Tag Archives: Au Pair

Adventures of a German Au Pair in the United States – Secret CA Travel Tip

2016April-KathrinDesert Sunset

Dumont Sand Dunes – One of Many Hidden Travel Gems in California

One of the things I love living in the state of California is all the beautiful travel options this state has to offer.  There is San Francisco, a very diverse city full of life with amazing charming cities such as Monterrey or Carmel close by.  Down here in Southern California, we are blessed to have San Diego close by, as well as getaway spots such as Palm Springs or Temecula.  But then there are these retreats that might not be advertised as much as the above mentioned hotspots, but which are definitely worth experiencing.  Today, I would like to share one of my top vacation gems that I can recommend to anyone who likes adventure and a unique getaway.

I probably would have never done one of these vacations if it hadn’t been for my local friends.  Yes, certain travel recommendation guides and websites point out the must-sees, but I prefer experiencing the kind of vacation you won’t necessarily find in one of those guides.  One of these getaways included a trip to the desert, which I undertook with a couple local friends back in February 2013. My friend David was having an upcoming vacation to the desert with his family.  It was something they were doing every year at that particular time and this year David extended the invitation to some of his closest friends. I was beyond thrilled when he told me about this opportunity.  I have never traveled to the dunes before, and the thought of riding quads and hanging out in the middle of nowhere for an extended weekend with a group of fun friends was very appealing to me.

IMG_1051

So, on this particular Friday night in February of 2013, a group of eight friends rented two RVs for a 72-hour trip to Dumont Sand Dunes, a place located about 30 miles north of Baker, CA.  The ride took us about 4-5 hours without any heavy traffic since we left late that night from Huntington Beach.  We arrived in the desert at about midnight, and people were still out having BBQs in the sand.  I instantly loved the atmosphere; it was very chill and laid-back.  There wasn’t much more for us to do the first night, so we went to bed with the plan to get up early and join in the fun.

The next day was full of adventures, some more unplanned than others.  A couple of my guy friends took one of the Jeeps out for a ride along the sand.  Still, this was so unbelievable for me:  We were in the middle of literally nowhere, surrounded by huge sand dunes people used as their playground for a weekend.  I was fascinated and loved it, especially since it wasn’t your average vacation.  Those are the events that count for some of the best memories, at least in my opinion.  Once the guys got back, it finally was my girlfriend’s and my turn to take a ride with the Jeep.  My friend Derrick was driving and he didn’t go easy on us, but in a good way.  We sped off from our little camp, bumping on the sand along those giant dunes.  We were having a blast until…, yes, until the car got stuck!  Of course this had to happen when Derrick was with us girls only who couldn’t help much but try to get a gazillion-pound car out of a bunch of sand.  Thanks to it being a holiday weekend, many friendly people were around at the same time, and as they saw us struggling with our situation, we got approached by many helpful hands that offered us assistance.  In a matter of probably 15 minutes, the Jeep was free, but something was still not right with it.  It suffered some damage that needed to be fixed by a mechanic; so unfortunately, the vehicle was out for the rest of the trip.

That didn’t stop us though from having the time of our lives.  We rode the dune buggies and dirt bikes, enjoyed some really great BBQ around our nightly campfires, played cornhole and card games… All in all it was a great time.  On our second day we got the opportunity to witness a dune buggy race in which David’s dad partook in.  The disciplines seemed super crazy to me.  Contestants raced up a very steep sand hill (and with very steep I mean very steep, almost a 90 degree angle), and whoever did it the fastest, won.  It was really amazing to watch, but I concluded that never in a million years would I be sitting in that thing racing up the hills.  I’d rather leave that to the boys.  

That same afternoon, my good girlfriend Bea and I decided that it was time to be at least a little bit girly during this trip.  So we drove to a little market in the middle of the desert which was really just a couple stands where you could buy clothing and fun things, in the middle of nowhere.  I kept laughing about this absurd but oh so awesome scenery.  So off we went, shopping our way through the desert, ending up buying clothing and food.  What can I say; it made this trip even more special than it already was.  

IMG_1077

On our last day, some of the guys decided to go sand boarding.  They had been planning this all along and had brought their snowboards all the way from Orange County with them.  We onlookers were staying at the bottom of the giant sand dune, while David’s dad dropped the crazy sand boarders off on top of the hill with the dune buggy.  The scenery was just hilarious, watching the guys coming down the sand mountain with snowboards.  It was such a fun experience, even though I didn’t end up doing it myself due to being way too clumsy to even attempt such an ordeal.  

The next morning, we left during sunrise to make our way back to Orange County.  Seeing the sun climbing up through the sand dunes towards the sky made the scenery look beyond gorgeous.  I am not going to lie, leaving was bittersweet, but I was also ready to wash all the sand off that I brought home with me from the trip.  If anyone ever has the opportunity to experience going to the dunes, I can highly recommend it.  If you plan on doing so, I would recommend going early or late in the year since it can get really hot during spring and summer.  We went at the perfect time, and I would definitely do it again… Anytime!

