The last post of the expedition – the tell-all fit for the tabloids

In the last two months I have gone from staying in Italy until June, to staying unless I screw up again, and now to being back in England by the end of the week. Strangely enough, or not, I’m not too unhappy. Why? Normally I’m not one to bitch or whine in a public forum but I think now I can safely, and freely, say that the only two things about this au pairing experience over the last were the friend that I made, the teaching experience that I gained, and the extra money I (briefly) earned that allowed me to see so much of this spectacular country.

I had a hunch back in the autumn that I wouldn’t see out my scheduled time here, that it was just a case of who got tired of whom first. I remember back in September, when I asked about the possibility of taking a Friday off to spend a three day weekend with a new friend in Rome, and how it seemed like such a big deal, only to be told later down the line that if I wanted to travel Friday afternoons and Monday mornings to get a full two days in wherever I was going, I could. This was only one element of the laughable hypocracy that has peppered the last three months out here.

Let me enlighten you on some of the episodes I’ve witnessed in the intermitting period. A few months in my host mum was seeming like one of the more pushy people I’d yet met. At first I thought it was just helpfulness, but no. It was actually just being pushy. Sometimes blindly so.

I had tried to get in contact with a handful of au pairs that would be living locally to me, before I came out, to help with socialising and seeing the sights. I did find a couple, including a particularly reliable one who I went on three weekend trips with. When I was telling my host of these planned trips before I came out, she used her network of au pair host families to find an au pair doing the same trip I was, on the same weekend. It was the au pair I had discovered.

A few weeks in, she was still using this network to find other au pairs who lived locally, or that might have been interested in visiting my host town. This was great as I’d not found any. Not that I needed to, having been busy with the one I mentioned previously.

One evening, she suggested yet another au pair I contact, although this one had contacted me hours earlier.

The next afternoon, as we were driving home from running a couple of errands, she told me she thought I needed to get out and meet locals, and that it wasn’t good only meeting up with English speaking people, and how girls, as in the au pairs she’d been putting me in touch with, were unreliable.

Which is all well and good, until you remember she had put me in touch with a number of these ‘unreliable’ girls, and that the nearest central bar is a ten, maybe fifteen, minute drive away.

One Saturday evening she had prepared what appeared to be a ragu sauce for pasta, en masse, in a pressure cooker. The next morning it was still sitting on the stove so, presumably in an attempt to avoid the inevitable ‘why has nobody put this into jars?’ interrogation from her later in the day, her boyfriend dutifully puts half an hour aside to do just that.

If he thought he had avoided the wrath, he was sorely mistaken. She comes downstairs and into the kitchen, and the first thing she says is something along the lines of, “Where is the pan with the sauce in it?”

“I put it in jars” he replies.

“Did I ask you to?” she retorts. I didn’t catch the rest of the rant that followed as I was too busy trying to resist laughing. This is a woman who routinely complained about things that have not been done, and here she was complaining about something that had.

I only recount these specifically as I wrote them up for a previously anonymous blog I started up to vent when such ridiculous events occurred. If my memory was better I would have dozens of stories to tell.

And maybe that is the reason I’m not particularly down, dejected or otherwise deflated that this experience has been so unilaterally bad. I repeatedly remind myself that in a few months and years down the line, they will just be hilariously cringeworthy episodes in an otherwise enjoyable au pairing experience. It’s all about the ‘long-game’ mindset I’ve had since I started to falter in university, helping me nudge myself ever more closer to the perfect course through life.

Jack out.

The twenty-third post of the expedition – the final salute to the lifelong fans

As an epic mid-summer storm descends over this small Italian town, limiting my ability to go outside, it seems like the perfect time to write the last post of this expedition, before I go back to the UK in a couple of days.

Not that I was planning to go out anyway – if my au pair friends haven’t gone home or moved on to a different place, then it’s a normal working Monday for them. I’m only at a loose end as my boys have gone on their annual getaway to the coast. We said our goodbyes on Friday, and I’ve used the weekend to its fullest.

I think that’s the main difference between now and three months ago, when I was making the choice of whether to stay or leave. As I said at the time, I chose to stay on as I felt that I hadn’t squeezed everything out of this small pocket of Italy, and I was absolutely proven right. Now feels like a much more natural and organic time to go.

I have discovered some incredible friendships in the last three months, perhaps more so than the first three, that have really moulded my time here and turned an average experience into one I’ll cherish for a long time to come.

But alas, those friends are going or have gone, and a new breed are just starting to arrive and find their feet where others have gone before. In the last few days I’ve started to feel like a wise old owl, giving out advice and being generally omniscient about au pairing.

As for missing it, yes and no. I’ll miss all the fun and adventure with the various people I’ve met over the months, but like I said, if they haven’t left already they’re doing so soon, so even if I could, I wouldn’t want to stay here any longer.

After touching base in England for two months, I’ll be itching to be the newbie in Siena, exploring and learning, full of wonder, about a new area and a new routine.

Between then and now, though, it seems this rain will keep me indoors. Maybe this storm is nature’s way of helping me acclimatize to the British weather again. See you in England.

Jack out.