Not LiT (Lost in Translation), But Definitely Lost:

So today I decided to take full advantage of the Au Pair life schedule and go to the beach all morning(which goes until ~3pm in Spain). I spent the day reading and laying in the sun but before I left I wanted to splash my feet around in the water a bit. So I got dressed, packed up my camp, and walked to the water’s edge. As I was splashing my feet around and testing to see how far I could walk in without getting drenched a woman that was walking along the beach saw me and her face lit up and she instantly heading towards me.

Hola chica!” (Hey girl!), she said as she waked towards me. From the slight distance I thought she was a woman from one of my surf classes but as she got closer I realized she most definitely was not but before I could look at her face again to try and place it she was giving me the typical Spanish two kisses- one on each cheek. She started off by telling me how long it’s been since she saw me and how I was and if I like it here and Vigo and then asking if I was the English or German girl.

I had my first clue! So I had obviously met this woman somewhere while I had been speaking English most likely with Leni, my frequent partner in crime, who is Austrian – definitely not German. I put this in the back of my mind and answered that I was English, now yes, I am a proud American (though I will admit I’ve tried to deny it once or twice before-usually when a group of obnoxious Americans are making fools of themselves), but considering I still had no idea who this woman was and for the sake of using fewer words I just said I was English.

At which point she proceeded to ask if I had a boyfriend in Spain and then why I didn’t have a boyfriend- mind you this woman’s face is still ringing no bells. I mean I know I’m forgetful, and terrible with birthdays and names but faces I’m usually good with. Nada. If someone had put a check for $1 million behind her head the smallest bell would not have rung.

I continued to try and place her face, talking in my head in English – which was rather distracting- while replying to her rapid-fire personal questions in Spanish.

Cuatos años tienes? (How old are you?)

22 – What’s it to you?

Tienes un novio aqui? (Do you have a boyfriend here?)

No, no tengo un novio. (No I don’t have a boyfriend.)

Porque no tienes un novio en Vigo? (Why don’t you have a boyfriend in Vigo?)

*No time to answer. – Um because Vigo is tiny and so are the men, have you seen them? I         tower over most of them at 5’2 (~157cm).

Tienes un novio en Inglaterra? (Do you have a boyfriend in England?)

No. – I JUST said I don’t have a boyfriend…

Donde vives en Inglaterra? (Where do you live in England?)

*No time to answer. – Funny you should ask…

En Londres? (In London?)

Now this is where the fun started because I wasn’t actually from London. But I said yes. Why? Because before I could get out “No I’m from New York, the better city of the two, because I’m American, not British” she was already going on and on about London and how she lived there for two years at which point I thought “Then WHY are we speaking Spanish?!” But I digress.

After telling her I don’t live in London but I went to university there she then tried to tell me that the beaches are good in England. Say WHAT?! This woman was obviously crazy, I still couldn’t place her face, and I needed to leave. So I went to say “me voy” (I’m going) but she beat me to it. Saying goodbye and giving me two more kisses before I could say anything, in English or Spanish, and off she went. I just stood there. Feeling naked. When the fact is I had been the one fully dressed while she, on the other hand, was not. Have I mentioned that in Spain it’s common for women to go topless at beaches? Yeaahhhh…

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The First of Many LiT (Lost in Translation) Stories:

The CrossFit Catastrophe:

When talking about this story the other day one of my friends told me “I almost peed on the beach when you told me that story.” Since it had such a great reaction I’m going to try and do it justice again. It happened a bit back so here it goes.

When I got to Vigo I became a bit of a gym rat, trying to get back in shape and hanging out with one of my new Spanish friends. Somehow I let her talk me into going to a CrossFit. I must admit I did love it, it brought me right back to the countless circuits I pushed myself through alongside my teammates throughout four years of rowing. I was hooked!

When I went with my friend she was able to translate for me but for the most part I could figure things out because our awesome team leader always demonstrated the exercises.  I even managed to make a Spanish friend in the class that was my age. So for the most part I was covered, until today.

I showed up about five minutes late and found out that the CrossFit class was taking place in a new room today so I ran down to the “room” which was actually a storefront (my gym is in a mall) that has been bought by the gym. I then had to stand and wait for the gate to open, so much for my sneak in at the back plan.

