Tag Archives: Au pair in California

Adventures of a German Au Pair in the United States – Back in California Continuing the Dream

2016Apr-AnneKathrinPaddleBoard

Continuing The Dream 

After I received the “green light” for being accepted to start Community College in the fall of 2011, I was beyond thrilled and eager to get all additional necessary documentation together so that I could move back to the United States.  The next big step, as with the au pair application, was to apply for a visa. This time for the F-1 student visa.  So I had to head back to Frankfurt to pay the U.S. Consulate another visit, this time however with a little more apprehension than the last time since I just had lived in the United States for an extensive amount of time.

But that wasn’t the actual problem during the interview with the agent.  He was more concerned about the fact that I had a male friend in Huntington Beach, the city I was planning on moving to after I paid it a wonderful visit in the summer of 2010.  I should have said “no” when the agent asked me if I knew anyone in Orange County… Unfortunately, this thought didn’t cross my mind when I was being asked that question, instantly regretting it.  Oh boy, did I have to pay the price for this.  I can’t even start explaining through how many different emotions I went at once: from excitement to complete terror, anxiety, nervousness, breaking out in a sweat, but trying to keep a cool face throughout the investigation.  I was being bombarded with accusations that the guy I knew was my boyfriend.  When I answered the question with an honest “no,” I was accused of wanting to marry the guy.  Another straight “no” from my side for that one.

Next was the question if it would be a family member of mine.  Again, “no.”  The tip of the iceberg was when he asked me if I was perhaps pretending for the guy to be my father, but secretly being a guy I was about to marry.  It was beyond strange, and all I intuitively wanted to do was to yell at the officer, which would have definitely cost me my visa.  Therefore, I answered all questions in a calm manner, even though my hopes of receiving a visa at that certain time and day vanished more and more by the minute.  Inside of me I saw my dream of moving back to the U.S. fall apart, until I heard the male voice saying:”Your visa got approved, Ma’am.”  I was in shock.  “Really, are you sure?” I wanted to reply, but instead I just said “Thank you!” and left the building with my documents as fast as I could.

Outside of the consulate I took a deep breath of relief, having just survived the most terrifying investigation.  On my way back to Düsseldorf from Frankfurt I kept recalling the conversation and couldn’t believe I received the approval.  Never in a million years would I ever again tell an immigration officer that I know a male friend in the United States, even if it is totally harmless.

After I recovered from this scenario, I realized that I just hit another major personal milestone in my life: I was really going to move back to the United States, this time Southern California.  Once I booked my flight for July 21, 2011, it became even more real.  During the last months in Germany I tried to spend as much time as I could with family and friends, especially because this time, my stay in the U.S. would be much longer.  But I was ready to get out of Europe and live in a culture that I believe is much more suited for me.

Forwarding to spring 2016 I can say that I am living my personal dream.  It wasn’t always easy, I have to  be honest, because coming to the United States as an international student is a whole different experience than being here as an au pair.  It took me a while to make good friendships with genuine people.  Don’t get me wrong, many people were super friendly right from the beginning, but not many of those people I met at first were really standing up to their word of helping me out.  I became more careful of whom to trust, but in the end it all paid off.  I cannot imagine to ever move back to Europe.  I am in love with my life by the beach and being active.  I picked up paddleboarding last year, and it has become one of my greatest passions.

As for my professional career, things are looking pretty good.  I will be graduating from one of the best schools with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications in May.  I am currently working for a television network in Los Angeles, doing a publicity internship and getting to know more about the work world.  My work permit is in process, and I am looking for a job after college.  Life has treated me pretty well, and I am beyond appreciative that I had the chance to come back to America to live my own personal American Dream.  And so far, I refuse to wake up…

To be continued…
(Next Wednesday: Read the last segment of Kathrin’s adventures who is now back in CA )
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Image: ©Anne-Kathrin Schulte
Disclaimer: Names in the story may have been changed to protect people’s privacy
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Anne-KathrinAnne-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.

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Adventures of a German Au Pair in the United States – My Life Back in Germany

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My Life Back in Germany After a Grand Welcome Back

It was bittersweet touching ground in Germany after an almost 12 hour flight. On the one hand, I was of course excited to see my family and friends again after more than a year away.  But, on the other hand, I was already homesick for California.  But for now I tried to keep a positive attitude and just enjoy seeing everybody.  And boy, did I see  everybody!  I mean, I knew that my parents were going to be there to pick me up, but I didn’t expect quite the entourage they had in tow with them.  

