Friday, September 26, 2008

An Open Letter to Switzerland

Dear Switzerland,
While you have already stolen my heart in the past month and a half, with your green hills, breath-taking Alps, sparkling lakes, and timely, clean public transportation, I have a few suggestions/complaints. Perhaps I should note I don't care if these don't benefit a single other person in this fine country.

What's with all the ham? There are a lot of cows around. In fact, tomorrow is Desalpes, and we're going to be celebrating the cows returning from the heights of the Jura mountains so they can winter in the valley. They are going to be decked out with bells and flowers, and paraded around. I think it's great, and I'm really excited to see it. However, last time I checked, this isn't India, and cows aren't sacred. So let's butcher a few and eat some steak, instead of eating poor little bunnies, innocent lambs, and majestic horses (seriously, horse?). And really, isn't anyone here Kosher? Let's eat some steak. You have enough cows.

And lay off the mayonnaise, please. I happen to think it's the grossest concoction in the world, and yet it's at every meal, on everything, and I gag a little each time I have to put it on the kids' plates. (Remember, this is all about me.)

And this is the land of cheese. Am I right or am I right? I love all the cheese I've tried. Especially that creamy one with lots of garlic that's rolled up like sushi. Bring on the fondue. I think raclette is my new favorite. But where's the cheddar? Come on, you know a little sharp cheddar would go perfectly with your crusty loaves of fresh bread. It's great with potatoes! And you love potatoes, Switzerland. Don't deny it.

What about tacos? Or burritos? Why don't you let Chipotle come over and open a store? You love McDonald's, and Chipotle is owned by McDonald's, so you will love it too.

One last thing. I love your chocolate. I've got no complaints there. Just a suggestion. Chocolate and caramel are a GREAT combination, and I really think you should try it out. And caramel and butterscotch are two WAY different things, so don't put butterscotch in your chocolate and tell me it's caramel. Don't get me wrong, I do like butterscotch quite a bit, but not when I expect caramel.

That's all for now Switzerland, but I'm sure I will write you later with more suggestions (like open a cello position in the Geneva Orchestra for Dan, so he can come here too).


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Le Jeûne Fédéral

Throughout my day, I write little stories in my head, but when it comes to putting my thoughts down on paper (or computer), suddenly everything else becomes so much more appealing. Maybe I should get one of those handheld tape recorders, so when it does come time to putting it down, all I have to do is transcribe, instead of recreate. Hmmm...

Anyway, it's autumn. Officially, by the calendar, but you can feel it, and you can smell it, too. The air is crisper, and trees are starting to turn. It's lovely. The mountains behind our house are the Jura Mountains, and they are completely wooded, a little evergreen, a little deciduous. I cannot wait to see what it looks like in fall. I definitely will have my camera at the ready.

Yesterday was Le Jeûne Fédéral. It's a national holiday in Switzerland (well, the canton of Geneva celebrates it earlier than the rest of the country), so I had the day off! We talked a little bit about the holiday in church on Sunday, and basically this is what I gathered: Years and years ago, there was a huge famine. Sparta was able to donate enough flour for a whole people group to eat. When asked how they could spare so much food, the Spartans responded they had fasted for a day, and then were able to provide. Therefore, it is a national day of fasting. I definitely did not fast... mostly thanks to Becky's good cooking and amazing peach cobbler. I did spend the day with a few other au pairs, and Becky & Paul, who attend Westlake Church and also run LiNK, an au pair connection group. Paul took some of us sailing on Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), and it was great... though the wind picked up at the end, and we really got going (it was a little scary).

Some pictures!
our captain, Paul
Kornelia steering us towards France
the boat
I stole this picture from Kornelia:
Johann, me, & Jenna right about when it got crazy

All in all, it was a really nice day. I'm looking forward to October, because I am going to Zermatt with the au pair club, Anzère with my small group, and then who knows where else.

Sidenote: I've turned into Snow White or something since I moved here. Right now there are two cats and a dog sleeping in my room. The other day one of the cats followed me to the train and almost got on with me - I had to nudge her away with my foot at the last second. When the doors started to close the cat got scared and finally ran home. I shared a few laughs with the elderly couple that got on the train with me, though, and spoke a little French with them. So the cat brought us together.

My bed is calling my name. And this time Bagherra chose the edge, so I don't have to bother Her Royal Highness. Goodnight world!