The class was already in full swing. They were running around in circles and I noticed the all seemed to be wearing costumes? Carnival had been the previous week so I didn’t quit understand why they were wearing costumes but after looking around the room again and – ufh! The last thing they screamed out must have meant, “switch directions” because I now found myself face to face with another runner. I continued to run, a little bit slower and closer to the outside of the group to give myself time to see what other people were doing rather than being able to understand the commands being yelled.

We stopped again and now everyone was squatting against the walls holding their arms out as the energizer bunny trainer decided to jump from lap to lap just for shits and giggles. After standing up and regaining blood flow in my legs the two instructors started yelling commands again trying to get everyone pumped up. I was definitely getting pumped up but I think it was more adrenaline from that fact that neither of my Spanish speaking friends were there and I was now officially left to my own demise with these crazy intense Spanish speaking Crossfit-ers. As the horror continued we were being told to split into teams. I had no friends there so which team I was on made no difference but three girls who are always at class gravitated towards one group and I decided they knew something I didn’t so I went with them.

As we now stood in two different groups the directions continued, of which I understood very little. For some reason today they decided not to demonstrate the exercises, just explain them. Great. Out of the description I understood two key words: “Flexiones” and “compañeros”   (pushups and partners). Okay so I figured I got this I just have to find a partner without talking and then I assume they are going to hold my feet while I do pushups. Simple. We lined up with my team’s group of partners opposite the other team’s groups of partner. Lucky me,I got to go down on the floor first. I followed suit and started to do pushups with my feet high in the air. Only after about two pushups did I realize I had missed a key point; after each pushup we were supposed to high five the person across from us with the opposite hand. So I decided to catch up, which was impossible because I was putting the wrong hand up. Finally, I decided to focus on the pushups rather than the dirty looks from the guy across from me and finished. Oh and when you finished you had to get up and run to the other team’s “wall” which was made out of step up blocks. On the last try my partner tripped and hurt her ankle. I just kind of sat there and did normal pushups because I had no idea how to ask if she wanted to continue or what I should do instead. Then the new hot instructor for today decided to grab my ankles and hoist me up. Thank god I had shaved.

As our instructors proceed to explain the next challenge in our fabulous competition. I was too focused on the fact that I just made a fool out of myself to comprehend what he was saying. All I saw was one instructor walking back and forth and he just kept saying “despacio” (slowly) over and over again. My partner came over to me, said something about how this girl would be better for me and scurried off. Better for what? I was so confused as I stood on my one step block behind this new taller and lankier girl. Then things got more interesting when people started putting blindfolds on. By the time it clicked what I was about to do my parent had her blindfold on and was braced. I had to mount her. I had to climb on this blindfolded stranger and tell her how to get to the other side as the other team’s blindfolded pairs came charging towards us. In Spanish. The whistles blew and I jumped on. The second I was on her back all Spanish words left my brain. She was walking slowly and I became extremely self-conscious thinking I was too heavy for her to carry me but then I realized there was no time to be self-conscious I had two sets of blindfolded piggy-backed sets of partners heading straight towards me and the words “derecha” and  “izquierda” (right and left) had left the brain! I couldn’t figure out why she was moving so slowly and then I remembered it’s because I need to tell her where to go! I just repeated “al recto” (straight ahead) over and over again and let the other two piggy-backers worry about going around us. We made it safely to the other side, I said “para” (stop) and dismounted. Definitely some of the longest three minutes of my life, but we weren’t finished. It was her turn to get on my back. Now I understood why my partner left me, it wasn’t because I wasn’t cool enough for her but it was the fact that if I had to carry her on my back I would have splatted to the floor like Zazu under the rhino after Simba finishes singing “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” (to refresh your memory https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CISzjeS3J8). No offense to her, just the fact being even if I was carrying her on my back she was so much taller than me she still would have been able to walk on her own feet, or maybe even knees. She was that tall. Needless to say I cheated. Out of fear that I wouldn’t be able to understand my directions and determining that cheating was far superior to risking it, crashing into people, causing harm, and being asked if I was okay in Spanish I positioned my blindfold so that I could see through it. We made it to the other side! But this time my fabulous instructor decided we should now tell our partners not only to stop but also to spin around and put us down. Yeah okay buddy!  I can’t say right and left and you want me to say turn around! Not going to happen. We made it. We survived. I thought my torture was over. But no.