Before I was able to see everyone however I had one major challenge to face. A challenge, that every au pair I talked to had: going through German customs after a year of living in the United States.  Man, was I nervous once I had my four pieces of luggage loaded onto my cart!  I for sure believed that the customs officers would pull me over after seeing what I came back home with.  “Stay cool, they might not even notice you,” I kept telling myself.  But, yeah, how would they not notice me pushing a cart with all these suitcases piled up.  I reminded myself not to look at their faces when passing the officers.  I kept looking  straight ahead and just smiled, and “tadaa”!, I made it successfully through the customs without anyone going through my luggage.

I instantly relaxed after this burden fell of my shoulders and marched ahead towards the sliding doors that would open up to the arrival area.  Well, what can I say…, before I was able to spot anyone I just heard loud yelling from a crowd of people that came from the area I was supposed to go to.  I heard familiar voices especially my  dad’s, who always loved to sing the loudest back in the days when we all went to church together, so it wasn’t hard to identify his voice throughout all the yelling, and when I eventually turned my head toward the loud crowd’s direction, I spotted a whole bunch of familiar faces.  

I can barely remember how many of my closest friends and family actually made the effort to show up at the airport to welcome me, but I was positively overwhelmed with such an amazing turnout.  These people all just had come out because of me, me ‘little’ Kathrin who just got back from a longer trip to the U.S. I am not going to lie though; it felt really good to be the center of such attention once, just as if I had landed from a successful exploration trip to the moon or something like it.  Once I pushed the luggage cart towards where all the yelling and cheering came from, I finally realized that actually over sixteen people of my family and friends had gathered at the airport and waited for me to come through those sliding doors.  I was so happy to see all those faces and couldn’t wait to tell them about my adventures at my “Welcome home” party my parents threw for me that afternoon.

On the 15 minute car ride to my parents’ home I was excited to see what might have changed in my hometown since I had left more than a year ago.  But, to my honest surprise, not much had actually changed.  It dawned on me that while I had certainly grown up more throughout my au pair experience it didn’t mean that everything else in life had gone through changes as well.  The streets of Düsseldorf still mainly looked the same, and so did the house I grew up in.  This wasn’t a bad thing, I just kind of expected or rather had waited for things to be different since my own life had changed so drastically.

Once we arrived at the house I had grown up in, I let go of those thoughts and just enjoyed having good German cake while catching up with friends and family. Despite the jet lag I made it through the day until  the evening before I fell into bed and was fast asleep. The next couple of days went by pretty quickly. I met with all my friends who couldn’t be at the airport when I arrived and just had a great time catching up. But soon I realized that this wasn’t California anymore, and I had to get back on my feet.  Deep in my heart I was so homesick for the United States that I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it for long here in Europe. But at that moment, I had no idea of  how I would be able to move back to the United States.  

Once I started to fully understand that , I fell into a big hole.  I started being miserable and couldn’t find the motivation to apply for jobs. I kept complaining to my friends until one of them gave me the kick in the butt I needed at that time.  She was the one telling me to start applying now and that she wouldn’t want me to come up with any more excuses.  At  that same moment, she brought out her computer and told me: “Here you go; you won’t leave my house until you drafted an application and a resume.”  And boy, did she mean that!  She was sitting with me all afternoon and night, helping me to get back on my feet.  And thanks to her and her support, I was able to find a job as a kindergarten teacher in less than a week.  I knew that this wasn’t supposed to be my “last chapter in life” yet , but for now I had to settle until I was able to continue living my American Dream.

To be continued…
(Next Wednesday: Read about Kathrin’s search to find a way back to to a life in the United States)
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ImagePixabay.com
Disclaimer: Names in the story may have been changed to protect people’s privacy
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Anne-KathrinAnne-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.

