Tag Archives: COVID-19

Travel Outside of the U.S.

Au Pair in America is discouraging international travel during the pandemic for multiple reasons. Here are some resources to help you understand the process and risks, so you can make an informed decision.

10 Things to Know Before You Go

  1. Read APIA Travel Advisory due to COVID-19
  2. If an au pair decides to travel outside of the U.S., she and her host family need to understand and accept the possible risks.
  3. The following au pairs should NOT travel outside of the U.S.:
    • Au pairs who arrived on National Interest Exception (NIE) visas. (Those are single entry visas.)
    • Au pairs in their travel month
    • Au pairs on a special 6 month extension
  4. As you make your travel plans, please review the appropriate checklist(s) from APIA:
  5. Au pairs must mail their original DS-2019 along with a Travel Validation Request Form  to APIA, at least 3-4 weeks prior to international travel.
  6. Year 1 au pairs should plan international travel to return to the U.S. prior to the date their visa says it expires. This can be different from your actual program end date.
  7. Au pairs must find out if they will need a visa to visit another country. This can be different for au pairs than for host parents. You must check with the consulate of the country you are planning to visit, find more information HERE.
  8. The CDC requires a negative PCR test to fly into the U.S. Investigate where you can get this test and how much it will cost before you travel.
  9. When you return to the U.S. you should follow CDC and local guidelines regarding quarantine and testing.
  10. There is always some risk with traveling outside the US, as re-entry is at the discretion of the port of entry agent. Au Pair in America is not responsible for additional costs or travel arrangements should a delay in returning to the US occur.

Photo: Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

Drive-In Movies

Have you ever been to a drive-in movie? Drive-in movies are outdoor theaters where the movie is projected on a large screen and you watch from your car. There were once over 4,000 drive-in theaters in the U.S., now only a few hundred remain.

One of those still operating is right here in Maryland, in the Baltimore area.  Bengies Drive-In has been in business since 1956.  It is about an hour drive from most parts of our cluster, but since they are the only one left in the entire state of Maryland, that doesn’t sound so far.

During the pandemic, drive-ins have become popular with many regular theaters closed and people being concerned about the risks of going to an indoor theater. Drive-in theaters were social distancing before it was even a thing!  You either sit in your own car or outside in a chair in your parking space. Bengie’s is enforcing mask wearing when people are outside of their parking space and limiting the number of people inside the concession stand. You can check out their full COVID precautions here.

Bengies

Click photo to visit their website

I have been taking my kids to drive-in movies at Bengie’s for the years and we love it.

The drive-in is only open Spring-Fall.

Drive-In Movie Tips for First Timers:

  1. You pay one price whether you stay for 1, 2 or all 3 movies.  Tickets may be purchased online in advance or with cash only at the gate. Since you are driving a good distance to get there, I would recommend purchasing tickets in advance online.
  2. You may stay in your car or bring chairs to sit in in front of your parking space.
  3. If you go in the summer and plan to sit outside, bring insect repellent spray or bug bracelets.
  4. If you go in the fall when the weather is cool, bring blankets.
  5. You cannot bring in outside food or drinks, unless you purchase an outside food permit. I recommend you buy your snacks there. They have some interesting options that you don’t see at a regular movie concession stand and that’s part of the full experience.
  6. Before you go, read the information on their website about headlights. You need to know how to disable your headlights when you are inside the movie.
  7. You also need to figure out how to turn your vehicle to the “accessory setting” with your key. This will allow you to listen to the movie without draining your battery. VERY IMPORTANT
  8. There is a note on their website about how to enter their address with GPS.  There address is listed as “Middle River”not Baltimore on GPS.

As with all activities, please discuss this with your host parents first to make sure it fits with the social distancing precautions you all are observing.

Avoid Falling Victim to Scammers

There are always people out there who are looking for ways to trick people out of their money and personal information. There have been several new scams recently, so we are going to explain ways to identify scams and how to protect yourself.

SCAM #1 – A caller says they are a contact tracer and you may have been exposed to COVID-19 and asks you to pay for a test kit.

  • Contact tracers will not ask you for payment.

What to do? Do not give any payment information to someone who calls you on the phone.

SCAM #2 – Calls asking for your PIN, password, personal information or a payment.