They continued to explain the next task with a smile across their faces that definitely worried me. No good was going to come from those smiles. Only special forms of torture accompany that smile. Still having no idea what our task was my team decided to discuss tactics. I totally came up with the best plan 😉 . Still clueless about what was about to happen my team sat down in the corner behind our “wall” in the fetal position. I followed suit. Then I looked at the other team and saw they weren’t sitting down, in fact they we jumping up and down as if they were preparing to run a marathon or sprint somewhere. One of the guys was stretching his arm across his chest when the whistle blew and the other team came charging towards us. I don’t think I fully understood what was about to be done until I was midair between two men being carried across the room like a heavy sack of dog food. My other teammates joined me. Then it was our turn to carry the other team over. I wanted to melt into a puddle of sweat. The other team was predominately men, and not just men but abnormally tall men, for Spain, with muscles. My partner and I went to grab the only girl on the team and managed to carry her across and pretended to help the other guys on our team bring the rest of the team over.

After that we finished. Though my team didn’t win I wanted to do a victory dance around the room for surviving. I sprinted upstairs to go to yoga class. It was only after yoga that I realized I forgot my keys in the new room. It was great trying to watch me explain to the woman at the front desk that I forgot my keys and that I had no idea what locker number I was. I couldn’t have gotten out of the gym faster after my shower.

Side note, the girl that I had to carry on my back ran the 10k I ran this past weekend. I beat her. I beat her by a lot. 😀

Ode to My Friends Near and Far:

Before I go delve into entertaining stories of Lost In Translation moments, adventures, crazy things my kids say, and other perks of being an au pair I decided to give my friends in Vigo, and all over, a much-deserved shout out.

For those who travel you know it’s not always the easiest thing to maintain friendships while bouncing around abroad. Also, for those who know me I’m not really your warm and fuzzy person, I tend to be a bit introverted and I am more than comfortable going anywhere with me, myself, and my kindle (I’ve recently been converted, but my kindle is pretty much a limb now – books are still better). That being said, from much needed pep talks and friendly postcards to consoling loses from 3000+ miles away and taking me in when I need a vacation or a place to crash or joining me on my past and future adventures, and those who have taken me under their wings when I feel completely out of place my friends are there, even if I can’t always see them.

This past year has been no different from making new friends in South Africa and then traveling with them in Europe, to crashing at a friend’s when my first Swedish family ditched me, to schlepping my stuff down the block when I decided to leave my second Swedish family, to moving in with another friend before leaving Sweden, to meeting new friends and going on adventures, surprising friends back home for the holiday, and taking many needed holidays to CPH, amongst other cities, I don’t know where I would have ended up without my ever growing family of friends. The group of ladies I’ve met in Vigo is no different.

Upon arriving in Vigo after a much-needed trip home for the holidays I was once again reminded how important my friends are to me, for I wouldn’t have made it through Sweden without some of them. That being said I was also reminded how awesome they were and how difficult they would be to substitute while abroad, once again. The prospect of friends was bleak as I was introduced to the au pairs of Vigo that were obstinately divided into two groups; the Germans and “The Partiers” with few “Floaters,” as they were referred to by the other au pairs, that went between the two groups. I pretended to be a partier for about two seconds but that just further confirmed the fact that “I’m too old for this stuff” after spending a full day in bed recovering. Also, having graduated from High School 5 years ago this June (AH!), I was pretty adverse to the whole clique mentality with the side note being I’m, obviously, not a huge partier and oh yeah I can’t speak German! It was looking like I was going to be able to get a lot of reading done while in Vigo.

Fast forward three months: I’m not really sure how it happened or when it happened but somehow I have a group of friends here that are more than just substitutes but people that will remain important in my life for many years to come.

