Today I had lunch with my three au pairs. If you missed it before, I'm currently a volunteer for an organization called EurAupair and I act as liaison between foreign girl and American family. I have a French girl, a Danish girl, and a German girl currently under my charge.
The poor girls are BORED STIFF. As if Sacramento wasn't already a black hole of excitement for the average late-teen/20-something, the constant rain of late has put a block on the area's only saving graces - bike and hiking trails. Fortunately today was sunny and mid-sixties but their moods did not match.
I began the lunch meeting with a cheerful "I bet you guys are glad it's not raining any more so you can get out and about!" to which I received a "And do what?" So I named things like biking along the American River Parkway, hiking in the foothills, and kayaking on the river. Turns out they're not keen on the whole active/outdoorsy thing. They like to play soccer (which, of course, most of the world does, except for Americans) visit interesting cities and towns with historical landmarks (umm... wrong side of the country for that), or head to the beach (does Folsom Lake shoreline count????)
Someone really needed to prepare these girls for the reality of Northern California. All of California is NOT created equal and the state is actually quite diverse both in weather and topography. Say "California" to a European and immediately images of fame, glamor, excitement around every corner, sunshine, and beaches come to mind. Unfortunately, this is Sacramento and, aside from the sunshine (which is, unfortunately, accompanied by tortuorous temperatures between June and September and disappears in December through February) this place has very little to offer of the stereotypical California experience. To make it worse, they're all under 21, so they can't even drink themselves into an oblivion that at least enables them to imagine they might be somewhere more interesting. (For a European teenager who has probably been drinking in bars since mid-teens, the U.S. legal drinking age comes as quite a surprise... I remember... distinctly!)
Everything requires a car ride as public transportation is a joke. And even then, where would you go? Downtown? Haha... yes, that place in the "center"... center of what, I haven't yet figure out. Once you've been there, you've been there. Only desparation leads you back. Going further afield there are really only 3 other places worth going on a day trip - Tahoe, Napa, and San Francisco. Tahoe skiing is too expensive, Napa is all about wine or spas (and again they're under the legal drinking age), and San Francisco is just about their only "haven". Honestly, that's mostly it between here and Los Angeles. Yes, you've got the beautiful coastline north and south of SF but it's more than a day's drive and the good places are too expensive for a European student on a tight budget.
Don't get me wrong, I don't HATE my life here. Quite the contrary: I like having seasons, I like having family nearby, I've got lots of good friends here, a nice house (that I would probably still be working my ass off to afford back in the OC), I do have the money to ski (when my body is in a condition to do it), and I can afford to head-out to those swanky Napa spas and beach spots (again, when I'm not 8 months pregnant.) But make no mistake - if I was a 19 year old European girl, I would be bored to tears. In fact, if my first foray into American/Californian life at age 19 would have been Sacramento, I think it's safe to say that I probably would now be living somewhere in Chelsea, London.
I feel sorry for these poor girls, who just want to meet some people and have some fun to distract them from their homesickness and who are so desperate to be served-up at least some of their California dreams. I'll have to see if I can dig-up any low-cost, teen-like excitement going on in the general vicinity via the internet... wish me luck, it could be like trying to find National Treasure!