  • Your bank will not call you and ask you for your PIN number or password.
  • IRS and Social Security Administration will not ask you for payment or personal info over the phone. Government agencies usually handle issues like this by sending a letter.
  • The number shown on caller ID can be manipulated, don’t take that as a sign that a call is legitimate.

What to do? Whenever you are in doubt, hang up and call the bank (or company) directly using a number you already have for them.

SCAM #3 – Email asking you to click a link to verify your personal information or share your password or PIN.

  • Be very suspicious of emails asking you to click links.
  • Scammers are very good at creating official looking emails and webpages.

What to do? Whenever you are in doubt, go directly to the website (not using the link in the email).

SCAM #4 – You see an offer online telling you to send them some money and they will double it or a pop-up ad says that you have won a great prize and just need to give them your information.

  • When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

What to do? Do not give your personal information or any money to people you don’t know.

SCAM #5 – You receive a call and you are told to stay on the phone while you go transfer or withdraw money from the bank and if you don’t you will be arrested or your bank account seized.

  • They are using the idea that this is an urgent situation to make you act quickly without thinking to avoid the consequence they have told you.

What to do? Do not follow their instructions.

Whenever you are in doubt, do not do as the caller or email asks. Check with your host parents or community counselor.

One other note: It is very important to keep your social security number private. There are very few situations where you will need to share this (bank, IRS, motor vehicles). Those are times you are taking an action and need to provide it. There is not a legitimate time where someone would be calling you on the phone or emailing you asking for that number.

Image: Canva.com

Preparing for Cold Weather

We’re in that time of year where Maryland temperatures start dipping a little lower. It can be 70°F (21°C) one day and 40°F (4°C) the next. This is a time when many people begin to opt for indoor activities instead of outdoor ones. With the pandemic, we may be rethinking that this year. CDC guidelines state that outdoor gatherings and activities are generally safer than indoor ones.

I recently heard a Scandinavian saying about this…

If you come from a warmer climate this may sound impossible to you. As a person who often complains of being cold when the rest of my family is comfortable, I definitely understand. But, I think this winter I will need to rethink that. I will need to push my boundaries of cold tolerance in order to be able to still see a few friends or family members outside or dine at an outside seating area. I encourage you to give outside a chance too.

One thing I have noticed in my years of working with au pairs is that the temperature difference is much easier on those who have a gradual adjustment. It allows your body time to adjust to the lower temperatures. So, that’s the good news for all of you who are already here. Your body is already getting adjusted, give your mind a chance to stay open to enjoying the outdoors.

The next thing to do is get yourself the proper clothing and accessories. Start shopping for cold weather clothing: sweater, coat, gloves, hat, scarf, long underwear & boots. Ask your host family if they have some you can use and then start looking out for sales and checking thrift shops for the rest. Take a look at what you already have and think of ways to layer it. A long sleeve t-shirt under a sweatshirt may be as warm as a jacket. A pair of leggings or tights under a pair of jeans adds a lot of warmth.

It may also help to remind yourself that people in other parts of the U.S. and other countries experience much colder temperatures than we do and are still able to enjoy the outdoors.

Pick your activities carefully. If you are sitting next to a fire pit or doing physical activity you will feel warmer. When you take the kids to the playground or out in the snow, don’t sit on the bench and watch. You will feel warmer and have more fun if you are actively involved and having fun with them.

If you have tips on enjoying the cold weather, please share them!

CONTEST: The first au pair in our cluster to message Christine or Lisa with their favorite cold weather activity will win a prize!

Image: Canva.com

Fall Traditions: Trick or Treating Safety Tips

cdc.gov

We always share trick or treating safety tips each October. This year those tips are very different. While we still want to be sure kids are visible to cars and safely supervised, there are new health and safety considerations due to COVID.

Not all families will feel comfortable going trick or treating and that is completely understandable. For those who do, here are some tips from the CDC:

Steps to Take when Trick or Treating

Traditional Halloween activities are fun, but some can increase the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 or influenza. Plan alternate ways to participate in Halloween.

illustration of a child wearing a pumpkin costume holding a Halloween treat bag wearing face masks appropriately and Make trick-or-treating safer

  • Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters.
  • Give out treats outdoors, if possible.
  • Set up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take.
  • Wash hands before handling treats.
  • Wear a mask.

