Brigitte Kiepert

Stranger in a strange land

By - Apr 20th, 2010 04:00 am
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A view from my window in Bonn

By now, it’s been several months since I arrived in Germany. Before I continue with my current endeavors, let me share with you a few tales from the beginning.

I left Milwaukee at the end of August to originally join my au pair family in Boston. The parents, both from Germany, had done extensive schooling in the States and afterward decided to stay put. Because of the father’s job, the family was relocated to Bonn, Germany, where we are currently living. When I took the position,  I expected to move to Germany right from the get-go, but the prospect of living on the East coast, even if only for a short time, won me over.

Boston was beautiful, full of life and rich with history. Right before our big move, my new family and I traveled to Cape Cod to visit another German household. I can distinctly remember sitting at the dinner table listening everyone converse in German, eating cheese, bread and sausage and, perhaps it was all the blond hair and blue eyes that sparked something but at that moment, everything finally hit me. I was fully submersed in not only another family’s world, but also a foreign one. This was my new life. Or it could have been the fact that my bed was in the kitchen and I was awoken by eight Germans wondering if it was alright to start cooking breakfast.

Ah yes, perhaps that was it.

Looking back on it now, I feel incredibly lucky that I was able to be with the family in the States before heading to Germany last October. It was quite an adjustment to live with complete strangers and instantly become apart of their family, but being in the U.S. for a while made this transition much easier. Plus, I was able to spend time with my best friend from Milwaukee, and my parents also came out to visit in the final weeks. It meant a lot to have my real family there to send me off.

I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t a bit unnerved at the beginning of this new venture. The job itself was and still is incredibly demanding. I went from being a 23-year-old with minimal responsibilities to essentially acting as a full-time mom. Curious about the specifics of an au pair? My duties include (and I’ve learned, are not certainly limited to): preparing and serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, taking care of the laundry, all the shopping, the majority of the cleaning, any other errands for the household and of course, taking care of the children (two girls, ages two and six).

The Rhine River

Being  au pair = the best birth control, ever.

Upon my arrival in Bonn, I can remember being quite calm, not nervous or sad as I would have expected. I said all of the goodbyes I wanted and I kept telling myself  “this isn’t forever.” I was eager to see Bonn, to see my new room, the neighborhood … everything. I did have times in beginning where my mind seemed to think otherwise as it was layered of thoughts of Milwaukee. I missed my life, my friends, family, work and quite frankly, English.

The stress of moving a family internationally and figuring out the ins and outs of the German culture made some days more daunting than others. At this point, more than ever, did I really appreciate what I had in my life. I couldn’t help but replay memories, and it didn’t take long to realize that I didn’t want to look back on my time here and wish that I would have done things differently or experienced more. At some point you learn that you must let everything go. It’s impossible to move forward if you are letting your past keep you tied to the ground.

That said, my adventures that unfold in Bonn are nothing short of absolute satisfaction.

Categories: Detour

0 thoughts on “Detour: Stranger in a strange land”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I am loving this column! You are so young and dove into the unknown. There are so many ‘foreign’ factors. The family (in the sense that you did not know them), the language, culture – most things. Of course there is appeal in living in Europe, learning and experiencing new things but the foreign factors coupled with your life as an au pair, I can see how the glamor factor diminishes. You are strong. I could not do this. I wish you all the best and look forward to your next installment!

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