My mornings start quiet, but they are not quiet for long. You’d think that living in the absolute center of Beijing (Dongcheng district, right near Tian’anmen square) would be raucous, but life is remarkably calm in the early mornings. My little bedroom has an immense window facing the street, and watching the sunlight stream in is incredible. However, once I leave the bedroom, things get noisy.
9 year-olds are absolutely whack, and I mean that in the best way. Pipi is inquisitive and bright, but, like other kids, she’s crazy. Always singing, dancing, asking me over and over when she’ll finally be old enough for pointe shoes (answer: not yet). We have lessons every day, which, at the moment, are history and art. We read three chapters of history from an anthology and summarize them; we talk about why people throughout history do silly or terrible things. She asks a lot of questions, and there are a lot of things she doesn’t get — for example, why someone would have slaves (I don’t understand either, sweetheart). Then, we move on to her favorite part — art.
When I came, I brought her stickers of works by 5 famous artists — Kahlo, Degas, Michelangelo, Klimt, and John Singer Sargent. Immediately, she was captivated (she takes them everywhere). Every day I introduce a new artist, showing her their works, talking about their lives, and about their importance in the art world. We write down these facts in notebooks. Once we finish our list of approximately 40 artists, I’ll begin teaching her about art movements. We even made an art museum together! Medium is being tricky with images, but you can see a picture (among other pictures!) here.
The other subjects I’m responsible for — English, French, Geography, etc — will begin when she starts school (in just a few days!). As for now, we practice English by reading together every day and playing. The conclusion to our lessons is a yoga session, where I remind her that balance, fun, and discipline go hand-in-hand.
She is my number one priority right now. It’s strange how children make us feel — within a week, I knew I’d do anything for this girl. I suppose that’s a kind of unconditional love we reserve for children.
However, Pipi and her wonderful family (I love my host parents!) are not the only people I’m around — the au pair agency provides me with Chinese lessons twice a week, so I see my teacher, Vivian, then. She doesn’t speak much English, so our conversations are mostly hand gestures, but I adore her. I also have had the opportunity to meet other au pairs! Melanie, for example, is 24 and from Germany. She’s taking a “gap-semester” before finishing her master’s in psychology. There are a handful of other au pairs, all taking care of children throughout the city. Many of them study Chinese, or are here on a gap year, but we’re all here to provide the best possible childhood for our “little siblings” that we can. That’s why we teach — to give our children the power of knowledge.