Wear a mask

  • Make your cloth mask part of your costume.
  • A costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask.
  • Do NOT wear a costume mask over a cloth mask. It can make breathing more difficult.
  • Masks should NOT be worn by children under the age of 2 or anyone who has trouble breathingillustration of two children in costume wearing face masks appropriately

Stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you

  • Indoors and outdoors, you are more likely to get or spread COVID-19 when you are in close contact with others for a long time.

illustration of a child wearing a wizard costume washing their handsWash your hands

  • Bring hand sanitizer with you and use it after touching objects or other people.
  • Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Parents: supervise young children using hand sanitizer.
  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home and before you eat any treats.

Images: cdc.gov

Temporary Changes to Au Pair Education Requirement Due to COVID-19

UPDATED: July 31, 2020

Due to COVID-19, Au Pair in America has temporarily given approval for online/virtual classes, with a few conditions. Classes must be offered by an accredited school and the class must conclude by the end of 2020. Au pairs must still produce certificates or other acceptable documentation confirming the completion of the class.

If in doubt, ask your counselor to check if the school is accredited. All class hours must be completed by the end of your 11th month in the program if you wish to extend.

The following schools are offering online or virtual classes as of July 28, 2020.

ESL Specific Schools

Community Colleges

Other Languages

Weekend/U.S. Culture/Travel Courses

Online Class Websites – These platforms will list online courses all over the country. These courses come from a variety of sources and some are not accredited. You must be sure you are selecting a course that is from an accredited university.

*This class would be great for au pairs who have already taken or plan to take a PGCC Transition ESL class when things go back to normal. Those classes usually earn 50-60 hours, so this could be enough to complete your education requirement, in combination with one of those classes.

All Things American *NEW*

Click HERE for a great list of online courses on a variety of topics related to American culture and history. They are available through Coursera and are being taught by accredited colleges and universities. They range from 9-80 hours towards your education requirement and the cost is typically $49.

Photo: Ivan Radic

Social Distancing: 10 Things You CAN Do Right Now

Social distancing is important right now to help slow the spread of coronavirus. This means avoiding places where you come in contact with lots of people (schools, movies, restaurants, museums, concerts, parties, etc.)  I am sure you keep hearing a lot about the things you should not do.

It’s also important to have ideas of things you can do. There are plenty of activities you can do at home and away from crowds.

While we can’t control many things going on right now in the world, we can choose how we deal with it.

“She turned her can’ts into cans
and her dreams into plans.” 
– Kobi Yamada

Here are 10 things you CAN do right now:

  • Stay connected with your friends and family via social media, texting, and Skype.
  • Go for a walk or run on your own. As long as you don’t go to a populated place, it’s fine to go out for some exercise.
  • Enjoy nature. That could be sitting outside in your backyard on a nice day or walking on a nature trail.
  • Read a book or listen to an audiobook or podcast. Getting lost in a story is a great way to take your mind off of things. Or if you pick a non-fiction book or podcast you may learn something new. You could even create an online book club or podcast discussion group with friends.
  • Do yoga. Yoga can be a great way to relieve stress and maintain your fitness. There are many free yoga videos on Youtube. Sign up here to receive daily emails for 30 Days of Yoga.
  • Take virtual tours of museums online.*
  • Make memories in the kitchen.* Cooking recipes from your home country is a great way to share your culture with your host family and give yourself a taste of home. Cooking classic American recipes is a way to continue your cultural exchange. You can find lots of recipes online. Also, you will be able to share that taste of America with your own family by cooking some of these recipes after you return home at the end of your program.
  • Have an online watch party with friends. When you watch a movie alone do you miss talking to a friend about what’s happening? Pick a time and a movie and from your individual homes you each stream the movie on Netflix at the same time. You can text or do a group chat during the movie.
  • Make top 10 lists of your favorite things like movies, foods, songs and more. Share and compare lists with your friends. You may find out some things you didn’t know about each other and get some ideas for new things to try.
  • Research and plan trips to places you want to visit while in the U.S.* This time of social distancing won’t last forever. Use this time to do some research online and make plans. This will help you make the most of those trips when you get to take them a few months from now. It will also give you something to look forward to.

*Future blog posts in this series will have more detailed information on these topics.