Friday, September 19, 2008


I realized a few weeks ago upon my first meeting with Catherine that I haven't been forthright with my reasons for moving to Switzerland. I've written a lot of posts detailing my excitement, and countdowns, but never why I was moving 4,500 miles away from my home. What a major oversight. And even though it was nearly 3 weeks ago when Catherine asked the simple question "Why?", I haven't intentionally written anything. I wanted to be good and ready, with a nice cup of tea, and peace and quiet (which doesn't happen here, two musical children, one dog, and three cats that hate each other isn't conducive to a peaceful environment).

But tonight, I am babysitting, the children are asleep, and I have a perfect cup of Earl Grey with milk and sugar. So here we go.

I came to Switzerland because, simply enough, I wanted to come. All my life, I've dreamed of living abroad. I've dreamed of becoming fluent in French. When I heard my friend Seanna was going to be an au pair in Sweden, it didn't really register that that was an option for me - I had this great boyfriend, I was planning on grad school, etc. It wasn't until she was abroad and I read her blog (an american girl in stockholm) and I realized what a great opportunity it really was. So, I emailed her, joined an au pair website, and was called crazy by many, many people. I found this family, they liked me because I'm musical, and I felt a lot of peace about the whole situation. Other families, even if they offered better pay and more time off, they all just felt... wrong. And really, I am so happy with my Swiss family. They obviously aren't perfect, but they have made me feel so welcome, comfortable, and the children are amazing. I count my blessings every day to work with such a great family. But I digress.

So why Switzerland? Well, mostly, I liked the family. But I don't think I would have considered coming here if they weren't natural French-speakers - if I was going to study a language, why not learn the one I really wanted to learn, from native French-speakers? It is Ivana & Bertrand's first language, and the children's only language; I have learned so much already by immersion. Also, Switzerland always seemed like such a fairy-tale kind of place - chocolate, cheese, mountains, lakes, neutrality... etc. Gramma Pridmore & Aunt Libby always talked about the beauty of the land, like it was otherwordly, and magical. And really, to an American girl from the midwest, it is magical. To walk down to Malko's school, and see the Alps behind the perfect little Swiss church; to sit at the castle in Nyon, and look out at the lake, and the Alps, reflecting the sun, it is magic. I told Dan I think Tolkien and Lewis must have spent a holiday here before writing LotR & The Chronicles. The beauty is epic and inspiring.

So why would I want to leave the best boyfriend in the world? Well, I really didn't want to leave him. I thought about forgetting everything while we were saying goodbye, and I was weeping in front of TSA officers in O'Hare. Quite often I wish he was here, next to me, saying the things that only Dan says, and doing Dan things. That would be nice. But you know what? We're not married, we're not engaged. Sure, we've been dating for two years, and friends for quite some time before that (I just realized this will be my first birthday in 5 years that he won't celebrate with me). But I'm still Cam, still only me. We are still two separate people, we haven't decided to become one. I need to take care of myself, and this is something I have been burning to do. You might think I'm selfish, but oh well. It's my relationship, not yours. I figured I should do it now, as time slips ever quickly through my fingers. I figured I should get it out of my system, before I settle down. After being here for several months I will let you know if I get the "abroad bug" out of my system...

Here we are at Danny & Bri's wedding a week before I left.

One last reason - I have a dream of becoming a "world citizen". Yeah, laugh it up [fuzzball], but really, it's something I think is extremely important. While I am wildly proud of being an American, I think it is so important to understand, and experience (if possible) our world. It's easy to get wrapped up in America, being the massive country that it is. Switzerland, however, is less than a third of the size of Illinois, my home state. The U.N. is only a few miles away. It's difficult to ignore other countries when they are so close in proximity. I think it's alarming how few Americans have passports. Call me an existentialist, but I really believe we are all interconnected, and we depend on each other. To quote Mathilde's favorite movie, High School Musical, "We're all in this together."