From meeting friends through best friend’s grandma’s friend’s to hopping on a random trip with strangers and finding a partner in crime through mutual frustrations with a couple of, surprisingly, not so annoying North Americans with similar appreciate for TV and accents that make me feel at home and a fabulous Brit in between that grants us solace when we need out of our homes we have woven a beautifully international group of well rounded, equally awesome young women. I have no words to describe these ladies; from porker nights to countless hours at Sésamo (pretty much our Central Perk or MacLaren’s Pub) we’re always smiling and laughing together and somehow that seems to make it sunny, even on the rainiest days, weeks, or, unfortunately, months here in Vigo.

These girls, along with the season final of How I Met Your Mother, have taught me, once again, that you do not need to change who you are for the sake of relationships. The people that are meant to be in your life will be and those who aren’t won’t. Everything happens for a reason.

Words aren’t enough, but to all my friends near and far, though I may not say it often enough: my adventures, both small and grand, home and abroad,  would not be the same without you.

 

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“Appreciate good people, they are hard to come by.” – KushandWizdom

xx Liz

P.S. You should check out some of their blogs because they do a far better job of updating than I do.

Ally’s: http://allyvitale.wordpress.com/

Leni’s: http://www.herevigo.blogspot.com.es/

Heidi and Kelsey’s: http://heidikelsey.wordpress.com/

Nevermore

To say I am an absent blogger is an understatement. Since my last post I have had some drastic changes, once again. I am no longer an au pair in little old Göteborg, but rather a little ‘ole au pair in Vigo, Spain. How you may ask? Remember when I said that my host family swapped me for a drastically different host family? Yeah, well that didn’t even begin to cover how drastically different the two families really were.

By mid-November 2013 I finally acknowledged that I could no longer look past my host father’s misogynist antics, my host parents’ lack of love for their middle child, the lack of appreciation, and, ultimately, the extreme boredom that this experience had bestowed upon me. This, of course, only occurred to me after a close friend told me it was time to leave. I had been in such a deep dark place that I hadn’t even realized just how depressed and miserable I had become. I refused to accept that things were actually as bad as they were because I presumed these sentiments were simply the bi-products of comparing my situation to the fairy tale situation that had been ripped right out from under my feet, as I was looking the other way. But it was true. This was not a horrible situation because I was comparing it to a fictional perfect situation I was, in fact, in a horrific situation and I needed out.

My previous host family handled my decision well, and by well I mean they said nothing except “okay” when I told them I was leaving in less than two weeks (I know bad on my part but there were some extenuating circumstances). Walking away from that conversation feeling more than dissatisfied I carried on with my friends-giving weekend plans. Upon my return to the house on Monday though things were different. Little things were out of place and routines altered. I felt a shift in the house and I knew something was coming. That something came while I was halfway through making frosting with my 5 year old. My host father came in and sat down and decided to have a conversation with me about my decision to leave. I took a step back found a comfortable position between the wall and the counter, took a deep breath, and braced for battle.

Needless to say less than an hour later from that exact moment all of my belongings were packed and I was out the door and moved in to my friends’ house (another au pair) down the block. Less than an hour. That’s all it took. I didn’t get to finish making my icing, I didn’t get to give them their Christmas presents or even say goodbye to any of my kids. That was the end of my Swedish au pair experience.

Now, knowing the definition of insanity according to Albert Einstein (doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result) I decided to hop back on the au pair ban wagon and demand a better experience. I had heard too many amazing experiences of what being an au pair was like that I needed that too, maybe it was my competitiveness or maybe it was that accepting defeat was not an option but either way it has been dubbed one of my all-time best decisions somewhere amongst deciding to go to UConn and deciding to study abroad in Cape Town.

And that’s how I ended up in Vigo, Spain where it rains more days than not, with an amazing host family and friends that are definitely not just temporary. My friends like to call my host mom “My Fairy Host Mother” and my host mom refers to me as her “hija adoptiva” (adopted daughter). That doesn’t even begin to describe this amazing family. I have three niños (children) Manu, 13, Candella, 9 and Fernando, 6 that have welcomed me into their family life a big sister; words really can’t describe them but I’m going to try to in future posts. My friends here have definitely inspired me to get back into blogging and because of that they deserve their own post, stay tuned!

