A very delayed post, but as I was packing to leave Spain last week, I was taken back to my first days here in southern Spain. I stayed in a cute little hostel the first week as I searched for an apartment and could get my bearings a bit. Finding an apartment was not so difficult, and I looked at a total of five before I was satisfied; not too shabby. During the hunt, one of my appointments was with a lady at a coffee shop, instead of at an apartment which I thought was a bit weird. She claimed she wanted “to ask me a few questions and get to know me” first… and was always brushing me off when I emailed her basic questions regarding the possible apartment, with responses like, “yes, yes the apartment will have [this or that], don’t worry.” So as you can imagine, I was not too eager to go to this 9am appointment, but because it was only a few steps away from my lovely 10-person bedroom, I quickly got up five minutes beforehand and threw on some suitcase-wrinkled clothing, sans make-up.
Turns out, this was actually a secret interview. Only Amanda would find herself in a situation such as this one evolved into. Her name was Elisabeth* and she was absolutely phenomenal. She disclosed to me that she was the right-hand “man” to the sole owner of all the private hospitals in my entire region of Andalusia and was requested to find a native English speaker to work in their home as an au-pair. Elisabeth took it upon her stealthy self to scour the foreign rental seekers as there would be many coming for the University school year. She is one smart lady, she hooked me using those sneaky moves! You can imagine I regretted my swift and disorganized morning physical preparation at this point. Regardless, I must have passed the initial phase of the interview because she whispered to me in English that we should move to another spot as there are people that could eavesdrop at the sound of the Doctor’s name and the situation. Talk about TOP SECRET SHIT! Here I am, this little blonde foreigner in what seems like a a high-profile F.B.I. escapade.
She walked me about a mile and half as we chatted about all the possible apartments I could choose from (while passing about half of them along the way) and how I wanted to go about making a deal with the family regarding a schedule, meals, activities, etc. I’m still totally caught off guard an hour later where she took me to the only five-star hotel in the city at the tip of the coast overlooking the Atlantic and the American naval base in a neighboring pueblo. We had a coffee and continued the light-hearted conversation that could potentially and completely change my Spanish plans for the year. Before I knew it, she had the mujer (the “woman” of the Doctor; they never married but he provides, well everything it appeared, turning the scenario a bit stranger) on the phone and we walked to the famous theater minutes away. Lola* and little Juanito* tumbled out of a flashy white Audi SUV (during an intense Spanish crisis) and came to greet us. Now, obviously there’s no need to go into detail about our café con leche (latté) and ham sandwich encounter, so basically I will describe it as short and to-the-point situation, totally contradicting what I was just told thirty minutes prior. Elisabeth had described possible apartments and roommates I could choose from, while Lola dove into details about the new bunk bed I would take my siesta in after Juanito’s playtime/English lesson… in my room, in their house, living with them.
Needless to say, the afternoon only got weirder as I obliged to hop in the car with them for a “quick drive.” Two hours later, I found myself in the outskirts of the province, riding a go-kart. Four hours after that, we were around a patio table at a KFC (it’s a luxury there) questioning me why I wouldn’t let them order me anything. I am a delicate eater and eat very simple ingredients that I can trust, including many vegan and vegetarian trends. Try explaining that to a table of Spaniards (at this point we had met up with all of Lola’s friends and their kids) who are basically accusing you of anorexia and a posh attitude. Then came the four-story Ikea excursion where I was basically in charge of chasing Juanito around while Lola touched every piece in the store while asking me what I thought of each Swedish piece. All in all, after a “surprise interview” following an almost an eight-hour “meeting” with Lola and Juanito, I was dropped off at my hostel around 10pm. As we were getting off the highway, I finally broke it down to the mother, explaining that as much as I enjoyed her family and would love to help out, I simply did not come to Spain to be a nanny. Instead, I got the opportunity to live in a beautiful half million dollar home (instead of a million dollar home with Lola and Juanito… give and take right?) in the most luxurious part of the city and could get out there and form a real social life that didn’t include playing trucks with a five-year old.
The story continued weeks after my friendly decline, because Lola somehow coaxed me into finding her another American girl who may be interested in the proposed situation. My guilt and frenzied mind after that day of phenomenon resulted in my cooperation and I worked for them a few days until I found Angela. a nice girl in my program to take my place. My work did not end there people. Rachel*, did not speak Spanish! So now, I was promoted from being a play date to a translator. I had to accompany Rachel to Lola home a few times to sort out the details of the deal; money, schedule, vacation, etc. Just when I thought I was done “assisting,” Lola declares she is dying to learn English now all of a sudden and since Rachel can’t communicate with her, she proposed I come once a week while Angela is playing with Juanito and we do an English session for a couple hours. I soon realized how weak my “no’s” were at this point.
I worked a handful of hours for the family by this point, until the mother drifted off and got too busy. She would keep in contact every few months when I checked in on her, but she always had an excuse. Never heard from her again when I finally sent her an invoice last month for the hours she owed me… I guess I should’ve sent it to Juanito’s estranged daddy…
*all names have been changed because, well, it’s the right thing to do.