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Neila Maria Santana Costa - EurAupair Au Pair of the Year 2019
EurAupair Au Pair of the Year 2019 – Neila Maria Santana Costa from Brazil
Everything started when I received an email from my host mom's sister in law. Her message was anything but happy; her father passed away last January (2018), just two months after her husband suddenly passed away from a heart attack. It became obvious that the family needed an Au Pair to help with their two boys. We exchanged a few emails and I decided without hesitation that I would try to help this unfortunate family. Soon after I decided I would help, Mary called me.
Because my English skills were still insufficient, all I could hear when Mary called was, “Blah, blah, Neila! Blah, blah, right? Blah, blah, blah. OK, see you soon.” All I could say was, "Yes", "Okay", and "Bye". (My host kids and I always laugh when I tell them this story.) Though I didn't know what she said on the call, I did know that I could help her.
In the coming days, I arrived at the train station and there she was, waiting for me, with a cup of coffee, as usual. When we saw each other, she gave me a big smile and helped me with my giant bags. She immediately took my heavy bag and carried it all the way from the train station to the parking lot, while I kept asking myself how it was possible that someone so small can be so strong. And that's the same question I've been asking all these months that I've been living here.
My host mom is one of the strongest and nicest people that I've ever met. I don't know how she can handle everything, but she does. Maybe it is the coffee. Who knows?! We’ve gotten along very well since the beginning and she treats everyone she meets with respect. She has so many good qualities, but the way she always puts others first really stands out. She has set an example for me and to everyone in her life. She is constantly inspiring others to improve and believe in themselves. It has inspired me to do my best in helping with the kids and the house. I try to make her happy every day because I know how much she deserves it. She is the best host mom I could have asked for and I know there isn’t one person who would disagree with me.
Then there are the boys; Sean, age 8 and Scott, age 10. I now see them as my younger brothers. We have so much fun together and never run out of things to do. We play sports, play video games, bake the best pumpkin cookies (among other crazy recipes), ride bikes, swim, watch movies, and eat lots of ice cream, which usually ends up all over our faces. No matter what, it's always fun to be around them. Sean always wants to play outside, even when it's too cold. Sometimes we are the only people outside in the entire neighborhood playing football, baseball, basketball, soccer or even looking for helpless birds to feed. Scott prefers indoor activities. He likes foosball, pillow fights (I’m the current champion), and video games (we are always competing for first place in Mario Kart.) We even created some games together. One of our creations is a mix of football, wrestling and basketball, that we call 'fightsketball'. We also have a game that when someone says the "key words", we must sing a song with this word. The last one to sing, loses. It's never boring over here. I try to teach them some Portuguese, so they can visit me in Brazil someday and I teach them some Spanish too, it always can be useful here. It’s been fun teaching them how different we do things in my country. They love hearing my stories, and love interrupting my speech to help with my pronunciation.
Throughout my time of being an Au Pair, I've learned so much about a wide array of things. I've learned more about myself as a person, about my limits, my bravery, my beliefs, and more. Looking at myself before this experience, I can tell how much I've improved. I've learned that helping people is something that I really enjoy and that is something I will take with me in future jobs. I never thought I would be able to write an essay in English or read a book without using a translation app. I didn’t think I would ever talk to Americans without being nervous or even watch movies without subtitles. Now, I feel that the world is mine, and I can do everything I want. I am ready to do anything and everything. Every day I learn something new here. In addition to my host family, I have the best neighbors with whom I go to church, go shopping with, travel with and spend time with when I forget my keys inside. I've met some very sweet and honest people here. I feel that I'm safe and if I ever need them, they will be always here for me.
I've experienced so many cultural differences during my time here, but Halloween is definitely my favorite holiday in the USA. We all dress up with cool costumes and go to people's house to ask for candy. And the best part is that they give it to you for free! It's amazing! I had so much fun last Halloween and I can't wait for the next one. Thanksgiving is also great. We don't have it in Brazil, but I wish we did! For Thanksgiving, we went to a cabin in the mountains in Tennessee. The area was beautiful, with excellent views and trails for hiking. I had a great time with Mary's family. Everybody was so nice and gentle with me, treating me as part of the family. I love this cultural exchange that we have been experiencing. They are even learning how to be late (we Brazilians have our own time) and they laugh at how late I always am to my meetings with my friends. When I say, "I am going to meet my friends at the mall at 8,” they already start teasing me, saying that I will get there around 9. They’re always right.
There are so many places that I still would like to visit, but until now my favorite is New York. I'm from a big city in Brazil, so I feel home there. I love the lights illumining all over the city, those giant buildings, the big city noises and seeing lots of people from different places in the world all in one place, looking at Times Square and admiring it. Both times I went there it was cold, so I hope to go back in the summer and see how different it looks. Oh, that’s another thing I love; how things change every season. Fall is my favorite, because of all the colorful leaves that give me great pictures. I like the winter too because of the snow. I've never seen it before, and I remember how impressed I was the first time I saw it coming down. It seemed like sugar falling of the sky. And then we can sled, have snowball fights, and play hockey, it's very fun.
I am glad I decided to come to the USA and live this unique experience as an Au Pair because it has changed my life completely and the way I see the world. I'm thankful for the opportunity to meet this family and to have an amazing time during my experience that has built a beautiful connection. We will certainly keep in touch when I leave this country. And when Mary calls me when I am back in Brazil, I won’t just hear a bunch of English noises this time. I will be able to listen and talk to my host family!
Read Neila's host family's essay here.