Monday, December 08, 2008

A good weekend

I had a good weekend.

It started on Friday night with "Date Night", a luxury of the still-childless. Dinner at Carvers restaurant and then a trip to the movies to see Australia. (Quick movie review - a tad formulaic and OTT but entertaining.)

Saturday morning I had to get up early to go for coffee with a Danish girl and a French girl. I don't think I've mentioned this before but in November I became a volunteer for an organization called EurAuPair, a company which helps U.S. families offer European girls the opportunity to live and study in America for a year, in exchange for in-home child-care. It's a pretty common thing in Europe but hasn't really caught on outside of the big cities in the U.S. As a Community Counselor for the Sacramento Region, I am the liason for the three local host families and their AuPairs. Every month I call the host family to ensure they are happy with their match and meet with the AuPairs as a group, to ensure they are getting the most from their experience. As someone who knows a little something about what it feels like to be a teenager from Europe in the U.S. alone, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for me to meet new people in the community and indulge my travel/culture lust.

So Saturday was my first AuPair get-together. We kept it simple for our first 'getting to know one-another' session and went to Starbucks, especially since one of the three girls (a German) could not join us this month. I was a little apprehensive about how it would go, given that this is the first time they have met me or each other and that English is a second language for both of them. I mentally made a list of questions to ask them about their experience with their host families, about their homes, their interests, and their impressions of the U.S. I also set a conservative time limite of 45 minutes to an hour for the meeting, in case we ran out of things to talk about.

I needn't have worried. Both girls were outgoing, talkative, and speak wonderful English (putting my high-school French to shame.) We had trouble cutting it short at 90 minutes!

Kim is from a small town in Denmark but was adopted from Korea by her parents when she was 10 months old. She is staying with a Jewish family with two children. Sabrina is from Paris but her cultural heritage is from Algeria and she is a Muslim. She is staying with a Indian Hindu family with four children.

So, sitting around the table we had:

- A Korean Dutch girl living with a Jewish family in the U.S.
- An Algerian-French muslim girl living with a Hindu, Indian family in the U.S.
- and me... a Brit/American.

I mean, how cool is that??? Talk about the meeting of cultures!

We did talk a lot about their home countries and how they compared to their experience in America. I asked them what the most surprising thing about the U.S. was and they both answered the same: "Everything is so BIG! Houses, cars, streets, stores... everything!" If you've been to Europe, you've probably had the reverse experience ("Everything is so small!") so you can probably relate. If you haven't been to Europe, the one thing that is so visually striking between the two continents is the difference between a large, geographically rich country that has developed rapidly in the last 200 years, using more advanced planning techniques and a bunch of little countries with limited space, having developed, higgledy-piggledy like a scrabble board, through thousands of years of religious, cultural, industrial, and technological revolutions. When you visit the U.S. for the first time, it really is the first thing that hits you.

As I said, we talked for 90 minutes and I had a great time learning about their lives back home as well as their plans for the future. It's strange but, although Brits don't really think of themselves as "European" (it's a reverse snobbishness we posess), there definitely were mind-set and experiential similarities between myself and the girls. Little things that you find it hard to put your finger on that always leave me feeling just a hair detatched from Americans sometimes, seemed to come more easily with these girls. We immediately connected and now I'm really excited to see them every month. Who knows, I may end up with a ton of friends scattered around Europe as a result of this! I could cavort around Europe, visiting them and getting insider-tours of European cities and towns. I mean, this really could not be any more 'up my alley' (Britishism) if it tried.

So that was Saturday morning.

The rest of Saturday was pretty chill, doing a little shopping with Hubby and pushing through some of the dreaded laundry as he worked on the nursery. Then, Saturday night we had our one-and-only Christmas party of the season - the party for Joss' office at his manager's house. Of course, I relished my one pre-Christmas opportunity to dress up and had gone out and bought a cute maternity dress. See here...

The party was fun, although somewhat tempered by my inability to sip on a cocktail or two. I did have Hubby pour me half a glass of white wine but it was a tad warm for my tastes and I had trouble getting through half of it. I did get my first snide comment about drinking while pregnant, however. One of Joss' agent friends greeted me by asking me how my wine was. Sounds innocent enough, but tone and the look in his eyes said it all. I replied, with a smile, that it was delicious and asked if I could pour him one too. He and his wife continued to eye me suspiciously for the rest of the night even though I switched to coke early on. Perhaps they thought I spiked it with rum (God, that would have been nice) or were busy 'tsking' me for all the sugar and caffeine I was consuming. Honestly, I give it a big, Valley-Girl, 'Whatever!' My choices, their problem.

Now to Sunday. Sunday morning started with the usual coffee, newspaper and political stimulation via 'This Week with George Stephanopolous' (sigh, my 'other' husband). More laundry, more working on the baby's room, writing Christmas cards etc...

Then in the late afternoon I jumped in the car and headed down to Elk Grove to visit my friend, Joy, for our annual screening of our Christmas favorite "Love Actually". If there's one thing that can really get me in the mood for Christmas, its that movie. Set in London, British humor, British pop music, and a series of parallel storylines that ooze the 'real meaning' of Christmas; it really puts joy in my heart every time I watch it.

We had a great time watching the movie, although we had to fast-forward through the porn scenes for the benefit of Joy's 4-year old daughter. I also had lots of smooches and cuddles with Gabriel, Joy's 8-month old son who sat in the corner of the sofa contentedly, sucking on Cheerios or banging away at some toys. He's just so chunky and cuddly and chill, full of giggles and smiles. It was good for my soul to realize that my son or daughter will be his age next Christmas. I found myself finally thinking about the fun side of parenting as we cuddled-up and watched the movie together.

Thanks Joy for putting the "Joy" of Christmas AND parenting in my heart!

And with that my weekend was over.

Nursery is almost together. Decorating is done (Hubby did a great job) and crib and changing tables are up (but not in place). We just have to get a fan put in the ceiling, get the blinds cut, hem the curtains, and buy a side-table... then we'll be "done, done". I'll be sure to post pics when complete.

And now back to the grindstone. Just under 2 weeks to go before I head back to London for Christmas. Can't wait!


Mala said...

That sounds really interesting.

e said...

I LOVE that movie. I cry every time. Every time.

What a great weekend. And yes, you'll end up with a ton of friends all over Europe, and all over the world, b/c I'm sure some of these folks will move around quite a bit.

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