Baby steps.

Let’s just get one thing clear: kids are crazy.

After five weeks of taking care of a 15-month-old, the idea of ever having children has taken a harsh beating. There are just too many ways those small human beings willingly, if unknowingly, try to hurt themselves. I’m glad I missed the first year of Anabella’s life…though the sleep/eat/change diaper/play routine hasn’t really changed much since then.

The good times

“Hallo attacks” — These happen to Anabella without warning. Most likely to occur on a subway or train. The word “hello” is said loudly, in rapid succession, with the presumed intent of attracting as much attention from her stoic fellow passengers of the Deutsche Bahn and/or SBahn. Attacks can last up to five minutes, until said passengers have managed to ignore her and she tires of attempting to make social contact with such asocial human beings, or until she has won over a feeble-hearted German. Hallo is also commonly said when departing the aforementioned train, as the attacks seem to disregard the changing social context of travel.

Animal abuse — A constant struggle between feline and child, the family cat is often subjected to the grabby hands of his younger ‘sister’. The usual order of things:

1. Anabella is bored. She spots her target, Sir Henry, typically deep in cat-dream-state.
2. Chuckling menacingly, she approaches her target. Sir Henry is unfazed and twitches his tail teasingly.
3. Hands outstretched, she bays a warning “Aiiii”, unfortunately missing the fact that it’s supposed to mean “gently”. (All attempts to teach her the proper way to pet a cat have been futile). Sir Henry remains asleep, though an ear might rotate slightly at the sound of his predator’s voice.
4. She grabs full-force, latching onto fur, and pulls out two tufts of black hair. Sir Henry is roused, twists around quickly and bites or scratches his attacker.
5. Crying ensues, the cat is scolded for defending himself, the concept of “Ai machen” (being gentle) is reiterated.

Repeat.

(Note: with luck, I’m able to intervene before the poor cat loses another chunk of hair…Anabella is damn quick, though, but it’s amusing to watch how she acts around him).

Toddler terrors — Over the past week, she’s learned to walk. I have to admit that it was sort of amazing, seeing this little girl that’s been crawling the whole time I’ve known her push herself up to stand on two feet and go for it. Rather wobbly at first, I think that by the time their next au pair arrives she’ll be a regular Godzilla around the house.

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A piece of advice for anyone considering being an au pair — you’ll probably get along with the kid, but before you move to another country, make absolutely sure that you get along with the parents.

They should essentially let you have your own life, i.e. not impose rules on your social comings and goings outside of your work hours (regardless of if you’re a live-in au pair), and should definitely not treat you like a servant when it comes to chores/cooking unless previously agreed on. My luck held out and my host parents have been extremely respectful and accommodating, letting me have guests whenever I want and generally keeping out of my personal life. I had the advantage of actually being able to meet the family before I decided to work for them, but if you can’t visit them personally, at least make sure to skype two or three times to make sure there’s some “family chemistry” you feel positive about being a part of.

In any case, it’s been a good experience and I’ve learned enough from it to feel ready to move on to the next thing…namely, vacation!

Shortest game ever.

I waited a grand total of two days before I got the phone call. Starting in mid-October, you can find me designing and producing all sorts of publications (similar to the one below) at the American Chamber of Commerce in Frankfurt, Germany.

This means, of course, that more blog material is to come, as Ginger will still be in Germany…if all goes well, for a solid two years.

But wait! you say, Isn’t Ginger supposed to be in Cambodia/Thailand until the end of October?

True. I have no time-turner, nor can I teleport (yet), so I’ll be adjusting my travel plans and flying back to Europe three weeks earlier than originally planned, cutting my Asian adventure from 8 weeks to 5. Still, not too shabby.

Back to the present…though I know you’re still ogling Bill Gates on that beautiful magazine cover…

I’m a big fan of side projects. Work is work, but when work is fun, work isn’t work. Right? Well, this next opportunity seems especially well-suited to me: I’ll be translating a transcript for a humorous audiobook aimed specifically at getting Americans to learn German and I’ll likely also be doing the voice-over for one of the characters in the book. Freelancing is fun, what can I say?

Now if I could just find a snazzy, inexpensive, conveniently located place to live in Frankfurt…

The Waiting Game.

Au pair work is going well, really, it’s a breeze.  The important thing is to find a family who is accommodating and flexible, and one who doesn’t view you as a servant. I’ve been lucky to find a bilingual family using GreatAuPair.com and I would recommend the website to anyone looking for au pair work anywhere in the world.

