I was 16 years old when I dreamed of becoming an au pair in a foreign country. Coming from a developing country, I really wanted to experience living in a first world country with a loving host family to take me under their wing. My plan was to do it straight after high school, but life had other plans for me. My circumstances were just not favourable.
In the meantime I pursued other dreams that were within my reach, which filled my life with a lot of joy and a feeling of accomplishment. When I least expected it, the opportunity to au pair presented itself, about a decade after my original dream. Moral of the story, never give up on your dreams.
I arrived at my host family’s house on January 23rd. The beautiful and charming town of Kungälv was covered in a thick blanket of fluffy snow. It looked beautifully unreal but the bone chilling cold jolted me to reality. Coming from a warm country, I appreciated seeing snow but I was also quite relieved when we went inside their beautiful home which was cosy and warm. I was given a tour of the house, shown my room and we had dinner and chatted for a while. Even though we had only chatted on Skype and via email before, the live interaction flowed naturally and it was rather pleasant.
The following day they took me around Kungälv. We first went to the nature reserve called Fontin. The feeling of being surrounded by trees and seeing the beautiful lake, which was frozen at the time, filled me with a great sense of calm and serenity. It was a stark contrast to the concrete jungle I was used to. Very refreshing indeed! We had a snow fight and went sledding down the hill. It was an excellent ice breaker with the kids.
Next, we drove down Västragatan, a relatively lively street lined with lots of shops, cafes, and there’s even a cinema along the same street. Even though it was freezing, lots of people were out and about; parents pushing their kids in prams, lovers walking hand in hand and senior citizens taking a midday stroll. I watched them from the warmth of the car and for a second couldn’t fathom why they would be seemingly enjoying the outdoors when it was so bitterly cold. I guess each culture has to make the most of what they have and get used to it.
As we drove along, we left the shops and entered a residential area. The houses were so old and quaint, coloured in beautiful pastel colours and the roofs were covered in snow. The road was entirely made of cobblestone and sides of the road were covered with a fluffy blanked of pure white snow . It was like something from a beautifully illustrated children’s storybook. I was so amazed that I was oohing and aahing at everything.
Next, we saw Bohus Fästing, an ancient fortress which immediately made my imagination run wild. In my mind’s eye, I could see soldiers dressed in their suits of armour, carrying swords and riding on powerful and glorious stallions. As the stallions galloped and the war cry was sounded, women dressed in old fashioned medieval dresses scattered about, screaming in terror and running to safety with their bewildered children. My daydream was cut off when the host father started telling me a bit about the history of the fortress, that it was built in the 1300s in the old Swedish-Norwegian border, was damaged sometime in the mid 1500s. I later found out that it was rebuilt from 1593 to the 1600s.The treaty of Roskilde saw Bohuslan being given to Sweden, which meant the fortress no longer served a purpose as it was no longer on the border of Sweden and Norway. It was later used as a prison and today it’s open to visitors during summer. What a rich and fascinating history!
On our way home we drove past the biscuit factory. I looked forward to smelling the delicious aroma of biscuits as I went about my daily business.
The last stop before we went home was Mimers hus, a modern building compared to the fortress and other buildings in the area . Inside, there was a beautiful and modern library with state of the art technology, a lovely theatre, a café, some art rooms and dance/singing studios. The building was named after a well, which according to legend, was said to cause whomever drank from it to become wise. What a fitting name for the building!
It was love at first sight, with the family as well as with Kungälv. I went to bed that night feeling I’d chosen the right family. I was excited to be an au pair and looked forward to the days ahead.