In the meantime, if you find yourself unhappy with where you are let me help you the same way a friend helped me. Leave. Change. Demand more. Do not let yourself stand idle in the face of despair.

Only because I’m reading a book that has a character that can quote Shakespeare in French and he made me feel inferior:

“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”- Shakespeare

xx Liz

“Change of Plans”

Four months ago I embarked on an adventure like none I’d taken before. It was one with no end and lots of questions.

After recovering from my Roskilde flu I took off to Amsterdam to do something a little strange, as per typical Amsterdam fashion. While I was backpacking in South Africa I met a guy that was similarly wandering. He had recently up and quit his job, sold his apartment, and ditched his girlfriend he took off to Africa with the intention of starting in Cape Town and making his way up to Tanzania to meet up with a friend. We crossed paths on the Darwin to Johannesburg portion of our trips with a brief pit stop in the Drakensberg Mountains.

During one of our many conversations we talked about cities on our respective continents and which ones are worth seeing and which ones are not. He told me Barcelona would be well suited for me and suggested I take a road trip through France to Barcelona and that, in fact, he would be willing to go with me if I decided to do it.

Having just decided to be an au pair and changing my dates and plans for my original post graduation Euro-trip I was open for options and thus I decided to take him up on his offer. A little over three months ago was the moment of truth. He met me at the airport with his new car he bought specifically for the trip, so far so good. I must admit part of me was shocked, not many people who meet a stranger on a trip buy a car to continue the adventures on a different continent.

And so our adventure continued. We bummed around Amsterdam for a few days in true Dutch style. We biked around the canals and only ventured into the tourist parts when absolutely necessary and kept track of how many tourists almost walked right into us while we were riding.

We hit up the Rijksmuseum and rode through it, which is now open again after many years. My favorite part of the city was seeing the parts outside of the tourist spot, that’s my favorite way to see any city.

After Amsterdam we kept things in traditional Dutch fashion and checked out Marken and then headed to his hometown. The next day we spent some time watching the tour de France and then feeling inspired we took off to Utrecht with me chilling on the bike rack while he chugged up the hill to the train station, as per typical Dutch fashion. While in Utrecht we grabbed some grub, picked up another bike, and headed back towards Amersfoort weaving our way through forests and cities and past castles and military training centers all the way to a well deserved beer in Amersfoort, and then another, and maybe another allowing me to experience yet another typical Dutch tradition; drunk biking.

The next day we set off for Champaign. We drove all the way there in a day and then the next day we wandered around the entire region tasting Champaign as we went and alternating driving of course. We did a tour of Epernay to really get a feel for the process that allowed us to enjoy the beautiful city of so very much. It was crazy to see how much was under the city, almost as much as what was going on on the flip side.

While in Champaign I got some shocking news. The perfect beautiful family with the two in love parents and two adorable little girls that all spoke English and had names beginning with A’s had dumped me. Cold and hard they dropped me like a rock. I sat there in the middle of a campsite in the middle of Champaign in the middle of France staring at my phone that only had Internet connections because of the modern marvels that the technology gods have bestowed upon us reading the email entitled “Change of Plans” in udder shock.

All that went through my head was that everyone was right, and by all that went through my head I mean that only one thought that was able to form completely as ten thousands things flashed through my brain by the thousands per a millisecond was the fact that everyone was right. I had taken off to Europe to work for a family that I thought I knew and I thought it was too good to be true and apparently it was. On the up side they set me up with another family that had three boys, three boys that didn’t speak English and that was only the start of the drastic differences between my original family and my now current host family.

After three more weeks of gallivanting around Western Europe hitting up Chamonix, viewing the Mont Blanc, hiking in the Italian Alps, gambling in Monaco, drinking sangria in Valencia, tanning and sailing in Barcelona, eating waffles and fritas in Belgium, doing a double take on Amsterdam and Copenhagen I required some quality downtime in Odense with friends. One week later I showed up to meet my new family. And that’s when the real adventure began.