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Adventures of a German Au Pair in the United States – Time to Return to Germany

airplane-PixabayMy Last Three Weeks in California

The day that I had highly anticipated for over a month finally came – I could pack my bags and leave New York for good.  Even though it had been a time filled with lots of frustration and discomfort, it had also taught me to not give up and that what “doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  Safe to say, I was more than ready to leave and fly back to my happy place California.  I was excited for the sunshine, my friends, and, of course, my host family.  But before I actually made it on the plane back to “freedom”, I had one more sleepless night in Brooklyn, followed by a 5 am pickup that drove me to the airport, where I then had to repack my luggage since two of my bags were too heavy. Agh!  Back in those days one could check two bags for free and also bring two carry-ons.  I looked like one of those poor donkeys that have to carry people’s luggage up on mountains and along trails in countries like India or Latin America.  After I finally went through security and boarded the plane, I felt a long-lost relief.  I escaped my personal hell and was looking forward to my last three weeks in the United States.

I can’t really put into words what I felt when the plane finally touched down in San Francisco.  It was like a firework of happy feelings, mixed with a little bit of anxiety since I would be living under one roof with the new nanny of my host family. I briefly had met Nell before my move to New York.  She was a really nice girl, a little younger than myself, but definitely capable of filling in my spot and taking care of the kids.  She herself decided to leave her previous host family because they had resided in a really bad neighborhood with lots of crime and drugs.  She made a really good trade coming to Walnut Creek.  And we actually became good friends during my three-week stay in California.  She took me along when she was done working to meet up with her friends, and she also was so nice to drop me off at the Tattoo parlor to get my very first tattoo!  I always wanted to have one, and after all I had been through those last couple months I thought it was the perfect timing to get a tattoo that has a deep, personal meaning to me.

But before all this, I was anxious to see her taking care of “my” kids.  I am not going to lie, there were moments when I locked myself up in one of the bedrooms just to cry that this wasn’t my home anymore.  But even though I would have been able to stay with this family instead of going to NY, the day of leaving them would have come eventually anyways.  I just regretted not ending my au pair stay with them rather than moving to New York.  It was what it was, and it sometimes hit me hard, but I tried to stay positive.

I don’t quite remember if someone picked me up at the airport or if I took the train down from SF airport all the way to Walnut Creek, but since I had so much luggage I believe that either my former host mom or dad came to get me.  It is hard for me to remember what exactly I experienced on my first day back in California, but what I can recall is that I was so happy to see the kids again.  To me, the month-and-a-half apart felt like an eternity, especially seeing baby Carol now fully capable of walking by herself when she used to scoot over the floor on her bottom before.  I planned on making the most out of the last three weeks that I stayed in California, including lots of activities with the kids and meeting friends, as well as getting my long anticipated tattoo.

Just three days before I was about to leave the United States to move back to Europe, I had my tattoo appointment. Nell drove me to the parlor, leaving me there while she had to go back to work.  Nervously I was waiting for my turn. I had actually been to the parlor a couple of days before my appointment to talk about the design which I had drafted on a sheet of paper: an alignment of stars and lines intertwining.  To me that design meant that if someone is going through a bad time, there is always light behind the clouds.  I decided to get the tattoo on my right wrist, but I was really afraid of the pain.  In the end it wasn’t actually as bad as expected, and I was super happy with it once it was done.

Later that afternoon, Nell picked me up again, and we drove home together to have dinner with our host family.  I was trying to hide my tattoo from them at first since they are a little conservative, but eventually my sleeve rolled up and Anne saw it.  I never forget how she stared at it incredulously and said: ”Your mother is going to kill me!”  I roared with laughter when she said this, but also felt so relieved that from that moment on I didn’t have to hide it anymore.  

It was a good last time together with the family before I had to leave.  I was dreading the day that I had to go back to the airport, I really didn’t want to go back home.  On the other hand though I must say I was also excited to see my friends and family in Germany again. It was confusing… With lots of mixed feelings, I said goodbye to my host family. This time for a longer while I knew and stepped on the plane going back to Europe.  I didn’t really consider Germany my home anymore, I was so happy here in California that I already started thinking about ways to come back.  But that is different story I will tell another time…

To be continued…
(Next Wednesday: Read about Kathrin’s life back in Germany after her au pair experience)
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ImagePixabay.com
Disclaimer: Names in the story have been changed to protect people’s privacy
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Anne-KathrinAnne-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.

