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Friday, March 18, 2011

AP in USA: The First Week

It was in May 2010 when AS first arrived at her host family's house in Seattle. She was there as an Au Pair for a 10 year old kid. The first week was the most critical week as she had to pick up lots of new challenges besides accustomizing to the new environment around her. 

First and foremost, she was informed of the kid's daily schedule during weekdays, weekends and even the extra responsibilities when mom's away on business trips. Other than that, she was introduced to relatives, friends and neighbours so as they were aware of this new AP's presence.

Next, came familiarizing with the cellphone. It was a flip-open Samsung model and apparently cellphones in USA do not use SIM cards. It's preloaded with a default network provider which in my case was .err err .. Akira COULDN'T BELIEVE she couldn't recall it now and was charged as per usage. If she remembered it correctly, she couldn't save any songs with it and there weren't any music player or even radio stations and voice recorder applications in it. Her very own regular Nokia was even much better than that one but no complaints - that was just meant for calling and texting for the AP job. She had all important contacts saved in the phone and familiarized with the location of the buttons which took her quite some time after having familiarized well with her own.

Then, she was taught how to prepare the kid's favourite food and his eating habit. For this 10 year old kid, it was cereals+milk or fried eggs with hashed browns for breakfast, cinnamon sugar+butter/ peanut butter/ cream cheese toasts, sometimes maple syrup cookies as packed snacks for school, then burritos/ Vietnamese-style ham sandwiches with mayo+soy sauce+pepper / western style ham sandwich + cheddar cheese with mustard+ketchup, salami+cheese sandwiches/ egg sandwiches/ cold pizza/ pasta/ steamed filled buns as packed lunch for school together with a fruit normally apple wedges in zip-loc bags. Should the ingredients or his evening snacks (yogurts, various stone and berry fruits, milk, juice) runs low, she would have to replenish them at the nearest grocery store - Albertsons, Fred Meyer, QFC, Freeway.

So in order to prepare meals as small as packed snacks and lunches, Akira had to first familiarize with the location and availability of ingredients followed by tools. Where she could get the plates, knifes, can openers.. how to work the coffee bean grinder and coffee maker, built-in oven, dish washer, source for drinking water (right from the tap), microwave oven, juicer as well as mechanical hand mixer. 

Akira was also shown where his school was and getting to know his school schedule. The school bus picked him up at 8.45 am at a bus stop down the street when he joined the rest of his neighbourhood friends. In cases he missed the school bus, the car is at AS's disposal to send him there. Therefore, AS had to familiarize with the opposite side driving in the US. It wasn't really easy after 10 years of driving in Malaysia. Besides familliarizing driving a different car and different traffic system, she had to know the street well. She was lucky to have been provided with a GPS. Apparently, it was an essential gadget in American cars, either as an add-on or built-in into the car.

What is caring for a kid if not knowing his interests well. This guy liked swimming, Wii, playing with his guitar as well as play dates/ stay-over at buddies' house. Thus, one of the responsiblities of AS is to be his play mate, supervising him down at the beach club nearby or driving him over to friend's place.

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