Stay tuned for the chronicles of a 22 year old American girl’s adventures with three angelic boy monsters in the suburbs of little old Göteborg.

Reflections on Roskilde

The Roskilde Festival was Denmark’s first real music-oriented festival started in 1971 by two high school students. Over the years it has grown exponentially to more than a festival but a way of life. For someone like myself who had never been to a music festival outside of a few Warped Tours scattered over the summers of years past this was definitely the introduction of a lifetime. I always say “go big or go home” and this time I really did embody it.

In order to do Roskilde right I didn’t just want to show up for the music days and sleep in a tent that was pre-set up and in a quiet area. I needed to experience all the stories I had heard. Thus, my Roskilde Festival began at 6 am on a Saturday morning. Off to the bus to take us to Roskilde to stand/sit in line and wait and wait we did all day, in the rain, under a makeshift cover, and on soggy blankets. I was still pretty jet-lagged so this was not really an issue for me except when the occasional shift that sent the pool of water that had be chilling in a crevice of the tarp decided to dribble on me and wake me from my slumber.

Two hours before the gates officially opened everyone began to stand and push. As the announcements continued to warn those who attempted to enter the camping area before the gates were opened would be charged and their ticket revoked the crowd became restless. Finally, with just about an hour left to wait I saw it happen. The gates were down! The stampede began! Everyone scrambled to find a spot to set up their camp. Luckily, I was with some pros so we managed to find a spot and ward off the competitors as we raced to set up our tents to mark our territory. I was very distracted watching those who had been too slow to keep up with the heard wandered to find a spot while the other gates opened and the flow of people hurdled in. Though I had been warned that this was a marathon day with a necessary sprint to the end I now understood the fear Simba had of being trampled to death by all those wildebeests. It was quite an introduction to what was only more to come in the following days of the festival.

Now words can’t really describe the following days. Roskilde Festival pre-music is pretty much a cycle of eat, drink, dance, “sleep,” repeat. Although the food is mackerel or tuna and bread in any and all variations you could possible fathom, the drinks are all alcoholic with an occasional bottle of water, dancing is jamming out to the local camp’s rave, and sleep is a relative term for the half wake half sleep state your body lusts after while cursing off the nearby portable sound system (which btw some of those sound systems look like boys spend all year making them) makes the party never end. And yet, it’s all very entertaining. And that’s when the real entertainment begins…

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Tents as far as the eye can see.

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Festival Life.

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Camp Life.

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Beer Bowling.

Great Danes

My EuroTrip adventure started with a VERY delayed flight and missing luggage, which left me to make my Copenhagen debut in a shirt that smelled like the alcoholic’s breath that had sat next to me on the flight and rain boots. Nonetheless, my friend, Christina a native Dane, greeted me with open arms and a surprise. On the way to her apartment I recanted my terrible journey, which included avoiding the bachelor party that decided to make the best of our delay by getting wasted to then be fortunate enough to sit next to these lovely gentlemen on the flight, the entire way until we got to a door. She told me we had to stop by and pick up a tent from her friend’s for Roskilde Festival and that it would just take a moment. Lost in my own story I aimlessly followed her in and up to the sixth floor.

When I came out of the elevator I was surprised by three of my friends (all native Danes) that I had studied with in Auckland, New Zealand. It was great to see everyone; for everyone except Christina it had been a year and half since I’d seen them. In that time each one had had their adventures including internships in London and across Denmark. Though this was surprise enough for me they continued to surprise me with a breathtaking view over Copenhagen from the roof of my friend’s apartment where they had set up a beautiful picnic.

It really is the little moments like this that surprise me and make me love traveling. I love being able to get the best view from a friend’s roof rather than from the local tourist attraction. Even though I’m from New York I hadn’t been to the top of the empire state building until this past Christmas and while the view was spectacular it doesn’t beat the view from my aunts apartment we had where I could see the view and be surrounded by people closest to me at the same time. While I’m all for the adventure and stumbling around on your own it’s always nice to have a few places, besides home, that you can rock up to and shed your nomad title for a while and instead be the visiting friend.

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View from my friend’s roof.

‘Til next time, dare to do differently.

-Girl Struck by Wanderlust