February 9th, 2002

So, as promised, a little more about the family!!

Jan is in his mid forties (45 or 46, not sure which) and used to be a crazy hippie-style man. Now he wears expensive suits and drives a Mercedes but still has his wild side. He seems to be especially happy when people are smiling, he loves to sit down in the evening with a glass of wine or beer and talk. He also loves music of all sorts, and their music collection ranges from Kuschelrock collections to David Usher and Diana Krall. He was married once before and has three other children--15, 16, and 20 or 21. The younger two are girls and the oldest is a son. He adores his children and loves spending time with all of them. Also gets easily overwhelmed. He insists on speaking German to me almost exclusively now, which is wonderful because of his "high-german" accent from Hanover--everything is beautifully articulated and I have no problems understanding him whatsoever.

Deb, who is 39, is a riot. She is a little bemused, often seems scattered, but is really a driven, self-made business woman. At home she wears whatever she wants, the minute she has to work out of the house, however, she is transformed by teased hair, perfectly applied makeup and wonderful flowy outfits that make her look very capable.
She also dotes on her children and I laugh at her sometimes because she worries so much. She is much the type to make more out of a bump or scrape than the girls do themselves. We have established quite a wonderful friendship already, yesterday evening we both went to test into our respective German courses--she for a simple Grammar course and myself for two evenings a week of German level three and one a
week of a simple conversation course with seven or eight other au- pair types. Afterwards we went to Danny's and ate Frenchfries with Heinz and gossiped about nothing in particular for some 2.5 hours, which was amazing. She and Jan have decided that, since I have never seen a real ballet, that will be my birthday present--two tickets to the ballet of my choice (that and dinner, at Jan's insistance, on
Tuesday night). It is nice to have a bit of a fuss made over me.

Amanda, who is five, is a born actress. Whatever emotion she decides to play is honed to perfection in action and facial expression in that way that only five-year-olds can pull off. With her bright blond curly hair and vivid blue eyes she looks like a little Drew Barrymore and is very sweet. She is still a little jealous of Kyla and I like to spend time with her when Kyla is napping as her personality is something quite different when we are alone. She draws and paints and dresses up and speaks perfect German and English. She is, in every sense of the word, a little girl--pigtails and tights, the works. I have not spent as much time with her as I would like to but look forward to getting to know her very much.

Kyla, who will turn 2 on the 1st of April, is a gem. She talks and babbles away to herself and her favorite song is Baa Baa Black Sheep. She will sing it to herself for hours on end when we are walking....She calls me "Ewr" and seems to be as comfortable around me as if we had known one another since she was born--no problems with naps, diapers, etc. She seems to have very little problem with her mother working--always happy to see her, but never ever crying when she waves goodbye in the morning. I think she is very well adjusted. She is young enough to still smell like a baby and I love rocking her before her nap every afternoon. She lays back in my arms and quietly grows sleepy and slowly waves one arm back and forth as I sing. She has a small vocabulary and a mixed one--both German and English words, with funny little pronunciations. She understands everything, though, and I love to talk to her. We walk most mornings for at least an hour, sometimes two, usually down to town to make trips to the post office, market, or grocery store.

Another fantastic member of the family, whom I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting, is Jan's mother. She is 65 years old and lives like a 25 year old, travelling a good 6 months of the year all over the world, staying in youth hostels and camping sites. She is currently in New Zealand for 6 (or is it 3?) months and sends postcards of the most beautiful places. She also sends the funniest gifts--one Christmas, for example, she sent an entire Coconut in the mail, simply drew all over it and wrote their address on the front in black marker and dropped it in the mail! It sits on the shelf above the stereo and is an object of great curiosity to whoever comes to visit. Jan loves telling me stories about her and I will pass them along diligently.

Last, but certainly not least!! Frau Baumgart. I had the pleasure of meeting her yesterday evening and I will never, ever, in my whole life, forget this woman. I opened the door to a woman in her mid- sixties with teased, puffed up, dyed-blonde hair and coral lipstick (!!!) and enough blue eyeliner to last me the rest of my life. She wears enormous glasses, the kind that have a funny curve at the bottom so the lenses actually rest right on your cheekbones and perfectly matched, acrylic, twinset sweaters with gold embroidery and matching, gold-accented, wicked pumps. Delicious. She wafted into the room in a cloud of perfume and said to me directly "So you're the new one, eh?" in English (she used to work as a military nurse or something and is quite proud of herself, called it working for "The Forces"). I introduced myself and she stuck out her left hand as she walked by me, twiddled my fingers, and said "you can call me Mrs Baumgart," and with that I was dismissed. She absolutely terrorizes
the household, takes no nonsense from the children at all and bosses Deb around thoroughly, which is very amusing to watch. She was a huge support before I got here--Deb would have her over two or three afternoons to cook and watch the girls for a few hours--and I hopeshe sticks around. As we began to talk (my offer of coffee got her attention, she says she chainsmokes and lives on coffee, hot, lukewarm or stone cold) we started on (of course) the dieting topic and when I said I was also watching what I was eating she peered around behind me, patted my bum, and said "Yup, you could stand to lose a few kilos!" Luckily I escaped into the basement at that moment
to fetch her some onions (which she hates, but insists on using because "nothing tastes good without them, the nasty things") and almost peed my pants laughing, it was simply too much. Her next question was whether or not I had read Harry Potter, and when I said I had she grinned at me and said in a "just between us" voice that she has bootlegged the entire movie off the internet--that and LOTR, which she is just reading for the first time now and finds fascinating. She has 3 sons (had 4 but one was killed in a car accident a few years ago, he was a test-driver for Mercedes and was killed testing the same car that Deb now owns. Therefore, upon arriving the first time, she announced that she hated that car and thoroughly berated Deb for buying it) and 4 Persian cats which she breeds, then sells the litters to loving homes. I have extracted a promise from her to let me come and see the next batch, which will arrive in two weeks or so. I am sure there will be more Frau BG stories but this will suffice for the first one. She is the kind of character every book is looking for and I am delighted to have met

That's it for now,

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