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Adventures of a German Au Pair in the United States – My Time in “The City”

NY AnneKathrin

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)
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Image: Copyright ©Anne-Kathrin Schulte
Disclaimer: Names in the story have been changed to protect people’s privacy
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Anne-KathrinAnne-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.

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Adventures of a German Au Pair in the United States – From the Hills to the City

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From The Hills to The City- My Move to the Big Apple

While I am still in touch with my host family today and loved living with them in California, times weren’t always bright during my au pair stay.  I do not want to go into further details about what exactly happened due to privacy reasons, but there was a time where my family and I decided it would be best for everybody if I transitioned to a different family.  This happened in June 2009, a time where I thought things had passed for the better, but unfortunately, I was wrong.  

Life isn’t always rainbows and sprinkles, I am sure we all know that.  My host family and I went through a hard time together, but we made it through and I was debating of extending my stay with the family for another nine months after my one year USA anniversary in August 2009.  We discussed it together, and in the end, I was the one who had to move on.  

It was hard to accept the thought that I would not be the one anymore driving the kids to school, or watching the baby, who could finally walk, develop into a big girl, or just living with the family any longer.   Since I was very upset about the events, I decided not to stay with the family until August but rather transition to a new situation sooner than later.  

As soon as I informed my host family and my au pair agency about it, I deeply regretted this step.  Not just because I loved this family so much, but also because of how poorly the au pair agency treated me during the transition process.  There was no understanding of my side, all I got from them was pressure to find a new family in two weeks, otherwise I would have to leave the country and move back to Germany.  I never forget this one particular time when the agency called me and asked me why I had rejected the families that had contacted me to become their au pair in the couple of days before this call.  I explained to the lady on the phone that one of the families talked poorly about their current au pair and seemed really harsh, and I did not intend to live with someone like that for another year.  One other family was living in the middle of nowhere, something I also didn’t want to do.  Instead of understanding, all I received  from the agency’s side  were tough words that I would better find a new family soon and not be “too picky.”

While the lady of the au pair agency was talking to me, I was crying and just thought to myself that I have to be picky since I am the one who is here alone with no family, therefore I want to find someone who I have a good feeling for.  The last words this wonderful person told me on the phone were “too dry off my tears and better look happy when you leave this phone call and go back to take care of the kids.”  That was the tip of the iceberg.  I was devastated already, and then to receive even more pressure from someone, who is supposed to help me, pushed me totally over the edge.  I lost all belief in my au pair agency, thinking they only care about the families since they were the paying customers, and that us au pairs were only the merchandise.  I still get a little upset and angry about it just writing this, because I don’t feel that I was being treated fairly or supported at all.  

After the call, I tried to get my act back together, but it was hard to pretend everything was OK in front of the kids when everything I wanted to do was just cry.  One or two days after that incident, a family contacted me with three boys who lived in Brooklyn, New York.  Once the mom told me where they resided, I got a little excited.  Living really close to the big apple sounded pretty appealing and fun to me.  At the same time, I started emailing with a family in Connecticut, who also had two children, one of them being a little baby girl.  This family sounded like a really great fit, the mom was a professor at Yale University but currently a stay-at-home mom, who would help me with taking care of the little one.  On the other hand, I really got hooked on the thought of moving to and living in New York City.  I thought back and forth of what to do, knowing now that I would be moving to the East Coast, just not sure exactly where to.  

If I lived in Connecticut, I would still be able to go and visit New York for a weekend to explore the city.  I also could attend a class at Yale, which would be a great experience.  On the other hand, if I lived in NYC, I could see the ball drop at Times Square on New Year’s Eve, I could hang out in Central Park on the weekends, and I could probably go and see a couple of plays on Broadway. In the end, I decided to move to Brooklyn. I didn’t know by that time that this would be another decision I would deeply regret soon, but at that moment, all I could think of was “The City” and all it had to offer.  I was being matched with the family, and I was beyond relief that the transition process was finally over and I didn’t have to deal with the agency anymore.  

I had another five days left in California that I would enjoy with my friends and host family and I wanted to make the most out of it before it was time to say goodbye CA, hello NY!

To be continued…
(Next Wednesday: Read about Kathrin’s time in New York)
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Image: pixabay.com
Disclaimer: Names in the story have been changed to protect people’s privacy

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Anne-Kathrin 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.

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