On the 24th of June I got a message from a friend asking if I’d be interested in going to Brussels to work as an Au Pair for 2 weeks. Almost before I could ask what the details were I said YES. Running in the same vein of my spontaneity, taking full advantage of any opportunities that presented themselves was something I had promised myself I would do this summer. A few days later, with all the details and arrangements taken care of I was packing my bags ready to set off on another adventure.
This trip was different from anything I had done before. I was a little nervous about going to Brussels given the recent attacks there and I was aware of the heightened security presence that would be there. The great unknown of this trip was something that also made me nervous. I knew I was going to look after a 3-year-old, that his dad is Irish and his mother is French so he only speaks Irish and French, but I had never worked as Au Pair before, never been to Brussels nor did I know anyone there and I was going on my own. Unlike the usual purpose of an Au Pair to speak English to kids, I was there to be an Au Pair as Gaeilge.
In my usual, very organised style, I researched places to go and things that were kid friendly in the city. I also planned to make a scrapbook of his trip. As a hoarder of momentoes myself I loved the idea of creating a book of memories of all we did for him to look back on when he was older, and possibly appreciate it more than he could as a 3-year-old. I went about collecting stickers and other arts and craft things to fulfill my scrapbooking dreams. I also bought him a disposable camera for him to take photos of his own.
- Refueling on my exploration of Brussels
On July 6th I set off on the rather long bus journey from Donegal to Dublin Airport at 7am. I still felt anxious about this trip but was trying to focus on what a great experience it would be and how lucky I was to get to see yet another beautiful place in the world. I arrived in Brussels that afternoon and met the lady I was staying with and then the family I was working for. I was amazed by the beautiful architecture of the streets I walked through that evening and also pleasantly surprised by the calm atmosphere I had stepped into. I felt relaxed and safe, which I was unsure whether or not I would feel.
- My home for 10 days
I decided I would have to brave the world of strangers to talk to people other than the three year old so as to keep my sanity! There were quite a lot of Irish bars where I was staying and true to the Irish stereotype I met some friendly Irish people and even got to speak more Gaeilge, which I loved! Its quite sad how little Irish I speak in my day to day life despite the fact that I’m fluent, I’m doing a degree through Irish and know other fluent speakers. Never the less I took every opportunity while in Brussels to speak Irish which is something I plan to also do back home in Ireland now.
- By architect Gustave Strauven
I loved exploring the city both on my own and with people I met. On my weekend off I went to Bruges and it was even more breath taking than Brussels. I met two girls at the train station who were going there too and we had a great day together exploring Bruges and taking a boat trip. It was so interesting meeting new people and learning about them even if only for a brief amount of time.
- Bruges Street
Although working as an Au Pair was exhausting and stressful at times I had a wonderful time in Brussels and would go back to that city in a heartbeat. A day didn’t pass without several people smiling at me as we passed on the street or asking me about what had brought me to Brussels. The reaction to me being an Au Pair as Gaeilge was wonderfully positive which I’m not sure it would be in Ireland. Unlike quite a few people I’ve met in Ireland most people didn’t question the fact that I was doing my degree through Irish which was refreshing.
I’ve come home from Brussels with an even deeper love for Irish and a commitment to speak it as often as I can and do everything I can to promote the language. A fire has be ignited in me to embrace Irish because of the opportunity that was presented to me because I speak a language that far too many would argue is a ‘dead/dying’ language!
I hope to get back to Brussels soon and I’m considering looking for a job there for next summer now that I’ve made some connections there and would love more time to discover other gems Belgium has to offer…
- Grand Place, by day and night