IMG_1056

 

 

This story concludes the “Adventures of a German Au Pair in the United States” Series.
.
Images: ©Anne-Kathrin Schulte
Disclaimer: Names in the story may have been changed to protect people’s privacy
———————————————————————————————–————

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.

———————————————————————————————–———–

.

Advertisements

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

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.

———————————————————————————————–———–

.

Adventures of a German Au Pair in the United States – Finding a Way Back to the U.S.

hands of World Pixabay stokpic

Working My Way Back to the United States

My au pair time was officially over.  The realization hit me every day I was living back in Germany.  Even though I had started a new job as a kindergarten teacher that kept me pretty busy, I found myself reminiscing at least once a day about my life in California.  I missed it so much!

I felt bad about it because I was finally close to my best friends and family again, but then again my au pair stay had changed me and my life forever.  I had fallen in love with traveling the world, and even though I hadn’t been really good with settling in other places before my cultural exchange, my desire to leave Europe and immigrate somewhere far away grew ever bigger after my U.S. stay.  I am not the only person that felt like that; many of my au pair friends experienced this kind of travel fever.  Some of them eventually became flight attendants for long distance flights, just to get out of Germany every so often.  Even I applied for a position as a flight attendant once while being back in Europe.  

It happened in late 2010 when I had worked for more than a year in the kindergarten institution where I had been responsible for taking care of children between the ages of 7 months and 6 years.  Even though no one day was the same at work, I felt like I needed a break from my routine.  I was so very hungry for traveling on a consistent basis, specifically long distance, but it was just too costly to do so only for leisure.  Therefore, I looked up long distance flight attendant positions one night and found an opening for a well-known German airline. With no hesitations, I instantly applied, hoping to hear back from the company anytime soon.  My prayers were heard; I received an email with an invitation to a telephone interview.  I was beyond thrilled, imagining myself being up in the clouds already.  But, as life usually goes, all came different.  

One night in December 2010, my dad approached me.  In general this wasn’t really surprising since he usually liked to lecture me every once in a while about my life and the choices I made, but this time it was different.  I had been living with my parents since I had moved back from the United States due to the fact that I was unsure of where my future would take me. So until I had figured that out I could stay with them.  On this particular night then, my father came all the way up to my room, mentioning he wanted to talk to me.  All I thought at that moment was ‘Oh great, not another lecture I don’t want to hear at the moment.’ But he actually was about to nail it this time.  Without hesitation, he told me that he had noticed my being so unhappy for most of the time, and he wanted to know why.  So I told him straight to his face that I hated being back and I didn’t feel at home in Europe anymore!  I know those were harsh words that I threw at my father’s face, but I had been frustrated for a while with living back in Germany, with no clue how I could make my way back to the U.S..  

To my surprise, my dad was very understanding, and we had a really good conversation.  I told him that I knew that one of the ways of going back to the United States was to attend college there, which I had thought of for a while since I wasn’t very happy in my profession as a kindergarten teacher.  My father told me that if that was what I really wanted, he would help me make my dream a reality.  But he had one condition: I had to find a college major that would guarantee me a good career.  I cannot describe how relieved I was, first about having opened up to my dad and second of course about his response.  I instantly started researching schools in the Orange County area, specifically around Huntington Beach since I had been there on vacation in 2010 and had fallen in love with the laid-back lifestyle.  

I eventually found a college in Fountain Valley that I liked.  Over the next couple of days I gathered the paperwork together that I needed for the application and started filling it out.  I was super anxious when I did that because I was afraid that one piece of the wrong information would mess up all my chances of getting into college in the United States.  But luckily, my story had a happy ending.  In April 2011, when I was in Huntington Beach on vacation, I stopped by the college to ask them about my application process.  When the lady at the counter told me that I had been accepted to start attending school in the fall of 2011, I was beyond happy.  I was finally about to work my way back to the U.S., and this time, hopefully, without ever having to leave again…

To be continued…
(Next Wednesday: Read about Kathrin’s “living her dream” since being back in California)
.
Image: Pixabay.com
Disclaimer: Names in the story may have been changed to protect people’s privacy
———————————————————————————————–————

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.

———————————————————————————————–———–

.

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

berlin-pixabay

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)
.
ImagePixabay.com
Disclaimer: Names in the story may have been changed to protect people’s privacy
———————————————————————————————–————

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.

———————————————————————————————–———–

.

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)
.
ImagePixabay.com
Disclaimer: Names in the story have been changed to protect people’s privacy
———————————————————————————————–————

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.

———————————————————————————————–———–

.