Playground Politics – 3rd September 2014

Au Pairing in Paris

I’m now in that circle of mummies, nannies and au pairs. The playground is ‘the place to be’ and with that comes a whole set of rules, problems and politics.

The park opposite the children’s school is honestly the busiest park I have ever seen; hundreds of children are running wild and every bench or spare space is taken up by mums and older brothers and sisters. There’s climbing framey stuff, a football pitch, skate area, mini lake, carousel ride and candy floss stall. The place is hectic.

Yesterday the children’s mother left me alone with Jude as she took the girls to shop for school supplies. Left with just a plastic tricycle, Jude and I were told we’d have about 25 minutes to play before we all met up again to go home. 

25 minutes somehow became nearly 2 hours (ouch) and I witnessed how ridiculous it is to be a parent. These were my internal questions whilst at the park with Jude.

1. Why are children so loud?

2. Why does everyone come to the same park when it’s unbearably packed?

3. If I see another child fall down (in front of me) am I obliged to pick it up/ comfort it?

4. If my child loses his balloon is he allowed to pick a random one up from the floor?

5. If there’s unwanted food or toys lying around can my kid have them? please…

6. Is it an unwritten rule to just not speak to other mothers?

7. If I see another child eating dirt so I intervene?

8. How far do I let my kid venture before I panic?

9. Do I let a mini fight happen or do I separate the angry toddlers?

10. If my child pulls his pants down in the middle of the park and says he needs to pee pee do I pull the pants up and take him to the loo or just run, pants still down, to the nearest tree? (this may or may not have happened yesterday…)

I have countless more questions but I’m hoping they’ll be answered in my next few trips. The joys of being an Au Pair.

Mary xx

Walking tours, Walls and Wedding dresses – Berlin 12th – 14th June 2014

Europe

Nina couldn’t join me on my first full day in berlin as she had to do some work for uni but she gave me instructions on how to get Alexander Platz on the metro and recommended I do the ‘alternative’ walking tour. We had a group of around 15 of us; people were from India, America, Germany, France, England etc and our tour guide, Ryan, was scottish. Instead of the traditional sites Ryan showed us more of the graffiti of Berlin and explained the stories behind them. We saw the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin wall and took a walk around YAAM, a carribean and african beach bar. The guys working there were asking ‘hey my sister, when you be back again?’, probably thinking I was a lot more Jamaican than I am…

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I learnt loads from the tour and I didn’t lose interest even though it was 3 hours long, I definitely recommend it if you’re visiting Berlin, especially as it’s free! (You can obviously tip your tour guide if he did a good job). After the tour a few of us walked along the east side gallery, checking out the art work on the wall.
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That afternoon I was desperate to visit some shops so I headed to Postdamer Platz for some retail therapy; I was in need of a jacket as I only have a bright red sports jacket with me, but somehow left with a dress and pizza… I got the metro to Kotbusser Tor and stopped in some vintage store still looking for a jacket. One place looked more like a scene from ‘how clean is your house’ rather than a shop; piles of clothes almost reached the ceiling and you couldn’t walk from one wall to another without stepping on books, toys, shoes etc. I left there with a bright green jumper, still no jacket. This is what happens when I go shopping alone; I lose focus!
The next day Nina and I slowly made our to Frankfurter Tor, on the metro and tram stopping off at a coffee shop where every customer (excluding us) was on macbook, looking very unsociable. Humana is this huge 5 storey vintgage shop; we were there to meet Nina’s friend Phillip to buy a drag outfit for a parade. Before Phillip arrived Nina and I had a spare half an hour to kill so decided to try on some garish looking vintage wedding dresses. By time we were in them we had a bit of an audience waiting for us, an old man took photos of us while some woman were telling us that the dresses looked great and we should buy them. After the excitement of the horrible, itchy wedding dresses Phillip arrived so we started hunting for bright and shiny outfits for him. I finally found a jacket and Nina bought some amazing salmon coloured long shorts whilst Phillip bought 2 amazingly bright jackets. We stopped at a photobooth and stopped on the street after seeing 4 guys just staring at a puddle. The puddle was luminous green and we joined them to stare at it, trying to work out what it was and how it got there; aliens, spray paint, the liquid from a glow stick. We didn’t have a clue but it was cool to watch and we saw 3 more green puddles as walked on down the road, weird.IMG_1341
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We went to another cafe to eat paninis before heading home to sort out where we’d watch the Netherlands/Spain football match; Nina’s family home is in the Netherlands so it was essential that we saw the game. Watching it outside was ruled out as it was getting quite cold so we headed to her friend Thomas’ flat. Thomas is from Stevenage(-ish), about 10 mins from where I live and his friend Gordon visiting him is from St Albans, 10 mins in the other direction! Such a small world. We wanted Holland to win but we definitely didn’t expect it to be 5-1! German beer and a hilarious football match was enough to make Nina and I very happy.
Mary x

