My Time in”The City” and why I’d never Move Back
The big moving day came around in late June. I can’t put it in words how weird it was to say goodbye to my California family, especially the kids. I mean, I was the one witnessing baby Carol’s first steps and words. I was the first nanny the family ever had living with them. I didn’t want to imagine some new nanny driving them to school; I wanted to be the one. But eventually, the day of “goodbye” had to come. My host dad dropped me off at San Francisco airport, where my flight was about to depart to John F. Kennedy airport, NYC. It was a tearful goodbye, but I knew in my heart that I was coming back to California to visit “my” family.
The flight to NY went pretty smoothly, and I started imagining all the fun things I would do while living in Brooklyn. But it didn’t lift me up as much as I had hoped due to the fact that, deep in my heart, I knew that I was more a California girl than one who loves living in the big city. After an almost six-hour flight, my “new” host mum picked me up at JFK to drive me back to Brooklyn. She gave me a warm welcome hug, but I didn’t click with her as much as I did with Anne. Honestly, I don’t even remember her name, or the kids’ names. That tells you a lot about how I felt about the new family, doesn’t it?
On my first night in New York I had to sleep in one of the kids’ rooms since their grandfather was visiting and was sleeping in my bedroom for one night. I didn’t care, I was tired from the long trip and just wanted to sleep.
The next morning, I slept in late due to the time change. When I got up, the house was empty. I took a glimpse into my future bedroom, and what I saw was not really pleasant. Dirt on the floor and stains on the wall (I don’t want to go into too much graphic detail, but let me tell you, my appetite was instantly gone once I saw what I saw). The next mistake I made was going into the bathroom I was supposed to share with the kids. What can I say, it was way worse than my bedroom, and I was debating if I should rather use a public restroom instead. I just thought “I cannot live here for another year, I just can’t.”
But I wanted to give it at least a chance; maybe I could get over all this, I thought. But in the end, I couldn’t. While the cleanliness of the house was one thing, the worst of all for me was that I didn’t get along with the kids at all. I was supposed to take care of three young boys, a pair of twins, who where six at that time, and a two-year-old. All three of them were still caught up with their previous nanny who had to leave them due to a family emergency. And then I came to take over, heartbroken myself that I had to leave beautiful California and move half across the country due to a decision I deeply regretted.
Screaming, insulting, and kicking were only some of the daily routine with my kids. They did not like me and, not surprisingly, I wasn’t very fond of them either. Maybe, if I had moved in with the family at a time when the boys and I would have been more open for each other, things might have turned out differently. But throughout the month-and-a-half I lived with the family, I wasn’t able to get attached to anyone at all. All I wanted was to leave. On top of all this was that I had a really hard time making new friends in the city. I made an effort to go to an au pair meeting my agency set up at a little restaurant in Brooklyn, and I met some really nice people. But it wasn’t the same as when I met Fran and Mina, and all my other Californian friends. Even though I exchanged numbers with one of the girls, I never cared to contact her. Deep inside of me I knew that I was done with New York and that I’d rather end my stay than endure this situation for another 11 months.
I remember one afternoon when my New York au pair area director came over to the house, and I told her in tears that I am not going to extend my stay any longer than till August. She was really understanding and sweet about it and as soon as I had spoken it out I felt a major relief. I only had to stay a few more weeks with this family in this dirty house until I could travel back to California for three more weeks before finally moving back to Germany.
But it was not only my new living situation that made me decide to leave New York. Even though I have to say the city is pretty fascinating and definitely has a lot to offer, it was brutal living there during the summer. I was used to the dry heat in California, whereas New York was humid and hot. On some days, it suddenly started to rain heavily, forcing me to stay inside my house when I’d rather wanted to be out and about. But that wasn’t the worst compared to how many mosquito bites I received- after only a few days of living in Brooklyn, I looked like a German Streuselkuchen, with bites all over my face, arms, and legs. Easy to say, I was not having it spending a summer in the city, missing the perfect California weather.
It was not all bad in NYC. I visited Manhattan almost every single night during my stay. I enjoyed sights such as the Empire State Building or Central Park. I also visited a couple museums and watched many movies in the theaters. But all this would have been much more fun if I had made friends. At least my good friends Mina and Fran came to visit me in the city before they were heading back to Germany after they were done with their au pair program. That was a really fun weekend with good food, good talks, and lots of laughter. For the first time since living in the city, I felt a bit of relief and could forget about the downsides. But once my friends had left, the feeling of loneliness and discomfort came straight back. I was counting the days until I could finally pack up my bags and fly back to San Francisco, where I would spend some more quality time with friends and family before moving back to Europe in September 2009.
To be continued…
(Next Wednesday: Read about Kathrin’s last few weeks back in CA)
Image: Copyright ©Anne-Kathrin Schulte
Disclaimer: Names in the story have been changed to protect people’s privacy
Anne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She lives in Southern California since 2011.
If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.