Five summers in Greece with my 'adopted family'

Five years ago, Anna, a Slovakian student, decided to work as a summer au pair in one of the Mediterranean countries. She found a nice family in Greece via AuPairWorld. For Anna, this was the beginning of a great emotional journey to a new culture. She got to know her new family – whom she adopted for life.

Anna with her two host kids, at the ocean and snuggling

It is unbelievable, but it has been more than 5 years now that I looked at your page for the first time! I was looking for a summer job as an au pair in a hurry, because it was already June when I started searching (which is of course very late to start searching as everybody knows!). But actually for me it was the best timing as I could have asked for! For me it wasn´t late!

I want to become a pediatrician

So my story from the beginning: I am from Slovakia and at that time, I had just finished my first year of my medical studies and wanted to go somewhere abroad, to get some money but also some rest because my studies are very difficult. So I decided to search for an au pair job as I love children, I get on well with people and I want to become pediatrician, so a good opportunity to practise is always staying with kids :) I found this job as the best for me. As I mentioned I was very late to start with searching but everything in our life happens for a reason.

I started my search very late...

I searched for families in Mediterranean countries, I wanted to enjoy sun and sea. I sent a lot of requests and I got a lot of answers but saying that they already had and au pair for that summer. I was running every single evening to my laptop to switch it on and find a new message. And after a few days I found it – a long message from my family. I can remember it very clearly! A family living in a small greek island with three kids, two boys and a girl, mum from England, father from Greece, both busy during summer season because of their taverna, one day off during a week, a car, interesting salary and paying for the tickets. I was impressed. I sent back my phone number and the next day, I heard on the phone - Hi Anna, here is Elena*....she sounded sooo nice in the phone! We arranged it!

Yes, I had found my summer job! Great! But it was just the beginning. First of all, I had to persuade my mother to let me go. I understand her behaviour, she was so worried. Of course, we didn´t know anything about that family, not even about that island. But I did it. She went with me to the travel agency to buy the tickets. It wasn´t easy at all. I got the ticket from Vienna to Athens by plane, but there was no flight for the greek island for a lot of days, everything was sold out.

I could rely on my host family from the very beginning

So I contacted my host mother and asked her what to do. She advised me to take a ferry boat from the harbour of Athens. But it meant for me to sleep one night in Athens. My host family booked a hotel room for me at the harbour of Athens and sent me all details about how to get there there from the airport. Actually it was just the address. I was suppossed to take a taxi. All these arrangements started on Sunday and, four days later, I flied to Athens.

Athens: my first time in such a big city!

First time on the plane, first time in such a big city. And alone! But I survived:) Although, I had a bad story with a taxi I took from the airport (the taxi driver wanted 95 euros from me although he didn´t take me to the hotel! But as I was alone and afraid, I paid him). Luckily, I met really good people who helped me to get to my hotel and this was satisfaction for me and I found Greeks were really kind people. And I didn´t know yet at that time that I would fall in love with this country.

The next day, I took the ferry and was ready to meet my host family. I arrived on the island late at night. I wasn´t sure who would wait for me at the harbour, I hoped there would be somebody. And finally, it was Elena, my host mum. I didn´t know her, she recognised me because of the photos I sent her. The way home took us about 30 minutes. We were talking a lot, I remember her sentence: oh, your English is very good :) which made me proud of course, because she is a native speaker. The whole conversation was very relaxing and I felt that I would get along with her. And I was right!

The children seemed cute

We came home, everything was dark. When we came in, there was the father awake waiting to meet me. I asked to see the kids, they were sleeping in their bedroom. I was allowed to go in and see them. They seemed cute. That night I stayed awake a long time, chatting with my new parents and then organising my new bedroom. It was situated outside the house, which meant a small peace for me /of course after a while my kids loved to come in all the time but I didn´t mind, we shared it as everything in the house :).

I needed to be respected

And that was it. First morning. I woke up, came to the house with presents I bought and met them. Antonia*, Philippos*, Timótheos*. I started 'working' immediately. My host mum left and I stayed alone with the three kids. Of course it wasn´t easy in the beginning. I had to find out a lot of things about them. Each of them is very different and the fact that the oldest one is a girl makes the situation in the house more complicated. I didn´t want to be their boss, I wanted to become their friend or their sister, not somebody very bossy. But on the other hand I needed to get some respect from them. I tried day by day.

Philippos didn't want to stay with me

I remember that the most complicated child used to be Philippos, the middle one, 6 years old at that time. He didn't want to stay with me, didn´t want to listen to me, didn´t want to eat a lot. His mother told me that he felt very insecure because he had spent three months in hospital after he got a brain stroke. And this was also the reason why I was there. He got it in March, all of a sudden, and Elena had to spend three months in Athens' hospital and she lost contact with the girl she had already arranged for the summer. So in June, when she got back, she was in a hurry, funny, just like me. And she got a lot of applications from girls and why did she choose me?

