On growing up (and getting old)

The girl I looked after when I first moved to Germany has just finished school. Not for good – she’s going back after the summer to do the German equivalent of A-Levels – but the compulsory part.

When I first met her she’d just turned 6, and wasn’t due to start school for almost a year. Now, she’s almost 17 and ready to spend the summer celebrating before heading back to get yet more certificates to line her walls or stuff under her belt bed or whatever people do with them these days.

I feel so old! 😉

I regret missing big chunks of her growing up (distance mainly, and time. Germany’s a big country and I have chronic time-deficiency) but I’m glad we’re still in touch, almost 11 years on.

I look at the stream of photos that cone my way and have to smile. Her parents say I influenced her fashion sense and her ability to do her own thing regardless of what other people say. I only wish it were true! I was never that well dressed, and I have probably 20% of her self-respect and determination, but even if I served as a negative example (which I’m certain isn’t what they were implying), I’m happy to have played a part in her life, even a small one. My life’s certainly better for it.

She’s such an amazing kid, woman I suppose I should say now, and I am so proud to know her, despite all the difficulties we had at the beginning. 

She’s had (and has) her share of things go wrong one way or another (who hasn’t?), as well as lots of things go right. She picks her own battles and fights her way through them, and still cares enough to go back and pick up the pieces afterwards.

Here’s to an awesome future, dearest Ex-AuPair-daughter! 🙂

On talking too much to sleep

It’s gone one am and I’m not asleep yet.

I’m at my third AuPair family’s house. I haven’t been here in 8 or 9 years, and it is amazing how much has happened since then, yet how recent my time here seems.

It doesn’t feel strained or tense or foreign, it’s more like I’ve been away for a couple of months than several years. We’ve all changed a bit, but stayed the same a lot – things still fit, and we didn’t have to go through the awkward small talk at the beginning, we just took up where we’d left off. We have reminisced, and compared memories, and tried to catch up a bit, but one evening /overnight stay isn’t nearly long enough to cover everything that’s happened since I lived here.

I’m going to make an effort to see them more often than once a decade from now on.


Right now I need to get some sleep!

On the wonders of chewing gum

I don’t remember coming across chewing gum as a little kid. By about year 4 I’d discovered bubble gum, but wasn’t ever very good at blowing bubbles (glass is much better than bubblegum in that respect, even if it doesn’t taste as good ;)). A bit later, maybe in year 8 or 9, someone told me you produce digestive juices when chewing, and if you aren’t eating, you can end up digesting your stomach walls. That didn’t appeal much, so I stopped. It was probably a good thing, because I was a little bit of an addict. Once I decide on something, though, I’m usually pretty consequent about keeping to it. I must have gone 6 years without a single piece.
Then I did my stint as an aupair. I was offered some by one of the kids, and that was that – my chewing-gum-fast was broken. I stuck to sugar free, and only after meals as a way to clean my teeth without actually cleaning them.

It wasn’t until I cut myself in glassblowing school that I realised how awesome it is.
I’m not good at blood. I don’t watch violent films, I don’t watch documentaries about hospitals, I lie down when I have injections or when they have to take blood samples*.
When I cut myself, I’m usually fine until the cut is washed and bandaged (or at least wrapped in paper towels), and then I go all dizzy and fall over. This particular cut wasn’t even that severe. It wasn’t deep, but it did involve blood and a small flap of skin. The teacher noticed me go white and made me sit down at his desk. Everything sounded incredibly far away, and all the colours got mixed up. Then he gave me a piece of chewing gum. I concentrated on keeping it in my mouth, then on chewing. As I chewed, the world slowly came back into focus and regained it’s normal volume.
That was the first time.
I have used the chewing gum trick several times since then, mostly on myself, but occasionally on someone else. I try to carry a small packet with me at all times. If I don’t have chewing gum on hand, then gummi bears or boiled sweets will do, just not as well.

Even if I’m not hurt, and I’m not liable to black out, if I have to concentrate on something, I function better when chewing.

Maybe I was a goat in a former life – they chew cud while they think too.

* you can’t fall over if you’re already lying down.