...I suspect I may be the luckiest kid in the world

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Hairy Cut

I dread trips to the hairdresser.

It may have something to do with the money they want from me (USA - MUCH cheaper than Switz!) or perhaps from the disapproving looks I receive when they see the state of my [very] unkempt hair.

All this happened today. That, and the Southern hairdresser trying to give me as big of a head of hair as hers.

Then, when I sweeetly explained what I wished for my hair, she stabbed me with her treacherously long fingernail.

And, due to the fact that I asked for it thinned (thin-haired people have no idea about what we thick-haired people go through!) she gave me up for lost.

And when I got home I found a rather large chunk of my hair missing. Up top.
Spite. Pure spite.

Other than that, I'm loving my thin and much-healthier, albeit 3 inches shorter, looking hair.
Thanks, Southern hairdresser-lady with lots of hair!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sweet Home ALABAMA

So, about 2 weeks ago, I was in the Carib. Sweating. I melted, it was so hot.
I'm in the deep south of Alabama. It's cold. I am not melting.

Since I quit my day job:

I've been shopping. I blame this largely on Katie and her influence. I bought a new bag. Again, it's not my fault.
We went "just for a look" in this giant bag store. The bag I desperately wanted was on the topmost highest shelf.

6 Steps taken to obtain happiness bag:
1.) Jumping.
2.) Jumping again. Higher.
3.) Attempt with ladder. Ladder too heavy. Ditch ladder.
4.) Me on all fours. Katie on my back.
5.) Katie jumping. Ouch.
6.) Me making a ladder with my hands and other body parts. Katie climbing up to the topmost highest shelf.


I've started eating. You may have thought I'd been eating before. You probably were wrong. We've been making good use of the local drive-through fast drink place (they bring your order out on ROLLER SKATES!) and eating plenty of Mexican (with plans for more tomorrow!).
But, of course, the best. Food at home. Cakes, Cookies, Breads, Chillis, Ice Cream, Roasts, Muffins, BBQ, Biscuits & Gravy, Soups & Marshmallows. So.Much.Good.Food.

I saw my first 3D movie (Correction: I'm sure I've seen one before, but have no recollection. Thus, my first memory of a 3D movie...).

This was accompanied by a visit to a few fish friends (Fish are friends, not food) at a HUGE Aquarium. It was here the Aquarium Staff tried to lock us in a diving cage. We may look happy in the photo, but we were NOT.

Side note: This same cage was the inspiration for Jaws...

I used the Men's bathroom. It's just not fair. Girls always have to wait so long for the loo and the men's bathroom is always empty. So, this week I decided to be brave and enter the unknown depths of an empty bathroom.
Of course, just after I decided to use it, a million men did too. I lost count of the knocks on the door as they waited. I thought for sure an army had lined up. I tried to use my best southern men's drawl to answer "Just a minute!" and "Won't be a second." I think I fooled them.
And when I left the bathroom and had to walk past the one lone impatient knocker, I used that deep southern drawl for a "Mornin'."

I've thought about becoming a Troglodyte. I talked Katie into it too.
And so we went caving.
To an amazing, awesome fantastic cave. I've never seen such a cave. I want to live there. Maybe not. But I want to visit again. I think Dr. Suess got his inspiration from such a cave. The visit was such a treat, so much beauty hidden away underground.

(A pair of wanna-be Troglodytes)

I've been given private tours all over this part of Alabama. By the lovely Katie herself. And her little blue car. We've been everywhere, man.

Today we visited a little Soda Fountain. That's been around since sometime in the 1800's. And mostly still decked out in a lot of original decor.
We were served real Alabama style. Well, real something style. Our waitress kept calling at her husband to come over here and serve us, 'cos she was so busy. With her other customer. But she was kind and gave me a double milkshake.
While we were eating, an elderly gentleman came in and sat down on the bar stools. And we listened as he told the waitress about how he had come to this Soda Fountain for his 10th birthday. And how he'd sat at the same stools and eaten ice-cream.
And I loved visiting a place that had so much history. Maybe I'll come back and eat here when I'm 70.