Hello Otjikondo, Goodbye Otjikondo

Africa

This time last week I’d just booked a flight to Frankfurt but had almost 4 days to wait around in Windhoek for it; 4 days in Windhoek is 4 days too many, so with some broken communication, Gilly agreed for me to come and visit Otjikondo with Ottilie and Chelcie for the weekend. Our wait in Windhoek included ice cream in the park, shopping for fabric for Sara, making use of the internet at the Carboard Box, eating at Nando’s and Joe’s Beerhouse before meeting Paul on Thursday morning.Image

Chelcie and I ended up in the back of the open bakkie with a very strong natural air conditioning, lots of luggage and 2 mattresses to sit on. The mattresses would have been perfect if only they weren’t covered with plastic sheets that flapped around in the wind and made so much noise that it was almost impossible to hear each other.Image

 

Arriving at Otjikondo nearly 5 hours later was no less than magical; Paul beeped his horn and kids came running. Chelcie and Ottilie were greeted by hugs and squels, I got a few of the same then some ‘Miss Mary you’re back again?!‘s… It was great to see everyone again but I had to explain quickly that I could only stay for the weekend so the chance for them all to get a dance lesson was pretty slim, sorry kids!

Seeing current GAPs Rebecca and Eleanor again was awesome and they haven’t changed a bit since I last saw them. We got straight to work on Friday, I opened the shop and helped Destiny learn her rap for one of the songs in Wind in the Willows, their summer play. That evening most of the children watched Frozen in the evening but I went to look after the little boys as their hostel sister was away. We watched Antz and Matilda, I fell asleep on the freezing cold floor and woke up to some of them having a giggle at me. I got a few cuddles before I walked home.

Saturday’s normal routine was replaced with sport; the under 11s, 12s and 13s played netball and football against Kamanjab on maybe the windiest day I’ve ever experienced in Namibia. We won all games except 1 which was amazing! I looked after Brenda’s baby Crushanda and hung out with my girls Tjazupo (my sponsor child) and Eengwi (her best friend) whilst some of the older girls somehow convinced me to let them use my camera so went around documenting the matches and supporters.

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That afternoon was spent running the shop whilst the others did bank (gave the kids their pocket money). I don’t know how it took so long but Priska and I were in the shop until it was dark; we couldn’t find our way out and had to stumble over to Gilly’s house without dropping the bags full of coins and notes we had. I was exhausted and felt so ill but decided not to turn down Paul and Sara’s offer of dinner!

Sunday’s church service was enough church to last me a lifetime; it went on for 2 and a half hours and I can’t bring myself to write any more about it. Tjazupo, Fillemon, Tenesses and Dankie (our sponsor children. + Eengwi came as her and Tjazupo are pretty inseperable) were invited into the GAP garden afterwards and were spoiled by us with presents and sweets. Tjazupo and Eengwi loved their plastic princess accessories and I showed Fillemon how to play snakes and ladders and do races with his toy cars.

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The rest of the day was spent teaching the drama kids a dance, having lunch (Mina’s chicken and chips!!!!) at Gilly’s, messing around with the over excited Grade 7’s, eating fudge in the big girls hostel, reading Mr Strong to the girls in Weavers Nest hostel, hearing the girls own stories and acting them out, dinner with the ex and current GAPs and watching Pitch Perfect in my room with the girls.

Although my visit to Otjikondo was so short it felt really special and it’s always great to see the Stommels, staff, GAPs and children. I said my goodbyes and made sure they weren’t too emotional as I wasn’t in the mood to cry and be upset! I’ll miss everyone huge amounts and know I won’t be able to visit again soon which is a horrible feeling! On the plus side, I’m so thankful that I was able to go back and visit twice less than a year after I finished my 12 months there.

Goodbye Otjikondo, thank you GAPs and Stommels for putting up with me once again! 🙂 Love you, miss you, mean it 😉

Mary x