The pros outweigh the cons: I have 20 hours of “work” per week for this seven-week period, for which I am paid Germany’s standard 260 Euro per month, plus insurance, all food and travel expenses and I naturally don’t pay anything for rent either. It’s a perfect arrangement that has allowed me to dedicate plenty of time to my real priority — the Great European Job Search.

This journey is a sort of one I hope leads me to … well … Germany. Frankfurt would be ideal. I’ve been grateful for my contacts who have helped me already to polish up a German CV and revise my American resumé to fit a more European CV style. I’m currently playing the waiting game, as I’ve already had one interview for a position that fits me very well. Press your thumbs and/or cross your fingers for me, please?

The spare time has also been enough to fill with more private English conversation lessons, which I’ve been enjoying as it means I get paid generously, tax-free, for doing something I do anyway: speak my native language. Otherwise, I have few updates (and I’m sorry that this post is more housekeeping than anything culturally interesting). My prep work for Cambodia and Thailand is still going on, having already had two of three rabies shots and a typhoid vaccination as well (all great fun, I assure you).

I’m going to Paris in a few weeks for one last European hurrah before the expected chaos of Cam/Thai takes over for a while, but other than that my travels have been slowing down. Instead, I’ve taken the time to discover and rediscover a few excellent dance clubs in Frankfurt (Cocoon and Living XXL), done a bit more travel writing that is in the process towards publication, and read four wonderful books — The Kite Runner and the Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson.

Right now Sir Henry — that’s the family cat — is nuzzling me very intensely, so I think I’ll let him have a bit of affection for the time being…stay well!

Wanted: Eurojob for schlagfertige Dame

Thought of the day: it’s an oddly refreshing feeling when the contents of your life fit into a three-piece luggage set.

Only three days of Fulbright ETA work left, most of which will be spent celebrating the end of the school year. If there’s one thing to learn about Germans it’s that they (like my fellow Badgers) have a strict “work hard/play really, really hard” mentality. Once tasks are checked off the to-do list, it’s time to party!

After Kyra, Rick and I held a good-bye party this past Saturday I was left feeling a little peculiar as I’m the one “staying behind”. Having to repeat the fact that no, I’m not flying back to the states just yet, and yes, I do want to live in Europe for at least another year (or two…or three) made me start honing my plans for the next few months. Here’s the run-down of my itinerary as I have it planned so far:

June 19-July 8: trip through Spain and some of western France. Tentative destinations: Madrid, Sevilla, Algeciras, Gibraltar, Tangier, Granada, Valencia, Barcelona, Carcassonne, Toulouse, Bordeaux, La Rochelle.

July 8-August 30: au pair work in Frankfurt

August 30-October 28: trip to Indochina, i.e. Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam (and Malaysia as well, theoretically).

October 29-? Mystery.

During the summer I’ll have time to find a job that ideally will start in November of this year. I can easily see myself working as a representative for an international company in ______ (insert any large European city in English/German/French-speaking Europe).

Achtung, Achtung. Here comes the part where I ask for your help…

My experience includes public relations, communications, sales, language education, event planning, travel writing, translation and more — I’m now looking for anything that will keep me working in direct contact with people and not sitting mindlessly at a computer for 40 hours a week. Ah yes, and voilà,

my CV/resumé in both English and Deutsch.

If you or someone you know has a job/internship/project/idea that you know I could rock the socks off of, please leave a comment or send me an email (kern.ginger[at]gmail.com).

With that, I’ll just leave you with a substantial “thank you in advance!” and a note that the next blog post will probably be one of those sappy, all-good-things-come-to-an-end sob fests. You have been warned…

I have a baby!

Considering I’ll be working as an au pair just outside of Frankfurt this summer, the title of this post suddenly becomes much less shocking. I had been looking for a tidy little bridge to connect my time as a Fulbright ETA to my nomadic future months in Asia, and was thrilled to find a family searching for an au pair for their curly, blond-haired 1-year-old daughter. After spending the afternoon with her, her British mother and German father (and the family cat, Sir Henry) this past Sunday, I’m quite pleased with the seven week arrangement we’ve reached.

And hey, if you’re in the area and want to stop by, let me know! My room has a pull-out couch and plenty of space, so I’m looking forward to having guests…

In any case, this means that Ginger in Germany (Again) will continue at least until the end of August. Hope you’re looking forward to more cultural/expat/travel writing posts based from an even more exciting, international location! And if you see me around with a blue-eyed baby, you can rest assured that — regardless of how much we look alike — she’s not mine! 😉