Alabama is almost finished with me. Has been the most wonderful visit with the Allisons and great to see so much of the countryside where they live.
Will post a few more pics soon.

Next Stop: NYC.
Then it's back to Swissville for wee bit longer...

See you in New York!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

An Average Day On Your Average Sailing Boat

When your average day on your average sailing boat is spent being the average au pair to your average swiss children, it might look something like this:

6:45 AM - I wake up having been awake most of the night dreaming the craziest dreams you can imagine. This is most likely due to 1.) my new and different enviroment, and 2.) movement of the boat during the night.
Spend 5 minutes trying to clear head working out the true and the false of the previous night. Make mental note to warn 4th cousin's husband's aunt of her impending doom and to cancel dinner tonight with the Prime Minister.

6:50 - I was blessed by a friend with a silver box containing cards for every day reminding me of Jesus. She'd also talked about starting the day with 1song+1prayer, a project I'm currently working on. And she'd included a Lindt chocolate for each day, which made this time actually 1song+1prayer+1card+1chocolate. I'm really glad for this time I had to start each day fresh and new and grounded, regardless of where I was actually waking up.

7:10 - Straighten my bed - which included positioning the bike, bag and strange unidentified sail like thing that lived on the other half of my bed. Funny, I spent approx 315 hours lying next to this thing and I really have no idea what it looked like or what it did.
Straighten myself. This did NOT include showering, unless it was one of the 2 out of 35 days I showered. Don't despise me.

7:15 - Prepare breakfast. This included first cleaning the table of the inch of salty goodness it had acquired throughout the night. This also included toting a whole bunch of cereals and spreads to the table that we didn't ever seem to consume.
See, I told you I worked.

7:59 - Hurridly try to clean up all breakfast dishes before school starts promptly at 8. This involved washing in salt water and then rinsing in a centimer of fresh water. This is a lot more fun than it sounds. After a few days of so much salt water, your fingers actually start to literally disappear. Layer by layer.

8:00 - I am really fast at washing up. MLF2 and I start an hour of English. Over the course of my time there we learnt about food pyramids, the journey of milk, and how to make pancakes. Also about the difference between earphones/headphones and rollerskating/rollerblading. All very important stuff. Her English improved so dramatically over the boat time. I think it was the study content. She loves pancakes.

9:00 - Another hour of English Power. We read through The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton and Romona and Her Mother by Beverly Cleary while I was there. I selfishly chose some of my favourite stories and I can't express how much they loved them. And we learnt 99 new English vocabularly words whilst learning about pixies and brownies and magical trees.

10:00 - Time for a quick swim to insert some more salt into the hair before MLF1's turn for her hour of English. Her English also wonderfully improved during the boat time. We studied amazing animals, volcanoes and learnt how to organize and run a Sports Day. She wanted to include a competition of holding your breath underwater. Little did she know I am the world champion of this.

11:20 - Last but not least, MLF3's turn to shine. I tried to think of arty and crafty things for this time, and so we ended up painting and drawing and sewing. She is master of embroidery and I am the master of Butterfly Blot paintings. So.Much.Respect.

12:30 PM - We ate. The French Skipper would usually make lunch for us and our menu was good and new and varied after a year of Kylie's cooking. So.Much.Fish.

13:30 - The afternoons varied. Sometimes we would go into the town, or sail to a new one.
If I was lucky, they might decide to take a nap and I would be most obliging and take one too.
Or perhaps we would go snorkelling or explore a tiny island. Or perhaps a big one.
We might go on a hike or take a tour with some rather-focused bird watchers.
Swimming was also a popular choice and most afternoons I lived in my swimmers. FYI, I am a master of all things sandcastle.
The afternoon might also include grocery shopping, swimming with turtles or make bread. Or perhaps cake. Cake is better.

Sometimes it was good. Sometimes it was hard. Sometimes it was hard but good. It was a different dynamic because, although I'd lived with them for a year, I'd had my own space, my own time and then, for this trip, a lot of that disappeared. Which wasn't altogether a bad thing, just different. After all, we were sharing Caribbean space.

