World Trip Family

People, Not Places. Part 1: Maria

In my very first post on this blog I said our sabbatical is about people, not places. It is time to write about one of the people who inspired us to make this trip: Maria.

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Photo: Maria, August 2015

Maria was our very first au pair, who came to us when Liv was three years old and Yanai was not yet a year. I was still working until 7 pm every night and sometimes Liv’s preschool complained that we had a nanny pickup our daughter at 5 pm. “You’re the only family”, they lamented.

Eight years ago, we were worried that Maria was only nineteen, but soon we realized this was an advantage. She brought so much positive energy into our home that ever since we have opted for young European au-pairs.

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Photo: In the newspaper eight years ago as an au pair

Maria came from Horsens, a Danish city in east Jutland and a regional center with a population a little over fifty thousand. On our trip to Denmark, we visited Maria in her home town.

“The city used to have a bad reputation because it housed a large prison”, Maria explained.

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Photo: at Horsens prison

After a year with us in California, Maria traveled to Thailand to volunteer in an orphanage and traveled through Australia and New Zealand. Then she returned to Denmark to start her studies in Media and Graphic Design.

“After seeing so much of the world it was hard coming back to Horsens. Others might worry about which new tableware to buy, but I had seen true suffering in Thailand. I felt out of place here.”

Fast forward a couple of years and Maria is now nearing the end of her studies. She has been working full-time at Bubble Media, learnt to program websites, joined the international Rotaract Club, traveled Europe volunteering for this group and is taking up a volunteer position raising funds for Pattaya Orphanage.

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Photo: at Bubble Media

“I still have this funny feeling my future lies in California, but for now I’m happy here”, she confided.

The kids fell in love with Maria in under two minutes, just like we did eight years ago. It was amazing to see how comfortable everybody was together. Milo made up for time he never had with her.  Together we visited the infamous Horsens prison and played on giant swings in the streets, but our favorite time was when Maria took us to have meals at her parents’, at her apartment and at her boyfriend’s place.

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Photo: with Maria’s family at their home

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Photo: in front of Maria’s apartment

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Photo: with Maria’s boyfriend and his daughter(s)

Yanai said it best when he exclaimed very spontaneously in the car after a long day in Legoland (which I had expected to be the highlight of his week): “And now the best part of the day – to visit Maria again!”

Maria, you are talented, thoughtful, and overflowing with the kind of positive energy I’m aspiring to one day. You will make a big impact wherever you are.

Tak and vi elsker dig.

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Photo: reunited in Horsens, Denmark


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