Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lost May post - And my first month as a nanny comes to an end!

Alice, soooo cute.
Opps not sure what happened here, but I wrote this post back in May!

I've survived! One month done and dusted and both I and the two kids, and the house, have survived. Things have been much easier the last couple of weeks. Arin is a lot more used to me and doesn't fight about every little thing I ask him to do anymore, and sometimes he is really cute and gives me presents (ie his toys that he reclaims ten minutes later) and kisses and sits in my lap when I read to him. I'm starting to really teach him my rules too, he is learning pretty quickly that nannies from NZ don't do anything for you without the use of some magic words (please and thank you, in other languages they are not as important so as he has learnt english from non-native-speakers, please and thank you haven't been big on the agenda). Also, him being back at school and me not being able to drive means I don't have to get up so early in the mornings, Koi takes him to school and then goes back to bed and I just wake up when Alice wakes up. Looking after Alice is easier because she just sleeps and eats and plays with whatever you put in front of her (as long as its not her actual toys. She gets bored with new toys after about five minutes. The TV remote and my cellphone never seem to lose their charm however!), so I'm happy to look after her and then just have Arin for the four hours or so after he gets home. Alice has also adjusted better to me and doesn't cry so much, only if she can still see mama. She has fallen asleep in my arms a couple of times which is possibly the cutest thing ever, I'm totally in love with her now.

Sunny day in Antwerp
If its sunny I walk to Arin's school and we walk home together. He is never happy when I turn up to get him, often I have to cajole him out of the gate with the teachers looking on, but once we get going he's fine, we hide from the imaginary tigers in the trees and he sings me the dinosaur songs that he invents (always unintelligible, with the same tune, but a different dinosaur name) endlessly, and then he's in a good mood when we get home and tired from all of the walking. It really drives me crazy though, it takes me 15 minutes to walk there to get him, but it takes us a hour to walk home because he walks So. Damn. Slow. Its like accompanying a turtle. A turtle that is determined to stomp on every one of the five thousand dandylion flowers that line the roadside. I know that its good that we're outside and he is entertained and all, but there's something in me that hates walking slowly. Like either we walk home, or we stop and play somewhere and then walk home after, none of this dawdling crap. And why is it that he always finds every disgusting thing within a 6 metre radius of our trajectory, picks it up, and then asks my why when I tell him not too? Its horse poo mate, does the word 'poo' really not answer that for you? Apparently not when you're four.

I kept asking Koi and Jan to arrange play dates for him, as he is essentially an only child and often behaves as such. He isn't really a spoiled brat like you imagine kids with nannies to be, but he is just used to getting his own way and I am sure that won't always work out for him well in the playground. Also, having another kid over means he will play with the kid instead of with me, and I just get to sit in a deck chair sunbathing and watching them. Or so I thought. We had a little girl over, one of his classmates, who is pretty similar to Arin in that she is an only child and has a Flemish dad and foreign (African) mother. She used to be Arin's enemy and we used to tease him by calling her his girlfriend, but then he had to go spend a couple of hours with her one day when it rained and we had no car to pick him up, and he decided she was ok.

Some kind of dragon/dinosaur/green monster thing called Arin
Jan went off somewhere, and Alice and Koi took a nap, leaving me alone with the kids. Piece of cake I thought. However, I had forgotten that four-year-old Belgian kids can't speak english, the concept of translating is way beyond Arin, and my normal tricks for getting around language barriers don't work at that age either, so when she tried to ask me for things, or talk at all, I couldn't respond to her. I don't even know how to say 'I don't speak Dutch'. Or 'You're welcome', which made me feel pretty bad considering I've been quite a magic-word-nazi with Arin and then for a whole day stopped saying it. Somehow though she decided she really liked me and gave me flowers from the garden and walked around holding my hand and sat in my lap.

Antwerp station, probably the nicest train station I've ever seen
It was all quite comical until she started asking for something really urgently "schpinka". I was freaking out thinking it might be urgent medicine or something, as unlike everything else she asked for that day, this seemed really important, but there was no one around that spoke dutch apart from the polish cleaning lady and her husband, who only speak a little and who she was terrified of. Eventually they guessed might be schminken, or make-up. I let her put my moisturizer on her face and she seemed pretty happy, and then when Koi woke up she painted their faces, and then the kids spent a couple of hours running around with the polish dude while I sat in my deck chair with the baby. Almost a success. I actually found out after she went that she speaks french too, I can actually speak a little bit of that. Turns out Koi and Jan thought it was French I spoke, not Spanish, so they weren't too worried leaving me so alone with her! Next time someone comes over to play, I'm making sure one of them stays in the house!

Antwerp town square
So far I haven't really done much with my days off, I'm pretty broke and always really tired. I have walked into Schilde, the town centre thats actually closer to us than the town centre of Zoersel where we actually live. This part of Belgium is really affluent, with houses in this area costing twice the national average, with villas costing over a million bucks NZ, so the shopping in Schilde is rather upmarket and you don't want to do more than just look in the windows! I did manage to get my shoes fixed my a man who spoke pretty passable english (Im still amazed that everyone here can speak english) even if he did turn C-L-A-I-R-E into C-L-A-Y-R-I, but oh well, and I met some lovely ladies at the post office who spoke to me about NZ for ages.

Dusk in Brussels
I went to Brussels one day, Koi went to the Thai Embassy and I found my own way from there, I was quite impressed with how I managed to work out what direction to walk in, then found the centre of the city and didn't get lost all day! I had intended on going to the European Parliament, something I meant to do last time I was here in February but didn't because we got too drunk the night before, but this time I missed out because I forgot that the time on my Belgian cellphone didn't automatically change with daylight savings. So I just spent the day wandering around and sitting in the sun reading, and then I had dinner with Arthur before catching the train home. Its quite cool to be able to do that, just go to Brussels to meet someone for dinner, because the trains are cheap and fast and everything is close together anyway.

Simon on the banks of the river in Antwerp
I also went into Antwerp one Saturday and met Simon, a guy who lived in Lower Hutt on an AFS exchange from 2008-2009, he was really good and showed me all around Antwerp, like the different areas for shoping and the library and where to eat and find the metro, and all that kind of stuff. I actually think that Antwerp is one of the nicest cities I've been in over here, you can tell that it used to be one of the richest places by the buildings. Was also really good just to hang out with someone who can speak whole sentences and doesn't constantly pretend to be a dinosaur.

Street in Antwerp, see what I mean about rich buildings
So, end of the first month and Jan and Koi and I have agreed I'll stick around for awhile, until I have had enough anyway, hopefully not until at least Christmas. I've got Fridays and Saturdays off permanently, which will be good for heading off to visit friends and explore Belgium some more, and the other days I normally do mornings with Alice and end of school until bed with Arin, it looks pretty good. We have to leave the house for a week for the renovations, they're sandblasting all the wood in the top story, so we're off to London (I'm not working, am staying with Philippa from my old work and doing touristy things) and then I have a couple of days in Madrid again, trying to resolve the visa-drama before I come back. It will be good to have a week off, but packing up everything in my room to move downstairs was not fun at all, I swore I was done with the packing and unpacking thing for awhile. London is new for me, I've never been in England before, and its my first time in an english-speaking country for five months! Looking forward to it!

New photos of Antwerp and Brussels are here.

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