17:30 - Time to start dinner. Sometimes it was me, sometimes the French Skipper, sometimes M or P. It's a good thing to make dinner watching the sun set over the ocean.
I've had my food options expanded to include a lot of then-rather strange vegetables and unknown fish. I didn't die from any of them though. And I even half-like fish lasagne. And fish pasta. And baked fish with fish patties. Even fish nuggets and fish salad. And of course bbq'd fish.

19:00 - Eat fish.

20:00 - Of course no meal would be complete without the washing up. My fingers are now half their size due to the fact that skin does a funny thing when met with a lot of salt water.

21:00 - We tidy up the boat and the girls go to bed, followed closely by me. I found it sometimes rather tiring being your average au pair to your average swiss children on your average sailing boat. Why, you ask?
Persistant boat-salesmen, French/German-speaking children, mountain guides who ran expecting me to follow, angry fish, snorkeling through strong currents, flesh-eating salt water... Sheesh. It just plain wears you out!

And so, time for bed.
Ah, hello strange unidentified sail-like thing. How I've missed you.

PS: MLF1, 2, 3? M & P? I miss you!

A 3,000-Word Blog

It's a bit hard to finalize, wrap-up, and square away the Caribbean trip. It's also the end of my time with the Swiss Family, who have been a rather large part of life for the last 12 months. I love those girls very much and I miss them.

But I'm not home yet and I think some obstinate part of my brain thinks I'm going back to Switzerland to continue au-pairing. I'm not, and I wish my head would get with the program.

A wise man (or woman? probably a woman) said that a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's a photo of the girls and I somewhere in the Grenadines.

We're pretty happy: MLF2, MLF3, MLF1 & Me!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

And you thought I'd dropped off the Face of the Earth...

So, in case you have had your head under a rock for the last few weeks, or been away from civilization on a sailing boat, I just wanted to share a few of my highlights from the last 5 weeks...

Important facts you should know before you read any further:

I've been on a sailing boat with the Swiss Family.
I survived.
I went to Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada, St Vincent & the Grenadines, St Lucia, and Martinique.
Everyday I pretended to be a school teacher and taught the little 'uns some English lessons.
It was HOT.
I love chocolate.
I am all finished with my profession as an Au Pair (but the story is not quite finished, yet).

9 Things I Want To Remember (or perhaps Forget):

1.) On about Day 2, we caught two very large fish: a Tuna & a Wahoo. The Wahoo was VERY big and repaid our evil act of killing it by being so large that we had to eat nothing else for about 5 days. I am deeply sorrowful for my actions. I now know that the size of the fish is directly proportional to the crazier the meal ideas. It was about day 3: Fish Lasagne, that this equation cleared itself in my mind.

2.) My Cabin. I was indeed very lucky to have my own closet aka my cabin on the boat. Actually, it wasn't too bad. I only had to share my bed with a very large sailing bag (still not quite sure what was in it, some sort of sail perhaps???), my own suitcase, and a foldable bike. I got half, and my bed mates got the other.
I also had my own bathroom. This was a very special bathroom. When you used the toilet you were also sitting in the shower. You also could use the sink and do your hair in the mirror at the same time. Very practical. But - the best (or worst part, depending on your disposition) about this bathroom was the window...right above...always open, when I am on. People walking over, looking in, my little round bathroom window in the roof....oh how I won't miss you...

3.) On the first day we washed the boat. I got to practice the commands I learnt in Primary School: Captains Coming, Scrub the Deck etc. However, unfortunately, when we were scrubbing the said deck, some said water leaked onto my said bed. Hours later, I could be found with a tiny 12 volt hairdryer trying to dry my said sheets.
Mission Impossible.
Mission Unaccomplished.

4.) During the course of the trip, we were visited many times by locals trying to sell their wares via their boat. From the useful: Fruits, Vegetables, Bread, to the unwanted: Fish, T-shirts (they read: Live to Sail, Forced to Work), to the ridiculous: Dolphin Cruises, Water Taxis, Special Deals *wink wink*, we had many offers. No, I do not want to buy a cruise...I'm living on a boat!

