spain posts (now I’ve said this there will probably be ten more for me to write in the future), here is perhaps the most important of them all…

To summarise: living with strangers sucks.

Now if you have a job, just take 30 seconds to imagine what it would be like to live with your boss. If you’re at school, make that your head teacher.

Are you suitably disturbed? 

Well this is essentially the job description of the au pair. To live in a confined space with the people who are paying you.

Add to this the fact that it may be your first time getting on a plane alone, going to another country alone and living without your family and you have the recipe for disaster.

You may think “isn’t it easier going to live with a family, wouldn’t that sort of break you in to the idea of moving out?”

The answer for me was a resounding no!

I honestly felt as though I was Alice and I had just fallen down the rabbit hole. I began to exist in this weird limbo state where my own life was suspended and I was very literally living in someone else’s life  for someone else. My contact with my family was completely severed (internet access was few and far between at the start and phone calls costed a bomb) and I had to somehow insert myself into the jigsaw puzzle that was the life someone I’d never met had created for themselves.

*Testing, testing, are you still with me?*

Now I don’t know if this was just my experience or my personality but I found slotting into someone else’s life to be extremely difficult. As there was often at least one of the parents and multiple family members at home while I was watching the kids (I think I met at least 15 other people, and yet wasn’t warned or properly introduced to any of them), I felt like an unnecessary addition, and felt at times that I just wanted to step back and give them time as a family when that wasn’t what I was being paid to do.

I constantly felt awkward and like I was walking on eggshells. Especially as the family talked to eachother in rapidfire Spanish over the dinner table, which for the life of me I couldn’t quite decipher, so I was left to sit in silence and wait for them to finish every night.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t feel entirely welcomed, or necessary. There were so many people buzzing around I felt like I was constantly being scrutinised, either for doing too much or too little.

As they provided all of my meals, I felt like I didn’t want to be even more of a burden on them and so when they offered to buy me extras I chose to decline and instead go out and by my own things. I think in this way my independence worked against me.

I also think that coming after a time when emotions and stress were already running high (A Levels) it was too much of a stark contrast, especially as there was literally nothing to do in the places I was staying. With a rigid routine in place for the kids, it became very slow and monotonous after a few weeks, and I really felt my depression and anxiety creep back in.

On a less philosophical note it was also very awkward to be walked in on in my underwear (old house…no locks…).

Would I do it again?

I wouldn’t write it off, I know that every experience is extremely different. I would, however, choose to be nearer a city or somewhere where there was much more going on. I would also ask the host family to help me make some connections with other au pairs in the area or people my own age…being with kids who can’t talk and foreign adults can be extremely isolating.

Well this post has turned out to be quite deep *puts on scuba diving mask*…maybe I should have taken philosophy at uni…

Please let me know if I have just gone absolutely nuts.

Right, I’m off to go watch some YouTube videos of cats…must regain equilibrium…

P.S. If your brain is all confuddled from this post I refer you to both confused.com to unconfuse you and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQbH3fyGerE&list=FLIbZHbmV9jfdJE_bJaiiSKA&index=18 for the lols…

Unpacked and over ‘ere…

And so finally my homecoming post arrives. It’s only two (okay three) weeks late…did I mention I was a horrific procrastinator?

You might have read my blog post “Dropping Dollar Bill$” when I talked about booking my ticket home, well I actually arrived back in the UK on the 9th of August.

A little part of me did hope for a “Love Actually” style airport reunion. I’d run off the plane to some uplifting, inspirational music (don’t you think that life in general would be much better if we had our own life soundtrack…just think of riding the school bus to Pirates of the Caribbean..da da dum dum da da dum dum da da dum dum da da do do… No? Just me then…), then I’d gracefully leap into my mum’s arms and she would proceed to swing me around, sob and rejoice at my return.

Actually make that quite a big part of me…

As per usual, the reality did not live up to the creative expanses of my mind. We landed on time at Gatwick airport, only to be told that one of the steps were broken and that we’d have to remain on the plane until they could ferry another set over. Cue bitching about the general quality of EasyJet airlines, and the air stewardesses trying to both placate and defend. I did not partake. I flew with Ryanair on the way out and it was relief enough not to hear the *we’ve arrived on time* horns at twelve o’clock at night.

An hour later when we were released from custody, I picked up my bags from the bag drop and had to face the reality of carrying my 17 kilo suitcase and 10 kilo hand luggage round the bloody airport by myself (it should be illegal for airports to have stairs, surely). Once I’d made it out of the maze of passport control desks and travelators, I met my mum and her boyfriend at the lobby where she gave me a big hug, then we walked to the car and I ate a cheese and tomato sandwich.

