A few weeks ago my 10 year old son (who I Au Pair for in New Zealand) presented me with this homemade story….I could not stop smiling! I hope it brightens your day too 🙂 I am mailing this to Canada so I can keep it forever!
[Amanda Once upon a time there was a orphanage and a orphan called Amanda. and no one wanted her until the Henshaws and they said we will take her the end.]
I wanted to share that picture for two reasons:
#1 To express how much the boys and I have bonded, and how great of an experience Au Pairing can be.
#2 Just to reiterate HOW MUCH I love children. I love love love how expressive they are; so able to tap into their emotions. How creative they are. How imaginative and curious they are!
Deciding to become an Au Pair has been one of the best decisions of my life. I wanted the opportunity to travel and work with children. Being able to live and experience a “Kiwi lifestyle” has been amazing. I have always loved children and I am so happy my passion for a career in this field continues to grow. I would recommend Au Pairing to anyone adventurous enough to leave the comforts of their home! I have always been fond of children and quickly form bonds with them. These boys have been no exception. They will forever be part of my life.
While I was babysitting the boys tonight, the 10 year old asked me a very important question, “Would you rather be in our family or yours?” I carefully explained that if I had always been in his family – I wouldn’t have the brothers I have now. I wouldn’t have the friends and parents I have now. My whole life would be completely different. I quickly followed that up with, we will always be a family NOW. I have a Canadian family and a Kiwi family. I knew he was pleased by my answer because he gave me the cutest hug and smile ever!!
Besides all the memories; I have adorable pictures and recorded quotes the boys have shared. I am so happy that the older I get, and the closer I become to becoming a mother, the easier it’s becoming to save and preserve children’s’ things. Digital pictures, scanners, scrapbooking, iphones, video cameras that aren’t MASSIVE… There are so many more ways to capture and share the memories. Yay! One of my favourite things to do is look at old photos and videos of myself as a child.
Originally I had planned to post the picture and nothing else. I am glad I decided on this little blurb to follow it up. I hope this post gave you a reason to smile.
Tomorrow is my day off and I am excited to spend the day sailing with my Kiwi-Mom! Aren’t Sundays (off) great?!
There is always a reason to smile,
xoxo Amanda Sumalee
Thanks to all those who have shared their kindness and motivational words. I love reading comments and receiving emails and texts. With a smile on my face I can happily announce my spirits are soaring high these days. My slump is over. It’s so comforting to realize that people are interested in my life. A dear friend of mine who I have known for years (who I think fondly of despite rarely keeping in touch) emailed me to tell me “I’m so very proud of you and the adventure you continue to be on”. I can’t express HOW heartwarming it is to receive such expressions of love from all of you!!!
Sorry for the lack of posts recently. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel guilty over my laziness. I would like to post smaller updates so I am updating more frequently– but it just hasn’t been happening lately. I THINK ABOUT my blog EVERYDAY…please note that I am always going back and editing my blogs. No matter how many times I read over my post before submission; I always find errors once it’s been posted to the site. So within a few days of the original post I have edited at least a few times…I still comb over my early posts and correct errors!
A family member sent me this message: “I hope that you will keep up with your blog, as you have a real gift for writing”. It made me so proud of myself because I have always enjoyed writing. I try hard to keep my work reasonably structured. I try to follow the basic rules of grammar. That said -I prefer my writing take the flow of sounding like the thoughts in my head more than literary works. I wish for my writing style to come across as natural, connecting and sharing my thoughts expressively through writing. (I hope that made sense!!!)
Now to share my happy news with you! I am no longer residing in a hostel. My quest to find a friendly kiwi family to live with has PAID OFF! I was finally able to: take down my job postings, stop submitting electronic resumes and meeting up for interviews. What a relief. I moved to New Zealand to be an Au Pair and for a while I was wondering if I would ever find another family.
I live in Torbay, New Zealand which is located near a handful of beaches. Less than 15 minute drives from my 3 floor house. My room is located in the basement which will stay the coolest come summer. I love the trampoline, basketball net, and PALM trees in my front yard! I feel so fortunate to have found the family I did. Such a vast difference from when I moved here almost 2 months ago. I am just so thankful I had the courage to recognize ENOUGH WAS ENOUGH and it was time to seek out a better opportunity for myself. I have a lot of people to thank for their strength and endless support during those trying times. I’m so glad I listened to everyone and took your advice to heart. Thank you for believing in me! My homecoming started off so warmly with the Mom baking a cake for dinner the next evening.