I can't believe I'm posting this on my blog. Thanks to Bashley for showing it me. I think if you asked the average American high school student to draw a map of the world, it would look a little like this (but hopefully not labeled as such):

Well, my brain stopped working. It's nearly midnight here and I need to be up early (well, not that early) because I've joined a writer's group in Geneva! Thanks to Catherine, of course. I'm really looking forward to it. We're also going to the circus tomorrow! Yea! Hopefully soon (Sunday?) I'll post some blogs of what I've actually been doing. A bientôt!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I'm a bookworm

and this will provide some evidence. I found this one someone's blog. I don't remember what blog... One of those blogs you stumble upon, and never find it again. I like these things because it enables all of you to learn something about me, with minimal effort on my part. In other words, I'm lazy. I just want to post frequently, so it becomes a habit.

bold the ones you’ve read
[bracket] the ones you love
italicize the ones you intend to read.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 [The Lord of the Rings] - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 [Harry Potter series] - JK Rowling
5 [To Kill a Mockingbird] - Harper Lee
6 [The Bible]
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 [Little Women] - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 [The Hobbit] - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 [The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 [Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland] - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 [Chronicles of Narnia] - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 [The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe] - CS Lewis (that's redundant.)
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie-the-Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 [Lord of the Flies] - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 [The Poisonwood Bible] - Barbara Kingsolver
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby-Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - A. S. Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 [Charlotte’s Web] - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad (I hate this book so much)
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (I intend to read it in French, soon)
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare (I already told you, yes!)
99 [Charlie and the Chocolate Factory] - Roald Dahl
100 [Les Miserables] - Victor Hugo

I don't consider myself well-read, but I think that's a pretty good start for only being 25.

I recently just read The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America by Bill Bryson (thanks to my friend and blog role model, Catherine). And I loved it. He returns home to Iowa, after living in Britain for years, and travels across the continental U.S., visiting 38 states by car. I am happy to report, he had nothing negative to say about Central Illinois and Highway 127 - my grandparents happen to live right off of 127 in Central Illinois, and it is home to many of my happiest memories.

I just dug into the other two books that Catherine lent me, and I know I will be finished soon, so, any good suggestions of books to read next? Besides the ones I italicized? Let me know!

Monday, September 15, 2008

I should go to bed...

... But Bagherra the cat has taken it over. Which I like. Bagherra is the sweetest cat in the world. She's named after the panther in Jungle Book, and she really looks like a mini-panther. Here she is. Normally she picks a side of my bed, like in the photo, but today she is smack-dab in the middle, and I can't bear to wake her up yet to move her.
It's like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.

Anyway, I just had a piece of ridiculously amazing cake. It's Bertrand's birthday today, so Ivana made a chocolate hazelnut cake. And whoa, is it good. It's a two layer, flourless chocolate cake, frosted (chocolate frosting, of course), and crowned with hazelnuts that are pan-toasted and glazed. Pretty amazing. Don't worry, I'm getting the recipe.

I just got back from an au pair meeting/bible study, and it was great. I can tell I'm going to make some pretty good friends out of the group, especially with Paul & Becky, the couple that heads LiNK (au pair group). Paul & Becky go to Westlake, the church I've been very happily attending, and they are just great people. They are from the Chicagoland area, too. We had a nice moment reminiscing about Italian Beef. Paul is really into cycling, and this summer he cycled across America! We've talked a lot about cycling and tonight we talked about cycling sometime around Lake Geneva (about 115-120 miles, a bike marathon). I just need to find a bike...

Right now my weeks are pretty packed, and that makes me happy, because time has been flying by. Let's see:
Monday - au pair bible study
Tuesday - kids have dance/singing class, I get off early
Wednesday - only work a half day, choir in the evening
Thursday - barely work a half day, au pair club/ TNT (church small group)
Friday - regular day of work, night is free
Saturday - free
Sunday - church in the evening

So nice. I feel very blessed in my schedule and with my family. My Swiss family is by no means perfect, but they sure are great.

It's time to move the cat to one side of the bed, so I can have the other. Goodnight!

A slight change of plans...

I'm thinking of running the Edinburgh Marathon instead of the Paris Marathon. For a few reasons. First, I really want to see Edinburgh. I don't know if I'd make it there otherwise, while Paris is only 3 hours away by train. Second, it's cheaper. Not by too much, but it is cheaper. Third, it's a lot easier to register for it. It's a smaller race (11,500 compared to 37,000), but registration is open longer, the website is easier to navigate, and I don't have to send in a medical certificate, which you need for the Paris Marathon. Second, it's not until May 31, so I'd have a little longer to train (which makes a huge difference because I am not good at running). Any thoughts?

Today is a beautiful fall day. After we took Mathilde to her afternoon train to school, Malko and I took a walk, and he picked some wildflowers and gave them to me. He's so sweet. I feel a little bad for him though; he is so social, but his sister and friends all have school in the afternoon, so he is alone. He likes me, actually, he loves me, he tells me all the time, but I'm not as much fun as another 4-year-old. I seriously think it would be good for him to be at school all day, just because he loves school, and he loves being around his friends. Ah, well. C'est la vie.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

rainy day

Today is a rainy day, and I decided to stay in and just take it easy. Bertrand is in Austria with the orchestra he is in, and Ivana and the kids went to her parents house. I am watching The Sound of Music, drinking tea, and eating hazelnuts. It's nice to just hang out, and have a little quiet time.