5.) I had serious fears my hair would never be the same. It was about the second day that I gave up on it. Salt water....everyday....no brushing, no combing, no showering...I did suspect I'd be visiting a Barber by the end of it all...however, good news, I think I saved it just in time.

6.) Upon arrival in St Lucia, we were informed with many a shaking of heads and clucks that I, the evil Australian, would need a VISA. I knew this, and had tried to pre-organize it, but had been told to 'look after it once I got there.' The police at Customs and Immigration were not so impressed but did take advantage of the opportunity to escort me with not one, but two policemen to the airport, a good hour's drive away. I am quite a robust, scary looking girl, thus the need for two law enforcement officers. I have my suspicions that they just wanted a few paid hours to catch up on their gossip.
However, it was all sorted out and I did get to have a lovely drive through the country. And, of course, a VISA that is valid for the next three months. St Lucia, anybody?
We discovered, upon return to our sailing vessel that one of the police officers worked part time as a taxi driver and would thus be charging us for the trip...2+ hours of a Taxi?! Glad my employers covered that one! 'Twas a work expense, after all.

7.) It was in the Grenadines that I experienced one of the most stressful experiences of my life. Let me explain the situation:
We entered a market. It was a Monday. Slow Day.
Upon entering the Market, we were surrounded by vultures, nipping at our heels and trying to climb into our bags. Toothless faces, drew close and used the phrase 'My Friend' no less than 1,000 times a minute.
Host Mum and I were on a mission: to get the Fruits and Vegetables for the next few days. The Fruit and Vegetable People were also on a mission: to sell as much as they could to us at the highest price they could possibly get away for. And, if they couldn't sell it to us, would put it into our bags and then try and charge us for it. Finally, if that didn't work, give it to us as a gift and then charge us for it.
Trying to combat all this, along with understanding their accented English, along with protecting the girls from a few very strange characters, along with trying to share our business with as many of the sellers as possible, and trying to escape a marriage proposal *wink wink*, proved very difficult. And we still ended up paying $10 for a small, and old pineapple.
There's definately an art to healthy living.

8.) During my last week, we came across a few REALLY big mountains. Pitons, actually. I now know these are the pride and joy of St Lucia. And, I now know that small girls will run up these mountains leaving you panting and puffing behind, wanting to die. 771 metres later (yes, I made it all the way to the top!), those same girls are ready to skip back down, and I'm promising myself unlimited, but very much unavailable cokes, chocolate, bath soaks and massages ,if I will at least stand up and look 10% alive.

9.) Also in the land of St Lucia, we moved the boat to a different location and enjoyed another side of life there. We had organized and hired a driver for a tour of the island, and got instead a strange man with a van that needed a push start every time. This may have been due to the VERY large speaker somehow inserted into the back seat. I'm not talking about any large speaker, I'm talking about the largest speaker you can ever imagine fitting into a car. I foolishly decided to sit in the seat in front of it. I still can't hear out of one ear.
Our *cough* tour guide took us to some sites, apparently the big ones: the oil refinery and the closed fish market (still smells, fish or not) and then took us to his favourite place, an empty market place and a bar filled with the ever-endearing sound of Karaoke. I will never forget the screeching I heard in this place, but I hope one day I will able to sleep at night again.

It's been such a wonderful adventure. I can't believe the places I've been. I only wish I'd beat Dr Suess to the writing of 'Oh the Places You'll Go.'
And, the Au Pair adventure is over...I survived the year.
I'm not home yet...am currently visiting some wonderful friends in the States and will return to Switzerland for a last Hurrah in a few weeks for a couple of months.
And then...home? I think I've decided to go to Uni.

**I have much more to write, and many many photos to post as well....but thought it best to start with something....so that I can start to share current events. (Little bit obsessive compulsive, I know...this need to have everything in the right order....)**

And so, from the deep South, somewhere in Alabama, hidden under at least an inch of snow - Fare Thee Well.