Expect the Unexpected: Au Pairing, Piso Hunting, and My First Week at Work

So the last time I posted, I was waiting for my new host parents to pick me up to bring me back to their house. Could that really be only a week and a half ago..? Granted, that is a lifetime in the blogging world, so I do apologize.  But I will say one thing.. my life has done a 180 since then, and you are about to read why.

I know you’re just so excited to read how

Au Pairing

I decided to be an Au Pair very shortly before I left. I found the perfect family using the site, aupair-world.net, which is a very popular site where you post a profile with expectations, and the family posts a profile with expectations. From this, you email back and forth and decide if you are on the same page. If so, you set up a time and skype the family you want to work for. When we skyped,  we decided we were a perfect match, and decided to go for it. They came to pick me up just 5 days after I flew into Madrid, on a Sunday.

Less than a week into staying with the family, I was in love. The kids were so well-behaved, they seemed to love me, the parents were so nice and willing to do anything for me. The work wasn’t hard, however I was super exhausted after, because, as I know now, kids are EXHAUSTING no matter how good they are. I am a naturally friendly person, but it is REALLY hard to be THAT cheery and filled with energy all the time. I started to wonder how things would be after working with kids at school, followed by going home and playing with more kids for 3 hours.

On the Wednesday after I moved in, I went to the school and received my schedule. It was much more intense than I realized it would be.  24 hours is only classroom hours, so technically besides 3 hours on Tuesdays and 1 hour on Mondays and Fridays, I am a full time teacher. I do not go home for lunch or break since it is so far away from my house, so I am at school from 9-430 some days, and other days I am there only an hour short of that. They can also use extra hours to plan activities, or I can be put on break duty and watch the kids play. After getting my schedule and counting up the hours, I would be working 39 hours PLUS an hour commute each way everyday. After visiting my school and getting my schedule, I immediately went home and sat down with my host parents to discuss the large time commitment that I was looking a and what we should do. Out of precaution, I found some other language assistants who had less of a time commitment to take my place in the case I had to leave.

Some of you who are friends with me on facebook already know something that some of you may not.  After 6 days of being with the family, as much as I loved them and they loved me, I decided to leave. It was very sad, but they were so understanding, and I am so thankful for that. Also, we are still in contact, so all is not lost! They had one of the assistants that I recommended move into their home soon after as well. They were so thankful I took the time to come up with a solution instead of just walking out on them.

FUTURE ASSISTANTS: my advice to you is to survey your hours before deciding on an au pair position. As much as I wanted to save money, I would only be doing harm by not giving my au pair kids everything they deserve, including an assistant that can give 100% and not be too tired to do something constructive. Take into consideration your commute as well. If you have an hour commute, add those to your school and au pairing schedule. Is that really how many hours you would to spend your life working? For some, the answer is yes. For others, like me and a couple others, the answer was no. I wasn’t even sure if I could always be home in time to make my au pair commitment.

PISO HUNTING

After telling them about my schedule issue, I began to hunt for an apartment (piso) to live in. Luckily, the family was nice enough to let me stay. I found my apartment using idealista, but other people used sites like easy piso, pisocompartido, and loquo just to name a few. My favorite part of idealista was using their iphone app. you can go to a specific station or area that you like, say find places around this area, and then call or text (more like whatsapp) away. That is how I found mine (granted, I saw about 15 that I didn’t like first)! The woman told me a room was still available, and I could come see it the next day. I did, and I loved it and moved in the same day I looked at it! It was a shot in the dark since I only had met one roommate, but it has turned out to be a fantastic situation. Ironically, only the things I haven’t planned I have turned out to go well.. which is where the saying comes in- expect the unexpected. You can’t plan for the unknown.

My metro stop:

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My Room (When I first moved in- it’s getting cuter by the minute!)