I was invited out to a birthday party tonight in Geneva, but it's at a club, and no one is meeting up until 11:30, and the last train to Genolier leaves at midnight. So unless I want to stay out all night... Not really. Clubbing is not exactly my scene. After meeting loads of au pair girls at the au pair club on Thursday, I realized a few things. I'm older than most au pairs (most of them are 19-20, I'm nearly 26), which I expected before coming... but sometimes (I stress sometimes) the maturity difference is quite obvious. After talking to a few the other day, I realized they still weren't out of that "get-drunk-as-possible-every-chance". Which I seemed to just pass by in my life - I've never really been into drinking or partying. I would much rather spend my time reading, singing/making music, conversing, cycling, exploring, looking at/creating art, and going to bed early than getting drunk and dancing in a club. Ah well, to each his own, right? I'm very thankful for the friends I've made that share similar interests as me.

It's been raining all day, so I think today will be a movie, music, and reading day. I think today, in Chicago, my family is all getting together because my brother & my sis-in-law are in town. I'm kinda sad that I don't get to see them, but I know they are going to visit me soon.

Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I'm a bloody mess. Literally.

I have become completely accident prone in the last two days, and my right hand has born the brunt of the injuries. I burned my right pinky finger smack dab on the knuckle while cooking lunch for the kids, and I hit my right hand on the metal bannister, resulting in a bruised vein (ouch). Today, I stepped on a teeny tiny shard of glass, and had to pull it out of my heel with tweezers. If you're squeamish, you probably want to stop reading, cause I'm just getting to the worst part right now.

I was flipping through Ivana's cookbook this morning, looking for her crêpes recipe. All of her recipes are loaded into a big binder, and the rings don't stay shut very well, so pages slip out. Well, a whole mess of pages slipped out, so I was putting them back in. When I tried to snap the rings back together, one overlapped and scraped me across the knukle (right hand, of course, index finger). It hurt, but not that bad. I felt something weird in between my middle finger and my ring finger, so I looked closer at my hand.

It was a weird curly-cue.... and then I almost fainted, because I realized it was a curly-cue of MY SKIN.

I look at my index finger, and there was a huge gash, and as soon as I notice it, it starts gushing blood, and hurting like crazy. I grabbed a paper towel to stop the bleeding and went through about three band-aids (it's actually bleeding right now; I don't think my finger likes blogging very much right now). Anyway, after my finger stopped throbbing, I came up to my room, and that's when I stepped on the miniscule shard of glass. After I got myself all patched up (thank God I brought Neosporin), I laid across my bed on my tummy with my feet in the air, and my right hand on my head, because both my foot and my finger thought it would be fun to randomly squirt blood. It's hard to elevate your foot and your hand above your heart at the same time.

My finger has been bleeding on and off all day, luckily, my heel is fine. Hopefully I won't bleed all over the comforter tonight.

so happy

I am so happy here. The more au pairs I meet, the more I realized I completely hit the jackpot with my family. Some au pairs only get one night off a week (!), some don't have fixed schedules, some have to spend every dinner with their families and ask to be excused (just like the kids), and some have to ask permission before going out. I definitely feel like I should be doing more work... but I'm not complaining. :) I actually might offer to do the children's laundry, because this is my schedule:
Monday: Mathilde - school am & pm, home for lunch, Malko - school am only
Tuesday: same as Mon., but they have a music class at 4:30, and Ivana takes them - I don't have to go.
Wednesday: Mathilde - school am, Malko - no school; grandparents take them in pm (I don't even have to make lunch)
Thursday: Mathilde & Malko - school am only, other grandparents take them pm (no lunch again)
Friday: same as Monday and Tuesday.
So easy. I'm done at about 6 every evening. And they are such agreeable children. I'm allowed to do whatever I want in the evenings, and the weekends. If I have to babysit, they let me know way in advance. I'm lucky because Ivana & Bertrand are both incredibly family-oriented; they love spending time at home and with their children. They also care very deeply about my comfort and happiness. What more could an au pair want?