Well that was riveting…

Anyway here is the exciting part, where we find out whether my blog really does live up to its namesake…

I packed….

26 Tops (assorted)
8 Dresses
8 Pairs of shorts
2 Skirts
5 Pairs of leggings
3 Pairs of trousers
1 Pair of joggers
3 Jumpers
2 Cardigans
1 Swimming costume
1 Tankini
4 Bikinis
1 Pair of swim shorts
2 Beach coverups
2 Towels
8 Pairs of socks
8 Bras
27 Pairs of knickers
1 Pair of running shoes
1 Pair of tennis shoes
1 Pair of flip flops
1 Pair of pumps
2 Pairs of sandals
1  Leather jacket
1 Sunhat
2 Pairs of sunglasses
Toiletries and makeup

I think the answer is yes…

Though I did fit it all into a 15 kilo luggage allowance (10 kilo hand luggage) *pats self on back*.

P.S. I think its quite clear now where I over-did it *cough* tops *cough*, I swear it didn’t seem like that much while I was actually packing…

Walk the walk…

As a companion to my “Talk the talk..” post, I thought I’d give you some handy tips about what you should ask the people you’re going to be staying with pre-departure.

I obviously failed miserably at this, I was met at the airport to find the family had a third son I had completely no idea about!

Oh, Laura…

  1. How many children will I be looking after, what are their ages?
  2. What are the children’s personalities like? What do they like to do for fun? Are there any problem areas e.g. fussy eaters, allergies?
  3. What is the children’s daily routine?
  4. What exactly are my duties and responsibilities?
  5. What time am I expected to start and finish work?
  6. What can I do in my spare time? What do you do as a family in your spare time?
  7. Are we going to be eating together? If so, what time? If not, what is available to me?
  8. What language do you wish me to speak in? How much English do you and the kids speak?
  9. Where will I be staying? Am I expected to share a room with the kids?
  10. What do you do for work? What is your daily routine?
  11. Have you had an au pair before? If so, what was your experience?
  12. Are there any religious/cultural norms or rules I should be aware of?
  13. Do you travel a lot? If so, will I be travelling with you and am I expected to pay for my share of the transport fees?
  14. How do you see an au pair fitting into your family?
  15. Tell me about the area you live in. What commodities are there?
  16. Will I be expected to cook and clean? If so, to what extent?
  17. Do you need me to be able to drive? If so, do you have a car I can use?
  18. Why are you choosing to have an au pair rather than a nanny or daycare?
  19. Do you have internet or computer access?
  20. Do I need to pay for my own flight?
  21. What happens if I feel unwell? Is there a doctors close by? Will you give me time off?
  22. How will I be paid, in euros or pounds, weekly or monthly?
  23. What kind of clothes should I pack, is there anything in particular I will need?
  24. How should I behave if the children will not listen or are rude?
  25. Do you have any pets?

Well I hope that just about covers it, my brain is refusing to come up with any more!

Talk the talk…

So being the all around kind and giving person I am (just call me your fairy godmother), here are some useful Spanish words and phrases for all you wannabe au pairs…or for those of you that just want to brush up on your vocab…

¡Ven aqui! – Come here
¡Venga! – Come
¡Mira! – Look
¡Ten! – Take
¡Toma! – Take
¡A ver!- Lets’s see/Show me
Pero bueno – Said when the child does something cute but naughty, equivalent would be “Oi Cheeky”
¿Has hecho pis? – Have you done a wee?
¿Has Hecho caca? – Have you done a poo?
¡Para! – Stop
¡Come! – Eat
¡Bebe! – Drink
¡Traga! – Swallow
¡Mastica! – Chew
No me muerden – Don’t bite me
No golpeas a tu hermana – Don’t hit your sister
No tiras/No tira eso – Don’t throw/Don’t throw that
No tire el pelo – Don’t pull my hair
Deja eso – Put that down
No pase nada – Don’t worry
Pobresita – Poor little
Sucio – Dirty
Seco – Dry
Mojado – Wet
Travieso – Naughty
Tete/Chupete – Dummy
Biberón – Bottle
Babero – Bib
Pañal – Nappy
Cuna – Cot
Toalla – Towel
Bañador – Swimming costume
¿Está cansado? – Are you tired?
Estoy cansado – I’m tired
No me cuentas peliculas – Don’t tell me stories
¿Dónde le duele? – Where does it hurt
Con sueño – Sleepy
A dormir – To sleep
Suelta me – Let go of me
Quedarte aquí – Stay here
¡Oye! – Hey


And the most important…

¡Que no!

Practise makes perfect…