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Mis “Compi’s” or Roomies at Retiro Park (minus one):

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Weekend in Madrid

After finding an apartment, I spent the weekend getting to know my roomies, and trying to figure out Madrid a little better. One girl in BEDA passed on the knowledge of a market that happens once a month in an old train museum.  It was a flea market on the outside, and much nicer stuff on the inside, where they also serve food and drinks, and have music playing. I thought it was fantastic! My roommate later told me that it is different every month, so it never gets old. It is right off of the Delicias metro stop, in case anyone is interested in checking it out next month! It is called Mercado de los Motores.

Another thing that I did was go see the Vuelta a España, which is basically the “Tour De France” of Spain.  They were actually finishing the race in Madrid, which was such a cool thing to be able to see! The announcer was getting so into it too. I’ve never seen a bike race in person until now, but I can definitely see how people get into it. Pretty neat!

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Starting Work

Monday came too soon, only 2 days after I moved into my apartment. Even though I woke up 45 minutes early and planned to take a specific bus, of course I took the wrong one and ended up being 15 minutes late (I’ll bet you a euro my mom tells me I should have left an hour early). I was livid to make that impression my first day!! They couldn’t have cared less though. Everyone is so worry free here- I love that attitude! They were so happy to see me! As you go down the hallways, everyone always goes out of their way to tell you good morning and “hasta luego”.

I will say, my first few days at school in the beginning of the week were ROUGH. I never knew where I was going, and I felt exhausted all the time. It was a chore to get many of the kids to talk. They mostly just stared in awe at this giant English speaker with blonde hair and who looks and speaks nothing like their teachers, mothers, or sisters. I can’t believe I am saying this, but it is actually nerve-racking to standup in front of 25 5th graders, and even sometimes 1st graders haha. It is a weird feeling being the “new girl”. I don’t remember the last time I have felt that way. I’ve been to grade school, high school, and college with many of the same people, so being the “new girl”  has never really been something I have ever really focused on. I’ll tell you one thing- you can be 12 or 22, and I guarantee it is still the same feeling.

Towards the end of the week though, things had progressed quite well. Although I still have that “new girl” feeling with the teachers (many have gone to school together and lived in Tres Cantos their entire lives) I am now a celebrity to the kids. It’s so funny having these feelings as a confident 22 year old woman, but it is really a pick me up confidence booster when all the kids want to be seen talking to you.. when they all want to say hello.. or they all want to run up to you and give you a big sweaty, disgusting hug.

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How I feel after smelling 50 yucky kiddies running up to me after recess

During class, the kids have been much more talkative, and now want to know every detail of my life. EVERY. DETAIL. Most have no idea where New Orleans is, and everyone, including the teachers like to take on the task of trying to pronounce my name, which is absolutely hilarious. Some deem it impossible, and just call me  Marieeee”, but others take on the challenge and try to say every vowel in my name (Ma-u-rrrree). Either way though, while I’m walking through the playground, I hear my name being shouted about 80 different ways all at once.

So now, I think I actually maybe starting to enjoy this thing they call work. I spend my class time talking to kids and teachers, helping them with English while they help me with my Spanish. I like to listen to the teachers talk 100 mph as they chat to each other in the lunch room. I know they want to include me, but my confidence in my Spanish is too low to partake in the conversations at the moment, hence the “new girl” feeling. I always have a few teachers come up and chat for a moment, and those who don’t make sure they say hello and bye as I leave. It is actually kind of nice to have an hour and a half lunch break, so after eating and some light conversing during lunch, I can go up to a quiet room and read a book or take a nap before the next few classes begin.

And that’s my update. I have taken the past couple weeks to focus on getting in a groove and finding my place in the Madrid world. I still don’t have everything down, namely, my commute (I can tell you a story about how this angry-at-life bus driver kicked me off the bus that costs 2.60 for having a 10 euro bill, and only 2.50 in coins. He wouldn’t break the 10, and wouldn’t accept the 10 cents less and told me to get off his bus). I still have so much to learn, and will continue making mistakes as I do. But hey, what are your 20’s for?

Have you had any issues adjusting to a new environment before? What are some tips or secrets for making the transition easier?

One thought on “Expect the Unexpected: Au Pairing, Piso Hunting, and My First Week at Work

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