I feel like my life is quieting down and I am settling into a comfortable routine. I mentioned in an older post that Emma and I were able to enjoy a lovely day at the beach a few weekends ago. It is exciting to know we have many more beach days ahead. I can’t wait for December and January to BE HOT AND SUNNY. Dream come true for this (not brown enough) body. The browner the better. I am seriously addicted to the sun.
I promise you all—more blogs to come.
xox Still Smiling!
–> Let me know if you ever have any blog suggestions or requests.
—>Feel free to send me any questions you may have 🙂
9 days later with only one bed swap and I am smiling. I can now laugh at myself for how terrified I was to move into a hostel by myself. The flooding of fears and anxiety were for nothing. Living in this hostel is like living in dorms. There are communal bathrooms and showers and you are always paranoid that you will forget to bring your key. You try to be as neat, and quiet so as to be as respectful as possible to your 5 to 9 other roommates. I chose the woman’s only quarters so there are only 6 beds in my room. The floors are carpeted and the bedding is clean and decently warm. I have heard from other roommates that the “Sanctuary” hall is nicer than some of the lower floors so I am glad I didn’t go with the co-ed rooms. Sounds like females get better treatment here! Woot! It was a BIG debate in my mind whether or not I should pay 3$ extra a night to have a room with a window or not. I decided the splurge would lessen my feelings of isolation. My bed used to have my head right next to the door. So I jumped at the opportunity to switch beds when one of the girls moved out. Now I am situated closer to a wall outlet and a better view of the window.
Internet is not free! My first day of moving in I was trying to seek out hotspots on my iPhone. A girl from Argentina kindly told me that the nearest places to get it free were McDonalds or the library. It wasn’t unlimited and would boot you off but at least they were nearby locations. So for the first day I tried to survive on just free internet. I found it extremely hard to be job searching, keeping in contact with friends and blogging while trying to remain connected on a free server. So by day 2 I had caved and paid for a 3 day package of internet. Not ideal to have to pay for internet while unemployed but I believe it helped me to stay sane.
I love living downtown. The hustle and bustle of the streets helps me to not feel so alone. I have been walking up and down the main roads every day. It hilly roads are becoming a great source of free exercise.
I have met lots of interesting people since moving in. I wouldn’t go as far as saying I have made many friends – but I have been involved in some great nightly discussions. ALL from my room. I do not talk to people in the lounge or kitchen. I just do not feel comfortable enough to spark up a conversation. So far from my room I have met ladies from:
It’s been amazing to hear everyone’s’ first time hostel experiences. It really is comforting to know we all shared the same thoughts and fears. I told them how on my first night here I slept with my passport and wallet tucked in my purse and my purse was under the blankets at the foot of my bed with a foot firmly planted on the strap. Another girl said she slept with her purse under her pillow but it was so uncomfortable. Everyone except for 1 lady travelled here with a backpack. We have laughed over Murphy’s Law about needing the item that is at the very bottom of the pack. Or how heavy the bag is to carry but thank goodness we packed what we did. New Zealand is expensive and we are glad we brought all the necessities from home. It has been sad to say goodbye! It sounds like everyone has been having great experiences and I have been encouraging them all to post pictures and blogs so I can keep in touch!
Job hunting has had its good and bad days. I have been in contact with families and had a few interviews and even went as far as making my own post on a website. Au Pair families don’t seem to be too interested in having someone live with them this late in the year. It seems like January is a really popular time for families to want someone to move in. It’s hard trying to stay in touch with wireless and no local phone number but I am doing the best I can. A roommate and I have seriously been discussing heading South and going fruit picking for a month or so. I had never considered doing it alone –but NOW that someone else wants to do it with me my interest has peaked. I opened a bank account and am in the process of getting an IRD number. Summer positions will start to open up soon so we are just looking into accommodations and rates of pay (contract vs. daily). It would be ideal if I could fruit pick for a few months and build my savings then come back and move in with another family. That way, Emzie and I can still travel on weekends and I’ll have some banked money for Australia — A girl can dream right?!
