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2009-09-05 - 11:58 a.m. we came to have an au pair who is not really an au pair.....

The au pair has been here for about a week now. Susi has named her Budda, and she adores her.

How did we wind up with an au pair? The whole situation kind of fell into our laps.

I sang with a tenor in the choir I joined in Jena. He was a complete jokester, always cracking a small joke during breaks. It took me years to even begin to understand his jokes because they involved subtle plays on words. But just as I love plays on words, I knew that his jokes were funny, and I knew that I wanted to understand them. It also took us years to get to know each other, because he only spoke three words of English, "Two beers, please." Can't go very far on that.

As my German improved we were able to talk a bit more - eventually he asked if I would sing a solo while he accompanied me on the piano. This was a bit of a breakthrough for me in the choir, because before that I had never sung a solo. It changed my level of performance confidence, and changed the way I thought of tone and breath control. A year after we started playing together, he was in a critical car accident that nearly killed him, and it took him several months for him to recover at a rehabilitation center. I sent him postcards from every choir trip, and every trip that I took across Europe. He has gone through a hell of a lot of pain and operations since then, and the experience changed him greatly. For the better, in fact. He loves life to the fullest and seems to be more at ease with who he is. He is amazingly positive, and shares it with everyone.

So that's the background. Shortly after Susi was born I got a congratulatory email from this tenor, and then a package and a letter from his daughter (Budda). She was now 19, and looking for a way to come to an English speaking country. Our mutual friend (A, who now lives in Berlin), suggested that she contact me about coming to Canada to help out with Susi.

It's been a little bit complicated to work out the living arrangements and finances... We have searched and searched the Canadian government websites for an au pair program. K has called several Canadian agencies. The bottom line is that there isn't an official au pair program. Notta. There is a live-in nanny program for people who want to eventually become Canadian citizens, and there are visas for students. Nothing to allow a young person without previous childcare experience to come to Canada to work as an au pair.

So officially, the term au pair is a misnomer. What we have here is the daughter of a friend who has come to live with us for six months - we are essentially taking her into our family, and letting her see Funcouver life. And in return, she is teaching our daughter to speak German. There is no official exchange of money, and we still have Mary Poppins as a nanny. It's bizarre, that we have such an abundance of childcare for our little girl. And it is costing us a pretty penny...

But I can't help thinking that it is all good, because it is giving the daughter of a friend the experience of a lifetime, and our daughter is absolutely thrilled to have another playmate.

Susi comes down the stairs in the morning and bangs on Budda's door, wanting her to come out and play. Budda has already taught Susi several new German words - the ones for 'open,' 'up,' and 'cat.' And we already see her distinguishing between the German words and the English words - She uses "kitty" and "up" with me, and "Katze" and "hoch" with Budda. All this after just a few days. Babies are sponges - it's amazing.

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