Another reason I am so happy is all the incredible people I've had the pleasure of meeting. Sunday at church, I met two more au pairs; Nicole from Rhode Island, & Priscilla from Minnesota (and spent a year at Bethel, small world). I also met a bunch of other people roughly my age, and after church we grabbed some pizzas and ate at the castle (yes, a castle!), and enjoyed the absolutely perfect view of the lake, and the French Alps reflecting the pink sunset. It was just so nice. I don't think I have ever been to a church more welcoming than Westlake.

Today, having the afternoon off, I met up with Priscilla in Nyon, and we just walked around and talked about adjusting to life in Switzerland and the world of au pairs. Being an au pair here is like belonging to a special club, only everyone knows about it. All you have to say is "Je suis une fille au pair" (I am an au pair girl), and everyone says, "Ooh", nodding with understanding. It's interesting. Anyway, Priscilla indulged me in a little shopping, and I think I found the shoes I have been looking for, but I didn't buy them. They weren't expensive, I'm just going to sleep on it. I can go back Saturday. I did buy a Logitech iPod dock, so I could simultaneously charge and listen to my iPod, and the sound is actually pretty good. We also indulged in a little ice cream (coffee) and a little chocolate. It was a nice day.

Tonight I had choir, which is fun, but no one speaks English, so during our twenty minute break I sit there and smile at everyone. My comprehension of French is getting way up there, but speaking it is still coming very slowly. I feel like such a little kid sometimes, but I guess you can say I'm learning French like I learned English - complete immersion. The choir isn't the greatest choir in the world, and I am the only one there who doesn't belong to the Swiss version of the AARP, but it's nice to sing some simple music.

I am exhausted and it is definitely time for bed.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Sorry it's been a few days since I last posted. I'm tired and ready for a nap, so I am just going to post a bunch of pictures I have been meaning to post but I haven't. Everyone likes pictures.Yvoire, France
the house
my balcony
the kids

Well, that's it for now. It's getting close to supper time, so I'm going to head downstairs. Happy Saturday everyone!

Monday, September 1, 2008

so completely thankful.

Really, right now I am so thankful and grateful for all the wonderful people around me. I really feel at peace with where I am.

First of all, my awesome Swiss family. I could not ask for a better family to spend all of my time with while I'm here. Ivana & Bertrand and incredibly accommodating, and are always checking to make sure I have what I need, the info I need, and offering to buy things for me. They make sure to invite me to every event, every family outing, but never are offended if I am tired, need some Dan time, or just need to be alone for a bit. They even check before making dinner to see if I like what's on the menu. The children are so sweet, and pretty obedient (for children...).

Second, the people in the neighborhood. The neighbors are always offering help with translating, checking in to make sure things are ok, and taking care of the kids if things get busy. I actually think I will be using a neighbor's car for the year... Which is incredibly kind and generous! (Things haven't been fully decided, it could change.)

And third and final, but not least, all the wonderful people I met yesterday. I have to send many, many thanks to Catherine, my new friend, because yesterday she took me under her wing and made me feel so welcome and comfortable. She is one of the kindest women I have ever met, and I immediately felt at ease with her. She introduced me to loads of people at a local production of Guys and Dolls (produced and acted entirely by teenagers! I only saw the first act but it was wonderful). There is such a huge English-speaking community here - I think I will have to practice my French very intentionally! Anyway, I was completely blown away by Catherine's kindness yesterday, and I don't think I can adequately express how truly grateful I was. I mean, she brought me some English books and magazines, because she saw that I nearly exhausted my supply. How sweet is that? Many, many thanks to all of you who welcomed me into your community without reservation. I look forward to many more meetings in the future!

And in the same category, Westlake Church. What a blessing (how Christian and cliché, but very, very true)! I arrived just in time from Guys & Dolls, and I immediately felt at home. I sat next to a lovely man named Lee, and he was so friendly and immediately informed me of the au pair club, and introduced me to two au pairs. I was especially excited when I found out Cornelia (from Sweden) and I are going to be in the same French class! Julie (from Germany) already speaks French. I also am really motivated to practice my French, because these two girls speak perfect English on top of their native languages, and are on to mastering a third language (also, Bertrand speaks to me in French frequently. He really encourages me to learn.). They both have been here for about 2 months, so they have become friends, but were so happy to include me, which was so sweet. There is also another girl from Rhode Island, but she wasn't able to be there. So I made two friends close to my age (I feel old - they are 20 & 19).

All in all, things are starting to come together, and I am so thankful for all the people in my life; past, present, and future.