The other day, someone who loves me unconditionally; lovingly advised me:
“Just keep a vision of the right job/situation in your head and you will find it”
I keep reminding myself to stay positive. This isn’t what I had expected but this is life. I am living and breathing and everything happens for a reason.
Love that people are still reading the blog!
An excerpt from an email I sent to brother Reece a few days ago:
“Life could be better. A lot. Don’t worry I’m wearing my big girl pants! I’d let you know if it was anything serious…I can honestly say I feel grown up. Life is BEING experienced!”
Every word was the truth. There was a little sigh of relief in letting big brother know that my trip wasn’t ALL AMAZING and not everything I was doing these days could be chalked up to fun. It was Thanksgiving weekend and I was in now in Dannemora (about 45mins from Central Auckland) and I had not shared with any family members that my life got was getting a bit more adventurous. The timing of my situation coincided with Canadian Thanksgiving making me want to reach out a little bit to family. Not enough to worry them but just enough to keep them someone what in the loop! (Reece, Tyler, Lisa, and Helle thanks for emailing me about your Thanksgivings! I ABSOLUTELY love emails and hearing about the day to day stuff! xox)
So how did I leave Mt. Roskill and move to Dannemora? What happened and why I am no longer in Dannemora right now is what this blog will be about.
Pretty much as soon as I arrived in New Zealand I knew I should look for a new family. My spirits were shrinking as the days went on. I’m a fighter and I hate giving up, so for me to recognize that enough was enough was a huge step! I knew that I could “put up” with the family I was living with but I wanted BETTER for myself. I didn’t want to “give up” on this family but I also did not want the next 9 months leaving me bitter and depressed. With encouragement from friends I concluded that I really had to step up my search for a new position. I posted an ad online and kept a watchful eye out for anyone needing an Au pair I received a response from a lady seeking an Au pair to help her in her daycare. She lived in Dannemora which meant it would be a further distance for Emzie and I to commute. That said, I thought working in a daycare would be great experience and would look awesome on a resume. The accommodations sounded lovely as the lady had just moved into a 6 bedroom house. Laundry, queen bed, HEAT, TV lounge area, internet and access to an automatic car were all included. We emailed back and forth a few times and the lady said no interview was required. There was a 1 week trial period to see how I got on with the children. The only thing not included was food! It may not sound like a big issue but FOOD is SUPER expensive here so that and the location were too factors that I had to consider. Emma was heading to Australia (meaning no weekend relief) and I really wanted to get out of the living situation I was currently in. I agreed to give this new job a shot! At first the lady invited me to meet her at her house, but quickly made arrangements for her to pick me up as Mt. Roskill was quite a ways off from where she resided.
Having never met my new “boss” I was quite anxious but ecstatic to be leaving and heading to a daycare environment. The lady was over 30 minutes late picking me up so I was extremely on edge as to whether or not she would be a no show. Having had previous interviews cancelled and job offers filled I had put all my eggs into this one basket. She pulled up in an old mini-van and I instantly knew it was her. She was 60 years old lady driving a minivan that had definitely done many days of carpooling. The inside had not seen a vacuum in years. All this excited energy was running through my body as we drove away. To my surprise she informed me that we were making a stop at the ferries to pick up a young man from Ireland. He too would be moving in and working as an Au Pair. Was she hiring 2 people for 1 position? Was she getting more kids in the daycare? He was only staying 3 months where as I was staying for 6 months so maybe she just wanted the overlap? Questions were running through my mind as she was explaining her expectations as she drove us both home. She explained that she had over 100years of experience working with kids: she was a teacher, owned a daycare, helped employ Au pairs in Auckland. Recently she had sold her Daycare center and was working on growing her home based daycare. She was licensed to look after 6 children and she currently had 3 and would have a 4th child by the end of the month. Not only did she hire Au pairs but she also boarded international students and couples and taught English and tutored from her home. She was always busy and was working on trying to retire in 5 years. She told us she just moved into a bigger house 3 weeks ago so there was lots of room for everyone. She has a lot of experience with Au Pairs and nannies as she has employed over 100 but at least 70 have only lasted a week. Hence the one week trial, if she likes you, you sign a three month contract and have to have a criminal record check conducted by the Ministry of Children and Families.