I wasn't afraid at all, rather very interested

She expected that I wouldn´t be afraid to take care of her son because of my studies. He was already healthy again, but who knows? So I think she felt safe with me around him. And the other thing that she told me the following summer – I was very interested by Philippos´s case and wanted to know more about it, and therefore not afraid at all. Actually, I found it funny because I didn´t notice my interest, it is natural for me, probably a professional deformation being a doctor all the time. And finally I found the way for Philippos.

He started feeling safe with me

He is a hyperactive child, loves races. So everything we did was a kind of race – playing around the house, eating pasta (I have funny memories), brushing our teeth, putting pyjamas on...but we did it and I can say that I got the feeling he started to feel save with me around which made me satisfied. Timótheos was a small baby, 3-years old, and very easy-going when he wasn´t tired and hungry :) And Antonia? As a girl always wanted attention which is sometimes with two boys around not that easy, but we managed it somehow.

I then called them 'my adopted family'

My first summer was great! I met nice people, new culture, but the most  important fact was that I met my second family, as I call them nowadays, my adopted family:) Yes, I used the expression my first summer, because it wasn´t the only summer I spent on the Greek island. The following year I was in contact with Elena. She asked me in February if I was interested to come again. I was so happy and answered YES of course. I bought the ticket and just waited till the middle of June. That year I convinced my classmate to go with me to take care of the children next door, two Greek boys. I promised her to help her, so she agreed.

My own mother needed my help

But just one week before I was supposed to fly, my mum heard the worst news - the doctors diagnosed her breast cancer and quick operation was needed. I still hear it in my ears. When I was asking why this happened to our family I didn´t find an answer. I started studying medicine because I wanted to become an oncologist so maybe this was my opportunity to see what cancer means for patients and members of their family...but it was cruel to find out about it in this way.... The following day I called Elena. I couldn´t talk, I started crying. I tried to explain to her what had happened and that I couldn´t come for the summer.

My host mum understood my situation

She was so nice, I remember her voice saying that everything would be fine. She called the following day too to see if I was better. And I was. I stayed at home, trying to help my mum and my family. I went with my mum every time to the hospital, for every chemotherapy. And what about the Greek island that year? My classmate finally worked instead of me. The next door family took another girl, a girl from Austria. But there was one problem, my friend didn´t feel the same like me on the Greek island.

I promised her that if she didn´t like it, I would come. But I didn´t expect it to happen. However, the first week she was there, I got a phone call. She wanted to leave as soon as possible. She didn´t like it there. I love my mum, she is a great person and what she said about that situation I will not write with the same words, they were just for me, only the result was that I went to the Greek island again!


The next summer: I spent a month in August in Greece

My second summer. I spent there one month, in August. It was a very nice time, everybody was so nice to me. And I met Evgenia, a girl working next door. We became very closed friends and we are still in contact. That year I saw a lot from the island. And my sister came to visit me. It was very nice, except for the fact that I crashed the car of my family. Very funny accident, nobody would believe that the car survived! Now I can smile about it, but at that time I was very shocked and didn´t drive for more than one year after that. So my second year was done.

My third summer with my adopted family

The third summer wasn´t planned so early, I got an e-mail from Elena just in May. And we arranged it again. So again one summer with my adopted family (I love this word 'adopted', I usually write it in the end of the mails for Elena, KISSES from your adopted daughter Anna). And the fourth and fifth summer were the same!

My own family came to visit me

The fourth summer was very special. My Slovak family came to visit me, my mum, my dad and my sister. I was so excited that I was able to show them my summer on the Greek island. And my mum was satisfied that she met my host family, she saw the place and had nice and relaxing holidays there. And my host family allowed them to stay in their house, so we were together all the time!

Every summer new people, but always my beautiful Greek island and the most important my host = adopted family, Elena's family! As I wrote, it wasn´t always easy, I had some difficult minutes, some minutes I wanted to leave, some moments for crying, but this was a normal fact of being a part of the family. I found out that Elena is very similar with my own mum. I had an argument with Elena and her reactions were completely the same as my mum´s! By the way, I still feel sorry for it, hopefully she forgot about it. I admire her very much, because she is a great mother, doing everything for her kids.

My last summer as an au pair: I want to share my experience

I wrote a long story about my au pair career, those who are still reading are winners! CONGRATULATIONS, because you have survived my soap opera:) And this is just a light version of my story. When I left the Greek island one month ago, I knew that it was the last time as an au pair. I am supposed to finish my studies this year so next summer I should start working at the hospital. It came to my mind that I should write about my experience as an aupair to inform other people that being an aupair may be a really good opportunity if you want to meet new people, find new friends, see new places.

Thank you so much for making me feel at home

I know that I was extremely lucky, but you can be too! I would love to say a BIG THANKS to the whole team of AuPairWorld, because their page helped me to find a great place with great people and one great family of three kids, my small sister Antonia who is already a teenager now, a hyperactive Spiderman Philippos and teddy bear Timótheos and grandmother Sophia, whom I admire because of her energy and her way of life, my adopted parents, Línos*, always ready to talk and my mummy Elena, who I will always love so much and will be always thankfull that she made me feel at home in her family. And a lot of other people whom I know and like a lot!!!

*The editors have changed the names.