Long story short –even though she had a brand new huge house to live in we did not agree with how she ran the daycare. This was fine as she let us know she did not like either of us either. She had a 6 bedroom house with a huge front yard and backyard yet she was running the daycare from her garage! The kids and the Au pairs spent their time in the garage all day while at home. The only reasons we were to go inside the house were to get running water (dishes, and drinks) or to use the bath room. It was just so weird. We were meant to believe we had access to the car but soon realized when we weren’t working the car was off limits. We walked to the nearby grocery store and unhappily bought our groceries. We both commented on how we felt we were both in college again living off cheap noodles and bread.
After the first few hours of living there both the Irish man and I were looking for other work. The car had 2 seat belts that were broken and the car seats looked ancient and very unsafe. The seat belt that was strapping the kids into the seats were twisted and not nearly tight enough. The daycare itself had so many safety hazards from no childproof cupboards to tools lying around to sharp edges.. It was completely NOT at all what we had expected. The ad was so FAR in left field from what we were dealing with. After the first night of looking after the children the Irish guy was told he wasn’t what she was looking for. As soon as he told me I knew there was no way I was living out here alone with her. So I spoke with her and asked if we had been “applying for the same job” and if so, he could have my position as I was looking for an Au pair job closer to the North Shore. She told me even if I left she still wasn’t going to be hiring him. Then the very next afternoon she told me she was through with me too and didn’t need me. It’s a shame because the 3 kids were so much easier to look after than the previous 2 I had. I preferred tag teaming them with the Irish lad but when he left it was still manageable to look after the 3 on my own. So that was my three day experience in Dannemora.
This blog became WAY longer than what I was planning on typing. So I will do another blog about where I am at now… mentally and physically! Thanks for reading!
I have had a lot of people ask me, “How’s New Zealand?” Followed by, “Are you enjoying your family?” I realize that everyone is assuming that the two situations go hand in hand and are hoping that I am having a positive experience for both.
TRUTH TIME in most cases I have purposely been evading the latter question. Along with that, I had only been posting on the weekends. The reason was because I really had nothing to share about my weekdays. Weekends were my time away from the house. Emzie drove over to the house to grab me and we do something fun together…well actually anything we do together is usually fun. I mean that weekends or Friday night were the only time that I actually got to see New Zealand or do any sightseeing. I would actually start to feel like a tourist and start enjoying myself. Why does Em get me out of the house instead of me just leaving the house? Her family has 2 cars, and mine has 1 car that they don’t like to use. My area of town was not as “nice” and there aren’t many restaurants or places to walk around and see. So my darling Emzie was always scooping me up and taking me out to see the rest of the world.
I had always planned on not sharing too much about my Au Pair family. For respect to their privacy and to keep this blog more about my experiences – not about my time with the family. As time went on, the saying If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all kept swimming around in the back of my mind. What I can now say to everyone is that >> I am no longer living with the family as our expectations did not match. My definition of “good kids” and that of the mother’s were completely different. I ALSO really hate being cold and the house had no heat and the provided bedding was nowhere near substantial. The family kept the backdoor open every night so their dogs could go in and out at night which kept the house cold during the days and nights. Em actually brought me: gloves, slippers, a blanket, pillow and hot water bottle because she was shocked by the temperature of my bedroom and rest of the house. The walls were thin, from my bedroom I could hear what was happening in any part of the house at all times of the day. Besides the temperature and noise there were just a lot of issues I was being faced with that I believed to be unreasonable and I began to hate my life. The job hours and expectations were not syncing up with what had been outlined to me. It’s unfortunate that through all the correspondence of emails and skyping I got described a reality that was far different from the actuality of the household.
So I would like to share with all of you — I still love travelling and I have been enjoying the positive experiences. I did NOT like my family and I am currently seeking another family to live with.
Good bye Mt. Roskill hello Dannemora…. or so I thought. That’s the next post 🙂
I see more people checking out the blog! Thanks for stopping by and reading. Makes me smile to know people are interested in my thoughts.
Still Smiling –Always,
xoxo Amanda Sumalee